Common Principles for Uncommon Schools

Horace Volume 17 | 2001 | Issue 3

Looking Back on 15 Years of Essential School Designs: In her last issue as the editor of Horace, Kathleen Cushman looks back on 15 years and 60 issues, observing how the change process has affected school cultures deeply. She notes the 10 most powerful changes she has witnessed, including the dismantling of huge comprehensive high schools, the creation of networks of critical friendships, and the integration of curriculum. This issue also includes tributes from Coalition co-founders, Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier. Download PDF

‘Thinking in Questions’ Brings a Spirit of Equity to Community-School Relationships

What can our school do about unexcused absences? How do I know if my child is making enough progress? How much should teachers have to work outside the school day? Putting questions at the heart of curriculum, instruction, and school governance opens up the change process to fresh design solutions. The Right Question Project has worked for the past decade

A Multilingual Essential School Develops Language by Crossing Boundaries

All 350 students at the International High School in Long Island City, New York are recent immigrants with very limited English, but the rich and coherent interdisciplinary curriculum they follow here treats this multilingual population as an asset, not a drawback. In heterogeneous groups, taking interdisciplinary courses organized around themes such as “Motion” and “Origins,” students maintain and develop proficiency

Connecting and Reflecting in the Advisory Group

Many Essential schools use the advisory group structure as a way of increasing the personal connection among students and between students and the teaching staff. At New Mission High School in Boston, where “advisory” opens and closes every day, students begin the morning meetings with a ten-minute ritual that Essential school teachers often use themselves to build professional community. At

In a High-Stakes Testing Environment, Performance-Based Assessment Gains Respect

In a High-Stakes Testing Environment, Performance-Based Assessment Gains Respect Essential schools around New York took alarm when their state commissioner of education recently required all high school students to pass before graduation five rigorous, curriculum-specific exams previously given only for the “Regents diploma.” Such one-time, high-stakes tests do an injustice, Essential school leaders argued, to schools valuing depth of learning

Looking Back on 15 Years of Essential School Designs

Schools look far different these days than they did in the 1980s, when Horace first began to chart the effects of the Coalition’s Common Principles. In her farewell issue, the editor reflects on several fundamental shifts. I didn’t know much about education reform when I wrote my first issue of Horace, in autumn 1988. I was a working journalist with

Small Autonomous Schools as a District Policy: The Oakland Plan

About three years ago, several parents met in an Oak-land, California church to share their concerns about their children in one of that city’s overcrowded, year-round multi-track elementary schools. Aided by Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), a faith-based, nonprofit community organizing group, their concerns and actions spread to other members of their parish. OCO widened the discussion to include many other

Teachers Reach Across Boundaries for Support and Inspiration

Ever since e-mail made its appearance in the late 1980s, Essential school teachers across the country have shared a lively dialogue about their professional concerns. Reprinted here with permission are two excerpts from Christelle Estrada, a teacher from Pasadena, California who is spending this year in Utah, and Peggy Silva, who teaches at an Essential school in New Hampshire. Accountability