I Got Schooled – Practice #4 – Smaller schools

Here is I Got Schooled  practice #4 – Smaller schools

M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) has written this book to describe how, and how not, to close the education gap in the U.S. It should be very supportive in the current conversation and climate regarding what’s wrong with, and how to fix, New Mexico education.

For five years through his MNS Foundation, Shyamalan studied what is succeeding in closing the education gap — that depended only on practices inside the classroom itself and that were scalable.

He discovered closing the achievement gap depended on five practices and couldn’t be figured out by examining just any single practice by itself.

These five practices must be implemented together to have any substantive effect:

•            Effective teachers – dropping poor; hiring good; why it’s important; how to do it

•            Leadership – how it’s important; what it looks like; how to do it

•            Feedback – critical: frequency, consistency, teacher/principal usability

•            Smaller (high) schools –part of the “system” that turbocharges the other practices

•            More time in school – summers matter – children of low income and of color fall behind a month every summer; by the time they reach third grade they are so far behind it’s virtually impossible to catch up

Covered: successful schools, programs, clinical studies, and data and statistics, including: Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), Uncommon Schools, Achievement First/Endeavor, FirstLine schools, North Star Academy, Arthur Ashe, Los Angeles Green Dot Public Schools, and more.

The study also found four popular, expensive practices contribute little to closing the education gap:

•            Small classroom sizes

•            Master’s programs and Ph.D.’s for the teachers

•            Paying teachers like doctors

•            Funding the schools at $20,000 per pupil


  • Again, small size is only one part of the “system”
  • Smaller size turbocharges each of the other practices
  • The current school size debate is almost entirely focused on high schools, grades 9 through 12
  • National average elementary school size is 451 students; middle schools average 575; high school averages are 900 to 4,000 students
  • In the 1920s, the ‘high school movement’ promoted ‘comprehensive high schools’ that accepted everybody and required them to take mostly the same coursework
  • Before that time, exam requirements meant only 20 percent of kids attended high school and the rest were expected to go to work; even then, only half of the students graduated
  • Vocation training began to be thought of as a ‘less than’ education endeavor
  • This helped white suburban families a lot more than nonwhite urban ones
  • Weekly exam results for a thousand high school students’ produces an overwhelming amount of data which must/should then be analyzed, evaluated, and returned to instructors as meaningful, useable feedback
  • School size is a key part of any gap-closing strategy
  • It’s a lot easier to find principals who can effectively run schools with four hundred to six hundred kids (scalability and sustainability)
  • Attendance, graduation rates, and attitude toward learning rise as school populations fall – violence rates decline
  • Smaller schools are an environment in which other gap-closing practices can flourish
  • Implementation over some period of time, grade-by-grade allows teachers and faculty to acclimatize to the newness
  • And this practice is scalable

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