Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Essential Questions

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

A Teacher’s Reflections on Creating Curriculum

A big issue for me is maintaining a focus while leaving room for the serendipitous. Much of the good teaching I have done has involved seizing the moment and running with it. For example, a student will have had experiences or an insight that I did not anticipate when planning the unit. Something impacting the curriculum will happen in the

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

Balancing Content with Thinking Goals: One Picture of Curriculum

Teachers at the Parker School in Fort Devens, Massachusetts created their own curriculum template, juxtaposing “texts and resources” that describe content area knowledge with “tasks and activities” that elicit key skills they want students to practice: responding to text, creating new work, and performing or demonstrating their understanding. All the year’s projects in every content area reflect the school’s Essential

COACHING HABITS OF MIND: Pursuing Essential Questions in the Classroom

by Grant Wiggins What is essential must be experienced as essential. Essential facts and theories are only understood as the results of one’s own work; they are not self-evident notions learned through words as “knowledge,” but the residue of effective performances–Habits of Mind. When they are coaching students to engage in collaborative inquiry, teachers need to insure that essential habits

Confronting the Moral Questions Within Academic Disciplines

Across the disciplines, teachers tend to quickly dismiss politically and morally charged topics when they arise. But how can we promote critical thinking if we are shy about tackling our critical issues? How can teachers help high school students explore moral and ethical questions with the thoughtfulness necessary for a democratic society to function fully? How can they build academic

Developing Curriculum in Essential Schools

If curriculum is to reflect the goals of a school and the needs of its students, it makes sense for teachers to develop it them-selves. But how might they do it, and when? And is it better to adopt or adapt materials ‘off the shelf’ or should students and teachers be creating curriculum together? Five math and science teachers are

Do Boys and Girls Need Different Things in School?

Research interest has grown over the last decade in how schools and families can provide different kinds of support to help both girls and boys develop self-confidence and thrive academically. Studies by the American Association of University Women, for example, observed that teachers call on boys more in class, give them positions of more responsibility, and the like. And a

For More Information on Integrated Curriculum

James Beane, Affect in the Curriculum: Toward Democracy, Dignity, and Diversity. New York: Teachers College Press, 1990. Focuses on integrated curriculum in the middle school years. Howard Gardner, The Unschooled Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1992. A partner with CES in the Atlas project and a leading theorist on assessment and “multiple intelligences.” Heidi Hayes Jacobs, ed., Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Design

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

From 16 to 20, Student Development Demands a Different Kind of Schooling

“The school was structurally incapable of taking me seriously,” one student at a well regarded suburban high school said. Schools often dismally fail the developmental needs of young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty, concluded a year-long study just completed by the Coalition of Essential Schools. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and led by Kathy Simon, CES’s

How the ATLAS Communities Structure a Curriculum

The Atlas Communities project has put together a design tool (forthcoming) that suggests using the following categories in planning curriculum: Generative topics . . . * Are developmentally appropriate. * Are broad and complex. * Are interesting to students and teachers. * Are important for understanding responsible citizenship and the disciplines. These criteria can help you make decisions about what

Inclusion Research at Work at Boston Arts Academy

Anne Clark, teacher and administrator at Boston Arts Academy (BAA) offers insight into BAA’s fully inclusive pedagogy, an expression of its commitment to CES’s Ten Common Principles. Describing parallels between BAA’s experience with inclusion and current research findings, Clark suggests important touchstones and discussion points for all CES schools. This synthesis of research and Essential school practice demonstrates how inclusion

Linking High School Science and Humanities: A Four-Year Plan

At Oceana High School in Pacifica, California, ninth and tenth graders all take a two-year required science program linking major concepts in physics, chemistry, earth science, and life science, and corresponding with the school’ s humanities curricula. “Patterns of Evolution and Change,” the first-year science course, connects with Humanities curriculum for the same year: “Patterns of Cultures.” In the second

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

Meadows or Malls? Applying Math Skills to Community Problems

How should River City use three pieces of newly acquired land: a closed-down military base, a 300-acre farm, and a mine? Residents are split between development and recreational advocates–and their final choices must minimize costs to the city. Students at Boston’ s Fenway Middle College, a CES member school, will soon be working out the answers as they learn to

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

Middle Schools Reflect Essential School Ideas

The past decade’s move from “junior high schools” to “middle schools” came from a growing understanding of young adolescents’ developmental needs, informed by the groundbreaking 1989 “Turning Points” report from the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. Now new partnerships are building between Essential schools and the middle school reform movement, with support from the Turning Points Middle Grades School State

Moral Questions in the Classroom: How to Get Kids to Think Deeply About Real Life and Their School Work

The book review that follows was written many weeks before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Those events, I believe, highlight the importance of exploring hard questions in our classrooms. In 1993, I taught a unit on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that turned out to be a bit flat. During class discussion one morning, I made reference to

Horace: Essential Questions Published: February 10, 2002 By: Kathy Simon Topics: Curriculum, Essential Questions

Moral Questions Schools Should Ask Themselves

“To find the core of a school, don’t look at its rulebook or even its mission statement,” Ted and Nancy Sizer advise in their forthcoming book, The Students Are Watching. “Look at the way the people in it spend their time, how they relate to each other, how they tangle with ideas. Look for the contradictions between words and practice,

New Mission High School’s Response to the Challenge of Designing and Supporting a Meaningful Mathematics Curriculum

Roser Gine and her New Mission High School colleagues have experienced the challenges and rewards of designing the mathematics curriculum for their recently founded, small, student-centered school. Based on a 2003 Fall Forum workshop led by Gine and New Mission teacher Stephen Cirasuolo, this article documents New Mission’s process of creating a challenging, meaningful, standards-based mathematics curriculum, offering compelling advice,

Horace: Essential Questions Published: April 10, 2004 By: Roser Gine Topics: Curriculum, Essential Questions, Projects & Units

Resources for Curriculum Development

Technological Resources The Homework Page. Information of value in researching school projects is at http://www. jewels//homework.html Global Education Resources. Contact http:// OED1.html Kid Lists. Anchors to 82 sites children and their parents might enjoy. Contact /pub/journalism/kid.html Awesome Lists. Innovative sites with practical value and professional expertise. Contact pub/journalism/awe-ie.html Educational Resources. Online resources and projects for students

Restitution: A Coaching Approach to Discipline

Asking “Why did you do that?” or “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?” only directs attention to student behavior problems, makes them defensive, and encourage them to produce excuses for their failure, says Norma True Spurlock, a counselor at the University of Florida’s P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School, headed by CES Executive

Samples of the Three Mathematical Elements at New Mission High School: Mathematical Modeling, Mathematical Proof, and Problem-Solving

Mathematical Modeling 1. In Roser Gin?©’s Midlevel and Graduate classes this year, students have used math models and mathematical reasoning to explain the impact of epidemics on the world’s population (vehicle: “Investigating Epidemics Through Mathematics”). The goal of this project was to examine how different epidemics have spread in order to make predictions using identified patterns. Students applied their knowledge

Student Development: How Essential School Practices and Designs Can Help

Students also develop thinking skills by learning to navigate the social, emotional, and ethical realms. How can teachers best coach kids in the habits of thoughtful adults and support them in their different rates of growth? And what does that imply for how we organize Essential schools, both in academic and in other areas? Clinton had bombed Iraq just as

Students As Scientists: Curriculum That Collaborates With The Community

All through a cold December night last year two high school students from Santa Rosa, California set traps for rodents in a 365-acre marine reserve over 20 miles from their homes. As part of their science class at Piner High School, they were collecting data for a project on feral cat activity, working not only with their regular science teacher

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

Teachers and Students Making Curriculum Together

Dan Drmacich at Rochester’s School Without Walls developed the following guidelines for his staff to use in constructing learning experiences. 1. Brainstorm. Teachers and administrators, students, and small groups should list all topics, issues, themes, and problems that students would like to learn about (depending on course flexibility). Don’t limit your brainstorming by eliminating what normally are regarded as irrelevant

The Long Haul: An Autobiography

The Long Haul, one of our all-time favorite books, is an auto-biography of Myles Horton, who, through his High-lander Folk School in New Market, Tennessee, helped train Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Pete Seeger. It is one of the few books we give to staff members and friends. This book puts education goals into a broader

Horace: Essential Questions Published: June 10, 2003 By: Dennis Littky, Myles Horton Topics: Curriculum, Essential Questions