Worth Checking Out: Across the Curriculum: Frameworks with a Coherent, Student-Centered Emphasis

*ATLAS Communities. The Coalition of Essential Schools was a founding partner in this approach, which aims for coherent “Authentic Teaching, Learning, and Assessment for all Students” by connecting schools, families, and community in a “pathway” from kindergarten through grade 12. (Other partners were the School Development Program at Yale, Project Zero at Harvard, and the Education Development Center in Boston.) Its curriculum framework asks all teachers in all courses and at all grade levels to teach and assess a set of essential skills, including basic skills (reading, writing, and computation/math) and higher-order thinking skills (analytical reading, data collection and analysis, speaking and listening). Members of the local community then help determine what other skills they want students to have and together develop standards of performance at each level. Whole-faculty study groups convene regularly for research, planning, demonstration, practice, and reflection. (Web address: www.naschools. org/schools_p_atlas.html)

* The Paideia Plan. Created in 1982 by Mortimer Adler and the Paideia Group, this 12-year curriculum framework uses a combination of didactic instruction; coaching, exercises, and supervised practice; and Socratic questioning and discussion of core readings. Not a blueprint but a philosophy and process, it asks individual schools to craft the details themselves; but it supports block scheduling, integration of learning styles, cooperative learning, and interdisciplinary unit planning. A Web site provides access to copyright-free seminar texts and other resources; substantial professional development is available. (University of North Carolina School of Education, Campus Box 8045, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599-8045; tel.:  (919) 962-7379  (919) 962-7379 ; e-mail: npc@unc.edu; Web address: www.unc.edu/depts/ed/ cel-paideia.html)

* Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, a network of schools whose approach is based on multidisciplinary and project-based learning expeditions including strong intellectual, service, self-discovery, and physical dimensions. (122 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; tel.:  617-576-1260  617-576-1260 ; fax: 617- 576-1340; Web address: http://hugse1. harvard.edu/ ~elob/index.htm) *

International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program. This five-year curriculum framework for students age 11?16 has much in common with Essential School ideas, and can be adapted to different school contexts. (Following it with the IB Diploma Program in grades 11 and 12 is not required.) The Middle Years Program (MYP) emphasizes interrelated knowledge, intercultural awareness, communication in two languages, and the student’s intellectual and social development. Five common themes link the academic subjects across five years: study skills; community service; health and social education; the environment; and “man the maker,” which explores “creative and inventive genius.” Schools decide how to allocate time to eight academic subject groups; an independent personal project culminates the course of study. Teachers use IB criteria to assess student portfolios, and IB validates local assessments by a process of external moderation; there are no external exams for MYP. All participating schools are visited and evaluated at least once during the five-year teaching cycle; self-study is required. (200 Madison Avenue, Suite 2007, New York, NY 10016; tel.:  212-696-4464  212-696-4464 ; e-mail: ibna@ibo.org)

* Creative Learning Exchange is an informal network of primary and secondary schools with a discovery-based, learner-centered view of education, centered on “systems education.” Teachers contribute lesson plans and computer models; other materials and workshops also available. (1 Keefe Road, Acton, MA 01720; tel.:  508-287-0070  508-287-0070 ; fax: 508- 287-0080; email: stuntzln@tiac.net; Web address: http:// sysdyn.mit.edu/cle)

* Connections+. Managed by the Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory (Mcrel), this excellent Internet site links teachers at all levels with lesson plans, activities, curriculum resources across the curriculum, organized by content area and linked to standards and benchmarks and supplemental online information. (Web address: www.mcrel. org/connect/plus/index.html)

* Foxfire. Grounded in experiential education ideas and learner-centered, democratic classrooms that connect students’ learning to their community lives, the Foxfire Teacher Outreach program coordinates networks around the country through offices in Rabun County, Georgia. (Tel.:  706-746-0541  706-746-0541 )

* The VIA Book. Describes and analyzes curriculum units integrating rigorous and engaging vocational and academic instruction. A thoughtful sourcebook for teachers developing work-based curriculum. (The Big Picture, 118 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA 02139; tel.:  617-492-5335  617-492-5335 )