Written by Patricia Hawke for

When I was in high school, I attended the only high school our town had. A one-high school town, our school was home to every 14-18 year old in residence. My senior year, there were about 250 of us graduating. I thought that was a lot; but I still at least knew everyone’s name, even if I wasn’t friends with them all. Looking back, our school wasn’t that big compared to some; the name of every person in my graduating class fit on the back of the Prom T-shirt! I never thought of my school as small; it seemed big to my small-town eyes. With approximately 1,000 students, our campus had 4 classroom wings (a 5th one was added in my junior year), a music building, a gym, library, office, cafeteria, weight room, tennis courts, football fields, and baseball diamonds. We even had a barn, for the FFA kids (Future Farmers of America) and their livestock. This was my world, and one which I quite honestly wanted to get out of as soon as possible. While the size of our school was really on the small side, it was big to us; but I guess it’s all relative to our own experiences.
These days (I only graduated about 15 years ago, thank you very much), Indianapolis Schools have grown. Even my old high school has grown so much that I barely recognize it. (It’s still the only high school in town!) In fact, high schools are huge! With enrollments at Indiana and Indianapolis Schools at low of around 1,200 students and as high as 2,000 or more, schools are full to bursting. Indianapolis Public Schools administrators, teachers, and even Indianapolis Schools parents are trying hard to improve the education given to high school students. And small schools, such as the ones present in Indianapolis Schools, are meeting this need.
In Indianapolis Schools, school systems are trying very hard to personalize their students’ education, through the use of “Small Schools”. A small school is typically located on a regular Indianapolis Schools campus and shares common areas with other small schools housed on the same location. Cafeteria, gymnasiums, and media centers are used by all students. One Indianapolis Schools campus may house up to four or even five different small schools. These Indianapolis Schools offer a more intimate learning environment that is better able to address the needs of students, staff and parents. Each of these smaller Indianapolis Schools has an enrollment of no more than 400 students. They all offer both core classes (English, math, social studies and science) as well as electives. The needs of all students – special education as well as general education – are addressed. The purpose of these small schools within Indianapolis Schools is to improve students’ academic, social and behavioral performance, to reduce the dropout rate, and to connect students in a more personal way with the Indianapolis Schools they are attending.
Indianapolis Schools that are using the small school models are showing some really good results. I guess my high school knew what it was doing after all.