I've been a student at The Clearwater School in Washington for over 11 years. There are no grades (neither letter grades nor age-separating grades), curriculum, or tests. There are very few classes, and all of the classes have to be requested by students. There is a weekly meeting where everybody, students and staff, has an equal vote, and where all decisions are made.

Our school has been around for 18 years, but the school we're based on, Sudbury Valley School has been around for 46, and they've published two studies on their alumni.

For proof, I can offer my student ID. If anybody has any ideas about other proof I could easily offer from my home, please ask.

Ask me anything!

Note: I am doing this AMA as an individual who goes to a Sudbury school; I was not asked by the school to post this. I don't represent the school or speak for other staff members or students of TCS.

EDIT: I've got to get to a performance now. I'll be back in about 5 hours for a little more question-answering before finishing up for good. Thanks for all the intelligent questions, and feel free to keep 'em coming!

EDIT 2: I'm back! Got a couple more hours to answer questions before I go to sleep.

EDIT 3: Alright guys, I need to go to sleep. It's been fun. I'm not sure what the etiquette is on ceasing to answer questions, and this was really all the time I had planned to answer questions for, but if there are more questions in the morning I'll certainly answer them before I head off to another performance. I can continue answering questions as long as they keep coming, or if people want to take the discussion to private messages I'll gladly answer them there as well. I didn't really expect this kind of response. I hope I've changed some people's views on education, at least a little bit. My views have certainly changed some. Thanks everybody!

EDIT 4: I just wanted to thank everybody for their kind words, I didn't get the chance to respond to people who didn't ask questions and just offered their interest or perspective. Thanks!

Comments: 879 • Responses: 114  • Date: 

Solafuge241 karma

This sounds like terrible schooling imo.

How does this system benefit the students?

Sudburykid151 karma

There are a few main benefits, in my opinion. The first one I would mention is one that I think a lot of people disregard (and probably will disregard, even after me writing this), which is that it's simply a lot more pleasant for the students. Traditional schools force students to learn subjects they're uninterested in, some of which may have no use to them in their adult life, as well as the amount of homework, which can interfere with other outside of school activities.

Secondly, it benefits people who are very passionate about a specific subject, and allows them to spend as much time as they want truly mastering it. In a traditional school, if you want to learn Calculus at age 10, that's not going to be available. At a Sudbury school, you can invest as much time as you want into learning math, or art, or programming.

Thirdly, I think the social scene, at least at my school, is vastly superior to traditional schools. The age mixing is very beneficial to students, both younger and older, in terms of what they can learn from one another. Bullying is very rare, and when it does occur, it is handled by a system called Judicial Committee, which is made up of several students who hear the case and decide which parties are guilty, and what sentence they should receive. Plus there's just a lot more time for hanging out with your friends, instead of just a couple hours a day.

SensibleMadness269 karma


Sudburykid73 karma

I've found that when people are left to direct their own learning, they do learn a variety of subjects. They just happen to be the variety they're personally interested in. And there are people (whether they be students or staff) around who will suggest things that someone may not have thought they'd be interested in, so it's not like that is totally lost either.

In the state of Washington, there aren't actually any requirements for specific things that students have to learn. If I remember correctly, the school does have to "offer" a certain group of subjects, which our school does. Usually nobody is taking advantage of those things, which is perfectly legal. We are required to have an accredited teacher on staff, as well as to have a certain amount of school days each year. We are fully accredited by the state of Washington, and you receive a normal high school diploma for graduating.

maxk123624 karma

How does applying to college work? Do you guys still take the normal standardized tests?

Sudburykid46 karma

The school doesn't force anybody to take standardized tests, but if the college you want to go to requires them, then yes, you'll take whatever test is required. We are also required to write a narrative transcript of our education, what we've learned, etc.

zekimar62 karma


Sudburykid25 karma

Yes. But they want to learn it, because they want to go to college.

zekimar26 karma


Sudburykid26 karma

They only "have to" do it because it's a prerequisite for something they want to do. There's a much clearer motivation if you're 17 and saying "Okay, I'm going to study math because next year I'm going to take the SAT and I'm going to need those math skills if I want to go to college and become a whatever." as opposed to if you're 8 and saying "Okay, I'm going to study math because I'm gonna need it 10 years from now, probably, but maybe I won't even need it."

xbk1-5 karma

I think that conventional schools are more effective at producing "one-dimensional people". They were even designed for that, with fixed periods and bells preparing them to participate in industrial society (and more recently prison -- one of our modern wealth-creation mechanisms.)

micspamtf218 karma

Holy shit. Someone saying that THE MODERN HIGH SCHOOL IS DESIGNED TO PREPARE STUDENTS TO GO TO PRISON is being upvoted. Further,saying that HAVING A SCHEDULE is designed to prepare people for industrial society is astounding.

Maybe, it is easier for teachers to function on a bell-schedule? Maybe, tons of people change their profession?

But no, on reddit High School is worse than Hitler.

Sudburykid3 karma

Well, I don't entirely agree with xbk1, but the modern high school is designed to prepare people for industrial society. The system of schooling we use today was designed around the industrial revolution, and it's what we've used ever since.

FG_SF138 karma

Why haven't you organized the four- and five-year olds into a voting bloc yet? You could get quite a lot done if you turn them into screaming vote-monsters.

Sudburykid56 karma

It would be pretty hard to organize a bunch of four and five-year olds to do anything. The expression should really be "Like herding toddlers".

ActualJesus_98 karma

That sort of setup sounds as though it could work well for kids that are of a higher ability or intelligence level, but I can't imagine it would be good for lower ability students. From your experience, is it the case that the students who need more help do not do well, or does the setup work well for everyone?

Sudburykid67 karma

I wouldn't go so far as to say the setup works well for everyone. I do think it works very well for more students than most people would expect. It's certainly true that people who are of a higher ability or intelligence level will devote themselves more fully to what people might see as traditional learning, but that doesn't mean what the other students are doing isn't valuable.

Also, a lot of students that "need more help" in a traditional school turn out to not need as much help in a Sudbury school. I've seen a lot of kids really come into their own and start directing their own learning after coming to school. Recently, there was a student who enrolled at school, and for the first 2 months or so, he didn't talk to anyone. He would sit on a couch with his laptop, or a book, or take a nap on it, and would only talk to someone if you came over to check on how he was doing, to which he would only reply with one or two words. After a couple of months, he's a lot more interactive and vocal, and he's starting to really take an interest in the school. Sometimes it just takes time for people to get used to being responsible for themselves.

ActualJesus_14 karma

I guess that's fair enough, as introverted kids might be brought out of their shell, but what's it like for kids that clearly do not want to learn or are purposefully disruptive? Do they get punished less severely than in other schools? Thanks for the response as well

Sudburykid31 karma

The discipline system of our school is called Judicial Committe, or JC. Every day, a panel of students (and usually one staff, although that isn't a requirement) meets, led by the Chair of JC (usually a student, sometimes a staff), and they hear any and all complaints that students have about each other. This ranges from "Billy left his lunch out and I had to clean it up" to more serious matters like fighting, or verbal harassment. They hear all sides of the story, decide who is guilty of what, and then assign sentences. If a student has a repeated pattern of unsafe behavior, or disrespect for the rules, they are sometimes referred to School Meeting for a suspension. In theory, if that were to go on long enough, they could be expelled, but only one student in the history of our school has been expelled. We do tend to be very lenient, but students who get suspended usually find out that they do actually want to attend the school, and will do what needs to be done to come back.

phira13 karma

What we're they expelled for?

Sudburykid14 karma

Repeated violent behavior and verbal harassment without any sign of changing after multiple suspensions and a long process of JC.

micspamtf211 karma

Is the reason that they don't need help because they don't have to do things that they need help in? I can't fathom anyone believing that a student who 'needs help' in a traditional school, moves to your's and suddenly learns better? Are you sure its not just that they stop really having to apply themselves to learning core subjects?

Sudburykid35 karma

I've seen it time and time again. Someone is a "troublemaker", or some other label, and they're failing all their subjects. They hate some of them, but even the ones they like they're doing poorly in because they don't like school, or they don't like the teachers, or maybe they're too advanced in that subject and aren't paying attention in class. They come to Clearwater, they can learn on their own terms. They can learn when they want to, they can learn exactly what they want to, and they can learn it in a way that's relevant to them. Maybe they're not interested in learning "math", but they are really curious about how to optimize their build in a video game, and they want to figure out how to do that... using math. Something like that.

Or, because they get to spend as much time as they want outside, they can stay focused more when they are trying to learn things. There's a lot of benefits for "problem students" at a Sudbury school, especially people with ADD or ADHD.

ratatatrocks89 karma

Since there is no testing how do the students show that they are retaining information that is being taught?

Sudburykid43 karma

They don't. The school trusts its students to assess for themselves whether or not they are learning all they need to learn.

iloveartichokes88 karma

wait, really? and this is legal? why haven't I created one of these schools where I don't have to do anything?

Whybambiwhy25 karma

Depends on the state. Some states are very strict about what schools must teach (subjects). Other states are very loose. in school requirements and/or home school requirements. Several states don't even make parents of home schooled kids file a lesson plan. That's how people get away with "unschooling" their kids.

This is a form of unschooling, but in a group and in a school setting.

Edit- really embarrassed to have to edit for spelling.

Sudburykid21 karma

This is the case. Washington's only requirements for private schools are a certain number of school days per year and that we have an accredited teacher on staff, as well as, I think, some sort of vague requirement that we "offer" certain subjects, which is technically true.

shadypizzaguy19 karma

What happens when you vote off all of the accredited teachers?

Sudburykid18 karma

Well, then you would have to hire another accredited teacher. Pretty simple.

BobSacamano123254 karma

Do you plan on going to university? How would they accept you without any grades?

Sudburykid24 karma

I do plan on going to college, see some of my other answers for how that works.

chiefwhackahoe31 karma

Are you going to American "college", which is what the rest of the word calls university, or a trade/vocational college

Sudburykid24 karma

I'm debating between a university and an acting school.

JoypadJihadi53 karma

My daughter is 4 in a couple of months. The idea of her having a say in anything more important than which cereal she is having for breakfast or what colour scrunchy she is going to wear really scares me. She is a maniac. How exactly do four year olds exercise a vote at Sudbury?

Sudburykid36 karma

Well, most four year olds don't exercise their vote. The weekly school meeting is optional, not mandatory, and most of the younger students choose not to come. However, when they do come, I've found that they usually understand quite well what is being voted on (they usually don't come to, say, parts of the meeting where we vote on budget), and when they don't, they'll ask, or just not vote.

So far we've had no problems with younger students voting for absurd things, and AFAIK, neither has Sudbury Valley.

LiftingAristotle40 karma

A lot of hostile comments here, often without any substance.

Sudburykid36 karma

It happens. People react to the unfamiliar.

Destinycakes23 karma

How many students attend your school? Since there are no grades, how do students from your school handle college applications?

Sudburykid45 karma

We currently have about 65 students. To get into college, students have to take the SAT, and then, in place of a normal transcript, they have to write what's called a narrative transcript. It's basically on essay on your activities over the course of your school career.

In the study published by Sudbury Valley of their alumni, they found that about 80% of their graduates went to college.

roman_fyseek78 karma

How many finished college? I think that's a far better metric than those who started college.

Sudburykid23 karma

That's a very good point, and I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you, at least, not off the top of my head. The question might be answered in one of the Sudbury Valley studies.

roman_fyseek21 karma

I can give you an answer from 2007: two of the graduates are now attending community college, and one is enrolled at Earlham College in Indiana. Two others are working. One student left without graduating, Sarantos said, and is in a job-training program.

I would like to see more recent statistics than this http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2003645914_unschooled01m.html

Sudburykid48 karma

That... isn't an answer to how many finished college. That's an answer about how many started it, from 7 years ago when we had 5 graduates. Out of those 5, the three who went to college finished it, one of the others who was working went to college and finished it. The other two I haven't kept in touch with.

Like I said, I'm afraid I don't have those statistics for you.

IWasRightOnce1 karma

But many colleges no longer ask for SAT scores so does this mean you have to limit your college choices to ones that do?

Sudburykid9 karma

My original comment was misworded. You aren't required to take the SAT, you would only need to take it if the college you wanted to go to required it.

TLO_Is_Overrated23 karma

Has there been anything voted on that has turned out to be a disaster?

Sudburykid22 karma

There's been nothing I would define as a disaster at my school. Rules have been passed that were quickly overturned because of general outrage, but nothing that was hugely damaging to the school or anybody attending it.

redditor300013 karma

Like what rules?

Sudburykid33 karma

Usually rules that restrict some sort of freedom. There was a short-lived attempt to limit the use of the Computer Room, and there was a rule passed requiring people to not microwave popcorn because of the odor, which lasted for a little while and was then voted down. Those are the only examples that immediately come to mind.

Thexorretor20 karma

Colorado College has a similar student-run judicial process. In this case, they tend to see a lot of academic dishonesty issues. A curious and disturbing phenomena developed where the the student-judges cared more if you acknowledged that you “done wrong” and apologize to the court than the severity of your crime. This created a weird catch-22 where students who believed they were innocent and tried to defend themselves were hardly punished, but very guilty students who just apologized and got off with a slap on their wrists. The student-judges focused too much on “the authority of the court”, rather than determining innocence/guilt and determining appropriate punishments. I have a friend who was (in my opinion) found wrongly guilty of academic dishonesty and this had a severe consequences for her post-college life— all because she defended her innocence.

Do you seem similar dynamics in the Judicial Court at Sudbury, basically power corrupting?

p.s. The background of my friend’s story: She had written a paper several months previous, and she asked a student who was on the judicial board whether her citations were correct. The student acted helpful, but then turned her into the student judicial board. In no way was she copy-pasting stuff. My friend defended her innocence and even the professor wrote in defend her, but it didn’t work. Her “guilty verdict” stopped her from getting into post-graduate programs. It's been a whilte, so some of the details are fuzzy.

Sudburykid11 karma

Not so much. It's funny you should bring it up though, actually, because at the most recent School Meeting we actually did have a long discussion about how your actions are perceived depending on the tone you take when apologizing/admitting to them with a student who was up for suspension. JC certainly isn't blind to emotions and people being swayed by the way someone puts their arguments, and when you're not talking about a legal court but rather a community, I wouldn't argue that they should be.

That said, I think JC does a pretty good job of referring to the rules and trying to determine who is guilty and who isn't.

roman_fyseek18 karma

My eldest daughter went to a similar school for 6-12th grade. However, they were tested and had assigned classes.

They were under no obligation to actually attend the classes but when your test scores started dropping, you were advised that you were about to fail and would be sent to a normal school.

That testing and counseling went a long way toward keeping students on track.

H.B. Woodlawn in Arlington, if anybody is interested.

I have at least one co-worker that went to the same school about 10 years prior to my daughter and she turned out great. You are given the latitude to succeed or fail on your own. But, the 'fail' part of that was ever-present.

It doesn't seem like you can fail at this Clearwater school.

Do you guys generate a lot of ditch-diggers and McDonald's clerks?

Sudburykid23 karma

My school doesn't have a lot of graduates, due to having a low number of students and not being around for very long. However, as far as I know, we have no students who have ever been ditch-diggers, and while we have had people who worked in jobs similar to (although I don't think actually including) McDonald's clerks, they often go on to something else.

For example, we had one student who left school without graduating, lived with his parents, and started working at Safeway. It was pretty depressing, but we stayed in touch with him and he would come to visit occasionally. One time, after about a year, he came back and mentioned that he was quitting his job and going to college. When people assumed his parents were going to help pay for it, he said, no, he had actually saved up around 30 thousand dollars to pay for it, and was planning on putting himself through college.

We've had graduates who went on to become a professional artist, a professional chef, a graphic designer, an Alaskan crab fisherman, and others who are going through college to become a biologist, an engineer, a programmer, and more.

roman_fyseek24 karma

I pity your biologist, engineer, and programmer hopefuls. While I admit that programming is more of an art than a science (I'm a programmer, myself), there is a shitton of math behind what I do because if there weren't, we'd all still be using bubble-sort.

It seems to me that your biologist, engineer, and programmer are likely starting with a third-grade education in those three topics unless they had the wherewithal to know what courses to take and really hammered their teachers for the proper challenges to get them to be able to think at a university level.

I know exactly how lazy I was in 10-12th grade and I would have happily accepted no tests as a graduation requirement. Thankfully, I didn't have that option.

autozoom337 karma

I found this topic extremely interesting, so I started looking up the effectiveness of Sudbury-like schools (ie. democratic education systems). From one of the research papers I was able to find (http://studentliberation.com/pdfs/gray-sudbury-study.pdf):

"More surprising than the observation that SVS graduates have done well in jobs and careers is the observation that they have also done well in college. Not having taken the usual high school courses, many if not most of these individuals must have been behind most of their college classmates in knowledge of materials taught in such courses, yet they seem to have had little trouble catching up. As we have seen, the graduates themselves explain this in terms of their positive attitude about learning, their feeling of responsibility for their own learning, their ability to find things out on their own, and their lack of inhibitions about communicating with their professors and asking for help when needed--characteristics that they regard as having been fostered by their SVS experience. This view is consistent with that of directors of at least some college learning centers, who have found that the distinction between those who do well in college and those who do not has more to do with "learning to learn" skills than the knowledge of content area (Heiman, in press)."

I'm not sure if the Heiman paper cites whether this "learning to learn" skill is as valuable across all majors/subjects, so that is certainly up for discussion.

I would also like to make a point that your self-described "laziness" in 10-12th grade was potentially a cause/result of the education that you were apart of. Actually, I was the same way when I was in 10-12th grade (so I know how you feel), and wonder if I was in a school that promoting learning, that I would've been more intrinsically motivated.

edit: grammar.

Sudburykid12 karma

YES! This is exactly it. Many Sudbury graduates who have gone to college report frustration with their classmates, who aren't necessarily as invested in the learning as they are.

I recently had a similar experience at driver's ed, where many of my fellow students were clearly not there because they wanted to be, and made the class extremely difficult for me by being disruptive and disrespectful to the teacher.

Sudburykid14 karma

I don't know why you assume they didn't have that wherewithal. They knew what they were interested in and made sure they learned it, both inside and outside of school. They paid attention to what they would need to know to do well in college for those things, and what they would need to do to get a job in those fields. That's pretty much the whole idea of the school.

salt-the-skies4 karma

We've had graduates who went on to become a professional artist, a professional chef, a graphic designer, an Alaskan crab fisherman

Coincidentally 4 careers that are mainly self taught. Artistic expression in mediums including graphic design take some technical knowledge, but they're inherently self expression. An inherit ability.

Professional chef? If you knew the people who comprise most "Chef" positions, you wouldn't be referencing it. Culinary school is often a last resort for many people and it's a trade entirely built on experience and not the influence of any education.

Crab fisherman? Manual labor job, like any other. It pays great money for a short period of intense labor. Again, experience based, little educational influence.

Sudburykid1 karma

I'm... not entirely sure what your point is. Yes, the students who go to a school where you self-teach are going to be predisposed to careers that require self-teaching. That doesn't mean it's impossible to do other things, as evidenced by the rest of my comment, which you conveniently ignored.

joelschlosberg15 karma

I seem to be one of the only people here who needs neither explanation nor convincing of the validity of the Sudbury model! I went to “regular” schools K-12, and while I always did well by the school’s measures, never had difficulty with schoolwork, and was fortunate to have parents who never pushed me and gave me full rein to pursue my own interests outside school, I always chafed at the boredom and disempowerment of school. While I always had a hunch that something wasn’t right about the school system, I had not the slightest inkling that there was any other approach until stumbling upon the Sudbury school websites halfway through undergraduate college in 2002. It was enormously impressive that there were over 20 Sudbury-based schools successfully running at the time, and it seemed that the momentum from 1 school to 20 had a chance of continuing to 200, then 2,000, and so forth. Yet since then, despite Sudbury's solid track record, it has not made a dent in mainstream education, which has become even more relentlessly top-down and whose entire spectrum of “reform” seems to involve either intensifying its worst aspects or tinkering with trivial side issues. How do those of us who “get” Sudbury get everyone else on board?

Sudburykid10 karma

Well, that's what I'm trying to do right now!

In general, I try to participate in discussions, online or otherwise, about schooling, alternative schooling, and children's rights. I'm also very involved in my school's recruitment efforts. In my opinion, just keep doing what you're doing and keep talking about Sudbury!

flamore10 karma

How to get in this school? Do you need special requirements to get in there?

Sudburykid12 karma

No special requirements. Potential students are required to do a trial week, just to make sure the school fits them, but that's all.

zonnnig10 karma

What role does the staff play? If the learning is self-guided, do you still have teachers there to teach lessons or are they just there as a resource to help find answers?

Sudburykid14 karma

We currently have three "staff members". They are there to offer classes if they are requested (sometimes they teach something they have expertise in, sometimes they'll use outside resources and learn along with the students), hang out with students, run the technical aspects of the school (paying the staff, and the mortgage, and keeping the books in order), and make sure that the school follows legal requirements, among other things.

Major_Techie9 karma

I find the idea behind your school quite interesting. My questions are:

What stops the system from being abused?

Do you think this kind of school would work in other countries or other cultures? I personally could never see it working in the lower income sectors of South Africa (My home country).

Sudburykid13 karma

I'm not necessarily sure what you mean by being abused. If you mean, "what if someone doesn't take any classes and just plays video games all day", well, the short answer is that there is nothing to stop that.

However, the longer answer is that it there might be pressure from your friends to come do something else, or, once you figure out what sort of career you might be interested in, you might want to learn something to help you get that sort of a job. Generally, I think people underestimate the foresight of children.

I do think it could work in other countries. There are several sudbury schools in Denmark, Germany, Australia, and Belgium, as well as one in Israel, and I believe there are one or two in China. Maybe more.

goodtalkruss9 karma

How do you assess your own academic growth? Do you give yourself assignments? If so, do you evaluate the final product yourself?

Also, is it difficult having so few students your age at school with you? Are you able to maintain friendships with the other kids in your neighborhood who attend public school?

Sudburykid8 karma

I don't assess my own academic growth, give myself assignments (Well, I do give myself projects like "founding a theatre program"), and when I do those projects, I evaluate them myself as well as soliciting feedback from staff, students, and parents.

It is sometimes trying to have so few students my age, but I find it tremendously beneficial to be able to interact with people who aren't my age. I have very rewarding friendships with people who are 12, 18, 4, and many ages in between. I do have some friendships outside of school, mostly with people that do theatre at the theater I do things at, but for the most part, I just have friends at school.

Whybambiwhy9 karma

I guess the system works because the student body is self selecting the school. The students and their parents must be pretty motivated.

But, I think you are cheating yourself by not having to take classes you aren't interested in. A well rounded general education (at least a basic one) is best. In college, I avoided my 4 science requirements until I had to take them (or not graduate). Turns out I loved entomology. It was so much fun. And my background knowledge of Latin helped me a lot. Had I not been forced to take science courses, I would have never done it.

Sudburykid9 karma

Most students do end up being motivated after they've been at school for a while, but it's actually sometimes quite the opposite. A lot of people come to Clearwater as a last resort, and say "Oh, my kid isn't motivated, s/he probably won't do well here" only to turn out that they just weren't motivated to do things they hated in traditional school.

I agree with you about a general education, so I've done my best to learn at least a little bit in many subjects. Other people don't agree, and haven't.

lovelleigh7 karma

Hi! As someone who graduated from a traditional public school environment, I think this sounds awesome. What's a typical day like for you? Or, if it varies too much day to day, a typical week?

Sudburykid5 karma

A typical day does vary a fair amount from day to day, and from student to student, but as I've said in other comments, I do a large amount of play, of various sorts. I participate in a lot of talking between students, and hang out having intelligent discussions. I am frequently in rehearsal for some sort of theatrical endeavor. I have a lot of meetings (to help manage the computer room, the theatre program, and the tuition assistance program, as well as the weekly all-school meeting).

ballstatemarine6 karma

This is the worst idea anyone has ever had regarding education. It is detrimental to the children without them even realizing it.

Sudburykid4 karma

If you'd like to elaborate on your concerns, I'd be happy to discuss them.

Zombies_hate_ninjas5 karma

Are the students prepared for college and university. What percentage f graduates go on to post secondary?

Sudburykid5 karma

I don't have a statistic for you from my school, due to low sample size, but Sudbury Valley has published two studies on their alumni, and found that 80% of graduates went on to further education.

ABrightAl4 karma

I've read up on the Sudbury Valley School and love the concept - even though I myself was educated in public traditional schools all the way through and did very well in that model.

What is your parents' involvement in your education? Have they talked about why they selected the Sudbury model for you?

Sudburykid7 karma

My mom chose this school for me when I was 4, at the same time as my aunt chose it for my 5-year old cousin. They've talked a lot about their experiences in traditional school, and wanting more freedom for myself and my cousin. Honestly, I don't think either of them thought we would stay there for our entire school careers at that point, but it became clear pretty quickly how much we loved the school and how valuable it is.

whyisthissohardffs3 karma

Do you guys ever sit standardized tests? (e.g. SAT) Or are you restricted to colleges that are willing to waive the SAT requirements?

Sudburykid3 karma

The school does not require students to sit the SAT, but if you want to get into a college that requires a SAT score, you will have to sit the SAT outside of school.

MetallicFire2 karma

Out of curiosity, what's the average SAT score for your school? If I had to guess, I'd expect a higher critical reading score and a lower math score.

Sudburykid1 karma

I'm afraid I don't have that data, but if I remember correctly the data Sudbury Valley School published, your assumption is correct.

AlwaysWipes3 karma

How does the school deal with relationships and stuff of a more sexual sort?

And what about drugs? Have kids ever smoked on campus? If so what happened?

Sudburykid6 karma

Honestly, due to the small size of the school and amount of time spent with one another, the school feels more like a family to most people, and there haven't actually been that many relationships at school. Partly this is because of a low number of students that are close in age, partly in may be because we're only just now starting to have a lot of students becoming teenagers, but it hasn't so far been an issue.

Nobody has ever smoked on campus, and if they were to, it would be a really major issue. There have been one or two isolated incidents of people leaving campus (we have an open campus policy, if you demonstrate your responsibility to School Meeting) to smoke, which was also treated as a serious issue, and they were suspended because of it.

AlwaysWipes5 karma

That's good to hear. I went to a K-8 private school with about 150 kids and I know what you mean with the family aspect. But man I still I have so many questions lol. Feel "free" (pun intended) to answer as many/few ad you want.

  1. Classes of a more physical sort. Like say there are 2 kids who like boxing, or wrestling, or weightlifting (you get the idea). Do they train together? If that doesn't exist would it be allowed? If the school bought a workout machine or punching bag or something?

  2. Donations, do families of kids often donate things to the school (couches, books, software etc.)?

  3. Field trips, do they happen? Also the reverse, are any specialists ever invited to the school? Like experts in any given field?

Sudburykid4 karma

  1. Those kids could certainly train together or separately, and it would be supported as much as we could. We don't have a gym, but if the students could make a case to School Meeting, they could request some money to buy a machine or a punching bag. We did have a punching bag (donated) for a while, but it was mostly unused. There is, of course, lots of unstructured physical activity, from frequent full-campus games of capture the flag to one introverted student who spends 3-4 hours a day walking laps around the school with her Ipad. There is also (as of right now), a weekly trip to a nearby sports field, with 4-10 students, usually to play two-hand touch football, but sometimes for soccer or ultimate frisbee.

  2. Yes, donations of all kinds are common and are one of the main ways we get things that we need.

  3. Field trips are rare but do happen occasionally. Not usually to museums, necessarily, but there have been some museum excursions, as well as trips that are more recreational in nature. Specialists are sometimes invited to the school, but it takes a specific kind of person to be able to teach a class to our students in a respectful way, so it isn't that common. Recently, we have brought in two directors to direct plays in our new theatre program, and in the past people have come in to teach classes about graphic design and nature, in response to student demand.

myfriendgoob3 karma

Do you have dress codes, and what are some of the school's rules?

Sudburykid4 karma

There is no dress code. The school's rules basically all boil down to "Respect the school, respect other people, respect property, be safe." Most rules are there just to keep people safe and resolve disputes.

keepcalmandcaton3 karma

I was reading on the wikipedia page about this to try to gather a better understanding but as an Elementary Education Major, I don't get it. "The school has no required academic activities, and no academic expectations for completion of one's time at the school. Students are free to spend their time as they wish" So how is it different than daycare? I don't want to judge, but I'm just having a hard time believe this is

What does a 'typical' day at school look like? Can you just show up and hang out and do whatever or are there classes offered? If nothing is required how are classes established? If nobody decides to learn about math that day, what does the teacher do? How can a teacher attend to students from 4-19? Math for a four year old is VERY different than a 19 year old.

Sudburykid4 karma

We don't have teachers, in the sense you're thinking of. We have three staff members who are knowledgeable in a variety of subjects. If a student requests a class on a topic that one of the staff has expertise in, that staff member will teach that class to whoever is requesting it, be that 4 year olds or 19 year olds. If none of the staff has expertise in the topic, they'll work with the student to figure out the best way to learn, whether that be by bringing in an outside expert, learning together using books or the internet, or attending an outside class.

keepcalmandcaton2 karma

Interesting. Also out of curiosity...are any of these 'staff members' licensed teachers with a degree in education, or simply hold degrees in a variety of subject? I guess furthermore my question is...what says or tests that they ACTUALLY know a subject to ensure you're not getting false information?

Sudburykid3 karma

One of the staff members is a licensed teacher, as Washington requires that we have one on staff. The other two are people who've had a wide variety of life experience. I suppose there's nothing to ensure that, except that it's pretty easy to tell that someone you know very well isn't lying to you.

keepcalmandcaton2 karma

Fair enough! Thank you!! I'm just really fascinated by this as an up and coming teacher. FINAL question, which you may not know since you're not staff/a teacher....how do they get around standards for schools? Even most private schools have some education standards/testing I was just curious how your school is able to get around it? Are they approved by the state as a 'real' school or do they fall under a different category? Thanks again for answering!!

Sudburykid3 karma

We're a "real" school. Washington state's standards are fairly lax on this sort of thing. What is required is that we have an accredited teacher on staff (check!), that we have a certain number of school days each year (check!), and that we "offer" certain subjects. That last point is the point where we might get caught up, but we do offer the subjects. Not many people take advantage of them, but they are offered.

MissDreo2 karma

For kids who are doing poorly, do they get kicked out or does someone help direct them?

Sudburykid2 karma

Depends on what you mean as doing poorly. If a student is repeatedly verbally harassing or violent, they might get kicked out. Otherwise, no, there's no formal direction. I might try and urge someone to do something if I'm their friend, or a staff member might do the same, but it would be coming from the position of advice from a friend, not mandates from an authority.

MissDreo2 karma

So in your opinion what are some draw-backs to this type of education?

Sudburykid2 karma

Learning the technical aspects of some sciences can be difficult, since we don't have, say, a chemistry lab.

Organized sports aren't a possibility at our school, although we do play friendly all-ages pickup games.

Some students have a hard time adjusting to being in control of their education, and end up bored for a while.

Unmotivated kids will have a harder time some things early and will need to put in more work later on.

When dentists ask you what school you go to when their fingers are in your mouth, it's very difficult to explain.

Just some drawbacks off the top of my head. I've mentioned some others in other comments.

skipitydoodah2 karma

Great AMA, I had no idea something like this existed. I'm genuinely curious how your school works. I think i've read all the answers, but some things still boggle me.

1) You say you only have 3 staff for 60 students. I assume in a day atleast half the students don't require the staff for that day. But say I wanted to learn something, would I just sit around till a staff member frees up to answer my question? This seems like a more annoying system than when I used to go to group tutoring classes, where more than half the time I was there was spent waiting for the tutor to come around so they could answer my question before I could move on.

2) If your parents have no real say or provide you a push with what to learn, how does one form an interest in what to study? I know you like theatre, but for subject areas like economics or philosophy, how would a student randomly just decide to learn it unless they had some sort of exposure to it earlier? Since you guys don't have science experiments in class like the baking soda volcano one, I just don't see how young kids will even think of fields out there without some form of introduction.

3) How do labs work? like for physics. It seems like kids who want to go into say engineering, would be at a disadvantage grasping content if they didn't have labs. I mean sure, your staff could maybe provide you with a video tape but it isn't the same as actually doing it and learning concepts.

4)For subject areas like philosophy that depend on writing essays to further your thought, how would a student at your school (I'm thinking high school age here) go about doing that? Would they tell their staff that they would like to write a philosophy essay, staff says ok, and then hand it in? Without a background in philosophy, I don't believe the staff can truly "help" or offer constructive criticism. So how would that work? I don't suppose your staff are super geniuses and encompass expertise in everything...

5) What does the fees go to exactly? $7500 x 60 = $450,000. 3 staff with say salaries of ~$70,000 ($210,000). is the rest just building maintenance? I don't really get where the funds are going since you say your library isn't good, you have no resources to run labs, no organized sports.

6) students who want to pursue athleticism. Without organized sports how do they go about learning it if they can't play it? These students probably can't join provincial tournaments and such right? and you say if there aren't enough students interested, sports can't happen. wouldn't that be frustrating for someone who really want to play soccer but just can't because no one is interested?

7) has anyone ever requested to learn something that was denied? Seems like a waste of tuition if a student's ideas are shot down half the time. I'm thinking specifically if someone wanted to learn something like woodworking. Who would teach that? Would the student have to pay further money to bring in their own power tools, wood etc to take part in this? Or would the school happily provide these sources? How does requests happen? I imagine it go something like "Mr.____, I want to learn wood working." and the staff either says yes, or no..or puts it up to vote if they can provide resources for this one student.

8) Will a class happen if there's only one student interested in something? For example, if I wanted to spend every single day learning biology (I'm in bio) encompassing ALL the material taught in public school, and say I bring in a textbook, how would that work? There has to be more to this school than just self-study/read-this-text-book-all-day. I don't believe a student studying all the content on their own (and really, a staff learning "with them" isn't the same as an expert teaching you EVERYDAY)

I realize this is a lot of questions, i can see some benefits in your schooling but otherwise I can't help but feel like a lot of self directed learning can't be happening as they claim it to be, unless it wins majority vote or something. Hope you can answer my questions!

Sudburykid3 karma

Sorry for taking so long to answer, lots of questions.

1) The staff members aren't necessary for learning. The whole point of the school is to enable self-directed learning. If you had a question and all the staff were busy, you could ask another student, you could try and google the answer, or you could go about your business and ask a staff later. Generally, the staff are pretty available, should you need them.

2) It's not that your parents don't suggest things, it's just that the school tries to discourage parents from pressuring their child into doing something the kid doesn't really want to do. Parents, staff, other students might all suggest things that people might be interested in, but if they do, it would be as advice from friend to friend, not mandate from authority. Or, you might find out about an interesting topic from a book, or from the internet. We have actually done baking soda volcanoes before.

3) Yes, this is one aspect in which the school is lacking. We might look into an outside resource, if we needed to.

4) If the staff couldn't help with the topic of an essay, we might look into bringing in an outside expert. However, our staff do encompass a wide variety of like experience and skill between the three of them.

5) We've got a mortgage to pay, maintenance costs, we have a school bus which runs for field trips, there is a small budget for computers and other educational materials. However, right now we are running a fairly significant surplus, which we're looking into investing into maybe remodeling some aspects of the school.

6) Public school sports teams are actually required to allow students from schools without sports teams or students that homeschool to try out for the team, so there's that avenue. You also don't need a full team to practice stuff, necessarily. You can practice throwing or catching in football, making plays, or dribbling, shooting, passing, in soccer. And yeah, it might be frustrating. If it was frustrating enough, the student might try to do something about it.

7) I don't think anybody's ever requested to learn something only to have it be totally denied. We have occasionally denied requests to bring in outside experts if there's only 1 student interested, but even then we usually go for it. If someone wanted to learn woodworking (let's use woodworking here to represent "something that the school doesn't currently have the tools for and the staff have no expertise in"), then yes, the School Meeting would be pretty happy to pay for the materials. We have a educational materials budget that often doesn't get fully used. The student would put it on the School Meeting agenda, and they would come in and argue for why they should get the money. Right now, pretty much all they would have to say is "Nobody else wants this money!" and they would get it.

8) Classes can and have happened with only one student. If you brought in a bio textbook, you could either ask a staff to help you learn, just read it yourself if that's how you liked to learn, or request that we brought in an outside expert for some amount of time. The latter may be difficult to work out in some situations, but it's happened before.

nayrryan2 karma

What is your area of concentration? What is it you're pursuing? Do you plan on attending college once you graduate? Were you enrolled in the school since the age of 4 or did your parents transfer you later on? What do your parents do? Sorry for all the questions, just curious.

Sudburykid2 karma

My area of concentration/what I am pursuing is currently theatre, specifically stage management. I do plan on attending college. I've been enrolled since I was 4, almost 5. My mother worked as a project manager for health research studies until recently, when she was laid off due to budget concerns. She's looking for work at the moment. My father is a college english professor, specifically 18th and 19th century british romanticism, and my stepfather currently works at a bookstore.

Flyinwatabottle2 karma

Are the parents really involved at this type of school? It would seem to me that this type of school largely depends on the involvement of the parents and the kids repercussions from not learning in school would be handled by their parents. I could see students' parents telling their children what to vote for and who to vote for because it gives them even more power than a PTA. Otherwise, what's stopping the student body from voting for recess all day every day?

Sudburykid2 karma

Parents have no involvement in School Meeting, and I think most of the kids would disregard their parents telling them to vote for something. Besides, the parents probably wouldn't know what's up to be voted on. As for voting for recess all day... that's pretty much what we have. Like I've said, there are barely any classes. It's just recess with plenty of learning resources available.

savage_nobility2 karma

My question: Are the people with whom you interact in your daily life as dismissive and judgmental about your education as the commenters on this post? You seem about 50 times more articulate and thoughtful than most of the people criticizing you.

Sudburykid2 karma

People are usually less rude to your face, even if they disagree just as violently. I'd say the percentage of people who are open-minded is higher in my daily life, but that may just be the contexts in which I tend to encounter them: Traditionally schooled kids, many of whom are open minded, even if they aren't themselves interested. People coming to our open house events, who have some level of buy-in and prior knowledge of the model (not that this means they aren't sometimes dismissive). People who come up to our table at fairs, who have some interest in learning about a school. But yes, there are certainly people who think it must work like Lord of the Flies, or that nobody learns anything. Hell, there are some people in my extended family that act like that sometimes.

dkl4152 karma

  1. Is this a public school? Private? Charter?
  2. What role do teachers unions play? I ask because in SF, a school like this would violate every aspect of the teacher contract.
  3. What are the school demographics like? Race, gender, income, etc.

Thanks for doing this AMA.

Sudburykid3 karma

  1. It's a private school.
  2. There are three staff members at school, and they aren't unionized.
  3. Predominantly white, some asian students. About 40 boys and 20 girls. Income, mostly middle class to upper middle class, with some deviations on either end.

p3t3r1331 karma

I imagine the lunches at this school are 90% kale

Sudburykid1 karma

Actually, there are no school lunches. Students are free to bring their own lunch, and eat it whenever they please.

sharkhotel1 karma

Can you answer to the quality of colleges/universities Sudbury kids get accepted to?

Sudburykid1 karma

I believe (but don't actually know) that it's a fairly similar spread as kids from traditional schooling, if not slightly higher. This might be touched upon in the studies Sudbury Valley School has published, it might not. Many of the students who graduated from Clearwater and went to college are going to very good colleges.

sharkhotel1 karma

Just saying "very good colleges" doesn't really mean anything, and I also find that hard to believe. But then again, I went to a highly competitive charter school and currently go to Yale. Look at the national university rankings, where do students under the sudbury system generally go?

Sudburykid1 karma

I don't have statistics for you. I'm only in touch with a few graduates out of the 20 or so that went to college from my school, and the few that I do know exactly where they went are mostly going to Washington schools. I don't know where they applied, so I can't say whether they were rejected from better schools, but I believe most of them only applied to schools in the area. Anyways, several graduates have gone to UW, which is #52 on that list, one went to Seattle U, which is #6 on the Regional Universities list, and several went to Evergreen, which #27 on the Regional Universities list.

SugarPistils-2 karma

I have a bit of a problem. What you post is not within the parameters of how a person under 19 consistently relates. So it's either the school responsible, or you are not exactly who you say you are.

Sudburykid2 karma

Well, thanks, I suppose!