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Why Choose Us


At Cottonwood, you can expect the following:

2- and 4-day programs

We offer 2 different on-site programs. Students can choose to come on campus 2 or 4 days per week. The course work is developed by the teachers.

  • Synergy program: 2 days/wk. on campus – Students are responsible for completing 3 days of schoolwork at home. Teachers have office hours on remote days.
  • Fusion program: 4 days/wk. on campus – Students are responsible for completing the work at the school site with the guidance of teachers.

Option during COVID

During COVID-19, we also offer a Distance Learning option. Please ask us for details.

Teacher to Student ratio is 10-1

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

Montessori-inspired FREE public high school

The Montessori approach is an award-winning teaching approach developed 50 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. Its main belief is that schools should be designed to meet the personality and interests of students at every stage. At Cottonwood, our school is built around that belief. There are 20 Montessori inspired high schools in the USA and Cottonwood is the only one in the Greater Sacramento Area.

Learning coach assigned for the 4 years of High School

Every day, students meet one on one or in a small group, to discuss with their learning coach their progress. The learning coach and student relationship is an important one. Over time, trust is built which helps the student with the development of self-confidence and knowing thyself to make choices and decision for the future.

Holistic, personalized and deeply tailored learning experience

At Cottonwood, we help young people discover and develop their interests, all the while following California Standards.

Every student is unique, and so are their interests. We carefully prepare an environment that helps teenagers develop mastery in each all subjects.

Students meet their learning coach every day to discuss their studies and projects based on their interests. (Example: If a student is interested in fly fishing, they would need to research the history of fly fishing for the History class, write a paper on fly fishing in English, for Math the student may learn about the length, distance, trigonometry relevant to fly fishing and for Science, the student may learn about the life cycle of the fish that can be caught fly fishing).

No curve grading – Mastery learning; grading based on mastery of subjects

At Cottonwood, 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 portfolio, long term projects and self-evaluation.

Every quarter, students present the portfolio of their work to their learning coach and parents. The student grades themselves based on the Mastery Rubric (Developing, Exploring, Proficient and Mastery).

Service-Learning opportunities help student grow the love of community

Service-learning opportunities allow students to become knowledgeable in specific areas of interest while serving local and global communities. Learning coaches support and help find opportunities for students to find service-learning opportunities in an area of their choosing.

Project based learning (PBL) incorporate students interests

Project-based learning is an instructional approach designed to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills through engaging projects set around challenges and problems they may face in the real world. Students "investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex problem, or challenge" with deep and sustained attention. Project based learning is "learning by doing". It is our opinion that if we are to prepare students for success in life, we need to prepare them for a project-based world.

In essence, the PBL model consists of these seven characteristics:

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

PBL happens throughout the year. We live it every day at Cottonwood. For example, this last semester, the elections were a great subject for PBL. Students did a mock voter registration, developed propositions to be voted on, and wrote oppositional paper.

Peace Core groups

Cottonwood offers 4 clubs which occur during school hours. These include:

  • Literary Art Magazine – students write articles and produce a graphic magazine
  • Readers Rendezvous – students read a book which they discuss in a group
  • Student Leadership – students participating in this group boost their leadership skills, learn team building skills and networking
  • Model UN (in association with UC Berkeley) – students learned parliamentary procedures, public speaking, debate skills, world politics and events and more