By Lisa Guernsey and Sonia Harmon
"When good teachers have more time with smaller classes, students achieve," proclaims the website for the Generation Schools Network, whose pilot project is the Brooklyn Generation School. That view is crucial to the group's central mission: to turn around failing urban schools. At Brooklyn Generation, a high school housed in one such school (South Shore High), the school day has been structured to enable teachers to do better jobs. Enrollment in core classes is capped at 16, allowing for more one-on-one instruction. And the academic year is 200 days instead of the standard 180 -- without increasing teachers' hours. Instead of the customary summer off, teachers get two-month breaks while students participate in career seminars that include visits to potential employers.
Teachers love the outside-the-box approach to their profession. "Teaching can be really isolating and frustrating," says math teacher Dianne Crewe-Shaw. "But here, everyone wants to collaborate." As for student achievement? In 2007-2008, its first year, Brooklyn Generation ranked in the top five of 40 comparable schools in attendance, credit accumulation and pass rates on New York State's Regents exams -- and first in standardized test scores.