SLCs and Career Academies


Are there reasons not to implement SLCs/Academies?

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Yes! These are complex approaches that can help students when done well, but they are not easy to implement. Some enthusiasts have gotten caught up in these approaches thinking they will solve every problem without understanding the difficulties involved. The Career Academy Support Network's (CASN) Small Learning Communities: Lessons from the Field offers a review of problems commonly encountered in implementing SLCs and how various high schools have addressed them.

What are the typical problems?

  • Administrators, counselors, and teachers have to adapt, often modifying long-established habits.
  • Curriculum needs to be integrated, something with which most teachers have little training or experience.
  • Classroom locations often change to allow teams of teachers to be closer, sometimes causing teacher resentment.
  • Teacher turnover requires orienting new teachers and adjusting SLC teams.
  • “Outsiders” such as employers, higher education institutions, and parents are more involved, perhaps increasing “external” criticisms of high schools.
  • Master scheduling is more difficult, as students need schedules that link their SLC classes and teachers need common planning time. These problems are particularly frequent. CASN's  Scheduling Guide for Small Learning Communities and Career Academies can help with this one.
  • They may inadvertently contribute to racial/ethnic, gender, or ability clustering.
  • They need to be integrated with other school initiatives already underway.
  • They rarely affect standardized test scores. They can improve motivation and the indicators that reflect it, such as attendance, retention, and grades, but there is little evidence they improve test scores.


Small Learning Communities: Lessons from the Field

Dayton, C., Clark, P., Tidyman, S., Hanna, T. Career Academy Support Network, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education, 2007.

Based on evaluations of 25 high schools with federal SLC grants, this guide describes key SLC features, and related system needs, support structures, & evaluation practices, with an eye toward common problems and how they have been addressed.

Scheduling Guide for Small Learning Communities/ Career Academies

Clark, P., Dayton, C., Tidyman, S., Hanna, T. Career Academy Support Network, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education; 2006.

The who, what, why, and when of student cohort scheduling, drawn from experts who have done it from around the country, with a review of alternative bell schedules and a month-by-month schedule of needed activities.


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Last modified on 12/13/2010

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