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Great Hearts Academies - Scottsdale Prep5
Posted December 31, 2014
- a parent
If you are looking for a school that offers classical education, liberal arts training, and discipline, then take a serious look at Scottsdale Prep. We are extremely happy with the scope of academics, teacher quality, and culture. Homework assignments are meaningful; there are written tests (the students rarely receive multiple choice exams; most exams require written paragraph answers). It's worlds above the SUSD (spent two years at Laguna), and it is far superior to expensive private religious school education (spent two years there). The proof is in the SAT scores, which average 300+ points above the state average. Another reviewer criticized the school for the number of grads going to ASU & UofA. Take a look at the recent list of colleges accepting SPA grads - every Ivy League University is represented. Just so happens SPA grads consistently receive scholarships from AZ Universities. With the cost of a college education rising, and with the tuition break offered to in-state residents, who can blame our parents and kids for choosing local universities?
My husband & I sent our child to SPA for middle school to prepare her for Xavier. We were so impressed, we decided she would remain for high school. The academic challenge is second to none. There is considerable focus on scholastic achievement w/ a heavy emphasis on the Socratic method students are expected to participate in class & challenge teachers w/ their own opinions/work. We appreciate the weight given the great works of w. lit & other classic subjects like Latin, Arts & Music. SPA also places considerable emphasis on athletics, & its team & athletes reg. rank at the top of their div. For a student body of this size, this accomplishment is material. The indiv. student thesis that s part of grade 12 is outstanding. If you are unaware of this exemplary aspect of SPA, I greatly encourage you to request the annual report that highlights these. It would be nice if SPA didn t have to share a football field; however, sharing a FB field is a minor price for a first class education. As for AP classes, the entire school is an AP class. Our child will simply take the AP test independently at the end of each year. We are grateful for SPA.
Our son is a Junior at Scottsdale Prep (SPA). We have an older child for whom we provided private schooling. The private school experience is a basis for much of our review of SPA. Our son excels in academics, sports and social activities. He is a 3-sport athlete and has maintained all A's through his Sophomore year. Many criticize SPA for the lack of high school electives~ this is a plus considering the goal of high school academics is to prepare the student for collegiate instruction. The SPA curriculum is solid preparation for collegiate coursework. With a solid foundation, the student will have a vast array of options ahead of them at college. Colleges respect the curriculum offered at SPA. Though AP classes are not offered, the students are prepared for taking AP tests on their own and many do with outstanding score results. We applaud that the teachers are not "teaching to" the AP curriculum and have the freedom to teach beyond the AP borders. Additional criticism comes regarding the foreign language concerns. Though Latin is mandatory through 8th grade, high school students (including new transfers) have the option to continue with Latin/Greek or choose Spanish.
I'm currently a senior at Scottsdale Prep and I transferred in the middle of my high school career and at first it was hard to get accustomed to the school's curriculum since it differed from my previous high school. Despite the challenges, I believe that transferring to Scottsdale Prep was the greatest decision I have ever made. Although the classes are rigorous, the teachers are always available for extra help. Everyone is also very friendly and it's easy to ask for help when needed. Since it is a smaller school there is great sense of community and it is quite common to see upperclassmen helping underclassmen and those in middle school. The faculty and administration are very reliable. The biggest factor for me was that we had two great college counselors that were always available throughout the day and always made sure that we were on track during our college search. 100% of my senior class is going on to receive higher education at a college or university which is rare for my generation. Not only have I learned the importance of truth, beauty, and goodness, but I have also created connections that will last for a lifetime. Thank you, Scottsdale Prep, for these great years.
I have a fifth grader at SPA and am very happy with the school so far. The teachers are very caring, responsive, involved and make a very challenging curriculum fun and interesting for the students. They respond promptly to parent concerns and are very attuned to each student's individual strengths and needs. Although there is a lot of homework, my fifth grader has adjusted well and because the material is so engaging, he enjoys what he's learning. The drama and art teachers are highlights, as is Ms. Carro, one of the Latin teachers. To be honest, there's not as much homework as we expected, probably because my child came from Scottsdale Archway, where the homework load was nearly double. Despite what other reviewers have said, we have found the school is not as strict as we expected--again, probably because we came from Archway, which was incredibly strict and punitive regarding dress code violations and harsh discipline. The environment is very positive and is a great fit for my child. That doesn't mean it is for everyone, but so far so good!
SPA is a GREAT middle school option but not a great high school. We are scrambling to get our oldest child's HS resume up to par with the best students in the country. We are paying top $ for AP prep & tests because SPA does not prepare for nor offer students AP courses. Not having NHS courses is another big issue. Competition & demand to get into the top colleges is tougher than ever & with SPA students not having two major criteria (AP and Honors) which colleges use to help determine eligibility, our child is at a disadvantage. This was confirmed to me by one IVY rep. Our 2nd child is no longer at SPA & is now a very happy Chaparral student. My biggest surprise is that my child is very challenged with the honors classes at Chaparral. I thought it would be easy at Chaparral given the advanced curriculum at the SPA but that is not true. My child has more academic challenges at Chaparral than she's ever had at SPA. I have a better understanding why many families leave SPA after 8th grade & move on to better high schools. We are long time fans of SPA having been at the school for many years but SPA has changed dramatically in the last few years and imoho, not for the best.
This review is not written by an angry or upset parent that has taken their child out of Scottsdale Prep. This is a parent that would like to share her experience with other parents looking for a school that best fits their child and family needs. All of my children have attended this school. We left our old school because "we got in" and felt like it was once in a lifetime opportunity to go to SPA. It is true, the material is wonderful, the building is beautiful, the uniforms are amazing, and you feel as though your child is protected. It is also true, some of the teachers (not all) show their "power" by giving a lot of extra work and detentions. If you play a competitive sport, it is very difficult to get the homework finished and have any down time for your child. We did take our children out of the school after deciding the stress of the work load was not worth the anxiety and stress it was putting on them. So, my advice is don't go to SPA just because you feel the pressure of "getting in" and if you do try it, don't be afraid to leave if it gets too much for you child. The rating I am giving is based on the excessive homework load and the anxiety it placed on my kids overall.
SPA's mission is commendable but the school falls short of achieving it. SPA is a fantastic middle school option but it greatly underserves those in high school. More than half of the students leave during high school, not because of the rigor of the program, but because of the limited academic choices. The high achieving students leave because there are no electives, AP courses, or a strong extracurricular program which is needed for out-of-state university applications. Most of the SPA graduates stay in state, and even socialize and room with their classmates in college. It is an extremely conservative environment which makes it a safe option for those that are highly concerned about public school but the reality is that it is not preparing students for the real world. Even more ironic is the school does have students that self-harm, drink alcohol, and take drugs, as does every high school, but most of the parents are in denial. Sadly, there is a group of parents that have made it their mission to control the school, which only adds to the small cult-like environment. If your student is looking for an enriching broad high school experience, this is not the school for them.
SPA is certainly an academic exercise that other schools cannot or do not replicate. I think SPA is good for my child and intend to have them stay at SPA at least through middle school. That said, it certainly has areas in need of improvement. 1. too much homework! There is so much homework that I believe it actually impedes learning and studying. 2. No Technology. Ipads, laptops, etc. are not allowed and technology is actually discouraged. This is there policy and I must live with it or move my kid so I guess I will live with it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or agree with it. 3. No online grades, assignments, homework (No Technology). This goes hand in hand with the no technology philosophy. Dynamic grades, assignments, etc. could easily be accomplished (as they are in even the most cash strapped public schools) but is not desired at SPA. Again, its their policy so I must accept or leave. I will accept, but do not like it. Again, compared to public schools, it is very good, but could be great if they would move out of the stone age. Overall, I like the school considerably.