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Nine Principles for Schools

January 12, 1994|ELIZABETH MEHREN

Members of the Coalition of Essential Schools agree to uphold "nine common principles" outlined by Theodore R. Sizer in his "Horace" books.

Sizer says the principles are flexible and are adaptable to a variety of secondary school environments. Here is a summary.

* All students can learn. A school should focus on helping them to use their minds well.

* The school's goals should be simple: that each student master a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge. The axiom "less is more" should dominate, meaning that students should master a few subjects thoroughly rather than skim through the content of many.

* The school's goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals will vary as those students themselves vary. School practice should be tailor-made to meet the needs of every group or class of adolescents.

* Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. Efforts should be directed toward a goal that no teacher have direct responsibility for more than 80 students.

* The governing image of the school should be student-as-worker rather than the more familiar concept of teacher-as-deliverer-of-instructional-services.

* Students entering secondary school studies are those who can show competence in language and elementary mathematics. Students of traditional high school age who have not yet reached appropriate levels of competence will receive intensive remedial help.

* The tone of the school should explicitly and self-consciously stress values of unanxious expectation ("I won't threaten you, but I expect much of you"), of trust (until abused) and of decency (the values of fairness, generosity and tolerance).

* The principal and teachers should perceive themselves as generalists first and specialists second.

* Ultimate administrative and budget targets should include, in addition to total student loads per teacher of 80 or fewer pupils, substantial time for collective planning by teachers, competitive salaries for staff and an ultimate per-pupil cost not to exceed that at traditional schools by more than 10%.

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