Why Do Students Do Better in Small Schools?

Kathleen Cotton’s comprehensive review of research for the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory distilled the chief factors to which researchers attribute the superiority of small schools:

Everyone’s participation is needed to populate the school’s offices, teams, clubs, and so forth, so a far smaller percentage of students is overlooked or alienated.

Adults and students in the school know and care about one another to a greater degree than is possible in large schools.

Small schools have a higher rate of parent involvement.

Students and staff generally have a stronger sense of personal efficacy in small schools.

Students in small schools take more responsibility for their own learning; their learning activities are more often individualized, experiential, and relevant to the world outside of school; classes are generally smaller; and scheduling is much more flexible.

Small schools more often use instructional strategies associated with higher student performance-team teaching, integrated curriculum, multi-age grouping (especially for elementary children), cooperative learning, and performance assessments.

From Kathleen Cotton, “School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance,” Close-Up Number 20, 1996. Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Tel:    503-275-9618  503-275-9618 ; Web site http://www.nwrel.org/