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The Five School Study: Restructuring Philadelphia’s Comprehensive High Schools

A study of restructuring efforts implemented in Philadelphia’s comprehensive high schools from 1988 to 1995 as part of the Philadelphia Schools Collaborative funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. These efforts focused on two principal components: the creation of Small Learning Communities (SLCs) and the implementation of school-based management/shared decision-making (SBM/SDM) policies. This report examines how these reforms fared at five Philadelphia high schools representing a range of size and demographics. The authors consider student perspectives that help to reveal that successful teaching requires good relationships and that students learn best when they are engaged in their schoolwork. The report’s findings focus on the adequacy of structures and processes for change and also include recommendations for addressing inadequacies and building upon success. Overall, it was found that reform efforts were pushing forward slowly despite many obstacles.