Student Body Size on School Term Paper

Pages: 20 (5735 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 31  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching

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Where the more graduating seniors that enter college after graduation is a recognized factor of the success of both the individual student and the school from which he or she came. Though college attendance rates have long been a tool used to asses the success of programs supporting or dealing with large numbers of students at risk fro academic failure it is also a good indicator of the general success of a school. (Fashola, & Slavin 1998)

It was recognized twenty years ago that there is not enough evidence to suggest that consolidating schools is a good idea, "There is no strong empirical base to support the assumptions and assertions of school and district consolidation advocates. This article reviews and analyzes this body of evidence and discusses why consolidation has been so popular even in the absence of solid and reliable supporting evidence." (Sher & Tompkins 1977)

Through some rather simple detective work education administrators, state and local school boards, superintendents of schools and even voters can find the bottom line answers to the cost benefits of having one large high school as apposed to several smaller ones yet, what they also must do is understand the benefit vs. cost ratio for the students themselves. "Two basic reasons for concern over classroom size are the desire to optimize learning conditions and the tremendous impact of class size on school finances." (Varner 2003) "The discussion about the optimal size of high schools is often cast along these same lines: specialization vs. humanization. (Often too, a third consideration is introduced: the economies of scale. That is, one large school can operate more cheaply than can two smaller ones.)

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Term Paper on Student Body Size on School Assignment

The current trend in the United States has been surrounding the reduction of class size within elementary and middle school levels leaving the high schools to fend for themselves and even occasionally take the fall, or increase size and student teacher ratio based on the documented statistical need for lower class sizes in the lower grades. "[A] growing body of evidence relating small school size at elementary and middle grades to positive student outcomes. [Erb] Notes that positive outcomes associated with small size relate to teacher commitment and effectiveness as well as student attachment, persistence, and performance...smaller, more intimate schools are better schools." (Erb 2001) It is even clear through the analysis of recent literature that class size makes a difference not only among school aged children from five to eighteen but among students enrolled in college and post graduate work. (Toth and Montagna 2002)

Though some advocates do suggest that a reduction in school size is necessary even at the high school level they also make clear that the popular school within a school model has been the most prevalent but not necessarily the best model.

In the past 30 years, research has suggested the need for much smaller high schools. In response, some administrators have attempted to subdivide big high schools into smaller entities. This digest reviews recent research on the movement to break up large schools and discusses five types of error common to such attempts -- errors of autonomy, size, continuity, time, and control. Large high schools have frequently been broken up into schools within a school (SWAS) serving 200-500 students. (Gregory 2003)

Opponents of the school within a school model suggest many ways that this model is in err, "...this strategy attempts to personalize the familiar comprehensive high school, but characteristics built into the design of most breakup efforts make it impossible for the SWAS to develop a small-school culture. (Gregory 2003) Gregory goes on to detail the five most common mistakes made by districts when they attempt to break up larger schools into internalized smaller ones, with their own student body, activities, administration and work environment.

Five common errors bar many schools from crossing the big/small cultural divide: (1) longstanding big-school traditions and overarching functions undermine SWAS efforts to build their own identities; (2) SWAS are planned to be large enough to have individual principals, but this size ensures that the faculty will be too big to socially construct the vision of the new, small school; (3) specialized programs and experiences segregate younger students from older ones and create more transitions for student to accomplish; (4) traditional schedules prevent a personalized, spontaneous response to an unexpected learning opportunity; and (5) the big building that houses multiple SWAS continues the old control issues of the big school. (Gregory 2003)

Though the school within a school model has been tried on a large scale, and especially within urban school districts the reality of the experiment is still largely in question and the system needs much more work in order to meet the needs of the student population.

Another important argument in favor of reducing the overall number of high schools and increasing the student load is curricular diversity. In theory it is agreed that the larger a school is the more diverse it will be, in both student body and curriculum. Yet, new research is leading to the conclusion that this long held belief is but a myth and that larger schools may offer more curricular offerings but that smaller schools can and have been able to make up the difference and provide diverse programming.

One third of public U.S. high schools enroll fewer than 400 students. Small high schools are challenged to maintain a broad curriculum with diverse course offerings. However, this digest demonstrates that many small schools provide curricula and programs comparable in quality to those of larger schools. (Roellke 1996)

Owing to the number of smaller high schools that are in use in the United States the research is imperative as more and more districts opt for changes that effect school size and attempt to consolidate programs into centralized and often impersonal schools, for the simple goal of increasing fund allocation and decreasing school overhead. Using older statistical models these districts often sight findings that associate diversity with success. Newer research indicates however that success can and is being met in smaller schools with smaller student teacher ratios.

Research findings include: (1) core curricular offerings in small high schools are well aligned with national goals and comparable to those in large schools; (2) smaller high schools have lower availability of advanced courses, but large size guarantees neither such offerings nor high enrollments in them; (3) larger schools offer a broader array of courses in occupational and technical education, but smaller schools offer more favorable proportions of vocational offerings per student; (4) larger schools offer more special services to students with disabilities and special needs, although small schools may use shared programs and well focused curricula in this area; and (5) smaller schools have fewer extracurricular activities but higher participation rates. (Roellke 1996)

Though Roellke clearly assesses the validity of the argument in favor for larger high schools' abilities to offer expanded services he also makes clear that this is not the only determining factor to success and smaller schools are using very innovative ways to improve curricular offerings and largely succeeding. "Small high schools are meeting pressures to expand curriculum opportunities through integrated curriculum, block scheduling, interdistrict sharing, and distance education." (Roellke 1996) Of the three curricular success components that Roellke identifies within his studies smaller schools meet them all through ingenuity. "Three curricular components are identified as common to successfully restructured instructional programs: common academic curriculum, high academic standards and expectations, and authentic instruction involving sustained critical thought." (Roellke 1996) Another researcher sited by Roellke makes clear that the factors associated with greater school success that can be found within smaller high schools are as follows "Deborah Meier, director of the innovative Central Park East Secondary School in East Harlem, has identified six central service delivery benefits associated with small-scale schooling (Meier, 1995): (1) feasibility of democratic practices; (2) collective accountability of faculty performance; (3) personal and individualized attention to student needs; (4) safe, orderly learning environments; (5) parental access to school leadership; and (6) connections between adult and student cultures. These features promote the development of a curriculum that is attentive and responsive to community and student needs." (Roellke 1996)

It is interesting that within the majority of districts with either large or small student loads some form of restructuring of schools is underway. Those in larger urban districts with failing schools are opting for a restructuring that offers a smaller school environment and all its benefits. While those in smaller rural districts, assailed with financial concerns associated with school cutbacks and an unsteady economy are opting for shared services that larger schools offer. It would seem that through the literature that administrators, educators, parents and taxpayers could asses the validity of both and determine a compromise that could possibly work as a model for change.

Not only does Roellke suggest that smaller schools are just as effective as larger schools on the issue of curriculum and that there are possibilities that can be… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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