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A High Performing School for the New Millennium
Academic Rigor  *  Relevant to the Real-World  *  Relationships in Small Learning Communities

 2552 N. Maple
 Ann Arbor, MI 48103
 Principal: Cory McElmeel



Smaller Learning Communities

The term applied to the practice of organizing high schools into smaller units has undergone many changes over the last four decades. Houses and schools-within-schools came on the scene beginning in the 1960s; magnet programs, career academies, and mini-schools in the 1970s; charters in the late 1980s and 1990s; and finally, small learning communities today. The evolution in terms is significant. It parallels development in our thinking about the crucial ingredients of effective education. The earlier terms emphasized small structure and curricular specialization and choice: both crucial to improved teaching, yet not the complete story. Small learning community, in contrast, encompasses these elements and more: a focus on the learner and learning, and in particular, the active and collaborative nature of teachers’ and students’ work.

Small Learning Communities That Actually Learn;  Lessons for School Leaders.  Collaborative communities of teachers have great potential for bringing about improvements in teaching and learning.   Focus communities around instruction. Creating smallcommunities involves more than just making instructional issues a priority. District and school leaders need to emphasize those issues by providing communities with tools for systematic inquiry into the relationships between teaching and student learning. Leaders themselves need a firm knowledge base about how effective instructional communities work — including some understanding of the types of collegial relationships that sustain them and the kinds of group practices that result in improved teaching and learning. Leaders should also provide the logistical arrangements necessary for such activities as team teaching and visiting other schools, and they should share meaningful data related to instruction with members of their communities. To sustain the focus on instructional improvement, administrators need to establish assessment processes that give teachers in communities constructive feedback about their instructional endeavors and about students’ progress. By taking these measures, leaders will send a clear message that improving instruction is the primary purpose of communities within schools.


Relationships, Relevance, Rigor

Rigor/Relationships Framework

How Brain Research Relates to Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships

Tips for Using Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships to Improve Student Achievement

The 3 R's of Engaging Students in Urban High Schools

Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships: An Interview with Bill Daggett

Leadership for Rigor, Relevance and Relationships

School Relationships Foster Success for African American Students

School Connectedness: Improving Students' Lives

Exploring the Relationship Between Staff Development and Improvements in Student Learning

School Climate and Learning

Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships Between Schools and Communities: The Role of a Connector

Interdisciplinary Teaching 

This study, conducted by Dartmouth College, provided an assessment of interdisciplinary instruction. Results demonstrated that in considering the intersection between two subjects, students developed stronger analytic abilities and achieved a broader perspective in addition to the essential skills and knowledge of the individual disciplines. The Dartmouth Project’s goal was to make mathematics accessible, interesting and relevant to students in all disciplines. (40kb PDF)

Three Basic Strategies for Interdisciplinary Teaching.  Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education (360kb PDF)

This site summarizes several studies, including the Nation Assessment of Educational Progress, that highlight elements of interdisciplinary instruction that support students’ development of more powerful thinking and learning skills.  Many of the important concepts, strategies, and skills taught in the language arts are portable and readily transferable to other classes.

The purpose of interdisciplinary teaching is to dissolve the boundaries of areas of study and encourage learning across the curriculum. The interdisciplinary approach enables teachers to teach the whole student and make links between disciplines, thereby giving students a more relevant, less fragmented, and stimulating experience.

High School Reform Research

Prisoners of Time: Schools and Programs Making Time Work for Students and Teachers

Data-Driven High School Reform: The Breaking Ranks Model describes how schools can develop the capacity to analyze and use data as a core component of improving secondary schools.

The article Correlates of Effective Schools: First and Second Generation , examines next steps for schools that have successfully met the criteria described in the research on the correlates for effective schools. 

This document contains a series of reports discussing three comprehensive high school reform initiatives.  Outlines structural changes to improve personalization and instructional improvements as the twin pillars of high school reform. (1.7mb PDF)

2004 Outstanding Practices
 Using Rigor, Relevance and Relationships to Improve Student Achievement: How Some Schools Do It.  This research and practice overview outlines the strategies implemented by the Southern Regional Education Board to improve learning for all students.

Website that was created as a one-stop clearinghouse for information on high schools as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing America's Future - High School Initiative. The Preparing America's Future High School Initiative is designed to support educators, policymakers, and leaders in the development of innovative, effective methods for transforming high schools into top-quality learning institutions.

Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. This site provides schools with access to best practices, training opportunities and networking opportunities with model schools and the International Center.

Magnet Programs

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Innovations in Education:  Creating Successful Magnet School Programs, Washington, D.C., 2004

C.A.R.T. Center for Advanced Research and Technology.  Secondary reform effort that combines rigorous academics with technical, design, process, entrepreneurial, and critical think skills.

Magnet Schools of America

Clark High School Magnet Programs

Wake County Schools

Partnership Academies

The California Partnership Academies are focused on development through smaller learning communities. Academy components include rigorous academics with a career focus, a team of teachers, and active business involvement. Extensive evaluations on the academies indicate a positive impact on school performance.

These academies are like the Skyline magnets in general form and process.  They are somewhat more career focused than is the plan for Skyline but have rich resources and practical implementation background.

California Career Academies

Career Academy Support Network

Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities, what are they and why are they important?

Teacher Leadership

Leading Change from the Classroom: Teachers as Leaders
Teachers Leading the Way - U.S. Dept. of Ed. Forum
Institute for Educational Leadership Publications (click on the report entitled "Leadership for Student Learning: Redefining the Teacher as Leader")

21st Century Skills

The C's of Change: Students and Teachers Learn 21st Century Skills

Ann Arbor Public Schools