Unless you’re looking for a cheap t-shirt, one size does not fit all. Choice is a fundamental concept of the charter school movement, and SDS exists to provide increased educational choice for the community.

SDS Mission Statement

Sonoran Desert School upholds as its highest priority each student’s right to achieve meaningful academic success, and therefore the right to prosper emotionally and to prepare intellectually for adult roles. SDS offers a self-paced, challenging curriculum that features computer applications and individualized instruction to meet the needs of students who would benefit from learning in an innovative, personalized school setting.

SDS Goals

  • To give the highest priority to continuous growth in learning and teaching.
  • To provide instruction at all levels that stimulates commitment to life-long learning and open inquiry.
  • To promote development of higher-order thinking skills.
  • To utilize computer technology in preparing students to function in not only the workplace, but also the Information Age.
  • To ensure an atmosphere that embraces diversity, bases relationships on civility and tolerance, acknowledges the perspectives of all minorities and cultures, and stimulates multicultural, global and international perspectives.
  • To provide students a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities as well as opportunities related to community service and leadership as a means of developing social awareness while developing their potential to thrive in a changing world.

SDS Pledge

In all of its activities, Sonoran Desert School will strive to sustain an open exchange of ideas in an environment that embodies the values of academic freedom, responsibility, integrity, and cooperation. Sonoran Desert School will provide an atmosphere of mutual respect that is free from racism and other forms of prejudice and intolerance and assist individuals in responding to a continuously changing world. Through high expectations for both staff and students, Sonoran Desert School will seek to inspire and empower the individuals within its community to achieve excellence as scholars, citizens, and human beings.

SDS Philosophy

The single most important aspect of an education is the learner’s experience. Teaching, testing, curriculum development, teacher training, classwork–all of these things are significant to education; however, one truth emerges from the rest: each student must have a positive, successful educational experience, or the educational process has failed. Helping each student find success is our priority–all other activities spring from this. At SDS, our job isn’t just teaching–our job is making sure students learn.

Things have changed a bit in the last 100 years. Some of the changes aren’t as obvious as walking on the moon. For example, what are the effects of information technologies, such as televisions and computers, on the way we think? How should we prepare ourselves for the changes that are sure to come? How should schools adjust to an increasingly complex world? These issues seem particularly relevant for today’s high school students and should be addressed in the design of instructional programs.

A lesson that change has taught us is that people are not products. To us, this has meant a total re-evaluation of the traditional “mass-produced” approach to teaching that is traditional to high school. At SDS, we don’t see the student as a “product” that rolls off an assembly-line of classes. Instead, we have recognized the absolute importance of recognizing the individuality of each learner at our school. This seems especially critical to provide this kind of individualized guidance during the teenage years, a time when people are struggling to form a personal identity while simultaneously preparing for their adult roles. It also frees us from teaching to an average ability level by allowing us to concentrate on developing individual excellence.

Bigger isn’t always better. A large organization is often impersonal and uncaring, emphasizing its system over the people that function within it. This might reduce costs and keep things running, but at what price? Education is about people, and at Sonoran Desert School we cultivate a small school atmosphere where everybody knows everybody. We value the quality of experience a student has at our school over everything else.

One of our goals is to build a sense of school community. One important way of doing this is to decrease unhealthy kinds of competition among students. High school should not be a popularity contest, a game that can be cruel and dangerous. Instead, at SDS we emphasize personal growth, a kind of competition within oneself. With a personal growth emphasis, students strive to better their own achievements, which results in the building of skills, self-confidence, and identity. It also results in a healthy community where students can support each other in building their individual strengths rather than competing with each other for recognition.

Today’s schools must also prepare students for tomorrow’s world. As we explore the new millenium, it is clear that students need constant computer access, individual attention and feedback, and a curriculum that both emphasizes learning and recognizes achievement. Students must not only learn how a computer works–they must learn to make it work for them. Students must not only learn how to find information–they must learn to use information.

Child, adult, woman, or man–nobody likes to be bored or frustrated. This is not to say that all schools are boring or frustrating; remember that school is one of the most exciting things in the world to a kindergarten child. Many people agree, however, that somewhere around fourth or fifth grade things started to change, and by the time junior high rolled around, their opinion of school had reached an all-time low. We do not want our students to be bored and frustrated–we want them to be engaged in the rewarding work of learning and growing as individuals.

Every teacher was once a student. This fact may seem obvious, but to any student who has been numbed by endless lectures or half-drowned in a sea of busy work, this fact seems the wildest fiction imaginable. But it is true, and no teachers want their students to be bored. Long ago, Aristotle once wrote, “To instruct, first one must entertain.” In other words, a person will only learn something if it is interesting and engaging.

This is a tall order. After all, comedian Billy Crystal has talked about spending three months preparing his “entertaining” presentation for the Oscars, and James Cameron and friends spent a lot of time and money “edutaining” us in Titanic. The reality is that all of today’s many distractions compete for our attention, and this is the reality in which teachers, on a decidedly lower budget and with much less time, teach. One of our major goals at SDS is to give our teachers more time interacting with and assisting students as well as more time to prepare interesting and engaging instructional approaches.

An effective school supports teaching. Computer-based attendance, grading, and test management to free teachers from time-consuming, repetitive tasks and allows quick, efficient access to a variety of reports. Each teacher’s time can therefore be focused on interaction with students, whether it’s developing customized plans of instruction, planning learning experiences, assisting students with activities and projects, grading subjective items, or providing instruction on specific skills. Teachers are also provided time to develop and refine our educational programs.

High school students should be treated as young adults. This means giving students choices and responsibilities. Do human beings ever make bad choices? Are human beings ever irresponsible? The answers are obvious, and its also obvious that young people, like all people, will sometimes make mistakes when given choice and reponsibility. These mistakes do not justify our removing of choices and responsibilities from young people; in fact, it is all the more important that we help our young adults learn from mistakes and develop the skills needed to make good choices and to be responsible. Our goal is excellence rather than perfection, and we believing in treating each student according to his or her potential.

A Final Thought

The truth is, teaching is one of the world’s most challenging jobs. Whether the teacher is a parent, an older sibling, a school administrator, or classroom instructor, the challenge is always the same. After all, we all learn to be everything that we are, and the only way we can truly address the challenges and problems of our world is through our own intellectual and emotional growth.

At Sonoran Desert School, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to help our parents, teachers, and students learn to succeed in these most interesting and challenging times.