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The Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS) is a nationally renowned public, educational alternative, combined middle and high school in the Ithaca City School District in Ithaca, New York. Serving grades 6-12 with approximately 305 students, the school is known for its small class size, non-traditional curricula, and focus on active student participation.
Location: Ithaca, NY
As an alternative school, LACS offers broad academic freedom to its students, and they are encouraged to design their own course of study. Every student is part of a "committee" that meets twice weekly to aid in the keeping of the school, and the school meets in an All School Meeting every week to vote on issues facing the school. Students are on a first name basis with their teachers, and some students help teach electives in topics like computer programming, beading, or another area of their special interest. Rather than receive grades, students receive written narrative evaluations, and also reflect and evaluate on their own learning at the end of each semester.
Progress in many, although still not all, high school classes is measured in a program called "Graduation by Exhibition." In it, students create portfolios to demonstrate their mastery of core subjects, rather than taking a single test at the end of their studies. At the end of their senior year, each student also is responsible for completing a "senior project" that allows the student to demonstrate his or her learning, usually in a way that connects back to the community. Past projects have included dance performances, written plays, murals, or scientific projects.
All students and most faculty participate in "family groups." Family groups combine some of the functions of a home room, support group, and guidance office. Each family group spends time bonding, going over scheduling, helping to make decisions about school governance, and fundraising for the annual spring trips. However, Family Groups have widely been regarded as not fulfilling their original purposes in recent years, and there have been moves to reform their goals.