I attended Desert Marigold School from 5th through 8th grade. I did really enjoy my time there, but after transferring into a public high school and into gifted and AP classes, I realized that while the emotional development and experiences students receive at DMS are very valuable, the academics are severely lacking. Even when comparing them to the regular level classes at my new school, it's easy to see how much I missed. I think that my teacher in particular was a pretty big factor in this. My teacher had me and a few other students working at a "higher" level in math in my later years there. However, the material that I was doing was barely the average level that the majority of students learn in other schools. It made my transition into my freshman year at a public school extremely difficult, because although I could understand the new material I was learning, I was missing large chunks of prerequisite information necessary for me to be able to be successful in my new classes. I was able to make the adjustment, but it was stressful and difficult for a large portion of my first year, and I still sometimes struggle with some of my school work, especially math. The work I did at DMS barely grazed the surface of what I was expected to know in any level class in high school. The art classes I had at DMS were fantastic and I'm grateful to have had them, but I really wish I'd been prepared in academics, as well as handling work loads. Due dates were almost nonexistent at DMS and homework was rare. When we did get any, it was usually art based, or even sometimes just coming up with an idea about a topic, again, usually art based. This is far from the the work situation at other schools. My friends who also moved schools have told me they struggled as well with these things, and the ones who transferred after their freshman year said it was extremely difficult. I think if their level of academics were brought up significantly, it would be a really successful school, but as is, I wouldn't recommend it, especially not for middle and high school.
It pains me to have to leave this review however I believe it is vitally important others understand what is occurring at Desert Marigold.
I began educated myself on Steiner education and philosophy some time ago and had my heart set on sending my child to a Waldorf school. Dms has all the esthetics one could look for in a Waldorf environment but lacked in so many other areas. Starting from the school tour my family was misled completely about what the school valued in regards to education. Honestly there were blatant lies that were told about Math, Science high school curriculum and number of children that attended college after Dms. I witnessed first hand that behavioral issues in children are not addressed and unfortunately often get worse in this environment. In the early elementary the children receive ample opportunity to socialize and learn through play however this continues far too long into grades where the children are more than ready for a stronger curriculum. Steiner believed hole heartedly in life long learning. This school claims they inspire that but it is absolutely not the case. They have formed their own version of Waldorf and refuse any of the progressive Steiner education tools being used in other countries. I find the administration to be so unorganized that it not only effects the teachers but the children as well. The teachers are underpaid and most of them hold negative feelings about the school which ends up bleeding into the student body. When your teachers aren't supported how can you have a quality school? I have no doubts this school could be absolutely amazing if the administration was replaced and a more progressive Steiner philosophy was adopted. Do your homework on this school. It might look the part but your child will not receive a quality education.
I love the campus, love the festivals but there are so many red flags here that to stay would be a crime. I was sooo disappointed at how this school turned out. There is no organization what-so-ever. Little to no supervision, teachers and administration seem to be always making things up as they go along. Their funding is so mismanaged that the buildings are always in disrepair. The worst part is the behavior of the kids and the lack of teaching. My kid learned next to nothing except how to knit. What am I going to do with her in math and writing? Test scores set aside, this school is not cutting it with teaching. Bottom line is that all kids need to have some basic skills of a human being. Learning should be a good thing! The early childhood is so lovely but even there they do nothing but play the whole day, most of it outside which is awesome. There seems to be no structure or purpose or really any learning going on for them either. Waldorf at this schools has proven itself to be a joke where the administration and most of the teachers are more concerned with painting, festivals and Anthroposophy than they are with the children learning
I decided to write this review so that maybe other kids who were looking at this high school because it looks neat and has art could know what it is really like. Some of my teachers are nice and I think they try but it really seems like no one knows what they are doing. I have so much work to try and catch up to my friends in other schools, even other charter schools. Most of what I did this year they did in 6th grade!!!Most of the kids who go here don't care at all about learning and maybe that is why the school just lets them go through without doing any work. A lot of kids I knew were absent all the time to. I am really upset at the time I wasted here and wish that my parents would have come to observe in the classrooms or something so they would know how bad the academic part really is.
Some of them are ok and I think they try but I don't know how to write for English or to do basic mathematics that my friends in other schools are doing. I have gotten pretty good in art. I really have not learned much in science and was really lost at my new school. I don't know if I will be able to graduate on time. I think if you are really smart and you come into this high school to have a break or a lazy time because you already can do all the academics, then maybe you will be ok.
Most of the time the only homework we have to do is drawing in a main lesson book which actually takes a long time but there is never anything academic in it. We have to draw borders and stuff on the pages and draw pictures of plants for chemistry. For our geometry the teacher never even showed us how to do anything, she just says to work in a book and ask a classmate how to do it. For our geometry final all we had to do was make a mosaic tile. I don't have a clue how to do geometry or algebra from that teacher.
Desert Marigold school looks beautiful, enchanting and ideal for those seeking a relaxed and nurturing environment. They also give a very persuasive talk about their curriculum. However, spending one day in the classroom environment, looking at the abilities of the children academically, and observing their behaviour will surely convince any parent with common sense that this is the last place to send ones child if there is any desire for even minimal academic learning. Because of this lack of academic instruction there tends to be a large number of behaviourally challenged students as well as low achieving students. Students are not help accountable for work and are still given an A grade, particularly in the high school. The skill level and instruction in the high school is shockingly below grade level. Test scores are of course far below the standard in part because there is no instruction. The bulk of student work is merely drawing and other forms of art. Student fail courses but are passed anyway. Test course do not measure everything of course; one need only look at the majority of student work in any subject to see that the students are failing in education on the whole.
Consider these things before exposing your family. Ask questions and research the way financials are handled. Inquire about policies, grievances, family turn over,accountability and follow through, and anthroposophy. Look at the relationship between the members of the collegium and the operations of administration and board. These people are winging it. No way to run a business especially a school. Many unhappy people have left and the ones who really suffer are the children. The waiting list is long and that is why they can keep doing business this way. Do not be fooled.
Take your time and research waldorf education carefully before you embark on this path. It is very difficult to turn back when things go wrong. From my experience and that of many friends (more than 40+ of 300 who withdrew in one recent year) things will go wrong! There is very little academic learning happening here and safety and bullying are serious issues. Don't let the sweet farm like atmosphere fool you.
regarding the below comment on teacher rollover, our teacher DID roll over. the following teacher didn't rollover but did stay at the school as from what I understand she preferred to work with the high school. the next teacher is considering retiring rather than take an 8 year commitment. so the below person got caught in a down phase. People leave and go teach elsewhere, it happens. And every school has its issues. I am very involved with the school and enjoy the many opportunities to be with my children and share in the rich environment. It is a wonderful community, and we have the best teacher in the world so my experience is a little skewed, I guess.