About the School
Two decades ago, a group of parents in the Ross Valley School District (referred to as
“RVSD” or “District”) sought an alternative approach for their children’s education. After much research, they chose to model a new program on the Reggio Emilia Approach, which is based on the belief that children learn by constructing their own knowledge within the context of relationships with peers, teachers, and parents, and that the teacher acts as a guide and facilitator who collaborates, co-learns, and researches with the students. It was also modeled after the similarly multi-aged Ohlone Elementary School, a 600-
student Alternative Education School in the Palo Alto School District.
The District approved three classrooms of the Innovative Learning Community in 1996 as an Alternative Education Program under California Ed Code 58500, to be housed at Manor School. This program, later renamed the Multi-Age Program, has grown and matured, providing a progressive education alternative to the students of Ross Valley for 19 years. MAP grew to six classes serving about 130 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and a waiting list of about 100 students throughout these grade levels.
MAP program parents and teachers decided to pursue becoming a Charter school, both to preserve this amazing local resource and to share it with the many families within the District who wanted access to it. All six MAP teachers left the Ross Valley School District to join RVC, and we have added Special Education, Music and Chorus, Violin, Art, and Spanish teachers to our team.
For more about our history, click here.
The program at Ross Valley Charter began in the tradition of progressive education. According to Alfie Kohn, renowned expert on education, schools that practice progressive education incorporate these eight important components: attending to the whole child, community, collaboration, social justice, intrinsic motivation, deep understanding, active learning, and taking kids seriously.
With inquiry-based learning, the components of progressive education are incorporated into the inquiry process. Inquiry-based learning generates engagement in students so that neurons begin to fire, curiosity is triggered, and they want to become experts in answering their own questions. This approach to learning emphasizes the student’s role in the learning process. Rather than the teacher telling students what they need to know, students are encouraged to explore the material, ask questions, and share ideas.
Inquiry-based learning uses different approaches to learning, including small-group discussion and guided research. Instead of memorizing facts and material, students learn by doing, creating, and then teaching their knowledge to others. This allows them to build deep knowledge and understanding through exploration, experience, and discussion.
Yes, as a California public school, Ross Valley Charter uses the Common Core State Standards, which are woven into the students' inquiry explorations. RVC is also required to hire classroom teachers with California teaching credentials, and RVC students take State standardized tests.
Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and kindergarten follows the same hours (8:30-1:45). TK students are exposed to the same curriculum, activities, and play as kindergartners, but with the expectation that the curriculum is simply exposure. The multi-age aspect of RVC’s classrooms provides a supportive and nurturing environment for TK students.
Aftercare is available starting at TK/K dismissal time throughout the year (click here for details).
Students who start RVC in TK may either stay in one TK/K/1st grade class for three years, or complete one year in one class, and two years in a different class. Parents and teachers work together to decide what is best for each student individually.
Art and music are incorporated into the classroom, and we have a weekly sing-along for all RVC students.
All students attend Art class with our specialized Art teacher once per week, in addition to informal art and maker times in the classrooms. TK-3rd graders have Music class one day per week, in addition to in class singing and music. 4th and 5th graders have instrumental Music twice a week with the option of either ensemble music or violin.
In addition to weekly Art and Music classes, all students attend Spanish class weekly, as well as Physical Education class twice a week. RVC also offers a wide variety of daily after-school enrichment classes that students may enroll in for a fee. After-school enrichment is on-campus and includes arts, music, STEAM, and outdoors enrichment.
RVC students receive Physical Education each week, with both indoors activities such as yoga and dance, and outdoor activities and games.
Additionally, we have access to the trails behind our school at the St. Rita's campus that we can use for hikes and outdoor exploration.
RVC fifth graders attend Outdoor Education at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma, a three-night/four-day experience that they will remember the rest of their lives!
RVC is a member of the El Dorado Charter SELPA to help provide special education services to our students. We have a Special Education teacher on staff, and other providers (O.T., counseling, speech, etc.) are contracted as needed.
Students who speak a language other than English at home are also assessed for English Language Development eligibility. Our ELD teacher provides support in reading, writing, and speaking to students who are learning English, even after they test proficient.
When teachers feel a student may need extra support at any point in the school year, the many professionals who are available at RVC will meet to discuss options so that all students can be successful.
RVC has the following staff members:
- A Special Education teacher who works with students who have Individual Education Programs (IEPs)
- An English Language Development teacher, working with students who are learning English as a second language
- An Intervention teacher, who works with students who need academic support
- A Family Outreach and Support Coordinator who works with students and families who may need extra support and/or Spanish translation
In addition, RVC contracts for services such as counseling, occupational therapy, speech, and other services required in our students’ IEPs.
As of February 2019, RVC has 170 children in 8 multi-age classes.
In California, all charter schools are public schools. And like all California public schools, California charter schools are funded by public taxes and are always authorized and overseen by public bodies (local school boards, County Boards of Education or the State Board of Education) that are either elected or appointed by elected officials.
Charter schools are tuition-free, public schools open to all students that wish to attend, space permitting, with no selective admissions process. If more students apply than a charter school can accommodate, there will be a random public lottery.
There are currently 1,230 charters educating 581,100 students in California.
In California, charter schools receive the same state funding per student as all schools in the public system.
Charter schools are accountable for maintaining education achievement standards in two important ways: 1) Charter school petitions must be reviewed and renewed by the school district or authorizer every five years; and 2) the school must sustain enrollment by satisfying families enough to continue to choose this alternative option.
Charter schools can establish governance structures that include the teachers, parents and administrators together to offer more flexibility and freedom of control over the curriculum, budget and staffing.
Charter schools offer the full range of counseling and special education services available in the school district in which they operate.
Charter schools include the full range of diversity reflected in the local community with respect to race, socio-economic standing, English language learning ability, student aptitudes, special needs, and family structures.
In California, charter schools are required to hire credentialed teachers for core subjects, just like all other public schools.
For more information about charter schools, visit the California Department of Education website here.