Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Kathleen Cushman

‘Design Studios’ Foster Teacher R and D

How can a professional development event best stimulate and support teachers, administrators, parents, and students in making serious whole-school change, while connecting them with the work of colleagues in other schools? Teachers at the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (the Met) in Providence, Rhode Island and educators at the affiliated Big Picture Company think they have found an answer

‘Neighbor, Doctor, Senator, and Friend’: Challenging Children to Learn, and More

At the elementary school level, teachers who think about how-not just what-students learn often notice what cognitive researchers have also shown: Children learn best in a social context that supports them in a web of caring relationships. From the Developmental Studies Center (DSC) in Oakland, California, new curricula in reading and mathematics is available that explicitly links those subjects to

“So Now What?” Managing the Change Process

Can we impose order on the messy process of school change? Only by agreeing that teamwork is viatl, veterans say. Changes in classroom practices, school structures, and attitudes then rise and fall like a juggler’s balls, keeping each other in balance. Judy Cunningham can put her finger right on what turned the tide of change at Rancho San Joaquin, where

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: February 12, 2017 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Decision Making Processes, The Change Process

“Whose America Is It?”

At Fenway Middle College, a Boston alternative high school, the humanities course “Whose America Is It?” explores American society from pre-Columbian North America to the present from the point of view of the common person, using sources and approaches from history, literature, sociology, psychology, political science, and the fine arts. Students probe three periods–the discovery of America; the Industrial Revolution,

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: October 12, 1993 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Curriculum, Essential Questions, Subject Integration

8-Day Rotational Schedule

8-day rotational schedule alternating long-block days and short-block days. Croton-Harmon High School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York adopted this schedule as a first move toward longer blocks, to give teachers and students time to practice the skills and strategies of teaching and learning in longer periods. Each cycle accommodates a session of the Student-Faculty Congress, one advisory group meeting, a daily

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: April 11, 1996 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Learning Structures, Scheduling

A Checklist for School People

How Can Essential Schools Approach State and District Policies? 1. Course Requirements Identifying specific courses that high schools must offer. Approach: An Essential school could incorporate a required course (such as U.S. History) into an interdisciplinary offering (such as 11th grade Humanities). 2. Textbook Selection Requiring that state- or district-selected textbooks be used by schools. Approach: An Essential school could

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: June 12, 1990 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Community Collaboration

A Consumer’s Guide to Those “Standardized” Test Scores

How much attention should you pay to test scores? “A test score alone offers too little information to make meaning of it,” says Paul LeMahieu of the University of Delaware, who also directs research and development for Delaware’s education department and has written extensively about the purposes and techniques of different forms of assessment. Before rushing to actions aimed at

A Final Performance Across the Disciplines

So you want to understand Latin America’s problems: poverty and illiteracy, overcrowding, earthquakes, and political instability (that’s right, war). Can Latin America overcome these problems? Is the United States helping Latin America all it can? What is behind these problems? One key topic we need to understand is the land itself. We will become three teams of experts exploring three

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: October 12, 1991 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Assessment, Exhibitions, Using Rubrics

A Final Performance Across the Disciplines

Discuss behavior patterns as reflected in the insect world, in animals, in hurnan beings, and in literature. Be sure to include references to your course work over the term in Inquiry and Expression, Literature and the Arts, Social Studies, and Science. This may include Macbeth, the drug prevention and communication workshop, Stephen Crane’s poetry, “A Modest Proposal” and other essays

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: October 12, 1990 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Assessment, Exhibitions, Using Rubrics

A Final Performance in History and English

Your final exhibition to demonstrate mastery of the material of these two courses for the first semester will be divided into two parts. The first part is a research paper. The second part is the final examination. Together these constitute 25% of your grade for English and 20% of your grade for World History. 1. For the research assignment, write

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: October 12, 1990 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Assessment, Exhibitions, Using Rubrics

A Friend is Dropped

When Sandy and Jenny started school as new sophomores in September, they got along very well. They had French and basketball in common, and the rest seemed to go along of its own accord. They kept lots of company with each other for the first few weeks. As time went on, however, there was little doubt that they were headed

A Model for Student Decision Making

Major school decisions are made by students and staff voting on proposals: one person, one vote. Some decisions must be made by the staff because of law, education policies of New York State and the city school district, and the spirit and philosophy of the school. The decision-making process was developed by the school community in 1976 in order to

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: October 12, 1991 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Classroom Culture

A Multiple Choice for Parents: How do you want your child’s learning to be measured?

When parents get to leaf through the test items by which their children are sorted and ranked against each other- or when they sit down and endure an hour or two of taking the actual tests their children take-many are struck by how ambiguous the questions are, and how trivial and arbitrary as a summary of learning. What follows is

A Selected Research Bibliography

Bruer, John T., Schools for Thought: A Science of Learning in the Classroom. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993. Bryk, Anthony S. and Driscoll, M. E., The High School as Community: Contextual Influences, and Consequences for Students and Teachers. Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison, National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, 1988. Bryk, A. S. et al., A View from the Elementary Schools:

A System Map Lays out A Pathway’s Action Plan

The Croton-Harmon school district belongs to New York’s Compact for Learning, a group of innovative schools that share common goals reflecting Essential School principles. To chart progress toward these goals up and down the pathway, Superintendent Sherry King devised a “system map” whose columns tracked the ways in which local initiatives (both current and planned), data, and the district’s decisions

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: December 11, 1995 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Learning Structures

A Tribe Transforms Its Schools: The Zuni Story

The public schools of Zuni, New Mexico provide a striking example of Essential School principles adapted to a particular community’s needs and vision. When he first launched his native Zuni tribe on school change ten years ago, superintendent Hayes Lewis broke with a larger district to carve out an autonomous K-12 district for this reservation of 9,200. In a series

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: October 12, 1992 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Community Collaboration

Among Friends: Norms for Inquiry and Analysis

It isn’t easy to be both critical and friendly while working collaboratively to make schools better. The Bay Area Coalition of Essential Schools has developed these norms to help its members as they jointly inquire about and analyze their work: Describe only what you see. Do not try to describe what you don’t see; express what you don’t see in

An Essential Elementary School Explains Itself to Visitors

Visitors to Earth School classrooms are welcomed with a simple flier that explains the school’s philosophy, and asks them to look around for signs of how children at the school are learning. For example, it says, “Do you see evidence” of: Young readers, writers, and mathematical reasoners at work? Books arranged invitingly in the room, easy to take out and

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: December 11, 1997 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics:

Another Way of Measuring Up: One Schools Graduation Requirements

As students prepare for graduation at Central Park East Secondary School (CPESS), a high school of 450 students in an East Harlem neighborhood in New York City, they work intensively to prepare a portfolio of their work that will reveal their competence and performance in fourteen curricular areas. This portfolio will be evaluated by a graduation committee composed of teachers

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: April 11, 1994 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Community Collaboration

Are Advisory Groups ‘Essential’? What They Do, How They Work

If even one person in a school knows him well enough to care, a student’s chances of success go up dramatically. In small groups that can focus on a range of subjects, teachers and students are forming new bonds and setting new standards for a personal education. When teachers at Kentucky’s Fairdale High School were planning the start of their

Asking the Essential Questions: Curriculum Development

Figure 1: Essential Questions to Shape a School’s Curriculum Figure 1: A Botany Unit Designed Around Essential Questions Figure 1: A Project in Factoring for First-Year Algebra Students Figure 1: Asking Essential Questions about AIDS Figure 1: Homo-Insectivorous and the Dilemma of World Hunger What are the aims of a high school curriculum? Getting to a clear answer is the necessary first step in rethinking

Assessing Creativity

How do you evaluate a student’s artisitc expression? Parker School arts and humanities teachers drafted these common “criteria for excellence,” then used them to create holistic rubrics with which to assess creative work in each of the school’s two-year Divisions. Preparation – You develop your own message. (Note: The message could be the medium.) – You use an art form

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: December 11, 1996 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Curriculum, Subject Integration

Assessing Habits of Mind in a Project or Internship

At Boston’s Fenway Middle College High School, students learn early to assess all work against the “percs” habits of mind, which (like Central Park East Secondary School’s oft-quoted standard) considers how the work demonstrates Perspective, Evidence, Relevance, Connection, and Supposition. In their culminating exhibitions of Senior Projects and work internships, seniors defend their work before an audience that assesses it

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: February 11, 1998 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Community Collaboration

Assessing the Community’s Needs

Because well designed schools respect and reflect the strengths of the communities they serve, CES believes, school design teams must research the answers to such questions as these: What priorities does the parent community have for this school? What are this community’s demographic trends? What role might teachers’ unions play in the school redesign? What other schools serve this community?

Assessment and Exhibitions: Do we rearrange the furniture we’ve got, or get new furniture instead?

One group began by naming a broad problem related to the topic of exhibitions: How do you figure out what you want kids to know and be able to do? And how do you tailor your school to suit such outcomes? The key dimensions of that problem, participants decided, were these: THE AUTHORITY PROBLEM. What role does each of the

Horace: Kathleen Cushman Published: June 12, 1991 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Heterogeneous Grouping