The teachers here listen to each student. Students have a chance to tell their side; to work out their differences. They are mandated to work with all ages; the older students don't bully or lord it over the younger students. There is a sense of community that requires accountability.
We left this school. Over half of the children in first grade were not promoted to second grade because they were not prepared. Also left because the school is not run cooperatively by the entire community - it is run by a clique. Committees can't make decisions – everything goes in circles. For example, they have been working on redoing the website for a few years. It still looks the same because someone objects to something. There is no obvious method for improving the school – high quality seems not to be a goal. People with authority play favorites. Lots of parents want a principal at the school, but the group in charge won't even let the issue be discussed. This is not a ‘mess’ that results from community process, it is chaos. This place is stuck in the 1960s. Time for us to move on.
Project Learn School is a place where my children can be themselves fully. We have been part of the PLS community for 3 years, and our 7-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son can tell that the staff care about them as individuals, not just as students. My son loved his multimedia research project so much that we never had to cajole him into working on the assignment. He made a stop-motion Lego movie about Greek mythology, in addition to writing a 10-page research paper about the subject. The small school, with its interdisciplinary programming and frequent multi-age groupings, encourages accountability among all community members. It's wonderful to see older children from the junior high hanging out with the youngest children--not only does it help the younger students feel included in a supportive environment, it gives the older students important mentoring experiences that grow their confidence and sense of responsibility. PLS welcomes the contributions of its parents, which was not the case in our daughter's kindergarten school. Our children are learning the crucial skills of how to work cooperatively, make decisions democratically, and solve problems creatively.
Project Learn School is the best fit for our family. When we began our school search two years ago, we visited our catchment school, a neighboring elementary school, a local charter school, and Project Learn School. PLS was a bit of a stretch - we are a single income family and never imagined paying for Kindergarten. Ultimately we chose to send our daughter to PLS because it is a diverse school where parents, teachers, and students work together to make school a safe and exciting place for children to learn and develop into another generation of informed, proactive citizens. My family, along with other cleaning co-opers, take pride in doing our cleaning co-op four Saturdays in the school year. Finding the time to complete cooping responsibilities (be it 10 hrs a year or 40 hrs a year) is no easy feat in the 21st Century. Knowing that all of us are collectively working to make our school function for the good of the school is a great motivator. If you're considering Project Learn School, I invite you to call for a tour. Seeing PLS in action for yourself is the best way to determine if it's the best fit for your family!
I've been a parent at Project Learn School for seven years and I'm grateful to have been a part of its evolution. PLS is a learning environment ideally suited the 21st century, encouraging children to think critically while working together in project-based groups. Social Emotional Learning (or SEL) -- which has lately become a major buzzword in educational theory -- has been a part of the PLS core curriculum since its founding in 1970. What some other reviewers have pointed to as negatives (the non-hierarchical, cooperative leadership structure) I view as an added bonus: because of the school's "crowd sourced" leadership, I have been intimately involved not only in my child's education, but have been schooled myself in concepts surrounding the educational process -- and community development -- in ways I could not have imagined. Learning, in my mind, is never finished, and PLS is the perfect place for children to set off on the journey of life-long learning and for parents to continue it.
We did not choose this school for it governance style, Town Meetings or Co-oping. We picked this school because it was the Best Choice for our daughter. It has small class sizes about 10 students a "grade." If I wanted to come into the classroom for the day, I can. It is a community that works together to educate its children. No, it is not perfect, but no community is. Within this community, teachers know all the students personalities and interests. They work as a team to bring out the potential of each student and helps students reach additional goals. Our daughter has opened up, made friends across the grades, is growing to positively interact with a diverse community. Project Learn actively incorporates best practices; but, more importantly they live it.
I am sad to say that after a year at PLS, I would not recommend this school, unless you are enjoy monthly endless meetings, having the same discussions over and over again, and spending four Sundays a year cleaning the bathrooms (yes, in addition to the fun of paying $15,000 a year you also get to do 4 cleaning shifts!). As with many institutions that feel that "everyone is in charge," the reality is that no one is in charge. The communication at this school is appalling. And although they seem to believe that decisions are made by the "PLS community," the truth is that a handful of people are the ones who really make decisions. They also seem surprised that more people aren't interested in the school, but they will not change their 40 hour a year co-op requirement. That's just not realistic for families with parents who work full time. I will say that the teachers are generally great, though. But trust me, it isn't worth the aggravation.
Prepare to be disillusioned. Project Learn School does not have a principal. It has an administrative committee that makes decisions about what issues to bring before the parent community for them to vote on. If this sounds cumbersome, time consuming and stressful, that is because it is! I chose PLS because I hoped for involvement in my children's school. However, this place just spins in circles with no leadership and no ability to make important decisions. Read your contract carefully. It is important to note that if the school makes a mistake on its budget (prepared by a parent) and runs out of money mid-year, they have the right to bill an extra tuition payment to each family to make up for the shortfall. They have done this in many recent years so be prepared to pay more than you think. The school environment is warm and friendly but many families have left in recent years due to concerns about academic quality. I agree with the child centered philosophy of the school, however, children still need academic preparation (i.e. cover the appropriate coursework) in order to be prepared to participate with their peers from other schools in high school.
This is a wonderful school, with dedicated, creative teachers and a strong curriculum. There are so many wonderful "extras" that compliment the educational program. Kids are encouraged to work independently, and learn for the sake of learning. I can't imagine sending my kids to any other school.