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1995-1996 index


Distributed October 30, 1995
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Coalition of Essential Schools to be run and led by members

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- "For the first time in the history of school reform, a large-scale national movement is going to be driven and directed by the people inside America's schools, not outside `experts,' " said Theodore R. Sizer, the chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools, preparing to launch the second decade of this network of 930 schools.

On Thursday night, Sizer will announce a major shift in the Coalition of Essential Schools' structure to a crowd of 3,500 teachers, parents, students, administrators, and researchers gathered for the organization's annual Fall Forum, held this year in New York City. The plan, crafted by a committee of teachers and principals from the CES network, calls for an increase in the number and strength of local centers and the creation of a representative governing body.

The Coalition of Essential Schools will become a fully member-led organization, driven by the realities of the daily school experience. Regional centers will help chart strategy and organize local networks. By building local capacity, CES hopes to quicken the pace of change in schools working to help all children learn to use their minds well. (Further details and a summary of the report will be available at the Fall Forum.)

"The work of the Coalition of Essential Schools still arouses skepticism, both for the extent of the change it calls for and the difficulty such change faces in implementation," said Sherry King, the chair of the committee that drafted the proposal and superintendent of the Croton-Harmon, N.Y., school district. "The naysayers claimed for years that `those people' - ordinary teachers and principals - couldn't be trusted, and didn't have the expertise to create powerful and lasting change in schools. Our new structure directly challenges those assumptions."

"It will take a respectful relationship between those `on top' and those doing the teaching and parenting to forge the right answers," adds Sizer. "There are no `one-size-fits-all' answers for our classrooms or schools." Over the next decade, the Coalition intends to demonstrate, through its practices, what useful alliances could look like in communities throughout the nation.

Called radical and utopian at its inception 10 years ago, the Coalition of Essential School's network now includes 930 schools in 37 states and two other countries. Recent studies indicate that these schools show greater student engagement, achievement and satisfaction - and increased equity in achievement. Schools in the CES network have increased the number of their students going on to higher education, lowered absenteeism, raised attendance and reduced discipline problems. However, high test scores and college enrollment rates alone do not mean success. CES schools value qualitative changes - a growing atmosphere of decency, thoughtfulness, creativity, critical thinking and independent initiative.

CES has been nurtured and supported for 10 years by Brown University, which, under the direction of President Vartan Gregorian, has made a major commitment to improving education for all children. This unique University-school partnership has always emphasized work in the classroom, melding the best of research findings with field-tested experience.

The Coalition of Essential Schools will continue to have close ties with the recently organized Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, though it will explore the possibility of becoming an independent organization. It will maintain its concentration on implementation, while the Institute focuses on research, professional development and school restructuring to support the work of CES as well as other reform efforts. Both organizations continue to play prominent roles in the national discourse on education, offering insights grounded in the realities of daily school experience.

This new direction for CES grows out of a full year of discussion, led by a diverse committee representative of the tens of thousands of people within the CES network. The committee reviewed the many reports, evaluations and studies done about the Coalition and its member schools, and concluded that its success has reached far beyond its original expectations - and exceeded the limits of an organizational structure designed for a few dozen schools.

"The time has come to organize the Coalition of Essential Schools to take account of its success, to respond to regional and local differences, and to foster regional leadership," King said.

The Fall Forum will open with a day of visits to 16 of the 55 CES-affiliated schools in and around New York City and the surrounding area, and will continue with two days of intensive examinations of professional practice and the interwoven strands that make up education reform. Editors: Sizer, executive director of the Coalition of Essential Schools, and members of the Futures Committee will be available for conversation with the press at 3:30 on Thursday, Nov. 2 at the Sutton North Room of the New York Hilton & Towers. Refreshments will be served.

Media attending the Fall Forum must register at the Press Table in the New York Hilton & Towers lobby, 1335 Avenue of the Americas.

Please call Ken White for more information or to arrange interviews: 401/863-1375 (through Tuesday, Oct. 31); 212/581-1000, suite 1001 (from Thursday, Nov. 1, through Saturday, Nov. 4). E-mail: [email protected]

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A version of this release was sent to hometown newspapers
of educators who planned to attend the Fall Forum