What is a public charter school?

A charter school is a public school that operates independently from its local school district, yet which is still accountable for student achievement and operational performance. A charter school is funded on a per-student basis from state and local education tax funds, and is bound by a legal contract (charter) with its sponsoring district. However, it is exempt from many forms of state education regulation and is governed as an independent non-profit, with its own board of directors.
The Madrone Trail Public Charter School is sponsored by the Medford School District. Our charter school proposal was approved by the Medford School District Board in December 2006.

Who is eligible to attend the Madrone Trail Public Charter School?

Charter schools, as non-tuition based government-funded public schools, are open to anyone residing in the state of Oregon. If more students apply than there are spaces available, admission is decided by lottery. Priority is given to students residing in the Medford school district, but if spaces remain, students from outside the district are allowed to attend. Once a student is enrolled at the school, priority is also given to siblings. Age and grade restrictions for students also apply to charter schools.

What is unique about Waldorf education? How is it different from other alternatives (public schooling, Montessori, unschooling, etc.)?

The best overall statement on what is unique about Waldorf education is to be found in the stated goals of our school: “to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives”.

The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands”. The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities.

Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading.

What are the distinctive features of Waldorf education?

The Waldorf methods follow children’s developmental rhythm; kindergarten experience emphasizes a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills, and there is minimal use of traditional “academics” in first grade. Reading is not taught until second and third grade, though the letters are introduced fully and artistically in first and second.

During the elementary school years (grades 1-8) the students have a class (or “main lesson”) teacher who stays with that class for (ideally) the entire eight years of schooling.  This allows for a continuous relationship between the teacher and the students enabling greater understanding and working with the unique learning styles of each child from day one of each new year.

Art Integration – Certain activities which are often considered “frills” at mainstream schools are central at Waldorf schools: art, music, handwork (knitting/crocheting/cross-stitching/weaving), woodworking, gardening, games, and foreign languages. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, because the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play the recorder beginning in first grade. Stringed instruments are introduced in the 4th grade as is choir.

There are no “textbooks” as such in the first through fifth grades. All children have “main lesson books”, which are their own workbooks which they fill in during the course of the year. They essentially produce their own “textbooks” which record their experiences and what they’ve learned. Upper grades use textbooks to supplement their main lesson work.

Learning in a Waldorf school is a noncompetitive activity. There are no grades given at the elementary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.

The use of electronic media, particularly television, by young children is strongly discouraged in Waldorf schools.

Why should I send my child to a Waldorf school?

The main reason is that Waldorf schools honor and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Waldorf schools a safe, secure and nurturing environment for the children, and to protect their childhoods from harmful influences from the broader society.

Secondly, Waldorf education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in age-appropriate fashion.

Finally, Waldorf schools produce graduates who are academically advantaged with respect to their public school counterparts, and who consistently gain admission to top universities.

How is reading taught in a Waldorf school? Why do Waldorf students wait until 2nd grade to begin learning to read?

Waldorf education incorporates the oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout kindergarten and first grade. The oral approach is used all through Waldorf education: mastery of oral communication is seen as being integral to all learning. The rich vocabulary and depth of content utilized at this stage allows for a deeper level of comprehension and recall once reading is mastered.

Writing will be taught before reading. During the first grade year the children explore how our alphabet came about, discovering, as the ancients did, how each letter’s form evolved out of a pictograph. Writing thus evolves out of the children’s art, and their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language.

Why do Waldorf Schools discourage TV watching?

The reasons for this have as much to do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the (to say the least) questionable content of much of the programming. Electronic media are believed by Waldorf educators to seriously hamper the development of the child’s imagination – a faculty which is believed to be central to the healthy development of the individual. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.

Waldorf educators are not, by the way, alone in this belief. Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern with the effect of television on young children. See, for instance, Endangered Minds by Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander, or The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn.

What kind of training do Waldorf teachers have?

Ideally, class Teachers will have both a university degree and teaching certification from a recognized Waldorf teacher training college or institute. Typically, the course of study for teachers is from two to three years post baccalaureate and includes practice teaching in a Waldorf school under the supervision of experienced Waldorf teachers. Teachers must also be either licensed or registered through TSPC and satisfy the requirements for “highly qualified teachers” by the state of Oregon. If a teacher is not Waldorf certified, he/she will be participating in training to learn to apply the Waldorf methods in a public school setting.

Why do Waldorf students stay with the same teacher for 5-8 years?

Between the ages of seven and fourteen, children learn best through acceptance and emulation of authority, just as in their earlier years they learned through imitation. In elementary school, particularly in the lower grades, the child is just beginning to expand his or her experience beyond home and family. The class becomes a type of “family” as well, with its own loving authority figure — the teacher — in a role analogous to a parent.

With this approach, the students and teachers come to know each other very well, and the teacher is able to find over the years the best ways of helping individual children in their schooling. The class teacher also becomes like an additional family member for most of the families in his/her class.

It is worth noting that this approach was the norm in the days of the “little red schoolhouse”.

How do Waldorf children fare when they transfer to “regular” schools? Is it true that once you start Waldorf schooling it is difficult to “make it” in public schools?

Generally, transitions to public schools, when they are anticipated, are not problematic. The most common transition is from an eight grade Waldorf school to a more traditional high school, and, from all reports, usually takes place without significant difficulties.

Transitions in the lower grades, particularly between the first and fourth grades, can potentially be more of a problem, because of the significant differences in the pacing of the various curriculums. A second grader from a traditional school will be further ahead in reading in comparison with a Waldorf-schooled second grader; however, the Waldorf-schooled child will be ahead in arithmetic.

What is eurythmy?

Most simply put, eurythmy is a dance-like art form in which music or speech are expressed in bodily movement; specific movements correspond to particular notes or sounds. It has also been called “visible speech” or “visible song”. Eurythmy is part of the curriculum of all Waldorf schools, and while it often puzzles parents new to Waldorf education, children respond to its simple rhythms and exercises which help them strengthen and harmonize their body and their life forces; later, the older students work out elaborate eurythmic representations of poetry, drama and music, thereby gaining a deeper perception of the compositions and writings. Eurythmy enhances coordination and strengthens the ability to listen. When children experience themselves like an orchestra and have to keep a clear relationship in space with each other, a social strengthening also results.

Eurythmy is usually taught by a specialist who has been specifically trained in eurythmy, typically for at least four years. In addition to pedagogical eurythmy, there are also therapeutic (“curative”) and performance-oriented forms of the art. If budget permits, the Madrone Trail Public Charter School will be offering Eurthmy classes.

What type of testing is done at Madrone Trail Public Charter School?

MTPCS strives to provide a non-competitive learning environment. Being a Public Charter school however, means that we are required to meet or exceed state requirements on standardized testing in order to fulfill the requirements of our charter and continue operating as a Public School.  Students participate in the State Dibels testing and Oaks testing at the required grades and intervals.  Our teachers do not “teach to the tests”.  Our rich curriculum with its emphasis on instilling a love of learning and thinking skills allows our students to complete the required testing effectively despite some subjects being introduced later (or earlier) than in a traditional Public School.   In the classroom,  the early grades may have a weekly spelling quiz, but for the most part in class tests and quizzes are minimal and generally not utilized until the upper grades.

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