In 2014, educators Ndindi Kitonga PhD. and Scott Stubbe asked themselves a question:
Where are all the revolutionary secondary schools in Los Angeles?
In response, they answered the call to create a place of learning unlike anything in the greater Los Angeles area. Angeles Workshop School is a progressive private middle and high school for students seeking an authentic education that goes beyond the conventional. We are a small, democratic school environment where learners grow through real-world experience and application, informed by a deep love and respect for themselves, each other, and the greater community as a whole.
Angeles Workshop School provides an experiential, humanistic education-inspired program that forgoes many of the trappings of traditional school in exchange for true ownership of the learning process: choice and control are responsibly shared with all learners, and students self-evaluate in order to best understand and value their individual learning processes. Our learners' experiences go far beyond the walls of the classroom, expanding their educational and social interactions.
We believe that the cognitive and the affective are indivisible-- simply put, a learner's feelings and concerns, as well as their interests, are wholly tied into how effectively they think and learn. This is why we design and adapt our curricula around our learners, finding effective alternatives to standard assignments and tests.
Within this exciting approach, our teachers maintain a dynamic curriculum rich with avenues for rigorous inquiry, built around challenging content and skillsets that prepare learners for real success in higher education, the workplace, and our ever-changing world.
How is Angeles Workshop School different from other private schools?
As a school adapted from many humanistic educational beliefs, we are dramatically, refreshingly different. Here are a few ways:
Time is managed organically, with student input and consensus. The teacher helps present educational objectives, and the students collaborate to form agreements and timelines regarding the process by which those objectives will be met.
Even without a bell dictating the division of the school day, Workshop students work intensely from morning to afternoon because of their ownership of the learning process.
In keeping with the humanistic value of self-evaluation, the Workshop does not assign mandatory homework, though a family may opt for at-home assignments if they desire them. Family time is respected.
A student is trusted to choose how they will spend their evening; we find that many students work more on their academics after school when they genuinely want to learn more about those topics, not when they are forced to do so.
Students learn and perform at their best when they are not under stress. We believe in authentic, alternative assessments that are then used by the student to self-assess.
If students choose to familiarize themselves with traditional and standardized tests as preparation for future institutions, teachers support them, drawing upon their backgrounds as AP and SAT Prep teachers.
At set periods, students self-assess with the guidance of rubrics, portfolios and critiques, assisted by the teacher. This results in a more authentic reflection on the value of the student's learning process.
Traditional letter grades of A,B,C, or Fail are used, creating a commonly accepted transcript of grades.
Interest-based, Challenging Education
Teachers meet students where they are with regards to skills and interests, designing rich and rewarding curricula around student choices.
How many students do you accommodate?
We are very small, and happily so! In its present conception, Angeles Workshop School is composed of no more than 20 students, allowing for an excellent student-teacher ratio as well as a highly deft and mobile school community. As our school uses the entire city of Los Angeles as an extension of our campus, a small cadre of learners makes for a very exciting and versatile daily educational experience.
What is your teacher-student ratio?
Angeles Workshop School will always maintain a very low teacher-student ratio, never exceeding 1-10.
Who are your teachers?
Angeles Workshop is the brainchild of husband- and- wife founders Scott Stubbe, a credentialed English teacher and play-based education advocate, and Ndindi Kitonga PhD., a published educator in Social Justice and a Science teacher.
These professional dreamers saw a need for exciting educational activities for creative teens that are both geeky and social, and for play-based interaction that is both real-world and intellectual.
Beyond our core teachers, Angeles Workshop School draws on a rich community of specialty teachers, parents, professionals, enthusiasts and peers to accentuate our learners' curriculum with diverse perspectives.
Do your graduates go to college?
Yes, most choose to. Our graduates have been accepted to a wide range of four-year colleges and universities, including:
UC Santa Cruz
UC San Diego
University of British Columbia
Otis College of Art and Design
California College of the Arts
Sonoma State University
We also provide a Post-Diploma Program for graduates who wish to transition to a four-year college or other vocation; our program includes onsite classes at Angeles Workshop, Community College courses, and employment or apprenticeship.
How much is tuition?
At Angeles Workshop, diversity includes class and socioeconomic status. As such, ceiling tuition is about half of most other local private schools. We have a sliding-scale tuition model, asking about 10% of Gross Family Income. Our minimum tuition is $5000 per year, and our full tuition is $19,000 per year.
Guided Sessions are similar to traditional classes insofar as a teacher leads the interaction with content and ideas. During Guided Sessions, the teacher provides challenging, content-rich plans and activities for learning, with a focus on higher-order thinking as defined in Bloom's Taxonomy.
Students have a great amount of input regarding the selection of content and nature of activities during Guided Sessions. This stems from our firm belief in interest-based education, and the proven understanding that one learns better when one enjoys what and how one is learning.
Action Sessions are the part of the day in which students are free to pursue topics and activities of their choosing, while the teacher steps back, adopting the role of a resource to facilitate the learning process.
Often students will continue to explore during Action Sessions what they were introduced to in Guided Sessions, delving deeper into a facet of a subject that sparks their particular interest. Likewise, upcoming Guided Sessions may be shaped by what students independently discovered during previous Action Sessions.
written by Conor Hopkins and Prince Jones, high school students at Angeles Workshop School, Class of 2016 and 2017
We here at Angeles Workshop School welcome, value, and support people of all races, colors, sexual orientations, gender identities, disabilities, sexes, religions, and national origins documented and undocumented.
Furthermore, our educational practices are highly invested in addressing the significance of diverse peoples, working towards togetherness for all, and fostering an egalitarian multiculturalism where all types of people can achieve self-actualization.
Simply put, acceptance for all learners is our top priority.
What makes Angeles Workshop School "Revolutionary"?
Our student Jo Hempelmann (Class of 2018) offers this eloquent essay as insight into how our school offers a truly "Revolutionary Education"
The words ‘high school’ instantly conjure visions of sneakers squeaking on linoleum floors, wooden desk-chair amalgamations with messages and doodles etched into their surfaces, bored stares pleading for the period to wrap up just a little bit faster, droning voices repeating what will be on the test. It’s no wonder that most people would be loathe to relive their high school days, and that teenagers dream of the day that diploma sets them free. But education doesn’t have to be such a burden — in fact, it can be a wonderful, inspiring way to explore the world. Creating a different method of education is always radical, and with the ever-increasing pressure on students to get into a ‘good college’ so they can have a future, it can feel risky. It’s true that painting outside the lines has always been parlous, but mainstream acceptance has never been a reliable marker of quality. I believe that a good school must be only one part of a strong group, and learning must be based on respect between students and teachers alike. Education is at its best when all participants are a community.
So how does one build a community? How does a school embody the open-heartedness and friendliness required without coming off as overly broad or shallow? I believe that to be successful, a community must remain small and genuine. Scott and Ndindi are the co-founders of the school I will graduate from in June. They have created a community that perfectly exemplifies a healthy, good school culture. A large part of this comes from their roles not just as teachers and educators, but as peers and friends. At just nineteen students, a school like mine is too small for hierarchies between students and teachers. Through a very selective application process, they have created a community that reflects the values of the school. And yes, a school must have values, something more than the trite anti-bullying and respect-others campaigns of public high schools. My school is deeply involved in social justice programs: we make over two hundred sandwiches for the homeless every month, we patronize African-American art exhibits, and have taken field trips to protests. This care for others permeates the community of the school and those values get directed inwards as well. We care for our own, and support teachers and students alike who need it. This collective accountability is immeasurably valuable to forming a healthy community.
However, a baseline cohesion is useless without trust and respect between all participating members: students and teachers alike. To that end, we do everything as a cohesive unit. From mornings discussing intense issues both global and personal (topics have included the FBI’s opposition to civil rights and the school’s junk food policy) to classwork, to clean-up, to faculty issues and interpersonal relationships, everyone’s voice is heard and acknowledged as valuable. Everyday tasks require teamwork between all members of the school — we go on field trips into the city routinely, and making sure no one is lost during the metro rides, museum visits, and ubiquitous ten-minute-walks from destination to destination is a demanding task. Since the students and teachers are directly and emotionally invested in the school, that respect and rapport is instantly built. What affects one affects all, and that quickly forms the trust that is necessary in a healthy community.
Above all, however, this community is not just a school. We get to know our teachers as people, and I personally count Scott and Ndindi as lifelong friends and mentors. We experience adventures together, and the experiences of nonacademic togetherness are created by two people who genuinely love what they do. Scott’s eyes light up when creating a tabletop role-playing game based on what we learned in our Cold War unit, and Ndindi opens a LootCrate with the school frequently. On sunny days, we’ll walk to the park and have lunch. This connection and love — yes, love — supports the academics and the studies that we participate in during the school day, and imbues the classes with an energy rarely found in high schools. When we receive feedback on our essays or projects, it’s personalized and we trust it because we respect the source. Even reading from Goethe’s Faust results in spirited discussions of classical and modern-day Satanism as opposed to blank stares.
A place like this is not just a school. It’s a thriving, loving group where we hold similar values, respect each other, and know that our interactions outside of the classroom are just as important as the academics. Education truly works best when the participants form a community. Imagine a world in which not just nineteen but hundreds of thousands of high school graduates embark on the next phase of their lives energized and excited, with clear goals and a solid support system. The impact a close-knit community can have on the depth of learning simply cannot be understated. Education is multifaceted, and closely tied to place and relationships. If anything will change the world, it will be the “Scotts and Ndindis” and, I hope, many others like them.
photo of Jo Hempelmann by student Josie F.