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Knox Gifted Academy5
Posted January 21, 2015
- a parent
Knox Gifted Academy is for children who test in the top 1 to 3% of the Chandler Unified School District's "CogAT," Cognitive Ability, test. It is a four part test and a child qualifies for "CATS," Chandler Academically Talented Students, if they score in the top 97% or higher on any one of the four parts, or if they have a composite score of all four parts of 95% or greater. Knox Gifted Academy is one of very few schools dedicated to "CATS" programs. Children engage in project based activities challenging and encouraging one another. The emphasis is not on test taking, or memorization; instead, problem solving, creative thinking, and critical analysis fill their time. I have 2 children currently attending Knox. While I know there is room for improvement, I am so impressed by what they learn and how they learn. Their teachers are second to none and know how to challenge high thinkers. If your child has tested for "CATS," I recommend Knox. I find that Knox students are slightly less "competitive" based and more "sharing" based. In other words, they are interested to learn from each other. My kids are so happy there.
Knox Gifted Academy was a blessing to our family! Last year was my child's first year at Knox and we had our ups and downs with it at first. His teacher was also new to the CATS program so I think that's where the problem was. That being said....even through all the ups and downs it was the best thing that could have happened to our son. He has found his place and Knox is giving his so much more than just an education. This year has been AMAZING for him and there is not a doubt in my mind that this is where he belongs! I'm grateful we found this school!
If your child is above average or slightly gifted, this school will be hard, seem bizarre and probably not a good fit. If your child is truly gifted, this school will be a blessing. It is for kids that need the extreme critical thinking learning path to be engaged and successful. My daughter has been at Knox for 3 years after attending CTA and Public school. It is hands down the best learning environment for her.
If your child is accepted, then you should send him/her to Knox. To be honest, I was very skeptical of the curriculum for the first several months. Knox is following the core curriculum (at an advanced pace) and integrating STEM. This method is so different than what I experienced in elementary school 30 years ago. The good news is that it works! Rather than memorize a bunch of facts, the teacher provided hands-on design challenges and real-world problems. Now, at the end of kindergarten, I can see the amazing results. My daughter has an excellent grasp of mathematical relationships and she recently performed division (not by using the standard algorithms, but mentally using what she knows about numbers). She has learned several writing techniques that I would consider "pre-essay" skills. She learned how to write a persuasive letter, a biography and a book/article review. With the redesigned SAT calling for more real-world problem solving and a deeper analysis of literary strategy, I think that the Knox curriculum is right on track. What a great school!
Our first year at KGA and my child has blossomed here. My child has been challenged by teachers that show her what she is capable of doing. Everyone at the school has been so helpful. The new principal coming in next year seems very excited and has a good record in working with gifted students and the teachers that teach them. Very active PTO with plenty of activities that bring families together. Challenging school but with the kindness any parent would want for their child.
Knox Gifted Academy is a great environment with many excellent, dedicated teachers. The research is clear that a self-contained environment is the best for helping gifted learners reach their full potential, but KGA is the only fully gifted school in the state. I think gifted children can easily coast at most other schools and never learn that success is the result of hard work rather than natural ability, but that is not a problem at KGA. Also, the self-contained environment is a boon for parents and teachers who can feel isolated in other setups. The teachers (at least the ones I've known) are focused on teaching the exact things I find important - learning how to enjoy challenges and learning how to think critically. The engineering program is a stand-out aspect. There's not a lot of memorization work, which may be an adjustment for parents and students used to lots of drills. I see other reviews that point out some issues that I see as temporary. Knox is currently 75% KGA, but it will be fully KGA starting in the 2014-2015 school year. In addition, there have been some inevitable growing pains as KGA went from nonexistent to its current state in just a couple of years.
Be aware, this school is not safe. The school is in an old and run down neighborhood. The neighborhood kids are still attending this school even though the school is named Knox Gifted Academy. Apparently the neighborhood kids don t like the school being taken over by the gifted kids. So there is a hostile attitude/behavior towards the gifted kids. The school administration has not done a good job to bring the two groups together. They try to avoid their responsibilities by blaming on the poor upbringing and intelligence of these neighborhood kids. Several incidents such as the neighborhood kids picked on the CATS kids have occurred in campus. So far, the only solution the school can come up with is more segregation. Should the school provide a role more like an educator than a prison guard?
I had high hope before my child joined the Knox gifted program. But just in one semester, I realized it was a huge mistake. First of all, the quality of teaching is average at the best. Many teachers are new to the gifted program at Knox. Then, there was a hiring crisis for a first grade class, several teachers hired and resigned in a short time frame. Recently, a great fourth grade teacher quit the job after only one semester on the job. The principal doesn't share any concerning issues among different grades. So you won't be able to learn the bad news for another grade directly from the school. Now I can't wait to take my child out of Knox when the semester is over.
KGA is definitely in the development stage. There is NO curriculum or textbooks that define a logical progression through lessons. They did not have a spelling test in first quarter. When asked about getting the homework sent home on Friday, the teacher indicated that is not ready till after school, which shows how last minute it is. When a child is learning the basics (as in K-2), sometimes there has to be drills/ worksheets. Example: multiplication is all memorization .it just has to be learned by drilling. When there was a specific issue and parents were asking for a meeting the administration repeatedly said no or completely ignored the emails. The school also struggles with discipline/structure. Since Gifted kids also have other traits of ADHD, they need structure or else it becomes chaos, which distracts from the teacher being able to teach. To improve they need curriculum plans that align to the common core standards. They need to evaluate the focus of the 40 year old campus - facilities, school within a school, etc. To sum it up we are regretting moving our child to this school as we feel they are not learning anything beyond what they learned last year.
This is my child's 3rd yr here. Most of his teachers have been outstanding and wonderful with the quirks of gifted kids. The PTO is better now than a few yrs ago. The curriculum is STEAM, not STEM. Most of the reviews I read forgot the A...they do have a music program and drama, thus including Arts. The huge grounds back to a park.In their 3rd grade class for Greek Mythology,, the teachers had an Olympics outside...kids brought togas and signed up for one Olympic event. The bad? Nurses are not the best. I called the principal twice over 3 yrs ago to volunteer...still waiting for her to call me back. She always appears angry and unapproachable, and is NEVER friendly or smiley at people at any after-school events (or any other time, I would guess). Another parent told me that she targeted her child on the playground in front of everyone to shout...are YOU the one who saw the person with the gun? Who was it? (That wouldn't possibly put a target on the kid's back!) There are neighborhood classes/kids in addition to the gifted. The PTO is very active but the teachers and PTO are always asking for donations of things or $. The school is wonderful, but a long way to go on some things.