- The Putney School, located in southern Vermont, is small and located on a dairy farm.
- The 238 students there must work on the farm and in other jobs to graduate.
- They don’t learn their grades until halfway through high school.
Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn and a Greylock Partners investor, always had an independent streak. At 12, he applied to The Putney School, a tiny boarding school in southern Vermont, without telling his parents.
“Part of what appealed to me about Putney was that in addition to having academics, it was doing blacksmithing and woodworking and working on the farm and art and a bunch of things that I wouldn’t otherwise had experience to do,” Hoffman told Business Insider’s Rich Feloni on an episode of the podcast “Success! How I Did It.”
Putney is certainly unique. Students don’t learn their grades until more than halfway through high school, and have work requirements on campus, including on the dairy farm where Putney is located.
“Work on the farm, in the gardens, and in the woods is required of all students for graduation,” the school’s website explains. “New technology and old are combined to find a way to live more lightly on the land.”
Keep reading below to see all of the aspects that make Putney a distinctive high school experience.
Located in Putney, Vermont, the school is a progressive boarding school located on a 500-acre working dairy farm.
It’s small, with 238 students and an average class size of 11.
It costs $US56,800 a year to attend for boarding students. The cost to attend puts it in the range of tuition at Ivy League colleges.
Day students pay $US34,300 a year and the school awards financial aid to 43% of students, meaning almost half don’t pay full price to attend.
But its commonalities with the Ivy League stop there. Putney offers an unique high school experience for its students. Students and families don’t know the grades they earn in classes until their junior year, when they apply to college.
They do receive detailed written reports six times a year that provide comments on assignments from teachers, but their A-F grades are not revealed.
The school also doesn’t offer Advanced Placement classes like many other high schools do.
The most distinctive aspect of Putney is the requirement that students work while on campus. They rotate jobs each trimester satisfying on the the six required work areas.
The six required areas are working a lunch job, dinner waiting, barn crew, dish crew, general substitute, and a land activity (garden, farm, woods, sugaring, landscaping, trail maintenance)
The work requirement one of Putney’s fundamental beliefs that individuals should “treasure the hard stretching of oneself, to render service.”
All of the different types of work that Putney students participate in — whether in the classroom, extracurricular, or work related — feeds the central tenet that learning and curriculum is everything that students do, not just grades earned in academics.
“In a single day, a Putney student might work in a barn crew, collaborate on a chemistry lab, prepare for a debate in economics class, organise a Feminism Club meeting, forge a sword in blacksmithing, and reflect on the week with peers during dorm meeting,” according to the school.
Some students choose to live in cabins without electricity. The cabins are wooden structures that are heated with wood-burning stoves. Some of them have battery-powered solar panels for interior lighting.
Putney isn’t for everyone. But the students it tends to attract are an eclectic group who are eager to take control of their own education, Putney’s director of communications Michael Bodel said.
Just read a former student’s experience, written on school ranking site Niche:”Putney changed my life. Nowhere else would I be able to design my own fashion design class, live a cabin without electricity and water, question everything with support and help from my amazing faculty, sit on the admissions committee, cook a Vietnamese dinner for the whole school, among countless of many other things,”
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