The Education Innovator #42
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 November 21, 2005 • Number 42
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St. Johnsbury Academy, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
What's New

Innovations in the News

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St. Johnsbury Academy Combines Small Town Ingenuity with an International Scope
Small Japanese lanterns line the path to enlightenment at Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara, Japan. Twelve students from the other side of the world crumple pieces of paper, scrawled with messages for hope, prosperity, or thanks, and place them inside the cracks of the lanterns. The students walk the path to Todaiji Temple, burn incense, and wash their hands from sacred basins before entering an enclave where Diahutsu, the world's largest bronze statue of Buddha, watches over the ancient Japanese capital city. These students from St. Johnsbury Academy in St. Johnsbury, Vermont are visiting Nara with their Japanese host families as part of their school's unique foreign language exchange program.

St. Johnsbury Academy is far from ordinary. It is a private high school nestled in the Green Mountains of New England. Although it is a private school, its day school program is open to students in the surrounding area through a school choice program, which allows parents to send their children to the school using public funds. This program, known as "tuitioning out," was put in place in the late 19th century when Vermont towns voted to pay tuition to private academies in lieu of establishing their own schools. Even though the school charges tuition, the day student tuition is actually less than the amount per pupil spent on students in Vermont (in 2001-02, for example, St. Johnsbury's day student tuition was $8,195 compared to the Vermont current per pupil expenditure of $9,806).

In addition to accommodating day students, the Academy offers students from outside the local area boarding space in five dormitories on campus. In total, students from 20 states, 45 different towns in Vermont and New Hampshire, and 20 foreign countries attend classes or board at the school. International students and U.S. students alike benefit from the school's international diversity. Students from abroad experience American culture and education, while U.S. students become familiar with cultures they would not typically interact with in some of the area's traditional public schools. The school's headmaster, Thomas Lovett, sends his children to the Academy. He notes, "I wish I had the education my children get here. The reality of diverse perspectives makes education lively. We are more tolerant, more given to listening, and more informed than we would be if we were not so international and still so close-knit." As well as the standard college preparatory and vocational curricula, the school has a center for international study, the Colwell Center for Global Understanding, which sponsors a number of foreign language exchange and study abroad programs.

Since its inception 163 years ago, the Academy has sought to provide an education that serves as a life foundation, enabling students to be "intellectually self-reliant and to function as constructive, moral members of society." As a result, the school, which offers advanced, college-preparatory, business, and technical courses, is designed to meet the needs of students with varied interests and abilities. The Academy offers 13 Advanced Placement (AP) classes covering topics such as mathematics, social sciences, computer science, history, and languages. Additionally, an English as a Second Language (ESL) program is designed to provide intensive training in reading, writing, comprehension, and spoken English for international students. Four levels of study are available, as is individual tutoring, a digital learning system, and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) assessment. For students who need additional support, the school provides a rigorous six-week summer program using the same teachers and methodology as those used during the academic year.

Charles Rollins, an alumnus of the Academy notes, "The Academy is definitely not the provincial school someone might expect to find in my Vermont hometown. I learned to speak Japanese, challenge myself, and think critically about global issues, all of which I use in my professional life." Mr. Rollins is currently an analyst covering Japanese and Australian counterterrorism efforts for the U.S. Department of Defense; he participated in a spring semester of St. Johnsbury's Japanese exchange program in 1997.

This year, the Academy's Colwell Center, founded in 2003, offers students educational programs in New Zealand, Spain, Belize, and Japan. Additionally, students may study the arts in Stuttgart, Germany, or spend a semester in Ladahk, India, through the Vermont International Studies initiative. A new study abroad program will take students to Argentina next year. The Colwell Center also sponsors guest scholars who spend weeks or months on the school's faculty, sharing the culture of their home countries. Last year, two professors, one from Morocco and another from Thailand, taught classes at the school. Last week, the Center sponsored a guest lecturer, Gayane Afrikaan, a scholar in residence at Harvard University and political affairs officer with the United Nations, who spoke with Academy students about her work in Afghanistan. Ms. Afrikaan's visit was made possible through the Academy's collaboration with the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.

The Colwell Center encourages students who have international connections to share their experiences and worldviews with the school community. Recently, a student whose family hails from Mexico spoke at the school's morning assembly about Mexican folktales and their significance. Another student from Japan prepared sushi as a fundraiser for local children with neurological disorders, and students in advanced Japanese and Spanish classes are teaching those languages to local elementary and middle school students through the Academy's Culture and Language After-School Program.

In addition to educating students, the Academy has a tradition of educating teachers. The school is a member of the College Board and has been designated by that organization as a training center for Advanced Placement teachers in New England. At the summer AP Institute, which began in 1986, AP teachers learn about the AP examination in their particular subject areas, share approaches in teaching, and develop assignments.

Prospective teachers also find opportunities at St. Johnsbury Academy through the teacher internship program. Recent college graduates with a record of high academic achievement who wish to pursue a career in education apply to this program. Participants teach at the Academy for one year and agree to live in one of the student dormitories as a "House Parent." Participants receive a background in teaching, a $12,000 stipend, and tuition credit at the University of Vermont.

The Academy is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and approved by the Vermont State Department of Education. It is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent School Association of Northern New England, and the Vermont Independent Schools Association. During the 1990-1991 academic year, the U.S. Department of Education honored St. Johnsbury Academy as a Blue Ribbon School.

Today, nearly 95 percent of St. Johnsbury students graduate, and about 80 percent enter postsecondary education. The Academy's students typically score in the 90th percentile or above on AP tests for English, European history, American history, and biology, and on the 2004-2005 Vermont Comprehensive Assessment System tests, 72 percent of tenth grade students scored in the highest two performance levels in "mathematical skills," and 79 percent scored in the two highest performance levels in "writing conventions." This year five seniors, out of the class of about 250 students, are National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. St. Johnsbury is the current state champion in the "We the People" program (see Innovator for September 21, 2005).

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative; however, it does not have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced a pilot program for 10 high-quality growth models that follow the principles of No Child Left Behind. Growth-based accountability models give schools credit for student improvement over time by tracking individual student achievement year to year. This pilot program will give the U.S. Department of Education the ability to rigorously evaluate growth models and their alignment with NCLB. (Nov. 18)

Secretary Spellings addressed a luncheon recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, saying, "One in every five children under 18 is of Hispanic origin. For our country to remain economically, civically, and democratically viable, we must ensure all these children receive the quality education they deserve." (Nov. 15)

Secretary Spellings released No Child Left Behind: A Road Map to State Implementation, which is designed to help state policymakers by describing ways the U.S. Department of Education, parents, educators, and state and local policymakers are making No Child Left Behind work. (Nov. 10)

The NCLB Blue Ribbon Schools were honored at a ceremony in Arlington, VA. The program honors schools that have either placed in the top 10 percent of the state in test scores or that have at least 40 percent economically disadvantaged students and have shown dramatic improvement in their test scores over three years. (Nov. 11)

Secretary Spellings kicked off International Education Week by joining students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for a live downlink with the crew of the International Space Station. (Nov. 15)

American History

The founders of the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, received the 2005 National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony. The award, granted by the National Endowment for the Humanities, honors those whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities. The Gilder Lehrman Institute is a valued partner of many of the OII Teaching American History grantees. (Nov. 10)

Arts Education

The Arts Education Partnership has released the report, Third Space: When Learning Matters. The report is based on a three-year research study of ten elementary, middle, and high schools serving economically disadvantaged students in urban and rural regions of the country and how and why the arts have enabled these schools to succeed. Four of the schools studied have participated in projects supported by OII's Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination programs, including Howell Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, which is part of Opening Minds Through the Arts (see Innovator for January 26, 2004). (Nov. 15)

For a second year, the U.S. Department of Education is displaying an exhibit of visual art and creative writing in the lobby of the Department's headquarters building in Washington, D.C., to celebrate International Education Week. The VSA arts exhibit features work by students from the U.S. and eight other countries. VSA arts is an OII Arts in Education Program grantee. (Nov. 14)

Parental Involvement/Technology

Every Person Influences Children (EPIC), a Parent Information and Resource Center in New York State, (see Innovator for April 4, 2005) has developed ThinkBright TV educational programming with Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Education Channel, among others. Programs have been developed for teachers, families, and students and are offered from 8:00 - 11:00 PM every evening. Program themes include "b-Healthy for Life," "Think Globally," and "The Arts" in the context of "Taking Charge of Your Child's Future" and "Success in Schools." (Nov. 8)

Virtual Pre-K, a program of Chicago Public Schools (see Innovator for January 3, 2005) will host a 4-hour seminar with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center on December 6 in Washington, D.C. The session is designed for early childhood educators and administrators who are involved with making home/school/community connections in English and Spanish. One focus will be on "Literacy-Based Museum Experiences." For more information, contact Alicia Narvaez (Nov. 10)


Innovations in the News

The D.C. Choice Incentive Program is taking hold in Washington with, according to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, the lowest-income parents from some of the lowest-performing schools taking advantage of the program. A Georgetown University report of a focus group of parents said that the parents of children who had transferred to private schools as a result of the program became more involved in their children's education, and their children's performance had improved. The program is being evaluated as required by federal legislation. [More-New York Sun] (Nov. 14)

Over 1,400 students in Prince George's County (MD) have changed public schools this year under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The number of students choosing to attend schools other than the ones assigned to them by the district is up about 35 percent from last year. Prince George's County considers school choice "a critical component" of NCLB. [More-Washington Post] (Nov. 10) (free registration)

International Education Week
The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education recognize November 14-18 as International Education Week. Throughout the week, the two departments highlighted various aspects of internationalism in the U.S. education system, including the Fulbright Program, the Future Leaders Exchange, and the Youth Exchange and Study Program. The Open Doors 2005 report was also released. This annual survey shows how many U.S. students are studying abroad and how many foreign students are studying in the U.S. [More-Community Dispatch] (Nov. 10)

Third and fourth graders in Akron-area (OH) elementary schools have decorated 12-inch squares with flags on globes to create a paper quilt, "Building Global Bridges...Making Global Friends." This artwork was displayed at the Northeast Ohio Summit on Citizen Diplomacy at the University of Akron for International Education Week. It will then be sent to Washington, D.C. to be hung in an embassy overseas in 2006. [More-Akron Beacon Journal] (Nov. 10) (free registration)

Private Schools
Private school enrollment is growing in Floyd County (GA). Parents are sending their children to private schools for the religious emphasis, small school size, and greater academic freedom. The Rome City Schools superintendent and other educators say the private school options foster competition and help the public schools improve. Since 1997, public school enrollment in Georgia grew 12.9 percent, while private school enrollment in the state increased 23 percent. [More-Rome News Tribune] (Oct. 30)

Raising Student Achievement
Hamilton County Schools (TN) (see Innovator for October 18, 2004) show improvement for the fifth consecutive year. According to the new report card, the number of schools meeting all 45 of the state's No Child Left Behind accountability standards increased to include 86 percent of the public schools in the county. In addition, the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts was recognized as a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School. [More-WTVC] (Nov. 2)

Teacher Quality/School Leadership
General Electric and IBM have announced new initiatives to help academic achievement through quality teaching. The General Electric Company will invest $100 million in the College Bound program to help students in 20 schools across the country go on to college. The funding will be used to develop new ways to teach math and science and for teacher professional development. Company officials also will be involved with carrying out the program in the schools. IBM is making it possible for some of its workers to become teachers after they leave the company through its Transition to Teaching program. The program will start off with about 100 IBM science and math experts. [More-VOA News] (Oct. 26)

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) has made an agreement with the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) to provide Pathwise® professional development workshops and materials to teachers, principals, and other school leaders through the WEAC Professional Development Academy. One component of the program will help principals improve their classroom observations by basing their evaluations on evidence and providing standards-based feedback and constructive support to teachers. Another component will help school leaders learn how to identify and correct issues that adversely affect teaching and learning. [More-Black Enterprise] (Nov. 3)


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Last Modified: 08/12/2009