Despite lots of Gates Foundation funding, the small-schools movement is stumbling in some towns, reports the Boston Globe.
In Oregon, Lebanon High was divided into small “academies” specializing in: communications; farming, natural resources, and health; arts, business, community and family affairs; and engineering and other technical fields. Students took classes within their academies with the same teachers, building bonds between classmates and teachers.
In Lebanon, though, scheduling problems abounded and test scores did not budge. Many feared that the student body was becoming too fragmented, a particularly touchy subject in a town where community is forged on the football field and at graduation ceremonies.
Students complained about being separated from friends and about a limited choice of courses.
Parents didn’t want their children choosing a career path at the age of 14, reports the Globe. “And in a lumber mill town, there was outrage that the new system was focused more on college-prep classes than on vocational education.” Lebanon High lost its small-school grant for failure to mobilize community support.
Clara Hemphill, director of Insideschools.org, a project of Advocates for Children of New York, said the trouble can begin with what she called “small schools in drag” — schools that are small in concept only.
“The school becomes these four `Groovy Academies for Esoteric Studies,’ but the kids still call it `Roosevelt’ or whatever. The teachers aren’t really interested and the building stays the same, and they just rename the floors,” she said.
Via Ed Wonk, who teaches at a big high school that plans to stay big.