Published Online: October 8, 2003
Published in Print: October 8, 2003, as Private Schools

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Learning Laboratory

Columbia University in New York City has opened a private school to use as a laboratory for educational research. Students and faculty at the university and any of its affiliated institutions, such as Teachers College, are invited to observe and conduct research in the school's classrooms.

Called the School at Columbia University, the new school has an annual tuition of $22,000 and holds the promise of offering a Cadillac education. Many of its 59 teachers and other staff members hold doctorates. The maximum class size is 20, and most classes have two teachers at all times. Additional teachers circulate among different grade levels.

The school opened Sept. 17 with 200 pupils in kindergarten through 4th grade, and expects to enroll 650 students through grade 8 by 2006. Gardner P. Dunnan, the head of school, said a big motivation for Columbia to start the school was to use it in recruiting top-notch faculty members to the university.

This year, faculty members new to Columbia were given preference in enrolling their children. The university has decided that half the slots in the School at Columbia University will be open to the children of faculty members or administrators, and that the other half will go to children in neighborhoods near the university, which is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

For the 100 slots available to neighborhood youngsters this fall, the school received 1,700 applications. To address neighborhood concerns that the school might be "creaming" top pupils from the public schools, the university used a lottery to select the students.

Still, said Mr. Dunnan, the school rejected about 10 students who made the lottery, mostly because they had special needs that the school wouldn't be able to serve. The school covers most of the tuition for families that can't afford it. This school year, for example, 52 children are attending the school for only $100 each.

One major feature of the school is that each child soon will have an individualized learning plan, called a Master Achievement Plan, or MAP.

"This is not just for kids in need of remediation," said Diane H. Dillon, the school's psychologist. "We're working with kids who need enrichment, too. We want to make sure that every kid is having some individual needs addressed."

Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 23, Issue 6, Page 7

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