chapter  8
The color line in student achievement: how can small learning communities make a difference? JEAN YONEMURAWING
ByHow can small learning communities make a difference? Jean Yonemura Wing
Pages 19

Robert is an African American student who graduated in the Class of 2000 at Berkeley High School – a large, racially diverse high school3 plagued by a persistent achievement gap that breaks down along racial and socioeconomic class lines. So glaring is this gap that Berkeley High has been described as “two schools under one roof” – one school whose SAT scores consistently exceed state and national averages4 and whose predominantly white, middle-class graduates attend the nation’s top universities,5 and another school in which African American and Latino students are disproportionately represented among those receiving Ds and Fs or listed on the suspension rolls,6 or are at risk of not graduating. Meanwhile, most teachers in this school of 3,200 see 150-175 students a day, with a typical class size of 32+, and each academic counselor serves a caseload of more than 550 students. Thus, Robert’s reflections on the Technology Academy, one of several small learning communities7 within Berkeley High School, illustrate the potential of such small schools programs8 to support better academic outcomes and corresponding life chances for those students least well served by the traditional, factory-model or “shopping mall” high school9 (Powell et al., 1985).