When kindergarten started, Moselle Dake was excited. But that didn’t last.
“I had to sit at my desk a lot,” the 6-year-old said.
Moselle’s experience is not uncommon. As standardized tests have grown in importance over the past decade, even kindergarten teachers must prepare kids for the high-stakes exams they will face beginning in third grade.
Critics say the test prep comes at a high cost.
“Within a few weeks, I could see the love of learning dying,” said Moselle’s mother, Rebecca. “I thought, ‘There must be a better way.’”
As she watched her daughter struggle, the mother of three decided to start her own school.
The San Francisco Schoolhouse, which opened this month at a Richmond district synagogue, has no tests, no homework and no worksheets. So far there are only two students, but Dake believes other parents will be lured by the idea of an education free from standardized tests.
“That’s one of the reasons we were so excited about this school — no testing,” said Rebecca Schneider, who signed up to teach at the experimental school with her husband and fellow teacher, Jack Schumacher.
Students at the San Francisco Schoolhouse will learn by working on projects that match their own interests, and teachers will rely on that work, rather than on tests, to determine whether kids are learning.
“We get to have the curriculum fit the child instead of the child fitting the curriculum,” said Schumacher. “We can also pick up on the child’s interest and explore that.”
On a recent morning, Moselle and her classmate, Annabel Cooney, 5, worked on abstract watercolors, an activity they had chosen for themselves. Earlier in the day, they had written in their journals and learned about the letter A.
“We wanted a small setting, where she isn’t just lost in a sea of children,” said Annabel’s mother, Erin Cooney.
Cooney, who initially considered sending her daughter to public school, learned about the San Francisco Schoolhouse on a parents’ Web forum. Cooney and Dake are working to recruit other parents for the venture, which they hope to grow to 60 students in kindergarten through fifth grade over the next several years. The students are now officially home-schooled, but the school will gain nonprofit status in January.
Tuition will be between $7,000 and $9,000, Dake said, which is lower than most private schools. Dake said the savings would come from the school’s low overhead and lack of administrators.
“A lot of families are interested,” Dake said.