Online Public Schools in MA
|School Type||Charter School|
|Grades Offered||Grades 7-12|
|Total Students||396 students|
|Gender %||54% Male / 46%Female|
|Total Classroom Teachers||45 teachers|
|Students by Grade|
|School District Name||Francis W. Parker Charter Essential (district) School District|
|Number of Schools
|Number of Students Managed||396||1,435|
|District Total Revenue||$5 MM||$25 MM|
|District Spending||$5 MM||$24 MM|
|District Revenue / Student||$12,639||$17,400|
|District Spending / Student||$11,439||$16,788|
|School Statewide Testing||View Education Department Test Scores|
- The Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School (usually referred to as the Parker Charter School or simply Parker) is a public charter school in Devens, Massachusetts that serves students in grades 7 to 12. It was established in 1995 under the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, and currently serves 365 students from 40 surrounding towns in north central Massachusetts. Parker is known for its nontraditional educational philosophy; it is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a leading organization for education reform. The school takes its name from Francis Wayland Parker, a 19th-century pioneer of the progressive school movement.
- History: Parker was one of the first charter schools created under the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. Started by area parents and teachers, it received its charter in October 1994, opening for the 1995-1996 school year as an Essential School dedicated to the principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools.
- Every five years the school is reviewed by the state. If the charter standards are met, then the charter is renewed. Parker's charter was renewed in June 1999 and again in 2004. In 1999, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges selected Parker as a "candidate member school" for accreditation. Parker is also home to the Theodore R. Sizer Regional Teachers Center and the New Teachers Collaborative. Parker is currently in the process of obtaining a $2 million modular addition in order to expand the school building's capacity.
- Philosophy: As a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, Parker's nontraditional educational philosophy is influenced by the work of founder Ted Sizer, who also served as co-principle of the school in the 1998-1999 school year. Sizer's objections to mainstream public schools include:
- Time wasted going from classroom to classroom.
- Elective courses which distract resources, time, and energy from the core curriculum.
- The inflated importance of sports.
- Unidirectional lecturing of teacher to student.
- The Parker School addresses these problems with:
- Block scheduling: Three two-hour blocks a day with integrated subjects like "Arts and Humanities" and "Math, Science and Technology."
- A common core curriculum: There are no electives until the student enters Division III (roughly equivalent to grades 11 and 12). Every student takes the same core curriculum through Divisions I and II (grades 7-10). Spanish is the only language offered at Parker. The core curriculum contributes to a sense of unity among the student population.
- A "teacher as coach" philosophy: Students address teachers by their first names, and every written assignment and oral presentation has an intensive draft and revision process so the student can interact with the teacher as much as possible. A result of this is that work is not graded in the traditional way at Parker. Work is commented on extensively and compared to a rubric of standards for a given "division".The bulk of teacher feedback is usually given with the aim of aiding further revision rather than as a final assessment of the student (see below).
- Depth over breadth: At Parker one does not find any "survey" courses like "US History." Rather, the teachers of Arts and Humanities will choose a few issues of American history to discuss in depth that year (19th century Immigration, Vietnam War, etc), and then use the tools of a variety of disciplines (art, history, literature) to explore that same topic in greater depth than any one discipline alone would do.
- Advancement based on achievement: There is no social promotion from one grade to the next from year to year; nor are there traditional letter grades. Rather, student work is assessed based on whether it meets the standard and students move between divisions when they assemble a portfolio of work proving that they can produce work that meets the standards of that division (typically after 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 years). Work that does not yet meet standards is assessed as "just beginning" or "approaching" the standard and students are expected to revise their work continually to show improvement. When students have completed a portfolio of "meets" work, they complete a "gateway" presentation highlighting their learning and showing they are ready to move forward.
- The advisory system: Advisories (equivalent to "homerooms" in traditional schools) are designed to create close relationships between students and teachers. Advisories have roughly twelve students. Each advisory has a faculty advisor at the head, and for fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of each day, advisories meet to connect and reflect together and discuss the events of their personal lives. An hour a week on Wednesdays is also dedicated to advisory time, usually spent in non-academic activities.
- Faculty: Parker teachers tend to be young, idealistic, and full of energy. The school's relationship with the Harvard Graduate School of Education means that many young teachers start at Parker to intern and decide to stay. The teachers are also well-educated; as of 2006, about two-thirds of the school's faculty hold advanced degrees, and are designated Highly Qualified Teachers according to the No Child Left Behind Act. However, teacher turnover at Parker is very high. There is a core group of teachers who have been at Parker for many years, but many teachers leave the school after a few years. Some leave to take on leadership roles in their own essential schools elsewhere in the country. Others leave because of the relatively low pay: though Parker spends a greater percentage of its total funds on its teachers than any school in the state, Parker teachers are paid less than teachers at other local public schools, in part due to the lack of a teacher's union.
- Students: Students come to Parker because they are (or their parents) are looking for a better education than the one provided by the local public schools. Applicants often fall into one of two categories: academically successful students frustrated by the lack of opportunity and challenge in the local public schools or students whose personalities, attitudes, or learning styles have proven to be incompatible with the mainstream public schools and are looking for an alternative.
- Because Parker consistently receives enrollment applications at a level several times the number of openings available (there were 287 applications for 65 spots for the 2006-2007 school year), admission is by random lottery; some applicants are placed on a wait-list. (The exception is for siblings of current Parker students, who are guaranteed a spot.) Application is open to any resident of Massachusetts, but, in practice, the student body is somewhat self-selecting. The school's isolated location in Devens, a decommissioned army base in central Massachusetts, and the lack of school busing, mean that any student attending needs to have a ride to and from school. This makes it difficult for low-income students from nearby urban areas such as Lowell and Leominster to attend.
- Parker claims that "the socioeconomic, ethnic, and educational characteristics of the student body closely reflect the general population of the region.
- Student government: The role of the student government is laid out in the Parker Constitution, which was created in the first month of the school's operation. Parker strives to follow the tenth Common Principle of the Coalition of Essential Schools, democracy and equity; students are involved as much as teachers and parents in the decision making processes of the school. This is manifested in frequent community discussions about important topics, in the two student representatives to the Board of Trustees, and in the two student representative bodies.
- The legislative body is the Community Congress (CC), which meets every Wednesday for one hour. The CC is made up of one representative from each advisory in the school, and is led by two co-advisors and an alternate elected by the student body at the end of each school year. Within the CC, there are various groups that deal with different aspects of school government, including the STAF (Student Teacher Activity Fund) Committee, which distributes community-benefiting mini-grants; the Spirit Committee, which organizes dances and other school spirit activities; the Green Committee, which oversees recycling and works to make the school more environmentally friendly; and the Public Relations Committee, which writes a bi-weekly newsletter for the Friday Announcements.
- The CC's counterpart, the Justice Committee (JC) is also formed of one member from each advisory, and meets on Wednesday for an hour. The main purpose of the JC is to mediate minor disputes between members of the Parker community (more serious cases are dealt with by the principal). The JC also oversees the election for co-advisors.
- Athletics: Despite Ted Sizer's objection to the overemphasis of the role of sports in public high schools, athletics have become an important part of the Parker identity over time. The school now fields competitive teams in cross country, track and field, soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball and is a member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. There is a $200 fee to participate in a sport. About half of the student body participates in at least one sport. The Girls Varsity Basketball team has been especially successful, having a record of 118-41 in its seven seasons and making the state tournament each year, and other teams have seen marked improvement. Still, athletics take on a uniquely Parker attitude, emphasizing teamwork, self-improvement, and other ideals compatible with the Ten Common Principles. In the words of one senior athlete, it's not "OK, let's go to the pep rally."
- Life after Parker: Parker prepares its students for college. Graduates in the past have matriculated at elite schools like Brown, Cornell, Williams and Haverford. The tendency is towards small, liberal arts colleges, but Parker sends many students to the local University of Massachusetts schools as well.
- Source: Wikipedia; it is used under the GNU Free Documentation License. You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the GFDL
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