My kids both attended here and have done very well post-Community School (3.9 & 4.0 students in High School). Community School was a wonderful elementary school experience where they learned to love learning and excel at it. The extremely dedicated teachers and parents offer an environment that fosters critical thinking, creativity and striving to always do your best. The playground experience is like no other schools: all grades intermix and play together. There is no-excluding, no bullying. If you want your student in a caring environment that will help them to be academically successful yet at the same time have fun this is the place for them. As a parent you will also be able to participate in the process and feel a part of the community that is like no other public elementary school. This school does not grade or do a lot of homework, especially in the lower grades; don't go here if that is what you want or expect.
Average school. Fun, social environment for the families. But, I agree with earlier postings, academic excellence is not a priority at this school. Expect to spend extra money for outside help or enrichment. This school is not always supportive of special needs on either side of the spectrum - whether your child needs extra help or needs to be challenged. There is an "element of trust" that is needed since there is no testing or report cards or homework. One parent has said, "This is the only school I know where education cannot be discussed." In summary, there are a lot of great things about this school but there is lots, LOTS of room for improvement.
I agree with all the comments below...the good and the bad. No school is perfect. This school has worked well for many families but it has greatly damaged others, and that is why there are so many polarized reviews. Kids who have left, some with much emotional pain, have adjusted well in the regular public schools, but were found to be behind in many subjects such as math and reading comprehension. Academics are not high at this school. Social development is. Do not think this school is better than the regular public ones just because it is a "choice" or "lottery" program. Do your research. Know your kid and his/her needs. While my "above average" kid enjoys this school, please be wary that this school is not for everyone.
When our son was diagnosed with ADD and a friends kid with ADHD the only help they were offered was to be told that they need to be medicated. There was no patience for them within the school and they were continually being called out in front of the class. The school does not have the capacity or desire to accommodate children with ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia or Dysgraphia. Many children left the school for this reason. There is great resistance for any special accommodations within the classroom unless the child had an IEP. It is sad as I have watched the self esteem of many children fall because of this. I think the school needs to move to be on the campus of an elementary school where students can receive the special services they need. Currently the school is in a dark basement of a high school.
My son is a recent graduate. He is dyslexic/dysgraphic. He was always treated with care and respect and was challenged academically by the most dedicated teachers that I will ever meet. He learned to make friends and to be a good friend. To be a good student and to enjoy learning. To work well with others in a group and be determined to excel while working independently. Most importantly, he was given the space and time to figure out how to compensate for his academic struggles that he will have for the rest of his life so that he can be successful. The staff also takes every opportunity to coach kids with behavior situations. Bullying is taken very seriously and from my experience is not tolerated. Community School isn't for all parents...if a parent needs constant feedback and test scores to assure themselves that their child is OK, then CS would not be a good choice. My son is now going to an academically challenging choice middle school where he was moved up a grade level in math, scores very high on the MSP and has great grades. We certainly owe a great debt to the teachers and supportive community at CS for providing our family with a positive elementary experience!
Here is my advice from our experience, for those thinking of attending. If your child is average and doesn t require any extra then the school is a good fit. If your child can educate themselves amidst the chaos, if as a parent you don t need to know where your child is academically at any given point in their time there, and If you are ok with little to no contact with the teachers, then this school is a good fit. If you are willing to pay tutors or enroll your child in extra classes to help keep them at grade level, then this school is right for you! The constructs, the philosophy are ones we could only dream of for our children. The sad part is that it is only this way on paper. After 2 years at the school we decided along with about 25% of the school, to leave. Our child was falling behind in every subject and because there is no assessment or work ever sent home, we did not know what he was doing or where he was academically. We finally had him assessed independently and found he was behind by 1-2 grade levels. This school may excel in the social arena, but you pay for it academically. We hired tutors to help him catch up and moved him to a new school.
Community School offers some great social aspects for children. After almost 5 years at the school we as parents have made great friends and so have our children. I must agree with the posts below that talk about the lack of academic excellence in the school. There is a high number of kids with tutors or in after school classes. There is a definitely a lack of structure and accountability within the school system. I do know that that the current principal is working to improve the situation at the school, but I feel it will be a long process and one that our children will not see the benefit from. I cannot recommend this school if you are looking for academic excellence unless you are willing to pay for a tutor.
I'm a current dad with my fourth kid in the school (eight years). It has been a great experience for each one of my kids. They have made great friends in a fantastic environment. The teachers have gotten to know and care about my kids as individuals and it shows in how happy my kids are to go to school in the morning. My two oldest have 'graduated' to middle school and they were well prepared academically. One is in our neighborhood middle school and the other in an academic choice school. Community School has been a great fit for us. If you want to be involved in your child's school and you like the idea of multi-age classrooms with a real emphasis on inclusion, it could be a good fit for you and your child.
When I first visited the Community School back in the 1990 s while finishing my degree in education, I fell in love with the constructs and philosophy. This is where I wanted my children to attend one day. Fast forward 20 years and it is not the same school I fell in love with. The constructs and mission statement are the same, but what good is having them if they aren t followed. The belief in no testing, homework, or grades is one we whole heartedly support. There was no assessment shared with us, only assurance that our child was fine. Until after 3 years we discovered our child was behind in almost every subject. We, along with many others at the school ended up hiring tutors to help our children catch up. Often you hear it being said by the school that there is no bullying here. Unfortunately, we have found the opposite. I think the main problem with this school is the lack of transparency and accountability to parents on the part of the school. It s sad, but this school, in our experience, is a fortress school. And we cannot in good conscience recommend it.
The main issue that I see as a parent at this school is that there is a fundamental lack of leadership over the school on the part of the principal and the district. The principal seems unplugged from the school and doesn't seem to know what is going on in the school he is supposed to be leading. The teachers are left to run the school themselves which has proven to be very dysfunctional in terms of any accountability and how families with concerns are treated. Because of this lack of leadership, I have witnessed parents being spoken to in ways that would be unthinkable at another public school.
Community school s non-competitive, all-inclusive, confidence building atmosphere is exactly what we were looking for in a school. The small size (75 kids) and large parent volunteer involvement allows the children, teachers and parents an opportunity to develop strong relationships over the span of five grades. The teachers really get know each child and their individual needs and can take the time to help them become well-rounded and confident students. Academically, along with adhering to the LWSD standards, students learn how to think creatively and critically, feel confident in themselves and are not afraid to offer their own ideas without the fear of being wrong . These are all invaluable skills that seem to be lost on the standardized testing generation. Beyond that, watching these children play together at recess is an inspirational sight. First graders playing with fifth graders, kids encouraging each other, helping each other and caring for each other. I can t imagine a better place for my children.
Community School's educational approach (no testing or grades, noncompetitive) differs in significant ways from the typical elementary, and families must support this. We have found it to be a wonderful school providing a challenging and well-rounded education. Because of the multi-age classes and many activities & programs that span 5 grades, each teacher gets to know each student beginning in 1st grade, allowing for continuity in teaching from year-to-year. Families volunteer 3 hours/week in and out of the classroom, which means we know every student and the kids feel cared for and supported by a wide community of adults. Many field trips and 2 camps each year expand the kids' learning beyond books and desk work. It has been easy to communicate with the teachers at any point, either by phone or in their open, in-person conference times offered every week. The teachers put in a lot of extra effort and really care about the kids. Students come out well-prepared for middle school--strong academically, self-motivated, with strong social skills. Our family will forever be grateful for the educational experiences provided at this school, and I know the memories will last a lifetime.
Assisting other parents in helping the school work as it does - though still work - is extremely rewarding & allows willing parents to participate in a meaningful way in the community. The students absorb that can-do spirit & emulate it every day. This school adheres to the standard LWSD curriculum, plus camp trips, personal goal-setting & assessment, garden, reading pals, lunch buddies, & a partnering called 'triads' in which a younger, middle & older child work together on projects. And more. It's the special events that shine most often here, but the way that the playground feels puts this school above the rest. If a child has hurt feelings they are treated with dignity. Teachers & staff focus on this: No problem is too small & the teachers daily demonstrate their conviction to no hurting on the inside . Teachers do not do email: Although quaint, I know that taking pen to paper forces me to be thoughtful & purposeful in my communications. The magic that happens at this school requires trust: Trust your child is learning - not just standard curriculum, but also collaboration & finding their voices: Skills for living. CS will change your family for the better If you let it.
The ability for each teacher to know each student (due to its small size) and the mandate to encourage each child to find their voice has been noticeable in just my child's first year there. The value of books and the students' valuing what the other students read is wonderful!
This school is part of the Lake Washington School District and all that provides. But more importantly it is the most loving and nurturing place where kids are taught respect for each other. It may not be for everyone, as they have requirements for parent involvement. I'd rather my sons leave with a good feeling of who they are & what they are capable of than a head full of knowledge and an empty heart.
Community School is involved with the students on a daily basis with regard to social interaction. Disputes are solved by the students themselves with help from the teacher(s). There are no grades but there are three partent-teacher conferences during the year. One is student-led. The children are encouraged to study what they are most interested in at the moment.
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