The impact of smaller learning communities on 9th grade mathematics student achievement and graduation rates

Keisha Burney Cook, University of Southern Mississippi


Many problems in public education, ranging from low student achievement to high dropout rates, are being attributed to large schools, especially large high schools. While large high schools may provide more varied curriculums, they are also more impersonal. This can be especially problematic for ninth graders who are making the transition to high school. One solution that has been implemented as part of educational reform is organizing large high schools into small learning communities. The purpose of this study was to determine if the existence of a smaller learning community has an impact on ninth grade students' achievement in Georgia schools as measured by the cumulative score on the Mathematics I End-of-Course-Test (EOCT). This study includes 133. A comparison was made between schools with smaller learning communities and schools without them. Descriptive statistics, Pearson's correlations, independent samples t -test, and a mixed factorial Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) were used to answer research questions and test hypotheses. The results of the data analysis showed that the majority of schools in the study used some form of freshmen transition activity for ninth graders; the more students involved in a smaller learning community, the higher their scores were on the Mathematics I EOCT. As the total school enrollment increased, the higher the scores on the Mathematics I EOCT. There was no difference between graduation rates of schools with smaller learning communities and schools without them. Implications of the study and recommendations for further study are presented.