In The Vanguard of the Small School Revolution
Published in Inside - Volume X, No. 5
By Joe Levine
"Our first generation of new schools is proving that small schools can help improve student commitment and achievement," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference on February 1, where he announced that the city will open 52 new small schools in September 2005.
They are also proving that TC is a vibrant and pervasive force in New York's K-12 education scene.
The day before the Mayor's announcement, TC's National Academy of Excellent Teaching (NAfET)--which provides professional development and literacy training in 18 small high schools in the Bronx--conducted the third annual Small Schools Conference. The conference brought together over 600 principals, teachers and other educators from small schools across the city (see "Educating Small"). Two small school principals in attendance, Joshua Laub (Banana Kelly High School) and Nancy Mann (Fanny Lou Hamer Freedom High School), are part of the College's Cahn Fellows program, which brings together the city's top principals for a year-long process of management training and project work. The College also can claim direct parentage to the Heritage School, a small high school in East Harlem that was founded seven years ago by TC arts professor Judith Burton.
The city's existing small schools-which include 157 new small secondary and charter school created by New York's Children First New Schools Initiative during the past two years-boast a 93 percent promotion rate among 9th graders, compared with the city-wide average of 68 percent. Attendance records show similar results. Bloomberg called small schools "a crucial part of our strategy to close the achievement gap to help our low performing high schools students, who are predominately African American and Hispanic, to graduate with the skills they need to succeed."
New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein added, "Students are being challenged by high standards, engaged by strong principals and teachers who know them, and inspired by intermediaries and community partners who show them a world of new opportunity. Our small schools are working, and they will be working for thousands of more students in September."
TC will have an even stronger presence among the 52 new schools that will open in the fall. The College partnered with Replications, Inc., the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx Opera Company and Bronx Community College to develop the Metropolitan High School, a Bronx-based school that will replicate the highly successful Noble Street Charter High School in Chicago.
Another new institution, the High School of Arts, Imagination and Inquiry, was developed with the help of Maxine Greene, emeritus professor at TC and philosopher-in-residence at Lincoln Center. The school was developed by a partnership between the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education (LCI) and New Visions for Education, which helped develop several other new small schools and is headed by Robert Hughes. Hughes formerly served as Deputy Director of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the plaintiff in the multi-billion dollar school finance suit aimed at forcing New York State to increase education funding to New York City. Also involved in the school's development were: Scott Noppe-Brandon, Executive Director, LCI; Madeleine Holzer, Program Development Director, LCI; Greene, Philosopher-in-Residence, LCI; Stephen Noonan, aspiring principal; Sonnet Takahisa, New Visions; Nicholas Michelli, CUNY; Kesha Atterbury, Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center; Jeanne Kerwin, The Computer School; and, Kevin Williams, Frederick Douglass Academy.
Greene says she is "proud, because we got what we worked for," but also relieved that the school will not, as originally proposed, be named after her-an honor apparently reserved for the deceased. "I'm not dead," she said.
The school will be located within the Martin Luther King, Jr. high school campus, close to Lincoln Center, an appropriate location given Greene's more than 25-year association with the center.
While she won't be teaching at the school, Greene will have a hands-on role, meeting with teachers once a week for professional development. She will use that time as her own classroom, with discussions centered on assigned texts and visits to art exhibits. "I've been a philosopher all these years," she explains, "but never really had a chance to relate theory and practice in this way."