Twenty Years and Counting: A Look at Waldorf in the Public Sector Using Online Sources


  • Abigail L Larrison University of California, San Diego
  • Alan J Daly University of California, San Diego
  • Carol VanVooren California State University, San Marcos


charter schools, holistic education, Steiner, testing, Waldorf


    As the number of public Waldorf schools operating in the U.S. continues to grow, there is a need to examine the effectiveness of this approach in the public sector.  This empirical study provides a beginning look at available quantitative and qualitative extant data on public Waldorf schools obtained from state and national websites.  Available data included standardized tests and parent comment boards hosted by the independent source,  Public Waldorf schools were compared to their district standardized test scores in Reading and Math as well as matched comparison schools.  Test score results suggested the Waldorf experience provided a slower academic build-up resulting in poorer test scores in the lower grades followed by higher levels of advanced performance in the 8th grade.  Quantitative content analysis of parent comments supported the idea that public Waldorf is indeed a more holistic approach with greater emphasis on the arts, community and developmentally appropriate practice.  Findings suggest standard measures of school quality may midjudge the effectiveness of holistic education particularly with regards to academics.  Challenges for successfully bringing holistic education into the current cultural-political climate are discussed.

Author Biographies

Abigail L Larrison, University of California, San Diego

Abigail Larrison received her PhD in Neuroscience from Rutgers Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience studying mechanisms of attention and systems level neuroscience.  She began working in education in 1995, applying her knowledge of the brain sciences towards teaching pedagogy and practice.  She joined the Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership in order to further advance issues of educational reform based on the brain and learning sciences.  Her recent publications extend into the area of neuropharmacology, the psychophysiology of attention and critical issues in neuroeducation.

Alan J Daly, University of California, San Diego

Alan J. Daly is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of California, San Diego.  In addition to 16 years of public education experience as a teacher, psychologist, and administrator, Alan has also been the Program Director for the Center for Educational Leadership and Effective Schools at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Research interests include leadership, educational policy, district reform, and social network theory.  His recent publications include an edited volume entitled, Social Network Theory and Educational Change, published by Harvard Education Press.

Carol VanVooren, California State University, San Marcos

Carol L. Van Vooren has served as a teacher and school leader at all levels of instruction and is currently an Assistant Professor at California State University San Marcos. Her interest in alternative pedagogy developed as the principal of an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme School and as the Director of the International Baccalaureate Certificate in Teaching and Learning at CSUSM. Her research in international mindedness and leadership has resulted in publications and presentations at conferences around the world.




How to Cite

Larrison, A. L., Daly, A. J., & VanVooren, C. (2012). Twenty Years and Counting: A Look at Waldorf in the Public Sector Using Online Sources. Current Issues in Education, 15(3). Retrieved from