How Do I Educate Thee? Let Me Count the Ways …

Published January 1, 2005

Laptop Learning: St. Joseph High School Goes Wireless

On September 17, 2004, St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois launched itself into a new all-laptop learning environment with a virtual “ribbon-cutting” ceremony that sent the first official email from the school’s computer system to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. St. Joseph is the first high school in the Chicagoland area to become an all-laptop campus, with all faculty and students using IBM ThinkPad computers in class and in co-curricular activities.

According to Principal Donna S. Kiel, the first classes being switched to online textbooks are U.S. history, world history, geometry, and geography. Students, who pay for their own laptops, already have formed a Tech Team and operate a “Laptop Hospital” where machines are repaired. A corporate program is being organized where students can trade work for laptop payments.

St. Joseph High School is a college prep school. On average, 95 percent of its graduates are accepted into their college of first choice. The school is sponsored by the Christian Brothers and admits all students, regardless of their academic, racial, religious, or economic background.

Medical Magnet High School Opens in Los Angeles

Just a month after its construction was completed, the Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School (OHMMHS) opened its doors on September 9, 2004, welcoming students to a 32-classroom facility with a capacity of 762 students. OHMMHS is one of eight new schools that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) opened on the first day of school last year.

LAUSD developed the new magnet school in partnership with Orthopaedic Hospital for two purposes: To reduce overcrowding at nearby Jefferson High School, and to prepare students for careers in the medicine and health care fields, where currently there are shortages of physicians, nursing staff, and other professionals.

OHMMHS offers students courses in medicine and health care that allow them to gain a better understanding of different careers and professions related to the medical field. The new school includes a library, food service, cafeteria, science laboratories, and administration offices.

Faith First Awards 80 Tuition Scholarships in Philadelphia

Since starting up in July 2003, Philadelphia-based Faith First Educational Assistance Corporation has awarded 143 $500 tuition scholarships to students across the Philadelphia region. Eighty were awarded for the 2004-05 school year in a combined effort of Faith First, the Bravo Foundation, and WAWA Corporation. The recipients of this school year’s scholarships gathered with their parents on October 1, 2004 for an awards ceremony held in the colorful Houston Hall of Flags at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hundreds of other parents attended the event to pick up applications for scholarships for the 2005-06 school year to help their children attend the Christian school of their choice. Also attending the awards ceremony were Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of DC Parents for School Choice; Nelson Llumiquinga, director of outreach and training for the Alliance for School Choice; and Ron Harris, now of A Level Up and formerly with Children First America.

At Valley New School, Students Make Their Own Individual Education Plans

Student empowerment is taken to a whole new level at Valley New School, a charter school serving grades 7-12 in the Appleton School District in central Wisconsin. Students are handed the responsibility for taking charge of their own learning, together with the freedom to pursue their own interests and passions rather than following a pre-determined sequence of classes organized by academic subject.

The catch is: Students are required to develop a project plan for everything they do, align the goals of each project with state and local learning goals, get the plan–and the milestones for project completion–approved by their parents and their advisor, and complete 10 projects per year, spending approximately 100 work hours on each project. When projects are completed, students are awarded credit based on the quality and breadth of their work.

The approximately 80 K-11 students currently at the school–it started in 2003 with grades 7-10 and is adding a grade per year–work on a wide range of projects in the same open room at the same time. Current projects cover topics such as computer networking and biosynthesis in Science and Technology, fantasy literature and forensics in Literature and Fine Arts, black history and Australia in History and Geography, and NBA statistics and martial arts in Sports.

George A. Clowes ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.