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.