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

From: Carol Hughes <hughes0005_at_comcast.net>
Date: Tue Jul 13 09:06:00 2004

Okay everyone,
I sent the letter to the Courant. I was going to re-write it to be ever so
tactful, but David's comment reminded me how much the media loves conflict
so what the heck. I sent it as is.

November of 2003 I sent the following letter to the San Francisco Chronicle.

So, this is me agreeing that letters put out there may make a difference.
Anyone going to join me?
Carol

Hi Jason,
I read your article with interest. My three children attended Sudbury
Valley School in Massachusetts for 15 years. It is always a certain irony
to me that articles about Sudbury schools necessitate a comment from
traditional educators as to the validity of these methods. Would you, if
doing an article about writers, consult a novelist for their opinion
regarding methodology in writing for the press? Time and again the opinions
expressed by traditional teachers/administrators are based on cursory
information at best. I am curious how much exposure and knowledge Shepard
has first hand about a Sudbury Model. The reservations are expressed based
on what?

Shepard said school staff would have to take extra care to ensure that
students do not shy away from subjects they may not like." I would want to
see to what extent they pursue interests over time,'' said Shepard. "Can
they choose not to involve themselves in math and science? That could be a
problem.'' Tis a myth, it seems to me, that students who do not have an
interest in a subject will over time get interested, if forced to study a
subject. Everyone has a subject that doesn't interest them. This kind of
quote simply shows a mindset which is looking for the Sudbury Model to be
accomplishing the same goals as a traditional school. Wrong measuring
stick!

The problems with modern day schools, in my opinion, stem from a fixed idea
of the educational model. I feel passionately that we must all take a good
hard look at they quality of students being produced by traditional models.
The media can take a very positive role here if they would also try on new
methods of observation when viewing something different from the typical
mainstream existence. Wouldn't it be grand if the media asked for input
from those of us knowledgeable about alternative means of approaching
education whenever there is an article about traditional schools?

Thanks for listening,
Carol Hughes

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Sadofsky" <sadofsky_at_comcast.net>
To: <demstartup_at_aramis.sudval.org>;
<discuss-sudbury-model_at_aramis.sudval.org>
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2003 9:50 AM
Subject: [Discuss-sudbury-model] In the news

> In today's San Francisco Chronicle:
>
> >>Concord school lets students rule
> >>At Diablo Valley, kids guide the curriculum
>
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Sadofsky" <sadofsky_at_comcast.net>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org>
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2004 2:45 PM
Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Newspaper Article Mountain Laurel
Sudbury School

> Hey Carol,
>
> So what do you expect from what passes for a journalist today?
>
> Just think about how ineffective most of those who rise to the top of
> their profession are at asking probing questions and constructing a
> picture of anything out of the ordinary. But how about a letter to
> the editor that asks these same questions? Perhaps enough of them
> might get someone thinking? Maybe this is a strategy worth
> consideration.
>
> Mike
>
> On Mon, 12 Jul 2004 14:28:06 -0400, "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: <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
> >> > _______________________________________________
> >> > 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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> >> Discuss-sudbury-model_at_sudval.org
> >> http://www.sudval.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/discuss-sudbury-model
> >>
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
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Received on Tue Jul 13 2004 - 09:05:32 EDT

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