September/October 1999 // Spotlight Site
New American Schools
by Brittany Greenwell and Sarah C. Mazer
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Brittany Greenwell and Sarah C. Mazer "New American Schools" The Technology Source, September/October 1999. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

New American Schools (NAS) bills itself as "a dynamic coalition of teachers, administrators, parents, policymakers, community and business leaders, and experts from around the country committed to improving academic achievement for all students." The organization, based in Arlington, Virginia, works with more than 1,500 primary and secondary schools nationwide to redesign American teaching and learning. For anyone interested in school reform, this site is a must-see.

NAS members contend that every school should have an educational framework that fits its particular strengths, weaknesses, vision, and philosophy. Consequently, NAS has developed seven "designs"—or flexible blueprints—for schools interested in educational change on the organizational level. Because the Web site showcases each design on a separate page, educators can compare and contrast the unique characteristics of America's Choice, ATLAS Communities, Co-NECT Schools, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, the Modern Red Schoolhouse, Roots and Wings, and Urban Learning Centers.

All seven designs anticipate that twenty-first century students may benefit from programs quite different from those which have served students of the past. In the Modern Red Schoolhouse, for example, students learn within three divisions—primary, intermediate, and upper—rather than 12 grades. To advance from one division to the next, they must pass "Watershed Assessments" that test specific skills and knowledge in math, science, English, history, and geography. Technology use is commonplace in Modern Red Schoolhouses: networked computers, school-wide video systems, and subject-specific technology equipment enhance educational opportunities for students, teachers, and administrators alike.

Readers can learn more about NAS's general mission and outreach in "Transforming Schools," "Transforming Districts," and the "CSRD (Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration) Project," all of which can be accessed through the NAS front page. The brief preface on that page contains links to core informational pages, and menu bars at the top and bottom of every page make it easy to access other sections of the site. One distinctive feature of the site is the online availability—as either a Web site or Adobe Acrobat PDF file—of NAS's publications, including "Working Towards Excellence: Early Indicators From Schools Implementing New American Schools Designs."

Overall, the NAS site is informative, colorful, accessible, and easy-to-read. Its smooth design only increases its value to educators interested in planning school systems for the future.

All graphics are the property of New American Schools and are being used with the permission of NAS.

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