Big Buildings, Small Schools: A Strategy for High School Reform

This report from Jobs for the Future describes efforts by communities including Boston, Oakland, New York City, and Sacramento to convert large, comprehensive high schools into “education complexes” make up of multiple autonomous small schools. It offers strategies related to school-level autonomies, governance, and leadership and delves in to the challenges for central office leaders.
Big Buildings (pdf)


Branded Environments

Asserting that visual branding can help small schools develop identities when housed in pre-existing school buildings, Adam Rubin of New Visions for Public  Schools describes a process for creating such branding. Sample questions for branding-related school meetings are included, and symbols and exterior and interior signage are discussed and illustrated.
Branded Environments (pdf)


Building a Portfolio of High Schools: A Strategic Investment Toolkit

This toolkit, from Jobs for the Future, is designed to take district reform leaders and their partners through the process of planning a portfolio of excellent schools, thinking through the relationship of the district to potential partners, and developing strategies for launching and sustaining new schools for the developing portfolio.
Strategic Toolkit (pdf)


Claiming Space for Small Schools

A team from Princeton University's School of Architects followed a group of innovative educators in the Bronx High Schools as they rethought the architecture of small schools. Seeking to imagine the creation of educational spaces where students and teachers can truly learn through collaboration and challenge the traditional ways of thinking about size and scale, this report responds to the diversity of the Bronx, and offers ideas as to how to reclaim space administrative and obsolete spaces for use as classrooms. In Kennedy High School, for instance, administrative space had grown from one office in the original 1969 plans to almost an entire floor.

This tool kit's proposed strategy for the successful incubation and growth of new small schools begins with architecture, but also suggests the formation of design teams to take non-architectural interventions such as graphic design, furniture organization, and educational planning just as seriously.
Claiming Space (pdf)


From Large School Buildings to

Small School Campuses: Orchestrating the Shift

This publication, developed in relation to the New Century High School Initiative in New York City, explores how small schools can adapt and reuse large high school buildings. Sharing space, developing small school footprints, and participatory master planning are described. The piece concludes with lessons learned in New York City, lessons useful to any school or district going through school conversion processes.
Orchestrating the Shift
Master Plan Book (pdf )


From Large to Small: Strategies for Personalizing the High School

This tool kit, offered by Jobs for the Future, provides guidance for those considering the conversion of large urban high schools into small, focused learning centers. It provides eight strategies, explores the challenges that emerge once a school has reorganized into small units, examines how these units stay focused on a combination of effective learning principles and practices that "small" makes possible, and presents "the five Cs" for blending youth development approaches with contextual and authentic learning to create effective learning environments.
Largetosmall (pdf)


Is Small Beautiful? The Promise and Problems of Small School Reform

A special issues of Rethinking Schools Online looks at small schools. Reports and analysis from various locations and vantage points provide multiple perspectives on reform strategies. Articles on teaching and learning in small schools, small schools for comunity power and social justice, privatization, union contracts and reform, the role of the Gates Foundation, and small school resources are included.
Rethinking Schools (ordering information)


Participation By Design: A Shared Learning Environment

Authors Laura Kurgan and Rosemarie Rizzo-Tolk describe the design process that was used to redesign two classrooms in a large comprehensive high school into one graphic arts studio to be shared by numerous small schools housed in the building. The participatory design process used is shared step-by-step.
Participation By Design (pdf )


Redesigning Large Schools Together:

A Study Kit to Support the Redesign of Large High Schools
This study kit, from Stanford’s School Design Network, is designed to help school and district leaders answer “How do you make a large school smaller?” and “How do you make a small school effective?” The Study Kit includes videos, books, readings, activities, sample materials from actual schools/districts/organizations, and resources that support the development of the small schools in your redesigned large high school. Understanding and Leading the High School Redesign Process, Part I of the Study Kit, is intended for schools, districts, and communities engaged in the process of redesigning comprehensive high schools. The Study Kit includes videos, books, readings, activities, and sample materials from actual schools/districts/organizations.
Order the Study Kit


Redesigning Schools: What Matters and What Works

This publication, offered by Stanford's School Redesign Network, presents Linda Darling-Hammond's ten features of effective design. It includes samples of schedules and operational budgets and features examples of operational design principles implemented in a number of small schools.
10features (pdf)


The Schools We Need: Creating Small Schools that Work for Us

Twenty student authors, in conjunction with What Kids Can Do, pose candid questions and concerns related to small schools creation. The students, all in the Bronx high school system in New York City direct their thoughts to both those adults planning small schools as part of the New Century High School Initiative and to those students who will attend these small schools.
Schools We Need (pdf)


Schools Sharing Buildings: A Toolkit

Principles and Practices from the Chicago Public Schools
Much like office buildings that house several companies, a school building can house several autonomous schools, each with their own administration, faculty, and budgets. This tool kit describes examples of schools sharing buildings in Chicago and gives practical advice for how to do this successfully.
Schools Sharing Buildings The Chicago brochure (606k PDF)

The following files are tools and references designed to
accompany the Chicago brochure:

Small Schools Best Practices for Sharing Facilities

Best Practices (pdf)


Building sharing documents

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Template (Word document)
Annual Sharing Agreement Template (Word document)
MOU Sample: Williams School (Word document)
Annual Sharing Agreement Sample: Williams School (Word document)
Lease Agreeement Sample (787k PDF)


Sample Williams floor plans showing schools sharing buildings

First Floor Layout (140k jpeg)
Second Floor Layout (116k jpeg)
Third Floor Layout (120k jpeg)
Aerial Site Rendering (120k jpeg)


Chicago Public Schools design competition

Design Winner for North Side Site (1.4mb PDF)
Virtual Courtyard Tour (29.9mb Quicktime file)
Virtual Hallway Tour (29.7mb Quicktimefile)
QuickTime required to view virtual tours
Aerial View (88k jpeg)
Generative Spaces (64k jpeg)            
New School Designs from the Chicago Competition (PDF of PowerPoint)

To order an actual brochure and CD-Rom with
the above files, email