Harmony Education Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, worked to foster student-led research on education improvement in local schools. From 2009-10, fifty students in Indianapolis Public Schools, freshmen through seniors, researched the implementation of small schools in their district. Working with adult allies from Harmony, students asked several essential questions:
- What evidence do we have from other cities that breaking large high schools into small schools really works?
- Are small schools the only way to personalize learning?
- How can a school change when many of its teachers do not?
Data was pooled from four large high schools, giving students an essential perspective on school transformation. Harmony facilitated learning opportunities for students focused on research and facilitation skills in after-school meetings and in training sessions that brought student research teams together from across the city.
Data from students illustrated how students didn’t understand small schools. In one school, half of all students did not know what small learning community they belonged to. Students were particularly concerned about the impact small schools would have on existing friendships and course offerings.