IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
New Stanley Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas is typical of many urban elementary schools-two-thirds of its 360 students are from minority backgrounds (African-American, Native American, and Hispanic) and 75 percent of its enrollment is poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
With the help of a grant from the RJR Nabisco Foundation's "Next Century Schools" program, the school developed an innovative blueprint for learning that extends the school year, provides for a longer school day, groups teachers with the same students for several years, and encourages teacher collaboration.
At the heart of the effort: high expectations for all students, backed up by innovative approaches combining the best features of the Effective Schools movement, theories of student effectiveness and autonomy developed at Harvard University, and the pioneering work of Yale child development expert James Comer.
Among the features that help the school work: New Stanley is in session almost 11 months a year, with students attending school for 205 days, and teachers on duty for 226. School sessions run for ten weeks, followed by a week of teacher training and planning. "You don't get well-developed professionals with two inservice days a year," says Principal Donna Hardy.
Teams of teachers, moreover, are assigned to the same students for three- year periods. To meet the needs of working parents, New Stanley offers before- and after-school programs such as day care, tutoring and enrichment, recreation, and breakfasts.
Does any of this make any difference? So far the signs are encouraging. In justifying these changes, the school district guaranteed that all students entering middle school from New Stanley would do so at or above grade level. To date, the warranty has been kept.
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