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June 24, 2006

Edwize on the Poor Track Record of Small Learning Communities

Maisie adds notes and links to the recent Business Week interview with Bill and Melinda Gates on their Small Learning Community High School initiative (now underway at Madison's West High chool - leading to mandatory grouping initiatives like English 10):

Business Week has a cover story this week about Bill and Melinda Gates’ small schools efforts. The story starts in Denver, where the Gates folks made a mess of breaking up that city’s lowest-performing school, “a complete failure,” in the Denver superintendent’s words. Summarizing reporters’ visits to 22 Gates-funded schools around the country, the article finds that “while the Microsoft couple indisputably merit praise for calling national attention to the dropout crisis and funding the creation of some promising schools, they deserve no better than a C when it comes to improving academic performance…Creating small schools may work sometimes, but it’s no panacea.”

The article points to some real successes. Some are in New York City, and the article says part of the reason for the success is Gates’ partnership with New Visions for Public Schools, which has been in the small-schools business a lot longer than Bill and Melinda. Mott Haven Village Prep HS [pdf] is one example. But of all the Gates schools in NYC, the report says one-third had ineffective partnerships, many have rising “social tensions,” and suspensions have triped in the new schools over the last three years to reach the system average.
We are never snippy but we told you so. The UFT’s 2005 Small Schools Task Force found too many of the Gates-funded small schools have been started with little planning, inexperienced leadership, minimal input from staff or stakeholders and no coherent vision. Some are little more than shells behind a lofty–sometimes ridiculously lofty–name.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 24, 2006 6:18 AM
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