News and Tribune

July 15, 2013

Locals go to learn about a Sudbury School Startup

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

Community members and families from Kentuckiana came in to learn more about Sudbury Schools and why a group wants to start one here.

The group met at the Jeffersonville Township Public Library on Thursday, and to bring a little more perspective on the subject, Ashley Wright, a New Albany transplant to San Diego, Calif., brought her children, who attend Leeway Sudbury School.

Wright, who worked at a local Montessori school, said the more she continued to learn about different educational models, the more she became interested in having her children attend a Sudbury School.

The schools — which lack curriculum and put the control of the school equally among adults and students — are few, but Melanie Hughes and Debbie Harbeson formed a group to see what kind of interest Southern Indiana has in bringing the model to the area.

Wright said in reading about education methods and observing classrooms in the region, she became convinced that putting education in the hands of students was right for her children.

“One thing I noticed was that the more imposing the adult leading the classroom, the more disabled learning became in students,” Wright said.

She said she likes that Sudbury Schools allow learning to occur more organically. She said as adults gain interest in a subject, they dedicate as much time as they like to learning more about that subject.

She said in children, it works the same way.

Harbeson said in unschooling her children — which goes against using a fixed curriculum — they’ve both become successful as adults.

She said today’s schools have programs designed to fit students into the kind of system they’re put into. With a Sudbury school, they’d be free to learn on their own terms.

Hughes said the school wouldn’t submit students to ISTEP+, IREAD or any other state mandated tests. As such, they’d not be able to accept vouchers and would have to become a private school.

In a phone interview before the meeting, Daniel Altman, press secretary for the Indiana Department of Education, said private schools aren’t required to accept vouchers, so the Sudbury proposal would join a handful of schools in the state.

He said one of the few requirements they’d have to adhere to include the Indiana Department of Health’s Sanitary School House Rules .

But he also said without subjecting students to state-mandated testing, they’d run the risk of foregoing state accreditation, which he said he wasn’t sure how it would affect students going into college.

Harbeson said those students wouldn’t have any more trouble entering college than any others coming out of home school across the state.

“Effectively, every home school is its own non-accredited school in Indiana,” Harbeson said.

She said home-schooled students usually undergo an interview process, either one-on-one with a university representative or with a committee. From there, she said it usually depends on the admission standards of that college, though they’re sometimes admitted under academic probation.