1994 Winner
Winchester School District, NH
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
New Hampshire
Thayer Junior/Senior High School, a public school serving the rural community of Winchester, New Hampshire, entirely restructured its curriculum in 1981. Thayer shifted its focus to the students, making them an active and integral part of the curriculum planning process, so that the students acted as consultants in their own learning. The resulting environment fostered a mutual respect and trust among students and teachers. Within three years the school was demonstrating substantial improvements in student performance, and educators from across the country began to look to Thayer as an educational model. Visitors became a regular feature at the school, and staff began receiving more and more invitations to speak and give workshops all over the nation. Although the interest was flattering, teachers feared that outside engagements were detracting too much from their work at Thayer and that their student's educational experience was suffering.
In 1991, Thayer undertook a comprehensive outreach to help other schools restructure, while retaining focus on continued provision of quality education for its own student body. The outreach effort--known as "Here, Thayer, and Everywhere"--utilizes various forms of media to serve as a constant self-help resource for schools across the country who want to take on innovative changes. The program demonstrates how teachers' roles can be broadened beyond the traditional responsibilities of the classroom and allows Thayer students to better understand and become more involved in educational change, at Thayer and throughout the country. By sharing their practices with the country, the outreach has made Thayer accountable not only to the community of Winchester, but also to the entire nation, further inspiring both students and staff to perform to the best of their ability.
The centerpiece of "Here, Thayer, and Everywhere" is a monthly televised workshop broadcast by satellite from the school's library. The free, two-hour workshops are written and produced by Thayer teachers, administrators, students, and parents, and use footage from the school's classrooms to illustrate reforms. Each month features a different aspect of the school's restructuring. During the broadcast, viewers can call in questions for the Thayer community. In the workshops, Thayer teachers and administrators do not present themselves as experts, but rather as colleagues. "Here, Thayer, and Everywhere" also includes networking conferences hosted by Thayer students that specifically address youth concerns. They discuss the changes they've experienced at Thayer and how to make similar alterations elsewhere, as well as to plan their annual national student conference. Furthermore, Thayer teachers have been publishing their own series of articles on school reform since 1990. Education students at nearby Franklin Pierce College participate in the school's pre-service program, where several student-teachers live together with a Thayer teacher and spend a year immersed in the school. Since all of Thayer's services are either free or extremely inexpensive, any school district can become actively involved, regardless of their economic situation.
The impact of "Here, Thayer, and Everywhere" has been felt in school districts across the nation. By 1994, thousands of teachers, administrators, and students were participating in Thayer's televised programs at more than 500 sites around the country, and the school had distributed more than 1,000 taped copies of its programs. In addition, over 3,000 requests for copies of articles had been made, and ten school districts per year use Thayer as consultants. The story of Thayer has been shared with more the 20 million people in A Town Torn Apart, an NBC original movie. Since the program has been implemented, Thayer teachers have discovered that helping others reaffirms the importance of their work in their own school. The teleworkshops, in particular, have inspired Thayer teachers to incorporate more student choice in their own programs. "Here, Thayer, and Everywhere" has been praised by teachers and administrators nationwide because the consulting is based on actual practice, and the advice is constantly being tested and refined in actual Thayer classrooms.
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