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A case study of the implementation and outcomes of a smaller learning community

Jennifer L Smith, Johnson & Wales University


The purpose of this study was to report the findings of a single case study of an urban high school which has implemented the Smaller Learning Communities Model (SLC) 2007/2008. The Smaller Learning Community Model included the combination and adoption of a personalized school learning environment; collaborative leadership; a professional learning community; and integrated curriculum, instruction, and assessment to support improved student performance and student achievement (Breaking Ranks II, 2004). The literature suggests that high school reform is necessary for students to become independent thinkers, problem solvers, and to be better prepared for the challenges of today’s global economy. Today’s high schools are facing tremendous challenges in preparing their students for the realities of today’s world. The new global economy has changed the direction from skilled labor to computer and technological careers which has put the American education system at risk. The traditional high school model is not challenging students to be successful and competitive in today’s global market. High schools have seen a continuum of poor student achievement, poor attendance, more discipline problems, and higher drop out rates. This case study utilized a mixed methods approach to survey, interview, and analyze documented data to report on the implementation of a SLC model in one New England urban high school. The CIPP Model (context, input, process, and product) was used to evaluate formative and summative data and was used as a framework for the evaluation of this study (Stufflebeam, 2007). The major research question that was addressed in this study was: Has the implementation of the Smaller Learning Community Model resulted in improvement of student achievement? In phase one of the study a customized cross sectional survey, designed by The Education Alliance at Brown University for the study site, was administered to (n=30) students and data from the survey were analyzed. In the second phase (n=10) teachers and (n=30) students participated in separate focus groups. Lastly, student data pre and post the SLC experience including grades, discipline records, and attendance data were analyzed to compare and further explain the survey research findings. A major finding of this study is that personalization and positive relationships within the SLC model support the achievement and success of students. In conclusion, without the SLC initiative, student class failures, dropout rates, and discipline issues would potentially have been greater at the study site.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Secondary education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Smith, Jennifer L, "A case study of the implementation and outcomes of a smaller learning community" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3359243.