Student Achievement, School Structure, and the Effects of Small Learning Community Implementation in Los Angeles

A Network Approach

by Richard Bowman

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The division of Los Angeles' large urban comprehensive high schools into groups of Small Learning Communities (SLCs) within the school campus was proposed as a way to improve academic outcomes. While the effects of school size on students have been explored in detail and converting school structure "in-place" is less costly than constructing several new small schools, little research has been completed regarding the structural or academic effects of dividing large schools into whole-school or "wall-to-wall" SLCs on the same campus. With this policy and research backdrop, this dissertation defines and identifies communities of students, evaluates the level of sorting and segregation in schools and communities in schools, explores correlations between school structure and academic outcomes, and evaluates the effects of SLC implementation on school structure and academic outcomes.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Data Description and Methods

  • Chapter Two

    Community Structure

  • Chapter Three

    Categorizing Community Compositional Variation

  • Chapter Four

    School Structure Changes across Time

  • Chapter Five

    Correlations between school structure and academic outcomes

  • Chapter Six

    Effect of SLC on student outcomes

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2010 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Paul Dreyer (Chair), Harold Green, and Francisco Martorell.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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