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New Century High Schools Initiative

New Century High Schools Initiative, New Visions for Public Schools

By Madeleine Tregidga '05, on behalf of the Spring 2004 class

Areas: Education and community development - small school concept paper and proposal
Supervisor: Professor William Duggan, Social Enterprise Lab

New Visions for Public Schools has been working for the past fifteen years to improve the quality of education for children in New York City public schools. With funding from the Gates foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Open Society Institute, the New Century High Schools Initiative was developed in 2002 to improve secondary education by opening small, effective public schools that hold students to high personal and academic standards. Schools are created through partnerships with community based organizations, and often have a theme related to the organization, such as the Academy for Careers in Sports, sponsored by Take the Field, and Bronx School for the Visual Arts, sponsored by Lehman College Art Gallery.

The Social Enterprise Lab course at Columbia Business School teamed with New Visions to work on projects within the New Century Initiative. Weekly guest speakers offered students insight into the small schools movement, and the successes and challenges of operating small schools. Teams of students worked on consulting projects for current principals to offer our skills and to learn from the experiences of the principals. One such project was working with the principal of Eastside Community High School to set up "Friends of Eastside," a non-profit organization which can work to secure resources, both financial and volunteer assistance, for the school.

The NYC High School for Business and Leadership

The main project for this class was to develop a proposal for a new high school to be sponsored by Columbia Business School. As Columbia University discussed extending its campus into the Manhattanville neighborhood north of Morningside Heights, the students in this class saw an opportunity to have a positive impact on this community through the formation of a New Century high school, with Columbia Business School acting as the sponsoring community based organization.

We spent the semester developing a concept paper and a full proposal for this planned high school: the "NYC High School for Business and Leadership". Students analyzed issues for this school, including mission and culture, instructional approaches, assessment, staffing and professional development, school design, student recruitment, school leadership, and potential roles of partner organizations. We developed a vision for our proposed school in each of these areas, and collated our ideas into a twenty-page proposal. This proposal was presented to members of the New Visions staff and principals of similar New Visions schools. The group received positive feedback on the proposal, and encouragement to continue developing these plans.

A group of students from the course will continue to meet over the summer and fall, to finalize the proposal, and address implementation issues. We plan to submit the proposal to New Visions in January 2005, and if accepted, the school can open its doors as early as September 2005.

Through this course, we have gained a wealth of knowledge by applying business skills to this sector. We learned the ins and outs of the New York City school system from the experts currently in the field, including Bob Hughes, president of New Visions; Eric Nadelstern, Senior Structural Superintendent; and Bob Knowling, CEO of Leadership Academy.

The course was made up of students not only from the business school, but also from Teachers College, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the School of Social Work. We were able to draw on the diversity of knowledge within the class for our projects. In developing our proposal, we looked at all aspects of the school, including instructional and operational issues, which gave each member of the class an opportunity to contribute their own skills and perspectives.

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