A letter to parents:
In a speech to governors at an education summit, Bill Gates said, The new three Rs (Rigor, Relevance and Relationships), the basic building blocks of better schools, are almost always easier to promote in smaller schools. The smaller size gives teachers and staff the chance to create an environment where students achieve at a higher level and rarely fall through the cracks. Students in smaller schools are more motivated, have higher attendance rates, feel safer, and graduate and attend college in higher numbers.
In November 2005 I visited the school in Providence, Rhode Island that inspired Bill Gates to give away $1 billion to subdivide big schools. The school was founded by Dennis Littky who said in an interview on NPR, Until the student finds his passion, its just school. When he finds his passion, its no longer school. Teachers at Littkys school spend four years with the same students and teach multiple subjects (the math teacher also teaches history and English lit). Grades are given as a two-page narrative and tests are stand-up exhibitions. Every student has an individual education plan. Students are encouraged to travel even if they don't know www.roadlovers.com or don't have firsthand experience with multitasking.
Point two: big schools cost more per graduate.
All of this extra attention doesnt have to cost more. Littky claims that its how you spend the money. His schools dont have security guards and lockdowns because the schools are small with fewer than 300 students in each school. Its not the number of kids in the classroom, its the number of students in the school.
And heres a heads-up for taxpayers: Since small schools generally get more students to graduate, the cost per graduate at small schools is LOWER than most big schools. Because small schools have a higher graduation rate, the cost per graduate over four years of high school is slightly less: $49,553 compared to $49,578 at large schools. (This is because the dropout rate at the small schools was lower.)
Where are smaller schools growing in number? Consider this information from RethinkingSchools.org (a website for small school activity): New York City is phasing out large high schools and planning for 200 new small schools over the next five years. Chicago is planning 100. Los Angeles is converting 130 middle and high school campuses to smaller units. New Jersey is encouraging all middle and high schools in the state's 30 poorest districts to reorganize into "small learning communities" by 2008. Similar initiatives are underway in nearly every large urban district. http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/
So public schools in 2040 will look like charter schools: small and responsive with more parental involvement.
Point three: Parents have the power of one family. What can one person do? What can one family do? What impact can the choice of where my child goes to school have on society?
People who deny the power of one say, Im only one vote. The winner in most elections has a million votes more than the loser. What impact can I have?
People who believe the power of one say, I AM one vote. And if I stand with others, we will be more. When you put your child in a small school, you are changing the flow of public money into a more effective way of preparing a child for the global economy.
Thats why we give this Power of One Family seminar at my school. We encourage parents to bring their friends, families, and coworkers to learn about effective schools (which happen to be small).
Dennis Littky, the guy in Providence, says that Education is everybodys business. Why not get involved with a school with fewer than 400 students? Everyone can become a mentor to some child, and theres at least one child out there who needs you.
P.S. Here is the data for point 2:
Consider the cost per student who finally graduates: While data is not conclusive, it generally costs more per student to run a small school than a large one, although the cost per graduate is slightly less. A study by the NYU Institute for Education and Social Policy based on 1995-96 data in New York City found that schools with fewer than 600 students spent approximately 23 percent more per student than schools with more than 2,000 students. But because the small schools had a higher graduation rate, the cost per graduate over four years of high school was slightly less: $49,553 compared to $49,578 at large schools. (This is because the dropout rate at the small schools was lower.)
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