Small Schools Benefits Across the Cost Spectrum

One of most pervasive myths about education in America is that large schools are more cost effective than small schools. However, the ever-growing body of research indicates the opposite to be true in budgetary, community, democratic and societal senses —and they save lives.

Small schools offer financial benefits for the cost of education in America, but they also benefit communities in ways that go beyond per pupil spending. Small schools benefits for the cost of education in America transcend curricular boundaries by positively influencing the diverse communities they serve. Let’s take a detailed, contextual look at the small schools cost benefits….

The Budgetary Cost of Education in America

 

“The ‘cost savings’ of larger schools are only apparent if the results are ignored.” —The New Rules Project

A longstanding, erroneous assumption is that schools can mimic the operational efficiency and effectiveness of corporations. In economy of scale thinking, corporate operating costs can potentially be streamlined through large-scale centralization. Educational consolidation, budgeting, hierarchies, policy-making, and the institutions (i.e. buildings) themselves were designed with the corporate model in mind.

By going small, the budgetary cost of education in America can remain stable in relation to the current large-scale institutional model. In some cases, going small can even lead to significant long-term cost savings for districts and governing bodies….

By reducing overhead and streamlining the budgetary cost of education in America while expanding personalization that treats students as unique individuals instead of identical products of standardized processes, we can meet individual student needs. You can learn more about the small school benefits for the cost of education in America (including impact on drop out and teacher retention rates) by reading these articles:

 

Go Small to Make a Safer School

 

School safety and violence prevention is one of the fastest growing budget categories in western schools. There are no major incidents of violence reported in small (as we define them) US schools. Large schools are characterized by institutional, less personal climates. Such a climate does not instill feelings of acceptance, safety or security in the student body regardless of the amount of safety officers and technological advancements that monitor and control behaviors. However, the growing body of research indicates going small can make a safer school environment, physically and emotionally. Small schools generally face fewer issues with discipline based on a marked increase in meaningful student engagement and responsible ownership in respect to violence and vandalism.

By going small to make a safer, more inclusive school, we are actively working to stamp out violent acts committed both on school campuses, as well as in our communities when disaffected youth act out in violent ways against society….

The value of small school culture on societal cohesion cannot be overvalued or stated if we are committed to creating safer communities for ourselves and our children. This data is consistent across geographic, socioeconomic and cultural demographics. You can learn more about going small to make a safer school by reading these articles:

Go Small: Resisting Consolidation to Reduce School Bussing Issues

 

School busing issues are another result of school consolidation and the creation of larger schools. Communities lose their center when the community school is shut down—shopkeepers lose out, neighborhoods are demoralized, and volunteerism drops. Presently, American children are bussed out of the communities millions of miles per day, often taking in excess of 45 minutes daily. Large school proponents “pencil” bussing costs through demonstrating economy of scale savings, and yet these “savings” leave out environmental costs of busing and time spent in busses, and lost commerce in the neighborhood, among other detriments.

Growing research, available in our library, shows that large numbers of children find the bus ride forbidding and threatening if not physically harmful. School busing issues include a significant decrease in student fitness: In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school compared to 15 percent who walk or bicycle to school (2009).

By staying small to reduce school bussing issues, we are helping keep communities in tact that otherwise suffer a loss of identity and coherence as a result of expanded school busing. In fact, staying small to reduce school bussing issues significantly reduces carbon footprint, pollution and the use fossil fuels, all of which benefit not just individual communities but our nation and world. You can learn more about going small to resist consolidation by reading these articles:

Go Small to Increase Democratic Education

 

The classical model of education is more heavily focused on creating more bureaucratic, less creative environments on local, state and federal levels. As the research keeps showing (see library, below) the large and consolidated school model benefits some classes and groups (such as division 1 athletes) while marginalizing the majority of others.

Smalls schools markedly increase the number of critically thinking students who take responsibility for their own learning and lives. They are also statistically more likely to take responsibility for civic and social engagement outside of the classroom. This means going small can increase democratic education. Raised test scores and decreased drop out rates, as small schools bring, helps some districts bring in increased grant money per student.

By going small to increase democratic education, we instill fairness, cooperation and justice into the hearts and minds of student, which are the fundamental cornerstones of an egalitarian, meritocratic society….

The data supporting going small to increase democratic education is consistent across geographic, socioeconomic and cultural demographics. Even more importantly, it indicates the potential for empowering marginalized cultures and ethnicities by providing students of all backgrounds with a strong, informed voice. You can learn more about going small to increase democratic education by reading these articles:

Go Small to Increase High School Graduation Rates: What is the Cost of a Dropout?

 

Finally, the ever-growing body of research indicates going small can increase high school graduation rates. Of course, small schools benefits on the cost of education in America cannot and should not be solely reduced to financial terms. However, when presented within the larger context of budgets, community safety and participatory democracy, the increasingly precarious cost of high school dropout rates on societal stability and prosperity cannot be understated.

A US Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicates high school dropouts are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than graduates. This figure is expected to continually rise as livable job prospects for people with lower levels of education become more scarce. An Alliance for Excellent Education report indicates the United States could save as much as $18.5 billion in annual crime costs if the graduation rate increased by only 5% versus its present figure….

By staying small and resisting consolidation to increase high school graduation rates, we are providing our youth with every opportunity to succeed in life in the present, as well as in enjoying a better, brighter future for themselves, their families and their communities. Like all of the other costs we discussed, the data on going small to increase high school graduation rates is consistent across geographic, socioeconomic and cultural demographics. You can learn more about going small to increase high school graduation rates by reading these articles:

More Research on Small Schools Benefits

The growing body of research on small schools demonstrates a direct correlation between the small school movement and benefits to the communities they serve in educational, societal and financial contexts.

However, the research on small schools benefits we have presented here is only a small sample. If you would like to delve deeper into research on small schools benefits in a personal, professional or academic/scholarly capacity, please visit our Library of articles and media.

If you have any questions about research on small schools, or to direct us to pertinent information you do not find on this page, please contact us directly.

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