Educators are increasingly turning to small learning communities, which have proven to be highly effective in facilitating academic engagement and achievement, particularly among low-income urban students. This in-depth sociological study reveals the unique aspects of this movement and: Examines the structural and cultural features of small learning communities and small schools in two major urban cities, Highlights students' perspectives on school culture, personalization, and student involvement, Offers timely suggestions to benefit students at all levels and in every educational setting. Based on original research, this text offers school leaders and policy makers a deeper understanding of the broad, positive impact of small school reform.
"This book is critical for anyone working to change urban schools to effectively serve all students. Too often we succumb to the notion that substantive change is not possible at the high school level, but this book proves how wrong-headed that concept can be. These authors bring the voices of real teachers and real students to the table to demonstrate how small schools focused on relationship building and 'personalization' can perform miracles!"
"Finally, educators leading the movement to smaller high schools have a resource they can draw upon for guidance and direction. This book offers clear, practical advice on how to create small schools that are effective in meeting student needs."
"The strengths include the book's readability. The examples are vivid and the students' quotes are powerful. The qualitative research style brings a personal feel that is effective."
Harold E. Wilson
"The book reports on an actual research project and presents numerous quotes from students to support the points being made. It provides a good model of data-driven recommendations."
James L. Drexler
"I love the themes of relationships, community, respect, personalization, and small schools."
"Relevant, individualized, and an insightful read. This book will be useful for any school system working to develop academies."
"The need for a book on this topic is urgent, and the contributions from the volume are significant. The writing is excellent, the data is engaging, and the conceptualization is insightful, individualistic, and challenging."
“This book will be a very helpful and needed addition to the research that clearly establishes how large numbers of our students, particularly big-city students, are being systematically lost because of the size and purposelessness of the schools that they are forced to attend. Relationships are critical, and small schools have shown themselves to be most attentive to and proficient at using small size to personalize educational experiences for urban youth.”
"An excellent survey of the cultural and structural features of small schools in two major urban cities. This narrowed focus allows for an analysis of school culture and student involvement on a macroscopic level, creating a fine sociological investigation suitable for both education and sociology libraries."
"It is the voice of students in two separate urban centers, Oakland and Boston, that make the book unique. Here, the authors allow students to speak for themselves, and there is honesty in their words that makes the reality surrounding urban school reform resonate in a way that quantitative studies cannot. For anyone wishing a clear and concise introduction to the issues surrounding the restructuring of large urban schools into smaller learning centers, this book is a good place to begin. "
Harvard Educational Review
"Conchas and Rodriguez’s work is very encouraging in its suggestion that intentional and relational school cultures have some potential to narrow educational achievement disparities."
"It is the voice of students in two separate urban centers, Oakland and Boston, that make the book unique. Here, the authors allow students to speak for themselves, and there is honesty in their words that makes the reality surrounding urban school reform resonate in a way that quantitative studies cannot. For anyone wishing a clear and concise introduction to the issues surrounding the restructuring of large urban schools into smaller learning centers, this book is a good place to begin."
Gilberto Q. Conchasobtained a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of California at Irvine. Dr. Conchas also holds joint appointments in the Chicano/Latino Studies and Sociology Departments. Prior to UCI, he was Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Dr. Conchas’ work focuses on inequality with an emphasis on urban schooling systems. His research specifically focuses on the sociocultural processes within the urban school context that structure variations in educational opportunity for low-income immigrant and U.S-born Latino, Asian American, and African American youth. He is the author of The Color of Success: Race and High-Achieving Urban Youth (TC Press, 2006). Dr. Conchas teaches courses on theory, policy, and practice about race and urban schooling.
Louie F. Rodríguez obtained a doctorate in education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in Urban Education and Social Foundations at Florida International University in Miami. He is also a Research Fellow at the Center for Urban Education and Innovation at FIU. While at Harvard, Dr. Rodríguez worked with several urban elementary, middle and high schools and communities as a teacher, consultant, and researcher. He also led several research initiatives examining high school reform, school culture, educational policy, and school dropout. His current research examines the intersection between school reform, educational policy, and school culture, specifically as they relate to preventing or perpetuating student/teacher engagement and dropout. He has several articles under review in academic journals, has published in various education-related magazines, and has presented his work at several national conferences. Dr. Rodríguez teaches courses in urban education, educational policy and theory, and social and cultural foundations in education. Dr. Rodríguez was born and raised in the Chicano communities of San Bernardino, CA.
Foreword Hugh Mehan ix
Purpose of the Book xvi
Comparative Research Design xvii
Organization of the Book xix
Who This Book Is For xx
About the Authors xxvii
Digging Beneath the Layers of School Reform: Size, Culture, and Personalization 1
California Career Academies: How Structure and Culture Create Optimism Among Low-Income Urban Youth 11
Structuring Competition and Teamwork: Reproducing the Status Quo and Challenging Inequality Side by Side 33
The Case of Boston: How Small Schools Forge Academic and Relational Possibilities in the Urban Context 57
Beneath School Structure: How School Culture Shapes Relational and Academic Engagement of Urban High School Students in Boston 77
Beyond School Size: Toward a Critical Understanding of School Culture 109