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Snapshots of
Two Responsive
Classroom Schools

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Here is a look at two Responsive Classroom practices' schools Education World visited:

Flanders Elementary School in East Lyme, Connecticut, has been a Responsive Classroom school since 1994. Flanders serves about 460 students in grades kindergarten through four, mostly from middle-class families. About half of the school's teachers are male, which is unusual for an elementary school.

Flanders, which was built in 1962 and expanded in 1976, is one of three elementary schools in the district, and the only one using the Responsive Classroom philosophy.

In the area of academic achievement, a few years ago the school's fourth graders had the highest scores in the district on the Connecticut Mastery Test, the state's standardized achievement test. "We kicked butt on the Mastery Tests," as one fourth grade teacher put it.

Four Corners Elementary School in Greenfield, Massachusetts, also became a Responsive Classroom school in 1994. Four Corners has 320 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The population is diverse economically and culturally, with students coming from homes where Russian, Moldavian, Urdu, and Spanish are the first language. "I call it the real world," principal Gail E. Healy said.

The school was constructed in the 1950s and renovated in the 1990s, and still has benches built into its brick hallway walls. Every available space is used; the art and music teachers share a room and another room is divided into thirds for three different support staff members. The media center is a small, open space in the center of the school, staffed by teachers and parent volunteers. The school cannot afford a library media specialist.

Each classroom, though, has two computers, for a total of 27 school-wide, all purchased by the PTA.

All of the five elementary schools in the district use Responsive Classroom practices to some degree; only Four Corners is a completely Responsive Classroom school.

Improving student achievement at Four Corners is on everyone's mind. Staff at Four Corners set a goal in 2000 of raising student scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, its state's achievements tests, by three to five points annually. The first year students made the goal; the second year, math scores decreased slightly. Healy said the school expects more progress.

"We know that tests are not the only way to measure kids," she told Education World. "We collect data on every student's progress. We re-analyze what we are doing if a child is not doing well, and find another way."