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Sudbury Valley School

The Sudbury Valley School was founded in 1968 in Framingham[?], Massachusetts. There are about 20 schools based on this model in the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Israel, and Australia. The model has two basic tenets: educational freedom and democratic governance. These are not just slogans but realities at Sudbury Schools, where students are free to choose how to spend their time and all decisions affecting the school community are made by majority vote of all those affected by the decision

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Sudbury Valley School is a place where people decide for themselves how to spend their days.

At the Sudbury Valley School, students of all ages determine what they will do, as well as when, how, and where they will do it. This freedom is at the heart of the school; it belongs to the students as their right, not to be violated.

The fundamental premises of the school are simple: that all people are curious by nature; that the most efficient, long-lasting, and profound learning takes place when started and pursued by the learner; that all people are creative if they are allowed to develop their unique talents; that age-mixing among students promotes growth in all members of the group; and that freedom is essential to the development of personal responsibility.

In practice this means that students initiate all their own activities and create their own environments. The physical plant, the staff, and the equipment are there for the students to use as the need arises.

The school provides a setting in which students are independent, are trusted, and are treated as responsible people; and a community in which students are exposed to the complexities of life in the framework of a participatory democracy.

The School as a Democratic Community The school is governed on the model of a traditional New England Town Meeting[?]. The daily affairs of the school are managed by the weekly School Meeting, at which each student and staff member has one vote. Rules of behavior, use of facilities, expenditures, staff hiring, and all the routines of running an institution are determined by debate and vote at the School Meeting. At Sudbury Valley, students share fully the responsibility for effective operation of the school and for the quality of life at school.

Infractions of the rules are dealt with through the School Meeting's judicial system, in which all members of the school community participate. The fair administration of justice is a key feature of Sudbury Valley and contributes much to the students' confidence in the school.

Parents have a major role in setting school policies. Legally, the school is a non-profit corporation, and every parent becomes a full voting member of the Assembly, as the corporate membership is called. The Assembly also includes students, staff, and other elected members. It meets at least once a year to decide all questions of broad operational and fiscal policy.

Admissions Sudbury Valley has a policy of open admissions, accepting all applicants four years old and up, through and past high school age, who have the capacity for full participation in the school's program as self-directed, autonomous members of the school's community. The school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, or national or ethnic origin. An admissions interview gives applicants and their families an opportunity to learn more about the school. Everyone interested in pursuing enrollment must first spend a week at school as a visiting student. Enrollment may take place at any time during the school year, as long as there are openings available, and is for a full year from the date of entry.

The environment of freedom and support at Sudbury Valley has been sought out by people from a wide area. In order to attend, students commute daily, sometimes from great distances. The diversity of their backgrounds is a microcosm of the larger community; what they share is a commitment to the school's educational goals

Graduation Sudbury Valley School offers a high school diploma to students who have, in the judgment of the school community, adequately defended the thesis that they have taken responsibility for preparing themselves to be effective adults in the larger community. In order to initiate the graduation procedure, a student must have attended the school at least the minimum number of years designated by the Assembly.

Graduates have gone on to colleges and universities all over the country, and abroad. Most are admitted to their schools of first choice. Other graduates have entered directly into the worlds of business, trade, arts, crafts, and technical vocations.

External Links

The Sudbury Valley School: http://www.sudval.org

See also: Democratic Schools, Education reform

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