The decision to send our children to Saint Mark's has been the best one we have ever made as parents. This is a place that values and celebrates the individuality of each student and the teachers really know and care for them. The students are engaged and confident; they learn to think critically, globally and collaboratively. Saint Mark's students lead very happy and balanced lives.
I m a SM parent and by chance decided to look up the school on GS today. Everything mentioned in the previous reviews is true - both the pros and cons. The pros - SM is unpretentiousness and internationalism and community service are emphasized. The cons a handful of mediocre teachers, badly behaved students, and an unnecessarily rigorous curriculum. Saint Marks tries to be warm and nurturing but unfortunately, they fall short. There are a lot of self-congratulations, but when real issues are raised, the school doesn t know what to do. I d say that SM has all of the same issues as a good public school, the difference being you expect more from SM because you re paying a premium. Really do your homework and think about what is right for your child(ren), if you re considering sending them here.
Academically, we found that St. Marks provided a more rigorous experience than what we had experienced in the public elementary school. However, the social dynamics were negative despite the administration's attempt to integrate social/emotional learning. Our child described many instances of kids treating their classmates in mean, condescending ways. We learned that many parents and students had attempted to address these problems with the administration and/or just assumed that this behavior is typical. Sadly, many of the parents had never experienced school environments outside of St. Marks so they don't realize that there should be a zero tolerance policy on bullying.
Saint Mark's in a warm, welcoming school. The positive: Nurturing, caring, inclusive community. Public speaking opportunities and SEL program. The negative: Lack of accountability and rigor around differentiation (at discretion of individual teachers) which creates disparate experiences within and between grades. Report cards mainly recap the year, not very insightful. Faculty down plays standardized test results and at the same time does not offer quantifiable, clear measures for it's students. You send your children for 9 years to Saint Mark's with no check points that measure progress among peers nationwide or mastery of common core. Many of the teachers have been at Saint Mark's far too long. Art and drama programs are strong. Music dept. requires overhaul. All in all, a great school for the average child. Most academic schools are not afraid to address the children that can't keep up and ask them to find a better fit. At Saint Mark's, children that are struggling receive a lot of extra help while the academically inclined students are told to "be patient." We wonder why students in the US rank 25th amongst our foreign peers in math and science. Beyond frustrating.
I have three boys all of whom started as Kindergartners at Saint Mark's, and I have been part of the school's community for 11 years. I recommend Saint Mark's to all of our friends without hesitation. It is a kind and nurturing community; it has a thoughtfully innovative, challenging and well-balanced program; and it prepares our kids to be responsible global citizens. Most importantly, the administrative team and faculty genuinely work hard to put the needs of the students and what is in their best interest first. I would encourage any family considering Saint Mark's to make the effort to meet any 8th grader. You will be impressed by each and everyone, not just for their academic preparedness, but for who they are as people. That is the measure of a great school.
I have three children(both sexes) who spent all their K-8 years at Saint Mark's School and I can't say enough good things about it. The excellent teachers, challenging curriculum and caring community helped shape these most important years so that they could excel in high school and beyond. Each of them was excellently prepared for success at one of the most academically challenging independent high schools in the bay area. My oldest is ready to move on to college and the top kids and leaders in her high school class are all Saint Mark's graduates and are all matriculating to top colleges. Although my children are no longer at SMS,I have many friends at the school and the general feeling in the community is that the best days of Saint Mark's are still to come. The new Head of School and Lower Division Head have incredible energy and will thoughtfully take the school soaring into the next 10 years. Saint Mark's is a wonderful place to raise a family. It will always be an important part of our lives.
My son is almost done with his third year at Saint Mark's and we hope to have our other son enter kindergarten next year. Words cannot express how happy our family is with Saint Mark's. My son cannot wait to go to school. His teachers have been phenomenal. He beams when he talks about what he is learning. Learning is fun at this school - you can see it in the students from kindergarten to 8th grade. I love the seven pillars of character, the caring community and the energy of the teachers and students. Every facet of the school curriculum is thoughtful. You can get a great sense of the community just by walking around campus, from the handshake each student gets from the headmaster when he or she walks into school and the supportive laughter and rounds of applause at joke assembly, to seeing all of the active parents on campus and the administrators with their doors wide open. It is a special, wonderful place to learn.
Any parent considering this academically mediocre, social-climbing parent population school would do well to ask the Admissions Director just how many students who still live in the area have left the school. The school has a reputation for being "bad for boys." As well, the parent population is very, very aware of any child who excells and subtle marginalization of that child is tacitly encouraged by the teaching staff. Just ask parents whose children bear the bad memories of bullying disguised as normal reaction by classmates. Example: in 2002, an entire class of 3rd graders humming the "Jeopardy!" time-out music to shame a child struggling to answer a question. Outraged parents have taken it upon themselves to air their grievances by writing letters outlining the issues then sending copies to every parent of each child enrolled. It demonstrates the level of frustration and of not being heard that parents of maligned students feel. There is a very dark side indeed to the Saint Mark's School shiny happy people reputation. Run, don't walk. Take the tuition money you'll have saved by NOT sending your child here, anddonate 1/2 of it to your local public school.
We have been with Saint Marks for 14 years - one 8th grader off to high school (University) and two older children now in college (Stanford)! Over the year's we have seen the school grow from a "community generated" school to one of the top schools in the Bay Area and one of the things we appreciate most about the school is their constant attention to evolving their curriculum in a well planned manner. This is not a school that changes teachers, administrators or character every year, but is a solid and consistent school that is always thoughtfully considering how to do better. Children thrive in this stable atmosphere. We absolutely love the "block curriculum" of the upper school (our son has excelled under it) and, despite the "rumors", the homework load is more than manageable....no more than an hour a night for a reasonably focused kid and there is plenty of time to do most of it during the day. We also love the global focus of the curriculum - Saint Mark's truly integrates and appreciates the global lens in how they teach the kids to think. This is a very grounded school with a great parent community to support the teachers and administrators in their work.
I applied my son here this year 2011, we went through all the application process and today I receive a letter saying my son was accepted but they cannot assist us with financial assistance because their financial assistance has dried up and they will prioritize currents students. Well, for me you are just scamming me for fees that are needed to apply in your school total of $60. An ethical organization would inform me prior to applying that I will no longer quality for financial aid but instead they still took my money and let me know at the end we cannot get financial assistance. Good job St Mark!!!
I am an 8th grader who is graduating Saint Mark's in less than a month. I've attended Saint Mark's since kindergarten and it had been the best experiences of my life. The teachers nurture their students into respectable children and allow us to have some fun doing it. K-3rd grade was extremely enjoyable and I loved coming to school every day. We didn't have that much homework in 4th-6th grade. 6th grade was my favorite year every. 7th-8th grade wasn't bad with homework either with a maximum of maybe 3 hours a night but almost always around 1. Every kid got into a private school-19 kids got into Branson, 15 to MA, and 6 to UHS. I got into every school I applied: Branson, MA, and UHS and will be attending Branson next year. Saint Mark's is the best thing my parents could have done for me. I loved it.
My son came to Saint Mark's at the upper school level, and it's been a really excellent environment. Saint Mark's was welcoming from the very beginning, there is a really great group of kids here, and the faculty and administration are superb. Saint Mark's definitely knows how to attract and keep amazing teachers -- my son found them all extremely inspiring. They're dedicated, hard-working and energetic, and extraordinarily talented educators. The schoolwork is engaging, and interspersed with interesting challenges. There is a strong arts, electives and cultural program, and the p.e. program is top-notch. We're relocating, and the comments on greatschools.org have been really useful in our search for a new school. For anyone coming to Marin County, I strongly recommend Saint Mark's School without any reservation whatsoever.
Saint Mark's is a phenomenal school. The kids are happy, engaged and challenged. The teachers care so much about each child. It is a very progressive school that constantly strives to innovate its programs and approaches to teaching, but makes sure that children have a strong grounding in the fundamentals. There is a wonderful emphasis on partnerships with schools in the Canal in San Rafael, South Africa and Beijing. This emphasis on partnership is very different from the way most schools do community service - the ties with each of these schools are deep and respectful and equal. The school is run so well, the community is very welcoming and inclusive...it is such a special and vibrant place. We have not experienced nor have we heard about the heavy load of homework - I think the folks complaining are the exception. We feel so lucky that our children are at SaintMark's!
Unfortunately, we have experienced a disappointing decline in Saint Marks. The quality of instruction is high, and many of the teachers are extraordinarily earnest. However, the demands they place upon students are crushing: children learn much more about time management at Saint Marks than anything else. It fosters a simply get-it-done attitude and forget about understanding. We've also seen an increasing economically and intellectually pretentious atmosphere over the years. A perfect example of this is a claim the school is not pretentious yet children from Saint Marks play in so much more a high quality fashion.
I have 3 kids at Saint Mark's & we have been a part of the community for many years now. There are several things about the school that stand out. First & foremost, it is an environment and culture that celebrates intellect and creativity. It's cool to be smart and to think 'outside the box'. I am often amazed at the creative play my kids engage in with their friends from Saint Mark's as opposed to our neighborhood friends (who are smart & lovely, but it's just different). The teachers & curriculum asks the kids to think, and to apply what they've learned broadly. Second, the school truly fosters independence & personal accountability. By 4th grade, parents are asked to be fully hands-off, & the child is in charge of their homework. They are taught time management & organization. Third, the community is warm & accepting & unpretentious. We love it!
Don't let concerns about homework get in the way of a kid's success. Saint Marks is a great school: it delivers an excellent education and its students move on to the best independent high schools. Look at it this way: You send your kid to S.M. so that he can get into Branson or M.A. You send your kid to Branson so he can get into Stanford or an Ivy. He goes to Stanford so he can fast track at a first-rate enterprise. When he's a corporate officer he'll thank you.
Saint Mark's School has been such a great experience for our son who has been there since Kindergarten and is now in 8th grade. Saint Mark's has a strong commitment to providing not only an outstanding education but also instills strong character and citizenship through their Seven Pillars of Character program. The Administration, teachers and friends that we have found there have been wonderfully supportive. Our son has always enjoyed school and even now as a teenager looks forward to his days at Saint Mark's. I certainly would highly recommend this school to a prospective parent. I know when we started looking at schools it was overwhelming but when we visited Saint Mark's I knew we had found a home.
Saint Marks is the 'Home Work School' of Marin. I am astounded by the student reviews below who do not acknowledge this. Yes, it has many lovely programs to give children a broad education, and yes it has some wonderful teachers, and yes it is a very well run school, but the curriculum expects hours and hours of homework from about grade 3 on, particuarly, in grade 7. I would not recomend it because of that reason. There is no famiy time if you have a child at this school. All-nighters in the 7th grade to prepare for tests and get homework done is quite normal.
We also feel that homework is much, much too high. The teachers are good, and they do try to hold to the policy of no short-term homework on the weekends. But the daily weekday homework is so great that it makes it really difficult, impossible really, for kids to be involved in team sports or any other activity or just hang with us. Seventh grade is a meatgrinder, and pointlessly so. Worse than pointless, really: kids in puberty need their sleep and down time, and Saint Mark's doesn't give it to them.
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