Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Free School?
Though there is no single authoritative definition of a "Free School", the term typically refers to a decentralized educational network, which is governed through a direct democratic process of its members. Free School's also promote the educational freedom of its members and the right of students to self-generate their own curriculum. Manhattan Free School is founded on these principles and is developing its own concept of an Agile Learning Center within this framework.
What is an Agile Learning Center?
Just as business has been learning to adapt to our rapidly changing world, and is replacing old, slow and hierarchical approaches with dynamic, adaptive, and responsive structures like Agile Management, Agile Learning Centers are upgrading education for 21st Century learners. Schools that can't keep pace with the rate the world is changing, certainly cannot prepare children for the world they'll be working in. An Agile Learning Center is a hub for learners to gather, announce their intentions for each day, track their progress, and engage authentically with others. Within a dynamic network of self-generated projects, learners are gathering powerful social and intellectual tools to be effective adults in a world that is changing rapidly and demanding mental agility.
How will children be prepared for the real world?
Children who choose to join an Agile Learning Center will naturally be more prepared for the real world, because they will have ample experience engaging in the world as it is. The top-down model of traditional schools simply cannot generate curriculum updates fast enough to meet the evolving demands of society, or remain relevant to the interests of their students. The 21st Century economy requires self-direction, networking, and rapid cycles of feedback and correction. The Agile Learning Center is built upon these concepts - understanding this is the way people learn and excel in the real world.
Will my child be prepared for college?
Learners that have determined they want to attend college after graduating from Manhattan Free School have been extremely successful in doing so. Not only has this not been a problem for Free School students in the past, but more and more colleges are now giving special attention to students who come from free-school, un-school, and homeschooling backgrounds. Learners who have chosen to self-generate their curriculum are able to demonstrate mastery of subjects or skills and provide an intellectual vibrancy greater than their traditionally-schooled peers. The most prestigious universities (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, etc.) do not even require a high school diploma as a prerequisite for admission, because they recognize that being self-directed, motivated, creative, and engaged is far more important than a certificate that represents one's ability to follow orders.
Can a student earn a high school diploma from this school?
Yes. Manhattan Free School is currently chartered as an independent school with the New York State DOE and is able to grant diplomas to students who have fulfilled the requirements. This process requires the student to document their projects in order to meet the course requirements, as well as passing the Regents or RCT tests.
What is a typical day like?
Though any given day can look very different depending on the specific projects that are in progress, there are a several systems and structures within the Agile Learning Center that are a regular part of each day. In the morning we begin with a stand-up circle to update our game boards and announce our intentions for the day. From there, learners are self-organizing around their intentions and current projects. At the end of the day, we gather again to update our game boards and discuss our daily accomplishments. As needed, we have our School Meeting where rules, systems, and structures are created and other day-to-day operational matters are discussed and addressed. The Justice League, a representative group of rotating community members, gathers on Tuesdays and Thursdays to address any formal complaints that have been filed.
What if my child has a learning disability?
We, like many other "Free Schools", have found that students with labeled learning differences do not encounter the same difficulties in this setting that they may in a traditional setting. Because there are no imposed benchmarks and the activities are derived from each learner's interests, these "learning differences" tend to work themselves out in time. This has been our experience with diagnoses like ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia. If a child comes from another school with an Individualized Educational Plan and the parents feel they need more directed support, they have the option to obtain a Related Services Authorization and have an approved provider work with their child within the Agile Learning Center at Manhattan Free School. This would be at the discretion of each family and can be set up through the NYS Department of Education.