Every school has its pros and cons, and Sierra Madre Elementary is no exception. My husband and I have not been thrilled with the quality of instruction, the communication skills of the teachers, or the leadership of the principal. But, there are some great things about our experience with SME too, including a terrific assortment of children who our kids have befriended and a close-knit group of parents who we have grown to trust and develop lasting friendships with. Taking the good with the bad, we are happy that our kids attend SME and hope for improvements in the future.
A focus on the arts, especially performance. High parent involvement, unusually low bullying among students, some amazing teachers, most teachers above average, a few bad teachers, as is true of prestige private schools as well. Administration strong in some areas, weak in others. Special needs kids, those who learn fast or slow, tend to fall through the cracks because the class sizes are too large, and there is little infrastructure to problem solve for the individual. Major negative is the ballooning class sizes, and lack of advance planning. CLASS SIZES ARE LARGE! District policies and plans change yearly. Elite private schools will do more hand-holding of parents, have small class sizes, and will recommend private tutors for brilliant or learning disabled children. This high end public school will be nice but not hold your hand, will have large class sizes, and will give you special tutors after a lot of fighting. Or you can just go ahead and hire the tutors that work for the elite schools and probably come out ahead.
BEWARE, this school is governed by the dysfunctional Pasadena Unified School District. The Sierra Madre schools have been historically mistreated by the district. Surprisingly, the schools have thrived under the two previous principals. The same cannot be attributed to the current weak administration. The district can dictate whatever it wants. She does not communicate. Many issues came up during the school year that could have been communicated beforehand. For example, 60 families from other PUSD schools where added in October. We should have known that a lottery had been put in place with the anticipated date of arrival. The class sizes ballooned to 30 to 31 kids. The Principal is also invisible and hard to find in times of crisis. The quality of the instruction is inconsistent across the grades. For example, one of the four 3rd grade teachers might be weak academically in comparison to the others. By the end of the school year, those kids will end up lagging their peers. Strong parental involvement is key, but cannot solve all ills. Some families move to a neighboring town for a top-ranked school district with all the amenities or pay for private school.
Common core. Please do not believe the hype about "improved test scores", "better critical thinking" or my favorite "prepares your kids for the college". All untrue. Follow the money. This is not about improved education. Just the opposite. At best, common core prepares your kids for buying more test books and test prep. This means more money out of your pockets because why? The common core questions and answers and tests are devised to NOT educate, but to confuse. If you have not tried it, that is if your child has not had a year of it yet, then you are in a good position. That is, you can compare your child's years WITHOUT common core to a new school year of having common core. Perhaps you will start to noticed increased frustration? Perhaps more difficulty with math or test questions and such. Again, follow the money. You will then notice that common core is NOT about education. It is not about building your child's confidence or character. Just the contrary.
Any parent who is actively involved in the school (and that would be most of them) gives this school sterling reviews that well reflect the 9 out of 10 rating academically. I've had three kids in and around this school their entire academic lives and the teaching is superb. We've had several teachers over the year and each of them gives their all and the kids flourish. I have not seen a lot of teaching to the test, only that most of the teachers dislike it. You have to advocate for special needs, as you would at any school, but SME is pretty accommodating. They do very well with gifted children AND they're one of the few schools that still offers an art education. They have dance, theater and music offered to every child and assemblies that support this. The principle is out there after school every day just helping out and talking to parents and kids.
I AM A GRADUATING STUDENT AND AS BEING AN ALUMNI (8th grade class f 2014) I THINK I COULD SHARE MY TRUE FEELINGS ON THIS SCHOOL VS. PARENTS WHO ARE TALKING BADLY ABOUT SMS WHO BARELY SPEND THEIR LIVES THERE. Okay o let's get started, I have been at this school 3-5th grade and I just want to say they have been the BEST years of my life. Not only have I made SO many great friends, here a Sierra Madre everyone is your friend , even the teachers! The teachers her all teach you and push you to do your best and have integrity in what you do. They expect you to give your 110% and to at least try. I honestly think that without Sierra Madre School, I would not be the person I am today. I am so thankful for what this school has taught me and I wouldn't change anything about my Sierra Madre School days. "once a hawk, always a hawk!" Thank You
the teachers of the school are incredible. They are very dedicated and hard working. The only exception that I would have to say is the principal is really out of touch and non involved. the previous principal was exceptional but has retired. This new one is dragging the school.
A great neighborhood school. As a parent of a 1st grader, we have had universally positive experiences at SME over the past two years. The high level of parent involvement is evident and our teachers have been well-prepared and genuinely care for our child's education. Even with relatively large classes, they have been able to cater to learning styles and needs of each child in their classroom. The homework is challenging and class projects are interesting. We appreciate the arts program at the school and the overall focus on a well-rounded educational experience. We considered private school, but wanted to stick with the neighborhood school. We have no regrets!
There is not much supervision at lunch or recess and any child that needs any extra nurturing or attention is left out. This school is a cold and cavernous building that represents the people in charge and the parents that think they are. We are pulling our child next year after giving it one more chance.
I agree with other recent reviewers. The school is at best mediocre in terms of education and quality of teachers. I only left my children here because they didn't want to leave their friends. They teach to tests and give routine class works and homework assignments to keep kids busy without any feedback. Complaints to principal and teachers seemed to have only withdrawn my own children from activities and produced no beneficial changes. I feel most parents are just going along with the crowd to the cheer of few eager parents with control.
Teachers get a C+ and Administrators get a D. My husband and I moved to Sierra Madre from northern California two years ago with high hopes for this school but have been disappointed thus far. Our 1st and 4th graders are trapped in rigid teach-to-the-test classrooms with piles of homework (that the teachers usually don't even return to them) under the guidance of teachers who seem to always look either exhausted or indifferent. We don't expect the teachers to be superheros, but we do expect them to teach in a nurturing and innovative way. Haven't seen either of those personality traits in the staff yet.
The principal is invisible, many teachers are uninspired and boring (or down right unprofessional), and its like pulling teeth to get parents involved in the classroom. Like many parents I know, I leave frustrated and disappointed after dropping off my children here in the morning because I know they are receiving a lukewarm educational experience when it could be so much more with better leadership and a sincere sense of purpose. Yuck.
Poor Leadership. I echo what the previous reviewer thinks. My husband and I recently pulled our 1st grader out of this school and moved them to a different school. Our daughter liked kindergarten here, but 1st grade was a nightmare. First she was in a 1st grade class, then 2 weeks later a K/1 split, then a few weeks later back to a 1st grade only class, then a bunch of new 1st graders entered into her class from other schools in PUSD - how do you run a class this way? Why did principal Salinas make all these changes? Doesn't she know how disruptive they are to the kids learning? I'll never know. I tried repeatedly to meet with her to talk about it but she NEVER ONCE returned a phone call or email. People at PUSD were no help either. Principal Salinas is neither approachable nor is she an effective leader. How can she be when she dodges meetings with parents and hides in her office crunching numbers? Parents beware!
Special Education is not a program or a place, and inclusive schooling is not a policy that schools can dismiss. Since 1975, Federal Courts have clarified the intent of the law in favor of the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education. (Osborn, 1996: Vila & Thousand, 2000a, 2000b) A student with a disability should be educated in the school he or she would attend if not identified as having a disability. The school MUST devise an individualized education program that provides the learner with the supports and services that the student needs to receive an education in the LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT POSSIBLE.
Unfortunately the school falls under Pasadena Unified School District. They have horrible use of funding. The school continues to cut down on appropriate staffing. They do NOT attempt to follow IEP, or 504 plans. In the past this school was exceptional; however the last two years has been horrible. Pasadena Unified School District is a disservice to the community, students, and teachers. Shameful.
In 1994 the U.S. Department of Education's office of Special Education Programs issued policy guidelines stating that school districts cannot use the lack of adequate personnel or resources as an excuse for failing to make a free and appropriate education available in the least restrictive environment to students with disabilities. Pasadena Unified is practicing pre 1994 policies and politics.
We just pulled our kids out of Sierra Madre because they have dragged their feet and refused to help our daughter who has reading difficulties for three years. If you have the kind of kid who will excel at any school, then you will be welcomed at Sierra Madre. Our other kids were included in lots of things, because they win Science Fairs and Math Field Day competitions, but this school improves the overall test scores by pushing out any kids who won't score really well. They remain disorganized and sacrifice huge chunks of instructional time for lots of pointless assemblies instead of improving the education. Even my GATE kids were behind when they started last week at their new schools in a neighboring school district. I wish we hadn't put up with Sierra Madre for so long.
My children are very happy here. The kids are good kids. The teachers are hard working and really want the kids to learn and get ahead. Garrett Newsom keeps the middle schoolers in line but is also very much liked which is rare from a middle school. We have a beautiful historic theatre where the children put on about 2 shows a year. The kids are very happy to study hard when there are fun things to look forward to at school like the practices for performances, acting, musical instrument, dance maniacs, art, science. The K-1 classes have wonderful teachers. Mr Griffith, Ms Martin and Ms Perez. Everyone loves them.The school is also walking distance to many cute cafe's, ice cream and shops.
Both my children attend Sierra Madre school. It's absoulutly a wonderful school, I feel very lucky to have found the school. My children run home excited to tell me about there day. Highly recommended.
Sierra Madre School is a high-performing arts-focused public PreK-8 school nestled in the foothills just east of Pasadena. Our three core values are academic achievement, creative culture and safe and nurturing environment. We have top-notch teachers & staff and highly supportive and involved parent groups. Our Principal, Gayle Bluemel, retired this past spring and we are currently looking for a new elementary Principal with the vision help our already excellent school to continue to thrive through challenging economic times. Our former Assistant Principal, Garrett Newsom, has just been appointed Planning Principal of the Middle School campus. The site-based leadership team made up of teachers, administrators, staff and parents is fully prepared to maintain the school's core values and continue to thrive during the transition to new leadership at the elementary campus.
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The Community Rating is the school’s average rating from its community members (e.g., parents, students, and school staff). The highest possible rating is five stars; the lowest is one star.
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