Why Choose Us


Supporting Holistic Learning

The Cottonwood High School’s approach is grounded in Montessori philosophy. We create a safe and supportive environment that allows students to follow their natural curiosity and desire to learn.

All our teachers, or learning coaches, are specially trained and fully credentialed. They work with each student, always meeting the individual student right where they are to be sure of their holistic development—including social and emotional growth, and academic achievement—is optimally supported.

The Cottonwood School is reimagining community and reshaping education for a better tomorrow.

Student to Teacher ratio is 15:1

We believe in keeping the student-teacher ratio low, which creates a trusted environment for the students. With a low ratio, students are able to create deeper relationships with their teachers. This in turn provides a supportive space to develop projects and experiences tailored to each student.

Montessori-Inspired FREE Public High School

The Montessori approach is an award-winning education approach developed 50 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed that schools should be designed to meet the personality and interests of students at every stage. At Cottonwood HS, our school is built upon that belief. There are 20 Montessori-inspired high schools in the U.S; Cottonwood HS is the only one in the Greater Sacramento Area.

One Learning Coach for Entire 4 Years of High School

Every day students meet one-on-one or in a small group to discuss their progress with their learning coach. The learning coach and student relationship is an important one. Over time, the trust that is built helps the student develop self-confidence and elevates their ability to make good choices and decisions for a bright future.

Holistic, Individually Tailored Learning Experience

At Cottonwood HS, we help young people discover and develop their interests, all while following California State Content Standards. We carefully prepare an environment and curriculum that helps teenagers pursue their passion while developing mastery across subject areas.

Every student is unique, and so are their interests. If your student is interested in fly fishing, for example, they might research the history of fly fishing, write a paper on fly fishing, learn about the length, distance, and trigonometry relevant to fly fishing, and learn about the life cycle of the fish that can be caught fly fishing. The core content areas of history, English, math, and science are developed around the individual learner’s interest.

Grades determined by subject mastery

At Cottonwood HS, we do not emphasize academic competition among students. Instead, students are evaluated against clearly stated academic objectives through a wide variety of authentic assessment techniques, including portfolios, long-term projects, and self-evaluation.

Every quarter, students present the portfolio of their work to their learning coach and parents. Each student assesses themselves based on the Mastery Rubric (exploring, developing, proficient, and innovative).

Service-Learning to Grow Community

Service-learning opportunities allow students to become knowledgeable in specific areas of interest while serving local and global communities. Learning coaches help students find ways they can contribute in their area of interest. At Cottonwood HS, we believe learning to serve the community is a valuable piece of a teenager’s education. It builds self-esteem, as well as a sense of belonging and purpose.

Interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning for Real-World Skills

Project-based learning (PBL) gives students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that prepare them for the challenges and problems of the real world. PBL is learning by doing.

What is Project-Based Learning?

  • Is organized around an open-ended driving question or challenge
  • Integrates essential academic content and skills into the project development
  • Requires inquiry to learn or create something new
  • Requires 21st-century skills: critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication
  • Allows student voice and choice
  • Incorporates feedback and revision
  • Results in a final presentation of the findings

At Cottonwood, we practice Interdisciplinary PBL every day. Whatever the current real-world issues are, we integrate them into the high school student’s curriculum to make their learning engaging and relevant.

Innovative Groups to Enhance Education

  • Literary Art Magazine — students write articles and produce a graphic magazine
  • Readers Rendezvous — students read a book and discuss it in a group
  • Student Leadership — students boost their leadership, learn team-building skills, and discover the value of networking
  • Model United Nations (in association with U.C. Berkeley) — students learn parliamentary procedures, public speaking, and debating skills, world politics and events, and more
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