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

From: Lori Mortimer <lori_at_lorimortimer.com>
Date: Mon Jul 12 15:23:00 2004

I don't know ... I didn't read it so much as being close minded as being an
attempt to make sense of what the school is by comparing it to what most
people know. It comes out as a "what it isn't" definition. That's often the
first step in the way people process a completely new idea -- we try to
classify it according to what we already know. It's not "it's own thing," but
a "not a that thing."

Now the question is, How do you get the reporter to the next step?

Lori

[new lurker on the list]

Quoting Jonell Alvi <jnjalvi_at_yahoo.com>:

> Carol,
>
> I LOVE your comments! Too often are people's minds closed to new ways
> of thinking about the world. Oh how I wish we had a Sudbury School in
> Idyllwild (where we live), so I could send my children there. I'm
> prepared to home-school, but not to start a school.... I do wish such a
> place were available to my sons; next to the home, they seem like the
> best places for children to learn and grow.
>
> Jonell Alvi -- mother of Ben (4) and Nick (1) and wishing Sudbury
> Schools were the norm...
>
>
> Carol Hughes <hughes0005_at_comcast.net> wrote:
> 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:
>
> To:
> 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
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > Discuss-sudbury-model mailing list
> > > Discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org
> > > http://www.sudval.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/discuss-sudbury-model
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> >
>
>
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-----------------------------------------------
Lori Mortimer -- Writing & Instructional Design
mailto:lori_at_lorimortimer.com
http://www.lorimortimer.com
Received on Mon Jul 12 2004 - 15:22:28 EDT

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