As the outgoing Head of The Children s School, I m proud to say that hundreds of students have been well served by the school, evidenced by the stories they ve shared with us year after year. The school has a committed, talented, dedicated faculty who work tirelessly to meet the needs of all of their students. Classrooms are stimulating, exciting learning environments that other schools and teachers work to model. The Children s School is authentically diverse in a myriad of ways. It is diverse geographically. It is diverse culturally and ethnically. It is diverse socio-economically. And it serves a diverse group of learners who graduate with confidence, poised to succeed both academically and socially. All organizations experience change. The Children s School is well prepared and solidly ready for new leadership. It is an exciting time for the school and as I leave, I celebrate all of its many successes.
May 30, 2012
This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Bullying is unacceptable at TCS period. I am only aware of one instance of bullying and the perpetrator was first put through counseling and after significant and on going efforts to intervene were unsuccessful, the child was eventually asked to leave the school. What I also appreciate is that we have seen minimal normal negative interactions about kids. Not everyone has to be friends, but children are expected to be inclusive and kind. When 2 children are having a challenge, teachers will get involved to help them work it out. My daughter (4th grade) has had absolutely no social drama at school. When I asked her about it in third grade, she said the only thing she was aware of was 3 boys who had a difficult time getting along -however, they were given a lego set to build together to help them learn how to communicate and work together. According to my daughter, they all got along after that. There is also no emphasis on wearing certain brands, etc which can happen at some schools at a young age.
Given the wide range of pure IQ among the kids, teachers find ways to challenge the brightest students further while also supporting the children who need more support. Some students are also pulled out for specific tutoring.
For reading groups and math groups, the class is divided into skill groups among the 4 teachers for each grade to ensure all kids are progressing and appropriately challenged. The groups are also fluid - for example, a kid who is a whiz at algebra may not be a whiz at geometry, so may move among groups for different units of study.
The leadership is not afraid to make changes. Change can be hard, but it is sometimes needed. They took a chance with taking the project based learning approach to education to a new level, believed in the teachers, supported the teachers, and as a consequence, have seen wild success. The kids are more engaged then ever. Retention of learning via reading textbooks, memorizing and taking a test is minimal. Learning via real work interactions and experience is not only more effective, the kids absolutely love it.
The character development is superb. The counselor meets with each class 2X a month to discuss specific topics (self restraint, respect, compassion, responsibility, etc.), but I've seen the classroom teachers and specialist teachers (e.g., PE, art, music, Spanish, digital literacy, library) embed this focus on character throughout children's daily experience. For example, during the 6th grade refugee project, the kids had a one hour lesson in Russian, then had to fill out social welfare forms in Russian. They realized how impossible this is, even for the doctors, lawyers and teachers that they met who are now seeking asylum in the US with a strong education, but limited English skills. They spent time teaching English to adult refugees, and caring for their children in the daycare when the adults went to job training sessions.
With 2 teachers per classroom (and 4 across the grade), there is substantial opportunity of individualized attention and differentiated work. The teachers are very invested in the children and are wonderful about making sure all children realize what their strengths are, while working with children on opportunities to grow and learn in a positive way.
There is increasing evidence that homework in elementary school is corner productive and not linked to success in high school. TCS has limited homework with an expectation of reading daily and exploring interests. It also provides the time to work on specific areas of need - e.g., instead of everyone having math worksheets every night, your child might need to work specifically on math facts or problem solving which can be done in more engaging and effective ways than rote computations. When homework is not forced, you would be surprised at what children initiate for themselves which ultimately results in more learning.
I have 4 girls at TCS, youngest in K, oldest in 6, and my son graduated to go on to Westminster, where he started in 7th grade (The Children's School stops at 6th grade currently). We love TCS. It really does a unique job of fostering confidence and empathy in children. The teacher's respect and love the kids, and guide them in developing that same outlook, resulting in a community where each child gets to be their own unique self. That then allows kids to learn and grow happily. The focus on play and learning-by-doing encourages curiosity and seems effective: the kids here are for the most part happy, kind, well rounded, respectful, and prepared when they graduate. The outdoor education program (camping trips starting in 3rd grade) has been a great experience for my kids. As far as outcomes, my best data point is that my TCS grad has done well at Westminster, especially in math, social studies and science.
Some nuts and bolts: the school starts in pre-primary ( 3 year olds), goes through 6th grade, is across from Piedmont park in midtown (with a crosswalk to the park), has a good afterschool program with lots of enrichment activities, is transitioning from Everyday Mathematics to Singapore Math, and teaches Spanish as its foreign language.
No HW through Kindergarten (except for 2 projects, both of which my kids have completed on their own without tears). Love it!
1st grade on there is "daily" HW in reading, writing and math, with more projects and more involved assignments as they get older. Usually anything that will take more than 15 minutes (total) is assigned early enough that my children can schedule working on it can be planned around other demands on time.
I can’t imagine a better gift I could give my children than to offer them the opportunity to learn and grow at The Children’s School. TCS is not only a school but also a community. Over dinner recently, a friend asked how we picked it four years ago. My list went on and on: diverse students and families; emphasis on the whole child; embedded focus on building character and values; dedicated, happy, talented, committed teachers; customized instruction for various learning levels; reasonable, high impact homework; responsive, accessible school leaders; engaging TCS University parenting education; leadership and mentor/mentee programs through Big/Little Buddies; prioritized learning through play with plenty of recess; open, bright, flexible, collaborative classrooms; small classes and great teacher/student ratios; spotlight on outdoor education and self-responsibility; strong project-based, multi-disciplinary, hands-on learning initiatives; commitment to teacher professional development; access to technology resources; focus on learning over teaching. After attending a panel presentation and conducting my own research to see how TCS graduates were prepared for middle school, I concluded that without question, TCS had provided the core academics, problem-solving, social skills, and resiliency to prepare its alumni with thriving minds, hearts, and hands no matter where they chose to go afterward. Like that old quote about what is important to give children, TCS surely does it, providing children with both roots and wings.