Date of Award


Access Restriction

Campus Access only Dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Mary K. McCullough

Second Advisor

Victoria L. Graf

Third Advisor

Mary Neuman


Since A Nation at Risk (1983), high schools across the United States have searched for answers to address increasing drop out rates and low student achievement. In urban areas, the large comprehensive high school is no longer addressing the diverse needs of the students it serves. The high school reform movement, beginning in 1984, set out to find solutions to solve the problems that these large urban high schools face each day. One reform is the creation of small learning communities within a large secondary school. Small learning communities are groups of teachers sharing and serving small numbers of students centered on a common theme, curriculum, and vision. These small learning communities create personalized learning environments among teachers, students, and parents to mitigate the effects of the large school on student outcomes.

The purpose of this research was to investigate one of these small learning communities in a large urban high school in Los Angeles. The study explored how this small learning community set out to implement five identified factors of small schools including: personalization, leadership, authentic curriculum, innovative pedagogy, and accountability. The results show the impact of the small learning community model on student outcomes. Through the examination of quantitative data, the study correlated improved student outcomes with the level of implementation of these five identified factors. Additionally, the study used qualitative date to reinforce the quantitative findings. This research presents a model of an alternative for large urban secondary schools' dilemma in addressing low student academic performance and success.