Our Learning Community
Clark, the nation’s first public Montessori high school, has been nationally recognized for academic excellence; and Clark’s students consistently earn high scores on state tests.
The experiential teaching style practiced within the five CPS Montessori elementary schools and based on the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, continues at Clark. Dr. Montessori's experience with adolescents (as detailed in her book From Childhood to Adulthood), inspires Clark teachers as they guide students to develop their intellectual skills and become full contributors to society. The Montessori teaching method encourages students to learn by piquing their natural curiosity about the world and by providing an environment that kindles their natural drive to learn.The Montessori Triangle of education — students, teachers and parents working together — makes Clark a strong community of adults and teenagers who respect each other.
Our school is best known for its field studies and intersessions, community service as a method for learning about the world, thematic work emphasis, seminars, and relationship building. Also, most of our students participate in our Music and Visual Arts programs.
Montessori experience is preferred for entry into Clark. A student without Montessori experience will be considered based on an interview.
Some other important facts about Clark:
- Junior-high classrooms are organized into multilevel learning communities.
- Students sign contracts requiring a commitment to learning, community involvement and respect for others.
- Community service is required of all Clark students (36 hours per year in grades 7-8; 50 hours per year in grades 9-12).
- Intersessions occur twice a year, when the regular curriculum in grades 9-12 comes to a halt. Each student selects a two-week, in-depth immersion course to take during the intersession. Examples include studying art in New York City, making a trip to Morocco, sailing and studying marine biology on a coral reef, and exploring the Appalachian Trail.
- Each senior completes a yearlong project, an in-depth study of a topic of the student’s choice. Parts of the project are due throughout the year, and long-range planning is necessary. Students present the finished projects to their classmates.
Students primarily come to Clark from the five Cincinnati Montessori public elementary schools or from the city’s private Montessori schools and other public schools. There are no academic requirements for a student to enter our program, although students and their families are interviewed and then sign an agreement as part of their acceptance to come to the school; 95% of Clark students have previous Montessori education. This means that Clark has a very diverse student population. Folks at Clark are proud of the fact that there is diversity in race, in gender, in the represented neighborhoods, in socio-economic background, and in the academic and personal qualities of the school’s student body.
The teachers in the five middle school communities plan the curriculum together so that all communities are working on the same content at the same time. Montessori identified needs and characteristics of the adolescent, and her writing heavily influences the curriculum design and delivery.
The Common Core Standards are used to design learning activities. The curriculum is arranged around a theme for a quarter in junior high and for the year in high school. The themes allow for interdisciplinary planning and allow students to probe the material as deeply as they can. Students take part in many extended out-of-class learning experiences (like camping and marine biology) designed to extend the academic challenge of the classroom and to build community.
All high school students are expected to manage honors level coursework, and there is a strong infrastructure of support for students to do their best work, including an advisor and advisory period. Two times a year, the regular coursework shuts down to allow for two-week immersion courses to take place. These field study courses range in price from $50.00 to $1,500.00. A parent group sponsors a variety of fundraisers throughout the year to help students earn money for these specialty courses.