Brazil’s Students Occupy Their Schools to Save Them
AFNORTH, Brussels to Merge Football Squads
Burnsall, Cracoe, Grassington and Kettlewell schools agree ‘formal pact’ to work together
Can We Believe in Risky Business?
Chicago’s Renaissance 2010: The Small Schools Movement Meets The Ownership Society
China’s Small Schools Go Digital
City Students at Small Public High Schools Are More Likely to Graduate, Study Says
Do Small Schools Harden Segregation?
Education in the Real World
Forget Football and Prom – What Big High Schools Get Wrong
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap …and Others Don’t
From Students, Less Kindness for Strangers?
How closing schools hurts neighborhoods
I Can’t Think
I Wish I had a Pair of Scissors So I could Cut Out Your Tongue
An Interview with Zoe Weil
Little But Lucky
Make School A Democracy
No Forced School Closures
Oakland Must Again Commit to Creating Small Schools
Oaktown Oaks thrived for decades: Small schools kept community alive
Opposition to School Closures Impressive Fight: Professor
Our Non Negotiables: What We Stand For
SA’s growing numbers of very large and very small public schools is raising concerns about kids getting lost in crowded campuses
Small High Schools Post Big Gains: 5 Questions with Gordon Berlin
Small Schools: The Myth, Reality, and Potential of Small Schools
Study Shows Why Cliques Thrive in Some Schools More Than Others
The Power of 12
The True Cost of High School Dropouts
U.S. News Ranks America’s Best High Schools for Third Consecutive Year
What Does Research Say About School District Consolidation?
What we lose when a neighborhood school goes away
Why Are Finland’s Schools So Successful?
Would You Send Your Kids to a School Where Students Make the Rules?
You’ve Got to Have (150) Friends

Scholarly Articles and Reports
Breaking Up Large High Schools
Building a Districtwide Small Schools Movement
Consolidation of Schools and Districts: What the Research Says and What it Means
Dollars & Sense—The Cost Effectiveness of Small Schools
Don’t Supersize Me: The Relationship of Planned Construction Cost to Planned School Enrollment in the U.S.
Effects of School Size: A Review of the Literature with Recommendations
Essential Elements of a Small School
Frequently Asked Questions About MDRC’s Study of Small Public High Schools in New York City
High School: Size Does Matter
The Hobbit Effect
Imagining Rural Life: Schooling as a Sense of Place
Implementation Study of Smaller Learning Communities
Jack and the Giant School
Local Government Commission Recommends “Neighborhood-Based Schools”
Parent and Family involvement in Education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012
The Rural School and Community Trust
School Size and Its Relationship to Achievement and Behavior
Small Classes, Small Schools: The Time is Now
Small High Schools on a Larger Scale: The Impact of School Conversions in Chicago
Small Learning Communities
Small Learning Communities: Implementing and Deepening Practice
Small Scale and School Culture: The Experience of Private Schools
Small Schools: The Numbers Tell a Story
Small School Initiatives Survey
Small Schools Operating Costs: Reversing Assumptions About Economics of Scale
Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City’s Small Public High Schools of Choice
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
What’s So Big about Small Schools? The Case for Small Schools: Nationwide and in North Dakota
The “Why’s” of Class Size: Student Behavior in Small Classes

Schools Within Schools
New school year, new school district superintendent in East New York

Brazil’s Students Occupy Their Schools to Save Them by Pablo Ortellado (December, 2015)

Abstract: Since this fall, Brazilian students have physically occupied school buildings and protested across their neighborhoods, ignoring state demands and even forceful police interventions, in defiance of a new state dictate to close down 94 community schools and institute bussing into larger, overcrowded schools.

AFNORTH, Brussels to Merge Football Squads by Gregory Broome (September, 2015)

Abstract: Small schools, AFNORTH and Brussels, have problem-solved in order to field a complete team by joining forces. This a is a potential long-term arrangement as it is predicted that neither the enrollment numbers nor the football squad will increase in size in the near future.
Building a Districtwide Small Schools Movement by Seema Shah, Kavitha Mediratta, and Sara McAlister (April, 2009)

Excerpts from Abstract: It is not often that a government entity publicly credits community organizing for a positive transformation in public schools. But this is exactly what happened in Oakland, California, where years of on-the-ground organizing – community meetings, relationship building, and public actions – led to the creation of forty-eight new small schools, fundamentally transforming the district landscape. The work of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) played a critical role in sustaining the small schools movement in the midst of a fiscal crisis and multiple transitions in district leadership. Yet the story of OCO cannot be summarized in a single quote or accolade. Community organizing for school reform is deeply entwined in the complex dynamics of communities, politics, and schools.

To capture this context, the study team followed the OCO small school campaign over six years, collected data from multiple sources, and analyzed these data alongside data from six urban districts around the nation. This study of OCO utilizes extensive document analysis; student outcome data; and interviews and surveys from parents, teachers, district administrators, and the organizers themselves to answer three key questions. In what ways has OCO’s organizing influenced school district policy? To what degree has OCO’s organizing influenced the capacity of schools to educate students successfully? Has OCO’s organizing to create and support the small schools policy produced measurable gains in student outcomes? OCO’s organizing yields important lessons about how communities and educators can come together to generate reform efforts, the challenges and opportunities associated with reforms when they are scaled up, and the importance of community engagement in sustaining reform over time.

Breaking Up Large High Schools: Five Common (and Understandable) Errors of Execution by Tom Gregory (December, 2001)

Submitted to SSC from Robin Perrault. Much research can be found about splitting large public high schools into smaller entities (school within a school – swas). There is a lot written about how to do it, how it works, how it doesn’t, etc. I’ve included this one because it outlines why some of these endeavors fail. I won’t concentrate on this topic but merely highlight this one as representative. For me, it just shows why The Grauer School does work!

Excerpt from the Abstract: Large high schools have frequently been broken up into schools within a school (SWAS) serving 200-500 students. This strategy attempts to personalize the familiar comprehensive high school, but characteristics built into the design of most breakup efforts make it impossible for the SWAS to develop a small-school culture.

Burnsall, Cracoe, Grassington and Kettlewell schools agree ‘formal pact’ to work together by Stuart Thompson (July, 2016)

Excerpt from the Abstract:
Four small primary schools in the United Kingdom have decided to share resources and personnel to improve the quality of education offered to students. The “federated schools” will be deemed as such beginning in September. This is a collaborative solution to address the common problems that smaller schools face: limited funds, teachers and administrators. Often these issues result in school consolidation, but Dale administrators have sought out another path.


Can We Believe in Risky Business? by Stuart Grauer (April, 2013)

“Can We Believe in Risky Business?” by Dr. Stuart Grauer, first appeared in SmartBrief, the nationwide blog of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). In this article,  he proposed that risk-taking should be considered as a core value for success and survival in today’s education. He suggested that:

  1. Risk-taking is not just for leaders, every child should be encouraged to do so.
  2. Risk-taking requires our support, guidance and encouragement.
  3. It must be embedded in a larger school culture, guided by school vision and mission.
  4. Risk-taking means that mistakes will occur. To succeed as a risk-taking school, we must not only create a safe environment for students to make mistakes, but be flexible enough to be able to change course if something is not right.


Chicago’s Renaissance 2010: The Small Schools Movement Meets The Ownership Society by William Ayers and Michael Klonskey

This article analyzes the downfall of the small schools movement by programs like the Renaissance 10 initiative in Chicago, IL. It is written by two leading small school advocates, William Ayers and Michael Klonsky. The Renaissance 10 initiative aimed to create 100 new small public schools in low socioeconomic areas dominated by minorities. Unlike the small community driven schools promoted by the authors of the article, the “Ren 10” schools were privately owned by for-profit education companies, like Edison. According to the authors, policies like “Ren 10” promote an “ownership society,” where the government and big businesses are capitalizing on education reform. This is in stark opposition to the original goals of the small schools movement, which was to democratize schools and empower innovative educators who wanted to focus on quality teaching.


China’s Small Schools Go Digital (2014)

Small schools in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region have historically reflected local community values, yet had difficulty attracting teachers due to the long commutes, and remote mountainous locations. Often only one teacher would be responsible for teaching eight courses across multiple grade levels in these small schools. The government has therefore resolved to keep these the regional schools vital by “going digital.” The schools are now equipped with technology, including digital satellite receivers, computers, flat-screen TVs and electronic whiteboards, in order to supplement the small number of teachers. This digital program offers more courses to students, and lessens the load placed on the teachers at small schools.

City Students at Small Public High Schools Are More Likely to Graduate, Study Says by Winnie Hu (2012)

Findings continue to support the benefits of small schools.  “The higher graduation rate at small schools held across the board for all students, regardless of race, family income or scores on the state’s eighth-grade math and reading tests, according to the data.” One of the most significant, substantial studies on small schools ever–a truly historic initiative and game-changer.


Consolidation of Schools and Districts: What the Research Says and What it Means by Craig Howley, Jerry Johnson, and Jennifer Petrie, Ohio University (2011)

Abstract: This policy brief explains the meaning of consolidation and what it entails, and examines the research related to it. Arguments for consolidation rest primarily on two benefits, fiscal efficiency and higher educational quality. Contemporary research does not support claims of the widespread benefits of school and district consolidations. Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular benefit from smaller schools and districts, and can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs. Authors recommend that policymakers closely examine claims of the benefits of consolidation for their state; avoid statewide mandates for consolidation and minimum sizes for schools and districts; consider alternatives to improve fiscal efficiency or educational quality; and investigate de-consolidation as a means of improving fiscal efficiency and learning outcomes.

Dollars & Sense—The Cost Effectiveness of Small Schools by the Knowledge Works Foundation (2002)

Executive Summary: Even though people may appreciate the benefits of small schools, too many think that the cost of such schools is prohibitive. To answer their concerns, Dollars & Sense summarizes research on the educational and social benefits of small schools and the negative effects of large schools on students, teachers, and members of the community, as well as the “diseconomies of scale” inherent in large schools. As the research shows, measuring the cost of education by graduates rather than by all students who go through the system suggests that small schools are a wise investment. In addition, Dollars & Sense answers two fundamental questions: can small schools be built cost effectively, and has anyone done so? Using data drawn from 489 schools submitted to design competitions in 1990-2001, Dollars & Sense answers both questions with a resounding yes, demonstrating that small schools are not prohibitively expensive. Investing tax dollars in small schools does make sense.


Don’t Supersize Me: The Relationship of Planned Construction Cost and Planned School Enrollment in the U.S. by Craig B. Howley

Abstract: Conventional wisdom holds that economies of scale necessitate the construction of larger schools. The study reported here questioned that view. It posed two questions: (1) are larger high schools less costly to build than smaller schools and (2) what contextual variables predict cost? […] The findings show that the smaller half of these 9-12 schools were, on average, no more expensive per student and were less costly per square foot. Interestingly, subsequent enrollments for smaller planned schools were shown to have been underestimated, whereas subsequent enrollments for schools planned as were shown to be overestimated. These tendencies, in fact, would tend to render planned smaller schools less expensive and planned larger schools more expensive per student.


Do Small Schools Undermine Diversity?: New York’s Tiny High Schools Lift Kids, Harden Segregation by Bruce Fuller in Education Week (February 4, 2014)

While the small school movement in New York City has improved graduation rates and standardized test scores for Caucasian and Asian students, African-American and Hispanic students have not seen the same games. Part of the problem is that students tend to choose schools close to home in their own neighborhoods, which are largely segregated by race in the area. Can this hurdle be overcome without forcing students to attend schools away from their comfort zones?


Education in the Real World by Dr. Stuart Grauer (May, 2013)

Please check out Dr. Stuart Grauer’s new article Education in the Real World on SmartBlog, the nationwide blog of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

“Fearless educators do not fear the real world, they seek it out and invite it in. Research makes it crystal clear that teachers whom students perceive as highly effective see their purposes as freeing rather than controlling. They view people as friendly rather that unfriendly. They see people as worthy. Real teachers have personal relationships with students and community members whom they care about as individuals. Students feel connected to these teachers and, subsequently, to higher causes, and they pursue those connections in tertiary education. In small and community-based schools like Orchard Gardens, we interact with everyone we can, cliques or not. This is a real world I recognize.”


Forget Football and Prom – What Big High Schools Get Wrong by Stuart Grauer (October, 2015)

Excerpt: Schools and school districts have grown steadily in size for well over 100 years. But since the 1960s, teachers have consistently expressed their desire for smaller learning communities.The reasons people thrive in smaller learning communities are powerful and in need of expression. But before stating what is so great about small schools, it is crucial to state what a small school is, and is not … because the millions of students and teachers lose out when small schools aren’t really small.


Effects of School Size: A Review of the Literature with Recommendations by John R. Slate and Craig H. Jones (2005)

Findings in the existing literature of effects of school size show small schools advantage on curricular diversity, academic achievement, daily attendance rates, teacher and student morale, student and parent participation, etc. The authors call for future research on developing a comprehensive theoretical and methodological model on the effects of school size. SSC’s research on defining the exact parameters of school size provides future research with methodological basis.

Abstract: In this article the literature on the effects of school size is summarized to describe what is currently known about its relationship to economic efficiency, curricular diversity, academic achievement, and related variables. Two curvilinear relationships are identified: one for economic efficiency and one for educational outcomes. In both cases, increasing size initially brings positive effects but these trends are reversed as size continues to increase. The point of diminishing returns for educational outcomes occurs with fewer students than is the case for economic efficiency. Optimal school size can be defined by a range in which economic efficiency and educational outcomes both show positive relationships to larger school size. Recommendations are made to guide future research and to help educational decision-makers.

Slate, J. & Jones, C. (2005, Spring). Effects of School Size: A Review of the Literature with Recommendations. Retrieved from


Essential Elements of a Small School by Oregon Small Schools Initiative (2010)

The Oregon Small Schools Initiative establishes essential elements based on which small schools function effectively and that can be used as assessment rubric. The elements take into account key attributes shared by high achievement schools and are developed in four areas: 1) Teaching & Learning 2) Structure & Culture 3) Community Engagement and 4) leadership development. Some key elements that are found to be characteristic of successful small schools include equitability in academic achievement, school environment, school-community communication and leadership; personalized learning and environment; collective vision and mission; and multilateral collaboration and governance.

The elements can be used a guidance for small school design and implementation, as well as ongoing assessment and improvement.

What are the most essential elements to the success of your school? Share with us by making comments today.


Frequently Asked Questions About MDRC’s Study of Small Public High Schools(2014)

Since 2010, MDRC published a series of reports from its ongoing study of small, non-selective public high schools in New York City, called “small schools of choice” (SSCs) by the researchers. The SSCs have 100 students or less per grade with total school enrollment capped at 400. MDRC’s latest findings, released October 16, 2014, conclude that SSCs have higher graduation rates, at 71.6 percent, compared with 62.2 percent of students at large schools. 8.4% more students graduating from SSCs are enrolling in post-secondary programs as compared to students graduating from traditional large high schools, and per pupil costs at SSCs are 14-16% less than large consolidated schools.
From Students, Less Kindness for Strangers? by Pamela Paul (2010)

In this New York Times article, Pamela Paul asserts that “Today’s students scored significantly lower in empathic concern (a 48 percent decrease) and perspective taking (34 percent), considered the more important indices of empathy. In a decisively everyone-for-themselves manner, they are less likely to agree with statements like ‘I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me’ and ‘I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.’ This is particularly notable since these are considered shared social ideals: people are more likely to say they agree than they really do.”


Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap…and Others Don’t by James Collins (2001)

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t is a 2001 management book by James C. Collins that aims to describe how companies transition from being average companies to great companies and how companies can fail to make the transition. “Greatness” is defined as financial performance several multiples better than the market average over a sustained period of time. Collins finds the main factor for achieving the transition to be a narrow focusing of the company’s resources on their field of competence.


High Schools: Size Does Matter by Thu Suong Thi Nguyen (March, 2004)

Excerpt: The research and literature on small schools have revealed multiple variations of small schools, including small learning communities, autonomous small schools, theme-based schools, historically small schools, freestanding schools, alternative schools, schools-within-a-school, schools- within-a-building, house plans, career academies, pathways or clusters, multi- or scatterplexes, charter schools, pilot schools, and magnet schools. These school types are fundamentally distinguished by their degree of autonomy and separateness from their host schools.


The Hobbit Effect by Lorna Jimerson, Ed.D (August, 2006)

Abstract: Across the country, states are pushing to close their small rural schools with the mistaken hope of saving money, in spite of overwhelming evidence that smaller schools are beneficial for students, and that they frequently function as the glue that binds together small communities, serving as their economic and social hub. The battle is even more illogical, the author contends, when compared with the opposing trend in urban areas, where reform efforts concentrate on breaking down dysfunctionally large schools and forming new, smaller learning communities.

The Hobbit Effect by Lorna Jimerson, Ed.D (August, 2006)

Abstract: Across the country, states are pushing to close their small rural schools with the mistaken hope of saving money, in spite of overwhelming evidence that smaller schools are beneficial for students, and that they frequently function as the glue that binds together small communities, serving as their economic and social hub. The battle is even more illogical, the author contends, when compared with the opposing trend in urban areas, where reform efforts concentrate on breaking down dysfunctionally large schools and forming new, smaller learning communities.

How closing schools hurts neighborhoods by Valerie Strauss (March 6, 2013)

Abstract: In discussing several school closings in Philadelphia, Strauss highlights the writings of Elaine Simon, co-director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Simon writes about the costs to a community when neighborhood schools are closed and students are forced to travel some distance from their community to attend school. The reality is that most displaced students do not fare better. In addition, schools are historically focal points of communities; without them neighborhoods lose relationships and connectedness. Simon draws a parallel between school closings and urban renewal in the mid-20th century.

I Can’t Think by Sharon Begley (February, 2011)

Submitted to SSC by Robin Perrault.  This is a very interesting article about how when we are bombarded with information overload when making choices/decisions, our decisions are poor. It’s funny I found it when I was slightly overwhelmed with information!

Excerpt: “Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary added “information fatigue” in 2009. But as information finds more ways to reach us, more often, more insistently than ever before, another consequence is becoming alarmingly clear: trying to drink from a firehose of information has harmful cognitive effects. And nowhere are those effects clearer, and more worrying, than in our ability to make smart, creative, successful decisions.”


I Wish I Had a Pair of Scissors So I Could Cut Out Your Tongue by Alina Simone (December, 2016)

Excerpt: “In an era of school consolidation, many children travel further from their local communities to attend school. This article discusses the incidence of bullying on school busses in New York.”


Imaginging Rural Life: Schooling as a Sense of Place by Mary Bushnell (1999)

Excerpt: “I present the case of one reborn rural community populated by former urbanites. What lifestyle and values do these newcomers seek? In what ways do they locate or construct these values? In this study, a small private school provides the vehicle for adults and children to construct, communicate, and enact their idealized identities. The school provides a physical and imagined place where newcomer families negotiate their sense of rural place. The distinction between school and home values is explored as families express their identities associated with public and private lives. The school also becomes the symbolic site where the former urbanites contest their sense of rural place with their neighbors who are long-standing rural inhabitants. The predominantly upper middle class newcomers negotiate their sense of rural place against the backdrop of the primarily working class old timers’ concept of rurality. Former urbanites’ conception of rural community emerges as imagined and situational.”


Implementation Study of Smaller Learning Communities: Final Report. U.S. Department of Education (2008)

Excerpt from Executive Summary: The Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) program was established in response to growing national concerns about students too often lost and alienated in large, impersonal high schools, as well as concerns about school safety and low levels of achievement and graduation for many students. Authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Title V, Part D, Subpart 4, Section 5441(b)), the SLC program was designed to provide local education agencies with funds to plan, implement, or expand SLCs in large high schools of 1,000 students or more. The SLC legislation allows local education agencies to implement the most suitable structure or combination of structures and strategies to meet their needs.


Interview with Deborah Meier by Mike Klonsky (May, 2011)

Deborah Meier is considered a founder of the modern small-schools movement. Deborah taught for many years in inner-city schools in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. She founded the Central Park East Schools, the first of the teacher-led small schools, in East Harlem in 1974. After leading CPE, she became the founding principal of the Mission Hill School in Boston. Among her many books is The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem, which became must reading for us small schools activists in the ’90s.


An Interview with Zoe Weil by Isaac Graves and Zoe Weil (January, 2014)

Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education ( and is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement, which provides people with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a better world. In her interview with Isaac Graves, Zoe speaks about what community the meaning of community to her, especially pertaining to education and what is missing in community and educational communities today.


Jack and the Giant School by Stacy Mitchell (2000)

Submitted to SSC by Robin Perrault.  This is an easy to read article from New Rules Journal, that includes the history of small schools turning into large schools in the cold war era. There’s a reference summary of the important studies that have been done and specific cases in a few states.

Excerpt: Small school students are less likely to feel alienated and more likely to report a strong sense of belonging. Teachers in large schools might have 150 students each semester. Students tend to be relatively anonymous and easily slip through the cracks. Small schools enable teachers to work more closely with a smaller number of students. This encourages teachers to go the extra mile and enables them to respond to individual needs. The result is that both students and teachers have a more positive attitude about school.


Little But Lucky: Administrators Highlight the Many Benefits of Small Schools—Including Leadership Opportunities by Kathleen Wilson

Published in the Leadership for Student Activities Magazine in December 2013, “Little But Lucky” explores the unique connections that small schools forge between students and their schools’ communities. Students also form family-like groups with each other and have more leadership opportunities because of small school sizes. Finally, teachers are able to bond more closely with individual students and assess and provide for their personal needs.

Excerpt: “People recognize that the school is the heartbeat of the community,” says Robert Mahaffey. “Residents want to invest so that their schools are strong and well-supported. This results in civic and scholarship opportunities for students.”


Make School A Democracy by David L. Kirp

Small rural schools in impoverished areas of Columbia have adopted the Escuela Nueva model, a model that encourages students to be active-participants in their own education. A student council selected by peers takes on many responsibilities in the classroom, and parents are involved on a daily basis in school activities. Studies have shown this model to be incredibly effective as compared to models that embrace the “kill and drill” teaching to the test methodology. This democratic student-centered model, relatively unknown in the United States, demonstrates the importance of giving students freedom and choice in their education.


Local Government Commission Recommends “Neighborhood-Based” Schools by Ann Kauth, Local Government Commission (2001)

Excerpt: In this soon to be printed Local Government Commission report entitled “New Schools In Older Neighborhoods” principal writer Ann Kauth juxtaposes the unprecedented need our state’s school system will face with the equally needed amount of revitalization our urban neighborhoods will need. The paper’s recommendaton: maximize public resources by utilizing schools as multi-purpose tools for neighborhood revitalization. NSBN is pleased to excerpt a portion of this upcoming paper which espouses the need, the opportunity and the necessity of thinking creatively when planning for our state’s school facilities.


New school year, new school district superintendent in East New York by James Harney (2016)

Abstract: Veteran educator Dr. Thomas McBryde Jr. was named Acting Superintendent of Community School District 19 in Brooklyn, NY. The most well known school in the district is Thomas Jefferson Educational Campus, which is made up of four small schools. The school previously struggled with graduation rates and there are hopes that new leadership will improve the schools in the community.


No Forced School Closures by Sean Ford (2016)

Abstract: There is a fierce debate in Tasmania over the closure of small schools. Education Minister Jeremy Rockcliff has long fought against such closures stating, “In many instances, schools are the lifeblood of regional communities, and we firmly believe it is up to local communities to determine their future, not have it imposed from on high against their wishes.” On the other side of the debate is well known economist Saul Eslake and a number of politicians in the Labor-Green government. The state government continues to receive criticism for not forcing school closures.


Oakland Must Again Commit to Creating Small Schools by Dirk Tillotson (2016)

Abstract: The 15 year old effort in Oakland, CA to break up large schools and create small learning communities has proven to be fruitful. Though small school reforms were scaled back once Gates Foundation funds decreased, the legacy was the creation of many highly desirable and highly functional small schools. Demand for such schools has surged among families. According to the California school quality improvement index some of the top performing schools in Oakland qualify as small schools. Despite common misconception that the small schools movement largely failed, data suggests that Oakland’s educational landscape proves otherwise.


Oaktown Oaks thrived for decades: Small schools kept community alive by Jess Cohen (2016)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of reports The Sun-Commercial will be doing on the history of schools that have closed their doors and, in some cases, exist today only in the memories of those who attended them.

Opposition to School Closures Impressive Fight: Professor by Jim Day (2017)

Abstract: This article highlights the effort of citizens working together to strengthen their fight to save five of their local schools from closure.

Our Non-Negotiables: What We Stand For by Stuart Grauer (2016)


Parent and Family involvement in Education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012 by Amber Noel (2012)

This report presents data on students in kindergarten through 12th grade in the United States. The focus of the report is on family involvement in students’ education for the 2011-2012 school year. The report breaks down the data by demographics, including students’ poverty status, parents’ education, and languages spoken in the home. Additionally, data about school characteristics is presented, including school size and school type.


The Rural School and Community Trust is a national nonprofit organization addressing the crucial relationship between good schools and thriving communities.  RSCT efforts include education, research, advocacy, and building the capacity of grassroots leaders and community-based organizations to positively impact rural school reform.  Working in some of the poorest, most challenging rural places, the RSCT involves young people in learning linked to their communities, improves the quality of teaching and school leadership, advocates for appropriate state educational policies, and addresses the critical issue of funding for rural schools. Their dedication to improving education in small rural areas is putting the small schools principles into practice. (2003, December)

To read more about the real benefits of small schools visit RSCT and School Size: Research Based Conclusions.


SA’s growing numbers of very large and very small public schools is raising concerns about kids being lost in crowded campuses by Tim Williams (2016)

Abstract: This article expresses concerns in Southern Australia about the increase in school sizes since 2010. Education officials worry that children may be lost and that there is a lack of adequate learning space as schools continue to consolidate and grow. The article also discusses the consequences of closing small, community based schools. SA Secondary Principals Association president offers some criticism of small schools.


School Size and its relationship to Achievement and Behavior by Public Schools of Carolina et al. (April, 2000)

This report discusses the relationship between school size and educational outcomes in North Carolina schools. It is found that smaller schools do provide advantages on academic achievement and student behavior. In addition, small schools facilitate greater participation in diverse extracurricular activities and report lower dropout rate and less violence. It is suggested that large schools take advantage of small school organizational structures to create an optimal learning environment (e.g. schools-within-school model). The consolidation approach in an effort to reduce cost is not clearly supported by research and is likely to suffer lower educational quality as trade-off.


Small Classes, Small Schools: The Time is Now by Patricia A. Wasley

This Educational Leadership (59:5) article asks why class and school size are important. It looks at the standardized tests movement and points out that the tests merely emphasize academic inequalities without fixing the problems. The article points out that concerns about standardization have risen because researchers now believe that all students can learn equally, not that some students will always be unteachable. The article argues that research shows that smaller schools consistently out perform larger schools because of the individual attention students receive from teachers. There are a myriad ways to learn, and thus teachers must have the time to adjust their teaching strategies per pupil. They cannot do this when they have forty students in one classroom. Finally, the author shares findings about a study she and her colleagues did comparing small schools-within-schools versus large schools in Chicago where the small school students consistently out-performed their peers.


Small High Schools on a Larger Scale: The Impact of School Conversions in Chicago (Kahne, Sporte, de la Toree & Easton, 2011)

“Abstract: This study examines 4 years of small school reform in Chicago, focusing on schools formed by converting large traditional high schools into small autonomous ones. Analyzing systemwide survey and outcome data, the authors assess the assumptions embedded in the reform’s theory of change. They find that these schools are characterized by more collegial and committed teacher contexts and more academically and personally supportive student contexts. There is some evidence of decreased dropout rates and increased graduation rates for the first cohort of students but not for the second cohort. The authors do not find stronger instruction, nor do they find student achievement has improved. They discuss implications for reformers and policy makers who are interested in small schools in particular and high school reform in general.”


Small Learning Communities prepared for The Laboratory for Student Success by Diana Oxley (2004)

Abstract: Several publications summarize the demonstrated positive effects of small learning communities (SLCs) on students and teachers (Cotton, 2001; Fine & Somerville, 1998; Raywid, 1996). They have helped to establish SLCs as an approach to school improvement that not only enhances student achievement but also appears to lessen the achievement gap among students from different ethnic backgrounds. In spite of their contributions to our understanding of the potential of the SLC approach, these publications beg the question of what specific organizational, curricular, and instructional practices produce these desired outcomes. In response, this Review of the Research brings together in one place the published findings of research and documentation that address this question. Its purpose is to identify those SLC practices that have been empirically linked and are perhaps essential to achieving desired educational outcomes.


Small High Schools Post Big Gains: 5 Questions with Gordon Berlin by Emmeline Zhao (2014)

Abstract: The small school model was implemented to some degree in New York City public schools to support largely minority and lower income students. The MDRC published a multi-year report that illustrates some positive findings. Their report showed a 9.4% increase in graduation rates. Students graduating from the small schools are also 22% more likely to go to college. Their study counters the popular, though unfounded, belief that small schools are not effective. Read more about the findings of the report through an interview with Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC.
Small Learning Communities: Implementing and Deepening Practice by Diana Oxley (2007)

According to the publication, the aim of “Small Learning Communities: Implementing and Deepening Practice brings together a knowledge base, tools, and resources for implementing and deepening small learning community practice. Its aim is to provide guidance to school staff and stakeholders in the demanding work of transforming 20th-century comprehensive high schools into 21st-century learning organizations.”

The publication includes tools that teachers in small learning communities can implement to gauge success, reference emerging and best practices.


Small Scale and School Culture: The Experience of Private Schools by George Conway (1994)

Submitted to SSC by Robin Perrault.  This article speaks to why private schools are perceived to be and often are better than the public system; mainly because private schools are a group of people with “shared purposes, personal loyalties, and common sentiments.” I chose the excerpt below because I feel strongly about this self-esteem thing. The very things schools attempt to bolster, by their methods, actually create selfishness instead.

Excerpt: “Most schools recognize the role of self-esteem in the educational success or failure of children, especially in the elementary schools. However, too often, efforts to nurture self-esteem–undertaken without clearly expressed community purposes–end up simply directing children’s attention to their own inner gratification, thus encouraging narcissism.”


Small School Initiatives Survey by Amy Overbay (December, 2003)

Abstract: This survey demonstrates the approaches large consolidated school systems can take to employ strategies to create smaller learning environments for students. Large public middle and high schools in Wake County North Carolina implement strategies to create small learning communities using the school-within-a school model, along with other learning strategies to create personalized learning environments. The responses of middle school principals and high school assistant principals for instruction are documented to determine which strategies are employed.


Small Schools: The Myths, Reality, and Potential of Small Schools by Dr. Stuart Grauer and Christina Ryan (2012)

In this article you will find a comprehensive review of small school benefits that can be helpful for your own research. Grauer and Ryan found that compared to large schools, small schools offer a safer environment and foster a culture of connectedness and equal opportunity on campus. In addition, learning is more equitably distributed in small schools.


Small Schools: The Numbers Tell A Story by Michael Klonsky (1995)

Submitted to SSC from Robin Perrault.  This article is a good summary of what’s good about small schools outlining issues of student achievement, education equality and decreased violence. The article also outlines success in some Chicago schools. The piece adds to a body of research but on its own isn’t the best of what’s out there (IMO).

Excerpt from the Abstract: “In small schools, the level of participation in all activities tends to be higher, and fewer students are marginalized. Research also suggests that restructuring schools can work and that reorganizing schools into smaller units has important benefits for minority and disadvantaged students.”


Small Schools Operating Costs: Reversing Assumptions About Economies of Scale. A Report of the Public Education Association.

Excerpt from the Abstract: … Addresses the feasibility of operating small schools—not just the occasional, “special” or “alternative” options, but as the mainstay of our public school system. […] Small schools are associated with higher student outcomes. In smaller settings, it is possible to provide the personal attention, academic focus and experiential curricula that facilitate academic achievement by all students, especially those from impoverished backgrounds. The City’s school system has begun to accept this idea, but still resists a widespread move to small schools on economic grounds. Our research shows that by combining small size with better staff utilization and programming, small schools can be eminently affordable.

Sustained Positive Effects on Graduation Rates Produced by New York City’s Small Public High Schools of Choice by Howard S. Bloom and Rebecca Unterman (2012)

The MDRC has published a new policy brief further examining a report released in 2010 on the effectiveness of SSCs.  “That report demonstrated that SSCs are markedly improving academic progress and graduation prospects, particularly for disadvantaged students. This policy brief extends the analysis by a year, adding information on high school graduation rates for the 2006 cohort and providing a fifth year of follow-up for the 2005 cohort.”  The study upon which it is based are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

We at SSC believe this research to contain some of most significant, historic findings on high school in the last 100 years.


Study Shows Why Cliques Thrive in Some Schools More Than in Others (2014)

A study which is scheduled to be published in the American Sociological Review in December 2014 analyzes the factors that impact how students self-sort within schools and within individual classrooms. Daniel A. McFarland, a professor of education at Stanford Graduate School of Education, lead the study called “Network Ecology and Adolescent Social Structure.” The findings highlight two variables that lead to more diverse groupings within schools; school size and choice within schools. The study found that smaller schools have a more limited pool, so students are less likely to exclude people. Conversely, in large schools, students have a bigger population of friends to choose from, and are more likely to form cliques in order to seek out people that are similar to themselves.


Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by David Logan, John Paul King, Halee Fischer-Wright (2008)

In a rigorous ten-year study of approximately 24,000 people in more than two dozen corporations, Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright refine and define a common theme: the success of a company depends on its tribes, the strength of its tribes is determined by the tribal culture, and a thriving corporate culture can be established by an effective tribal leader. Tribal Leadership will show leaders how to employ their companies’ tribes to maximize productivity and profit: the authors’ research, backed up with interviews ranging from Brian France (CEO of NASCAR) to “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, shows that more than three quarters of the organizations they’ve studied have tribal cultures that are merely adequate, no better than the third of five tribal stages.


The Power of 12 by Dr. Stuart Grauer (2014)

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Real Teachers: True Stories of Renegade Educators, by Stuart Grauer (SelectBooks, 2013), which was a finalist for a 2014 San Diego Book Award. It comes from a chapter titled “Hostile Indian Attacks Schoolhouse,” in which Grauer profiles Native American Roger White Eyes — a teacher at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Lakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Taking part in the Wounded Knee Memorial Motorcycle Ride with Roger White Eyes and other Native Americans, Grauer reflects on the ideal group size for learning — with its application for schools. The excerpt is reprinted with permission of the publisher and author.


The True Cost of High School Dropouts by Henry M. Levin and Cecilia E. Rouse (2012)

This NYTimes article explores the implications of the U.S. ranking that has “slipped to No. 21 in high school completion and No. 15 in college completion, as other countries surpassed us in the quality of their primary and secondary education.”


U.S. News Ranks America’s Best High Schools for Third Consecutive Year by Kenneth Terrell (2009)

In this article Kenneth Terrell explores the findings of U.S. News and World Report’s best high schools. Of the 21,786 public high schools examined by U.S. News and its partner in the project, School Evaluation Services, 1,750 were recognized for considerably outperforming their state’s standards. In that group, there were 561 schools that also were found to be doing an excellent job of preparing students for college-level coursework. California leads the nation this year with 110 high schools that earned recognition, followed by New York (53 schools), Texas (50 schools), Illinois (37 schools), Florida (24 schools), and Massachusetts (21 schools).

What Does Research Say About School District Consolidation? by (2011)

Many school districts across the nation are consolidating in hopes of cutting costs. However, research suggests that significant financial benefits are not guaranteed by theses school consolidations. In fact, some consolidations result in just the opposite: Increased costs, and unintended consequences negatively impacting the local community. Links to the most recent, and publicly available reports are embedded in this article.

What we lose when a neighborhood school goes away by Gene Demby (September 14, 2015)

Abstract: In the past three years Philadelphia has closed over 30 public schools. Some become charter or magnet schools, and others are abandoned altogether. Many local schools that are open-enrollment are being replaced by charter or magnet schools. Although these options are alluring, families are left with options that are farther away and difficult to get into which, of course, often means long and discomforting bus rides. Demby notes that schools traditionally serve a human-scale function in the community. They orient people to their histories and are anchors of continuity. They are the first place children learn to interact with their community, and a way to reconnect later on. Demby asks as so many districts fail to: When schools close, what happens to their communities?

What’s So Big about Small Schools? The Case for Small Schools: Nationwide and in North Dakota (Hylden, 2004)

“Abstract: A growing body of evidence points to the size of schools as a significant determining factor in academic achievement. Large schools are often far less successful at educating students than small schools. This paper shall first examine the data which support this claim and the reasons why small schools might work better. Finally, our conclusions will be applied to North Dakota small schools, which have been under pressure from state government to dissolve and consolidate. Academic achievement data will be analyzed to show that ND small schools in fact outperform ND large schools.”


Why Are Finland’s Schools So Successful? by LynNell Hancock (2011)

This article from Smithsonian magazine examines the methods that the Finnish school system uses to make sure that every child succeeds. Their schools are small, they have one public school system for the entire country, they do not engage in competition or standardized tests, teachers make individual student success the priority and have the resources and freedom to do so, every school has the similar resources no matter its location, and all parents receive money from the state to help support each child … to name a few strategies explored.

Excerpt: Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. […] The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellent of the country’s economic recovery plan. Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores released last year, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide.


The “Why’s” of Class Size: Student Behavior in Small Classes by Jeremy D. Finn and Gina M. Pannozzo (2003)

Small classes in the elementary grades have been shown to boost students’ academic performance. However, researchers continue to seek a consistent, integrated explanation of “why” small classes have positive effects. This article forwards the hypothesis that when class sizes are reduced, major changes occur in students’ engagement in the classroom.


Would You Send Your Kids to a School Where the Students Make the Rules? by Mark Oppenheimer

In this New Republic article, the author shares his experiences with a Sudbury school and its effect on his daughters’ education and life. Sudbury schools have no official curriculum, grades, or teachers. Students essentially take charge of their own education—and their own school. Read more about these growing and unique educational experiences.


You’ve Got to Have (150) Friends by Robin Dunbar (2010)

In this New York Times article, evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar explains why even Facebook cannot expand our true social circle: our brains just aren’t big enough to cope.