Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Critical Friends Groups

‘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

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

Creating a Network of Schools as Critical Friends: The Fifty Schools Project

Since 1992 the Coalition’s Fifty Schools Project has worked to bring together small clusters of exemplary reform-focused high schools and support them in sharing resources and solving problems. The effort could easily serve as a blueprint for how any like-minded group could structure a network: 1. Four to eight schools, preferably within easy reach of each other but possibly linked

Demographics, Regulation, Assessment: Who Teaches? How Well? How Do We Know?

Like many attempts to make schools better, teacher-education reforms have been complicated by an ill-defined emphasis on accountability-in this case, regulating who enters into the teaching profession and how. In an ongoing analysis, Columbia University professor Linda Darling- Hammond has explored how several intertwined issues affect availability, assessment, and regulation of teachers. State certification of teachers varies widely, Darling- Hammond

Elements of a Successful Network

A review of the writings of Ann Lieberman and Maureen Grolnick, Andy Hargreaves and others suggests these elements of a successful network:   Building trusting relationships through inquiry and work initiated or chosen by members because of their own needs and carried out together over time. Establishing norms of reflective practice and shared decision making, which provide internal avenues by

Essential Tools in the Trek Toward Change

Since its earliest years Essential Schools have used a professional development strategy they call the “Trek,” in which a core team of teachers from a school develops the skills and knowledge to further the whole school’s change process. But just what does that Essential school team need to know and be able to do if it is to succeed? California’s

How Friends Can Be Critical As Schools Make Essential Changes

When teachers regularly get honest, supportive feedback from valued peers, not only does their own practice benefit, but student achievement goes up, too. Across the country, Essential schools and Centers are finding ways to make and sustain these vital “critical friendships.” It was the end of a steamy May Monday in Houston, and the teachers gathered in the library of

Readings About Networks

Ann Lieberman and Maureen Grolnick, “Networks and Reform in American Education.” New York: National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST), 1996. Ann Lieberman and Milbrey McLaughlin, “Networks for Educational Change: Powerful and Problematic.” Phi Delta Kappan, May 1992. Milbrey McLaughlin and Joan E. Talbert, Contexts that Matter for Teaching and Learning. Stanford, CA: Center for Research on the

Regional Centers: A Larger Link, A Stronger Voice

The Coalition’s Regional Centers provide many of the same benefits to affiliated schools that clusters do: a milieu in which to work together on common concerns, to build critical friendships, and to locate helpful resources. In fact, many began as smaller networks or clusters of schools engaged in critical friendships. But as nonprofit organizations with governing boards and position in

Some Principles for Planning Effective School Visits

1. Build clarity around the purpose of the visit, among your critical friends and among colleagues, parents, and students in your school. What questions do we have and how will a visit help uncover them? What evidence will we ask our critical friends to look for or examine, to enable them to provide relevant feedback? What steps should the school

Suggested Readings/Information

Suggested Readings Linda Darling-Hammond et al., Model Standards for Beginning Teacher Licensing and Developm ent: A Resource for State Dialogue, developed by Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. Available from Council of Chief State School Officers, One Mass Ave NW, Suite 700, Washington DC 20001-1431. Tel.:   202-336-7048    202-336-7048 . john GOODLAD ET AL., Teachers for Our Nation’s Schools; The

Support for Teachers As a National Investment

Keeping the teacher corps strong and well qualified will cost up to $5 billion annually, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future says in its 1996 and 1997 reports, but it will pay off handsomely. Among its points: Money spent on supporting and educating teachers pays off in student learning. Teachers who know a lot about teaching and learning,

Teacher Education in Essential Schools: The University-School Partnership

In a few rare programs, aspiring teachers are learning their profession not in university lecture halls but in the trenches of reform-minded schools. But how goes life along the deep fault line between theory and practice, the culture of universities and the world of schools? The last day of classes for seniors at Souhegan High School could have been any

Teacher Renewal: Essential in a Time of Change

As the student population grows, Essential schools are facing critical issues of teacher preparation, turnover, retention, and leadership. Four new and veteran teachers talk here about their own experiences of building a professional life in this time of change. They come from places as various as the earth itself, some still rough at their edges, some polished by the tumble

Teachers Choosing Peers as Leaders of Change

To launch a major new “critical friends project” in a dozen Michigan Essential schools, teachers filled out an unusual survey recently, which asked them to choose four peers from whom they felt they could learn most effectively. Developed by Fran Vandiver, a veteran Essential school principal who now heads Fort Lauderdale High School in Florida, the survey defines such a

Teachers Learning Along a Continuum of Connections

Ann Lieberman uses this chart to describe the many ways that connections among teachers and the outside world can advance their professional growth. “Direct” Teaching  Inspirationals  Awareness sessions  Initial conversation  Charismatic speakers  Conferences  Courses and workshops  Consultations Learning in School  Team teaching  Peer coaching  Action research  Problem-solving groups  Reviews of students  Assessment development  Case studies of practice  Standard setting  Journal

The Essential School Network and How It Grew

The Coalition of Essential Schools is itself a network, which Theodore Sizer conceived as “a conversation among friends” about his Nine Common Principles. Such conversation flowed readily among the dozen original members schools and among the 150 participants at the first Fall Forum, held in Providence, Rhode Island in 1986. As the membership grew-to 50 schools by 1988, more than

The Essential School Network and How It Grew

Building mutual relationships that encourage honest looks at teacher practice and student work can profoundly shift the culture of schooling. Both inside schools and among them, networks of teachers are creating new ways to share and question their work, learn from each other, and hold themselves to higher standards. To see a group of teachers sitting around a table in

The Other Side of the Fence: A Visiting Team’s Norms for Gathering Evidence

Before Michigan schools may join the Coalition, they must first compile a portfolio demonstrating the school’s learning about the Ten Common Principles; present an exhibition about that work to parents and community members; host Essential school colleagues from around the state as they visit classrooms and meet students and faculty; and present a dilemma to the visiting team for its

What Do Essential School Teachers Want Most?

What matters most to teachers in an Essential school? Asked to reflect on how to improve the conditions and effectiveness of their daily work, the faculty of one of “Horace’s schools” came up with four common concerns: Knowing students well. To improve the quality of their teaching and assessment, teachers wanted a smaller number of students overall. To achieve this

What Does a Critical Friends Group Do?

A Critical Friends Group (CFG) brings together four to ten teachers within a school over at least two years, to help each other look seriously at their own classroom practice and make changes in it. After a solid grounding in group process skills, members focus on designing learning goals for students which can be stated specifically enough that others can

What Should Pre-Service Education Look Like? An Atlas Community’s Answer

At a brainstorming session in spring 1993, members of the ATLAS community in Gorham, Maine (including faculty from the Gorham schools and the University of Southern Maine) generated a draft describing what features pre-service teacher education ought to have in an ATLAS community. What follows is excerpted and condensed from that description:   Apprenticeship model. Pre-service students learn the craft

Who’s Teaching What, and to Whom?

By 2207 our schools will enroll nearly three million more students than today, a total of 54 million youngsters. More than one quarter of all teachers are over 50, and teacher retirements are accelerating. Over the next decade, more than two million teachers will need to be hired to fill elementary and secondary teaching positions. Over half of these will