College Board Schools What makes them different?
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Small schools have been set forth as one response to low academic achievement in urban settings, and recently, the small school movement has gained support in educational reform models. However, small schools are not homogeneous and much more needs to be known about the unique attributes of various small school models. This dissertation exams a new school model developed by the College Board and The Bill and Melinda Gates foundations. Using a qualitative approach, administrators, teachers and counselors who have worked both in urban College Board and comprehensive schools were interviewed about their lived experience to answer the broad questions: What do educators working in/or who have worked in both College Board Schools and large comprehensive urban schools identify and describe as important characteristics/practices of CBS, that separate them from comprehensive urban schools? How do they see these characteristics/practices impacting student outcomes? Interviewing these educators opened a deeper understanding of the urban small schools initiative and those attributes/impediments that impact these selected schools. The participants' responses reflect the concern about small schools as a response to persistent low-achievement in urban districts, and more specifically show the inconsistencies and controversies about what CBS purport to do and what they actually accomplish. The findings reveal that intentionally building a structure and set of practices that promote and support trusting relationships, safety, and strong distributed leadership, are key features of CBS. Further, the CBS model of incorporating fifth to twelve grade embeds middle school within a broader frame of time and seems also to mediate the issues of violence and disruptive behavior often cited in the comprehensive schooling model, which separately chunks grades into elementary, middle, and high school. In closing, the sustainability of the CBS models is discussed and potential implications for future small school reform are problematized.
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