This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted March 11, 2015
- a parent
The Paideia that my kids attended for 9 years needs an update. It is operating with many of the same players that have been there for 40 years and it is time for embracing current knowledge in education. As someone else mentioned, it is teacher-centric, and its default is to act in the best interest of the teachers - not necessarily the students. There are some truly terrible teachers there. To be fair, there are some outstanding teachers, as well, but you really expect all teachers at an independent school that costs over $20K/year to be in the good-to-great range. I'd say 20% of teachers are in the bad-to-damaging range. Many Paideia kids go to top colleges, but Paideia needs to realize that those kids would go to top colleges no matter where they go to high school because the school pulls heavily from its surrounding highly educated and affluent neighborhood. Despite saying that it focuses on the individual, there is a "Paideia way" and students who do not fit into it (as one mentioned below) can really struggle. I would have to file our Paideia experience under the heading of "an expensive disappointment."
Paideia is very supportive of its teachers and students. Their extremely knowledgeable school psychologist and learning specialists helped my daughter's learning issues that I would never have recognized. My daughter is in college now after being at Paideia from K through 12th and she is doing extremely well in college.
Paideia is what you make of it. I went there from 6th grade to 12th grade. I have a couple of regrets for not taking full advantage of my education and resources there, but it is worth it because it teaches you how to think. Paideia is truly a place that will help you learn how to learn. I have been able to do fairly well in college so far because of what I learned at Paideia about critical thinking. In addition, it is very forgiving and from what I have experienced empathetic towards its students. I received a 98% scholarship to go there and frankly my family would not have been able to afford to send me to go there without the financial aid. Although most of my friend's families made over $200,000 a year, I did not once feel that money was flaunted. Paideia has changed many kids lives who would not have been able to afford to go to a school like it, but as I said, you MUST take advantage of its resources. I was defensive and didn't utilize the college connections or go to college advisor meetings. Go to them. Work your butt off even though the environment might feel relaxed.
I graduated from Paideia. I attended from 8th grade through 12th grade. Prior to that, I attended public school. I would not recommend Paideia to anyone and I definitely would not send my own children there. The environment is highly competitive among the kids and about half of the faculty are ego maniacs. For a school that prides itself on tolerance and diversity, it is definitely the least accepting environment that I have ever been in- if you are different from the Paideia stereotype, don't expect to have an easy time there.
Paideia looks terrific on paper, but in practice it's not as wonderful. Our child went there for a year in high school. It is a very teacher-centric environment, and there are few guidelines or requirements for teachers. This allows them to be very creative and inventive, but it also means that your child's academic experience will vary greatly depending on his or her teacher(s). The math department is not terribly strong (a fact that was acknowledged to us by every family we spoke with); if your child struggles in math, the faculty and administration will suggest that you hire a tutor. The headmaster has been there since the school was founded in 1971, and although the school has grown dramatically since then, there are many things (and faculty members) that remain the same. Luckily for Paideia, there are few non-religiously affiliated independent schools in Atlanta (especially in town), so the school has little real competition.
I have gone to Paideia since 5th grade, and would not want to go anywhere else. The focus on experiential learning and the close relationship between teachers and students in the elementary school is great and made me love learning. In junior high, the unique writing program in my class really helped me to understand myself better and become a better writer. Both the elementary and junior high schools are very progressive and celebrate the individual strengths of each student, with an emphasis on learning rather than grades. The high school is more traditional, and the workload is pretty challenging as they're trying to prepare you for college, but it's still very unique. The short terms January and May are great, because they let students explore areas they may not get to try normally. Overall, Paideia has a strong emphasis on tolerance and openness to different perspectives. Once of the coolest things we do is every year, the junior high and high school devote a day to discussing either race or gender and sexuality, in which they bring in speakers and hold small discussion groups. I am heading off to college now, and feel very prepared academically as well as personally.
Our daughter began Paideia in 6th grade and we cannot say enough good things about the school. We've found the junior high academics to be challenging, but in a way that our child really wants to go the extra mile in her classwork. The teachers take the extra time to bring out the best in each student. In addition to a report card with page long comments for each subject, the homeroom teachers meet with the parents to review performance. We were surprised that our daughter's teachers were willing to meet on a Saturday. Which teachers do that anymore!. The courseload in the high school is phenomenal. Truly designed to foster creativity. If you are looking for a cookie-cutter school where students are told what to think and recite what the teacher tells them for a good grade, seek elsewhere. If you want a school in which the students challenge each other this is it.
The social and academic environment at Paideia is absolutely fantastic. The students are extraordinarily tolerant, thoughtful, and inclusive. The academics are rigorous yet noncompetitive; they focus on personal achievement rather than being the best. The curriculum strongly encourages students not just to learn but to think independently and to analyze the information they're given. This sounds like something taken from the schools website, but this has truly been my experience at Paideia. This is a school that raises kids as well as it teaches them.
We recently moved to Atlanta and can't say enough good things about our child's new high school. In a nutshell, Paideia offers rigorous academics in a relaxed environment. The teachers are not only incredibly engaging and dedicated but really model empathy and know each of the kids so well. The students are remarkably mature-with none (that I can see and I've looked for it carefully) of the social cruelty/bullying parents often complain about elsewhere. Teachers, students and parents are all so happy to be there. It's such a joy to finally have found a school that is not only racially and socially diverse but where they dig in intellectually and celebrate each individual student as well. Our child has never been so happy to get up every morning and go to school. I don't know how they do it but I'm thankful every day for Paideia.