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When it comes to delivering a top-notch education, teachers know what their students need. After all, they spend five days a week in the classroom working with them.
While it makes sense that teachers have a hand in making the instructional decisions at their schools, that isn’t always true.
But New School High in Plymouth does things a little differently. It is one of a small number of self-managed, teacher-led, schools in the United States.
“Teachers are the professionals who are trained as educators. They know the students and their families and are in the best position to make the decisions for the students’ educations,” says Cynthia Burnstein, the school’s leader and co-founder.
Placing teachers in decision-making positions allows this school to run in a way that will best benefit their students, Burnstein explains. This means that the school looks very different from a typical high school.
“Everything at New School High is based on best practice, research, or is aligned with our philosophy,” she says. For example, 20 years of research shows that due to their sleep rhythms, high school students don’t learn well at 7 a.m. As a result, New School High has adopted a later start time in line with the American Association of Pediatrics’ recommendations for secondary schools.
Likewise, teachers know that daily physical education lessens a student’s chance of obesity, anxiety and depression, so every New School High student has PE class every day for all four years of high school.
At New School High, each student is given every opportunity to succeed.
“Since the goal of school is learning, every policy that we have is focused on learning,” Burnstein says. “We create the conditions in our school where every student can go as far as they want to go.”
This means that students are allowed to redo an assignment to get a better grade or ask for more time if they aren’t able to hit a deadline. Students are encouraged to create independent study courses that align with their interests. Dual enrollment at local colleges and internships with businesses are also promoted.
“This year we have five students doing independent study on filmmaking, one Japanese studies, one poetry, one art and design. The sky is the limit on what the students can do if they are curious and motivated.”
Beyond independent study, the school also offers basketball, FIRST Robotics, drama, plenty of field trips and programming in partnership with local organizations that aim to give kids real-world experience.
“Every student is different,” Burnstein says. “We find ways to make a student’s education relevant to them and give them what they need to be successful.”
New School High opened in 2015 and serves the Plymouth-Canton and surrounding areas.