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What Do Small Learning Communities Cost?

What Do Small Learning Communities Cost?

Little is known about what it actually costs to operate a high school organized into Small Learning Communities (SLCs). As a result, many of the cost estimates and subsequent funding decisions made when high schools are converted into SLCs are often based on little more than guesswork.


Estimates are often determined as much by the amount of funding readily available or the desire to spread it to as many high schools as possible as by good analysis of the actual costs involved in mounting and sustaining effective high school reforms. Yet such analysis is essential. Without it many efforts to restructure high schools into SLCs may fizzle after the initial start-up funding disappears or scarce funds might be wasted through duplicate efforts. One reason that this analysis does not occur is that not enough information exists to support it. The goal of this paper is to change this situation by answering three related questions:

  1. What can be learned about the costs associated with operating a high school organized into Small Learning Communities?
  2. Based on what is learned about the costs of operating a high school organized into SLCs, what can be inferred about the adequacy of existing resources?
  3. Can existing federal, state, and foundation funds be used to close any gaps between existing resources and those needed to establish fully implemented SLCs?
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