Ten Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools
These principles were instrumental in the design of Oceana's program and overall educational philosophy.
For more information, visit the CES site.
The school should focus on helping adolescents learn to use their minds well. Schools should not attempt to be "comprehensive" if such claim is made at the expense of the school's central intellectual purpose.
The school's goals should be simple: that each student master a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge. While these skills and areas will, to varying degrees, reflect the traditional academic disciplines, the program's design should be shaped by the intellectual and imaginative powers and competencies that students need, rather than necessarily by "subjects" as conventionally defined. The aphorism "Less is More" should dominate: curricular decisions should be guided by the aim of thorough student mastery and achievement rather than by an effort merely to cover content.
The school's goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals will vary as those students themselves vary. School practice should be tailor-made to meet the needs of every group or class of adolescents.
Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. Efforts should be directed toward a goal that no teacher have direct responsibility for more than 80 students. To capitalize on this personalization, decisions about the details of the course of study, the use of students' and teachers' time and the choice of teaching materials,and specific pedagogies must be unreservedly placed in the hands of the principal and staff.
The governing practical metaphor of the school should be student as worker, rather than the more familiar metaphor of teacher-deliverer-of-instructional-services. Accordingly, a prominent pedagogy will be coaching, to provoke students to learn how to learn and thus teach themselves.
Students entering secondary school studies are those who can show competency in language and elementary mathematics. Students of traditional high school age, but not yet at appropriate levels of competency to enter secondary school studies, will be provided intensive remedial work to assist them quickly to meet these standards. The diploma should be awarded upon a successful full demonstration of mastery for graduation by an "exhibition." This Exhibition by the student of his or her grasp of the central skills and knowledge of the school program may be jointly administered by the faculty and by higher authorities. As the diploma is awarded when earned, the school'sprogram proceeds with no strict age grading and with no system of "credits earned" by "time spent" in class. The emphasis is on the students' demonstration that they can do important things.
The tone of the school should explicitly and self-consciously stress values of unanxious expectation. ("I won't threaten you but I expect much of you"), of trust (until abused) and decency (the values of fairness, generosity and tolerance). Incentives appropriate to the school's particular students and teachers should be emphasized, and parents should be treated as essential collaborators.
The principal and teachers should perceive themselves as generalists first (teachers and scholars in general education) and specialists second (experts in but one particular discipline). Staff should expect multiple obligations (teacher-counselor-manager) and a sense of commitment to the entire school.
Ultimate administrative and budget targets should include, in addition to total loads per teacher of 80 or fewer pupils, substantial time for collective planning by teachers, competitive salaries for staff and an ultimate per pupil cost not to exceed that at traditional schools by more than 10 percent. To accomplish this, administration plans may have to show the phased reduction or elimination of some services now provided students in many traditional comprehensive secondary schools.
The school should demonstrate non-discriminatory and inclusive policies, practices, and pedagogies. It should model democratic practices that involve all who are directly affected by the school. The schools should honor diversity and build on the strengths of its communities, deliberately and explicitly challenging all forms of equity.