Common Ground High School
Common Ground High School
358 Springside Avenue
New Haven, CT 06515
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Joel Tolman
Project Director, Teaching Our Cities
(203) 389-4333

Common Ground High School

About Common Ground High School

Common Ground High School -- the nation's longest-running environmental charter school -- is committed to growing a new, more diverse generation of successful college students and powerful environmental leaders. Common Ground uses three sites as laboratories for learning: the urban farm that is the school’s campus, the natural environment of the adjacent West Rock Ridge State Park, and the urban setting of New Haven, Connecticut.  Close study of these places develops understanding of local and global issues. Through this study and core academic work, students experience a rigorous high school curriculum that prepares them for competitive colleges, meaningful careers, and purposeful lives.  

Common Ground High School is one part of a community non-profit, which also operates an urban farm and community environmental education center on 20 acres of city park land. 

About New Haven

Common Ground strives to use the City of New Haven as its classroom, and to build a school that's part of and responsive to that city. Our students come from every one of the city's neighborhoods, as well as from 14 surrounding town.  

Blog Posts

Students at the Center

  Joel Tolman           February 9, 2017

What happens when students sit at the center of conversations about improving their schools? Last Friday at Connecticut River Academy in Hartford, we found out. Twenty students from five urban public high schools sat down for a conversation about their schools. Two dozen teachers and school leaders perched and stood around the circle, leaning in...

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Teaching Our Cities is Launched!

  Joel Tolman           December 7, 2016

Last week, Keilly Solano -- a Common Ground High School senior -- took the mic at the front of a room full of classroom teachers, young people, and school leaders from across the Northeast United States. She described her journey from a shy and inward-looking freshman to a senior who’s organizing peers, leading workshops that help other young...

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Making Change Every Day: Students Share Their Growth As Leaders

  Joel Tolman           November 26, 2016

In February, every member of Common Ground's senior class stood before an audience parents, students, and staff. Each senior shared two acts of leadership, chosen from the electronic leadership portfolios they had been building since they arrived at Common Ground. Drawing on these experiences, students described how they had grown as leaders over...

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Teaching Our Cities

  Joel Tolman           November 6, 2016

I was a brand new teacher when I came to Common Ground in 2003. The first class I taught — together with Liz Cox, now Common Ground's School Director — was a course about New Haven’s neighborhoods. It sounds a little ludicrous: a first year teacher, new to New Haven, teaching a class about New Haven to students who had called this city home for...

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When Common Ground students develop their leadership portfolios, they reflect on how critical experiences demonstrate their growing mastery of these environmental leadership standards. Teachers integrate these standards into course plans, as they... read more
This rubric is used to evaluate students' written portfolios (page 1) and their defenses (page 2). Each portfolio and defense is reviewed by three panelists. This rubric evolves year to year -- for instance, previous versions did not include... read more
In a fishbowl conversation, a group of participants form a circle facing inward for a small group discussion. Listeners form another circle around the outside, listening in on the conversation. Fishbowls can function in a variety of ways. Because... read more
This portfolio was created by Bismark Salazar, Class of '16, whose portfolio experience is featured in the video associated with this practice toolkit. 
This portfolio was created by Nyasia Mercer, who graduated from Common Ground in 2016. Portfolio requirements have changed over time; in 2016, students' portfolios focused primarily on artifacts and reflections demonstrating students' growth as... read more
Each year, Common Ground seniors stand before an audience of peers, parents and staff to explain how they've grown into powerful leaders over their four years at Common Ground. This video gives a snapshot of how the portfolio defenses worked for... read more
Hear voices from students, sharing how their schools live up to their environmental and social justice missions, and where they come up short.