Restructuring of Large Schools into Smaller Learning Communities


For more than 30 years, CEI has been helping large schools restructure into sets of smaller learning communities as a means to provide more student-centered learning environments. Through the CEI school restructuring process, large schools are divided into smaller learning communities (SLCs) that are often theme-based and provide students and educators with an educational environment that builds on their strengths and meets their specific needs. The CEI process re-energizes the entire learning environment by taking all of the physical resources that already exist in a public school (people and the building itself) and all the intangibles (ideas, time and relationships) and re-arranging them to free up the energy and creativity of the educators and students.

Five-Phase Restructuring Process

CEI uses a five-phase process to help schools transform into sets of smaller learning communities (SLCs) that operate autonomously, but in harmony, with one another inside of a shared school building.

  1. Establishing Relationships –This phase sets the foundation for the restructuring process by helping foster strong relationships among the main stakeholders in the process, including the principal, teachers, students and parents, as well as school and district administrators.
  2. Creating a Plan Together – During this phase, the school establishes a planning team to set the restructuring agenda, goals and benchmarks. The planning team is comprised of the principal, teachers from across grade, discipline and experience levels, parents, union representatives, and appropriate administrative staff. In order to create the restructuring plan, the team conducts focus groups, surveys and other forms of outreach to teachers, students, parents and the community so that the plan reflects the needs and desires of the community.
  3. Preparing for the Launch – Once the agenda is set for restructuring, the planning team prepares to launch the restructured school by creating a student recruitment and admissions process, assigning staff to the smaller learning communities (SLCs), creating a utilization plan for the entire site that reduces hallway traffic and makes optimal use of common facilities (e.g. gym, cafeteria, library, etc.), and establishing an accountability plan for the SLCs and entire school.
  4. Launching the Restructured School & Establishing Interdisciplinary Curriculum and Instruction – The second year of the restructuring process begins with “opening” the new school. CEI then helps staff map curriculum to achieve interdisciplinary teaching and learning, as well as into the mission and themes of the SLCs.
  5. Ongoing Improvement & Accountability – In the third year of the restructuring process, CEI focuses on helping the restructured school to become sustainable. This includes ongoing improvement and accountability, networking and resource expansion. CEI’s assistance in this phase is based upon issues, concerns and needs identified through the annual self-assessment process that schools must conduct based upon the accountability plans developed during Phase 3.