Smaller learning communities and student performance at the high school level

Christopher Avila, University of Texas at El Paso


The purpose of this study was to compare the performance of students who participated in a traditional high school curriculum with those exposed to smaller learning communities or academies within traditional high schools. As a type of school reform, the district, located in a southwestern school district that was the focus of this study, implemented within seven different high schools smaller learning communities in the areas of business, technology, medicine, math, science, and communications. A large percentage of the student population (approximately 83% Hispanic, 14% Caucasian, and 3% Black) is from the lowest socioeconomic group as defined by federal guidelines associated with the free and reduced school lunch program. The researcher examined three years of student data prior to implementation of smaller learning communities (2004–2007) and three years after implementation of the intervention (2007–2010), provided by the district and data contained in the state's information database. Data examined included attendance rates, discipline referral rates, passing rates in core curriculum classes, and scores on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). Data were disaggregated by school years, school campus, grade levels, core subjects, ethnicity, GPAs, and socio-economic status, using a non-experimental quantitative process and using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences to determine differences. Nonparametric one-way analysis of variance, using the Friedman Test, was selected as the modeling strategy. The results of this study generally concur with the results of other studies. Students attend school at higher rates, achieved higher passing rates in core classes, and achieved higher scores on standardized tests. Contrary to other studies, there were not any significant differences in student performance on the PSAT and any significant improvement in discipline.

Subject Area

School administration|Educational psychology|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Avila, Christopher, "Smaller learning communities and student performance at the high school level" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3457744.