The Los Angeles Small Schools Center works to ensure that the following key elements of learner-centered school design are established in every school community.
- A learning community is the essential role of a school. It requires that all members of the school community be dedicated to lifelong learning. It guides schools in staff hiring and supervision and calls for a professional development program that addresses the continued learning and work of the school and models best instructional practices. A learning community engenders supportive relationships between the school, its students and their families and requires a focus on parent education and learning.
- Ensuring every child is known well requires schools to focus on personalization. For children to be known well, schools must establish a culture of trust, respect, and caring. A school’s design, curriculum, and assessment modalities must support personalization by being no larger than 500 students, reducing class size and creating effective support structures such as advisory programs.
- Learning that is authentic and connected to student interests requires that schools assess their students’ literacy levels and competency in reading, writing and mathematics and design personalized learning plans that both address each student’s needs and set high but achievable goals. Schools need to provide a number of pathways for students to pursue their passions including: internships at local jobsites, thematic cross-discipline projects, solving real world problems and completing culminating self-designed graduation projects to allow for student differentiation and ownership.
- Practices focused on equity and achievement demand that schools explicitly and implicitly focus on student data including their achievement and challenges, and a school’s success in serving its students. Metrics and accountabilities must be established and the work of the learning community must be measured against clearly stated standards including but not limited to standardized and alternative assessments (e.g. CAHSEE, API, CST, exhibitions & portfolios, graduation, and college preparedness & acceptance, as well as attendance, discipline, and retention rates.). A commitment to equity and achievement influences how a school uses time, develops relationships and allocates resources.
- Professional autonomy honors the work of accomplished educators and gives schools the ability to better serve their students. To be truly effective, a school needs autonomy over its governance, staffing, curriculum, budget and schedule while also being accountable to its students, families and governing board for achieving the school’s stated student outcomes and delivering on its stated mission.
- Schools must receive the necessary support needed to design, establish and implement effective small school programs; teachers and administrators need supportin order to reflect upon their practice and learn how to more effectively educate the children in their care. This includes credentialing programs for small school leaders that are based in school apprenticeship where leaders learn on the job. Support for students means ensuring that students have access to multiple pathways to graduation and English language learning as well as social services including counseling services, support services, and health services.