First Two Schools Selected To Test Ideas in Horace's Compromise
Theodore R. Sizer, author of Horace's Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School, has named the first two participants in a coalition of schools that will test the ideas presented in his book.
Mr. Sizer, a former independent-school headmaster and dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education who is currently chairman of Brown University's education department, urges in his book that students advance academically according to their mastery of material, not their age. He also argues for a reduction in the number of students per teacher; a major reconstruction of the school day; and a simplification and refocusing of academic programs. (See Education Week, Nov. 16, 1983.)
In the Julia B. Thayer Junior-Senior High School of Winchester, N.H., and the Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Sizer said he found schools embracing the concepts in his book.
For that reason, he said, the two schools were selected to be among the 15 to 25 that will constitute the Coalition of Essential Schools, a program headquartered at Brown University. Mr. Sizer said he hopes to have the majority of the schools selected by the end of next year.
According to school officials, the Thayer school is a 330-student public school for grades 7-12 in a low-income rural community; Adelphi Academy is an independent school with 272 K-12 students from middle- and upper middle-class families. About 130 of Adelphi's students are in grades 9-12.
'Not Selling an Answer'
In effect, the coalition will provide inservice training and background material for school administrators seeking to implement major reforms along the lines described in Mr. Sizer's book. The coalition will also provide an opportunity for school officials to discuss with each other the programs and reforms they are attempting to implement, according to Mr. Sizer.
"We perceive it as an experiment, not a demonstration," he said. "We're not selling an answer, we're testing some hypotheses."
Dennis S. Littky, principal of Thayer, said school officials are attempting to break out of the 45-minute structure of class periods and "work in teams around kids' needs."
At Adelphi Academy, the traditional period structure has already been broken. Students attend the equivalent of six periods a week in each of four "core" subjects--English, history, mathematics, and science.
This, Headmaster Clinton J. Vickers said, represents a 20-percent increase in instructional time in those areas.
The six lessons, he said, are broken down into three "large-group settings" and three sessions for smaller groups.
In the large meetings, the entire class of freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior students attends a lecture given by one teacher. For the remaining three lessons, the students are placed, according to ability, in groups of 8 to 10.
Two of the lessons involve a 90-minute laboratory, workshop, or3seminar session. The remaining lesson is a 45-minute tutorial, supplemented, when necessary, with an after-school tutorial.
For purposes of curriculum planning, Mr. Vickers said, the English and history departments have been combined; so have the science and mathematics departments.
Curriculum goals have been simplified, he said, and they center on both academic and personal goals. In the freshman year, Mr. Vickers said, the academic theme is the Hellenic-Judeo-Christian tradition,6while the personal theme is growth and maturity.
In the sophomore year, he said, curriculum goals center on European origins and the Western world, and the personal themes of life, love, and being.
The junior-year studies center on American culture and society, and the personal themes of conflict, purpose, and transition.
In the senior year, Mr. Vickers said, students study the modern age and contemporary society, as they discuss the personal questions of identity, purpose, and the future.
"We have set up a system where a student should not fail," Mr. Vickers said.
More 'Focused' Program
It is also similar to the kind of system proposed by Mr. Sizer in Horace's Compromise. If his proposals were put into place, Mr. Sizer said, parents could expect their children to be involved in a much more "focused" academic program, with the award of a diploma no longer based on credits earned, time spent in class, or when a student reaches a certain age.
"One would proceed in school not by just serving time, but by showing some important things have been accomplished," he said.
The Coalition of Essential Schools is sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Independent Schools. The coalition has received $765,500 in grants from the Carnegie Corporation, the Danforth Foundation, the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation, the Exxon Education Foundation, and the Edward John Noble Foundation.
The money will be spent to support the coalition's activities, Mr. Sizer said. The participating schools will not receive direct grants.