I've had multiple kids at Polaris since 2008. I've almost pulled my kids out several times but can't bring myself to take my kids away from their friends. Yes, it is a great school for a lot of reasons. However, my experience is that most teachers just want your kid to conform and do it faster. There's rarely any tolerance for those that fall behind or need help. Only o few teachers (one no longer there) were willing to engage my kids and teach them what they need to learn to advance. My kids' ADHD truly baffles most teachers here. They resort to taking away recess or sending the work home when my kids are not engaging or disorganized. The wonderful school psychologist has been the only glue holding us there continuing to help us with the teachers. I've had to be a real advocate for my kids' emotional and social well-being at this school. The school is not proactive in identifying social/emotional needs. My kids have also needed tutors - this is common among families at this school. We lose out on family time trying to keep up with this teaching style that keeps moving even if your kid doesn't get it. This is a huge stress on my kids and me since I feel like I'm homeschooling them sometimes. In general, teacher communication is poor and conferences focus on the negative rather than problem solving. Diversity and inclusion is almost absent in the school population. Some families of color have had negative experiences. On the positive side, this school has a really exceptional music/band teacher and art teacher and has an amazing Friday electives program. I also appreciate the innovation of Singapore math and teachers challenging the kids to think at advanced levels. The parent involvement is truly exceptional.
My kids attend the school and like many parents I feel very lucky. The school’s curriculum is transparent, fairly rigorous, project/inquiry based, relevant and there is a high expectation from each and every student. The teachers are generally resolute that all students can learn at high levels. The school has adequate resources to help kids be successful- great classrooms! The parent support is very strong; they form a community of their own and spend numerous hours totally engaged with school events. It’s amazing! They commit the extra effort to create a sense of classroom/ school community and cultivate a school spirit.
Yes diversity is an important element of any school. While Polaris’s student body is not reflective of the actual neighborhood -- it is a diverse body of students from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Teachers structure their teaching to acknowledge different perspectives and diverse views of Americans- to include the sensitive topic of race. The entrance criteria keeps learning at a high level, where America should be and unfortunately, many students from disadvantaged backgrounds (which is the neighborhood)- are less likely to have access to the more rigorous learning opportunities Polaris has to offer.
Polaris is one of those schools that is so great, you get spoiled and forget how good it really is until you go tour other schools or hear about them from other parents. Class sizes are 25 or 26 kids. Each teacher also get several hours of para support in the classroom. The school has full-time music, gym, art, and librarian teachers thanks to parent fundraising.
Parents have to work to get their kids into the school which means all the kids have parents that actually care about their kids' education. The best thing about this school is that all the kids are smart (gifted) so there is no stigma about being the smart kid or a nerd. No one gets teased for being smart. Second, because of this, no one here sweats the testing, which means teachers have time to do more than just get everyone to the base level. They have high test scoring anyway. So, instruction is focused on the kids and learning. Art and creativity are incorporated into lessons. They have electives which are fun, enrichment-type classes on Friday afternoons during the school day. There is no need for uniforms or strict rules. The library is huge and full of current books. It's the way elementary school should be. The only real drawback is no air conditioning in the building.
There is a new principal for 2015. She seems engaged and motivated. The previous principal was an administrator to the core, but not bad in anyway. Teacher turnover is maybe 1 per year which is average for any DPS school. (There was no turnover for 2014 to 2015.)
Regarding some people who don't understand the school: First, this is a magnet school, not a neighborhood school. Living nearby does not get you in. Your child must take a test and score as HGT, that is HIGHLY gifted and talented. Testing as GT, or being otherwise "identified", doesn't get you in either. Having a sibling gets you in 1st, but ONLY if the incoming student also tests as HGT. Since this is a great school kids stay here from year to year. They don't add kids unless someone leaves except for when there is a new class at Kindergarten, 1st, and 4th Grade, so just 3 or 4 new kids get in a 2nd, 3rd, and 5th. Kindergarten has a huge wait list every year (easier test). So, your best chance to get in is 1st or 4th grade.
The new Principal has already shown that she is experienced in HGT education and eager to hear from parents about how to best educate Polaris kids. We hope she will restart efforts to bring in more diversity. But the teachers are amazing and the kids are happily and eagerly thriving!