The purpose of this study, conducted in 2010–2011, was to investigate the impact of Small Learning Community reforms and its cultural impact on students, teachers, and administrators in urban high schools. High Schools need to implement a school reform that will personalize the learning environment to accentuate student academic success. The Small Learning Community models evolved through school reform initiatives in the high school and with funding from Congress.
The literature implied that the high school environment can be very challenging for most students. Noguera (2002) voiced the need for high school reform indicating effective reform of public high schools depends on not just the size but also qualified teachers in the classroom who will provide quality education for all students. There are several Small Learning Community models that can be utilized in a school. Some of the various models include career academies, magnet programs, house plans, and charter schools. The researcher focused on a specific Small Learning Community model, the magnet program.
The design of the Small Learning Community model research study utilized the following investigative tools: questionnaires administered to the students, interviews with teachers, and focus group discussions with the administrators. This qualitative research study site was in Houston, Texas, and focused on three schools that had implemented magnet programs in their educational environment. The population for the research included 30 students, nine teachers, and six administrators.
The data reflected that personalization was one of the key components of successful Small Learning Communities: all of the participants concurred with that reflection. Personalized learning environment was a common thread that was echoed with all three groups of participants (Students, Teachers, and Administrators) who indicated that the Small Learning Community models did impact the cultural climate of the classroom and the school structure. Teachers and students established positive relationships with each other in the classroom because of the personalized learning environment.
Personalization was evident according to the data, but the Small Learning Community needs to establish common vision, goals, and expectations. Administrators voiced concern that diversity in the population should be a component in the Small Learning Community models. Population diversity can impact the culture of the Small Learning Community, so professional development for educators needs to be embedded.
School reform for high school is a major focus in this country, and Small Learning Communities are a reform that supports student successes in school and lowers the high school dropout rate. The results of this study indicate the need to consider the school reform that will capture the culture of the school community, highlight the personalized classroom learning environment, and focus on student academic success.