New to the area? Here is an overview of your educational options in Boise/Meridian/Eagle.
While we’re not the most objective source, we have noticed that many newcomers to our area appreciate an overview of the area’s educational landscape. We realize there are risks in commenting on our friends (and competitors), but we encourage you to check out the options yourself. Disclaimer: We have not exhaustively researched these options. This is simply our perspective on other area schools.
Boise Public Schools
Boise schools are relatively safe and the district has the highest paid teachers and smallest classes among public schools in the area. Despite Boise’s growth, schools within Boise’s district have seen contraction rather than expansion in enrollment. This is due, in part, to families moving west to the Meridian School District for newer, cheaper housing. This contraction has resulted in school consolidation and more flexibility within the district.
West Ada (formerly Meridian) Public Schools
The Meridian district is huge, covering most of Ada county outside the Boise city area. With five major high schools (Meridian, Eagle, Centenial, Mountain View, and Rocky Mountain High Schools), the Meridian district struggles with growth. Academically, they do not have the reputation Boise has, but they are generally safe.
Why choose a general public school? If cost, athletics, activities, and a mainstream experience are your desire, the public schools are a viable choice. Academically, one should remember the goal of public school—leave no child behind. See our perspective below. Also, Idaho’s educational standards tend to be lower– some say among the lowest in the nation. One measure of this is the qualifying score for National Merit Scholars on the national PSAT test. College-bound students take the PSAT their junior year to qualify for the prestigious standing as a National Merit Scholar. The test requires a proportional number of scholars from each state. An Idaho student can become a scholar with a PSAT as low as 204 (they lower the score to qualify more students). Students in neighboring states must often exceed 214. This is an indicator of the relative weakness in our state’s schools. We strongly suggest that Christians visit Discover Christian Schools for Christian as well as academic reasons to select a private Christian school.
Charter schools are public schools outside of the direct control of local school districts. Because they are tax-payer funded (no tuition), most have waiting lists and they cannot use religious curricula. Some Boise area charter schools use the “Harbor Method” (Liberty, North Star, and formerly Hidden Springs, for example). The program’s popularity has traditionally been in k-6. It relies on structure, order, and special curricula. The class sizes are reputed to be large—up to 30 students per class. Of course, many charter schools are not Harbor schools, so they vary widely in what they offer. Many are specialty schools like Medical Arts or Fine Arts schools. Since we believe education is the pursuit of Truth, all of which is God’s truth, we do not believe it is possible to truly educate in a charter school environment, where God is not allowed.
This case was made not long ago with the now defunct Nampa Classical Charter school. This school grew rapidly to over 500 students in its first year. However, the State Board of Education restricted their charter, not allowing them to teach Bible, even as an historical document. To those who know and understand classical education, pursuing Truth while at the same time restricting any Truth attributed to a God is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, like guilding and biding it to be fruitful (see The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis). Lewis goes on to say such a system “is more likely to create more clever devils.”
Magnet schools are public schools governed by a local school district with a specific subject area of focus. Their enrollment is usually not strictly geographically dictated like conventional public schools. An example would be the Renaissance School in Meridian.
Our perspective: Idaho public schools (conventional, magnet, and charter) are heavily influenced by the No Child Left Behind accountability program, and now the Common Core. Because the system rewards bringing all students up to minimal competency, schools spend much of their time, effort, and resources on the lowest performers. Consequently, average to above average students receive less attention. The result can be a narrow education lacking in well-rounded subjects like literature, foreign language, logic, speech, music and art. It can also mean that your average to above average student is not challenged by the work. These produce a heavy focus on what is tested—the basics of reading and math– with few other supplemental subjects. They are also more regulated against God in the classroom than even other US states because of the Blaine Amendment in our state constitution.
Our goal is to challenge our students to reach their highest potential. This sounds obvious, but we think you’ll find it is relatively rare in practice. We test as well, but not for the same reasons. We use a testing agency that has been in operation for over 80 years and is known worldwide for its rigorous standardized testing (the Educational Records Bureau). The ERB serves many of the finest preparatory schools in the country. The test combines conventional “bubble sheet” questions with a hand written essay. This allows parents to decide for themselves if our results are satisfactory using a reference that compares us to the best private and public schools in the country and around the world, not just Idaho. Parents also value the literature, language, history, science, art, and music that we provide as part of our curriculum. Finally and most importantly, our Christian worldview curriculum and character emphasis provide an environment where students are educated holistically—not separated between the secular and the Christian part of their lives. This is why our mission is to unite faith and reason through classical Christian education.
Montessori—Generally for early elementary, the Montessori philosophy of education allows students to work at their own pace in more of an independent setting. This modern form of education contrasts with classical Christian education’s more structured approach to learning in the younger grades.
Riverstone International School—An academic K-12 program based on the International Baccalaureate system. You may want to read our page on the IBO. Riverstone touts strong academics, but does not follow a traditional classical model as many eastern preparatory schools do. Riverstone is not Christian or religious.
Foothills School for the Arts—An academic program with a more progressive (politically liberal) focus. Again, Foothills is not Christian or religious.
Challenger School—Challenger is a regional chain school. It touts an academic program, particularly for pre K-8. Again, Challenger is not Christian or religious.
Arts West (Now Fresco)— Located on State Street just east of Linder Road, Arts West provides a program emphasizing art and music.
Many of these schools are expensive, for-profit schools.
Our Perspective— While these schools may be more rigorous and have broader content than the public schools, they embrace the modern educational paradigm. Classical education has been the foundation of college preparatory schools across the country for centuries. Schools like Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Boston Latin School, and Stonybrook are examples of highly acclaimed classical preparatory schools. We know of no system that has a better record of producing academic excellence than classical education.
The Roman Catholic schools (St. Mary’s, St. Marks, Sacred Heart, etc.) in this area are relatively similar to public schools in curriculum and method, with religious content. St. Josephs has an academic reputation and is a sought after school in the area. Catholic schools in this area tend to be less traditional (structured) than Catholic schools in other parts of the country.
Bishop Kelly is the regional Roman Catholic high school and has a reputation for sports and academics.
Christian Schools (K-12)
Cole Valley Christian Schools—A large Christian school in the valley which provides a general education using Christian curriculum. They also offer a similar extracurricular experience as small-to-mid-sized public schools. Cole Valley is a ministry of Cole Christian Church.
Nampa Christian School—Similar to Cole Valley, but with a slightly larger sports program, Nampa Christian is one of the older Christian schools in the area.
The Ambrose School— Most people note our uniforms and academic setting when they first visit the school. As a classical Christian school, our methodology and content is unique. Used in American schools until the early 20th century and still in use in preparatory schools and overseas, the classical system departs from modern methods, but has years of demonstrated success. Why? Primarily because it takes students further, faster, and with more depth than other forms of education.
- Our students demonstrate strong (well above grade level) basic skills in reading, math, and writing.
- Our extended curriculum in great art and music, great literature and poetry, history, and Latin builds on basic skills to develop well-educated students.
- The Christian worldview element of our method is integral to every class and subject.
- Our program offers many extended options including chess, interscholastic sports, intramural sports (house), martial arts, choir, orchestra, and social events.
Also of note: The Ambrose School is accredited by the ACCS, the only major accreditation body of which we are aware that does not conform to the Common Core or AdvancED, the centralized accreditation body. The ACCS remains independent.
Seventh-Day Adventist—A system of SDA schools provide foundational Christian education for primary school. Secondary SDA schools are less prevalent. The local SDA secondary school is Gem State Academy.
Calvary Chapel School—Focusing on elementary education, this ministry of Calvary chapel provides general education with Christian influence and content.
What type of students are we looking for?
Our mission is to encourage maturity in students as we unite faith and reason through classical Christian education. To accomplish this, we depend on a solid partnership with parents. We admit students on three factors: academic readiness, parental support, and spiritual condition. Our ideal student is one who is academically diligent, has parents who are involved in his or her education, and whose Christianity is real in his or her life. This combination enables academic excellence in students who realize that their work is done solely to glorify God.