The potential benefits of small high schools

The potential benefits of small high schools are described by Larry Myatt, Office of High School Renewal of the Boston Public Schools. Myatt believes that small high schools are showing educators new ways to provide the structure needed to support high achievement for a variety of students. Although small high schools cost more initially per student, they are more efficient in cost per graduate.

Small high schools reduce negative behaviors both in and out of school by facilitating deep, trusting relationships with other students and teachers. They are better at creating and sustaining the healthy intellectual and social climates needed for teaching and learning. Small school size is consistently linked with positive outcomes in school climate, test scores, college attendance and post-secondary employment. There is a genuine sense of belonging for both students and teachers, higher expectation for student engagement and fewer distractions in the learning environment.

Myatt stresses that small schools can and should maintain sports, clubs, and cultural activities on their campus. He recommends that to be successful, small schools should focus funding and support in two areas: leadership development and improved coaching to support these leaders. He writes that small schools have special challenges that require extraordinary interpersonal abilities, technical and craft knowledge, and time-management skills.

Leaders of small schools must know and care deeply about their staff members as individuals as well as about students and their families. They must model a “can-do” attitude and protect the core values of the community. Myatt believes that small high schools provide an environment in which different curriculum models, instruction and standards can be tested.


“Fulfilling the Promise of Small High Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, Volume 85, Number 10, June 2004, pp. 770-776.

Published in ERN September 2004 Volume 17 Number 6

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