Resources for Learning More About Smaller Learning Community Structures and Strategies

United States Department of Education Smaller Learning Communities Program

In its third year, the Smaller Learning Communities grant program invites high schools with a thousand or more students to submit proposals to receive funding for initiatives to create or expand smaller learning communities. With a total of $142 million in funding, the program awards both one-year planning and three-year implementation grants. The Smaller Learning Communities web site notes that applications will be available for upcoming funding in late fall 2002. The web site includes project summaries from past grant recipients, examples of successful proposals, links to research demonstrating the beneWts of small learning communities, and a focused, useful list of structures and strategies for downsizing that schools have used effectively. The program is not scheduled to be funded in 2003, so if it’s appropriate to your school and district, act now.

web site:
telephone: 1-800-USA-LEARN

Big Picture Company’s Learning Through Internships (LTI) Curriculum

The Big Picture Company’s curriculum material, listed as Big Picture Company Curriculum Materials (for students) and Big Picture Company Curriculum Books 1,2 3 and 4 (for teachers), provide a framework for creating school structure around individualized curriculum and learning through opportunities outside of traditional academic paths. The student material features self-exploration workbooks designed to help students determine their interests; the teacher material details the LTI philosophy, methods for teachers to help students determine their interests and skills, and how to set up internships and work with mentors. The Big Picture Company provides numerous worksheets, downloadable guides and other information, provided with the reminder that “there’s no need to start from scratch.” These resources are invaluable to schools contemplating ways to individualize student experience.

web site:
telephone: 401/456-0600 fax: 401/456-0606
mailing address: The Big Picture Company, 275 Westminster Street, Suite 500, Providence, RI 02903

New Small Learning Communities: Findings from Recent Literature”

Kathleen Cotton, Research Associate at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, released this small schools research review in December 2001. Focusing on small schools research conducted since her seminal 1996 study, “School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance,” Cotton’s newest study quickly emerged as the sine qua non of small schools research overviews. It’s a must-read. Particularly useful are a list of deWnitions of types of small schools, a collection of online resources and an annotated list of references. Cotton died in July 2002; small schools educators and researchers mourn her passing and are grateful for the work she leaves for countless students’ beneWt.

web site:

Small Schools Workshop Listserv

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Small School Workshop sponsors this active email group focused on small schools events, news stories and questions. Anyone is welcome to join and participate. It’s an excellent source for staying up-to-the minute on news, conferences and concerns related to smaller learning communities. And don’t miss the extensive Small Schools Workshop website at
Please note that Yahoo requires that you register on their site to access this email group.

Small Schools Project

Set aside a few hours, if you can, before immersing yourself in the Small Schools Project website. Part of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington’s Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Small Schools Project focuses on helping schools create, strengthen and sustain their downsizing effort. Working both within Washington state and nationwide, the Project matches schools with coaches, sponsors conferences and workshops, helps schools connect with other regional allies, and publishes research and information about small learning communities. Don’t miss the Tools for Schools section of the site, stunning in its breadth and utility.

web site:
telephone: 206/616-0303
fax: 206/543-8250
mailing address: Small Schools Project, 7900 East Greenlake Drive North, Suite 212, Seattle, WA 98103

The Rural School and Community Trust

The Rural School and Community Trust is devoted to helping schools and community groups in rural areas nationwide. Focusing particularly on “those rural places distressed by historic patterns of poverty and racism or stressed by declines in population, major changes in population composition and fundamental economic change,” the Trust has a unique, deep perspective on the effects of school district consolidation and the natural edge that rural, already-small schools have in taking advantage of the beneWts of smallness. See the site’s Small Schools Policy Issue section for information connected to small, rural schools, with a particular focus on research that demonstrates that “smaller schools reduce the damaging effects of poverty on student achievement and help students from poorer communities narrow the achievement gap between them and students from wealthier communities.”

web site:
telephone: 202/955-7177
fax: 202/955-7179
mailing address: Rural School and Community Trust National Office, 1825 K Street NW,Suite 703, Washington, DC 20006