Graduation Date

5-2013

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program

Education

Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell, Ph.D.

First Reader

Madalienne F. Peters, Ed.D.

Abstract

From elementary schools to universities, small learning communities (SLCs) are cropping up all over the place. While SLCs sound like a good idea, there is little viable research to support their implementation at the high school level. There seems to be an inherent assumption that collaboration between teachers is good, and that a more personalized environment will enrich the learning experience. Despite the optimism of these presumptions, there is a dearth of program evaluation research to support the effectiveness of SLCs in the high school setting. In order to establish and maintain these programs, teachers, parents and administrators will rightly demand a solid body of evidence to support the assertion that SLCs enhance the student learning experience and lead to measurable results. The most vulnerable population at any high school are the at-risk students. This paper specifically focuses on the impact SLCs have on these at-risk students and their learning experience during their first and second years of high school. This research is to articulate the benefit of SLCs for at-risk students by presenting relevant literature and then data from a high school in the San Francisco Bay Area in order to evaluate a program in action. An interview with a district administrator establishes the district’s perspective on existing SLCs as well as existing responses to intervention for at-risk students. This research utilizes a sample of convenience of high school sophomores using in depth interviews to collect qualitative data and examine the benefits of enrollment in an SLC for students identified as at-risk.

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