SLC: A Sloppy Experiment

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Feb
  • 14
  • 2006

So my school sits in the midst of spending the money provided by a grant for Smaller Learning Communities (SLC). Come next year, SLC haunts the hallways and likely grows to encompass the sophomores, whether the program works or not.


Ah, yes. A match made in heaven, NCLB spells out SLC’s purpose.’s outline of the possibilities for spending SLC grant funds includes the following:

(1) study the feasibility of creating smaller learning communities; (2) research, develop, and implement strategies for creating smaller learning communities; (3) provide professional development for school staff in the teaching methods that would be used in the smaller learning community; and (4) develop and implement strategies to include parents, business representatives, community-based organizations, and other community members in the activities of the smaller learning communities. (source)

Except perhaps in a small way with such a minor impact on the school that it might as well not have happened, those 4 items never panned out on my campus. However, I so clearly see the need for all 4 of those items right now. Not next year, not some time in the future, not an argument that it all already happened, but immediately. Carve out some funding for teacher overtime and put in the hours to plan the program correctly, a plan known to all staff members. Otherwise, certain disaster awaits the 2006-2007 SLC.

It Takes Time, I Know, But Data Exists

By beginning to plan a bit more, focusing our implementation, and researching our options, the examination of our current practices becomes a priority. With full understanding that producing results after only a single year stands next to impossibility, my skeptical eye remains fixed on SLC and the way it impacts the campus this year.

As we all flock to bask in the setting sun of the school year, gathering data to support the existence of SLC must fly to the top of someone’s list. At a meeting a few Mondays ago, I suggested a glance at how the program works at other schools around the country. More specifically, I brought up the idea to hunt for a campus with similar demographics to my school, one that brought SLC to fruition a few years before us. Honestly, some present from administration all but scoffed at me for the suggestion, saying that no such schools exist.

In such a big country with lots and lots of schools, surely at least one other campus out there similar to my school instituted SLC a few years ago. Data must exist, so we need to find it.

No Research Presented

Actively searching for similar schools and charting their progress as a possible indication of our success falls to whoever seeks to promote SLC for next year. Did that idea fail to cross anyone’s mind? Proof that SLC helps students never cluttered my desk at the beginning of this whole discussion; someone with information from a trip to another school with SLC never darkened my door. Anecdotal evidence counts for very little and the theorizing of a few teachers on our campus won’t convince me.

The possibility of block scheduling surfaced about 8 years ago. Those on both sides of the fence researched the issue, visited schools, conducted interviews, held discussions, presented their case, fielded questions. None of this happened when the SLC option arrived. On a single voluntary day attended by a small percentage of the staff, that group made the decision to bring SLC to the campus.

If we plan to expand SLC to include the sophomores, along with the freshmen, we need to show proof of its worth, both of our time and the grant’s dollars to implement.

1 comment

1. Tappet says:

[2/15/2006 - 2:00 pm]

It sounds like you’re in the same place as my school. I don’t know how exactly it was presented to your faculty, but we were originally given the impression that this was an “easy money” grant – we’d take the money, and do paperwork to make what we were already doing look like SLC.

Boy, were we wrong.

Putting in an SLC is a lot of work, and requires huge buy-in from the entire faculty. Unfortunately, because of the way in which it was initially sold to us (and because we have a much-older faculty, with almost 50% within 5 years of retirement), we have experienced considerable push-back from our faculty. It’s a mess. I believe in the idea of SLC; those benefits that you listed are in desperate need on our campus, as well. But it’s like anything else: if you do it wrong, the the best you can hope for is to not make things worse. >sigh< Good luck to you, and if you find anything that really works in implementing your 10th Grade SLC, please let us know.