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Old 11-21-2006, 04:57 PM   #1
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Being 15 going on 16 soon, this is a really good idea. This makes me want to move to Brooklyn.

School Has No Grades, Homework Or Tests
Students Decide Rules

POSTED: 6:48 am EST November 21, 2006
UPDATED: 12:44 pm EST November 21, 2006

NEW YORK -- One recent day at the Brooklyn Free School, the "schedule" included the following: filming horror movies, chess, debate and making caves for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Not that the students had to go to any of these sessions. At this school, students don't get grades, don't have homework, don't take tests, and don't even have to go to class - unless they want to.

"You can do basically anything at any time, and it's just a lot more fun because sometimes when you need a break at regular schools you can't get it," said Sophia Bennett Holmes, 12, an aspiring singer-actress-fashion designer. "But here, if you just need to sit down and read and have time to play, then you can do that."


"Free schools," which had their heyday decades ago, operate on the belief that children are naturally curious and learn best when they want to, not when forced to. Today, the approach is getting another look from some parents and students tired of standardized testing, excessive homework, and overly rigid curriculums.

"Every kid here is definitely motivated to learn something, there's no doubt in my mind," said Alan Berger, a former public school assistant principal who founded the Brooklyn school in 2004. "Our belief is that if we let them pursue their passions and desires, they'll be able to get into it deeper. They'll be able to learn more how to learn."

Hundreds of free schools opened in the U.S. and elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s. Most shut down, but some, such as the Albany Free School and Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, have persisted. Overall, it's unknown how many free schools operate today.

The ones still in operation often use a "democratic" model, giving students a say in running the institution.

At the Brooklyn Free School, much of that decision-making occurs in a mandatory (yes, as in required) weekly gathering called the Democratic Meeting. Here, students air grievances, pose challenges, propose rules and set policy. Even the youngest kids have a vote equal to staffers. One agreed-upon rule? No sword-fighting allowed inside.

The school -- granted a provisional charter by the state to run as a private educational institution -- occupies two floors of a Free Methodist church.

Students are required to show up for at least 5.5 hours a day, partly so that the school can meet legal definitions, but what they do with their time is up to them. The student population -- 42 students, ages 5 to 17 -- is diverse racially, economically and in terms of ability, and the students are not separated by age.

On any given day, a student might be playing chess, reading a book, practicing yoga or helping mummify a chicken.

Even among some champions of alternative education, free schools are considered a bit too radical.

"You don't throw the baby out with the bath water," said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, a leading advocate of charter schools. "You don't get rid of all structure and standards if you want your child to be able to deal with all different settings."

Others say free schools could gain popularity if the emphasis on testing and regimented curriculums keeps up.

"Not only is there more interest, this is the wave of the future," said Jerry Mintz, director of the Alternative Education Resource Organization. "The other approach doesn't work, and everybody knows it."

The Brooklyn Free School isn't free in the financial sense. Tuition is $10,000 a year, but many parents just give what they can. There's a waiting list of about 35 students.

Watching the change in her son, David Johnston, has been worth the risk for Randy Karr.

While David did well "statistically" at previous schools, he hated going, sometimes crying when she dropped him off. Getting him to do homework was a struggle, and in Karr's opinion, the homework was useless anyway.

"There's very little about learning that goes on in school," Karr said. "A lot of it is being still, being quiet, not talking to your neighbor, not moving around too much. Especially if you're a boy, it's lethal."

At the Brooklyn Free School, David, now 12, is blossoming. He helps run a class on pharmacology and carries a notebook where he writes down things he's learning.

But what about the basics? Long division, spelling, algebra? Is it enough to let a child decide when to learn those things? That troubles a few parents who use outside tutors for their children, Berger said.

Some students said the flexibility made sense for the youngest and oldest, but not as much for those in the middle.

"I feel like they're definitely going to have a hard time with college, where you have to sort of do that sitting down and shutting up thing," said Victoria Rothman, 17, a public school refugee who now spends much of her school day studying music. "There are kids who sit here and play video games all day. I'd put a limit to that or ban it."

Others disagree, noting most adults can barely remember, or rarely use, most of what schools pounded into them.

In some ways, as the Brooklyn school evolves, it is becoming more structured.

Students will soon have to meet a set of graduation "requirements," where they must present a portfolio showing proficiency in the areas such as communication, investigation and reflection.

But the definition of proficiency, like much of the school, is flexible.
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Old 11-21-2006, 05:04 PM   #2
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Do they at least require students to learn how to say 'would you like fries with that?'
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Old 11-21-2006, 05:23 PM   #3
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See this thing with the grade is, when you get an F you are supposed to try harder.

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Old 11-21-2006, 05:25 PM   #4
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This is a perfect example of how f'ing soft we've become. Now we can't even make our kids go to school because "they have to follow rules."

What a bunch of soft, mamby pamby, sissy ass crap. Can you imagine how pathetic these parents must be. Good lord, they don't even let the school raise their kids anymore, just given up completly.
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Old 11-21-2006, 05:53 PM   #5
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"Not only is there more interest, this is the wave of the future," said Jerry Mintz, director of the Alternative Education Resource Organization. "The other approach doesn't work, and everybody knows it."

How does "Everybody" know that when we're all a bunch of dummies that learned the old fashioned way?

It's not the school curriculum that's the problem as much as it is the lack of discipline and the overabundance of distractions outside of school.

I thought they eradicated all the hippies in the 80's...
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Old 11-21-2006, 05:54 PM   #6
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but they will all be discovered on myspace anyway so why bother with nonsense learning? Just get nekked and wha-la. Millionare.
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Old 11-22-2006, 07:58 AM   #7
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I want my neighbor’s kids to go to that school; with all those dummies around my kid will be very valuable in the job market. Not really, but what the hell is going on?

When my wife was teaching Freshman at Texas A&M she was amazed at how lazy and behind the kids were. They are used to getting A's for showing up.

In Taiwan she went from 9:00 to 9:00 in JH and HS.

This is the dumbest idea ever lets not push the kids, lets have them think that the real world is about having fun and you don't have to compete for the best jobs.

This is part of the dumbing down of people to make them drones beholding to the politicians and bureaucrats that run the schools, city hall and now the Federal Government.
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Old 11-22-2006, 09:24 AM   #8
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Students will soon have to meet a set of graduation "requirements," where they must present a portfolio showing proficiency in the areas such as communication, investigation and reflection.
Like the article says, they still have to meet school law requirements, despite the age. The only thing I'd like to see is students at least getting a break (like a snack) so they don't have to skip breakfast or just get a chance to tell their friends something for, like 5 mins.
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Old 11-22-2006, 10:12 AM   #9
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And that will be such good training for being in the workforce. Most jobs are like that, you know. Show up when you want to. Do what you want, when you want. As long as the boss gets to give you money for showing up, everybody's happy!

Yeah, right.
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Old 11-22-2006, 10:18 AM   #10
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Like the article says, they still have to meet school law requirements, despite the age. The only thing I'd like to see is students at least getting a break (like a snack) so they don't have to skip breakfast or just get a chance to tell their friends something for, like 5 mins.
Problem is that over the years we have lowered the standards over and over again. Now we have C students getting A's and that is still not enough.

At work, I don't get a snack or an afternoon nap either, where do I complain? The nanny state.
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Old 11-22-2006, 10:36 AM   #11
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And that will be such good training for being in the workforce. Most jobs are like that, you know. Show up when you want to. Do what you want, when you want. As long as the boss gets to give you money for showing up, everybody's happy!

Yeah, right.
Public Schools are not preparing our kids for the real world. Why can't people see that this monopoly that the Public Education does not encourage anything more than going to the tax payer for more money. The worse thing is that the kids that want to learn are bored because they have dumbed down the curriculum to save the feelings of the stupid and lazy kids.

Monopolies are not good, and the fact that Public schools are getting $7,000 to $12,000 per child no matter what the job they are doing with the kids.

It’s time for the money that the taxpayers are funding to educate the kids goes with the kid to the school of their parent’s choice and not the broken public education system.

Not all public schools are broken and the ones that have their shit together will be able to survive as many parents will choose to send their kids there.

It is asinine that we have to send our money to a system that doesn’t work, and that we have to send our kids to schools based on where we live.

Imagine if you could only shop at stores in your zip code; eat at restaurants only in your zip code? How soon do you think prices would go up and the quality would go down?

This is not about education but about keeping the voters stupid and beholding to the system and handouts.
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Old 11-22-2006, 12:35 PM   #12
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At work, I don't get a snack or an afternoon nap either, where do I complain?
Actually it's been proven in several studies (no links sorry) that having an afternoon naptime increases productivity in the workplace. Maybe you should start to complain
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Old 11-22-2006, 12:35 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capn Ramius
Do they at least require students to learn how to say 'would you like fries with that?'
There are other things they should be required to learn how to say:

"Paper or plastic?"

"Would you like a large for a quarter more?"

Or even...

"Excuse me, can you spare some change?"
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Old 11-22-2006, 12:37 PM   #14
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I only wish I worked for a "Free Company" where I could get paid well to come in to the office and do whatever I want for 8 hours a day.

Play video games, surf the web, listen to Sirius, IT'S UP TO YOU!
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Old 11-22-2006, 12:59 PM   #15
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the argument that one's job is not this way is a poor one, if using it to say that a child's education should not be that way.

education IS SUPPOSED to be about triggering our mind, and helping us to think for ourselves.

i understand where this free school idea comes from, and like it, to a point. it is not good to have the child super-regimented. and i think it could fit into a child's school day, if we are talking about one period, or some certain length of time. if teachers and parents are attentive, this can help them see what the child has proficiencies at, and then perhaps steer said child's "electives" towards that end.

but to allow it to be the full school day is also going overboard. it suggests that the child has the wisdom to know what is best for him. there are certain subjects, such as logic, that are extremely important for the child's well-being in life, despite the fact that the child probably doesnt know it.

clearly, today's school system is wretched. i have already written dissertations here on how the voucher system would GREATLY GREATLY improve this.

at the same time, i would attempt to get rid of the brainwashing that children get taught (especially about social, political, religious issues). this brainwashing is an attempt to halter the child's mind, instead of triggering it.
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