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Schools: What Works

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Tom Sawyer's ploy to coerce his friends into whitewashing a fence for him was not needed to lure about 400 students to paint Eastchester High School during their Christmas vacation.

Eastchester's principal, John F. Sullivan, simply suggested that the students choose colors they liked and repaint the peeling walls and ceilings of the school's corridors. Nearly half of the school's 870 students participated. The students chose a combination of blues for two of the floors and a coffee and beige scheme for the other two. And they saved the school approximately $40,000 in painters' fees, according to Mr. Sullivan.

Some of the young painters said their vacations would have been boring without the activity. The job, they noted, let them be with their friends, and all said they were eager to improve the way the halls looked.

"In order to have kids do this, you have to demonstrate total confidence in them," Mr. Sullivan said. "If you're not prepared to run certain risks, there is no way it will be successful. In this case, the students chose the colors, organized the painting crews and schedules, and policed themselves."

Eastchester's students began donating their time and energy to the school in 1977 when Mr. Sullivan, then the new principal, challenged them to "quit griping" about the condition of the building and do something about it.

"I took the position that they had to stop waiting for handouts in life," Mr. Sullivan said. "In 1977, the kids wanted to demonstrate that--given the responsibility and the opportunity--they could handle it."

"As a result, over the five-year period since then, the students have raised at least $20,000 to improve the school and have given a lot of their time. What we started in 1977 was a spirit of contributing to the school."

For further information, contact: John F. Sullivan, Eastchester High School, Stewart Place, Eastchester, N.Y. 10707.

How does a rural school provide academic tutoring to students who must leave on a bus after the last class? Is there a way to make high-school students obey substitute teachers, who, because of their infrequent presence in the classroom, do not know the students?

Administrators at Ellington High School in Ellington, Conn., have devised a plan that, after one and one-half years of operation, appears to have answered both of these questions for the 600-student school.

Using money budgeted for substitute teachers, the school hired three paraprofessionals to handle non-instructional assignments--including monitoring the cafeteria, study hall, and corridors--previously assigned to the teaching staff.

In turn, the teachers, freed of these responsibilities, spend time in "resource rooms" where they tutor students who need special help. Each academic department has a resource room available at various times during the day. The students are sent to the resource room during study-hall periods by individual teachers.

By conducting the tutoring during the school day, no student misses the bus home because he or she needs help in a subject. When a teacher is absent from a classroom, a teacher from one of the resource rooms moves in as a substitute. Because students know these teachers, they are less prone to misbehave, say school officials.

"No teaching is required or expected [of the substitute]," reports principal J. Robert Ford. "Students fully realize that the teacher covering the class will be in the building on the next school day. An improvement in classroom atmosphere is the inevitable result."

For further information, contact J. Robert Ford, Principal, Ellington High School, P.O. Box 127, Ellington, Conn. 00029.

Elementary-school children in Cleveland's public-school system and its two parochial systems will soon be learning about America's legal system as a part of their social-studies curricula.

One hundred and seventy-seven teachers have already been trained to present lessons in law-related topics to their 3rd-to-6th-grade students. The instruction is planned for 187 classrooms.

The city school system developed the Elementary Law-Related Education (elre) Resource Guide under a grant from the Cleveland Foundation.

Lesson plans are grouped around specific topics for each grade level: in grade 3, "rules and responsibilities"; in grade 4, "origins of law"; in grade 5, "law and influence in America"; and in grade 6, ''the court system."

Besides studying the materials in the classroom and reading supplementary articles, the students will visit the police station, the city hall and court of appeals, the board of elections, and the justice center in Cleveland.

For further information, contact Beverly S. Clark, Program Manager, Center for Elementary Law-Related Education, Cleveland Public Schools, 1380 East Sixth St., Cleveland 44114.

--Tricia Furniss

Word of innovative, effective programs may be sent to SCHOOLS: WHAT WORKS, Education Week, 1333 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., #560, Washington, D.C. 20036. (When writing to others for more details, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

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