Benefits of Smaller Schools (page 2)
Fewer adolescent students would slip through the cracks if their schools were smaller and more personal, according to the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. The EDC-based group called this week upon federal, state, and local policymakers to provide resources and support to create small schools at the middle-grades level.
In those cases where small schools are not feasible, the National Forum recommends that district and school leaders break down large middle-grades schools into smaller schools or small learning communities where teams of teachers share small groups of students (sometimes called “clusters” or “houses”). Though not sufficient in itself, "smallness" creates a personalized learning environment that enhances teaching and learning at the middle level, according to the statement.
“Too many young adolescents attend large, impersonal schools where a substantial number of students are not engaged in learning, lack meaningful relationships with adults, and are increasingly alienated from school," said Deborah Kasak, National Forum executive director. "We know that smaller learning communities have higher student achievement and lower dropout rates,” Kasak said.
"As students move through the middle grades, they do better in a more personalized learning environment where their teachers know them well," said Nancy Ames, EDC vice president and a member of the National Forum's policy committee which helped draft the statement. “It's a concept that makes common sense. If all of your teachers know your full name and something about you, chances are you won't slip through the cracks," Ames said.
The policy statement is an integral piece of the National Forum’s comprehensive policy agenda for middle-grades improvement. The Forum, which represents 65 organizations and foundations, has outlined its priorities for lasting positive change for young adolescents:
- a separate designation for middle-grades schooling as a distinct phase of education;
- a focus on adolescent literacy with support for advancing reading and writing in all the content areas;
- qualified teachers in every middle-grades classroom who not only know their subjects but also how to teach those subjects to young adolescents;
- smaller learning communities that help personalize instruction so students have the support they need;
- additional resources for middle-grades schools and students, including more targeted research and dissemination of successful practices.
The policy on small schools and small learning communities is the fourth in a series of statements published by the Forum.
To read the full text of the Forum's policy statement, visit http://www.mgforum.org/Policy/policy.asp. To learn more about the National Forum and its mission to improve middle-grades education, visit http://www.mgforum.org.
The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform is an alliance of educators, researchers, national associations, and officers of professional organizations and foundations, dedicated to improving education in the middle grades. The Forum seeks to improve student learning dramatically by advocating that schools provide strong academics, respond to students’ needs and interests, and ensure equal access to high-quality classes.
Reprinted with the permission of the Educational Development Center. © 1994-2008 Education Development Center, Inc. All rights reserved.
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