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SMALL CLASS SIZE INITIATIVES UNDERWAY IN BALTIMORE: Smaller Classes Mean More Personal Relationships Between Teachers and Students, Higher Achievement

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"Students trust the teachers and teachers are able to manage the classrooms better."

The March 2003 issue of Urban Educator, the Council of Great City Schools’ (CGCS) newsletter, describes the success that high schools in Baltimore, MD, had in raising student achievement by redesigning nine high schools into smaller learning communities.

In October 2001, Baltimore Schools Chief Executive Carmen Russo began the initiative to break-up the city’s high schools. Before the change, the city’s high schools had an average enrollment of 1,600, were plagued by high rates of absenteeism, and had a dropout rate of more than 70 percent.

While schools such as Samuel Banks High School have, thus far, seen only small gains in academics, greater progress has been made in discipline and teacher morale. According to principal Jimmie Jones, “Students trust the teachers and teachers are able to manage the classrooms better.” Small schools also allow teachers and principals to develop personal relationships with students and make the students feel more nurtured.

Similar programs are also underway in several other urban districts throughout the country, including Chicago; Denver; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Sacramento, CA. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education and the CGCS, Great Expectation: Reforming Urban High Schools, high schools can improve academic performance by creating smaller learning communities “in which students and teachers feel more connected to the school.”

Read the complete article in Urban Educator at: http://www.cgcs.org/urbaneducator/2003/mar_vol_12_no_2_10/mar_vol_12_no_2_10.html

Smaller Learning Communities Underway in Carroll County, Maryland

In Carroll County, MD, an initiative to make high school more personal and relevant is underway thanks to a $2.3 million federal grant to carve smaller learning communities out of the more traditional, larger high schools. In addition, Carroll County has developed a program in all seven of its high schools in which a teacher meets every few weeks with a group of about 20 students. The teacher acts as an adviser to the same group of students for all four years of their high school career.

The teacher adviser program is similar to that proposal in the Alliance for Excellent Education’s College Preparation Initiative, outlined in Every Child a Graduate. In the report, the Alliance recommends a student support coordinator who works with students to help them develop a clear plan that will place them on a path to earning their degree. The coordinator not only assesses a student’s needs and helps to map out rigorous course work, he or she also identifies additional learning opportunities (e.g., tutoring), and necessary health and social services that might be necessary to ensure success.

Other initiatives underway in Carroll County schools include career academies that have been introduced at the area’s two new public high schools, Century High and Winters Mill High. According to The Baltimore
Sun
, these academies are “similar to small colleges within a university that are based on broad career interests and that keep students with the same coterie of students and teachers over a period of years.”
Other high schools have developed freshman seminar courses that help ninth-graders make the transition from middle school to high school.

Read more about the program in The Baltimore Sun.

 

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