The Learning Community:
The Story of a Successful Mini-School
by James Penha and John Azrak
New York : Paulist Press, 1975
"I have now read The Learning Community, and I think it is a perfectly wonderful book! It comes just in time, too. People are beginning to think that mini-schools are just so much education cant. This account shows what they may be. I congratulate the authors. They might not realize it, but they have made an important contribution to the science as well as the art of teaching." --Neil Postman , author of Teaching as a Subversive Activity, The End of Education, Amusing Ourselves to Death, The Disappearance of Childhood.
This book describes "The Learning Community," a minischool that was founded in 1972 by five teachers as an alternative program within a large urban high school in Astoria, New York. The Learning Community included 150 high school juniors and seniors and 6 teachers. The book overviews the development of the minischool, beginning with the first teachers' meeting to address the school's philosophy; the strategies used to promote positive teacher-student relationships; and decisions made by both teachers and students regarding curriculum and student evaluation. The Learning Community was based on a democratic approach to education that gave students the freedom to plan their own course of study and that recognized individual talents, abilities, and personalities. The curriculum included required skills courses; interdisciplinary courses in which students studied a single idea or concept from various perspectives; and minicourses that concentrated on specialized topics suggested by students and teachers. Instead of grades, students received personalized written evaluations that emphasized student accomplishments, as opposed to failures. An "open classroom" approach also allowed teachers and students to interact outside of instructional time and encouraged teachers to act as coordinators and facilitators of student learning. Although the program was regarded as a success, it was terminated in 1976 due to pressure from school administrators. (LP/ERIC)