Sizer's Coalition Expands To Include Elementary Grades

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One of the nation's most prominent high-school-reform initiatives, the Coalition of Essential Schools, is branching out into the elementary grades.

Nearly 300 teachers, parents, and administrators from 18 states were expected to gather in New York City late last week to launch a national network of elementary schools based on the coalition's ideas.

The conference was sponsored by the Center for Collaborative Education, a network of reform-oriented New York City public schools that is a local chapter of the coalition. Seven of its 16 members are elementary schools.

Priscilla Ellington, the co-director of the center, argued that it was time to broaden the focus of the coalition, whose energies thus far have been directed mainly to improving secondary school practices.

"We just think, at this point in time, that it's really important to have a K-12 outlook,'' she said.

In December, the center received a one-year, $150,000 planning grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to help launch the elementary school network.

The organizers of the network said they hope to publish a newsletter focused on elementary school reform; organize conferences, workshops, and site visits at coalition elementary schools; and develop a system of short-term residencies for teams of elementary school practitioners at schools affiliated with the center or with the coalition.

Eventually, they hope to create regional centers around the country that could provide technical assistance and support to local elementary schools engaged in reform.

Principles Adapted

In preparation for the April 22-24 meeting, Theodore R. Sizer, the chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools and a professor of education at Brown University, adapted the nine common principles embraced by coalition high schools to reflect elementary school practices and language.

For example, the principles emphasize that "students of all ages'' should have the opportunity to discover and construct meaning from their own experiences. In addition, coalition elementary schools would not have "strict age grading,'' since students would be expected to advance based on their mastery of knowledge and skills.

Another principle emphasizes that families should be "vital members'' of the school community.

More information on the elementary school network is available from the Center for Collaborative Education, 1573 Madison Ave., Room 201, New York, N.Y. 10029; (212) 348-7821.

Vol. 12, Issue 31

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