I've been thinking a lot recently about small schools and their effects on education. Small schools have had a lot of hype around them for a while now. A smaller student population is supposed to help staff develop better relationships with students and keep them from slipping through the cracks. But, I suspect (as with just about any public policy), the reasons for their implementation are at least as much political as they are about actually improving anything. Truth and reason are rarely among the top priorities of policy-making or elections.
In thinking about the effects of small schools, I've been talking to a number of colleagues (both at my school and at the UFT's new chapter leader conference this past weekend). In my conversations, some people have posited to me the following things as either causes or effects they see of small schools that I feel are rarely discussed:
- Small schools were created to help manipulate the statistics so that Klein and company look better - e.g. ten violent incidents at one large school looks worse that 2 violent incidents at five different schools.
- Small schools are more expensive as they usually require more administrative staff and the duplication of secretarial positions.
- The ongoing creation and dismantling of small schools in NYC increases the amount of disorganization happening in schools overall. Small schools have to spend years building systems and getting their head above water before they're able to get to a point where they're only out of compliance with a bearable number of political dictates rather than practically all of them.
- Small schools have created a increasing demand for administrators, which, I suspect, increases the number of corporate training programs for educational leaders (like New Leaders for New Schools or the Principal's Academy). So many of these admins sound like this, or this, or this and have no positive effect on student learning.
- Small schools are more inefficient because multiple schools in one building are often duplicating computer labs, SAVE rooms, and other spaces rather than sharing them for all schools.
- Small schools allow for fewer options for students to participate in extracurricular activities and choose electives they're interested in.
-Small schools allow for a more team-oriented approach to addressing school-wide issues rather than administrative dictates.
-Small schools allow staffs to more effectively cater to the needs of their particular population of students.
-Small schools increase the likelihood of school-wide cohesiveness and communication.
I'm sure this list is not extensive and people will likely disagree with some of the points I've listed (as I'm not sure I agree with all of them). What are some things to add here?