Qualitative Questions to Help Assess Essential Schools

These questions were used by a 1988 Committee on Evaluation chaired by Gerald Grant of Syracuse University, charged in 1988 with assessing the progress of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Because they are qualitative rather than quantitative research questions, they can provoke useful thought as schools and outsiders look at Essential School changes in individual situations.

  • What would you say is the central focus of your Essential School program?
  • Have any changes occurred in your school as a result of your participation in Re:Learning or the Coalition of Essential Schools? Please describe.
  • If someone were to visit your school and ask how you have developed the Essential School program using the nine Common Principles, what would you show them? Assume that this visitor is particularly interested in the ideas listed below, as well as in any others that strongly interest you. Please describe what you would show your visitor, with a brief explanation of why.
    • “Less Is More,” the clarifying and simplifying of goals for students.
    • Student as worker and teacher as coach, the CES metaphor for active learning.
    • Diploma by exhibition, the call for demonstrations of mastery and performance-based assessment.
  • What are the admissions requirements or procedures for your Essential School program? Does the program serve any one “type” of student better than others?
  • Is there any evidence of students in the Essential School performing, either academically or otherwise, any differently from their peers in the larger school or than they might have in a non-Essential school? Please be specific.
  • Have the professional lives of the staff involved in your Essential School changed due to their involvement with this project? If so, please provide some examples, starting with your own experience.
  • What outside sources have people in your school called upon for assistance in developing the Essential School program? (These sources might include people in other schools both within and outside the Coalition, the Coalition central staff, university professors, etc.) In each case, was the assistance useful, and how?
  • Does your Essential School do any kind of formal or informal self- assessment on a regular basis? If so, please describe.
  • What factors do you believe will be the most influential in the success or failure of your Essential School? What ways, if any, have you found to capitalize on the positive factors and neutralize the negative?
  • Does your district currently have school-site management? If so, please describe.