Case Studies of Leading Edge Small Urban High Schools

Regis Anne Shields and Karen Hawley Miles, 2008

These nine detailed case studies of small urban high schools served as the foundation for ERS’ report Strategic Designs: Lessons from Leading Edge Small Urban High Schools. We dubbed these nine schools “leading edge schools” because they stand apart from other high schools across the country in designing new ways to “do school” while outperforming most high schools in their local districts.

We found that Leading Edge Schools deliberately create high-performing organizational structures, or Strategic Designs, that deliberately organize people, time, and money to advance their specific instructional models—the set of decisions the schools make about how they organize and deliver instruction. They create these Strategic Designs through four interconnected practices:

  • Clearly defining an instructional model that reflects the schools’ vision, learning goals, and student population.
  • Organizing people, time, and money to support this instructional model by (a) investing in teaching quality, (b) using student time strategically, and (c) creating individual attention for students.
  • Making trade-offs to invest in the most important priorities when faced with limits on the amount, type, and use of people, time, and money.
  • Adapting their strategies in response to lessons learned and changing student needs and conditions

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Also, read the full report and executive summary of the findings.