I. Research Summary for Adapting School Organization to Promote Student Success
Successful small learning communities allow for flexibility in the leadership roles of teachers, staff and administrators, with shared decision-making becoming the norm. The principal acts as an instructional leader rather than simply a building manager, creating an environment that encourages the use of "out-of-the-box" strategies to engage students This ultimately leads to greater student achievement. In many high schools that strive to personalize student learning, staff can become consumed with issues of design and structure. However, it is imperative to balance these issues with the development of new methods of teaching and learning (Wallach & Lear 2003).
Schools have created new systems, including the use of teacher teams, student advisory programs, personal learning plans, project based learning, peer mentoring, and service learning programs; are all innovative methods for promoting student achievement while creating smaller and more personalized environments for students (DiMartino, Clarke & Wolk 2003). Working within these new models can be daunting for teachers and administrators. Yet learning new ways to use data and creating new organizational structures to support personalization are critical to the success of these efforts (Schomker 2001).
School staff must also adapt the schedule to work within emerging small learning communities. While there are many strategies available to schools to adapt scheduling to suit their needs, it is important to have structured conversations around what the new schedule(s) for the school should be (LAB 1998; Ballinger 2000).II. General Research Summary for Redesigning High Schools
The research on redesigning high schools is about both size and quality. The discussion about size focuses on the various ways to reorganize large schools into smaller learning communities and the persuasive findings that smaller can be better in terms of student performance and engagement in learning. The discussion about quality refers to improving the teaching and learning environments so that they are also more student-centered, more individually relevant and rigorous in content, and more versatile/effective with respect to teaching strategies.
Most studies of high school redesign look at "best practices" in concert and as elements of unified and systemic change. In a 1999 New American High Schools publication, Key High School Reform Strategies: An Overview of Research Findings, authors Visher, Emanuel, and Teitelbaum listed ten reform strategies with two warnings:
First, . . . none of the strategies by themselves should be expected to make a significant difference in any one school. That is, the available evidence suggests that it is the gathering of several strategies under one roof, especially certain combinations of strategies, that matters . . . Second, schools should adapt strategies to fit their own unique circumstances. Unfortunately, there is no single, correct way to implement reforms . . . (p. 2).
Having identified the essential elements of reform, researchers have since turned to focusing on the barriers to improvement that schools have encountered. All Over the Map addresses what states can do to help. New Small Learning Communities: Findings from recent literature looks at numerous barriers and their roots.
Researchers also continue to probe the interplay of reform elements with other factors such as individual school cultures, teacher and administrator capacity, and racial and economic inequities. Research About School Size and School Performance in Impoverished Communities by Craig Howley, Marty Strange, and Robert Bickel (ERIC Digest, 2000) reviews the findings of the Matthew Project, a multi-state study that replicated findings showing that small schools significantly reduce the achievement gap for low-income students. All else equal, larger school size benefits achievement in affluent communities, but it is detrimental in impoverished communities (Howley & Bickel, 1999). Even in affluent communities, however, schools serving 1,500 or more students might have diseconomies of scale and bureaucratic operating modes that are not educationally hospitable. Indeed, a wide consensus seems to have emerged (cf. Fulton, 1996) that schools larger than 1,000 are unwise choices for any community. The consensus clearly suggests that schools in impoverished communities should be much, much smaller.III. Annotated References for Adapting School Organization to Promote Student Success
Ballinger, C. (2000, May). Changing time: Improving learning. High School Magazine, 7(9), 5-8.
Changes to the length of class periods and school days have become acceptable to most schools and their communities. Changes to the school year, however, still are met with skepticism despite logical arguments and promising results.
Chaika, G. (1999, August). Alternative school calendars: Smart idea or senseless experiment? Education World. Copyright 1999 Education World.
If American students are to compete effectively in a global economy, do they need to spend substantially more time in school? Would increasing the length of the school year or school day raise students' achievement, or would it be more advantageous to alter how we use the time we currently have? Many school systems are experimenting with alternative instructional schedules in an attempt to find out.
Dewees, S. (1999, December). The school-within-a-school model. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED438147).
The traditional governance culture in which most school boards function contributes to role confusion. Most board policies focus more on operational concerns than on governance. Several Colorado boards have applied John Carver's Policy Governance model to define their parameters.
George, P.S. & McEwin, C.K. (1999, April). High schools for a new century: Why is the high school changing? NASSP Bulletin, 83(606), 10-24.
Growing student diversity, reports and government mandates, ninth-grade transition problems, and middle-school influences have produced new enthusiasm for high-school reorganization. Restructuring approaches such as block scheduling, differentiated instruction, academic teaming, house plans, career academies, heterogeneous grouping, and integrated curricula are transforming many high schools.
Gregory, T. (2001, December). Breaking up large high schools: Five common (and understandable) errors of execution. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED459049).
In the past 30 years, research has suggested the need for much smaller high schools. In response, some administrators have attempted to subdivide big high schools into smaller entities. This digest reviews recent research on the movement to break up large schools and discusses five types of error common to such attempts--errors of autonomy, size, continuity, time, and control.
Kneese, C. ( 2000, August). Teaching in year-round schools. ERIC Digest. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED449123).
The year-round calendar is an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional 9-month school calendar. This digest examines the benefits and challenges of teaching in year-round schools. Year-round schools may be on a single-track or multi-track schedule. Single-track schedules call for an instructional year of 180 days with short breaks interspersed throughout. Multi-track schedules stagger the instructional and vacation/intercession periods of each track throughout the entire year, so some students are receiving instruction while others are on vacation.
Kruse, C.A., & Kruse, G.D. (1995, May). The master schedule and learning: Improving the quality of education. NASSP Bulletin, 79(571), 1-8.
The master schedule determines instructional time, use of space, student grouping, and teacher role. Currently, secondary school buildings are used like factories, and teachers can spend an entire career in the same classroom. Traditional, intensified, and flexible block scheduling produces master schedules with greater flexibility, less isolation, and more sensitivity to brain functioning.
Metzker, B. (2002, March). School calendars. ERIC Digest.
This Digest discusses the rationale for changing school calendars, describes what some districts are doing, and advises school leaders and board members on the issues that typically arise when a calendar is changed.
Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory (1998). Block scheduling: Innovations with time. Providence, RI: Author.
This booklet provides information about block scheduling--its advantages and drawbacks. Schools can use it as a discussion tool to improve their use of time by reformulating student and teacher schedules. The booklet can help educators choose a block scheduling program that will suit their school. The booklet explains the purpose of block scheduling and presents various models of this type of scheduling, such as the 4x4 plan, the A/B plan, and the trimester plan.
IV. Additional References for Adapting School Organization to Promote Student Success
Bryk, A. S., Lee, V., and Holland, P. B. (1993). Catholic schools and the common good. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Comer, J. P. (1996). Rallying the whole village: The Comer process for reforming education. New York: Teacher's College Press.
Darling-Hammond, L., Ancess, J. , and Ort, S. W. (forthcoming). Reinventing high school: The coalition campus schools project. American Educational Research Journal.
DiMartino, J., Clarke, J., and Wolk, D. editors (2003). Personalized Learning: Preparing High School Students to Create Their Futures. Lanham, MD: ScarecrowPress.
Glickman, C. (1993). Renewing America's schools: A guide for school-based action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lee, V., and Smith, J. (1994). Effects of high school restructuring and size on gains in achievement and engagement for early secondary school students. Madison: Center on the Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Lee, V.E., Smith, J., & Croninger, R. (1995). Another look at high school restructuring. Issues in Restructuring Schools, No. 9. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Lieberman, A. (1995). The work of restructuring schools: Building from the ground up. New York: Teachers College Press.
Meier, D. (1995). The power of their ideas: lessons for America from a small school in Harlem. Boston: Beacon Press.
National Institute of Education. (1977). Violent Schools-Safe Schools: The safe school study report to Congress. Washington, DC: Author.
Newmann, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1995). Successful school restructuring: A report to the public and educators. Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Schmoker, M. (2001) The Results Fieldbook: Practical Strategies from Dramatically Improved Schools. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Smylie, M., Lazarus, V., and Brownlee-Conyers, J. (1996, Fall). Instructional outcomes of school-based participative decision making. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 18 (3): 181-198.
Wallach C. and Lear R. An Early Report on Comprehensive High School Conversions. Seattle WA: Small Schools Project.
V. General References on Redesigning High Schools
Breaking Ranks in Action
New Report Tracks Progress of Groundbreaking Research
School Redesign Network at Stanford University
Internet Resources on Starting Small Schools
Top 5 websites with links to research on small schools
The Research in Brief:
New Small Learning Communities: Findings From Recent Literature
Small Schools: The Numbers Tell a Story
Current Literature on Small Schools
Affective and Social Benefits of Small-Scale Schooling
Research About School Size and School Performance in Impoverished Communities
Curriculum Adequacy and Quality in High Schools Enrolling Fewer Than 400 Pupils (9-12)
ASK ERIC Internet Sites:
Youth at the Crossroads: Facing High School and Beyond (Winter 2001)
Transforming the American High School: New Directions for State and Local Policy (2001)
High Schools That Work
The New American High Schools Initiative
High Schools of the Millenium
State Graduation Requirements
Initiation Rites in American High Schools: A National Survey (August 2000)
1994 Bibliography on School Restructuring
I. General References on School Restructuring
These topics reflect specific research projects conducted at the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools.
Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools