Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Personalization

A Friend is Dropped

When Sandy and Jenny started school as new sophomores in September, they got along very well. They had French and basketball in common, and the rest seemed to go along of its own accord. They kept lots of company with each other for the first few weeks. As time went on, however, there was little doubt that they were headed

A Network to Help Out Mentor Programs

Adult mentors who work with young people in or out of school can powerfully affect their success in learning, much research has shown. But getting a mentoring program off the ground often proves difficult for schools already swamped with academic demands. The National Mentoring Partnership addresses this problem by providing training and other resources to organizations that want to initiative

Horace: Personalization Published: May 11, 2001 By: Topics: Instruction, Personalization

A Student and Her Exhibition: One Teacher’s Portrait

by Peggy Silva, Souhegan High School, Amherst, New Hampshire Peggy Silva, an English teacher at Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire, followed several students’ experiences closely in the process of writing a book about this Essential school founded in 1992. Here she describes a student preparing for the Division One Exhibition Souhegan requires midway through the high school career,

An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftmanship with Students

By Ron Berger (Heinemann, 160 pages, $17.50) BUY NOW! reviewed by Laura Flaxman More than ten years ago, when I first saw Ron Berger present a portfolio of his students’ work and explain the process behind these beautiful and impressive artifacts, I was struck by this master teacher’s combination of skill, passion, energy and humility. An Ethic of Excellence: Building

Horace: Personalization Published: December 10, 2004 By: Laura Flaxman Topics: Assessment, Exhibitions, Personalization, Portfolios, Student-as-worker

Are Advisory Groups ‘Essential’? What They Do, How They Work

If even one person in a school knows him well enough to care, a student’s chances of success go up dramatically. In small groups that can focus on a range of subjects, teachers and students are forming new bonds and setting new standards for a personal education. When teachers at Kentucky’s Fairdale High School were planning the start of their

At This Summer School, Teachers Learn Too

At Brown University, where Theodore R. Sizer founded the Coalition and where he is now Professor Emeritus, the department of education has for 32 years sponsored a laboratory summer high school that benefits teachers and schools as much as it does students. About 350 students from Providence, Rhode Island and the surrounding area come to the four-week day school, paying

Horace: Personalization Published: May 11, 2001 By: Topics: Instruction, Personalization

Boosting Achievement by Reporting It Better

How teachers report student progress could have far more impact on student achievement than we commonly assume, according to some researchers and educators. In fact, the format and limited content of most “progress reports” typically imply not progress but the lack of it, said Ross Abels of Iowa’s Solon Community School District, who suggests that teachers substitute narrative comments for

Horace: Personalization Published: May 11, 2001 By: Topics: Instruction, Personalization

Classroom Discourse: The Language of Teaching and Learning Second Edition

by Courtney B. Cazden (Heinemann Press, 216 pages, $24.00) reviewed by Zaretta Hammond Courtney Cazden examines two questions fundamental to successful CES practice: How do patterns of talk in classrooms affect the equality of students’ educational opportunities and outcomes? How is discourse a support for deeper student learning? Cazden focuses on a variety of different types of discourse that occur

Horace: Personalization Published: December 10, 2003 By: Zaretta Hammond Topics: Instruction, Personalization

Coaching Students to Think and Speak for Themselves

A theatre arts teacher and a Critical Friends Group coach for the Narragansett, Rhode Island school system, Jan Grant works closely with teachers in three Essential schools-elementary, middle, and high school. Her work with high school students there sparked the following reflection: The concept of Collaborative Inquiry was easy for me to accept when I first encountered it at a

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

Horace: Personalization Published: June 11, 1999 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Essential Questions, Instruction, Personalization

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

Horace: Personalization Published: June 11, 1999 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Essential Questions, Instruction, Personalization

Dos and Don’ts with Refugee Students

As an English as a Second Language teacher at Chicago’s Sullivan High School, Naomi Nakayama works with many refugee students who have come to the United States after years of disjointed or unavailable education. Refugee students take on the challenge of learning English while acquiring academic skills that many of their peers had the opportunity to master years before; often,

Horace: Personalization Published: June 10, 2003 By: Topics: Instruction, Personalization

English Language Learners in Essential Schools

We recognize the fact that no two of our students are exactly the same, and that each changes over time. All this bubbling variety is inconvenient. It would be handy if each thirteen year old was a standardized being, pumping no more or fewer hormones than any other thirteen year old and speaking no language other than formal English. Life

Horace: Personalization Published: June 10, 2003 By: Jill Davidson Topics: Instruction, Personalization

Essential Schools as Inclusive Education Leaders

All learning communities contain a multidimensional spectrum of strengths and weaknesses. By embracing this truth in their values and practices, Essential schools are well poised to respond effectively to the challenge of inclusion. Students in inclusive educational settings take many paths toward the achievement of meaningful educational and personal goals. Inclusion reorganizes a school’s environment: it opens to all students

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

Horace: Personalization Published: June 11, 1999 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Essential Questions, Instruction, Personalization

Helpful Resources on Small SchoolsReviews of the Research

Cotton, Kathleen, “School Size, School Climate, and Student Performance,” Close-Up Number 20 in the School Improvement Research Series, produced by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory under a contract with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. Contact: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory Document Reproduction Service, 101 S.W. Main Street, Suite 500, Portland, Oregon 97204; tel.:  (503) 275-9519  (503) 275-9519

How Do Kids See Their Own Achievement? Just Ask Them

In a project sponsored by the national organization Fairtest, Massachusetts researcher Anne Wheelock collected and analyzed information on how students regarded their own learning and achievement in a number of contexts, including state standardized tests. Although most students entered ninth grade with the intention of graduating and going on to post-secondary education, she learned, even students who passed their courses

Horace: Personalization Published: May 11, 2001 By: Topics: Instruction, Personalization

Lying: The Choices We Make

In her two books, Lying and Secrets, Sissela Bok discusses different forms of deception, and their various uses and justifications in modern life. She also gives many examples of deceptions: stated and unstated, blatant and subtle, “necessary” and unnecessary, omissions and exaggerations, some undertaken “for’ others, others for oneself, some undertaken in order to uncover even deeper deceptions, or to

Making Math Personal: Meaning in Mathematics for Teachers and Students

When mathematics students and teachers are able to deepen their relationships with the curriculum and with each other, they are more likely to teach and learn in ways that promote sustained, connected, meaningful understanding. Stories of teachers’ engagement with their own curriculum through mathematics discourse, students’ connection with teachers through personalized pedagogy, and students’ commitment to the curriculum through personally

Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools

Edited by Deborah Meier and George Wood (Beacon Press, 132 pages, $13.00) BUY NOW! reviewed by Jill Davidson I know a principal of a small urban high school who has to defend his school’s mission of meaningful learning as assessed by authentic, high-standard measures against constant demands for “accountability.” It galls me to see how No Child Left Behind’s labels

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

Horace: Personalization Published: June 11, 1999 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Essential Questions, Instruction, Personalization

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,

Horace: Personalization Published: June 11, 1999 By: Kathleen Cushman Topics: Essential Questions, Instruction, Personalization

Myths and Realities: Best Practices for Language Minority Students

“My immigrant grandparents were thrown into school with kids who spoke English and they survived. Why can’t kids do that today?” Some broadly held beliefs about language learning persist and strongly influence policy and pedagogy, despite what many language researchers agree are the best ways for students to learn English and other academic subjects. Myths and Realities, organized entirely around

On an Urban River, Intensive Learning During Vacation Time

Students with the advantage of learning during periods when they are not in school–such as summer vacations–typically reinforce and build on their academic skills. Recognizing this, the CES Center in Los Angeles saw a unique learning opportunity for high school students in the two-month “off-track” intervals created by the city’s year-round schooling policy. They designed and piloted an ongoing field-based

Horace: Personalization Published: May 11, 2001 By: Topics: Instruction, Personalization

One Student’s View: “This all sounded too simple”

In many classrooms in many schools people have ideas on the way that schools should be run. Over generations our ancestors have developed ideas on what a good learning environment is. This idea is strange because it has never been questioned. And why not? Japan is leaving the U.S. behind in productivity as we speak. Why does this happen? Some