M-T History Page 2

Brentwood News, November 12, 19 & 26, 1975 
Brentwood Superintendent's Column

by Guy DiPietro


A few weeks ago a feature article appeared in Newsday purporting to describe our Alternative School Program (The Maslow-Toffler School of Futuristic Education) which is housed at our South High School Annex.  The general reaction to this article by those familiar with our Program can be summarized as follows: The substance of the article is basically accurate but the opening paragraphs and photographs with captions provided definitely detracted from what can be considered to be proper reporting.  Of course, some not familiar with the Program unfortunately reacted in a negative fashion due to those factors.

In an attempt to better place our program in perspective, this week’s column, which will be continued next week, will concern itself with a brief history of our Alternative School Program and will further attempt to answer those questions which have resulted from Newsday’s reporting.  (Click here to read the Newsday article.)

On October 8th, 1973, the State Education Department released a publication entitled “Providing Optional Learning Environments in New York State Schools.”  This publication coincided with a major address by Commissioner of Education Ewald B. Nyquist in which he called upon the State's School Administrators to exert every effort to “humanize education in New York State.”  The Commissioner pointed out that any educational system that seeks to permit individuals to achieve at their maximum potential must provide multiple options for learning.

While outlining various learning options for all school levels, the publication stressed a need to accommodate parental preferences, student needs and interests, preferred learning styles, and the personal and social welfare of students.  The State Education Department, therefore, emphasized that there would be need for a significantly modified curriculum with considerable involvement of parents and students in program planning, development, implementation and evaluation.  While cautioning against sudden and wholesale system-wide reforms, the publication suggested that optional learning programs may operate apart from the regular school program, encompass more than one grade level, make extensive use of common resources, emphasize open educational practices, feature individual approaches, focus on learning oriented programs, and be properly centered.

Although many New York State School Districts had, prior to October 1974, initiated alternative approaches to education, the new Education Department publication proposed guidelines to assist districts in setting up optional learning programs.

First, the proposed program must satisfy all statutory requirements concerning staffing, facilities, curriculum, pupil attendance, accounting, and length of school day and year.  The program description, as sent to the State for formal recognition, should clearly reflect that requirements established by the Board of Regents or Commissioner of Education are satisfied.

The proposal should include a plan for evaluation to guarantee continuous progress toward stated objectives to improve or revise procedures as results would indicate.  Evidence should be submitted to indicate that the Board of Education in a Public Meeting (a Public Meeting was conducted in the Spring, 1974) has approved the proposed program on recommendation of the Chief School Officer and that it will provide the necessary support for the proposed duration of the program.

After complying with the above requirements, the Program referred to as The Maslow-Toffler School of Futuristic Education became a curriculum offering of the Brentwood School District.  The School opened in September 1974 with an initial enrollment of 95 pupils.


(So far) this article (has) attempted to present a brief history of alternative schools in New York State along with the guidelines for alternative schools put forth by the New York State Education Department.

Two years ago (1973) it was realized that two elementary schools would have to be converted to provide additional student space for our increasing secondary (7-12) student population.  Since one of these schools was to be utilized as a High School Annex, it was suggested that we had an ideal opportunity to possibly initiate an alternative school program.  The teaching staff was encouraged to submit possible alternative school programs.  (Ed note: A total of 11 programs vied for Board approval).  After a thorough procedure was exhausted which involved staff members, parents, and students, and which culminated in a Public Hearing by the Board of Education, the Maslow-Toffler (School) started in September 1974 with an enrollment of 95 students.

Is this Program really an alternative form of education?  From observing the students and faculty involved in this Program, one can say that the answer to this question is an unequivocal “YES”.  In terms of operating procedures, you will not find such things as home-rooms, study halls, cafeteria, security guards, public address announcements, passes, detention and suspension, bells signaling the start or end of classes, and formalized grades.

The criteria for entrance to the school is based on the following:

(1) 4th year high school student – normally has finished 12 credits, has completed his/her official prescribed sequence courses with the exception of 12th grade English and Physical Education. 
(2) 3rd year high school student – normally has finished 8 credits, has completed 2/3rds of the prescribed sequence and must take the English and History Comprehensive Exam (Regents) at the Maslow-Toffler School.  (Only fifteen 11th grade students have been allowed to participate in this Program on a pilot basis.) 
(3) Parents of the students must give written permission to have their young lady or man accepted in the Maslow-Toffler Program.

The curriculum of the school is somewhat different from that of the regular high school.  Students are exposed to regular subjects such as English, Social Studies, Geometry, Intermediate Algebra, Physical Education and Driver Education.  They also participate in an orientation, workshop and seminar, a Forum which is the governing body of the School, Humanistic Psychology, Philosophy, Semantics, Consciousness Raising for Women, Mass Media, Child Development, Sex Roles in Literature, Views of Nature, Futures, History Through Art, Performing Arts courses in Voice, Music Theory, Instrumental Music, Dance and, last but not least, Painting.

Students get grades in two college-level courses offered through Syracuse University’s Project Advance and in the Regents courses.  Credit is also earned through Independent Study and Work Experience (at jobs approved by the school staff, such as with Islip Town or at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center), and teachers give written Evaluations of the students’ work.  The independence allowed in managing their own time helps prepare all students for life experiences, as well as helping those specific students who are going on to college and need this training experience.

In trying to evaluate the effectiveness of the Program, certain objectives were set up.  Some objectives were operational or procedural, while others were product oriented in terms of student growth.  Agreement was reached to carefully evaluate three (3) specific product objectives for the first year of the School’s operation, as follows:

(1) The students will improve their reading vocabulary and comprehension ability at a rate that is at least equal to or better than their previous rate of growth. 
(2) Students will improve their verbal creativity in fluency, flexibility and originality from the beginning to the end of the year.


The preceding part concluded with two of the three (3) specific product objectives of the School’s operation.  The third follows:

(3) The students will increase their school and career aspiration level from the beginning to the end of the year.

The reading objective was evaluated using the Gates Reading Test.  Scores for most of the students on a test administered before they entered the Maslow-Toffler School were obtained from the High School Reading Consultants.  The student’s previous rate of gain in reading achievement was calculated and added to their pre-test score.  The sum became the predicted achievement level.  The predicted achievement level was then compared to the actual achievement level obtained in the post-test.  The result of the analysis showed that the predicted and the actual achievement levels were equivalent or higher.  Therefore, the objective was considered achieved.  The Gates Reading Test did not have grade equivalent scores that were high enough to reflect the achievement of the most capable students.  However, this test was used because of the pre-test data already available from it.

The creativity objective was evaluated using the Torrence Test of Creative Thinking.  The assumption was that creativity is an ability not dependent upon specific skills.  Therefore, no gain in this ability would be expected from a regular school program.  The Torrence Test measured verbal fluency, flexibility and originality, and the results of the pre-test and post-test were compared to determine whether or not there was significant improvement.  The fluency characteristic showed a significant improvement but the other two characteristics were non-significantly improved.  One possible reason for the lack of significant growth in the results of the other two abilities was the fact that the students had participated in the program for three months before the pre-test was given.  The prior participation may have raised the pre-test score and allowed less room for growth by the time the post-test was given six months later.

The aspiration level of the students was evaluated by comparing the students’ statements of the amounts of school they were planning on beyond high school at the beginning of the school year to the amount of school they were planning on at the end of the school year.  In both comparisons there was no significant shift measurable in aspiration level. Based on empirical evidence and analysis the objective was not achieved, but in a further analysis of this objective, it is believed that our students were much better able to realistically assess their higher education and career aspirations.

In closing, let me address myself to the concern most frequently expressed about The Maslow-Toffler School of Futuristic Education.  While it is true that the class size is kept at about 22 to allow for individual attention, the assumption that the cost of operating this program is extremely high is FALSE.  In fact, the opposite is TRUE.  The cost for each student in The Maslow-Toffler School is less, on the average, than the allocation made for a student who attends the normal high school.  While the per pupil allocation for instructional supplies, textbooks, etc., is the same, the student-to-professional staff member ratio at the Ross Sonderling Complex is less than for The Maslow-Toffler School.

While this Program was obviously not created for the average student, we do have approximately 4,700 students in our High School.  Therefore, there are students (while small in comparison to the total number of students we serve) who can profit to a greater extent from a program which is different from the traditional approach.  It is obviously not designed for most students.  It is an alternative to our normal High School which has been enthusiastically received by the students and parents who have elected to participate, as well as by the very dedicated teachers who staff this Program.