Rather than presenting a cookie cutter model for education, the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) is guided by Ten Common Principles that seem straightforward, and yet are rarely implemented in schools. The Principles are designed to empower teachers who, from the perspective of the coalition, are committed and qualified, but unable to do the work of teaching due to conditions in school systems that make that work difficult. The Ten Common Principles are located on this website. CES offers a vision of education that sees students and teachers as active partners in creating meaningful learning. The website provides resources to aid in the reform. Perhaps the information on the website most valuable to students of education would be the resources on school design, classroom practices, and community involvement. Also noteworthy are history of CES, the common principles, and comparative data on students from CES schools and national averages.
Type of Material:
Reference and collection of materials designed to support the CES network of schools.
This web site should be used in teacher leadership education for prospective teachers to consider their role in establishing the school learning environment and to reflect on how to be proactive in solving problems they encounter. Students can explore the specifics involved in school reform and the process of change necessary to effective reform. Students could use the resources for research purposes or specific articles could be assigned to provide a basis for discussion on a specific issue.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The user can explore and learn about a variety of important educational issues. These resources will help teachers convert schools that are places for kids to mmet their friends and play around into institutions that challenge their minds and teach children to use their minds well using the Coalition for Essential School?s approach.
Target Student Population:
Teacher candidates and education professionals
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Users with experience in primary or secondary education would probably benefit most from the site.
Evaluation and Observation
CES provides a good balance of teacher voice and research base, with reference to the published literature. The focus on Common Principles makes it clear what consitute appropriate voice and what kinds of teacher talk might be inappropriate for CES schools. Sadly, teachers are not often encouraged to talk about the student life and learning issues addressed by CES. All teachers could benefit from knowing about the CES approach to thinking about teaching and learning. Given the current emphasis on accountability for schools this site provides resources helpful for anyone interested in the topic of improving the educational process. One will find extensive information about the topics of school structure, classroom practices, school governance, and family and community involvement. The material referred to as the Cycle of Inquiry describes the process of planning, implementing, evaluating and revising instruction. Good visuals are used to illustrate the relationship among these steps and how each step feeds into the other. While CES is based on their 10 Common Principles they also offer 4 essential design principles for effective school: depth as opposed to breadth in the curriculum to engage students in serious intellectual work, relatively small student loads (80:1 for secondary; 20:1 for elementary) so that teachers can know students well, teachers must have authority over their work, and family and community must be involved in the school. Such attempts to distill the essentials for effective schools into a short list encourage thinking about what is most important and critical about effective education and is a good exercise for professional and lay person alike.
A minor concern that may depend upon the voice is that some CES talk about learning seems to lose sight of the substantive content of the learning. While most of the examples among the resources are outstanding, a few leave one wondering about substantive learning goals.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The Ten Common Principles make sense. Teachers are often asked to do things - budget their time, manage financial resources, and handle students - in ways that don't make sense. The simplicity of the Principles and the graphics (Schools and Centers; Four Focus Areas) are major strengths. The site has resources on numerous topics with most being brief and informative. Perhaps its greatest value is in giving users an awareness of major issues to be considered in educational improvement. Active involvement of the user is encouraged by discussion forums in the My Homebase section of the website. A user can join discussion forums about various issues or even create a discussion about a specific issue.
As stated earlier, the website presents the approach of CES to educational improvement and for many of the issues the resources are written by the same person.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Well organized and professional-designed website with a tab-based navigational menu. This menu is easy to follow and each tabbed region has informative submenus. Getting lost in the website should not be an issue as tabbed navigational menu remains as a header for every page. Access is provided to an Online version of the CES publication, Horace, with a good search function and outstanding references to quality resources.