Education

Essential Schools: Putting Theory into Practice

May 29, 1985 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Putting together the Coalition of Essential Schools, says the author of Horace’s Compromise, has been an exercise “in looking for friends.”

“So far we’ve heard from more than 300 schools,” says Theodore R. Sizer, who is also heading the coalition project that will test the ideas put forth in the book. “Usually, it starts with a letter or a call from someone saying, ‘Gee, we’re interested.’ Then what follows is a lot of crisscrossing. The selection process is far more informal, gradual, and reciprocal than most people would think.”

The process, he continues, has two steps. First, he or a member of the coalition’s staff visits a promising candidate. Then the selection is made after conversations with staff members and officers of the National Association of Independent Schools and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the project’s co-sponsors.

“Right now we have eight schools,” Mr. Sizer says. “I think we are going to take a solemn oath that 20 will be the absolute outside number. As we got deeper into this, we found out that our obligations were greater than we thought. This is not going be quick or easy. You have to plan carefully and move slowly.”

In addition to Westbury High School, the members of the coalition are:

Adelphi Academy, Brooklyn, N.Y. A private school located in a predominantly white community, Adelphi was one of the first two schools to join the coalition.

Although it enrolls students from kindergarten through 12th grade, only the upper school will be involved in the coalition project. Approximately 40 of the 265 high-school students are members of minority groups. The upper school has a 32-member faculty.

Before joining the coalition in September 1984, the school launched its “Adelphi Plan,” which closely resembles the model for schools outlined in Horace’s Compromise. Clinton Vickers is the school’s headmaster.

Central Park East School, New York, N.Y. Next fall, P.S. 171, a public elementary school in East Harlem, will begin the process of transforming itself into a K-12 school. The new school is moving into an old junior-high-school building in a low-income neighborhood. At present, the elementary school has an enrollment that is 59 percent Hispanic, 39 percent black, and 2 percent white.

According to coalition staff members, this fall the program will be limited to the school’s 90 new 7th graders. It will be expanded as the school adds new grades during the next five years. Deborah Meier is the school’s principal.

R.L. Paschal High School, Ft. Worth, Tex. Paschal, a comprehensive public high school with a 2,200-student enrollment, plans to open a “school-within-a-school” organized around the coalition’s principles next fall. The program, which initially will involve 100 9th and 10th graders and 10 teachers, will be expanded to cover all four grades within four years. Half of the school’s students are white, 20 percent are black, 20 percent are Hispanic, and the remainder are Asian. Radford Gregg is the school’s principal and Larry Barnes is the coordinator of the essential-school program.

Portland High School, Portland, Me. Like Paschal, this public high school also plans to implement the coalition’s principles by means of a school-within-a-school. The program will initially involve 80 stu-dents and five teachers. The school, located in a predominantly white city that was hit hard by the economic recession of the late 1970’s, has a total enrollment of 1,200 students. The principal is Barbara Anderson and the project coordinator is Betsy Parsons.

St. Xavier’s Academy, Coventry, R.I. St. Xavier’s is the coalition’s most recent member and the only Catholic school to join the group to date. An all-girls school with 130 students and eight full-time and seven part-time teachers, it has been involved in nontraditional education since the early 1970’s. At present, students at the school take only two courses each day, each of which last two and a half hours. Students progress at their own pace, ideally completing each set of courses in a 12-week period. Sister Teresa Foley is the school’s principal.

Thayer High School, Winchester, N.H. Thayer joined the coalition along with Adelphi at the beginning of the project. The 300-student public school has 35 teachers and is located in a poor rural area. It is said by coalition staff members to be the farthest along of all the coalition members, having reorganized its curriculum around the project’s nine principles over the winter. Dennis Littky is the principal.

United Day School, Laredo, Tex. Like Central Park East, this private elementary school in southern Texas is expanding to the 12th grade. The program will begin next year with the 7th grade, which will have 15 students, and will involve each successive 7th-grade class. The school now enrolls 240 students, 90 percent of whom are Hispanic. The headmaster is Charles Como.--tm

A version of this article appeared in the May 29, 1985 edition of Education Week as Essential Schools: Putting Theory into Practice


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP