The mission of Horizon High School is to provide a school that fosters emotional, social and academic growth for students who want to learn in an alcohol-free, drug-free environment. Students will actively assume responsibility in creating their own safe and nourishing community.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated 3/25/2013

What is Horizon High School?

Horizon High School is a private, not-for-profit, student-centered, recovery High School. It is dedicated to helping two kinds of students succeed in an educational environment fostering emotional, social and academic growth: those recovering from alcohol- and/or drug-abuse, and those who require a smaller, intimate learning environment. Our first class of 6 students began January 31, 2005. Since then over 70 students have attended Horizon, with most being successful.

What is a recovery high school?

Recovery (sometimes called sober) schools have been in existence for only about 25 years. They offer supportive learning environments to youth who have successfully completed Alcohol/Drug (AODA) treatment programs. As of Spring 2011, Horizon is one of around two dozen in existence around the U.S., as counted by the Association of Recovery Schools

Aren't all schools in Madison/Dane County alcohol and drug-free?

All schools have drug and alcohol-free policies and make efforts to keep drugs and alcohol out of their schools. Horizon is different because EVERY student at Horizon commits to being sober. All students and staff work to support each individual in their choice to be sober. Students receive daily recovery support and counseling at Horizon.

Are Recovery Schools really necessary?

Experience has shown that students who have successfully completed AODA treatment programs and then return to the schools where they were involved with drugs and/or alcohol almost inevitably relapse and suffer further difficulties. At Horizon, we provide students with an opportunity to build on their successes as they re-engage in academic learning.

What do you mean when you say that HHS provideS an intimate learning environment?

It is small, with a student to staff ratio of 5:1. Many recovery schools only accept students struggling with AODA issues. It is our belief however that any student should be offered the opportunities to benefit from the small and supportive environment of HHS. We currently have 5 staff members -- a full time teacher, a part time counselor, a part time assistant teacher, a part time outreach director and a part time director. All are involved in learning activities.

The curriculum is student-centered, meaning that the context of the required educational material is determined, insofar as possible, by the interests of the students. "Interest groups" are an important part of that structure.

What are Interest Groups?

Interest groups are interdisciplinary, thematic units that allow students to investigate, in depth, topics of interest to them. Students and staff collaborate on ideas for possible interest groups. Interest groups typically last 4-6 weeks and academic content is aligned with Wisconsin model academic standards. Recent interest groups include "Genetics and Biotech", "The Holocaust", "Animal Behavior and Intelligence", "Go Native" (cultural anthropology), "U.S. History in Song Lyrics", and "Science of Sleep and Dreams".

Are you incorporated?

Yes. Horizon High School is operated by Horizon High School of Madison, Inc. We incorporated with the WI Dept of Financial Institutions on December 13, 2004. Our board of directors currently has 7 members, who themselves have strong backgrounds in counseling, education, finance, and the experience of parenting challenging youth. We are a 501(c)3, non-profit organization.

Are you accredited by the state or MMSD?

School accreditation is a widely misunderstood process. The State of Wisconsin does not officially accredit any private high school. Accreditation is a voluntary process that some, not all, private high schools go through with a private company. We have considered applying for accreditation through the Independent Schools Association of Central States, however this is a very costly endeavor and we currently believe the best use of our funds is to keep our doors open to students who need this school to survive.

Doesn't Wisconsin have rules for private schools?

The WI Department of Public Instruction has a set of published administrative rules for private schools in the Wisconsin Administrative Code. There are 6 minimal requirements of private schools, and a school that fulfills these requirements can request "approval" of its educational program. Horizon High School will request such approval at an appropriate point in our development.

What are the 6 criteria for Wisconsin's definition of private school?

1. Its primary purpose is private or religious-based education,
2. It is privately controlled,
3. It provides at least 875 hours instruction/year, in
4. A sequentially progressive curriculum of fundamental instruction in reading, language arts, math, social studies, science and health,
5. The school's purpose is not to circumvent compulsory school attendance, and
6. Pupils return home annually for not less than 2 months of summer vacation.
Beyond that, the rules only require that attendance records be kept, that the US flag be displayed, that there be monthly fire drills, and that school buses have insurance.

You mean that Wisconsin doesn't require private school teachers to be certified?

That is correct. The only requirement WI makes of teachers is that they have a chest x-ray or TB test prior to employment. At Horizon, we require that our teachers be certified and many of our staff have specific training in special education, counseling and trauma counseling.

How can a small school provide a quality education -- without, say, the modern science labs in local public high schools?

Our large public high schools no doubt serve as efficient educational settings for many students, with many in-house teaching and learning resources. At the same time, many teachers believe they could be more effective -- make more of a difference in a student's life, provide more interaction and feedback -- if they had only 10 students versus the 25-30 in today's schools.

We believe that HHS can provide an excellent education, utilizing the many rich resources in our community. Our curriculum will emphasize experiential education, with students involved in activities such as prairie restoration, service learning, and collaboration with artists working in a variety of media. Most importantly, without a school like HHS, some of our students would likely never graduate from high school at all.

You started with only 6 students. Isn't that a lot like a home school?

Unlike a home school, HHS is overseen by a Board of Directors, and courses are taught by a state-certified teacher. (Statistics show that home schooled students have excellent records of acceptance and success in college.)

Can my student graduate with a high school diploma from Horizon HS?

Yes. Students can expect to graduate at the same time their original class graduates from high school, provided they have the requisite credits required by the state of Wisconsin.

Will any college or university recognize a diploma from Horizon High School?

College applications typically require students to submit a high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of reference, and a personal statement from the student.

We expect our students to be exceptionally strong applicants in competitive college admissions. Their applications will be enhanced by a narrative transcript from Horizon High School, portfolios that attest to their strengths and accomplishments, as well as letters of recommendation from teachers and mentors who know them well. We will assist students with all the nuts and bolts of college applications, including such things as ACT and SAT test preparation.

What is a narrative transcript?

A narrative transcript consists of written evaluations of a student's work in each course he or she has taken.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is an alternative form of assessment. It is a collection of artifacts, and reflections on those artifacts, which document a student's learning and development. A portfolio may include, but is not limited to, samples of a student's work such as papers and artwork, photographic records of projects in which a student has been involved, electronic data, and video or audio recordings.

Portfolios are valued as an assessment tool because they can be fully integrated into the curriculum; they inform, rather than compete with, instruction; and they are an authentic reflection of significant aspects of a student's development over time.

What are the AODA criteria for admission to HHS?

1. Students must want to be part of Horizon High School. No student will be accepted if he/she is being coerced (by parents, court, etc).
2. We expect that students will have completed AODA treatment and can be assessed as in a process of change, or is currently in AODA treatment.
3. They must have been alcohol and drug-free for at least 30 days, and take a witnessed urine drug test within 10 days of entrance to the school
4. Students must sign a pledge to remain alcohol and drug-free 24/7, and to be honest about it.
5. The student and parent/s or guardians must agree to drug testing at any time during the school period if requested by the staff.

Each applicant will be assessed as an individual with individual needs. If he/she appears to meet the mission of HHS, he/she will be considered for admission.

How do you ensure that the students are staying drug-free?

There are random weekly UA tests given at the school, and any positive must be verified by a quantitative in-lab followup test. All students attending Horizon voluntarily agree to these tests.

Do you accept students at HHS who do not have AODA issues?

There are students who would benefit from the alcohol and drug-free environment, who are not thriving in their regular schools for reasons other than alcohol- and/or drug abuse. We welcome inquiries and applications from all interested students.

What is the history behind Horizon High School?

One of us, a counselor, had been working with youth with AODA issues for over 20 years, and had seen the problems encountered by youth returning from treatment with some commitment to being alcohol and drug-free, only to return to their old schools and relapse. Recovery schools exist elsewhere - why not here?

In March 2004, several parents of youth in recovery and the counselor began to talk about creating a recovery school here. We began to do research, contacting individuals involved in founding and running recovery chools elsewhere, as well as learning some of the negative lessons of two failed recovery schools (evaluations of those schools in AZ and IL were done by a UW-Madison faculty member, who is advising us). Two of our 6 founding members also are educators with over 44 combined years experience.

Are there other schools like yours?

There are, as of Spring 2011, there are over two dozen recovery high schools around the country -- many are in Minnesota. Some are public, and some are private. There is also an Association of Recovery Schools ( In late 2009, Horizon joined with the 2 other Wisconsin recovery schools (Waukesha and Janesville) to form the Wisconsin Association of Recovery Schools. Unfortunately, the Janesville school closed earlier in 2011 due to limited

Why didn't you form a charter school?

We considered this in 2004. However at that time, it was apparent that given the process of chartering in Wisconsin and economic realities, we would be unlikely to succeed in creating such a school in a timely fashion. This effort could easily take several years, and we have young people who need the school today. That does not mean that we will not consider chartering in the future; however, there are many considerations to be evaluated, and different models of chartering -- "instrumentality" where a local school board and administration have control, and "non-instrumentality" where the school staff and board of directors have control.

What is the tuition?

Tuition is $6000 a semester, $12,000 for a whole school year. Our most recent balance sheet shows that it is costing the school ~$14,000 per student per year, so donations are absolutely essential for both short term and long term fiscal stability.

You said that MMSD is now (2011) supporting Horizon High School. Does this mean my mmsd student can attend for free?

At the August 29, 2011 MMSD school board meeting, a proposal to fund up to 10 MMSD students to attend Horizon was unanimously passed. Parents with MMSD students should talk with Director Traci Gall about placement. Additionally, several other area districts have historically provided funds for students from their district to attend Horizon. Parents with students in other districts should talk with Director Traci Goll. The Horizon staff will work with you to explore all of your funding options.

Do you offer scholarships?

Thanks to generous donors, we can offer limited financial aid based upon need, using the Federal college financial aid form. If you know of individuals or foundations who might be interested in providing grants or donations, please let us know!

Do you have a policy of non-discrimination?

Yes. Horizon High School values diversity, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, or handicap in its education programs or in its employment.

Can I make tax-deductible contributions?

Yes. We are incorporated as a non-profit corporation in Wisconsin, have WI tax exempt status, and have 501(c)(3) charitable status from the IRS. If you would like to make tax-deductible contributions, contact us for details. We hope to develop an endowment so that youth who need our school and who want to attend, will not be hindered by financial need.

How do I get in contact with Horizon High School?

We have periodic open houses. We would be happy to have a speaker come talk to your group. Contact our director, Traci Goll, 608.335.0387 (cell) or 608.442.0935 (school).



For more information, contact:
Traci Goll, Director

Or write to:
Horizon High School
P.O. Box 45045
Madison, WI 53744in

5001 University Ave
Suite 50


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