Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Smaller Schools are Better for Educating Florida's Students

Americans are in love with bigness for bigness’ sake. We indulge ourselves with gas guzzling SUVs, 3000 plus square foot MacMansions, a multitude of purchases to stock the ever-increasing mini storage industry and huge, fancy-dancy factory-like schools that warehouse our children. However, largeness is not always better.

“For example, if Florida, a state with unusually large school districts-decreased the size of its districts to the national median, it could increase its graduation rate by 5%.” Jay P. Greene, Education Myths, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005, pg, 103. Modern schools are too big to do the job of education effectively.

The consolidation of neighborhood schools began in the 1950s. The impetus for this transformation of our schools was “economy of scale” to decrease cost per student. Although there might have been initial cost savings, the average enrollment of each school increased five fold. This was due to closing the smaller schools and relocating students to bigger schools usually further from their homes and communities. The impact on our ability to deliver quality education has always been difficult to measure in dollars saved. Research over a half century has demonstrated we might have been “penny wise and pound foolish.”

The education director of the Gates Foundation said, “Small schools are absolutely essential in improving education especially for inner city schools.” Teresa Mendez, “Is a Smaller School Always a Better School”, Christian Science Monitor.

Researcher, Craig Howley of Ohio University, “In four separate studies of seven states, they repeatedly found that poor kids do better if they attend small schools. In fact in the most recent four state study, the correlation between poverty and low achievement was ten times stronger in larger schools than in smaller ones in all four states.” Howley replicated the research in West Virginia, Alaska, Montana, Ohio, Georgia and Texas. Diane Weaver Dunne, “Are Small Schools Better Schools?”

In a research project by the Bank Street of Education,” Small Schools Great Strides,” revealed the benefits from attending small schools regardless of the level of community poverty.

The advantage of small schools over large schools dating back to 1964 shows:

  • Safer environment
  • Better attendance records
  • Higher student achievement
  • Greater teacher satisfaction
  • Better graduation rates
Knowledge Works Foundation.

The reason for the positive results of schools with less than 400 students is the natural establishment of a community. Everyone knowing each other decreases the emotional isolation and fear students experience in an overwhelmingly large school environment.

More frequent interactions between students and teachers leads to closer relationships and a greater sense of physical and emotional security. Academic and behavioral issues are more easily identified and resolved by teachers when they know in depth the personalities of the students. As the teachers see the student’s growth coming directly from their efforts, job gratification soars. This positive feeling of helping others inspires them to go the extra mile.

It is difficult for a student to fall between the cracks in this world where students and teachers have constant involvement with each other. There is little opportunity for anonymity.

Large schools do not have to be demolished to develop smaller, more manageable ones. It is only necessary to partition the buildings into separate enclosed areas each with its own principal, faculty and staff. By creating schools within a school where everyone knows everyone else respect, appropriate expectations and accountability are naturally fostered.

Massive schools may superficially impress the public with their elaborate architecture, “bells and whistles” and opportunities for specialization. Although small schools lack this glamour, on closer examination they are more effective in almost every variable in educating children.



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