Ten by Ten: Essential Schools That Exemplify the Ten Common Principles

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Schools play out the Coalition’s Ten Common Principles in different ways, depending on their local context and priorities. For each principle, here is an Essential school exemplar of its practice, nominated by other school people impressed with how student learning has followed.

As Essential schools put into practice the Coalition’s Ten Common Principles, they interpret those basic beliefs in ways that necessarily reflect very different local contexts. As the principles work in concert, moreover, schools often find that one rises to prominence, prompting a press for excellence that illumines and ignites other areas of change as well.

This issue of Horace presents one of these local interpretations for each Common Principle – not as models but as examples of the varied and exciting ways that Essential schools can look. The schools whose descriptions follow were nominated by Coalition regional Centers and networks, by delegates to the CES Congress, and by members of the national staff and the Executive Board.

1. Help Students Learn to Use their Minds well

Noble High School
Berwick, Maine
995 students, grades 9 – 12

A decade ago at this high school in rural inland Maine, most students did not take hard courses, go on to college, or even have the prospect of a steady job. But all that began to change in the early 1990s, when Noble’s staff agreed to eliminate lower-track courses altogether, offering the same challenging curriculum to every student. The school has since taken several bold steps to increase the likelihood that every student here will learn to think well about important things.

Watered-down subjects like “consumer math” have vanished; everyone takes four years of math and science, including advanced algebra as well as biology, chemistry, and physics. In any course, any student can go for greater chal-lenge by fulfilling stiffer requirements for an “honors” assessment. Close to 200 have signed up for ten Advanced Placement courses, in which anyone can enroll. Failure is not an option: if students’ coursework does not qualify as advanced, proficient, or acceptable, they receive extra help until they can meet those standards.

Classes meet for 80 minutes now, encouraging greater depth as students of various achievement levels work and learn in mixed groups. Teachers have broad latitude to coach them in innovative ways such as cooperative learning, hands-on projects, real-world applications, and experiential learning. A “gifted and talented” specialist moves freely between classrooms, prodding teachers to extend extra challenges to all students. And a Learning Center bustles with activity across the spectrum of student talent, providing individual coaching and technological support.

Three ninth-grade and three tenth-grade teams each include 80 students and four teachers sharing core academic time, which makes possible common planning, interdisciplinary connections, and a far better knowledge of individual students. Combined eleventh- and twelfth-grade “houses” comprise two teams each, with 160 students and eight teachers. Four “teacher assistants” lend a hand school-wide as teachers develop curriculum, conduct action research, or try out new learning strategies. And in four “critical friends groups,” veteran and new teachers gather to sharpen their practice in the pursuit of stronger student performance.

Higher academic expectations show up in every part of this school’s structure. As part of their regular schedule every year, for example, all students take a seminar course that helps them explore the themes “Who am I? Where am I going? How am I going to get there?” There they chart their academic progress in an cumulative portfolio required for graduation, work on personalized learning plans, explore career possibilities, and eventually prepare a year-long Senior Project that culminates in a juried exhibition.

This press for excellence has yielded striking results – in the contents of student portfolios, on Maine’s standardized assessments, and in the doubled percentage of Noble students who now aspire to higher education. The first class in which all students followed a more demanding curriculum showed increases in the percentage of students in the top quartile of achievement – from 19 to 31% in math, from 22 to 26% in science, from 19 to 26% in reading, from 24 to 26% in writing, from 19 to 22% in social studies, and from 22 to 27% in the arts and humanities. And the percentage of students performing in the lowest quartile dropped dramatically – from 31 to 17% in reading, from 34 to 13% in writing, from 30 to 20% in mathematics, from 28 to 19% in science, from 30 to 22% in social studies, and from 27 to 20% in the arts and humanities. Noble students also significantly out-perform Maine’s comparison groups with similar rural, poor, blue-collar demographics. And the gender gap in math and science performance has virtually disappeared.

46 Cranberry Meadow Road
Berwick, ME 03901
(207) 698-1320;
(207) 698-4400 fax
Russell Turnrose, Principal


2. Emphasize “Less Is More”

Quest High School
Humble, Texas
170 students, grades 9 – 12

This small new high school outside Houston has chosen to put all its energies into a simple and sustained course of integrated, project-based studies. Quest offers no elective or honors courses to its heterogeneous student body, and all students take Spanish, the only language given. But the depth and challenge of its curriculum shows up in student performance that rivals that at comprehensive high schools with far broader offerings.

The four-year “Exploratory Foundation” strand dominates the Quest curriculum, integrating arts, humanities, and science in six-week, project-based units that are planned and co-taught by teachers from every discipline. Organized in historical sequence, this course prompts students to go deeply into an investigation, for example, of how mathematical and scientific concepts connect with the arts and culture of ancient Egypt. Outside their Exploratory course, students attend additional classes in math, upper-level sciences, and Spanish; if the need arises for extra academic coaching, they attend supplemental “content seminars.”

Spare in its design, the Quest experience nonetheless encompasses a meaningful variety. Projects always include an element of student choice, and community service for all students every Wednesday morning links their personal interests with academic outcomes.

Because so many teachers take part in the Exploratory Foundation course, a rich professional dialogue across the disciplines has emerged at Quest. Teachers take turns leading class depending on the project under way, and they regularly attend each other’s sessions. In planning meetings and critical friends groups, faculty members trade feedback and ideas.

In student assessment, too, Quest emphasizes depth over breadth, using a matrix that marries academic content, workplace skills, and habits of mind in school-wide “learning objectives.” Against these explicit goals teachers chart student progress, demonstrated in portfolios at the end of each assessment period. Any student may choose to work toward “advanced mastery” of a learning objective.

With their focus trained on a deeper, narrower curriculum, Quest students take responsibility for their learning to an extraordinary degree. Referring to the faculty not as teachers but as “facilitators,” for instance, they schedule much of their own time, keeping track of their progress against the school-wide goals. Teachers know these students in depth, advising their academic and social growth in “families” of 25 that stay together across four years.

Though its less-is-more curriculum doesn’t “teach to the test,” the results show up well on standardized tests. Over its first three years Quest saw the percentage of its students passing Texas’s required basic skills tests jump sharply in reading (from 73 to 96 percent), writing (from 88 to 100 percent), and math (from 53 to 70 percent).

18901 Timber Forest Drive
Humble, TX 77346
(281) 812-3447;
(281) 852-3132 fax
Cecilia Hawkins, Principal


3.Apply Goals to All Students

J. Graham Brown School
Louisville, Kentucky
599 students, grades K – 12

This small urban magnet school serving kindergarten through high school draws students by lottery from every zip code in Louisville, aiming for a mix that reflects the city’s diversity. The stakes are high for these children to perform well; under Kentucky’s Education Reform Act, heavy consequences follow poor test results for both teachers and students. Yet through adhering to a humane and individualized code of teaching and learning, Brown has managed to create an extraordinarily nurturing culture of high academic expectations. As the Third Common Principle suggests, teachers apply the goal of student understanding equally to all, yet vary the means to those goals.

Students at Brown work together in heterogeneous classes, and each child takes the same demanding course load (beyond what the state requires). To graduate, all must pass the state’s cross-disciplinary writing assessment. And seniors must also complete a year-long culminating project of their own design – from researching and creating a butterfly garden to building a computer from parts or conducting a political poll in the community.

Students and teachers here spend considerable effort identifying the most effective strategies for each particular learner and establishing an environment that respects individual needs and interests. Because the school graduates only about 50 students per year, the faculty can work as a team to make sure no student falls through the cracks. Teachers collaborate on curriculum across grade levels and disciplinary lines, so as to reinforce student understanding of essential concepts. And they may assess a student’s understanding using a variety of methods, from oral presentation to writing or artistic expression.

“Our whole curriculum is based on teaching students how to learn,” says Bryan Crandall, an English teacher in the high school. “We expect them to do the work, but they are free to get there in their own way.”

Similarly, classrooms are set up in varied ways to foster an environment that helps students learn effectively whatever their work style is. Children can work individually or in groups, or even get needed kinetic breaks from exercise machines in the back of some classrooms. Some students sit comfortably on couches; others take throw pillows into the hall for a quiet place to work.

At least according to standardized assessments, the result looks good. Of 22 Jefferson County high schools, Brown usually ranks third or fourth on state assessments; at the middle school level, it is one of the top three; and it falls in the top fifteen among the district’s 88 elementary schools. Brown students score at the district average on ACT college entrance exams.

More important, such results endure well after graduation. The grade point averages of Brown graduates lead the district in their first year in college, and they top Kentucky’s list for the percentage of students who persist in college after the first year.

546 South First St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 485-8216;
(502) 485-8741 fax
Ron Freeman, Principalp


4. Personalize Teaching and Learning

San Francisco Community School
San Francisco, California
280 students, grades K – 8

Unlike most elementary schools in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Community School purposely serves fewer than 300 students in grades kindergarten through eight, of whom a quarter are second-language learners. The school credits its small size for making possible its innovative instructional program, its flexible organizational structure, and the fluid, family-like atmosphere that supports high student achievement.

To capitalize on that personalization, as the Fourth Common Principle has it, decisions about all school details are placed unreservedly in the hands of administration and staff. Every three years teachers choose one colleague to do the principal’s job as “head teacher,” creating an unusual level of trust and understanding among themselves. After school each week, all thirteen teachers and a special education resource specialist work together on whole-community issues. And in another after-school session weekly, teachers collaborate at the school’s three “developmental levels”: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth, and sixth through eighth.

These developmental groups form the basis of an unusual design for teaching students in alternating mixed-age groups, which keeps them with the same teachers for several years while providing rich academic variety and challenge. It works by dividing the year into four nine-week curriculum units, each tailored to particular learning goals.

The first and third units, called “family time,” gather students from two grade levels (for example, fourth and fifth grades together). Here one teacher works for two years with a group on core academic subjects, creating a continuous personal connection over time.

In the second and fourth units, personal bonds form in a different way. Each teacher designs an interdisciplinary challenge-based project, which students may choose by their three-year developmental level – that is, K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. A recent project, for example, had students create and publish an environmental walking-tour guide to San Francisco, complete with historical and scientific explanations, maps, and distance calculations and graphs.

As students alternate through curriculum units, teachers get to know perhaps 100 students very well. “We don’t feel so much, ‘This is my class,'” said one long-time teacher. “It’s more, ‘These are all our kids.'”

Started in 1972 as a public alternative school, San Francisco Community enrolls children by computer lottery from around the city, with preference given to siblings and children from lower-income neighborhoods. Students here score above the national average at almost every grade level, and in writing, where the school has focused its efforts in recent years, their performance is exceptional. The seventh-grade passing rate on the district writing assessment jumped from 64 to 96 percent in just four years, with all students, including those with special needs, taking the test. In 1996, 62 percent of the school’s students scored below the 40th percentile on the Comprehen-sive Test of Basic Skills; by 1999 that number had dropped to 42 percent.

125 Excelsior
San Francisco, CA 94112
Tanya Friedman, head teacher
(415) 469-4739;
(415) 337-6879 fax


5. Embrace the Metaphor “Student as Worker, Teacher as Coach”

El Dorado Elementary School
Santa Fe, New Mexico
585 students, grades K – 6

First and second graders regularly bring their elders into El Dorado’s classrooms in a school custom that develops their academic, social, and emotional skills at the same time. Grandparents and senior neighbors come in and tell their stories to the youngsters, and children use the school’s computer lab to record them in book form. Along the way, the elders also help tutor children in reading, writing, and other academic skills.

It is just one example of how this elementary school makes children active participants in their own learning, rather than treating them as passive vessels to be filled. At the start of each year every child has a goal-setting conference with parents and teacher, talking over the ways the child learns best and making plans tailored to the student’s needs. By year’s end, they meet again to review which work should go into a cumulative portfolio – much of it saved on a computer disk – that will accompany the student through sixth grade. In the meantime, students demonstrate their learning regularly in exhibitions, which are assessed with rubrics that clearly describe good performance.

The focus on academic accomplishment does not diminish the impression that learning at El Dorado involves continual – and enjoyable – action. Regular class meetings set a tone of democratic cooperation and resolve any conflicts as they arise. At clusters of desks in every classroom children work together on projects, and they often pair with a “buddy” class for tutoring in math and reading or to share their work. Multi-age and single-grade classes often share thematic units – such as a recent United Nations simulation – that tie together different subject areas. A community garden, a recycling initiative, and other service learning projects (developed with assistance from the New York Center for Collaborative Education) put to work the children’s emerging academic learning in ways that help the larger community. In the upper grades, students carry out research projects in which they find and use resources from outside as well as within the school.

Fifth and sixth grade students cap the year with lively multimedia presentations that include animations and music – telling the story of colonial America, for instance, or of the Santa Fe Trail. A former classroom teacher serves as a technology coach to other faculty members as they enrich the curriculum and extend students’ learning using imaginative teaching software.

El Dorado also supports teachers in their role of academic coaches by freeing them to work in 11 grade-level and multi-age teams during time blocks for the arts or physical education. Every Friday afternoon students go home early so teachers can plan together, sharing ideas and materials that could spark active learning in their students. Literally and figuratively, teachers rarely close their doors at El Dorado; their collaboration adds substance to the spirit of mentoring that enhances every learning activity students undertake here.

#2 Avenida Torreon
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 466-2604;
(505) 466-8277 fax
www.sfps.k12.nm.us/eldorado/ eldorado.html
Barbara Ellis, Principal


6. Requires Students to Demonstrate Mastery Through Exhibition

Northport Public Schools
Northport, Michigan
345 students, grades K – 12

As the village of Northport, Michi-gan turned 150 years old last year, the 345 students of its single K – 12 school had the perfect opportunity to exhibit their learning to their commmunity, in which the school serves as a civic and cultural center.

The kindergarteners wrote a song to perform at the grand opening, and the taped version of their performance played all summer at the sesquicentennial museum the village set up at the school. Fourth graders created a topical map of the the village from sand. At a late-afternoon exhibition and reception sixth graders presented their projects describing current village issues; the seventh-grade class produced a museum exhibit about the history of this diverse and interesting cherry-growing area. High school and middle school students created a gallery of their drawings and paintings depicting the area’s historical buildings. Ninth graders made a brochure that guided visitors on a walking tour of barns, and a sesquicentennial play drew the entire community as audience.

Though that birthday year was special, the habit of exhibition was nothing new at Northport; starting from the earliest years of school, students here expect to present their work to outside audiences. Ninth-graders deliver etymological research projects to parents at student-led conferences. Tenth-graders explain to the community how their research in the science and humanities has helped with important problems like water quality. Juniors use their historical understandings to describe to visitors the probable course of future events.

All this “showing what they know” kicks off every April with a senior exhibition night, in which every senior takes 45 minutes to present and defend a year-long independent research project before the community. Among those present will be not only academic mentors, family, and friends, but the community artists, professionals, business people, and others who have served as “technical coaches” in the student’s field of inquiry.

In a state whose political discourse is often dominated by standardized test results, Northport has no “accountability” problem. The members of this community know quite well how their students can apply learning and construct meaning, because the school takes all possible steps to have students demonstrate that learning in public.

104 Wing Street
Northport, MI 49670
(231) 386-5153;
(231) 386-9838 fax
Bonnie Piller, Superintendent Donald Hungerford, Principal


7. Stress Un-Anxious Expectation, Trust, And Decency.

Harmony School
Bloomington, Indiana
185 students, pre-K – 12

Students learn better when they are happy and relaxed, respected and trusted, Harmony School believes, and it does everything in its power to make that happen. That “happiness” comes not from pursuing merely individual needs and interests, it cautions, but rather from contributing to the common good.

So this small independent school of 185 students ages 3 to 18 emphasizes improved relationships and community involvement – even making these part of its graduation requirements. For a student to move up from the elementary level to middle and then high school, he or she must not only achieve academic goals, but also meet explicit social and community obligations. And before graduation, three-fourths of the high school community must ratify each candidate as “a responsible, contributing member of the school community with a sense of humor.”

The curriculum at Harmony also reflects a willingness to negotiate personal learning with the utmost flexibility and respect. Teachers modify course expectations to the appropriate challenge level. For core academic courses, students cluster primarily by developmental range in six multi-age groupings from early childhood though high school – for math, language arts, social studies, and science classes. In afternoon “Exploration and Creation” classes, high school students may mix with much younger schoolmates in three-to-four-week electives such as art, sports, hiking, boating, yearbook, psychology, music, electronics, cooking, or drama. Peer tutoring and cooperative learning lay the groundwork for increased student confidence along with rising academic competence.

Students should exhibit their learning, the school declares, by “using their hearts, voices, and minds purposefully and toward humane and healthy ends.” In “family groups” at each level students form close bonds with each other and their staff advisers. The school emphasizes speaking and listening, and coaches students in mediation, negotiation, debate, and conflict resolution. Academic knowledge and skills are viewed as necessary elements in the task of transforming the community, both locally and globally, into a more thoughtful and humane system.

An independent school founded in 1974, Harmony prides itself on demonstrating values of decency in admissions and outreach procedures as well. A sliding scale for tuition attracts students from all economic backgrounds, and at the high school level Harmony students participate in admissions decisions. Students started a music and youth center in downtown Bloomington; the school sponsors a summer day camp, and an outreach team works for change with educators in schools across the country.

Harmony students thrive in both academic and social ways. “I’ve seen so many students come to Harmony full of anger, or so shy they could hardly speak, or so oppressed by authority they didn’t trust any adult,” says a former teacher and parent. “Over months or sometimes weeks I can see them relax and blossom.” On average they score one to three years above grade level on the standardized California Achievement Tests, and almost all go on to a list of colleges that includes Columbia, Berkeley, Brown, and more. More important, Harmony graduates return often to their alma mater, models of the trust, acceptance, and willingness to help others that characterizes the best of extended families.

P.O. Box 1787
Bloomington, IN 47402
(812) 334 8349;
(812) 333-3435 fax
Web: www.harmonyschool.org
Steve Bonchek, Director


8. Consider Teachers as Generalist with a Commitment to the Entire School.

Anzar High School
San Juan Batista, California
300 students, grades 9 – 12

At this small rural public high school, teachers have cut through conventional roles to serve the whole school in several groundbreaking ways.

First, they act as academic coaches across the disciplines, preparing students for graduation exhibitions in which they must demonstrate competency in math, science, language arts, social science, service learning, and post-graduate planning. (Some of these may be combined, and students also weave two additional components – art and world language – into an exhibition of choice.) Requiring research, writing, and oral presentation, these graduation exhibitions drive much of Anzar’s curriculum; all teachers help coach students through them, regardless of the content area.

Such exhibitions and others in earlier years are assessed against the five habits of mind (dubbed eppers) that Anzar wants all students to internalize: evidence (what do I know and how do I know it?), perspective (what are the biases, mine and others?), extension (what are the deeper implications?), relevance (what difference does this make?), and reflection (what did I learn?). Anzar teachers design their curriculum around these habits, and within subject areas they modify their teaching strategies to model the eppers and prepare students for exhibitions.

Student advising is another key teacher responsibility at Anzar. Throughout high school each student works closely with a teacher who serves as his or her chief advocate and point of contact. The adviser provides academic guidance and counseling and takes care of most minor (non-suspendable) discipline, coming to know each student’s family along the way. Advisers plan many field trips, class activities, and other team-building events. They also coordinate a six-semester service learning requirement (especially challenging in this rural area).

Committed to governance by consensus, Anzar has no administrative staff. Instead, three teachers take three-year turns serving on a “lead team” with a permanent classified staff member. (They also teach a 60 percent load during this period.) This team does the legwork that allows all major decisions affecting the school to be handled by the staff as a whole.

All this extra responsibility for the workings of their school is not easy, but it makes teachers see themselves as valued professionals, Anzar faculty members say. People who know students well both in and out of the classroom, they observe, make the important decisions that will affect them. These teachers work hard at building trust among themselves, calling formally and informally on communications guidelines they designed at the school’s start. “It’s hard to think school-wide all the time,” one lead team member observed, “but when you rely on your colleagues it bonds you together.”

2000 San Juan Highway
San Juan Bautista, CA 95064
(831) 623-766;
(831) 623-7676 fax
Lead team: Damien Barnett, Julie Doran, Marilyn Breiling, Wayne Norton


9. Dedicate Resources to Teaching and Learning.

Henry M. Jackson High School
Mill Creek, Washington
1,550 students, grades 9 – 12

High school marching bands are a very big deal in Seattle area communities, and to put those colorful parades onto a football field costs dearly for uniforms and equipment alone. So when Rolynn Anderson and six others were planning the 1,300-student Henry M. Jackson High School in 1993, it took considerable nerve to look with an Essen-tial school perspective at the roughly $250,000 that most new schools in the area budgeted to get their marching bands off the ground.

If only that money could go instead to something that would benefit all students’ learning, they mused. How many computers could they buy with it, for example? What kind of arts program might reach more students than just those fond of rousing marches? If they could infuse performance into the heart of the school with those dollars, would the prize be worth the price?

“It was the single most important thing we did for student learning at the school,” Anderson declares today of the decision to reallocate those funds. With the crucial support of Duane Duxbury, a music teacher, and Rick Wigre, an art teacher, the money went instead to fund a school-wide emphasis on technology and the arts. A new music laboratory housed the latest computers, hooked up with Midi keyboards and with software that taught sight-reading and music composition. In other classrooms, more computers made possible a technology-based arts approach comprising graphics, animation, and much more. As a graduation requirement, every student at the school would now complete work in technology and the arts – ending, at Jackson, the dominance that boys had previously exerted in area high school technology programs.

Math and science curriculum projects got a boost, of course, from increased use of computer resources in math and science projects. The arts program expanded; Jackson’s four-by-four block schedule enabled students to take music in a 90-minute daily period, of which at least part involved computer technology. Equally important to the school’s growing culture of challenging work, the required Senior Project included a technological component in its creation and presentation. With more than 200 advanced computers at their disposal, students began graduating with a command of fugues and tessellations along with spreadsheets and databases. And teachers began using the computers to link classroom assessment rubrics with the outcomes outlined in Washington’s curriculum frameworks.

So who provides the Jackson spirit at football games? “A fabulous pep band” plays from the stands, Anderson says, with enough members that no one could ever complain about variety. Less, at least at Jackson, is more.

1508 136th Street,
S.E. Mill Creek, WA 98012
(425) 316-5200;
(425) 316-5244 fax
Graham Hume, Principal


10. Model Democratic and Equitable Practices.

New Mission High School
Roxbury, Massachusetts
175 students, grades 9 – 12

Four years ago New Mission High School forged a new identity in a new location as a Boston pilot school, transforming itself from the former Multi-Cultural High School, a longtime Coalition member. At the center of that new identity the school placed its commitment to democracy and equity – not just philosophically, but through its structures and everyday procedures. “Practicing this principle, we believe, gives us a much better chance at student learning,” says principal David Perrigo.

Just after the new school opened, for example, students and teachers took two weeks to arrive at Com-munity Expectations whose meaning everyone understood and could live with. They debated, for example, the district’s rule banning hats in school, then agreed to forbid only hats that conceal the wearer’s eyes, because they would inhibit open communication. “If you want people to learn to think critically about things, nothing except fundamental safety rules should be sacrosanct,” says Perrigo.

All important decisions at New Mission must pass a School Leader-ship Council, whose voting members include two students, three parents, two teachers, and three representatives from the larger community and higher education. A monthly Family Council facilitates discussion among parents and families and elects representatives to the School Leadership Council. And a twelve-member student council elected by advisory groups enables students to put forth proposals to the school leadership as well. When a traffic problem at dismissal time came up last year and the solution involved adding 15 minutes to New Mission’s school day, it was the painful and protracted process of working through all those groups that ultimately yielded a decision all could support. (A student suggested extending the too-short lunch period to compensate for the extra time.) A new tardy policy, developed in the same fashion, also yielded more student buy-in than the city’s standard version. Staff and students trained in conflict mediation resolve most behavior issues at New Mission High School. But a fledgling Community Court – two students and two teachers, with the principal as a tie-breaker – hears out high-level conflicts that could result in recommending a student’s suspension or worse. “It’s a complex learning experience that creates cohesiveness and strength throughout our community,” says Perrigo. “Often we find that the group’s decisions relate more to compassionate problem solving than to punishment.” Democracy and equity also undergird the school’s curriculum and assessment practices, first by cultivating the soil of community in which they grow. Advisory groups with a focus on literacy, for example, meet for an hour in the morning, when students make not just social connections but academic ones, reading and writing about topics that complement other courses. At midday, advisories gather again for 25 minutes of quiet reading; and the day ends with a short advisory period used for reflection.

Advisory groups also provide a context for preparing the portfolios and exhibitions by which students eventually earn promotion and graduation. Thrice yearly these portfolios are reviewed in a lengthy conference, with students leading a discussion of their learning among their family, teachers, and friends. “We’ve seen these conversations push student learning in totally new directions,” says Perrigo. “And the parents are learning, too, as they’re pulled into the center of what’s important.” In a bold move toward equity in assessment, New Mission has created a system where students may pass a course only if they demonstrate a “commitment to learning,” which is formally assessed at the end of each trimester. Rather than sorting students based solely on academic objectives, this rewards them for persistence, task completion, and “pushing their own boundaries,” Perrigo says. A student who aces the academics could fail a course at New Mission, unless he shows evidence of challenging himself or contributing to the school’s learning community.

67 Alleghany St.
Roxbury, MA 02120
(617) 635-6437
(617) 635-6332 fax
David Perrigo, Principal