July 31, 2005

Examples of Educational Alternatives

Alternatives come in many types. Here are four alternatives--unusual and extraordinary public schools with links for more information:
Jennings Experiential High School takes its urban students on two 35 day overseas trips, this year to Costa Rica and Ghana, West Africa. There they perform community service and study many aspects of the environment. They prepare for the trips with five weeks of intensive study.
Village school.gif
Minnesota New Country School (7-12) and River Heights Charter School (9-12) contract for staffing and other services with a cooperative of teachers. Students study topics of personal interest using the project method for learning.
Village School of Northfield (K-12) gives staff and students a vote about all aspects of the school. They follow the Sudbury model of permitting students to follow their interests at their own pace.Studio 4.jpg
High School for Recording Arts (9-12)joins a school with a commercial recording arts business, Studio 4. Their high-need students enroll because of an interest in popular music, hence the nickname, Hip Hop High. Records have been distributed nationally.

These experiential learning examples show the diversity among educational alternatives that parents, students and staff can choose from. Extending school choices for learning is the mission of IALA. This website's purpose is to promote thoughtful examination of the one-size-fits-all philosophy so much the central tenet of traditional education. We wish to assist policy makers and others who recognize the benefits of providing an array of educational choices.

Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2004

Alternative "free schools"

We're seeing an increase in schools that give enormous freedom to students and staff. Well-known in this category is the Sudbury Valley School in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Serving K-12 students, the school is now in the its 36th year and has at least 31 replications. One of those schools, Fairhaven, received considerable publicity in an Education Week lengthy and sympathetic article which began with this paragraph: "Imagine a school with no classrooms or desks. No textbooks or required reading. No tests. No academic standards. No benchmarks. No principal." It was also recently written up in the Christian Science Monitor.

Most of these schools are private but some are public schools and raise important questions about their effectiveness. Interestingly, that question has been answered in a number of studies showing that graduates of "free" or democratic schools (as this group is sometimes labeled) are successful in numerous professional and other fields and express happiness with their lives.

These schools and other signs of an educational revolt against rigid standards and academic testing may be the early indication of a sea change in educational philosophy similar to that of the 1960s when the modern era of educational alternatives began. A. S. Neill's book, Summerhill and a flood of books and articles from such authors as: John Holt, Herb Kohl, Jonathan Kozol, George Dennison, Paul Goodman and others became the rage among thoughtful citizens and educators. For an excellent account of that movement see Ron Miller's Free Schools, Free People: Education and Democracy After the 1960s. Stay tuned.
Picture below: Sudbury Valley School


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Posted by Wayne Jennings at 11:23 AM