Small Schools, Big Benefits: A Big Focus for School District Leaders Should Be Smaller Schools
Kinnaman, Daniel E., District Administration
OFTENTIMES RESEARCH confirms common sense. And sometimes it inspires commonsense action. That seems to be the case in the Chicago Public Schools, where a special section of the district's Web site makes the case for small schools. In part it says: "The Chicago Public Schools is committed to creating and sustaining small schools as a district-wide school improvement strategy. There is almost 40 years of existing research and literature on small schools which indicates that students in small schools have higher attendance and graduation rates, fewer drop-outs, equal or better levels of academic achievement, higher levels of extra-curricular participation and parent involvement, and fewer incidences of discipline and violence." It goes on to provide a compelling review of research on small schools, which I recommend to readers of this magazine (http://smallschools.cps.k12.il.us/research.html).
The only aspect of schooling for which the research does not overwhelmingly favor small schools is academic achievement. But even in this regard, about half of the 30+ studies reviewed found student achievement in small schools to be superior to that in large schools, while the other half found no significant differences in academic achievement between students in big schools and students in small schools. None of the studies found any negative correlation between academic achievement and small schools.
Safety and Security
But academic achievement, important as it is, is not the reason small schools should be a big priority in American education. The real reasons are safety and security. This was made dear to me at DA'S one-day seminar "New Paths to School Safety and Security," held last month in New York. Our speakers did not specifically advocate small schools as a major theme of the conference, but what they called for occurs best in small schools. (View or download their presentations at www. DistrictAdministration.com/seminars.)
Collectively, our seminar speakers pointed out that virtually every school experiences some sort of disorder and disruption, including bullying. In fact, some 10 million students are bullied each year, which is no trivial matter. …