Small School Reform: The Challenges Faced by One Urban High School
Bronson, Carroll E.
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This qualitative ethnographic case study explored the evolution of a public urban high school in its 3rd year of small school reform. The study focused on how the high school proceeded from its initial concept, moving to a small school program, and emerging as a new small high school. Data collection included interviews, observations, and document review to develop a case study of one small high school sharing a multiplex building. The first key finding, “Too Many Pieces, Not Enough Glue,” revealed that the school had too many new programs starting at once and they lacked a clear understanding of their concept and vision for their new small school, training on the Montessori philosophies, teaching and learning in small schools, and how to operate within a teacher-cooperative model. The second key finding, “A Continuous Struggle,” revealed that the shared building space presented problems for teachers and students. District policies remain unchanged, resulting in staff and students resorting to activist approaches to get things done. These findings offer small school reform leaders suggestions for developing and sustaining a small school culture and cohesion despite the pressures to revert back to top-down, comprehensive high school norms.