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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Where Old Meets New: Reviving a School

This small school in Vermont thinks big.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
Credit: Max Seabaugh

The first school in the tiny town of Cabot, Vermont, was built in 1792 and served about fifty students of all ages. Cabot School currently enrolls approximately 250 students from pre-kindergarten through high school. Though the school's facade may have changed little over the years, inside the students are getting an education that prepares them not for the past, but for the future.

In 1990, as recipients of a challenge grant from the state of Vermont, Cabot community members joined parents and educators to begin hammering out a mission statement for the school and a plan to revise the curriculum, improve professional practice, and increase parent and community involvement.

In 1992, as a pilot site for a "break-the-mold" school design of the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, Cabot received technology, training, and support from partners like the National Center on Education and the Economy, New Standards, and Apple Computer. This collaboration helped Cabot refine its plan and implement new techniques for teaching and learning. "I walked into a school that had a working document that acted like a road map for where the school had come from and where it was headed," says principal Halley.

One of the innovations adopted by Cabot is a synthesis course open to eleventh and twelfth graders who have mastered the basic curriculum by the end of tenth grade. In these courses, students pursue special areas of interest in depth as they apply their skills and knowledge to challenging, real-world projects.

Students in the first synthesis course studied the town's long history and produced a book, Our Town Cabot, that was sent to every home. "As students studying the history of education in Cabot," they wrote, "we recognize the enormous changes that have occurred in our school system since the first schoolhouse was built. ... We now write our papers on portable computers rather than slate tablets, and ride a bus to school rather than walk. Despite these differences, we know that one thing has not changed, and that is the support of our town for our education."

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