Compass School

Westminster, VT

A Dynamic Whole Child School in Westminster, VT

 “A rigorous, relevant & respectful learning community”

  • A community designed school based upon the principals of the Coalition of Essential Schools
  • Embodies an inspiring learning community that balances personalized education with high expectations for all
  • Student leadership is a vibrant element of the school  
  • Reflects the ideas of direction, leadership, and navigating the world, serving a diverse population of students 
  • Offers a viable model for how an independent school can fully integrate public school choice students.

ETWC Report Summary: Observations over several days confirmed that the Compass School staff poured seamless energy into the learning environment for all grades to ensure that children entered classrooms resilient, calm, relaxed, and ready to enjoy learning. A large central space allows students to enjoy downtime, meet with teachers and classmates, or simply engage in solitary time of reflection, creation, simply enjoying a quiet mind. Four specific characteristics make the school distinctive: 

The first distinctive element is the embodiment of The Coalition of Essential Schools Common Principles in every interaction. Those principles are: Learning to use one’s mind well; Less is More--depth over coverage; Goals apply to all students; Personalization; Student-as-worker--teacher-as-coach; and  Demonstration of mastery. A tone of decency and trust, commitment to the entire school, adequate resources dedicated to teaching and learning, and democracy equity were all observed. These principles are reflected in the leadership of the school, in how students are respected, valued, and involved in decision making when appropriate; and in a learning environment that evinces respect, joy, relevancy, social justice, gender equity, responsibility, and awareness of individual exceptionalities.

A second distinctive element is the focus on the social and emotional well-being of all the children. Service dogs work at the school, explicitly to support children who need them. This is the second Educate the Whole Child school where we have experienced the profound calming effects of having well trained dogs available to students and staff in classrooms and common spaces. 

The third distinctive element is use of Portfolios and Presentations for Assessment. In their sophomore year, students gather samples of their work that demonstrate their performance and growth. They present their work to a round table, which includes their advisor, a teacher, parent and peer. Successful completion is a gateway to 11th grade. In the senior year, as a requirement for graduation, students present samples of their work that demonstrate successful completion of expectations for graduation to a panel including a professional from outside the school, a board member, their advisor, teachers, parents, the school director and a peer. This is further evidence of the family and community involvement that prevails in Compass School.  

The fourth noteworthy element is the seamless integration of public and independent school students. A conscious effort insures that students who come from public school districts will be treated as equal citizens at this Independent school.

Contact to request the full report:
Compass is located where the hills of southern Vermont slope down to the Connecticut River.

Compass is located where the hills of southern Vermont slope down to the Connecticut River.