THE BENEFITS OF A SMALL SCHOOL
By early October, I know each of the children at my school. As Head of The Valley School in Madison Valley, I get to greet our students by name each morning at the gate and ask questions that let them know I care about them. With just over 100 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, our school provides the close connections and sense of belonging that increase a child’s engagement in learning.
Schools come in all types and sizes, but increasingly teachers, administrators, and researchers in the field of education are recognizing the advantages of small learning communities.
Smaller schools foster a greater sense of connectedness among children, teachers, and families. Effective learning communities, at all levels but particularly in elementary schools, are based on empathy. In small schools, where every child is known and no one can fall under the radar, empathy can flourish more fully.
Smaller schools have the flexibility to adapt more quickly to new learning opportunities. With fewer teachers and fewer scheduling constraints, small schools can respond quickly and nimbly to new topics and areas of student interest. Pulling the whole school together for a performance by a visiting musician is easier in a small school.
In small schools, teachers know all of the students at all grades more personally. As students advance from grade to grade each year, children enter a new classroom where they and their parents are already known by the teacher.
In smaller schools, with smaller staffs and fewer layers of administration, parents have closer contact with all members of the faculty, thus allowing for quicker, more timely communication and collaboration on strategies. Relations between parents and school people tend to be more personal and informal, thus leading to trusting, close relations. Research has shown that strong home-school relations are one of the key predictors of a positive learning experience for children and of academic success.
At The Valley School, like many small schools, we pride ourselves in providing a positive family-like school climate where children can be themselves, can take risks safely and confidently, can engage in their learning fully, and grow into thriving members of a healthy school community.