The homework was nothing but busy work to give the illusion of serving a purpose -- it was mostly worksheets or iXL, which I found to be very punitive. My child's teacher didn't even see homework let alone correct it: she had a student do it. (Giving the child outsized power over his/her classmates.)
When considering Sarah Smith for your child, understand it is two very different schools under one name: the K-2 campus and the 3-5 campus.
The Pros: The teachers at the K-2 campus over overwhelmingly supportive, caring and engaged & seem genuinely happy to be teaching and working at Sarah Smith. The school has an active, vibrant parent volunteer base, including a robust Foundation that provides support for the curriculum. There is a great sense of community around the school. Lots of after school activities.
The Cons: Mainly the 3-5 campus: the teachers here seem to suffer from a serious morale problem, and seem to treat the kids with contempt; increasingly the teachers are young and inexperienced; if your kid is advanced academically, the teachers' solution is to offer more work rather than more difficult work; the math curriculum is horrendous (thanks to APS commitment to Everyday Math); few teachers seem to want to go the extra mile: they have their established lessoned plans and they won't alter them; my children brought home worksheets with spelling, grammatical and factual errors; science was taught from a book rather than with experiments or hands-on activities. In 3rd grade, kids were still doing ELA reading from the "Treasures" text books instead of actual novels. Math is supposed to be differentiated by ability but all the kids were doing the same homework. The kids have no tolerance for children who don't conform to the athletic boy/fashionable girl stereotype & teachers do nothing to encourage a tolerant atmosphere. There is a bullying problem the admin is blind to & teachers refuse to address (mockery, social exclusions). The building itself is bland and soulless; the playground is too small for 400 kids. The biggest problem though is the academics are really geared toward scoring high on the standardized tests. My child's teacher began the drumbeat of text prep immediately following winter break. The teachers put too much faith in the various standardized test scores (eg STAR math & reading). Classes are too big; the school itself is too big (1100 kids). The principal is leaving; the school will have its 4 leader in 4.5 yrs.
Bottom line: Your kids is fine through 2nd grade, but save your pennies for private school from 3rd grade & up.
The grammatical errors that come home on communications are egregious. I am appalled. It seems like few have advanced degrees and attend programs to further their research and education. Teaching seems more like a hobby or babysitting for most of those we've had. My in-laws came to the classroom once and remarked that the teacher was sweet and would make an excellent babysitter. Part of the problem is that the class sizes are huge and the student population is so diverse. The different learning levels within one classroom makes it impossible for one person to effectively communicate a topic to 26 children of varied intellectual ability.
Fairness towards all students is severely lacking. If you have a below-average learner, you're fine because the other children are expected to sit there and do worksheets and help the students that struggle or don't have an adequate command of the English language. Students that are well-behaved are also subjected to students who have poor behavior and act out aggressively or violently. In one instance an entire second grade classroom had to receive training on how to handle a violent child's outbursts after he physically injured the teacher. The school was attempting to protect the children in the classroom from potential future injury, but this only was "fair" to the unruly student and not "fair" to the rest of the class to have to adapt to his unacceptable behavior. It's situations like this where SRS caters to the lowest common denominator that frighten me.
Amazing school! We just moved here this year and are overjoyed! I am so impressed with the type of support the teachers have, the resources, and just the general community feel and love extended to the kids. Dr. Hamilton and the staff are AMAZING!! When we get out of the car in the morning, teachers are there greeting us with smiles and my kids cannot wait to get in the building. Just today, my daughter's teacher used Periscope to live broadcast the science lab to all the parents, in real time! The extra-curricular activities are also out of this world! My children take chess, golf, karate, and tennis. This is such a nurturing and diverse environment. My daughters are thriving and being challenged. This is the best schooling decision that we have ever made.
Dr. Hamilton welcomed us on the day we registered, listened to my concerns, talked with my daughter, and even discussed possible class placements. She made time for us, when she didn't have to. AMAZING! Most admins won't even make time for these types of conversations, much less 20-30 minutes. I felt comfortable that my child's best interest was in mind.
The teachers are big on accountability. Students are taught from day one to be responsible for their work, learning, and being their best. I was very impressed to hear how important that was, particularly in the fifth grade classes.