Search the OCESR website:
powered by

History of the National and State Coalition of Essential Schools

The Coalition of Essential Schools is a nationally recognized school reform movement with almost two decades of experience in providing leadership for school reform. Although the Coalition has not been immune from the difficult struggles in school reform, this movement has had remarkable “staying power” as a national school reform initiative. Ted Sizer, formerly of Harvard and Brown Universities and founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, continues to serve the Coalition in an advisory capacity.

In Ohio, the Coalition of Essential Schools has a growing presence and voice. In 1997, Ohio had six member schools. Currently, 14 Ohio schools are fully affirmed member schools; 17 additional schools are in some phase of the membership process, and many more are using the Coalition philosophy and its Ten Common Principles as a framework for their work. Our schools represent geographic diversity as well as representing an almost equal distribution among elementary, middle school and high schools. Additionally, Ohio CES schools represent urban, suburban, rural, private, and alternative schools.

Also, Ohio’s Coalition presence can be seen in other ways. One indicator of interest is the intense visitation patterns that exist in OCES schools. One member school tracked more than 3,000 visitors in a three-year period. Another indicator of interest is the growing number of Ohioans that have been attending and presenting at the Fall Forum, the Coalition’s national professional development conference. In 1989, fewer than ten Ohioans attended the Fall Forum in St. Louis; today, Ohio ranks first in the nation in Fall Forum average attendance rates. In 2003, Columbus, Ohio served as the host city with nearly 1700 registrants.

A final indicator of support for CES work in Ohio is the founding of the Ohio Coalition of Essential Schools Center. As the number of schools interested in Coalition grew dramatically nationwide, the National Center re-organized into a national office located in Oakland, California and 2 regional centers. In 1997, the Ohio Department of Education pledged $80,000 to found the OCES Center. That was followed by another two-year round of funding for $225,000. Today, like many Centers, the Ohio Center is no longer receiving that system of state funding; instead, also like many other Centers around the country, the OCES Center is largely a fees-for-services organization. To accommodate the needs of our affiliate and member schools, as well as to respond to the request for services from other interested schools, the Center relies on its staff members and a cadre of talented people who comprise our Ohio CES Faculty.

A most significant change in the Center’s evolution occurred in the autumn of 2001 when, due to its growth and diversified yet related initiatives, the Center changed its name to The Ohio Center for Essential School Reform. Under this “umbrella,” the Center still retains the Ohio Coalition of Essential Schools with its services to member and affiliate schools and continues to be governed by its own Board of Trustees. Additionally, however, new contracts have led to the following new initiatives: Literacy Curriculum Alignment Project which works with elementary teachers and principals to align curriculum, assessment, and instruction to Ohio’s achievement tests and Quality Impact Teams where teams of teacher-leaders work intensively in individual schools whose districts are in Academic Emergency.

More recently, the Ohio Center for Essential School Reform has entered an exciting partnership with Columbus Public School to start a small downtown charter school. The planning grant for this start-up was funded by the national CES office as part of a larger CES Small Schools Initiative grant from the Gates Foundation.

Lastly, The Ohio Center for Essential School Reform continues to be directed by Dan Hoffman. Dr. Hoffman, one of the pioneers of CES work in Ohio while principal at Reynoldsburg High School and as a national Thomson Fellow from the Annenburg Institute of School Reform, has established and maintained strong working relationships both with the Ohio Department of Education and the National CES where he sat on the Executive Board until 2003. Additionally, with the perspective that school reform cannot happen without strong leadership, he plays a key role in professional development initiatives for principals in Ohio. Dr. Hoffman’s extensive knowledge, experience, and expertise in school reform and leadership make him an invaluable resource.

Goals, Mission and Principles

Ted Sizer's research encourages schools to rally around ten common, but profound ideas: The Ten Common Principles.

We envision a world in which all children receive the nurturance, guidance, and resources they need to reach their fullest potential.

Our mission is to create and sustain equitable, intellectually vibrant, personalized schools and to make such schools the norm of American public education.

Theory of Action
We believe that the CES Common Principles - emphasizing equity, personalization, and intellectual vibrancy - serve as a guide to creating schools that will nurture students to reach their fullest potential. We believe that to change the public school system, we need to create and sustain large numbers of individual schools that fully enact CES principles - schools that can serve as models to other schools and demonstrations to the public that it is possible to re-imagine education.

In addition to the individual schools, we also need to create the conditions under which whole systems of schools will become equitable, personalized, and intellectually vibrant. To affect these whole systems, we seek to support regional centers to develop the capacity to aid schools and to influence school districts and states. And we seek to influence wider public opinion and policy-makers to create policy conditions conducive to the creation and sustenance of schools that enact CES principles.

To these ends, we have established four organizational goals.

Organization Goals

Grow. We seek to increase the number of schools that adopt the CES mission of becoming intellectually vibrant, personalized, and equitable through enacting the CES Common Principles. We seek to increase the number of regional centers that have the capacity to support schools in this work.

Improve. We seek to improve the work of the schools that have already dedicated themselves to more completely enacting CES principles, with particular focus on creating more equitable schools. We seek to improve the work of the centers that support schools in our network.

Exchange. We seek to improve the dissemination and exchange of knowledge and practices that enhance schools' capacity to become more intellectually vibrant, personalized, and equitable. We seek to improve the dissemination and exchange of ideas that enhance centers' capacity to support schools.

Influence. We seek to influence public policy and public opinion to create a policy environment which is more conducive to the creation of equitable, personalized, intellectually vibrant schools.

CES schools share a common set of beliefs about the purpose and practice of schooling, known as the CES Common Principles. Based on decades of research and practice, the principles call for the creation of:

  • Personalized instruction to address individual needs and interests
  • Small schools and classrooms, where teachers and student know each other well and work in an atmosphere of trust and high expectations
  • Multiple assessments based on performance of authentic tasks
  • Democratic and equitable school policies and practice
  • Close partnerships with the school's community

The Coalition sees school reform as an inescapably local phenomenon, the outcome of groups of people working together, building a shared vision and drawing on the community's strengths, history, and local flavor. The Common Principles are meant to guide the school in setting priorities and designing practice, as each school develops its own programs, suited to its particular students, faculty, and community. CES regional centers and CES National seek to support schools in this work.

For more on the programs and activities of CES National, read on.


Problems with this website? Contact the Webmaster .

Connect to the Administrative Sub-web (Staff only)

Text Links:

LCAP | QIT | The Metro School | CES Network News | CSS | CES National

Home | About OCESR | Member Schools | Bookstore | Events | Sign up for our electronic newsletter