It’s tempting to see the Village School in Great Neck, N.Y., as a wave of the future.
It’s an unusual alternative school in an affluent Long Island community. While traditional alternative schools are for students with behavioral and academic problems, the Village School is for students in danger of getting lost in Great Neck’s two large, comprehensive high schools. It is not for the academically struggling student: The Village School is college-prep, with most students going on to four-year universities.
The school reflects many elements of the current high school reform movement — small classes, a nurturing environment with lots of personal attention from teachers, challenging academics, and an emphasis on learning to think, speak, and write critically.
Students who attend the Village School were overwhelmed by their large high schools. Some suffer from social and emotional problems. Others face anxiety and difficulties with focus and organization. These problems are easier to deal with in the Village School’s intimate, low-key atmosphere.
You could make the argument that all high school students should learn in places like the Village School. When I mentioned this to Principal Stephen Goldberg, his answer surprised me. The Village School isn’t for every student, he said. He used himself as an example: His large, comprehensive high school gave him the chance to shine on a larger stage.
Those in the high school reform movement have cast the comprehensive high school as the villain that causes dropouts and creates places where kids feel anonymous at best and unwanted at worse. But can the large high school offer some good qualities to students who thrive on competition and lots of extracurricular choices?
Read about the Village School in my September article, “The Caring Village,” and judge for yourself.
Kathleen Vail, Managing Editor