My daughter is thriving at Synapse. This is a community that is kind, open, willing to take chances, and embraces new ideas. The take care of people here. Sure they are a new school, and schools are challenging places to operate. But their teachers are talented and bright, caring and compassionate, and the families are down to earth and are committed to a different experience for their children and themselves. They have doubled in size in two years, have brought staff from all over the country, have new, dynamic leadership, new programs like computational thinking and innovation, and are transitioning from a start up school to a school that will be leading the way for others. It's simply a fabulous community and I feel lucky to be there. My daughter does too.
It's hard to write this review. As the parents of a former Synapse student, we feel its our obligation to warn people. Synapse has strengths. Its a warm and nurturing school and the teachers really care about the students. But we decided to put our children in another school because we don't think Synapse is a good place for kids. There are no limits, many of the kids have emotional problems, the classes aren't challenging, and Synapse does a very poor job of preparing kids for other schools.
It's hard to imagine the child for whom Synapse is a good choice. The academics are poor, there's very little discipline, and the sense of smug entitlement radiated by the staff is astounding.
If you're considering it, look at how many of the "upper division" children leave for other schools, and look at the teacher and staff turnover. Both are scary high percentages, and both speak to the same thing: this isn't actually a serious school, but rather a very expensive daycare for your children masquerading as an educational experience.
We have mixed feelings about this school. It seems to be one of the few in the Bay Area that is not a pressure cooker of academic rigor, sticking to their philosophy of allowing children to love learning. On the other hand, the school seems to attract children who don't fit in other environments well because of classroom management issues, which can become very frustrating for students who do want to learn from teachers and each other.
Our older child has been attending Synapse for two years and LOVES it. He looks forward to school everyday. The teachers and staff are positive, caring and engaging. They pay close attention to child's needs, strengths and weaknesses, be it emotional, social, academical or intellectual. The open communication between teachers, staff and parents ensure that concerns are immediately addressed and have positive lifelong impact on the child. The students are curious and most have age appropriate deep and logical thinking skills. Each morning the teachers check in on the children's emotions and their progress during the day. This helps the children to be emotionally secure and confident which is fundamental for their social, intellectual and academic development. After a year at Synapse, our older child (who has been Mensa member for years) experienced an increase in his IQ score by 11 points, and is more mature and responsible. My 3rd child also attends Synapse this year. She used to resist new ideas for fear of failing and is now open to new ideas and voices her opinions and is really confident in engaging several adults at once in a conversation. Our children LOVE Synapse
It's hard to make the bold choice to send your child to a relatively new school. Will it be stable...are there effective systems in place...are the curriculum and logistics solid. In short, do these people really know what they're doing? In the case of Synapse, the answer is YES. It's not just that the curriculum is sophisticated and impressively implemented. It's not just that the administration and teachers are warm, approachable and personally invested in the success of each student. Or that the environment is joyful, vibrant, and a touch nerdy. The kicker is that everyone -- teachers, administrators and parents -- is here by choice, and is fully committed to the mission of the school. The parent community is engaged and supportive, not just of the students and teachers, but of each other. And in return, the administration respects and supports parents, helping us to learn and grow along with our children. As an institution, Synapse is very nimble, and issues are handled in an efficient, humane and thoughtful way. The emphasis on Social and Emotional Learning is woven into every interaction at every level. Synapse doesn't just talk about it -- they do it, day in and day out.
Our daughter started in September as a Kindergartner (Level 1) and we could not be happier. At the end of the day we were searching for a school that would keep her fire and passion to learn alive all while having a lot of fun. The things that drew us to Synapse (to name a few) were the block scheduling, the low teacher to child ratio, the helical model, the injection of fun and humor, the social-emotional component and the fact that they were incorporating the latest research as to how kids learn into the school imagine that?!? The school really seemed too good to be true based on what we heard a year ago in the Parent Information night, but I have to say, we are 3 months in and we are thrilled Synapse is walking the talk. Our daughter has a great group of classmates that fortunately come with an awesome set of parents that we are enjoying getting to know. Our daughter comes home each day totally charged with all the new things that she has learned and we see her applying what she has learned all the time. Synapse just keeps adding oxygen to that fire and it-is-a-blazing and we love it. Thank you Synapse!
We have found this school to be the right fit for our gifted child. Synapse uses a helical model of instruction, which allows the children to explore and idea before formally learning about it. As a result, they have a greater ability to understand and retain both concepts and details. The community, like most communities in this area, has a wide range of people. Thankfully, everyone seems to share the commitment to this out-of-the-box approach to curriculum. Therefore, despite huge personality differences amongst the parents, it is still a cohesive, collaborative community in which we enjoy mom's nights out and school-wide outings.
What works: Amazing eclectic, talented, friendly, highly involved parent/student community---the best! Interesting curriculum, effective differentiation, teachers know individual students and work with their respective needs/learning styles, safe/accepting social environment across genders and ages, teachers and administration inspire intellectual learning and personal growth, highly experienced administrative staff (unfortunately only there part-time) What needs improvement: For financial efficiency and effective execution of complex curriculum, NEEDS a single, full time head of school with solid leadership skills and experience working with/managing innovative learning environments for gifted children, would do well to increase job search range to beyond Six Seconds and Notre Dame for the sake of leadership strength, effectiveness and accountability, one or two teachers are highly talented with gifted children, others are above average and will be better with a few more years under their belts and some classroom management training