Implementation Study of Smaller Learning Communities

Abt Associates
May 2008

Abt Associates
May 2008

Small schools (also called schools-within-schools and small learning communities) have received much attention in the last few years, particularly because the Gates Foundation has provided extensive funding for them. The idea behind them is that large high schools are impersonal and smaller units offer students a more individualized and presumably better education. This study by Abt Associates examines data from 119 grantees of the federally funded Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) Program; all received initial funding in 2000. The results are less than overwhelming, though analysts do report a significant positive trend in the percentage of 9th-grade students being promoted to 10th grade during the post-grant period as well as a reduction in violent incidents. Lest they be accused of "the-evaluator-doth-protest-too-much-(or not enough)-syndrome," the researchers also delineate a number of methodological caveats including pointing out the absence of a valid comparison group and the fact that results are based on school-reported data which vary greatly in quality and accuracy. Find the lukewarm findings and numerous caveats here.

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