Deadline for transmittal of applications: July 17

Deadline for intergovernmental review: September 14

Estimated available funds: $45 million

Smaller Learning Communities is a new U.S. Department of Education grant program [CFDA No. 84.215L] that supports the development of small, safe, and successful learning environments in large high schools. “Large high schools” are defined as schools that include grades 11 and 12 and enroll at least 1,000 students in grades 9 and above.

School districts applying on behalf of large high schools, or large high schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, are eligible to apply for a planning or implementation grant. Applicants may work independently or in partnership with other school districts, public agencies, or private nonprofit organizations.

Background information

Recent acts of violence in a number of schools across the country have reinforced what many educators and researchers already have identified as a problem—the impersonal nature of large high schools that leave too many students feeling apathetic, isolated, and alienated from their peers, schools, and communities.

In 1996, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in conjunction with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, issued a report entitled, “Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution.” The report recommends that high schools break into units of no more than 600 students for two main reasons: (1) To ensure that teachers and students get to know and care about each other; and (2) to provide teachers with opportunities to use a variety of instructional strategies that accommodate and engage individual learners.

The Smaller Learning Communities grant program is authorized under Title X of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Title X authorizes the Secretary of Education to support nationally significant programs and projects that will (1) improve the quality of education; (2) assist all students in meeting challenging state content standards; and (3) contribute to achieving the National Education Goals.

The goal of the Smaller Learning Communities grant program is to encourage large high schools to undertake research-based strategies in developing, implementing, and expanding smaller learning communities. Strategies for recasting large schools as a set of small learning communities can include, but are not limited to:

(1) Establishing small learning clusters, “houses,” career academies, magnet schools, or other approaches to creating schools within schools;

(2) Block scheduling;

(3) Personal adult advocates, teacher-advisory systems, and other mentoring strategies;

(4) Reducing teaching loads; and

(5) Other innovations designed to create a more personalized high school experience for students and improve student achievement.

Although school districts in nationally recognized Empowerment Zones and those with high schools serving 2,500 students or more are particularly encouraged to apply, no competitive preference will be given to such applicants.

How to apply

School districts can apply on behalf of one or more eligible schools, or they can propose a district-wide strategy directed at eligible high schools.

For a planning grant, a district may request $25,000 to $50,000 per project on behalf of a single school, or up to $250,000 to develop a district-wide strategy. For an implementation grant, a district may request $250,000 to $500,000 per project on behalf of a single school, or up to $2,500,000 to implement a district-wide strategy.

Planning grants will fund activities up to 12 months. Implementation grants will fund activities up to 36 months. The total amount a district can receive through any combination of awards made under this program may not exceed $4 million.

Both planning and implementation grant applicants must describe their:

(1) Project goals;

(2) Measurable objectives;

(3) Measures of student outcomes and performance; and

(4) Indicators to gauge progress toward meeting project goals and objectives. These elements must form the basis for a student database and reporting system.

In addition, school districts applying for implementation grants must provide detailed budget information for the total grant period requested.

Applicants are “strongly encouraged” to limit their application narrative to no more than 20 to 25 double-spaced, standard-type pages.

The following standards are preferred: (1) A “page” is 8.5″ x 11″ (one side only) with one-inch margins (top, bottom, and sides). (2) All text in the application narrative, including titles, headings, footnotes, quotations, references, and captions—as well as all text in charts, tables, figures, and graphs—must be double-spaced (no more than three lines per vertical inch). If using a proportional computer font, applicants are requested to use a 12-point font.

The page limit does not apply to the cover sheet, the one-page abstract, budget section, appendices, and forms and assurances. However, all of the application narrative must be included in the narrative section.

For further information, including an overview on how applications will be scored and directions on submitting a proposal, see http://ocfo.ed.gov/fedreg/ grantann/q200/053100c.txt.

For answers to questions, contact John De Cleene or Todd May, Smaller Learning Communities Grant Program, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20202; phone (202) 260-2195 (John De Cleene) or (202) 260-0960 (Todd May), eMail smallerlearningcommunities@ed.gov. n