Small Learning Community

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A Small Learning Community (SLC), also referred to as a School-Within-A-School, is a form of school structure that is increasingly common in American secondary schools to subdivide large school populations into smaller, autonomous groups of students and teachers.

The primary purpose of restructuring secondary schools into SLCs is to create a more personalized learning environment to better meet the needs of students. Each community will often share the same teachers and student members from grade to grade. Teachers in these units usually have common planning time to allow them to develop interdisciplinary projects and keep up with the progress of their shared students.


SLCs can take several forms.

  • Theme-Based Smaller Learning Communities or Focus Schools are usually formed around a specific curricular theme. Examples might include "Success Academy" or "Humanities".
  • Houses may be themed or non-themed or separated by grade levels.
  • Career Academies are generally a three- or four-year structure developed around a career theme or Career Clusters. Characterized by career-related electives and integration of career theme across entire academic curriculum.
  • Freshman Academies are structure designed to support 9th grade students as they transition into high school.
  • Magnet Schools are a career-themed SLC that includes accelerated course-work for Gifted & Talented students.


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