First published: 1992-11-06 (see more)
In addition to being named a Blue Ribbon Schools finalist, Thornton Academy recently won a competitive Maine Department of Education Innovative Grant worth $4,500. Focusing on a national reform movement known as the "Coalition of Essential Schools," Thornton teachers and students are now beginning a year-long inquiry into the future of secondary schooling in Saco.
"This is a nationally funded way of looking at changing schools," Headmaster Carl Stasio Jr. said. "We're not making a commitment to a recipe book full of directions, but to a discussion of principles which outline how the school of tomorrow might look to teachers, to students, and to their parents."
TA director of instruction Lloyd Hunt explained the case for curricular innovations, saying, "The world's changed and there are some different needs for our students."
Jeff Brochu, a Thornton student involved in the study, agreed that systematic changes were called for. "If you've taken traditional courses all along and then put into a class that uses Foxfire, then you haven't had the experiences to prepare you for it," he said. Foxfire is a nontraditional method of teaching which focuses on student initiative and responsibility.
Nothing will be implemented before a full discussion of the issues takes place. "No change for change's sake," physics teacher Al Roper cautioned his colleagues. Mary Nasse, director of special services, agreed. "If you don't have a rationale behind them, then it's doubtful that changes will be meaningful or will last."
Established in 1984 at Brown University, the Coalition of Essential Schools is a nationwide high school-university partnership devoted to strengthening the learning of students by supporting each school's effort to reform its priorities and simplify its structures.
What essential schools hold in common is a simple set of principles that give focus to their effort. These nine principles, which include calls for student mastery in a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge, personalized teaching and learning, and a reduction in the student-teacher ratio, are intentionally general so that member schools can adapt them to their specific needs. "What is deemed essential is always local," explained Nasse, a grant co-author. Central to the philosophy, however, is that students should learn to use their minds well — an aim that mirrors Thornton's commitment to enabling students to become lifelong learners.
Tammie Greishaber of the Maine Department of Education said, "I am very impressed with the Thornton Academy people. They are working hard on change, not just tinkering but working on the whole."
Of the grant and inquiry, Headmaster Stasio said, "This is not a quick fix. This will not change Thornton Academy overnight. But we believe that it will be a substantial mode of change over the next decade."
title: "Thornton Wins State Grant"
outlet: TA Newsletter
citation: "Thornton Wins State Grant" Newspapers.com, Journal Tribune, November 6, 1992, https://pressherald.newspapers.com/article/journal-tribune-thornton-wins-state-gran/127627779/