Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Closing the achievement gap: Perceptions of faculty members and school leaders of small learning community implementation in an urban high school
by Whitman, Robert, Ed.D., California State University, Long Beach, 2013, 169; 3574904
Abstract (Summary)

Contemporary high school reforms are centered on small school size as an approach to ameliorate disengagement and underachievement of minority and economically disadvantaged students in urban comprehensive high schools. A common strategy is to reconfigure high schools into smaller subunits known as Small Learning Communities (SLCs). Although widespread research on SLCs has found this reform promising in helping educators increase students' sense of belonging in school, studies have revealed varying outcomes on the impact of SLC implementation in improving student achievement.

Using Invitational Theory as a theoretical framework, a single case study was utilized to examine the perceptions of faculty members and school leaders regarding strategies implemented within SLCs to improve student engagement and academic achievement. This study investigated an urban high school that demonstrated 4 years of sustained growth in student engagement (i.e., attendance, suspension, and graduation rates) and academic achievement (i.e., standardized test scores) through SLC implementation. This study underscored the promise of SLC implementation as a viable approach to increase students' sense of belonging in school and address achievement disparities among minority and economically disadvantaged students.

The findings pointed to an intentional vision and effort among professionals as the impetus for developing SLCs that summon students to recognize their unbounded potential. Furthermore, the findings corroborated the importance of several strategies found in the literature that foster a sense of community between students and adults and professional communities among staff. Recommendations are provided for policy and practice to sustain the efficacy of SLC implementation in urban high schools.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scott, James
Commitee: Iriguez, Jose, Kim, Simon
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration, Secondary education
Keywords: Achievement gap, School leaders, Small learning communities, Urban education
Publication Number: 3574904
ISBN: 978-1-303-52092-1
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