Two of my sons enrolled at Avalon last fall and are both very happy with their experience there. During a snowstorm this past week, my middle school aged son actually said, "I kinda hope we don't have a snow day tomorrow because I want to finish the cool project we're doing in social studies." I never have heard a 12 - year old say such a thing before.
I love that the advisors treat the students with such respect, recognize them as individuals, and teach them how to advocate for themselves and their own learning.
Advisors at Avalon work closely with their classes to develop healthy and open communication and respect within the community. There are open discussions about learning differences, gender and sexuality issues, personal interests, and everyone's right to respect and safety.
I transferred to Avalon from a large suburban school halfway through my sophomore year. It was the best decision I could ever have made. I was never bullied at my old school but they never did anything to make me feel accepted despite being with the same group of kids since kindergarten. Avalon shaped me into the person I am today. I can express my opinions honestly and respectfully and I can work with a large variety of people (including ones I do not get along with or rather do not like). Avalon taught me real world skills through seemingly unrelated tasks. Sitting and shucking a hundred pounds of beans doesn't seem to teach anything other than dexterity but I learned how to listen to people and their stories and how many hands make light work. Being held responsible for my work and my behavior made me step up and become the person I wanted to be.
To respond to some of the issues brought up:
1. Every single teacher at Avalon has AT LEAST 1 teaching degree.
2. Advisors do not babysit, they let the students be themselves and intervene when necessary. As a student that was my favorite part. I could go about my day in the way I found efficient and wasn't lorded over by my advisor. But he was always there when I needed him-for anything.
3. You cannot fake an entire project. At the beginning of each project you (the student) write out a rubric that describes what you must do in order to obtain a certain grade. You also estimate how many hours you think this project will take. If a student says they're going to spend 90 hours on a project and they come to the project finalization with a project that obviously looks like only 20 hours of work-they are not given the 90 hours. Just because the students are free to design projects how they please doesn't mean the staff lets them get away with lying.
This school changed my life and if "regular" public school isn't working for your child-I HIGHLY recommend Avalon. It worked for me and it hasn't worked for others but I know MANY more who have found success at this wonderful school.
The teachers care deeply about all the children and I have seen nothing but brilliance coming from my sons' teachers. Project based learning is student driven, and if students fail at a project, it's part of the learning process. Serious learners thrive here. One who are just jumping through the hoops, just jump through the hoops. It's a complex situation and absurd to rate with a single grade. (Which is another reason to love Avalon: they actually write things and give meaningful feedback, unlike this site which has the silliest of scales. All serious researchers know how fickle opinions are.)
Students just slide through. Some really great advisors. Ours is horrible - lost work blamed on students, walks away and misses meetings, totally confusing/contradictory in her descriptions of expectations, etc. Too few seminars - they don't vary much, so once students have taken seminars in area of interest, they just sit on their projects all day. This does not prepare them for the college experience at all.
Some of the teachers at Avalon don't even have a teaching license or degree. While I think that says everything it needs to, there's much more I can say. Teachers cant even keep students quiet enough to allow each other to work on projects. A project based school can go one of two ways, it can be a creative and expressive way to learn, or it can be a crutch for lazy students and ESPECIALLY lazy teachers. Can you guess which one Avalon is? Avalon teachers will often complain about how busy they are when they teach only one class a quarter. Projects only keep them "busy" twice during their entire existence. Once at a 15 minute proposal meeting to make sure the project "meets standards" and once when the project is finalized. This includes glancing over the project for about 10 minutes and then making it painfully obvious that they have no idea what's in the project they supposedly just graded during the finalization meeting which lasts another 15 minutes. During this meeting, the student picks their own grade, and I have seen a teacher change this grade maybe twice.
Homework is basically only given in the math class, and it is never checked to make sure it's done. Students can make "projects" and fake their way through their entire high school career as there is no verification on what they have learned.