Evaluation of the Community School Concept

Article excerpt

The author discusses the community school concept and relates it to his own experiences as a student and educator in Missouri.

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A community school emphasizes whole-hearted involvement by all living within the designated district. Generally, in degrees, a school district may stress the community school concept. Thus, a school within a district may emphasize the following, singularly or in a more plural manner, involving adults in the community:

1. using the school hallways for exercise walking on Saturday mornings.

2. using the basketball court facilities on Saturdays when not scheduled for students.

3. using the school library on selected evenings.

4. using the school cafeteria in recognizing leaders in the local community at a dinner whereby all who wish to come may do so. Reservations need to be made and the cost involved should be very reasonable in rice.

5. using the baseball field during weekends when there is no scheduled school game (See Ediger, 1996, 79-90).

Porter Rural School, John and Evelyn Dewey

As professor of education at Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, the author studied the former Porter Rural School District. Porter rural school, located approximately three and one half miles northwest of Kirksville, Missouri, was an outstanding example of the community school concept during the 1910s and 1920s. The school was located in a poverty area which was selected by Marie Turner Harvey to be a site for improving the school curriculum as well as to improve life and living for its entire district population. Ms. Harvey had been a teacher in an urban area in St. Louis, Missouri. She and Evelyn Dewey, along with her father John Dewey, transformed Porter School into a community school. The Porter School Curriculum was changed from a poverty, rural school to one in which numerous educators came to visit. Evelyn Dewey died in Kirksville, Missouri in 1965. Her father John Dewey was a frequent visitor to Porter school in its hey day. Evelyn Dewey (1919) wrote a book entitled New Schools for Old, the Regeneration of the Porter School. In this book, she told of her experiences as an aid to Marie Turner Harvey in the Porter School District. Marie Turner Harvey also taught in the Kirksville Normal School (now named Truman State University) from 1907 to 1912. She also was in charge of the Model Rural School on the campus. Here, she taught and did demonstration teaching for college students. Mrs. Harvey's major goal remained to upgrade Porter Rural School District. Leadership was needed to motivate people in a school district to work together to fulfill objectives of developing a community school in which all can benefit therefrom. The should be the center of community activities. At the beginning of her tenure, Mrs. Harvey met with school patrons to explain that the "Three Rs" of reading, writing, and arithmetic were not adequate for children. A well rounded education was needed by all, including adults. Cooperation was necessary by all including patrons, pupils, and the teacher.

Mrs. Harvey did not believe in grade levels for elementary age pupils, but rather advocated and implemented a non-graded school in which each pupil achieved as much as individual abilities permitted. Additional modern ideas emphasized which Mrs. Harvey pioneered were the following (Evelyn Dewey, 1919):

1. experience charts whereby pupils presented ideas from their own experiences and these were printed on the chalkboard for learners to read; no basal readers were used.

2. learning centers in which pupils on a committee would make, for example, a model desert scene based on what was being studied in an ongoing unit.

3. correlation of subject matter such as when birds were being studied in a unit, pupils would make drawings and models of birds as well as read content on birds. In notebooks, pupils would also write prose and poetry on birds. …