We are a family that has not been at the school terribly long, but for what it's worth here are our impressions. 1) It's absolutely true that the school is struggling with a bit of an identity crisis: my understanding is that it was once primarily an unusual school for unusual students, but as it grew it was subject to the same pressures to talk to consultants and "conform" that all institutions face. As a result it's become a very "typical" pre-prep school in many ways, competing with the Buckleys and Curtises of the world. This requires it to raise and spend large amounts of money and will likely lead to some of the unpleasant situations discussed in other reviews. I've seen a lot of money plowed into sports fields and consultants in our limited time at the school, and boy do I hate seeing our tuition dollars spent that way. 2) All that said, the school is still the go-to destination for outside-the-box highly cerebral kids in LA, and there seems to be a healthy concentration of those kids. And if you have one of these children, the social benefits of having him/her in a good-sized group of similar kids are ENORMOUS. The change we've seen in our child since we started at Mirman is remarkable, and it's largely about finally feeling "at home" socially. 3) We have not been blown away by the academics. They are certainly solid, and I suspect our kid is on par with other kids at traditional private schools, but there are areas in which our child is extremely talented and is not being given any customization or extra challenges (and as a result is reverting to the mean somewhat in those areas). It is absolutely true that most faculty have no special training or experience in gifted education. It would be wonderful if Mirman had decided to buck the trends among independent schools and had focused its extensive resources on recruiting and retaining (with above-market salaries, say) uber-qualified teachers whose career focus is gifted learners. Instead we get "rebranding initiatives." All that said, we are happy with the school because our child is happy, and for a particular kind of child and family Mirman seems to be unquestionably the best choice among LA private schools.
1. The new head of school is more interested in the status of the parents than the kids. He's known as "Frat Boy Dan" if that tells you anything.
2. If you are extremely rich you can write an check your kid will get in. If you are middle class, good luck, even if your kid is better suited and tested higher.
3. Diversity is pretty much non-existent. The admissions officer seems uninterested in applicants of color. It doesn't matter how smart they are, how great their families are, or if their sibling already attends. Again, there are exceptions for rich kids.
4. Children who receive no discipline at home come to the school and go crazy. Things overheard while at the school : A young kid cut another kid's hair. A young girl was overheard speaking about how her boyfriend touched her in private places. Kids have screamed obscenities and things at other kids. Again, little to no discipline if you are rich. But you will receive hard discipline if you are middle class.
5. There is a big money push because they want to add more buildings and "brand" the school. Again, the focus is no longer on educating gifted children, but more on building a bigger and more elite school for the children of the rich and famous.
This USED to be a school for gifted children. Mirman now seems to be riding on the coattails of its former reputation. Neither Vorenberg, the Head of School, or Pratt, the Head of Upper School, have any experience whatsoever with gifted children. The same can be said for incoming teachers. The staff turnover is quite frequent and the explanations given to parents and students for teacher and administrative departures are vague at best.
The worst demonstration of the administrative inadequacy is a very high rate of student suspensions and expulsions. My daughter has witnessed 5 or 6 expulsions and at least 6 suspensions in the few years she's been there. How is this possible?
These students aren't delinquents; the school boasts some of the smartest children in Los Angeles, and yet they are beong kicked out in droves because Vorenberg and Pratt seem unable to manage the school and seem utterly unprepared to deal with clever children. They seem to have no skills in this direction and have been known to deal duplicitely with many parents we know.
As far as I can see, the only think that separates this school from other provate schools is that the kids have to take an IQ test for entry.
Although, I've heard that the new admissions officer (another administrator with no background in gifted education) has been letting children in with either no IQ test or a score below the minimum needed for admission. This is perhaps a rumor only, but the suspicion is real.
As I said earlier, this USED to be a gifted school. The education at the upper levels is good, but unless your child plans on sitting absolutely still in his/her seat, expressing no emotion, and encountering no need for conflict with any other student or administrator while he/she is there, save your effort for another school. It's just not worth the effort to get in.
Please do not listen to the chatter about what other think this school it. I have found it to be incredibly nurturing, warm, with a down to earth parent body who care about their children's education not networking or showing off. The curriculum is very creative, hands on, and well thought out; you do not see the kids sitting and doing worksheets. They are engaged and learning while enjoying themselves. My son begs to go to school every day and has learned an incredible amount in his first year here.
Our child is a recent graduate. Now that she has matured and progressed, we can look back on her many years at Mirman, and be grateful for the incredible education she received. Because Mirman children are forced to speak before the entire class at an early age, our child is never afraid of public speaking. Because of beloved Durrie, our child, who doesn't even consider herself a visual artist, won a Scholastic Silver Key in Drawing. Because of Mr. Kay, she can sing beautifully and enjoys performing in school productions, as well as playing several musical instruments. Because of so many of her Mirman teachers, she is a voracious reader, and is called a "phenomenal, mature-beyond-her-years writer" by her high school English teachers. The most wonderful thing about this school -- which Dr. Mirman himself said to me years ago -- is gathering so many highly gifted children together in one place. They accept each other and feed off of each other's interests. How true that is! Our child has made life-long friends, and her Mirman education has set her on a terrific path.
We spent last year in Rm 1 with the "better" of the two teachers. This teacher was unpolished (she says like every other word) and seemingly uneducated (she taught her students that George Washington "helped write the Constitution, evidenced by a video on her teacher website!) In addition, she seemed to teach reading by memorization. After discovering she didn't know how to teach children to read we met with said teacher and asked to see her reading curriculum (Rm 1 didn't have one) and asked to see her formal assessments of our child (they didn't do that either!). Imaginably we were disappointed and arranged to meet with the Head of School. He was stunned that Rm 1 didn't have a reading curriculum! He was even more stunned to hear about her historical misteaching. But that is where we went from disappointed in Rm 1 - holding out hope for Rm 2 - to having lost faith in the entire school. The Head of School's response to the misteaching of American History was, "Well - not EVERYONE would know that." Well, you re correct. Not everyone would. BUT any educator employed at this "elite" institution should know basic American History. And with that statement, we unenrolled.
Our 6 year old just started in September and I see so many fantastic changes in her. Her teacher, Ms Rourick is warm and sweet. My child's zest for reading and learning math has grown daily. We sent her to a "crunchy granola" private preschool where academics were secondary to being kind and practicing good social skills like chewing with your mouth closed--and I would do that again. But I was curious how she would transition to a roomful of kids who were reading chapter books at age 3 and some were math prodigies. Well, it has been great. No hiccups and he absolutely loves school. Compared to other private LA schools this one has a lot of heart. I really love the assemblies, the plays, the musical instruction, and I find it keeps my child alive to the magic of childhood just a little bit longer. Huge kudos to head of school Dan Vorenberg and the new staff he continues to attract. we are thrilled with his leadership and excited for our next 7 years.
This is my first year at Mirman, and the community is simply amazing! The students are engaged and excited about learning. The teaching staff demonstrate genuine care for children as individuals. There is a clear focus on individualizing learning. Families are welcomed into the community, and there are over 30 committees for parents to serve on. Families are quickly integrated into the school community. Yes, students from Mirman routinely get into the high school of their choice, and the academics do excel here, but the focus on a well rounded educational experience is what makes the Mirman experience unique. This school is phenomenal!
I was so thrilled to find this school and had such high hopes for an exceptional education for my daughter here. I thought her out of the box thinking would be honored, cultivated and channeled here. Sadly, "intelligence" is defined at Mirman, for the most post, in the traditional fashion - "good at math," or "good at language arts" or "artistic/musical." We were surrounded by families who value acceleration for it's own sake, above all else, mainly in math. Some parents had had their children tutored in math since the age of 3. Others hired math tutors to compete with these "genius" children in the ridiculous number of math competitions ALL the students are required to participate in! There are a few other ways to shine at Mirman which also involve, yes, more competitions! "Obedient, rule-following, studious" types also do well here. The staff are lovely as people and mean well. If you can handle the bizarre "worship of math acceleration" sub-culture going on there and just want your kid to study traditional subjects with other bright kids, then go for it! If you are looking for innovative education to spark his/her drive and passion - look elsewhere,