For many families, alternative education is more appealing. In Austin, parents can choose from over 40 private schools and a handful of charter schools. Two private schools and one charter that offer individualized attention are Sri Atmananda Memorial School, the Austin Waldorf School, and UT Elementary School.
Sri Atmananda Memorial School was established in Kerala, India in 1987. The educational goals of this school is to build an unconditional trusting relationship with each child. Claire Moore teaches at Sri Atmananda and has learned the importance of letting each child learn at their own pace, "They really do a lot of initiating and that's so important because when it's in your interest, your going to want to learn it, your going to have the questions of 'why do I need to learn this?' because your doing exactly what you want to do." Parents support their children to become independent learners. Parent Margalo Miller exclaims, "This produces children who know who they are...very empowered children, and that's exciting to us."
UT Elementary School is a charter school that is research based and partnered with the University of Texas. One of their goals is to provide an educational alternative for East Austin families. Ramona Trevino is the principal at UT Elementary and sees the importance of teaching cultural diversity to students. "The teachers were actually the ones that brought the fact that students really needed to learn more about cultural diversity. They are pretty isolated over there in East Austin. Even though we are 98% minority, their isolated from the rest of Austin." UT Elementary includes Pre-kindergarten through 5th grade. Parent Janie Castillo feels concerned about what school her daughter will go to after 5th grade, "One of the big concerns right now are where are our children going when it comes to middle school time? After 5th grade they won't add any grades."
Another private school, the Austin Waldorf, was established in 1980, and is based on an educational movement that has reached 800 independent schools in 55 countries. Students remain with the same teacher and classmates until the eighth grade. During these younger years, the students environment remains noncompetitive, Teacher Bill Toole, explains, "Students do not receive formal grades--letter grades or number grades at the end of the term. But we do have mid-year conferences with parents. And we have more essay form reports."
From grades 1-8, students learn Spanish and German, and once they reach high school, they can choose which language to continue to learn. Students are also introduced to a rigorous program that acquaints them with technology. Teacher John Kirkilis describes, "We get into programming, as well, where they write programs for the computer."
Sri Atmananda Memorial School
Produced by Domenique Bellavia.
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