November 10, 2000


Smaller Is Better: $25,000 Grant to Help Personalize Sweetwater Schools

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $250,000 planning grant to help seven Sweetwater District high schools —Castle Park, Chula Vista, Hilltop High, Mar Vista, Montgomery, Southwest and Sweetwater—create smaller, more personalized learning programs.

"We know that when high schools are organized into smaller settings, it's easier for students to feel they are a part of their school and community," said Sweetwater Board President Greg Sandoval. "This grant will help us to make a real difference for our students' success—both academic and personal."

Research conducted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has shown that students who are part of a smaller learning community have better attendance, are less likely to drop out, exhibit fewer discipline problems and perform better academically.

Sweetwater has already experienced success with smaller learning environments. Several programs are in place throughout the district where teams of teachers work collaboratively with the same cluster of students. This personalized approach supports students' academic achievement and creates a closer bond among peers.

Results show that students in Sweetwater's existing school-within-a-school programs are making significant gains. For example, 98% of the students in Mar Vista High's Poseidon Academy are successfully completing the rigorous courses needed for admission to top universities. And at the Academy of Travel and Tourism at Hilltop High, students have improved their grades, attendance and citizenship.

Sweetwater's one-year planning grant will provide time and resources for the seven targeted sites—currently serving an average of 2,400 students each— to develop smaller academies or career pathways with no more than 600 students in a program. At the end of the planning period, Sweetwater will be eligible to apply for a three-year implementation grant.

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