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September 5, 2006

Movement toward "Small Learning Communities" Slowing?


Hopes were high in this blue-collar town when Lebanon High was broken up into four smaller schools-within-a-school to try to reduce the dropout rate.

At the time, in 2004, the small-schools movement was growing across the country, and it had a powerful backer in Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

But just two years later, criticism from parents and educators has put the future of small schools in jeopardy across the country.

``We made a mistake trying to push autonomy really hard, and the community blew back at us," said Mark Whitson, a journalism teacher at Lebanon High School. ``Parents want us to slow our pace of change until they know what we are doing."

The small-schools concept calls for dividing large high schools into groups of about 300 students with similar academic interests. (Lebanon was divided into ``academies" devoted to communications; farming, natural resources, and health; arts, business, community and family affairs; and engineering and other technical fields.)

The groups then take classes together for four years, with the same teachers. Proponents say students learn more because they and their teachers get to know one another better.

Joanne has more.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at September 5, 2006 6:09 AM
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