This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted October 03, 2014
- a parent
I had 2 children at Hillbrook, one was there for 5 years and the other for 7 years. We chose the school and stayed for many years because we liked the small class sizes, the great teachers, the beautiful campus, no standardized testing until 4th grade, no grades until 5th grade but it became apparent to us as our children got older that the school was not a good fit for them. Hillbrook thinks they are very different than Harker or Stratford because they offer classes with dedicated teachers in art, music, library, P.E., languages (Spanish and Mandarin) but as it turns out, they are the same as Harker and Stratford. All three are very traditional schools. Hillbrook is NOT a good school for children that have any learning differences or are gifted. I would also say that it is not a great school if your child is quiet and soft spoken. That said, children and parents that love a traditional classroom, traditional teaching, and hours of homework every night will love Hillbrook!
Hillbrook is the DREAM school for a child of Silicon Valley. Headmaster Mark Silver came in and kept what was working (rock star teachers with warmth and depth) made key changes in curriculum (Singapore Math, a new, excellent literacy program) and most importantly, innovated like crazy. The iPad program is a model for the country, not just because it was first, but because the iPads are used where and how it makes sense to use them. Resident Teachers bring down the teacher:student ratio and infuse the school with fresh ideas and leading-edge teaching techniques. Flexible learning spaces mean more interesting projects and fewer rote learning assignments. My kid retains way more from the Hillbrook way of teaching than our previous school. One other thing that might not sound like a big deal, but it is to me. The school places a value on funny. Kids tell jokes at Flag every week, for instance, and the best teachers have a funny, playful way about them that makes smaller children feel happy and older children stay engaged.
My son is in his fifth year at Hillbrook. He says he learns the most in science and likes to learn the most in art. The art, music, and science programs are excellent. The campus is beautiful. The social experience has been positive, and my son's class is well bonded. The reading and writing programs are strong and differentiated, but don't stand out over a good public school program. Singapore Math provides more depth in the math curriculum than traditional US curriculums, but the differentiation is limited and doesn't challenge the highest performing students. The lower school Spanish program is a waste of time, providing very basic vocabulary in a class with limited classroom management and organization, which stressed my son out. PE is almost every day, so the kids are active and fit. While there are occasional projects, I wouldn't call it project based learning. Technology use is mostly consumption based. Creative use of technology has been a stop motion video in art and a few video or slide presentations in social studies. There isn't any programming. Teacher quality varies from good to excellent, similar to public school. Class size is small. My son loves going to Hillbrook.
At first view, the setting at Hillbrook is breathtaking and it's quite easy to be taken in by the sites. But what we have come to love most about our school goes way beyond the scene; as you peel back the layers of Hillbrook, its the sense and strength of community & core principles which truly advocate living life to it's fullest through the promotion of being your best and taking risks while also encouraging the utmost in kindness & compassion; promoting our youth to critically think, question and DO while also making 'smart' choices. When it comes to making decisions on behalf of our kids, we receive incredible guidance from administrators and have found the overall communication between ourselves and our children's teachers to be outstanding to say the least. We simply love that our kids are learning the principles of science inside of a garden and chicken coup; that mathematics is being taught with an incredibly progressive approach; that instruments are being used in music class and that our children have the opportunity to partake in subjects including Spanish, PE and Art. Hillbrook is an amazing place and we feel blessed to be sending our children there.
We have two children at Hillbrook and we are in our third year at the school. We chose Hillbrook primarily because we share the school's vision for being a "life preparatory school" that is focused on the whole child. We love the small class size and that our children's learning styles are known within the school community. Additionally, it was important to us to find a school that offered art, music, language and science as a core part of the curriculum starting in Junior Kindergarten along with reading, writing and math. Another important component for us was the school's focus on social emotional learning and it's understanding that there is a lot of learning that happens outside of the classroom. We have watched our children thrive as both students and friends at the school and look forward to the years to come.
The campus is beautiful, the teachers are great. The administration is useless. When faced with relatively simple issues from long lunch lines, to traffic jams at drop off and pickup, to loud kids in class and bullying, this administration lacks foresight, pro-activeness and the ability to implement corrective actions in a timely manner. Had this been a non-tuition based school these issues might not be so glaring. But when one pays near college level tuition for pre-k, then one expects a better experience. Save your money, there's a reason why people pay a premium to live in Los Gatos, the public schools are actually quite good!
We have two very different children at Hillbrook. We truly appreciate that the school treats them as individuals. The administration and teachers have worked hard to get to know our children and placed them with teachers who can help nurture their individual learning styles and interests. As a result they have both grown tremendously as students and people each year. We are looking forward to continued growth as strong and confident learners.
As a current Hillbrook parent, I m thrilled with our choice of school. We came to Hillbrook looking for an innovative school that offers small classes, individualized learning, strong academics, a well-balanced curriculum, joyful atmosphere, and a value for the process of learning. Hillbrook is delivering on this and much more. A warm and friendly parent community is an added bonus! Classes are kept small enabling individualized learning. Passionate and responsive teachers- that clearly love what they do- take an active interest in your child. In conferences, our teachers have been spot on in identifying our children s strengths & opportunities. We feel a true partnership with our teachers. The curriculum is well rounded and innovative, including Singapore math and second languages beginning in 1st grade. The lush, 14-acre campus is peaceful and serene, and offers unique hands-on learning opportunities, including an outdoor creek where students conduct science experiments. The supportive administration does not grow complacent and is constantly looking inward, seeking to make the school even stronger. If you're considering Hillbrook, I strongly recommend you do a school tour.
After 5 years at Hillbook we left in 2012. We were happy to leave and we don't look back at our time at Hillbrook fondly. Two of the four years we had inexperienced (new to teaching) teachers. My sons 3rd grade teacher made it clear all year she really didn't like teaching kids "so young". There is high turn over in teachers and ultimately I don't think it is worth the $$$$'s. The campus is beautiful - so I gave the groundskeeper two stars.