College, N.Y. School District Cooperate on New Alternative School
A New York City community school district, in collaboration with a local college, has opened an alternative school in East Harlem for junior-high-school students that combines community-service work with regular classroom instruction.
The school, which began this month with about 40 7th-grade students, is the first of its kind in the city's school system, according to William Colavito, a curriculum planner for District No. 4. The school, called the College for Human Services Junior High School, is being supported in part by a grant from the Edwin Gould Foundation for Children.
The concept of the school was first discussed during the tenure of the former District 4 superintendent, Anthony J. Alvarado, who is now the chancellor of the city's school system. According to Mr. Colavito, the school is now one of about 23 alternative schools in the district.
The students will spend three hours twice a week working--with-out pay--for community-services groups and some private businesses in the city. When they are in the classroom, they will read and discuss materials that relate to their work assignment for the term.
Students will also cover the normal academic curriculum for the 7th grade, such as English, mathematics, and science. Next year, the school will include both 7th and 8th graders.
The curriculum, which is described as "performance based," was developed by educators at the College for Human Resources, a private nonprofit institution that specializes in the study of social services. Developed about nine years ago, the curriculum model has been tested with students at the college, according to its president, Audrey Cohen.
One Performance Area
"We've conducted research on what it is people do in a service, high-tech economy; and we've then taken those areas and taken all the curriculum materials that might be covered at this age level and reorganized the material so that the knowledge is in relation to one performance area at a time," explained Ms. Cohen.
The school will be jointly administered by the college and the school district, which is providing two teachers, supplies, materials, and two unused classrooms in a junior-high school within the district. The director of the school was appointed from the college's faculty.
There are eight performance areas, according to Ms. Cohen, but only four will be addressed during one school year, which will be divided into 10-week terms.
The eight performance areas are: "developing positive relationships; functioning as a leader; providing assistance and guidance to others; acting as a change agent; assuming responsibility for lifelong learning; functioning as a communicator; working with others in a group; and functioning as an active member of the community."
The students will be expected to apply what they have learned in the classroom to their community-service work, according to Ms. Cohen. "We are helping them to learn how to comprehend and how to use both theory and action," she added.
"The point is, these youngsters will get the opportunity to see how knowledge can improve human life," Ms. Cohen said.
The students will be evaluated by both their classroom teachers and their supervisors at each job site, but they will not be graded, Ms. Cohen said.
The students will be selected based on their interest in the program and their ability to work on their own.
"It's not a special school for students with problems," Ms. Cohen explained. "It's for individuals who can handle themselves in constructive work action and that's going to require individuals who are independent."