Comments on Small Schools

The following is an excerpt from Bill Gates’ annual letter about the Gates Foundation.  I wanted to point out a few items in his comments.  High Tech High is the High School that Mr. John Shea, Spaulding High School Principal helped found.  Please note that Bill Gates mentions that as one of the successful new schools from the Foundation.

It think we should also note the size of the school is not the determining factor in Gates’ opinion, but a change in culture, change in curriculum, and selection of teachers.  Changing an existing school has been less successful than creating a new school. 

Here is a link to the entire article:

“Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way. These tended to be the schools that did not take radical steps to change the culture, such as allowing the principal to pick the team of teachers or change the curriculum. We had less success trying to change an existing school than helping to create a new school.

Even so, many schools had higher attendance and graduation rates than their peers. While we were pleased with these improvements, we are trying to raise college-ready graduation rates, and in most cases, we fell short.

But a few of the schools that we funded achieved something amazing. They replaced schools with low expectations and low results with ones that have high expectations and high results. These schools are not selective in whom they admit, and they are overwhelmingly serving kids in poor areas, most of whose parents did not go to college. Almost all of these schools are charter schools that have significantly longer school days than other schools.

I have had a chance to spend time at a number of these schools, including High Tech High in San Diego and the Knowledge Is Power Program, or “KIPP,” in Houston. There is a wonderful new book out about KIPP called Work Hard. Be Nice., by the education reporter Jay Mathews. It’s an inspiring look at how KIPP has accomplished these amazing results and the barriers they faced.”


Big Step Forward

Last night John Shea presented the Big Step Forward study to a group of parents and community members.  Mr. Shea presented the proposed study during the first 20 minutes.  A question and answer session  followed.

Some of the ideas involved using part of Spaulding High School or the Community Center as another school instead of another building.

The importance of parent and community involvement in any plan, and any educational program was emphasized.

The community members felt that this was a worthy issue to study, but there are many doubts about its implementation.

This is the first of many meetings and public forums on this topic.


Mike Hopkins


Rochester, NH