|Smaller Learning Communities|
Smaller Learning Communities create a structure for educating students while providing a strong support system, by restructuring our comprehensive high school into smaller schools within our two high school buildings. During the ’07–’08 school year, the freshman class of over a thousand students was divided into nine teams, so that a history teacher, math teacher, biology teacher, and literature teacher all taught the same team of around 130 students. The core group of teachers, along with those teaching elective courses, were able to plan together to improve their instruction and help students work through any academic problems. During the current ’08–’09 school year, all freshmen and sophomores are on teams.
The most dramatic change will occur in the ’09–’10 school year, when all 4000 students will be placed on teams, and a team from each of the four grade levels will be placed together and identified as a house. Each house will include approximately 450 freshmen through seniors and have its own principal, counselor, and social worker. This redistribution of students and staff will place four houses at Washington Campus and five houses at Brookside Campus.
In the summer of 2009, construction began at both campuses, including building upper-level science labs and new shop facilities at Washington Campus. In addition, a group from Temple Jeremiah in Northbrook has volunteered to help create a College and Career Counseling Center at the Washington Campus. During the past two years, teachers and staff have attended summer workshops and school-wide professional development sessions on effective team teaching. All students will continue to have access to all programs and electives, all support systems, all extra-curricular clubs and activities, and each campus will be equally demanding in rigor and academic requirements. All students will continue to choose from the wide variety of elective courses—art, drama, music, industrial technology and business, foreign languages, writing and literature, social sciences, advanced placement courses, and advanced sciences and math—that will prepare them for success in college.
A major component of the high school improvement plan submitted to the state is to provide additional instruction for students who enter high school with low math and reading ability. Beginning this year, freshmen identified with low math and reading levels are taking additional classes to help close their achievement gap. Furthermore, teachers are receiving training in using a new assessment system which provides detailed information on each student’s skill level in reading and math. A teacher of any subject will have access to an individualized student report listing suggestions for improving that student’s reading comprehension.
A new daily class schedule next year will allow time for an advisory period for all students, freshmen through seniors. Students will work with the same advisor for all four years. Students will use advisory time to improve study skills, to identify career interests, and to prepare for post-secondary options, whether attending college or trade schools, or entering the workforce directly.
Over 3,600 high school communities throughout the country have implemented the smaller learning community concept. Increases in attendance, graduation rates, involvement in extracurricular activities, and general school achievement are direct results of an educational environment in which teachers work together with a smaller group of students and parents to build positive relationships.