The 'smaller' the school, the better? The Smaller Learning Communities (SLC) program in US high schools

Moosung Lee, Tom Friedrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Given the widening achievement gap between whites and students of color in US schools, Small Learning Communities have emerged as a reform measure claimed to boost achievement in general and among racial minorities. This article examines this claim by reviewing the major policy documents and literature on SLC and analyzing SLC using Frank's (1972) policy assessment criteria. The SLC program was found to be theoretically grounded in social capital theory, to be feasible politically and financially given strong federal and private foundations' support, and to have strong ethical merit given its aims of raising achievement, closing the racial achievement gap and personalizing learning. Analysis of multiple standardized data sets on 193 SLC schools showed that despite modest achievement gains, the racial gap was found to still be wide, although SLC schools located in large cities where students of color predominated made consistent gains, and Hispanic students showed significant yearly gains. Implications for research and policy are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-282
Number of pages22
JournalImproving Schools
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


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