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«Schools of Tomorrow,» Schools of Today

Progressive Education in the 21st Century – Second Edition


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 8. Central Park East (CPE 1): An Experiment in Public Progressive Education


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An Experiment in Public Progressive Education

Bruce Kanze

In the year 2015, progressive education is alive but struggling in the New York City public education system. From the earliest days of public education in New York City,1 schools have been shaped by tensions between innovation and standardization, between initiative on a school and community level and central control, and between pedagogy and politics. In the 1970s, a number of “schools within schools” were created by dividing large, underutilized school buildings, where teachers seldom knew all of the students in the school, into multiple small schools within the same educational complex. In a smaller school, all of the teachers and students would know each other, and teachers could adapt the curriculum to the learning of the students in deliberate ways.2 Many of the reorganized schools had specific themes or ways of working with children. For example, a school could have an environmental theme or adopt an open classroom approach to teaching. These schools had clear identities and provided a small number of parents with the choice to enroll their children in an alternative educational environment. One of these schools was Central Park East Elementary School (CPE 1).

The movement to create small schools was born in a struggling school district in New York City. In 1973, Anthony Alvarado, a thirty-one-year-old innovative educator, was appointed superintendent of schools in District 4, ← 239...

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