International Center
for
Leadership in
Education
Creating
Small Learning
Communities
“Learning is about
constructing relationships in
which students connect with
teachers or subjects. Small
schools foster the
personalization strategies to
support those relationships. ”
Tom VanderArk
SMALL LEARNING
COMMUNITIES
Bigger isn’t always better!
Components of Successful
School Reform
6.
Create multiple pathways
to rigor and relevance
Parent Survey
Focusing on
Characteristics of
Successful Schools
Small Learning Communities
What
• School within a School
• Clusters of Students
• Organized around Areas of
Interest
• Students with Same Group
of Teachers
Small Learning Communities
Types
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•
•
•
•
School-within-A School
House Plans
Freshman Academy
Magnet Schools
Academies
Small Learning Communities
Structure
• School-Within-A School
 Small, Autonomous Program
 Groups Students & Teachers
 Increases Student Support
 Self-governing
 Own Physical Space
 Curricular Theme/Set
Combination of Courses
Small Learning Communities
Structure
• House Plans
 Groups Students Across Grade Levels
or by Grade Levels
 Students Stay w/House Members and
Teachers
 Personalized School Experience
 Limited Effect on Curriculum and
Instruction
 Governed by School Principal
 May/May Not Have Own Space
Small Learning Communities
Structure
• Freshman Academy
 Eases Transition
 Own Academy/House Setting
 Same Staff
 Team Teaching—Core Areas
 Extra Support Services
 Mentoring
 Career Exploration
Small Learning Communities
Structure
• Magnet School
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Public Choice—Encourages Cultural Diversity
Separate Location
Transition Activities
Additional Admission Requirements
Focus—Students’ Interests and Academic
Strengths
 Governance…Autonomous or Larger School
Leadership
Small Learning Communities
Structure
• Career Academies
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
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Broadly Defined Career Themes
Integrated Learning
Work-based Learning
Real-world Applications
High Academic Standards with Career
Applications
 Business Partnerships
 Governance—Overseen by Larger School’s
Principal
CAREER ACADEMIES
Typical Themes
• Business & Finance
• Information
Technology
• Health Services
• Construction,
Engineering & Design
• Environmental
Technology
• Arts &
Communication
• Law, Government and
Public Service
• Media, Design and
Production
• Travel, Tourism and
Hospitality
• Human Services
• Math, Science,
Technology
• Biotechnology
CAREER ACADEMIES
Four- Year Typical
Sequences
• Arts Academy
• Information Technology Academy
• Health Science Academy
S ma ll S cho ol Op tions
S ch oo l
C h arac teris tics
Ch a nges Af fec ts E nti re
S choo l
S chedu li ng C hange s
C rea tes A utono m ou s
S choo l
R equi res C hange in
Cu rri cu lum
Cu rri cu lum T augh t in
Con tex t
Adv iso r / Adv isee
P rog ram
Intern ships /J ob
S hadow ing /Co mm un it y
E xper ien ce
Incr eas es N umb e r of
Ad mi nistr ators
S ch oo l
Wi th in a
S ch oo l
H ous e
Fre sh m an
A ca d em y
M agn et
S ch oo ls
C ar e er
A ca d em ies
No
Ye s
No
No
Op ti ona l
Si gn ifica nt
Si gn ificant
M ino r
M ino r
Si gn ificant
Ye s
No
No
Op ti ona l
Op ti ona l
No
No
No
Ye s
Ye s
Op ti ona l
Op ti ona l
Op ti ona l
Ye s
Ye s
Op ti ona l
Op ti ona l
Ye s
Op ti ona l
Op ti ona l
No
No
No
Op ti ona l
Ye s
Ye s
No
No
No
No
Readiness Survey
Need for Small
Learning Communities
Checklist
Small Learning Communities
Research
•
•
•
•
•
•
Increased attendance
Increased student achievement
Increased student participation
Increased student and parent satisfaction
Increased positive student behavior
Greater focus on student interests and
aptitudes
• Relevancy leads to high achievement
Small Learning Communities
Unsolved Opportunities
•
•
•
•
•
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Lack of specific goals
Failure to address literacy
Unchanged curriculum and instruction
Too much emphasis on belonging
Ignoring staff concerns
Uninformed student assignment
Timing
Focusing only on teachers
Small Learning Communities
Issues
• People
• Teaching and Learning
• Campus-Wide
Small Learning Communities
Key Elements
• Autonomy
• Identify
• Personalization
Small Learning Communities
Key Elements
• Autonomy
 Space…Separateness
 Schedule…Flexible
 Budget
 Curriculum/Instruction
 Personnel
Small Learning Communities
Key Elements
• Identity
 Vision/Mission
 Thematic Focus
 Self-selection of Teachers &
Students
Small Learning Communities
Key Elements
• Personalization
 Student Involvement--Opportunity
for All
 Teacher Involvement/Continuity
 Parent and Community
Involvement
 Support through Student-Teacher
Relationships
Small Learning Communities
Key Elements
• Instructional Focus
Focus on Student Learning, “Academic Press”
Heterogeneous Grouping
Professional Development & Collaboration
Integrated Curriculum/Teaching Teams,
No Subject Area Boundaries, Thematic
Focus, Aligned across Grade Levels
 Large Repertoire of Instructional Strategies




Curriculum
• Create a school focus
• Strive for higher levels of
Rigor and Relevance
• Interdisciplinary
• Differentiation
Integration
Interdisciplinary
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Performances
• Work-based
• Knowledge-based
• Literacy-based
• Inquiry-based
• Project-based
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Work-based Units
• Food preparation
• Construction
• Human services
• Equipment operation
• Plant production
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Knowledge-based Units
•Economic Cycles
•Ecology Issue
•History of Technology
•Industrial Revolution
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Literacy-based Projects
• Literature Depicting
Work/Economy
• Exploring Life’s Work:
Specific Careers
• Biographies of
Industrial Leaders
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Inquiry-based Units
• Best Products Analysis
• Community of the Future
• Genetic Code
• Local Ecology Issue
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Projects-based Units
• Construction
• Models
• Robotics
• Industrial Design
• Plant or Animal Projects
Instructional Planning
Planning Steps
Definition of Theme
Brainstorm Possible Performance
Student Work
Standards and Priority
Levels of Expected Knowledge and
Performance
Content Knowledge
Assessment and Instruction
Theme-based Planning Tool
Student Work
Student Work
Student Work
Student Work
Theme
Student Work
Student Work
Theme-based Planning Tool
Standards
Standards
Student Work
Student Work
Student Work
Student Work
Theme
Student Work
Standards
Student Work
Curriculum
Readiness for
Interdisciplinary
Instruction Checklist
Curriculum
Interdisciplinary
Worksheets
Activity—Designing
Interdisciplinary Instruction
Interdisciplinary
Planning Wheel
Small Learning Communities
Key Elements
• Accountability
 Detailed Planning
 Multiple Forms of Assessment
 Total Implementation of Key Small Learning
Community Elements
 Networking with Other Small Learning
Communities
Small Learning Communities
Common Strategies
•
•
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•
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Alternative Scheduling
Freshman Transition Activities
Student/Teacher Advisory System
Adult Advocacy System
Parent Outreach
Academic Teaming
Small Learning Communities
Development Steps
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
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Goal Setting
Parent/ Community Discussion
Selection of Structure
Staffing
Facility Changes
Student Selection
Curriculum
Schedule
Budgeting
Implementation Timeline
Implementation Teams
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study
•
•
•
•
•
•
Personalized Learning
Organized around Student
Teacher with Students—4 Years
Time to Talk
Time to Integrate
Types: Career Academies, Houses,
9th Grade, Magnet Schools
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study
• Found in Nearly All the Schools
• Provides the Platform to Focus Instruction
around Student’s Interests, Learning Style,
and Aptitude
• Permits Educators to Develop a Personal
Relationship over Time with Students
• Personal Relations Prove to Be Essential in
Motivating and Nurturing Students
• 27 of 30—Career Academies—Primary
Delivery System
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study
• Informal—Band, Student Leadership,
Arts, Hip Hop University
• Other—World Languages, Finance,
Technology, SCOPE (Student-Centered
Opportunity for Personalized Education
• Great Networks and Resources
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study
• 9th Grade
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–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
Looks Different
Not Remediation—Enrichment
Catch Up—Collapse Soph., Jr. Years
No Credit
Train Staff—Reading, Math, Science
Believe in Themselves—Learn Culture of the School
Study Skills Course
Advisement Period
Upperclassmen—Mentors
Separate Location
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study—9th Gr.
• Great Attention and Resources are Focused
on 9th graders
• Many Have a 9th Grade Academy or Freshmen
House
• Students Lacking Adequate Academic Skills
are Enrolled in Enrichment Courses Designed
Around Student’s Interest Rather Than
Remediation
• Dramatic Improvement by End of 9th Grade
• Students Indoctrinated into the Culture of High
Expectations and Caring Adults
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study
• 12th Grade
– Motivation Same—Poor/Performing
Students
– Transition 9th– Out, 12th
– Senior Projects
– Community Service Programs
– Work-based Programs
– Articulation Programs with Postsecondary
Small Learning Communities
From Successful Practices Study—12th Gr.
–12th Graders Receive Special
Attention
–Students Who Are Adequately
Prepared May Collapse Four-year
Program into Three Years
–Strong Articulation with Higher
Education Allows Students to
Earn up to 30 College Credits
–Senior Projects
PLANNING
Planning Checklist
SLC Resource Kit
Table of Contents
Aspirations, Issues and Opportunities
Staff, Students and Stakeholders
Teaching and Learning
Logistics
Learning from Others
SLC Resource Kit
Checklists
Forms
Handouts
Q’s and A’s
Resources/Networks
“Experience and research
make it very clear that
school size does matter-but they also make it clear
that ‘small’ is no silver
bullet.”
Michelle Fine and Janice Somerville
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Small Learning Communities