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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Educational Equity and School Structure: School Size, School Overcrowding, and Alternative Organizational Structures


Lee, Ready, and Welner focus on the interface between educational equity and the structure of schools, examining school size, school overcrowding, and two features of school organization: magnet schools and schools-within-schools. They provide an interpretive summary of existing studies of these topics, concentrating on how these structural issues relate to social stratification in student outcomes, particularly academic achievement. The evidence they provide is drawn from both national studies and, when available and appropriate, from research that discusses the effects of school structure in California's schools. Lee, Ready, and Welner use this evidence to define which size high schools are best for all students (under 1,000 students), which responses to school overcrowding are appropriate (building more schools rather than adding portable classrooms or multi-track year round schooling), how magnet schools can decrease rather than increase inequality (by making regular public schools more like magnet schools), and how creating smaller learning communities in high schools can work well for everyone (by not allowing this mechanism to increase stratification). They also show that California policies have not promoted these responses, and, in many cases may have actually exacerbated inequality in educational outcomes by race, ethnicity, and class.

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