Differences between progressive and traditional schools

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Differences between progressive and traditional schools

People often wonder what is the difference between a traditional school and a progressive school. And if you look at the brochures of both, you would think they are offering the same kind of education. But in reality, in a traditional public or private school, there is kind of a prize at the end of the line. And the prize at the end of the line is the test scores and the college admissions. In a good progressive schools, those things will happen as a byproduct of an education that´s a little bit more well rounded, that has a little bit better balance between, for example, the arts and the academics. I know there are some charter public schools, for example, where they are very proud of getting their test scores up but there are virtually no arts programs. So the opportunities for self expression among the students are very limited. If you are not good in math or in reading, which are the two tests that everybody focuses on, then you are kind of in trouble because the things that you are good at, you don´t have an opportunity to express them and to show how good you are in those things.

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Paul Cummins, PhD

Educator & Author

Dr. Paul Cummins, President and CEO of Coalition for Engaged Education (CEE), received his bachelor of arts from Stanford University, his MAT from Harvard, and his doctorate from the University of Southern California.  In 1971, he co-founded Crossroads School in Santa Monica and built it into one of Los Angeles’s most successful educational institutions and a national model for innovative, independent schools. 

In 1995, Cummins stepped down as Headmaster of Crossroads and formed New Visions Foundation (now Coalition for Engaged Education) to offer opportunities for Engaged Education to all youth. The first venture was New Roads School, a diverse, K-12 independent school in Santa Monica that has a deep commitment to social justice. New Roads devotes 40% of its tuition budget to need-based student financial aid, guaranteeing access to students from a wide socioeconomic array. Cummins has since implemented a number of innovative programs to help children at risk.

Cummins has published four books on education, including Proceed With Passion: Engaging Students in Meaningful Education (2004), and Two Americas, Two Educations: Funding Quality Schools for all Students (2007), both published by Red Hen Press. His most recent book of essays, Why Poetry? Reflections on Poetry, Writing and Culture, was published in 2009 by Xlibris, in addition to two volumes of his poetry and two children's books published in recent years. He is currently finishing Confessions of a Headmaster: My Pursuit of Joy and Justice in Education (forthcoming from Red Hen Press).

Cummins and his wife Mary Ann reside in Santa Monica. They have four daughters and five grandchildren.

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