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Small Learning Communities

Small Learning Communities


What is a small learning community?
A Small Learning Community is an interdisciplinary team of teachers who share a few hundred or fewer students in common for instruction and who assume responsibility for their education. The focus is on the learner and learning, and in particular, the active and collaborative nature of teachers’ and students’ work

How did this idea of Baldwin Park High School becoming a small learning community begin?
Dr. Wendel Greer was asked to write a grant proposal to the federal Department of Education. “Lemons becoming lemonaide.”

Did we ask for this grant? Why?
Baldwin Park High School has had an average 9th grade class of 640 students over the last 3 years. Our graduating class has averaged 361 students. This phenomena of “disappearing students” is not a local issue. The nation has recognized a national crisis of students not graduating from high school. We wanted to address the drop out issue and increase rigor in the classroom.

Do we have a goal?
Goal is for 80% of our freshman class to have a 2.0 or higher with no F’s.

How was this goal determined?
During the summer of 2006 a group of very dedicated teachers met and determined this goal.

Has the Small Learning Community at BPHS made any difference?
Last year This Year
GPA 47% GPA of 2.0 58% GPA 2.0 + and no F’s

Referrals 305 185

What is the time line?

Year 1 – December 2005 to June 2006
Dr. Lynne Kennedy, Julie Infante and Jackie White flew to Washington D.C. to meet with the Department of Education and accept the 1.8 million dollar grant
Training began with teachers and administrative staff visiting schools who have established small learning community high schools from 5-15 years.
New York City
Seattle, Washington
Additional training was provided by the Stanford Institute. House Leaders and House teachers attended a Summer Institute organized by Urban Education Partnerships.

Year 2 – June 2006 to June 2007

Administration, union representatives and teachers plan the type of Small Learning Community for Baldwin Park High School. They decide that BPHS will have 9th and 10th grade houses with one teacher leader for each house. A job description is written and teachers applied and were hired to be House Leaders. The leaders receive a stipend for their work. The Houses will have the same prep period so they may meet as needed. The majority of the students will be in the same Houses for their Core classes.

Year 3 – June 2007 to June 2008

9th grade teachers (as credentials allow) will loop with their students to the 10th grade. Looping is a Small Learning Communities method where the teacher will follow the class to the next grade. Creating an academic and personal relationship with students bonds them to the high school. This relationship is vital in the first 2 years because statistically this time reveals that the largest drop out numbers are in 9th and 10th grade.
A steering committee comprised of teachers (credentialed), staff (classified), union representatives, department chairs and administration was formed to plan the next 2 years. This group of people will decide how the 11th and 12th grade academies will be organized.

Year 4 – June 2008 to June 2009

11th and 12th grade academies are implemented at BPHS. Our high school is wall to wall Small Learning Communities.

Year 5 – June 2009 to June 2010

Our high school is wall to wall Small Learning Communities.

What does the grant required the BPHS to do?

Information gathered from March 10, 2006 letter addressed to Deborah Williams, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U. S. Department of Education, Washington, DC; document titled “A collaborative project between Urban Education Partnership and Baldwin Park Unified School District” Objective #1 Our students will show mastery on all CST standards and 100% of our students will receive their diploma. Objective # 2 All students will be engaged in a relevant, rigorous, relationship-rich learning environment and have access to college having completed the A to G requirements. Objective #3 Each small learning community will develop sustainable community partnerships to support and further its goals.

How will we sustain Small Learning communities without the grant funds?

Many of the SLC activities are free. i. e. 4 minute early release for lunch; 9th grade “Field Day” which was organized by the teachers. Also, general funds can be used for school activities and we will continue to apply for grants.