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«Schools of Tomorrow,» Schools of Today

Progressive Education in the 21st Century – Second Edition

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Edited By Susan F. Semel, Alan R. Sadovnik and Ryan W. Coughlan

The second edition of «Schools of Tomorrow,» Schools of Today: Progressive Education in the 21 st Century documents a new collection of child-centered progressive schools founded in the first half of the twentieth century and provides histories of some contemporary examples of progressive practices. Part I discusses six progressive schools founded in the first part of the twentieth century (City and Country; Dalton; the Weekday School at Riverside Church; The Laboratory School at the Institute of Child Study; Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School; and Highlander), tracing them from their beginnings. Part II examines four more contemporary schools (Central Park East 1; Central Park East Secondary; Learning Community Charter School; and KIPP TEAM Academy), showing how progressive practices gained momentum from the 1960s onward. As a volume in the History of Schools and Schooling series, this book seeks to look to the past for what it can teach us today.
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Chapter 6. “A Laboratory of Learning”: Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School

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· 6 ·

“A LABORATORY OF LEARNING”

Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School

Sharon G. Pierson

Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School, also known as “Lab High,” emerged as part of the “laboratory” school trend of the Progressive Education Movement. Associated with higher education institutions, these schools carried distinctive histories and exhibited varied characteristics reflecting the diversity of progressive ideals. As early as 1907, Alabama’s laboratory high school, then named the State Normal School for Colored Students and Teachers, stood out among teacher training programs, noted for its strong education of teachers who were well prepared to pass the state teacher examination.1 By the 1920s, the laboratory high school boasted a well-educated teaching staff, consistently ranked at the top in the state with a full complement of college-educated faculty holding the “Rank I” teacher certificate. Its graduation rates far exceeded the local and national norms.2 By mid-century, Lab High enjoyed a more than thirty-year history that included a college preparatory liberal arts curriculum, participation in progressive studies of Black secondary education, and implementation of teaching methodologies that reflected the leading national educational trends.3 Led by progressive educators, Lab High offered a distinctive and privileged education to its students until it was discontinued in 1969.

Lab High was lauded for its emphasis on cooperative planning and learning.4 Its philosophy and objectives aimed to provide an enriching and ← 165 | 166 → nurturing community in which students would have the opportunity...

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