Choosing a School: Alternative Schools
Remember, however, that a school which is great for you and your children might be a nightmare for someone else, and vice versa. So read and learn from others opinions, but definitely explore the schools and reach conclusions on your own. Take part in as many school tours as possible, and visit the Enrollment Services page on the SPS website for enrollment guides and other information.
I'll start this discussion, since I have toured six alternative schools in Seattle anad currently have two children in Pathfinder, an alternative K-8 school in West Seattle. Pathfinder is one of the best schools in Seattle according to my criteria, which are:
- Clear educational focus --- All the teachers understand the educational approach being used at the school (expeditionary, theme-based, hands-on learning) and have chosen to teach at the school because they believe in the approach and enjoy teaching that way.
- High quality teachers --- Parents say to me, with awe in their voices, that there are truly no bad teachers at Pathfinder. Several teachers, including my daughters' teachers this year, are so awesome they practically have a fan club of parents, students, and former students. (see Giving Thanks for the Good Things in Seattle Public Schools and Teachers Excel; District Fails)
- Fun, welcoming, environment --- Pathfinder will not kill the joy of learning that almost every child brings to school. Kids like going to Pathfinder because they are encouraged to have fun while learning. Kids also have a voice in what they want to learn and how they learn, which makes learning more relevant and enjoyable.
I could go on and on about Pathfinder. The community of parents and staff are wonderful. The looping (K and 1) and multi-grade classrooms (2/3 and 4/5), mean teachers really know the kids in their classes and can help them all be successful. My children are thriving intellectually, socially, and emotionally, and I am incredibly grateful that we found the school.
If you live in West Seattle, you need to visit this school and see for yourself. If you live outside of West Seattle, you can still attend Pathfinder, but will not get transportation. However, that didn't stop several families in south Seattle, including mine, from chosing Pathfinder.