Q: How much does tuition at this private school cost?
A: Because we are an inclusive school we try hard to keep our tuition affordable for an average middle class family. Our tuition for the 2013-2014 school year is $5800/$4150 for preschool full or part time and $6500.00 for the K-8 program. Tuition does not cover the basic expenses for one student – this is why our fundraising efforts are so critical to our operations.
Q: What is the student body size (total/per class)?
A: As part of Willow’s commitment to working with each student individually we keep our student/teacher ratio at 10:1 or less. The Willow School embraces the small school concept. This is a movement away from large institutional style schools and classrooms towards one that is more student focused. Organizations such as the George Lucas Education Foundation, and the Coalition of Essential Schools support this concept. Learn more about the small school initiative here: More about small schools
Q: Are you connected with any religion or churches?
A: The Willow School is a separate 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. From the By-Laws set up and established with the IRS, The Willow School is not affiliated in any way with any other religions or church organizations. Willow rents space from Unity church but is not affiliated with the church nor does Willow teach, or advocate any religion or religious practices. We believe religion should be taught by the family. Some years ago Govinda Reinhalter worked at the River School which was run by the Kashi Church Foundation, however, The Willow School has no association with the Kashi Church Foundation.
Q: Are you a Montessori program?
A: No we are not a Montessori school however, we have adopted some of Maria Montessori’s concepts at Willow. For example, our classrooms are multi-age which is similar to the Montessori teaching style. Our emphasis is on hands on learning and integrating as many senses into learning as possible, another similarity with the Montessori method. Children are encouraged to engage in work and foster the love of learning. Children are also able to work at their individualized level and pace, similar to what is found in a Montessori classroom.
We are different from a Montessori program in that we do not have centers, instead instruction is focused on a subject matter for a specific period of time. (For example, children have Language Arts for 90 minutes, followed by math for 90 minutes, etc.) Willow also has formal methods of evaluation (tests, quizzes, projects) as well as informal (observation).
Q: Are scholarships for this private school available?
A: Yes, there are a number of scholarships avaiable to help families afford a private school education. Click on this link to learn more about what Willow offers More about Willow Scholarships
Q: Do you accept McKay scholarships?
A: Yes! Click here to learn all about this program Mckay Scholarship Information
Q: Are your teachers certified by the Florida Department of Education?
A: Yes, all of our teachers are currently certified by the state of Florida.
Q: Are you accredited?
A: Yes we are fully accredited with Advanc-Ed, the largest accrediting body in the world. We are accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and School as well as the Council on Accreditation and School Improvement. Click on this link to learn more Accreditation.
In addition we are registered with the Department of Education and are in full compliance, similar to all public schools, which enables us to receive all state funded scholarship programs.
Q: Do you administer the FCAT? If not, what do you do you do instead?
A: As a private school, we are not allowed to administer the FCAT. Instead we administer the IOWA Test of Basic Skills to grades K-8. This is a nationally recognized standardized test administered by numerous public and private schools across the country. Willow School students generally perform above grade level on these tests. Learn more about this by clicking on this link Standardized Testing
Q: If your students don’t take the FCAT test how do you know that they are learning what they need to?
A: As stated above Willow administers the IOWA Test of Basic Skills annually to children in grades K-8. In addition, the Willow curriculum is skill-based which means that students are evaluated based on a set of benchmarks and skills. These skills are age appropriate and are based on the National Core Curriculum Standards, and International Baccalaureate Standards. Each grade has its own rubric of skills for each subject area: language arts, math, social studies and science. The children are also evaluated for social and emotional skills including areas such as: cooperation, conflict resolution, organization, and the ability to work independently. To see an example of a Kindergarten assessment, click here:Kindergarten Checklist of Skills
Q: Will my child be able to transition successfully to public high school upon graduation from 8th grade?
A: Our students typically experience great success in high school. Many of our students are at the top of their classes in ranking and our very first graduate is currently attending Brown University. Willow graduates also demonstrate high levels of social maturity and tend to be very active in extra curricula and community service activities. Click here to read more testimonials of our recent graduates Alumni.
Q: How can a multi-aged classroom work?
A: A multi-age classroom is a successful learning environment because it is small and individualized. Children are working at their own level and pace. This means that a child who excels in spelling could be working far above grade level on the acquisition of vocabulary while one of her classmates may be learning spelling skills at grade level. Please click here to read more about our multi age classrooms: Multi-Age Classrooms or come for one of our monthly tours and see for yourself how it works. Click here for the schedule Campus Tour
Q: How is it possible for students to be successful and get the attention they need with multiple grade levels in the same class?
A: If one observes a typical straight grade we notice that even in that environment the students are often at very different levels. Some may be reading at an eighth grade level and others at fourth grade level. So in essence the teacher is faced with a similar task as that of a multi-age classroom. At The Willow School we keep our student/teacher ratio below 10:1 allowing every student to receive the attention they need and to work at their own level of ability. We also notice that students in a multi-age class are less competitive and more willing to help each other out. Not only do they get more attention from the teacher but also from their fellow students.
Q: What makes Willow different than public school/other private schools?
A: Willow is different in so many ways:
It is a small school so children receive individualized attention and bullying is nearly non-existent.
Willow offers an accelerated academic program so children often are working well above grade level.
Willow is able to identify and address learning issues. This remediation is done in conjunction with teachers, providing needed support to help a child rapidly get to grade level and beyond.
Willow is a cooperative and collaborative community. Children are encouraged to work together to solve problems and create new projects. This atmosphere fosters kindness and friendships across grade levels.
Q: What type of sports program do you have?
A: We have a Physical Education program that all children participate in daily. We do not have any formal sports clubs or after school sports activities at this time. However, Indian River County offers many intramural sports activities to children. Learn more about our PE program here PE Program
Q: What curriculum do you use?
A: We have spent many years evaluating curriculum and continue to search for the best, most effective programs. Because of this, we use a variety of curriculum. Some of the materials we use include:
- Wilson Language Materials
- Wright Group
- Zaner Bloser
- Everyday Math
- Delta Science Kits
- Rosetta Stone
Q. How do you teach gifted students and learning disabled ones in the same class?
A: We are able to individualize our program to each child’s needs because our student/teacher ratio is 10:1 or less. This enables us to address each child’s needs whether it is to receive accelerated work or some remediation. In addition because our program is project based, children are able to delve deeply into subject matter and expound on their work in a variety of ways.
Q: My child is in the gifted program at his public school – what does Willow do to accommodate gifted students?
A: Willow has a rigorous academic program that is the equivalent of gifted program all day every day. Children are engaged in their learning and required to create, collaborate, problem solve and use critical thinking skills. Our gifted children are typically at least one year ahead in math and are several years ahead in other subjects. Our students typically score above average on the IOWA Test of Basic Skills.
Q: Is the Willow School primarily designed for students with learning issues?
A: The Willow School is an inclusive program. Each class is comprised of a ratio of gifted students, mid-range students and students with learning issues. Studies show that students learn better in a mixed class environment, while it also more accurately reflects the diversity of the world we live in.
Q: Why should I pay for a private school when I can get my child educated free in a public school?
A: Florida schools are currently ranked nationally in the 40th percentile. In addition the United States ranks approximately 17th globally in reading, math and science. Willow recognizes that our children need to be competitive in a global environment. Consequently, we have researched what are the most effective teaching strategies. What are schools doing in Finland, Singapore, Canada and Korea? Then we seek to emulate those effective teaching strategies. Click here to read an article about Finland schools which consistently rank near the top: The Finnish Miracle
Additionally, research done in the United States by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills states that the most critical skills for the 21st century are:
- Critical thinking
- Writing skills
- Speaking skills
Click here to learn more about this organization: Partnership for the 21st Century Skills
Q: How does Willow decide on what students to accept?
A: Each child who is interested in attending the Willow School is asked to come for a visit. This visit allows the child to experience the school and enables the Willow staff to evaluate him or her. Willow is committed to serving each child we accept and so part of the evaluation process is to ensure that we can meet the needs and challenges of each learner we accept. To learn more about our application process click here: Application Process
Q: I want my child to be academically challenged – How does Willow do that?
A: After a child has been at the school for about a month, the teachers have a strong sense of how to work with him or her. At that point, the teachers begin to cater the program to each learner. It can include additional tutoring or therapies, should a child need it. It can also include acceleration in reading, spelling, vocabulary, or math. Or we may simply suggest to a child that she write with more description or do an additional math work.
Q: I want to be sure my child is physically and emotionally safe – How will Willow do that?
A: Willow is committed to creating a safe school environment. We do this in several ways. First, because we are small, Willow is like a large family where everyone knows one another and looks after one another. Second, Willow staff work hard to create a culture of kindness and acceptance so everyone is honored for who they are. Third, when issues arise, the staff helps the children peacefully and amicably resolve issues through conflict resolution. At Willow we have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and teasing and as a result we address these issues as soon as they arise. This vigilance helps us to foster a supportive community that is caring and cooperative without the unnecessary harshness that is often found in middle school environments.
Q: I’ve never heard of a project-based curriculum – How do you know it really works?
A: Project Based Learning is done in many schools and supported by leading foundations nationwide.
At Willow projects always have parameters based on national standards, age-appropriate skills and benchmarks. In addition, projects are evaluated based on a rubric of skills.
Projects are simply in-depth exploration of a subject. They enable children to become experts and teach others about what they have learned. Typically there are visual, written and oral components to projects, requiring children to demonstrate creativity, critical thinking, as well as practice their communication skills. Because projects allow for choice and enable children to gain mastery in a specific subject area, they also build confidence.
Our graduates have consistently excelled in a variety of high school settings largely as a result of our project–based curriculum. They are self-confident students who know how to plan and complete large and complex assignments on time. They are also able to use their critical thinking and creative skills to solve problems and collaborate with many different personality types. These skills are the building blocks for a highly successful high school experience and often carry over into the work place.
Click here to learn more about project based learning (PBL): Project Based Learning