Challenge used to be a superior learning environment for the academically motivated and gifted learner. However, it has fallen to the bureaucracy and sub-standards of current school administrators all the way up the district level. Sadly, the curriculum changes, admittance of non qualified students, and district administrators are running the school into the ground to be nothing more than a regular neighborhood school.
The teachers are amazing! They share a gift and a passion to educate these kids in the best ways possible. While they are being more and more restricted in their talents, they absolutely do their best!!!
My two kids attended a local elementary school for K (and one for 1st grade). When my wife and I went to help out in the 1st grade class, we saw a teacher overwhelmed by the kids who could not read, and who had no time for our kids who were reading Harry Potter under the desk and ignoring the rest of the activities going on around them. There were no enrichment activities that I could see, and the teacher had no time for the advanced or the prepared kids.
Challenge gave our kids a chance to thrive and grow with their peers in an environment that encourages and, indeed, expects their best, and for that I will be forever grateful. It is not for everyone, and once they were accepted (without donations), I watched carefully for signs that they were overwhelmed and perhaps at the wrong school. Thank goodness they found their "peeps" at Challenge, but I would have moved them again if they weren't happy. As it turned out, they went from reporting 2 "good" days in a full year at the previous school, to 2 "bad" days in a full year. We have now been at Challenge for 4 years, and I could not be happier.
Finally, I wish our first school had pursued streaming much more aggressively, since lumping the 6th grade level readers with the 1st grade readers, writers, and math students (regardless of their age) just makes every kid feel like they have something to hide. The hit to the kids' self esteem only happens once in streaming. In contrast, the unworkable and ineffective teaching environment created by mixing all achievement levels into one class keeps on hurting kids day after day.
This is the second year for my kid. We can't believe how much she changed in less than two years. She was bored silly in previous school. Now she is confident, highly motivated and couldn't be happier. Most other public schools mainly care about if a student can pass the lowest requirement of the standard. However in Challenge school teachers encourage students to do more, to win award in competition.
This is my daughter's first year at Challenge (2nd grade) and so far we are so glad she was accepted into such a great school. I read some of the reviews about the application process and that it is unfair. I did not find this to be true. We applied for K and 1st grade. My daughter scored well on the tests and did not get a spot, but when there is a limited number of spots available, it happens. This year we were put on a wait list again, but a spot became available and we "won" it in the lottery pool of qualified applicants. It can't get much more fair than that, in my opinion. So far our kiddo is doing really well and her teachers have made sure she is comfortable and adjusts well. The opportunities given to expand young minds in the extracurricular activities, mini courses, and immersion weeks are just wonderful! I love that there are required family service hours to keep us all involved as part of a school community. Really excited for our future at this school!
A school for the highly gifted and/ or highly motivated, academically advanced student, K-8.... I have 3 sons who have attended this school spanning the past 11 years. I appreciate that the Challenge School has worked with each of them on an individual basis so as to allow for them to reach their highest potential in math, science and language arts. The science and math teachers are second to none!!
I felt I had to enter my own review after reading some of the responses here. I have had two children (a male and a female so I got to see both perspectives) go through Challenge from K-8th grade. I can tell you for a fact that I did not have enough money to offer a "donation" bribe, and feel that although rigorous the application process is fair and understandable. Challenge was a fantastic experience for both kids, and provided a great foundation for their future. My eldest is graduating from the International Baccalaureate program this Spring, and felt that Challenge provided the good habits and academic background necessary to achieve this goal. As far as the "bullying" and "self-harm", I have been a member of this community for 13 years and through multiple principals and team changes, and have neither seen this as a major problem nor ever experienced a time when the staff was unresponsive to serious issues. No school is perfect, but the times when I have seen issues come up they have been handled promptly and professionally. Challenge has been a real blessing for my children, and provides a unique opportunity for gifted students. I wish the school continued success.
My child entered this school in 5th grade as an extremely advanced, self-assured individual. In four years time this well-adjusted young adult fell to modestly advanced/proficient (according to TCAP scores) and became severely emotionally distraught. There was tremendous pressure at this school on many levels (not just academic). I would liken it to a pressure cooker. As a result, there was a significant problem with self-harm, especially in the higher grades (fortunately, my child did not resort to this) which was all but ignored. Bullying was also a major problem but is much more insidious and manipulative than you will find at most middle schools (these are gifted children, after all). My child was bullied excessively and sought help from teachers and the administration on many occassions (to no avail). When my child fought back physically (after months of abuse) she received a ridiculously harsh punishment while the perpetrator received a slap on the wrist. Does this school provide challenging curriculum, yes. Will it be the right fit for every gifted learner, most definitely not. Please just do your homework and ask lots of questions before you commit to this school.