The Coalition of Essential Schools

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a conference to celebrate the work of Ted Sizer. Ted, along with his wife Nancy, and a few others like Deborah Meier and Dennis Littky, started the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES). This school reform movement began in the mid-80s and Crefeld became the 55th Essential School in the country in 1988. The 10 Common Principles of CES have guided The Crefeld School for 30 years. Deborah Meier was the opening keynote and she was as insightful and provocative as always. Here are two quotes from her speech that I want you to think about:

“When children are not heard, they have two options. They can believe that they do not deserve to be heard, or they can make you hear them.”

“Children spend 12 years in a school system that is thoroughly disrespectful to democracy.”

The conference ended by a moving address by Nancy Sizer, who spoke about the impact of her husband’s legacy. I was honored to be present.

The 10 Common Principles of The Coalition of Essential Schools:

  1. Learning to use one’s mind well

  2. Less is more: depth over coverage

  3. Goals apply to all students

  4. Personalization

  5. Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach

  6. Demonstration of mastery

  7. A tone of decency and trust

  8. Commitment to the entire school

  9. Resources dedicated to teaching and learning

  10. Democracy and equity

If you ever want to stop by my office to talk about CES, the 10 Common Principles, or progressive education, my door is always open.

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