Proposals for School Reform Include Varied Approaches

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

TAKEN collectively, the 11 design teams receiving grants from the New American Schools Development Corporation offer a quick lesson on the latest theories in education reform.

Frank Newman, president of the Education Commission of the States in Denver, calls them "semi-radical ideas."

"We're not likely to see truly radical solutions [from these projects] but advances over where we are now," he says.

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Almost all the schools plan to use technology in classrooms and integrate health and human services with schooling.

Following is a brief outline of the winning teams and their proposals:

ATLAS Communities, Providence, R.I. This team is a collaboration between several prominent education reformers and theorists: Theodore Sizer, James Comer, and Howard Gardner. The schools will draw on Mr. Sizer's principle that "less is more" and instruction will emphasize "learning by doing."

Each school will be managed by a team of teachers, parents, high-school-age students, and the principal. Schools are planned in Lancaster, Pa.; Norfolk, Va.; Prince George's County, Md.; and Gorham, Maine.

The Odyssey Project, Gaston County, N.C. This project includes 54 schools. Grade levels will be eliminated and advancement will follow performance requirements rather than age. A Learning Support Center will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and schools will operate year-round.

Roots and Wings, Lexington Park, Md. This project, which involves education researcher Robert Slavin, will focus on four elementary schools in St. Mary's County, Md.

"WorldLab," a program in which students work on simulations of real-life problems, will be used in all schools. Testing will be performance-based and instead of grades, students will be grouped across age lines.

The National Alliance for Restructuring Education, Rochester, N.Y. Connected with the New Standards Project, this team calls for defining outcomes and carefully measuring student progress. Schools will apply the principles of Total Quality Management, as used by many major corporations. Plans are for 243 schools in seven states by 1995.

The Bensenville Community Design, Bensenville, Ill. This town of 17,000 residents, located near Chicago, plans to use the entire community as a campus. A Lifelong Learning Center, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., will serve as headquarters, but government offices, libraries, and recreation facilities will become classrooms as well.

The College for Human Service (The Audrey Cohen College Design Team), New York. The focus here will be on connecting learning to the real world. Students will spend several hours each week outside of the classroom. Seven to 30 schools are planned in six states.

Community Learning Centers, Minneapolis, Minn. Using the Minnesota Charter School law, this team will design and initiate new schools in three Minnesota school districts.

The Co-NECT School, Cambridge, Mass. With initial school sites in Boston and Worcester, Mass., this team will implement a math and science curriculum with extensive use of computers.

Expeditionary Learning, Boston. The curriculum for these schools will be based on the International Baccalaureate. Schools will offer "intellectual and experiential expeditions." These might include trips to the wilderness, museums, or businesses. Schools are planned in Portland, Maine; Boston; New York; Decatur, Ga.; and Douglas County, Colo.

The Los Angeles Learning Centers, Los Angeles. This partnership includes the L.A. Unified School District and the United Teachers of Los Angeles, a local teachers' union, and will involve about 3,200 students. One site will be designed from "scratch." Classes will be ungraded and students will be assessed by performance.

The Modern Red Schoolhouse, Indianapolis. Seven school districts including urban, rural, and suburban students in Indiana, North Carolina, and Arizona will participate. A core curriculum will emphasize a "classical education." Students will participate in self-paced learning. Former Secretary of Education William Bennett and the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis are part of the design team.

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