CENTRAL PARK EAST
SCHOOLS, NEW YORK CITY
Henry Levin says that he does not care to develop high schools. He is confident that another program is more than up to taking his elementary accelerated school graduates and giving them the secondary education they deserve. The program he is referring to is the Coalition of Essential Schools, founded by Theodore Sizer, chair of the Education Department at Brown University.
One member of the Coalition of Essential Schools is Central Park East Secondary School, located in Community District 4, East Harlem, New York. For Sizer, Central Park East is "a resilient and creative institution" that has "both soft-heartedly and tough-mindedly reached youngsters" in the inner city (Bensman 1987). The director of Central Park East Secondary School, as well as Central Park East Elementary, is Deborah Meier. She was recently featured in a Time magazine ( 16 March 1992) tribute to "Amazing Americans." Her story and the role she has played at Central Park East point to the power of a democratic and collaborative setting in which there is a relentless concern with assessing quality and improvement.
In 1974 Deborah Meier was invited to start an alternative school from the rubble of what had become one of New York City' s worst schools. Meier accepted the invitation on the condition that she be given an exceptional amount of freedom and authority. The new board was eager to give her a special opportunity to help a school whose "failure reflected the fact that few teachers or administrators understood the needs and aspirations of the district's Hispanic and black population" (Bensman