Small Schools

Size is one determining characteristic of a small school, yet small schools are about much more than size.  In contrast to large, factory-model schools, small schools can create a more intimate learning environment that is better able to address the needs of each student and teacher. Students, teachers, and parents may all be better served when a school is small enough to allow for effective communication amongst educators, students and the school community.  In small schools, meaningful relationships are fostered and opportunities for collaboration are cultivated.

A small school offers an environment in which students are more visible. When students are better known, teachers can more easily identify individual talents and unique needs of each student, offering a more personalized educational experience.

A small school staff size allows more opportunity for teachers to know each other well, more easily share information about their students, collaborate to solve problems, and generally support one another.

Small schools are a way of restructuring schools and the human relationships inside them.

What do Good Small Schools Have in Common?

Each small school is unique to the community that it serves, however, there are some common features that often characterize good small schools.

  • A maximum population of 250-300 students in a heterogeneous mix
    that represents the local school community
  • A non-exclusive admissions policy
  • A consistent educational experience for students over an extended period of time (more than one year)
  • A coherent focus and philosophy of education, and a curriculum that is integrated around that focus
  • A cohesive group of teachers that collaborate and discuss the needs of their students
  • A sense of shared leadership and investment among those in the small school
  • Involvement of families in the school community

What Do Good Small Schools Look Like?

Each small school is different. Small schools may be:

  • Free-standing small schools: Small school with their own facilities and administration
  • Schools-within-schools: One or more small schools which develop within a larger, “host” school
  • Multiplex: One building specifically intended to house several small schools
  • Scatterplex: Two or more small schools at different sites that share a principal
  • Charter schools: Independent, often small, public schools, designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs and others

Benefits of Going Small

  • Research shows that some of the benefits of small schools include:
  • Higher student achievement
  • Students are more visible
  • Reduced violence and disruptive behavior
  • Improved attendance and graduation rates
  • Increased teacher satisfaction
  • More cost effective