Just Right

JUST RIGHT….One of the hot topics in education right now is school size. Not class size, which everyone would like to reduce but which has nebulous effects on academic performance, but the size of the school itself. Is 5,000 kids in a high school too much?

Everyone seems to think so, but Carlos Jimenez, a teacher at the midsized Francisco Bravo High School in Los Angeles, argues today that the backlash may be going too far:

The small learning community idea is to divide up large high schools into 300-student clusters, each with an academic focus and its own group of teachers….New campuses are being built to accommodate this 300-student model. That’s small. Too small?

….Bravo is small enough that few students fall through the cracks. Counselors — even the clerks in the attendance office — know students by name. Yet we also are able to offer a dizzying array of electives: jazz band and modern dance, Latin American studies and art history, nursing and computer digital imaging. We have honors or advanced placement classes in languages, history, literature and science.

Bravo has about 1,750 students, which strikes me as an upper limit for an urban high school. Like Jimenez, I have my doubts about widespread use of 300-student subgroups, which seem awfully restrictive, but 1,500 or so seems like the best of both worlds.

Costs a lot of money, though. One big high school is a lot cheaper than three smaller ones.