Groveport Madison High School officials are thinking big by thinking small.
At the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s Jan. 16 meeting, high school teachers and administrators presented a plan to restructure next fall’s freshman class into "small learning communities" with the goal of expanding the concept to grades 10-12 in the coming years.
The concept is designed to create smaller class sizes by forming pods organized by foreign language studies with the students then sharing other academic core courses and teachers. It would involve teams of teachers and students working together to promote academics, improve attendance, improve behavioral problems, promote communication, and build unity.
Four teams of six teachers would work with students within 13 or 14 rooms in the building, creating the feel of their own, smaller school for the 693 freshmen. It could also diffuse the crowding in the school’s hallways by compacting the areas where the students attend class where only students in that pocket of the school use those specific classrooms.
High School Principal Donis Toler said the goal is to reduce the student to teacher ratio to 15 to 1.
To fund the concept, school officials plan on applying for 13 different grants totally from $2.2 to $2.5 million, including a $1.25 federal small learning communities grant that itself could fund the program for grades 9 and 10. The grants would provide monies for additional staff and teacher training for the program
However, Toler noted that, "grant or no grant we’re going ahead with the program." He said the school could work with existing resources to implement the plan, if necessary, at no extra cost to the district.
High school teachers are excited by the plan stating it would create the students’ own little community in the school, provide a more structured environment, improve relationships among the students, and build support from the teachers.
"Some students feel disconnected," said English teacher Amon Dobbins. "With ‘small schools’ they’ll feel more like a family."
Math teacher Stacy Reed said the plan will improve graduation rates.
"One true test of a school is its ability to graduate students. Our job is to fulfill this," said Reed.
Added social studies teacher Laura Soltis, "Some kids will always be successful. We want to provide an environment where all kids are successful."
School officials feel the small learning community will improve the education experience for the students and rectify problems reflected in the following statistics:
•Of 693 freshman, this year 110 have been disciplined for disrupting the education process, 102 have been disclipined for cutting class, and 75 have been disciplined for unexcused tardies.
•First quarter grade point averages for freshman show that 4 percent have an "A" average, 17 percent have a "B" average, 26 percent have a "C" average, 24 percent have a "D" average, and 29 percent have an "F" average.