Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Progressive School Challenge, Take II

A week or so ago I posted under the title "Is your school progressive?" a kind of Progressive School Challenge, seeking examples of truly progressive practices of the sort that might aggregate to a functional definition of The New Progressivism. So far: a response from a single school.

I repeat the challenge here so that any school or school person interested in submitting--just use the "Comment" form below.

"Let's look at the question, "Is your school progressive?" Here is my challenge to readers:

List three (3) pervasive practices at your school that you would deem progressive; these cannot be practices that exist in only a few classrooms or program areas. Justify your list, citing specific philosophical progressives sources and or practical progressive inspiration. You may also submit documentary evidence (or links to it) such as the school's mission statement, published values, and standards for effective teaching.

I also am of the opinion that effective progressive education doesn't happen by accident. And of course my proposed certification process violates the most excellent Coalition [of Essential Schools] Principle of school being a place of unanxious expectations.

I am looking forward to building a list of self-nominated progressive schools and to some great discussion of the nature of progressive practice."

For those interested in reading the full post in which the challenge was presented, here is the link.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Hi Peter,
Hmm. The first school I taught at, and where I was happily ensconced for six years, was St. Ann's in Brooklyn Heights, NY. I have since concluded St. Ann's was progressive, but at the time I merely referred to it as an "upstart", not knowing that "progressive" was a much more apt description.

What made it progressive?
• In place of grades teachers wrote anecdotal comments. There simply were no grades, and colleges accepted that. The idea was you were there to learn, and were evaluated based upon getting from some starting point to some learning point. It was all about being part of a learning community.

• The lower school did not have class grades (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc). Each year students were placed in a class with other students and teachers based upon individual student development. Students wound their way through the lower school until they were ready for 5th grade and middle school.

• The arts played a huge role in how the school was structured. I vividly recall a day devoted to celebrating Shakespeare's birthday, with puppet parades down the main street.

• The graduation speaker was always chosen by the graduating class, and it was not unusual for the speaker to be a faculty member.

• Faculty members had the option of being called by their first names, which the vast majority of us chose to do.

Okay, I have not justified my list, and some items are more pedagogical than others, but combined they provide a sense of what St. Ann's was like in the 1980s. I imagine if I were to visit it would still have a familiar feel.

Part of what made the school work is the founding headmaster was there until just a few years ago. New(ish) schools, founded on specific ideas, can stay true to those ideas and flourish because everyone involved knows just what those ideas are. If you don't agree with them, you don't apply to the school.

Okay, post already too long ;-) Happy Holidays!
Cheers, Laurie

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