Small School Yields Big Opportunities


Four years ago I had a decision to make. Should I attend the local public high school, where all of my friends were going? Or should my choice be to attend the new private, early college high school with an enrollment of only thirty students? I had been in a Christian school my whole life, and I thought it might be time for a change. However, I decided that going to the small private school would offer the best opportunity for growth academically, as well as better prepare me for life on a college campus. The decision I made was tough, and unpopular, but I can now say that it was definitely the right choice and well worth it. I have had incredible opportunities, which I would not have had if I had attended a large public high school. As a senior waiting for college acceptances and high school graduation, I decided to take a close look at what the experts have to say about school size and high school experience so that as I recruit new students to my high school, I can speak knowledgeably about proven benefits in addition to my own personal experience.

Optimum school size continues to be studied and debated. Experts argue that large schools offer more extra-curricular activities and a wider variety of classes, giving students more choice. While this can be true, large school goers often have less opportunity for meaningful participation in activities, due to the large number of participants and selectivity, and might be limited only to the classes which their schedule allows. Smaller schools offer more personalized schedules, so students can actually get into the classes they would like to take. At a small school, it is much easier to participate in activities, such as student council, where you are selected by fellow students, simply because students actually know each other.  In a larger high school, participating in clubs and activities, such as yearbook, becomes much less hands-on. In a yearbook club of forty-five kids, it is very unlikely that each individual student will contribute to naming the yearbook or picking fonts and pictures. At a small school, where there might be ten kids developing the yearbook, the work is much more hands-on, and everyone’s talents and opinions are essential.

Small schools offer a much more comfortable learning environment, where students can be open and have a much more personal relationship with each other and their teachers. Students in this type of environment become comfortable speaking in front of each other and sharing their opinions. This alone will help students as they attend college or go into the workforce. They will have valuable experience giving presentations and speaking in front of groups, as they have developed this skill in high school. In larger schools, students generally are in classrooms with students who they do not know, which can make it uncomfortable when sharing opinions or giving input during discussions. In small schools, every student is accountable for their work and is expected to participate. Taking an AP subject in a class of five students is a much different experience than taking the same class with a group of fifty students.  Not only is there more opportunity for asking questions and having relevant discussions, the teacher can provide meaningful feedback on essays and homework when having only a fraction of the papers to grade. I have found this to be the case in my experience.  My AP teachers have been teaching me the mechanics of effective essay writing and analysis, simply because they have the time to carefully grade my work.

Critics of small schools argue that large schools have much more ethnic diversity. However, while having more ethnic diversity at a large school may be a good thing overall, statistics show that minorities and low-income students perform much better in small schools (Bracey).

Small schools come with many advantages. On average, small schools “raise student achievement”, “reduce incidents of violence and disruptive behavior”, and “combat anonymity and isolation and, conversely, increase the sense of belonging” (Bracey). Small schools tend to have smaller class sizes which allows a much more personal learning experience where teachers are able to pace classes based on the students’ understanding. Students are not simply present or absent, but held accountable for their presence. Because of this, small schools have much higher teacher satisfaction rates and and increase in attendance and graduation (Bracey).

The articles I used for my research are well respected and thought-provoking, and provide much research into the study of the effects of school size. “Big Schools: The Way We Are” by Rick Allen focuses on the advantages of large high schools, such as having a variety of classes. “Small Schools, Great Strides” by Gerald Bracey has a much different opinion of large schools and focuses more on the negative consequences of trying to teach too many students at the same time. Bracey also lists numerous researched advantages for attending a small school. “Bigger is not always better: 3 advantages of a small school” by Chirs Kurien reinforces some of the key points made by Bracey. His ideas sound like my personal experiences in a small high school, as I believe that attending University Christian High School has given me the confidence and tools to be successful at the early college level. Greg Toppo’s “Size Alone Makes Small Classes Better for Kids” talks about kids being confident in a small school and helps negate the myth that large schools help kids branch out and become more culturally diverse. Along with the confidence that I have gained from being at a small school, I am also comfortable with my teachers, as well as college professors, and this comes directly from meaningfully interacting and learning in the small school environment.

While I can’t say that a small high school is right for everyone, there is much research to support the academic and social advantages for those students who choose this path. I personally believe that a small high school provides a great environment for learning and personal growth, while developing confidence and the desire for setting and achieving goals.



Annotated Bibliography


Allen, Rick. “Big Schools: The Way We Are.” February. ASCD. Ed. Marge Scherer, et al. 7 December 2015. <;.

“Big Schools: The Way We Are” by Rick Allen is a document from This document gives advantages to larger schools, which I found extremely important when defending “Small School Yields Big Opportunity”. Although Allen focus on large public high schools in large cities such as Bronx, New York and Chicago, Illinois, he does a great job encapsulating why bigger can be better. Allen uses class variety to his advantage when talking about foreign languages at Evanston Township High School. This school in Chicago’s “high-achieving” North Suburbs teaches the foreign languages of Latin, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and more (Allen). While having this wide array of classes is great, it doesn’t change that fact that trying to get into one of these classes with a high school of 3,100 kids might be difficult.

Having a large high school with personal relationships between teachers and students is difficult and nearly impossible. Evanston however has figured out a way to try and mitigate this problem. I found it interesting to know that this large high school has “home bases where a teacher meets with the same group of 15 students, diversified by race, each morning for the four years of high school” (Allen). This is an interesting aspect of a large high school, not only because it is rare, but it is similar to a practice we have at my small high school. While it is great that Evanston is doing this, it creates a personal relationship between the student and only one of the many teachers he or she will have throughout high school.

Bracey, Gerald W. “Small Schools Great Strides.” Phi Delta Kappan January 2002: 413-414. GreatSchools Staff. How important is school size? n.d. 22 Novembor 2015.

“Small Schools, Great Strides” by Gerald W. Bracey, is a great article that addresses the advantages of smaller schools and some of the negatives of larger schools. This article comes from the reputable Phi Delta Kappan website that was accessed with my principal’s login credentials. Bracey breaks down specific key points that support smaller schools. He writes a lot about violence and behavior problems that are distracting in larger schools. In my introductory essay I included the advantages of smaller schools that Bracey writes about, these advantages range from student achievement to teacher satisfaction.

Kurien, Chris. (2014, April 2). Bigger is not always better: 3 advantages of a small school . Retrieved Novembor 17, 2015, from The American Prospect:

In “Bigger is not always better: 3 advantages of a small school” by Chris Kurien, three valuable advantages to going to a smaller school are given. Kurien says the first advantage of a smaller school is the personal relationships with the teacher. He says when the classrooms are small, “the teachers have time to get to know” the students (Kurien). Students will feel closer to teachers, and be able to trust them. Students will be able to have outside of the classroom conversations with the teachers. Kurien’s second advantage is that students have many more opportunities for leadership. In a larger school, many people run for one position, and many people miss out on these opportunities. However, in a smaller school, few kids run for positions, and there is plenty of room to join clubs. Kurien’s third advantage to a smaller high school is that you get to know a variety of people. At a large high school, you may walk down the hallways and know only a few people, while at a smaller high school, you know most of the people and have a stronger sense of community.

Toppo, G. (2008, March 24). Size alone makes small classes better for kids. USA Today , 1-1.

In “Size alone makes small classes better for kids”, Greg Toppo discusses the advantages to a smaller learning environment. He talks about how kids are more comfortable in a smaller environment, work well together in small groups, and can spend more time one-on-one with the teacher. Students are also better able to stay focused on their work.






The Internet,The Newest Zombie

Chuck Klosterman, author of “My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead”, is one of the tremendous writers featured in the Lenoir-Rhyne Visiting Writer’s Series. Klosterman’s article describes zombies as “oozing and brain dead, but…an ever expanding market with no glass ceiling” (Klosterman). Klosterman further suggests that we are so interested in zombies because we “are able to relate to” them (Klosterman) because “zombies are like the Internet and the media and every conversation we don’t want to have” (Klosterman).  They just keep coming at us, and we just simply keep eliminating them in order to survive.

Klosterman’s article does a great job explaining our current fascination with zombies. I have fallen victim to binge watching AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Although I think it is an awesome show, if I take a step back and think about it, the only substance to the show is zombies taking over the world. Watching this show is a time waster.  It doesn’t require my complete attention. I can participate in several group messages and order in a pizza, and never miss an action scene which might just contain a plot twist.  As humans, we are constantly on the internet surfing and going through the same motions of checking emails, the news, and watching videos every day. We are becoming lifeless and brain-dead, as the more time we put into our computers, televisions, and cell phones only increases. Do I really need to watch a kid in a Christmas tree costume dancing to a rap song? Three million people seem to think it is important that I do.  Constantly doing the same thing over and over makes us, as humans fulfill “the principal downside to any zombie attack…the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will never be finished with whatever you do” (Klosterman). We will never finish using the internet or media, and after all, “all of it comes at us endlessly” (Klosterman).  And unnecessarily, I might add.  As Klosterman said, “But we can live better”…so I’m heading to the golf course (Klosterman).

Klosterman, C. (2010, December). My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead. The New York Times , 1-4.


I Hear America Crying

after Walt Whitman

I hear America Crying-

The people yell-

Those of Mechanics-

Each one Mourning –

Cheerless and Grief-Stricken-

The carpenter Faintly Listens-

To the Whisper of the Wind-

The Mason Wondering-

What will come Next in his Life?

The Boatman hoping for a Painless day-

The Deckhand Moping on the Steamboat deck-

Each asking for the Cleansing of their Souls-

A Fresh new day to Start Over-

Before they are Consumed by their Fears-

They Realize that they will Vanish-

America will move on Without them-

The day what belongs to the day—

At night the Sorrow of young Men, Women, and Children,-

Mourn with Open Mouths their Sad Story

by Matthew Reitzel

“Stereotyping”: A Lens Worn by Robert Peace’s Peers

     The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace was written by Jeff Hobbs, one of the incredible writers featured in Lenoir-Rhyne’s Visiting Writer’s Series.  Hobbs’ account of the life of his good friend, Robert Peace, was researched and written in an attempt to explain and understand why Peace’s life, with so much potential, ended so tragically.

The overarching theme that I felt throughout the book was “stereotyping”. First, how does a black teenager from dire circumstances end up at Yale, and then how does a Yale graduate end up murdered due to involvement in the drug trade?  The second paragraph on page 386 clearly displays this idea. The paragraph starts, “A Yale graduate lost to the drug trade seemed so far-flung and bizarre” (386). Not only is Peace’s death surprising to the average person who associates Yale with prestige and the successful nature of its graduates, but also to his closest friends, who, when informed by Hobbs of the death, mostly replied “How did this HAPPEN???” (386). The excerpt on page 386 shows Robert as someone who should not be associated with the drug trade because he graduated from Yale.

Jeff Hobbs, who was Robert’s roommate at Yale, at first fell victim to stereotyping Robert. When Jeff first saw Robert, he was surprised a guy like Robert was attending Yale. Robert stood out because he was different. He overcame his surroundings in East Orange, NJ without a father figure present in his life. (His father was in prison for committing a double murder.) When Robert first arrived at Yale classmates thought he was a Yale employee. When they realized he wasn’t, they thought he was a wannabe thug. His classmates had no idea that Robert had come from the dangerous streets of East Orange, but his brilliance and determination got him to Yale. Robert’s mother spent every last dime on his education, and he was awarded the top honors at his high school. The excerpt on page 386 displays the stereotyping Robert faced throughout his whole life.

Works Cited

Hobbs, Jeff. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. New York: Scribner, 2014.Print.

Online College: Creating False Degrees

A 2013 New York Times editorial “The Trouble With Online College” explores various problems college students face when enrolling in online college classes and describes administrators who support online classes as “irresponsible.” Columbia University’s Community College Research Center conducted a study disclosing that, “about a third of all those enrolled in college- are enrolled in what the center describes as traditional online classes.” Those findings may prompt the reader to question the validity of some colleges that place their students in courses where they “are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw.”

Arguments elucidated in “The Trouble With Online College,” are very comparable to my experiences at University Christian High School, a laptop high school. Constantly depending on technology in the classroom proves problematic, as many factors contribute to the smooth running of Internet and computer availability. These factors include a virus free computer that is fully charged and an Internet connection, both of which can change at any time. At University Christian High School, we are encouraged to take notes on our computer. In my own experience, note taking on a screen lowers comprehension and proves distracting to myself and to others around me.

A larger problem with online college classes, as the editorial addresses, is the motivation behind the person enrolled in the class. In order to be successful in an online class, you must have dedication and self-discipline. College online classes “are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant part of college enrollment.” The majority of students who take online classes lack the self-discipline it takes to force one’s self to work. This is verified by “The Trouble With Online College” editorial which states that student attrition rates are “around 90 percent for some huge online courses.”

Online college classes significantly lower the amount of learning and questioning experienced in a traditional bricks-and-mortar class room. In some online classes students are awarded points for simply logging on to their website or portal. Online college classes “typically have about 25 students and are run by professors who often have little interaction with students.” This lack of interaction is detrimental to the learning environment. Students are met with “estrangement from the instructor who rarely can get to know them directly.” Students receive little to no interaction with the professor, and have no way of making sure they can ask questions. In an online class, the only communication outside of the class is through email. At University Christian High School, many kids participate in online classes. From what classmates have told me, often times professors do not return emails, making completing classwork extremely difficult for them. In a bricks-and-mortar class room, you can ask professors questions face to face, and can meet with them during their office hours.

“The Trouble With Online College” explains “a five-year study, issued in 2011,” which “tracked 51,000 students enrolled in Washington State community and technical colleges.” This study found that “those who took higher proportions of online courses were less likely to earn degrees or to transfer to four-year colleges.” The editorial includes this study, but does not go into detail on what causes these students to fail. I have first-hand knowledge of college students paying other people to do their online work for them. After all, no one can actually tell who is doing the work. Many online college students do not possess the motivation it requires to go beyond what is expected. The students can simply regurgitate minimal answers that meet the expectations, or look up answers online. This produces unfair grade point averages and awards for the people who may not actually be doing their own work.

The online revolution is referred to in the editorial as offering “intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education.” Taking online college classes is generally a cheaper and less time consuming way to earn a degree. Although difficult, it allows people of all ages who work and have kids to earn a degree. Online college classes generally do not require the student to venture outside of wherever they are, which is an important factor for people trying to conserve time, or balance a variety of tasks.

“The Trouble With Online College” is an important read for students of all ages. It is a cautionary tale for those interested in enrolling online. While the Internet is an important tool, and a great alternative for some people, it should not be a way for “about a third of all those enrolled in college,” to earn an education. It provides a large opportunity for failure, cheating, dropping out, unfair achievements, and decreased comprehension.

                       Works Cited

“The Trouble With Online College.” The New York Times. The New York Times Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.

“i know the grandmother one had hands”

Jaki Shelton Green

“i know the grandmother one had hands”

      Jaki Shelton Green’s “i know the grandmother one had hands” describes a grandmother who is working hard to raise several generations of family. Green is one of the incredible writers Lenoir-Rhyne features in their Visiting Writer’s Series. In her poem, Green describes a grandmother who is always “rolling the dough” (3), or “blueing clothes” (8). She uses repetition, stating “i know the grandmother one had hands” seven times in her writing. Green does this to exemplify how hard the grandmother works, when possibly no one else does.  Green never mentions the grandmother ever doing anything for herself, except “holding the knots” (34) and “counting the twisted veins”(35).  As a Catholic, this brings to mind a rosary kept for praying, something that helps keep you grounded in your faith when all else is so difficult. Not only does the grandmother do all the work necessary to keep the home afloat, she is usually the spiritual backbone of the family as well.

The poem makes the reader feel as though the grandmother could be a slave, nanny, or a woman supporting her own large family. The grandmother does so many different tasks that it is obvious to the narrator, who might be rather young, hence the “i”, that she is very hard-working. Her hands are always “inside pockets” (32-33) or “planting seeds” (12). She does nothing for the praise of others, but for the necessity of getting it done. The poet is making a strong comparison to the life of a black grandmother many years ago. The grandmother has been a large figure in family life. She works hard, takes care of kids, and does not stop until “her hands disappear” (37), until she pokes holes in the clouds for the relief of the rain.

I believe Jaki Shelton Green wrote this poem with the intentions of displaying just how hard black grandmothers work, now and for past centuries. Green teaches us how we can convey points through poetry and imagery. If no one else does, Green knows “the grandmother one had hands.”