At a Waldorf charter school in Orange County, students concentrate on art and music in the early grades; they don’t study reading or math till third grade.
First-grade foreign language instruction, dance, original literary works, needlepoint and musical instruments were in; computers, videos, textbooks and timed tests were out. Journey deliberately avoided the drill-and-test model most public schools emphasize – delighting parents who sought a curriculum based on stages of child development, not chapters of a workbook.
By last spring, enrollment had grown to 200. Nestled in a cluster of temporary classrooms in back of the Wood Canyon Elementary School, Journey is almost invisible to outsiders, except for a hand-painted sign tacked up on a corner of the campus’s chain-link fence. Intimate and eccentric, the school long has felt more like a private academy than a public elementary school.
But now the five-year charter is up for renewal.
Journey’s scores on state-mandated tests, while not terrible, have lagged behind neighboring schools. Journey’s written charter predicted this; below-average scores in the early grades followed by higher scores after third grade are typical in Waldorf schools.
The panic over test scores has forced out two of the founders and left the school bitterly divided.