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School Reports & Videos > Emerson High
Emerson High School: Whole Language Curricular Reform with a Technology Focus

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Case Overview
Emerson High School is a 9-12 high school located in one of the most densely populated municipalities in New Jersey. During the 2000-2001 school year, the schoolís enrollment was over 1250 students, with 88 percent receiving free or reduced-price lunch. About 95 percent of students are Latino, with nearly 70 percent speaking Spanish as a first language at home. Over two third of the districtís teachers are certified English as a second language (ESL) and one-third teach in bilingual/ESL programs.

The innovation at this school is the integration of technology (both regular desktop machines and thin clients, which are network PCs lacking local diskette or CD-ROM storage devices) as a part of a whole-language curricular reform. The label "whole language" is used in a broad sense in this district. In essence, the educational philosophy of whole language encourages teachers to develop their own curricula and to involve their students as active participants in their own learning. This philosophy guides teachers in their lesson planning and instructional strategies. Involving students as active participants leads to project-based and cooperative group work. The technology, particularly the thin client servers, provide a common environment in which to develop, store, and implement lessons. Internet access allows students to more easily research topics of interest to them; computer tools allow them to more easily complete project work. The thin client environment also eases studentsí individual and groupsí project work by providing shared server space that can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer.

The districtís impetus to begin their reform efforts nearly ten years ago to avoid a state take-over due to low test scores. Test scores as well as other school performance indicators (such as attendance) have gone up as Emerson students are pushed by faculty and staff to excel academically. College preparation is a significant role that the school has undertaken and the graduatesí success stories only seem to encourage more students to aspire toward higher education. Given the community's low socio-economic status, the steady and growing march of graduates heading to top colleges and universities is impressive.

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