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    Welcome to Thornton Creek Elementary School! We are a PreK-5 option school in the Seattle Public School system, located in the View Ridge/Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle. At Thornton Creek, our learning environment engages students in academically rigorous exploration and discovery through expeditionary learning. Read more about our curriculum and learning environment.

    A creative approach, alternative option school

    Thornton Creek Elementary School is a creative approach, alternative education (policyC54), option school in the Seattle Public School system.

    Creative approach schools have been given the autonomy by Seattle Public Schools to create learning environments and school cultures tailored to their students.

    "Alternative" refers to the use of a nontraditional curriculum, as compared to those typically used at neighborhood schools. Some elements of alternative schools include:

    • Families, students, and staff share support and decision-making power for the school's philosophy, values, practices, and mission.
    • Formative, classroom-based assessments are used to understand the skills students are developing.
    • The school's curriculum is guided by its program design.
    • The program design stresses the importance of developing social skills, emotional safety, and a sense of belonging.

    According to the Seattle Public Schools website, option schools have a curricular specialty or focus.

    Our mission

    The staff, administration, and families of Thornton Creek work cooperatively to meet the diverse needs of our students. We support and encourage the development of a school community that:

    • Addresses the social, emotional, and intellectual needs of the child.
    • Supports a collaborative, multicultural, experiential educational philosophy.
    • Promotes parents' active involvement in school activities.
    • Extends students' learning to the world beyond the classroom.

    Our philosophy

    Our school is based on the following assumptions:

    • Staff hold high expectations for every student and support them in their achievement.
    • Engaging, project-based, participatory learning supports children to develop an understanding of their community.
    • Developing the social-emotional intelligence of children builds a respectful learning environment and is the foundation for significant skill acquisition.
    • Classroom activities provide students the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning.
    • Skill acquisition is a life-long process; learning activities provide students the opportunity to discover how they learn.


    The Thornton Creek Site Council—composed of parents, teachers, and staff—is the governing body of our school. Site Council works to support and enrich the educational environment at Thornton Creek.


    The Thornton Creek program began in 1974, when parents with children in private alternative schools wanted a similar program for the Seattle school district. Beginning with 125 students and 4 teachers, a learning environment was born that centered around the interaction between school and community.

    In 1997, the Thornton Creek program partnered with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, a federally recognized New American School model, and worked to integrate its practices into all aspects of school culture—including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and school organization.

    Thornton Creek was designated a Creative Approach School in 2013.

    Our Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP)

    The Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) contains our school’s plan of action for the current school year. More specifically, it identifies the areas our school plans to focus on in the coming school year, the performance goals we want our students to achieve, and how we are going to collaboratively meet these goals. All of our school’s goals and efforts have been synthesized into one easy-to-read document that covers all of the different areas on which schools are required to report.

    Testing and survey data reports

    For reports, surveys, and testing information, click on the "School Reports" tab found on the Thornton Creek page of the Seattle Public Schools website.

    Awards and recognition

    Washington State Innovation School Award, 2011

    In 2011, the Superintendent of Public Instruction designated Thornton Creek as one of 22 innovative public schools because of its use of evidence-based practices and its offering multiple educational options for students, which have found to be effective in promoting student achievement and responding to different learning styles.

    Washington State Imagination Award, 2009

    In 2009, Thornton Creek won the first annual Washington State Imagination Award, presented by New York City's Lincoln Center Institute and Washington State's Creativity Matters Coalition. The Institute, the education arm of that performing arts center, created the award to honor public schools that value and promote imagination in their educational practices.

    Patsy Collins Award, 2009

    Sandra Brettler, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Thornton Creek, was awarded the 2009 Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community. Presented by the nonprofit organization Island Wood, this award is open to K-12 educators who have made an exceptional contribution to their students and community.

    “Great School” award, 2009

    Thornton Creek was named one of 10 “Great Schools in Seattle” in 2009 by Phi Delta Kappa of Washington State and the Center for Educational Effectiveness for being one of the 5% highest improving schools in reading and math for the State of Washington over a five-year span of time.