This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Santa Monica Alternative (K-8) School5
Posted March 18, 2015
- a parent
We've been at SMASH for 2 years now. This is a wonderfully nurturing creative environment for children. My child is extremely happy. Teachers and principal are top notch. They are on the cutting edge of education, offering so many extra tools to parents and children. For example, last week there was a lecture on decreasing stress in children. No bullies as the staff and principal are proactive and true problem solvers. Very involved parents. Overall caring community and very down to earth. Huge emphasis on reading, writing, creativity, multi aged classrooms, art, story telling, drama, and project based learning. The kids here love going to school. Even without the traditional learning and homework, my child is still at or above grade level. Learning is fun and creative at SMASH, not "stuck in your desk stifling." True "out of the box" education. That all said, getting into SMASH is very difficult and it is like winning the lottery as it has the same philosophy and teaching model as top west LA private alternative schools, many of which we toured.
Alumni. I'm in HS right now, I believe SMASH was a great experience for me. I went from K to 8th. It was fun. Looking back, there were many times when I had wish I had a better understanding in math. Today, I struggle with some pretty simple concepts now that I'm in High School. SMASH has a really great reading/writing program, I owe much of that success to SMASH. I think many of the routines we had: signaling for silence with a peace sign, and standing up to ask a question was a bit of a waste of time, as it is not applicable to my life right now. Another downside is somewhat trivial, but expected. You always hear that one question as a freshman: "What middle school did you go to?". As a former SMASH student, it's a dilemma. In my case, I always felt embarrassed when I told them SMASH and they would have a weird look on their face. There is a stigma around "SMASH" kids. They are portrayed as off, or the kids who "Don't get homework". Overall, most of my greatest memories were at SMASH, we were so close, like a family. I do truly miss those days. If I was given an opportunity to relive them, I wouldn't hesitate. (Class Of 2012)
Smash is an amazing school and I am so grateful everyday that my daughter goes there. This was our 1st year at SMASH and the teachers and principle surpassed my expectations. They speak to children with such honor and respect. Not shaming them and finding every opportunity as a way to teach children. The faculty at this school work from a conscious mind set and find creative ways to educate children. They spend a lot of time developing the child from the inside out and really help foster children's emotions. If the world could operate like this school, the world would be a better place.
This school values and supports the child's inquisitive mind and natural desire to learn and be a full participant in his/her world, unique and wonderful in a overall public education system enslaved to race to nowhere state testing and funding/ranking issues. Has a wonderful community of caring parents along with many of its teachers, and children w ho feel part of a bigger picture- learning to be good citizens in the world. In certain cases "alternative" however seems to include a lack of accountability around state benchmarks and curriculum, particularly in math, even where they are developmentally appropriate. There also seems to be an "alternative" approach to sound protocols around classroom management , school operations and student behavior, which is confusing at best at times. Small classroom size is a huge plus in terms of following student interests and projects, and instilling joy in learning rather than rote. Middle school is not fraught with the normal "risk" behaviors that emerge at this age at other schools- a huge plus. There is no principal or asst principal on site a couple of days a week- this can be problematic along w/ other leadership issues.
This school has probably the most involved, cohesive group of parents in the school district. Educational quality tends to be very good in the lower grades and spotty at best in the middle grades. Don't come expecting any real connection to John Dewey and his educational models. Let's call this progressive lite, at best. What really draws people to the school is the small size. Academic rigor is either absent or arbitrary. Although not openly discussed, most parents heavily supplement their children's education outside of school. In general 3/5 of families who try the school love it and 2/5 hate it and leave. Only you can tell which group you'll fall into.
This is a great school for students who are considered at risk academically for an array of reasons. One of the problems with at-risk students is that they felt lost and isolated in the large school and once they enter this school they feel a sense of community. Special-needs students need to feel comfortable in an inclusion setting. If they do not, they should consider other restrictive settings i.e. separate classroom, separate school, residential school and home/hospital.
AMAZING school. Best thing about it is the size - only 230 kids kindergarten THRU 8th grade. So you virtually know every family. And the principal knows EVERY family personally. VERY community oriented. The way they teach (project based, multi-age, wholechild approach) actually enables kids to learn DEEPER and more PROFOUNDLY (instead of quickly and by route). Because of this approach, my child placed ADVANCED in Reading/Writing AND math on the state examines. So - don't buy into believing that this is not an academic school and that there is no structure. There IS structure, a ton of it, but it is organic and pertinent. YES - there is homework - but it is never for the sake of just keeping your kids busy. FYI - most of the kids who graduate SMASH transition smoothly into SAMOHI and do amazingly well in Honors and AP courses.
If your child is lucky enough to get in (admission is by lottery), you have hit the lottery. Children learn the standard grade-appropriate curriculum, but in a different way. Learing is project-based as opposed to text-book based. The projects are chosen based on student interest. Classes are smaller. Teacher/student relationships and the classroom are less formal. There is more give-and-take. More respect of the students' interests, contributions and ideas. Overall, SMASH provides a much less restrictive and more creative learning environmet.
The children at SMASH are respected as valuable and capable individuals in their community. The SMASH teaching philosophy targets the student as a whole person not just an academic vessel, and allows each child to blossom according to their own unique talents and personality.
Easy going school, fun for kids and parents, but academically weak in many areas. Reading/writing is great, but very, very weak in math and there is barely any science there. Too bad, since the school has a lot to offer, it's small and intimate, teachers and staff are caring, families and kids feel part of a community, they treat kids with respect and teach them to act responsibly. All of that is fantastic, but for SMASH to be a great school, it needs to improve on actual education.