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Essential Purpose

A “must read” to understand the background 
for LCS’s essential purpose work.

 Lincoln Community School’s Position Paper November 2001

 Introduction to the Big Picture or Why We Are Doing This Work

The Lincoln Community School has an experienced, cohesive faculty, administration, and staff.  Students attending the school develop academic skills and knowledge as well as a sense of belonging to a community.  Parents support the school albeit with differing levels of interest and energy.  The community-school relationship is positive, with collaboration initiated by both members of the school and the greater community.

On the whole, we work from a position of strength and action, confident that our school is a challenging and supportive learning environment.  Still, we remain deeply concerned about the frequent and sometimes haphazard additions to the already long lists of things that we want and/or are supposed to do with and for our students.  It is clear to all of us that we cannot do it all in a manner that includes critical analysis, reflection, and deep understanding.  Over the past few years we have reexamined many aspects of our program including district curriculum guidelines, school climate, teaching practices and theories, student performance and scheduling.  We have discussed these issues and taken action to improve our school climate, and have modified our teaching practices and daily schedule in an effort to enhance student learning.  Still, we know we can do even better for our students.

Our discussions and subsequent actions lead us to ask, “What do we want most for the children of Lincoln Community School?” At its core, what is our school’s essential purpose? As we respond to these questions, our resolve will be used to guide all of our work and the many decisions we make individually and collaboratively.

Because we believe that thoughtful organizations express a shared sense of purpose that is understandable and credible to their constituencies, our next steps are to define what it is that we want for our children and then to articulate how we will achieve our aspirations.  To these ends, our first goal is to determine how we can help all of our students to learn to use their minds well.  The second is to articulate the qualities of learning that must pervade all subject areas.  The third is to define student practices and performances that indicate our level of success.  As we reflect and work diligently toward these goals, we will articulate for ourselves, our students, and our community, a clear and common set of purposes and expectations for our children’s learning.  We will then be able to confirm pieces of our present curriculum and to say “yes” to new requests that square with our essential purpose.  Conversely, we will be in a position to say “no” to that which does not directly support our school’s learning priorities.  This paper is the first step in the process toward reaching these goals.

Purpose and Evidence or What We Want for Kids

    Our school’s essential purpose is to insist that all of our students         learn to use their minds well.

    Our essential purpose is evident when:

    Students internalize “habits of mind” by regularly asking:

    ·   “How do you know what you know?”

    ·   “What did you notice?”

    ·    “What’s your evidence?”

    ·     “How and where does what you’ve learned “fit in”?”

    ·     “Could things have been otherwise?”

    ·     “Who cares, what difference does it make?”

    Students engage actively in their learning through exploration, observation, direct         experience, and self-reflection.

    Students exercise tenacity, perseverance, and intellectual curiosity.

    Students make connections, transfer knowledge to new situations, and create             work that is meaningful to themselves and others.

    Students have ample time to practice, synthesize, and reflect on what they’re             learning.

    Students engage regularly in problems and experiences they view as real and             relevant, and articulate what is important to them.

    Students make choices about their learning.

    Students demonstrate publicly what they learn.

    Students are integral members of the school and greater communities and have the     resources to recognize, explore and respond to current issues.