This school is fantastic in every way and I've loved sending both my of children through the entire K-8 run here. I particularly enjoy the work of Robert Berry, hosting the fundraising events and Strings concerts. His handsome and approachable demeanor make him a desirable yet admirable addition to the already great looking stable of Alice Birney dads.
I dislike this school for the same reasons I like this school! I have had four children in Alice Birney --worked great for two and not so great for the other two. My main concern is that the children stay with the same teacher from first through eighth grade--good news if you get a decent teacher, not so great if you don't. Some teachers are more academically driven and able, others don't seem to know much about what they are teaching. Also, classes are required to sit together at lunch so there is little cross interaction within the classes....there is too much identification with whose class you are in. And asking the average elementary teacher to teach the tougher subjects, such as middle school math, is usually an abysmal failure. Both my older children left by middle school to attend traditional middle schools as they wanted real math instruction. Good enough school for lower grades, but I recommend keeping a close eye on how your child is faring (ie learning) at the middle school level. I have child left to start school in a couple of years and am not sure I will go this route again....I'm keeping a watchful eye on the development of the school.
I have been at this school for twelve years now. My oldest is now in high school and doing A+ work. She thrived with the mostly Waldorf curriculum which emphasized hands on, age appropriate learning. Waldorf, in its truest sense, does involve some spiritual aspects; however, in a Waldorf 'inspired' public school this seems to translate into a reverence for nature, art and health. My son, while not a straight A student, began testing above or at grade level by 6th grade. Although, what I really care about is that, at age 13, he still has a passion for learning. I do believe mild learning disabilities often go undiagnosed. However, because it is a public school, there are protocols in place to investigate suspected problems once they are brought to the principals attention. We finally realized in 8th grade that my daughter was mildly dyslexic, but we had already worked out coping strategies that she still uses today. Currently the school community is working to resolve some 'growing' pains and find a happy middle ground between its Waldorf and Public School images. Alice Birney is a wonderful school where both parents and kids can get involved and make a difference.
I have had 3 girls in this program from 2003 to 2012. The teachers are generally very nice with a few exceptions. I pulled my 3rd grader out of school in January because of what the Waldorf method teaching philosophy is and is not. The Waldorf method was developed by Rudolf Steiner who believed in an anthroposophical view of child development which forms the philosophical basis for the educational theory, methodology of teaching and curriculum. Anthroposophy includes the belief that humans possess an innate spirit which, having passed through previous lives, in the current life works to fulfill a chosen purpose in a karmically determined environment. Steiner bases his whole educational approach to teaching children on karma or magic and NOT proven science. It is shocking that a public school is allowed to have an educational approach such as this. Parents are very much unaware that karma or magic and NOT proven science is the philosophical basis for teaching their children at Alice Birney. Many teachers here place very little value on the Star Testing. Teachers avoid talking about the real basis on which the school is based. Do your own research before enrolling.
Alice Birney illegally disqualifies students with special needs from their program to keep their test scores up and themselves looking good. They don't care about children, they care about their pocket books and their scores. Shame on you.
In our experience, children with learning disabilities may not thrive at this school. There are many nice things about the school but the teachers in general resist the idea that a child may be struggling due to LD's. Some even reject the idea that there ARE LD's. We were told that our 4th grader couldn't read because she had watched an occasional TV show as a young child - not because of her severe auditory processing disorder. After 2 years of intensive speech therapy our daughter is thriving at a traditional middle school - making A's in language arts.
It is a warm and welcoming community of caring adults and children. My children have received wonderful educations at John Morse. Most importantly they learn to respect others, themselves, the learning process and the world around them
Ilove the beauty of the gardens,trees, and classrooms.The staff is gentle, loving, and dedicated, full of song music, art, verse and poem, movement and learning in a joyful way. Gardening, cooking, handwork, woodwork, clay and service in the school and community are also part of this learning community. And many, many parents are volunteering in every aspect of the school. There is a diversity of students and families. There are many celebrations like the harvest festival, the winter festival, concerts, plays. Classes take many field trips to enhance their curriculum. We have spanish teachers first thru eight. Well, I could go on. We are an exceptional school.
I think one of the most valuable lessons our students learn is compassion for each other. Instead of isolating the grades from each other, there is interaction between the higher grades and kindergarten and 1st graders, from working in the classroom to our graduating students welcoming the new incoming 1st graders. All the things parents wish were still in elementary education - art, music, movement are present in our school along with caring and respectful teachers.
In this era of standardized tests, dumbed-down curricula, and rote 'drill-and-kill' learning, John Morse is a breath of fresh air. I felt myself relax and breathe when I first visited, and it's stayed that way for me for the past 11 years!