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ERIC Number: EJ868301
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 11
ISSN: ISSN-1052-8938
Sustaining Change: The Struggle to Maintain Identity at Central Park East Secondary School
Suiter, Diane
Horace, v25 n2-3 Fall 2009
Central Park East Secondary School (CPESS) in East Harlem was one of the most highly acclaimed and successful schools to come out of the period of school reform in the 1980s from which the Coalition of Essential Schools emerged. Noted progressive educator Deborah Meier founded CPESS in 1985 not as a reform model, but as a continuation of the specific progressive approaches that had proven so highly successful with students exiting a series of three East Harlem elementary schools (Central Park East I and II, and Rivereast Elementary). The three sister elementary schools, also founded by Meier, were structured as multi-age grouped, open-classroom schools where children moved developmentally at their own pace. Teachers observed, guided, and facilitated each child's educational journey. Parents were an integral part of their child's progress, and the staff worked collaboratively in making all decisions about governance, instruction, and curriculum. By the time "The Power of Their Ideas," Meier's book about CPESS, was published in 1995, shortly after her MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," the school had data to solidify its acclaim. At a time in New York when citywide completion of high school was at 50 percent, CPESS's dropout rate was under five percent. Ninety percent of its graduates went directly on to college, many to highly prestigious schools. The majority of the students were African-American and Latino, most were from low-income homes, and represented "a full range of academic strengths and handicaps." In the late 1990s, however, it became increasingly clear that CPESS was metamorphosing into a different school. On its third leader since Meier's departure in 1994, differences in structure and climate were obvious. In 2002, the author launched a research project to assess the extent of and reasons for the changes at CPESS in order to understand the ways a school maintains its identity and sustains its work over the long haul. In this article, she discusses the results of her assessment.
Coalition of Essential Schools. 1330 Broadway Suite 600, Oakland, CA 94612. Tel: 510-433-1451; Fax: 510-433-1455; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Adult Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York