Against the Odds

Against the Odds Insights from One District's Small School Reform

Larry Cuban, Gary Lichtenstein, Arthur Evenchik, Martin Tombari, and Kristen Pozzoboni
paper, 184 Pages
Pub. Date: January 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1-934742-46-4
Price: $29.00

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Against the Odds offers an in-depth look at the Mapleton, Colorado, school district’s transformation of two traditional high schools into seven small schools, each enrolling fewer than four hundred students.


This is my kind of book. Instead of sifting the stats and talking to experts about general trends, the authors have gone deep into one school district and told an exciting story. — Jay Mathews, education columnist, Washington Post

An incredible account that I wish I had read thirty-five years ago. — Deborah Meier, author, The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

Cuban and team get away from the old small versus big debate and into the real transformation puzzles. It’s all there—struggle, resistance, leadership issues, the muscle foundations, parents, and community engagement. Against the Odds is a great resource for the small schools movement. — Mike Klonsky, director, The Small Schools Workshop

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About the Authors

Larry Cuban is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. His background in the field of education prior to becoming a professor included teaching high school social studies in inner-city schools for fourteen years, directing a teacher-education program that prepared returning Peace Corps volunteers to teach in urban districts, and serving seven years as a district superintendent. He has published extensively on issues related to school reform at all levels, from primary grades through graduate school. His most recent book is Hugging the Middle: How Teachers Teach in an Era of Testing and Accountability (Teachers College Press, 2009).

Gary Lichtenstein is owner and principal of Quality Evaluation Designs (QED), a firm specializing in education evaluation and research. He is also Consulting Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, where he specializes in research methods in a national study of engineering education. He worked at the University of Denver from 1993 to 2007, where he directed teacher education, taught courses on research methods, and conducted research and evaluation for the Colorado Community-Based Research Network (CCBRN). From 2002 to 2004, he was director of research and evaluation at the Colorado Small Schools Initiative, an intermediary of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His intellectual interests include school reform, engineering education, mixed methods research, and community-based research. He can be reached by email at

Arthur Evenchik is a former literacy tutor, writing teacher, and program coordinator at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. He began his teaching career as a writing instructor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and he has taught writing and literature at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Goucher College, and Towson University. For seven years, he served as editor at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Currently, he is Assistant to the Dean for Special Projects in the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, where he oversees a peer-tutoring program in writing and engages in outreach to the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools.

Martin Tombari is a senior research associate at Quality Evaluation Designs and was formerly a senior research analyst at the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children. He received his doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Arizona. He has been a professor at both the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Denver, teaching courses in research methods and statistics. Currently he is directing a three-year study, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, examining the link between peer victimization and truancy in secondary schools. In addition, he is helping evaluate a joint effort by the Adams County District Attorney’s Office, the Adams County Public Schools, and Adams County Social Services to reduce school truancy. He has done extensive consulting with schools and mental health agencies to help them carry out both summative and formative evaluations of their programs.

Kristen Pozzoboni is a doctoral candidate in educational psychology at the University of Colorado. Her research interests include adolescent development, youth participation in school reform, and community-based research. Currently, she provides training and professional development in youth development and resiliency theory, policy, and practice. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, she served as an experiential educator for the National Outdoor Leadership School and as a program coordinator for the Division of Educational Leadership at Santa Fe Community College.

Introduction (PDF)

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