Any student, parent, or teacher wants a learning environment built for success. Each student is an individual and, therefore, has different levels of learning capabilities. Typically, in public schooling environments if a student has specific strengths or weaknesses that student is allotted an individualized education program (IEP). An IEP focuses on finding alternative ways to provide student success.
The U.S. Department of Education states, “Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities.”
Possible actions, among others, may include working one-on-one with a teacher rather than working in a classroom setting or having a test read aloud to a student rather than the student taking the test in silence.
According to Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall’s website waldorfanswers.org, “The central focus for the Waldorf teacher is the development of that essence in every person that is independent of external appearance, by instilling in his/her pupils an understanding of and appreciation for their background and place in the world…” The Waldorf philosophy places importance upon the individual student and provides an environment for each student to have success. It is interesting how this sounds like the definition of a public school IEP.
The Monadnock Waldorf School in Keene notes that rather than using textbooks, “Students fully explore each subject with facts, reasoning, art, observation, music and physical activity. In the process, they create their own textbooks, as lasting, creative records of their achievement.” This prompts some opposing ideas about Waldorf schooling.
One flaw about Waldorf education that is mentioned throughout numerous articles are that students, especially first through eighth grade, need a structure in the classroom that some believe is not achieved in Waldorf schools. Waldorf schools do in fact provide basic structure for children, in that there are rules to follow and goals to achieve.
The difference is the road to achieving the goals. Waldorf schools base the curriculum according to the student’s needs, rather than tweaking students to fit the curriculum needs. If one student in a Waldorf setting needs more structure, then structure will be added. If a student is confident and can make the structure for himself or herself, the teacher takes a back seat.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics in 2010, 68.1 percent of high school graduates were enrolled in a four-year college. The Research Institute for Waldorf Education released a study noting that over 90 percent of Waldorf graduates attend college.
There is no study done that depicts how many of these students finish the four-year college. One reason for this could be because of the individualized focus associated with students’ education. Students are able to find a knack for their interests earlier and maintain that focus throughout. Since college is all about finding out what a student wants to achieve in the work world, Waldorf students might already have a head start.
Most Waldorf schools start the students out with a teacher in first grade who will be their teacher until eighth. This allows for a student to become very comfortable with their teacher, and for the teacher to understand the students in a profound way, bettering the learning environment for the student.
The great thing about education now is that there are so many options for students of all ages. Some students thrive in a public school environment, while others prefer Waldorf education. Therefore, there is no option that is better than the other as a whole. Each student has his or her own techniques for understanding material and applying it to real life situations. It is all about the student’s needs and the best way to help them succeed.
Alexandra Wessel can be contacted at