Corvallis public high schools are ranked relatively high in the state, with Crescent Valley High School at 13th place and Corvallis High School at 28th statewide, according to a US News and World Report ranking updated in 2016. Despite the ranks, we are all familiar with the problems afflicting public schools. Underfunding leads to low salaries for teachers and huge class sizes. Meanwhile, the federal standardized tests demanded by the No Child Left Behind Act turn classrooms into regulated factories; it is insisted that children learn the material required to benefit their school’s ranking and federal funding.
A recent list published on the Public School Review website added obesity to the list of factors negatively influencing children’s ability to develop academically at public schools, due to lack of outdoor activities. Other factors included bullying and a lack of parental involvement. A 2015 Psychology Today article by Dr. Nemko points to the importance of a child’s ability to form encouraging and positive peer groups, and to have positive peer role models available.
Private schools typically encourage such associations, as well as encourage students to develop the community values that contribute to healthy friendships. Private schools are also more often equipped to provide support for special-needs children, which Nemko pinpoints as one of the most important factors parents should consider when choosing a school for their child.
Corvallis Private Schools: Rates and Principles
Corvallis has a variety of options for parents who are seeking alternative education. The Corvallis Waldorf school offers excellent possibilities for more liberal-minded parents, seeking a curriculum that will engage their child physically, emotionally, and academically. Corvallis Montessori School offers a unique education that grants children the freedom to select their own intellectual paths. Or for those seeking an education steeped in a Christian religious background, Zion Lutheran offers an encouraging possibility.
At first glance, the mere cost of these schools might seem prohibitive. Zion Lutheran runs approximately $5,500 per year, while the Waldorf school lingers between $3,320 and $9,950 depending on the age of the child and how many days per week they attend. At $7,200 to $12,000 per year depending on the child’s age and hours of attendance, the Montessori school is the most expensive. Each school, however, offers extensive financial aid packets.
Moreover, the benefits seem to clearly outweigh the negatives. Instead of being subject to the whims of the School Board, every private school in Corvallis holds fast to specific principles outlined in the work of their founder. Montessori bases its nationwide program on the principles of Dr. Maria Montessori, one of the first female physicians in Italy. She developed a classroom model based on her understanding of the four growth cycles individuals undergo in the process of becoming adults that her scientific research revealed to her.
The Waldorf school is based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, who created the first Waldorf school in Germany following World War One. Opened in a city factory specifically for the children of the factory workers, the goal of this educational approach, says Corvallis Waldorf Director Peter Zaremba, was to “educate students in such a way that they could heal the country.”
Zion Lutheran Raises Good Humans
Though based on a religious foundation rather than a scientific or philosophical understanding, Zion Lutheran attempts to instill similar community values and commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of all. Wendy Novet, parent of student Teagan, selected this school for its ability to accommodate Teagan’s learning difficulties, stemming from a diagnosed chromosomal disorder. Doctors told Novet that Teagan would be developmentally delayed as a result of this issue. Now, Teagan will be entering eighth grade alongside her peers, and last year she made the school’s Honor Roll for the third time.
Novet credits Teagan’s success to everything from the small class sizes, with seventh and eighth grade combined last year to make a class size of 17 students, to teacher involvement. Novet mentions that one teacher’s response to a conflict between girls was to ask students to write down three things they found special and unique about every child in the middle school.
Of the students, Novet, explains, “they come to the school and they’re taught to be good human beings – that’s part of the curriculum.”
Person-to-Person Learning at Waldorf School
Waldorf also offers a holistic education intended to encourage every child to reach their full potential. Parents drive their children to this school from as far away as Jefferson or Salem to take advantage of this unique education that incorporates art, play, outdoor activities, and significant student-led time to create.
Zaremba states, “The entire curriculum is designed to support student development.”
The average class size at Waldorf is 16 students, allowing each student to receive individualized attention. The school does not provide grades, only narrative reports. Concerned with the commercialization of youth, Waldorf makes an effort to avoid reliance on technology to keep children interested and motivated.
Zaremba explains, “Teaching is all done person to person, and not from a machine…without the sticks and carrots, the inner motivation to learn remains intact.”
The Corvallis Waldorf school will soon be expanding their agriculture program to include animals, an extensive garden, and even bee cultivation. At present, they grow things to supplement the curriculum and sometimes cook dishes that are significant to a specific culture or people they are studying.
World Exploration at Montessori
Montessori offers a limited gardening program as well as a check-in process between teachers and parents in lieu of grades. Montessori encourages students to experiment in growth involving creative artwork, construction, and outdoor play. Like the Waldorf school, Montessori offers a curriculum aimed at generating citizens capable of interacting in a healthy way with the world around them. However, while the Waldorf school focuses more on the child’s internal needs and drive to learn in order to develop their full potential as adults, the Montessori schools aim to encourage students to explore the world around them and develop skills relevant to adult life.
Lynne Brown, interim Head of Montessori School, explains that “In a Montessori classroom children learn using real materials – preparing actual food with child sized cutlery and dishes rather than playing at a pretend plastic kitchen… In a Montessori environment children are allowed to be self-sufficient in all areas of capability and given the tools and space to practice those tasks they have not yet mastered.”
Though of course many public school teachers and principals do their best, the state’s required testing combined with lack of funding renders much of this effort less than effective. Though the private schools available in Corvallis differ, each provides an education aimed at meeting the students’ needs and developing their long-term wellbeing, rather than meeting the needs of administrators or official requirements. The philosophies behind these schools respect and value children as future citizens and make every effort to encourage children to achieve their potential.
By Ariadne Wolf