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Antioch New England/KSC Collaboration Will Help Schools Reform

KEENE, N.H. 7/18/01 - Antioch New England Graduate School and Keene State College have joined forces to help New Hampshire and Vermont schools reform their practices in line with a child-centered approach to education.

The N.H./Vermont Center becomes the 20th such organization in the country to grow from the work of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), based in Oakland, Calif. CES is a network of over 1,000 schools and regional centers that seek to promote student achievement and to develop more nurturing and humane school communities.

“This will be a wonderful partnership,” says Tom McGuire, a faculty member in the education department at KSC who, along with Antioch New England education faculty member Rick Gordon, will direct the new center. The emphasis of CES reform initiatives, explains McGuire, is on school teachers and administrators, students, parents, and local communities coming together to create goals and expectations for their school.

“This is not a cookie-cutter reform package,” says Gordon, who is also principal of the CES-designed Compass School in Westminster, Vt. According to Gordon, rather than prescribe one method for schools to adhere to, the Center will offer schools advice based on 10 reform principles. “These principles emphasize that lessons and programs be focused on helping students use their minds to problem solve and reflect, rather than being fed information, and that teaching should be personalized as much as possible,” he says. Also emphasized are interactions between classes and their local community, small class sizes, and inclusive practices.

To become a member of the Coalition for Essential Schools, says McGuire, a school has to meet the performance benchmarks stated in the CES’s principles. First, Center consultants will evaluate the school against the principles. The school and the Center will then agree on what the school’s reform goals should be and how the goals should be met. A year later, the Center will review the school’s progress and match performance with goals. If a school consistently failed to meet its goals, says McGuire, it could be removed from the CES.

Although the focus of the Center is helping schools implement new best practices, the Center will also work with schools to provide a forum for documenting, sharing, and publicly demonstrating their work, and advocating for the work and philosophy of the CES.

For more information, contact Rick Gordon, Antioch New England education faculty, at 603-357-3122, or Tom McGuire, KSC education faculty, at 603-358-2304.

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