Even as experts, parents, and teachers commend the advantages of smaller high schools, a survey by Public Agenda, a New York City-based research organization, shows that many parents and teachers believe other educational reforms are more pressing than reducing school size.
The survey, the first phase of a larger study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that 80 percent of parents and 85 percent of teachers believe smaller high schools are better at spotting troubled students; a majority of both groups also said parental involvement was better at smaller schools. However, majorities of both parents and teachers said stronger discipline and smaller class sizes were more important to student achievement than small school size, and about half of the respondents viewed plans to break up large high schools as impractical and expensive.
"Many parents and teachers have very positive first impressions of smaller schools, but reducing school size is just not at the top of their agenda for education reform," said Deborah Wadsworth, president of Public Agenda. "Parents and teachers tend to talk more about ideas such as stronger discipline, smaller classes, and improving teacher pay."
For the purposes of the study, a small high school was defined as having 500 or fewer students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 70 percent of high school students attend schools with 1,000 or more students, while half attend schools with more than 1,500 students.