Can Big Schools Support the Whole Child?
With class sizes rising significantly for the first time in decades, now is a good time to continue to lobby for better funding and supports in education and to also look at how some big schools manage to tend to individual student needs despite high enrollment.
Big schools can present big opportunities for bringing the whole child tenets to scale, but they must draw on their larger community as a resource—strengthening parent and community partnerships, activating student voice and interest, and empowering teacher leaders.
In the March issue of Education Update newsletter ("Big Schools Present Big Opportunities for Whole Child Education"), I discuss some of the strategies applied at the district level, or in high-enrollment schools, to support whole child education. For example,
- Iroquois Ridge High in Oakville, Ont., has one common lunch hour for all students, uses extensive peer mentoring, and puts the best teachers in 9th grade.
- Brockton High in Brockton, Mass., where teacher leadership spearheaded a turnaround effort that's taken the school's student achievement from one of the state's worst to one of the best.
- Wando High in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., where students choose from over 250 course options and multiple clubs and activities, and learn in smaller, career-based academies within the school.
- Norfolk Public Schools, in Virginia, where community engagement is included as a performance indicator in the district's accountability system.
- Aldine Independent School District, in Texas, where data is used to identify students' strengths and weaknesses and match them with teachers particularly effective their areas of weakness.
- South Kitsap School District, in Washington, where despite devastating budget cuts, the school has expanded arts, extracurricular, and advanced learning opportunities.
While smaller teaching and learning environments are ideal, these schools show that teacher leadership, student empowerment, and community engagement can drive whole child education on a large scale.
If your school community is growing, how is your school adapting?