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First Amendment School, Kennebunk High School

Grade level: 9 - 12

Promising Approaches

  • Instruction in Government, History, Law and Democracy
  • Guided Discussions of Issues and Current Events
  • Simulations of Democratic Processes

Overview

Special Features

Civic Learning Goals

Evaluation Studies

Required Resources

Available Resources

Professional Development Opportunities

Snapshots of Practice in Action

Contact Information

Overview

First Amendment Schools: Educating for Freedom and Responsibility is a national reform initiative designed to transform how schools teach and practice the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that frame civic life in our democracy. First Amendment Schools was launched by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the First Amendment Center on March 16, 2001, the 250th anniversary of James Madison's birth. Today the First Amendment Schools Network includes nearly 100 schools - K-12, public and private - and 70,000 students throughout the nation committed to becoming laboratories of democratic freedom.

Kennebunk High School (K.H.S.) was chosen for the inaugural class of First Amendment Schools in May, 2002, and awarded a $10,000 grant to implement First Amendment School principles. As a result, a vast number of opportunities are provided to students at this school to experience participation, citizenship and leadership. For example, students at K.H.S. serve on the District School Board, provide regular feedback to teachers about their teaching, sit on hiring committees, and are extensively involved in the day to day operations of the school.

In addition, students are at the center of parent teacher conferences and the student run newspaper, Ramblings, is a vibrant part of the culture of openness that prevails at this school. Numerous student organizations exist that contribute to the welfare, governance and improvement of the school.

Service-Learning projects, community service and "we care" initiatives provide students with opportunities to contribute to their communities and practice citizenship. As a First Amendment Project School, Kennebunk works at teaching students core practices of Civic life and allows students to practice the skills needed to sustain a participatory democracy.

Special Features

As a result of four years of input and guidance from the schools in our network, the First Amendment Schools project has published a new resource for educators, Core Civic Habits Practiced in First Amendment Schools. The purpose of this document is both to define a set of "civic habits" that teachers, parents, students, and administrators can all strive to embody and share, and also to provide a behavioral check list for educators to use in ensuring that future First Amendment Schools action plans, curricular units, and school improvement strategies directly reinforce the central principles of democratic citizenship.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Key historical periods, episodes, themes, and experiences of individuals and groups

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one's position through writing or speaking
  • Voicing opinion through electoral and non-electoral means, such as voting, lobbying, protesting and organizing.

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one's ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved in the civic life of the community

Evaluation Studies

Both qualitative and quantitative data has been collected over the past four years to ascertain the affect of this initiative on student achievement and school climate.

Required Resources

Teacher support and training in the areas of student centered instruction, personalization and differentiation. Strong curriculum in civic related areas.

Available Resources

The First Amendment Schools website, http://www.firstamendmentschools.org, is a tremendous resource, with sample school policies, First Amendment lesson plans, First Amendment research tools, Supreme Court files, publications and more. Schools can also apply to join the Affiliate Network through the site.

Professional Development Opportunities

Professional development opportunities are available through the First Amendment Schools website http://www.firstamendmentschools.org. In addition, Nelson Beaudoin, principal of K.H.S. is also available for professional development. nbeaudoin@msad71.net.

Snapshots of the Practice in Action

A student representative to the Kennebunk School Board solved a problem that had plagued us for years, namely the need to have our students take state-level standardized testing more seriously. Students were not giving these tests their best effort because the scores had no real impact on them individually. The possibility of including these test results on student transcripts was considered. Some thought this would motivate students; others argued that the scores could hurt students in the college search process. The student board member offered a completely sensible compromise: Reward students who meet or exceed state standards by including state scores on their transcripts only. This strategy would help those students, inspire all students to strive to meet the standards, and not hurt anyone.   In addition, at K.H.S., students serve on hiring committees. Because we believe that students have something to say that matters, we are willing to involve them in the hiring process. With rights, however, there are accompanying responsibilities. In this case, we expect and trust that students will maintain confidentiality.

Finally, a committee of twelve students work and the principal proposed a new governance structure for our school, which has since been adopted. One of the major components of this plan includes a K.H.S. Senate with a membership of twelve students, eight teachers and four parents. This new governance structure for our school was the culmination of over two years worth of work aimed at giving all stakeholders a voice in school decisions and providing students with opportunities to practice democracy.  

Contact Information

First Amendment Schools
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
1703 N. Beauregard Street
Alexandria,VA 22311-1714

www.firstamendmentschools.org

First Amendment Schools
First Amendment Center
1101 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington,VA 22209

www.firstamendmentschools.org

Nelson Beaudoin
89 Fletcher St.
Kennebunk, ME 04043
207-985-1110
nbeaudoin@msad71.net

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy