Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Newspaper Article Mountain Laurel Sudbury School

From: David Rovner <rovners_at_netvision.net.il>
Date: Mon Jul 12 14:48:00 2004

Regrettably, negative news ("yellow journalism") sell newspapers best,
Carol.

Still at the end says: "I think they are learning a broader set of skills to
be self-sufficient," she said. "Instead of working on tests, projects and
getting A's, they are focused on self-examination and what they want in
life."

~ David Rovner

----- Original Message -----
From: "Carol Hughes" <hughes0005_at_comcast.net>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org>
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2004 8:28 PM
Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Newspaper Article Mountain Laurel Sudbury
School

> Is it just me or does every single article about Sudbury schools sound the
> same? The limitation time and time again is that the interview is most
> likely the journalist's first and only exposure to alternative educational
> views.
>
>
>
> The number one comment is always "there are no tests, grades or homework".
> Just kinda bugs me that the first thing stated is what they don't do at
> Sudbury Schools. Here's my suggested line instead. All learning and
growth
> is student-driven. Values placed on knowledge are in the student's own
> mind. All the relationships among student and staff are relied upon for
> feedback on the fulfillment of a chosen path of learning. The students
are
> keenly aware of each other's activities and areas of interest.
>
>
>
> Predictable comment number two, "no teachers, formal classes or a
> curriculum". Egads did the word shepherd really appear in this paper
> without the editor throwing it out?
>
> "Students are guided by staff members who shepherd them toward resources
and
> information." In truth, everyone is a "teacher" at a Sudbury school.
Just
> my opinion.
>
>
>
> Comment number three "lack of structure". Well, yeah, lack of the
structure
> you remember and know about, but there is definitely a structure of a
> different kind.
>
>
>
> Then of course we have the "expert" who has his doubts about this sort of
> school for everyone. "experts question their effectiveness for all
students"
> Pulllleeze. Can we talk, as Joan Rivers would say, about the
effectiveness
> of traditional schools?
>
> Okay, so is this about home-schooling in this journalist's eyes? Perhaps
> since the enrollment is so small at this school we can over-look this one.
> A Sudbury school is definitely NOT a home-school.
>
>
> "On any given day, you're as likely to see them climbing trees as reading
> books." Now there ya go, we're really "getting" the Sudbury concept now.
>
>
> "Students shoulder the ultimate responsibility for acquiring the knowledge
> needed to reach their goals." How successful these students are depends on
> the child and his or her family, said noted author and educator Theodore
> Sizer. Those who fare best are instinctively curious, stubborn and highly
> self-motivated. Hmmmmmmmm, am wondering how this is different from any
> school, students, family, er ah life.
>
> "There are some kids who will simply drift and flounder," Having been to
a
> private fundamentalist high school, I can assure you that drifting and
> floundering is a normal state for many young people. Say who is this
Sizer
> and how much time has he spent at a Sudbury school?
>
>
> "despite the lack of direct supervision." Tain't so, this lack of
> supervision. Oh well, if you can't see it you can't see it.
>
>
> "Ultimately it comes down to the individual and how well they apply
> themselves." Now there's a radical idea.
> Okay, I fell better now,
> Carol Hughes
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <brenner1_at_att.net>
> To: <discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org>
> Sent: Monday, July 12, 2004 9:34 AM
> Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Mountain Laurel Sudbury School
>
>
> >
>
http://www.ctnow.com/news/education/hc-sudbury0712.artjul12,1,3722036.story?
coll=hc-big-headlines-breaking
> > Ultimate Unschool
> > ByLORETTAWALDMAN
> > Courant Staff Writer
> >
> > July 12 2004
> >
> > Every so often Nick Marshall-Butler gets a call from a former classmate
at
> Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford. Almost always, they want to know
> when he's coming back.
> >
> > "Why would I come back?" he asks.
> >
> > At Mountain Laurel Sudbury School in New Britain - where Nick is now a
> student - there are no tests, grades or homework. Students have a say in
> every decision and choose what they want to study.
> >
> > There are a total of five pupils and no teachers, formal classes or a
> curriculum. Students are guided by staff members who shepherd them toward
> resources and information.
> >
> > "Most of my friends think it's crap," said Nick, a self-assured
> 14-year-old with braces and spindly legs. "They are entitled to their
> opinion. I like it. It's good for me."
> >
> > Everyone involved with this private alternative school founded in New
> Britain two years ago seems to feel the same way. Despite the lack of
> structure, they are confident there is as much or more learning going on
as
> in a conventional private or public school setting.
> >
> > But Mountain Laurel is struggling to survive. Operating expenses are
> covered almost entirely by the $5,000 annual tuition, and, with just five
> students, the school is barely viable.
> >
> > Board members host monthly open houses to attract new students - the
next
> one is scheduled for July 21 - but if more don't enroll the school will
> close, said Marie Sampson, a retired public school teacher and the only
paid
> member of Mountain Laurel's six-person staff.
> >
> > "It's a challenge until you get going," Sampson said. "It's a new idea
and
> it can be scary to people."
> >
> > Looking For An Alternative
> >
> > Mountain Laurel is one of the many "unschools" popping up across the
> nation. The growth of these alternative educational opportunities - though
> experts question their effectiveness for all students - has been explosive
> and is expected to continue. Increased emphasis on standardized tests and
> ever more rigid standards in public education are among the reasons, they
> say.
> >
> > "What's happened is people are fed up with the dregs of the old system,"
> said Jerry Mintz, director of the Alternative Education Resource
> Organization, a New York-based resource center for home-schoolers and
> alternative educators. "Thanks to `No Child Left Behind,' people are
> abandoning [conventional] schools in droves."
> >
> > In the last two decades, the number of parents home-schooling their
> children has grown from 20,000 to about two million - a 100-fold increase,
> Mintz said. He estimates there are about 12,000 alternative schools
> nationwide, which includes Montessori, charter and public alternative
> schools.
> >
> > Of those, about 300 follow the democratic - one person, one-vote - model
> of Mountain Laurel Sudbury. The fledgling operation is one of about 30
> "Sudbury" schools in the nation - and two in Connecticut, New Britain and
> Hampton - modeled after Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass.
> >
> > Founded 35 years ago, that school sits on a wooded estate near Boston.
> Mountain Laurel occupies a rented portion of the religious education
> building of St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
> >
> > Students and staff - a mixture of former home-schoolers and refugees
from
> the public school system - point to the success of the original school
when
> asked about their prospects. Close to 90 percent of Sudbury Valley's
nearly
> 700 graduates have gone on to colleges and universities in the United
States
> and abroad, said Mimsy Sadofsky, a staff member and spokeswoman.
> >
> > Everyone Has A Say
> >
> > The Sudbury model includes weekly school meetings. At Mountain Laurel,
> they are laid back, free-form affairs.
> >
> > At a recent meeting, Sampson and Beth King, a parent and part-time staff
> member, ran through items on the agenda. Nick stood over a stool nearby
> alternately playing cards and offering feedback and commentary.
> >
> > Two other students, Emily King, 16, and Shae Nethercott, 13, played Old
> Maid at a nearby table. Nick's 5-year-old brother, Liam, the school's
> youngest student, twirled in circles in his stocking feet, swatting the
air.
> >
> > Students draft school laws, and at this meeting - the last one of the
> school year - they revised a policy on leaving campus. King dragged a pink
> highlighter across a map to mark the boundaries of the downtown area where
> students are now allowed to visit.
> >
> > The next item: Voting on whether to use student activity funds for
> everyone to have lunch at a downtown diner. Approval was unanimous. The
> outing was to celebrate the end of the school year.
> >
> > King said she home-schooled Emily and her 18-year-old sister, Alex,
before
> enrolling them at Mountain Laurel.
> >
> > "What we were looking for was for her to be able to direct her own
> learning but to have a community around her everyday," said King, who
heard
> about the school from a professor at Central Connecticut State University.
> >
> > Nick was bored and stressed out attending Sedgwick, said his mother,
> Melissa Marshall, a trustee of Mountain Laurel. "Schools are so focused on
> standardized tests that it takes away from real learning."
> >
> > Since transferring, Nick seems more responsible, more independent and
more
> in charge of his own life, Marshall said. "I've seen so much growth in
every
> single kid at the school."
> >
> > The school maintains regular hours, but full-time students are required
to
> be there only 25 hours a week. On any given day, you're as likely to see
> them climbing trees as reading books.
> >
> > But equipment is sparse: a couple of donated computers, a VCR and a
> television purchased when the school opened. Bookshelves are filled with
> mostly donated books and supplemented by the collection at New Britain
> Public Library, where students also rent videotapes and use the computers.
> >
> > There are no graduation requirements. If students want one, however,
they
> could propose it and bring the matter to a vote at a school meeting.
> >
> > "We create rules as we need them," Sampson said.
> >
> > Not For Everyone
> >
> > Such liberties come with a price. Students shoulder the ultimate
> responsibility for acquiring the knowledge needed to reach their goals. If
> Nick, for example, wants to attend a college requiring a diploma or the
SAT,
> it's up to him to master the material needed to pass either test.
> >
> > How successful these students are depends on the child and his or her
> family, said noted author and educator Theodore Sizer. Those who fare best
> are instinctively curious, stubborn and highly self-motivated.
> >
> > "There are some kids who will simply drift and flounder," said Sizer,
> former dean of Harvard University's graduate school of education and
founder
> of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a school reform initiative.
> >
> > Some youngsters mistakenly think "democratic" means "I can do anything I
> want," said Sizer. "There is another side, a very difficult side, that
> involves pitching in and working together to make the community
collectively
> function. The whole thing rests on the paradox of having a structure in
> place that allows kids to learn how to work as a community in a democratic
> way."
> >
> > Whether that's happening at Mountain Laurel is hard to say. Students do
> appear happier, though, and extraordinarily mindful of rules despite the
> lack of direct supervision.
> >
> > On one warm June afternoon, Nick, Shae and Emily huddled on the stone
> stairs outside the church chatting and reading paperbacks.
> >
> > "Here you're not going to be forced to read a certain thing and then
tell
> everyone about it," said Shae, whose mother describes her as a bright,
> strong-minded kid with a thing about rules.
> >
> > Shae, who transferred to Mountain Laurel from Chippens Hill Middle
School
> in Bristol, battled with her mother nightly over homework. She took three
> different medications for a collection of learning and behavioral
problems,
> including attention deficit disorder, sad Liz Shupe, her mother.
> >
> > "In public school, you have to fit into a box otherwise you're in
> trouble," Shupe said. "You're not to question anything. She's not that
kind
> of person."
> >
> > At Mountain Laurel, Shae is "functioning beautifully" and no longer
> requires medication. "She's much easier to deal with and much happier,"
> Shupe said. "It's such a relief."
> >
> > Nick, who is fascinated with politics, spends one day a week doing
> volunteer work for U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd's office in Rocky Hill.
Emily
> is enrolled in a pottery class at Wesleyan University in Middletown.
> >
> > If such freedoms seemed radical when alternative schools such as Summer
> Hill appeared on the scene 40 years ago, they don't anymore. For more than
a
> decade, public educators have been using the approach to deal with
so-called
> "high-low" students - low performers with high intelligence - or those not
> finding success in a traditional school setting.
> >
> > Colleges have come around, too. Receiving applications from students who
> lack grades or traditional transcripts is not a new phenomenon, said
Reggie
> E. Kennedy, senior associate dean of admissions at Trinity College in
> Hartford. Instead of transcripts, administrators rely on interviews and
> recommendations.
> >
> > "We just take those on a case-by-case basis," Kennedy said of such
> students. "You never want to close the door. Ultimately it comes down to
the
> individual and how well they apply themselves."
> >
> > Trustees at Mountain Laurel have set July 31 as the deadline for
> bolstering enrollment. Whether the school survives hinges on how well they
> convey their vision to parents like Heidi Alletzhauser.
> >
> > The Bristol resident and her husband were among those attending one of
two
> open houses at Mountain Laurel last month. They are weighing whether to
> register three of their four sons and concede they are still undecided.
> >
> > "What draws us is the egalitarian nature of the culture there: the
ability
> of the kids to be able to pursue deeply what interests them," said
> Alletzhauser, who moved to Connecticut from California two years ago.
> >
> > The lack of a permanent facility, the school's small student body and
its
> uncertain future are among their concerns, Alletzhauser said.
> >
> > Melissa Marshall hopes the school can be saved. She is certain that both
> Nick and Liam will come away from their education there better equipped
than
> they would from a public school.
> >
> > "I think they are learning a broader set of skills to be
self-sufficient,"
> she said. "Instead of working on tests, projects and getting A's, they are
> focused on self-examination and what they want in life."
> > Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant
> >
> >
> >
> > -------------- Original message from Mike Sadofsky : --------------
> > > >July 12, 2004
> > > >Ultimate Unschool - Hartford Courant
> > > >At Mountain Laurel Sudbury School in New Britain there are no tests,
> > > >grades or homework. Students have a say in every decision and
> > > >choose what they want to study.
> > >
> > > These are the opening words in an article in today's Hartford (CT)
> > > Courant. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make it through their
> > > *registration* process in order to access the entire article. Perhaps
> > > someone else will and will post the entire text here.
> > >
> > > Mike
Received on Mon Jul 12 2004 - 14:47:14 EDT

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