Schools: What Works

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Any illusions that Lakeland High School seniors in a course called "Leadership" may have had about the ease of becoming a respected student leader are certain to be dispelled by the class's rigorous requirements.

To show them that genuine leaders are more than figureheads, the program requires the 35 students of this popular year-long course at the Shrub Oak, N.Y., high school to give their talent and time to benefit the school and the community.

The school's assistant principal, Robert Maher, developed the program five years ago to combat low school morale and to revive the student-government system. He wants students to know that they have abilities of value and that they can work constructively to shape their environment.

He asks the students in the class to: discover their own strengths and limitations; study various leadership styles and the lives of "famous leaders"; provide certain services to the school through committees; and volunteer 20 to 100 hours to a community organization.

The students coordinate a variety of school-oriented projects, such as the school's communication systems (the intercom, newspaper, bulletin boards, announcements), fund-raising drives, health fairs, and a crime-watch program.

In the community, the students pledge their time to such tasks as assisting in nursing homes, acting as special-education tutors, and acting as "big brothers" or as "big sisters" to the area's children.

For more information, contact Robert Maher, Assistant Principal, Lakeland High School, E. Main Street, Shrub Oak, N.Y. 10588.

A "dead" language is helping lively students communicate more effectively in Wood-Ridge, N.J.

Students at Wood-Ridge High School and their parents asked for greater emphasis on the humanities and communication skills. Two teachers of English and languages, Elizabeth Greeley Marcellaro and Gretta Roffman Ostrovsky, developed a program called "Verbal Vibes With Latin" for grades 6 through 12 to help the students increase their English vocabulary. The program shows how English words developed from Latin ones.

The teachers wrote graded workbooks that were published in 1982 by Lumen Publications [324 Passaic Ave., West Caldwell, N.J. 07006; $7.50 for the grade 11 workbook and $7.00 for all others.] Teachers using the workbooks need not have a background in Latin.

For more information, contact Gretta Roffman Ostrovsky, Wood-Ridge High School, 258 Hackensack Street, Wood-Ridge, N.J. 07075.

Where can a student go unblushingly for help with "writer's block" or a question about inside quotation marks? Students at Darien (Conn.) High School turn to their own "Writing Center."

At the center, juniors and seniors who have successfully completed a course in advanced composition and peer tutoring volunteer to help other students with their writing assignments for any course. These "peer tutors" offer suggestions on restructuring paragraphs, on punctuation, and on other composition and grammatical matters.

The tutors improve their own skills by writing critiques of the papers of other students. They must hone their verbal-communication skills to efficiently "brainstorm" ideas and explain their suggestions to their classmates.

Some of the students who come to the center have been assigned a specified number of tutorial sessions to work on writing problems. Others visit voluntarily during any free period they may have.

The school's English teachers report that these services effectively supplement the individual conferences that they are able to hold with their students each year, and they occasionally ask the tutors to assist them in class.

For more information, contact Doug Paulsen, English Department, Darien High School, Nutmeg Lane, Darien, Conn. 06820-3399.

Schoolchildren are seldom given a chance to develop solutions to their community's problems or to present these solutions to receptive officials in government and business.

But at Intermediate School 139 in New York City's Bronx section, students have been given such a chance through an informally administered project known as guts [Governmental Understanding for Today's Students]. For nine years, students concerned about the social, housing, and sanitation problems of their community have been allowed to choose one to study and work with city officials to solve them.

Three teachers and about 70 students usually participate. The teachers weave the special project into their subject-area teaching in social studies, English, and language arts.

According to the school's assistant principal, Walter Kurtzman, the program seeks to develop "critical thinking and student involvement in a context which involves the community in which the student will soon function as an adult."

After the students investigate the history of a problem, such as inadequate health care, they consider possible solutions and work to implement some part of them, if possible. One year, a group of students presented a health plan for the community to the Bronx borough president and also organized a community health fair.

The program has been highlighted in a publication of the National Council on Resources for Youth as an exemplary approach to developing responsibility in adolescents.

For more information, contact Walter Kurtzman, Assistant Principal, Intermediate School 139, 345 Brook Avenue, Bronx, N.Y. 10454 or Joan Schine, National Commission on Resources for Youth, 36 West 44th Street, New York, N.Y. 10036.

--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.)

Vol. 02, Issue 33

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