the written word

Suddenly she was overcome with emotion as she contrasted that environment with the student-led atmosphere in Ms. Atwell’s class. “It makes me sad that my students can’t have this every day,” she said, wiping away tears. “These children are so fortunate.”

Ms. Atwell reminded the teachers that she had once taught in a public school and faced strict requirements. “There is nothing that we are doing here that can’t be done in any public school,” she said. “The question is, how do you tweak these hidebound traditions of the institutions?”

- A New Assignment: Pick the Books You Like

Unfortunately, her other sister, then a high school senior in a rigorous Advanced Placement literature course, would be way behind. For the whole year, she was assigned “Frankenstein” (17 points), “The Remains of the Day” (13 points), “Heart of Darkness” (a measly 10 points), “The Dharma Bums” (not listed in the system) and “Hamlet” (7 points). Yes, “Hamlet” was worth fewer points than the fifth installment of the Gossip Girl series.

- Reading by the Numbers