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WINDOWS ON CONVERSIONS: New Toolkit Provides Educators with a First-Hand Look at School Redesign

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“Small learning communities by themselves are not enough to improve learning and close the achievement gap,” said Linda Darling-Hammond

A new tool kit from the School Redesign Network at Stanford University provides educators with an up-close account of successful school redesigns currently underway in four high schools across the country. The kit, Windows on Conversions: A Multi-Media Exploration of Redesign at Four Comprehensive High Schools, features an interactive DVD, case studies of the schools, and a facilitators’ guide. It uses conversations with teachers, administrators, parents, and students to convey the challenges facing comprehensive high schools as they convert to small schools and small learning communities.

“Small learning communities by themselves are not enough to improve learning and close the achievement gap,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University professor of education, SRN co-director, and a member of the Alliance for Excellent Education’s board of directors. “However, redesigning high schools can be a first step in creating an environment in which diverse students can reach their potential. Collectively, these four schools represent many of the critical organizational and instructional changes needed to create high schools that work.”

SRN argues that promising school reform efforts are often stymied by the impersonal, factory-model school. Instead, it favors the small school approach and points to research that has found that—all else equal—small schools produce higher achievement, lower dropout rates, greater attachment, and more participation in the curricular and extracurricular activities that prepare students for productive lives.

It has identified ten features that good small schools should have to help all students succeed academically, graduate at high levels, and go on to college. Some examples of these features are personalization, continuous relationships, authentic curriculum with real-world connections, qualified teachers, and time for teachers to work together and develop their expertise.

More information on SRN, including ordering information for the kit, is available at http://schoolredesign.net.

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