Puget Sound Community School

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Andy Smallman
PSCS Founder, School Director

Andy's time studying human development at The Evergreen State College was exhilarating. He felt in partnership with the faculty, who supported him as he pursued ideas that he was passionate about—the exact opposite of his high school experience. At the time, he wondered, “Why couldn’t I do this when I was 13?” In 1994, he started Puget Sound Community School. Since then, students have learned in a safe, loving, nurturing environment staffed by teachers who help them pursue their passions. . . .

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Our Philosophy

PSCS was founded on the principle that learning is best fostered by self-motivation, self-regulation, and self-reflection.

Unlike many schools, the first focus at PSCS is not a prescribed academic program. Our primary focus is in maintaining a safe environment where kids feel comfortable stepping outside of their comfort zones and being themselves. We surround students with talented people of high character who are passionate about learning and excited about life.

Students work with an Advisor to identify their short- and long-term goals. Staff, students, and volunteers co-create the school schedule and courses are taught by those who are most passionate about the topics. Advisors challenge students to participate in classes or activities not based on what they “should” be doing, but because they are excited by them.

Traditional academic subjects are covered through this highly structured approach, in a way that helps students focus on their strengths, nurtures their intrinsic motivation to learn, and gives them the opportunity to direct their own education. This process supports the over-arching curriculum of PSCS, which helps students learn responsibility and self-reliance. It also supports the over-arching goal of PSCS, which is to help students grow into kind, mature adults.

Instead of helping kids reach an arbitrary minimum standard, PSCS helps them reach their highest potential. This philosophy is based on the most robust findings in behavioral science of the past 40 years. It’s a philosophy that is rooted in kindness and compassion and is re-inventing what middle and high school is in the 21st century.

So do you calculate Class Rank/ Grades or GPA??

PSCS believes that students should be well-rounded, with a diverse range of interests and skills. Giving students grades, a GPA, and a class rank are antithetical to this goal because it causes students to play it safe, seek only the “easy A,” and stay within their comfort zones. PSCS students are freed to try new things and learn from their mistakes. Teaching staff members engage students in a process of rigorous self-reflection, which is much more authentic and supportive of student growth than merely receiving a letter grade. The school documents this process with individualized transcripts for each student that focus on their self-identified personal passions, a history of their academic progress over time, and a record of significant achievements.