Smaller schools are safer for students

Published 9:27pm Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The nation’s economy has forced some school boards to contemplate consolidating, closing, and reconfiguring some schools. Educators have known for years that small schools are safer than large schools. However, it has been debated that larger schools are more cost effective.

The horrendous incidents of violence at some large schools have school officials thinking about student safety.

Michael Klonsky, director of the Small School Workshop at the University of Illinois in Chicago, says violent outbursts are highly unlikely in a small school setting for two reasons:

First, school is a community where students feel a sense of belonging. Students, who are no longer lost in crowded conglomerate schools, thrive in a large family atmosphere.

Second, teachers and administrators know their students. Violent outbursts are unlikely in a small school, not only because students’ needs are better met, but because caring adults have personal relationships with students and know what is going on with each of them.

Research indicates that large schools need large administrative staffs, and costs per student, when calculated using graduating students, are actually less in small schools than in large schools.

Some other benefits of small schools are higher student achievement, students are more visible, reduced violence and disruptive behavior, improved attendance and graduation rates, increased teacher satisfaction, reduced effect of poverty on student achievement, and teachers have the ability to work together as a professional community.

Consolidating schools can negatively impact a community. A locale that has a gang problem should examine the social influence of school closure.

The World Socialist Website issued a report on United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan while he was CEO of the Chicago Public Education System. Secretary Duncan forced the shutdown of dozens of schools. The report indicates the graduation rate from the city’s high schools is little better than 50 percent, and dozens of high school students have been killed, many as a result of traversing hostile gang territory en route to distant schools, their neighborhood schools having been closed.

The same can happen to younger students living in smaller cities.

The juvenile justice system witnesses an increase in youth crimes in some cities when neighborhood schools are closed.

Parents ranked student safety as number one in an educational environmental study conducted by the largest public school system in central Alabama. Neighborhood schools should remain intact.

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