There needed to be homework in Middle School that was supportive of what happened in class. The middle school did not seem to have a clear goal of what it was teaching and I did not feel it prepared our child for high school. We heard the same statement from other parents and the tutors of multiple students from middle school.
While there has been high teacher turn over, that isn't the only reason for teachers not being effective. If your child isn't liked by the admin or the teacher, or they have a minor LD (with parents being very proactive in supporting child) , then forget it. The admin hires teachers they "like" not teachers who really are qualified or will work hard to support the children. Most of the students have a tutor. Either the tutor who works on campus (that should tell you something right there) who seems to not be much help to students, or the students have a private math/science/language tutor (we have one now who also tutored several Arbor students and they all have the same math issues after 8th grade). I can say that there is one Lower Elem teacher who is actually good, she has been there a while and is nice and tries very hard. But the rest of the teachers could be there because they are family, friends, or just plain "fit the Arbor ideal" but that doesn't mean they can teach.
While we believe in the Montessori method of education, we found that Arbor was not responsive to the child or to parents. If the Admin doesn't like the parents, watch out. Having a child who is bullied will get little to no response from Admin or teachers. There were incidents of sexual harassment of girls by boys (yes, it happened in 6th and 7th grade) and very little was done about it. Girls would bully and exclude on a regular basis.
Our experience was that teachers either were unwilling or did not know how to support children with LD. Other parents also experienced the school giving push back. No child is going to be perfect, so schools need to understand how to support children who have minor learning differences.
We were Arbor parents from the start and went through Middle....and now we are out and do not miss it. Be prepared to pay for a tutor in math, explain important language/grammar concepts, and make sure your child learns about science.
Lower Elementary is great, Upper Elementary needs teachers who have experience and understand that the children need more repetition and application of concepts.
Middle school...well, as my child told me, and as we experienced on a parent night, the math teacher went too fast, had no patience, had no idea how to teach to any student who did not get it the first time. The other teachers had a lack of communication with parents about how the child was doing.
And yes, our child has an LD, and now is in the top of traditional school classes across the board. Not because of Arbor, but in spite of Arbor. We paid tutors and worked after school with our child. We did not realize this fact until 6th grade, and hoped Middle School would be better and were disappointed.
In response to parents who are upset that Arbor would suggest their child needed to obtain an evaluation due to struggling in class. That is what teachers are supposed to do. IF a child is having a hard time then the teacher needs to know why so that the teacher can make accommodations or the parents will need to seek out additional support so the child can do well. That is not an Arbor issue, and all private schools will ask for the parents to pay for one of these because only PUBLIC schools do them for free. It is better to have the evaluation done and your child being supported in school rather than hiding from the issue and the child fails.
We found the administration to be quite responsive whenever we had concerns, though the overriding approach is often to "neuter" parents and to defensively defend the pedagogy based on ideology rather than actual student learning. Several new teachers recently hired are, quite frankly, not good enough. You'll find much better elsewhere. We found the approach increasingly ideological. For example, a new teacher told parents that Arbor does not recommend revealing test scores to students and asked parents to not discuss them with their child (a previous, more experienced teacher simply said that each family has its own way of discussing test scores and encouraged sensitivity to others). Another newer teacher told us it was "up to the child" to apply spelling rules. It is unfortunate that such a warm, nurturing place is moving in this direction and will, no doubt, lose more students and whatever credibility it still has in Atlanta's independent school community.
We did not find a child-centered educational approach at Arbor. The physical environment is child-friendly, but we generally found that the teachers do not have the experience or the capacity (due to large class sizes) to meet the child at his/her level. For children who learn well from interacting mainly with educational materials, Arbor may be a good choice. The tuition is lower than most secular private schools in Atlanta, the classrooms are bright and airy, the grounds are nice. For children who do not learn well from materials, and need to discuss concepts as they re learning them, question what they don't understand, and explore new ideas, Montessori is not a good approach. Unfortunately, many of the teachers at Arbor do not have any other tools in their toolbox, and are not trained or willing to recognize when their approach is failing. Instead they will suggest that you spend thousands of $'s to "identify" and "fix" your child's learning issues. We have also found that emotional bullying is a problem, which is either ignored, blamed on the victim, or mildly addressed with ineffective methods. For girls, the general attitude is girls will be girls .
High teacher turnover makes this a tough time for Arbor. Look at teacher backgrounds and you'll see many of them all went to the same colleges. Friends and parents are hired as teachers. The school is more concerned about re-building its faculty than student learning and teacher competency. The school will tell you about all the kids who go on to other private and public schools successfully, but if you talk to the tutors and parents of those who went on and struggled because they didn't learn writing mechanics, math or science (all weaknesses at Arbor), they will tell you you'll have a lot of catching up to do.
The problem with Arbor is that if you continue through the upper elementary and middle school program and decide to leave, your child will not be competitive applying to other good schools. No transcripts, no standard grades-- even the schools that "understand" Montessori will not take you as seriously as other applicants. Many parents are finding this out the hard way, particularly now that application numbers are up significantly around Atlanta. Admissions teams will say, "Where's the transcript?" It will be clear to you that your child's academic achievements are not taken as seriously as those from traditional schools. The upper year academics are considered "soft." I agree with other reviewers that for little kids, the Montessori method is second-to-none. But the problem is, where do you go from there? Run, do not walk from upper year programs at this antiquated school.
A fantastic school for the lower years and a very weak academic school after about Grade 4. High teacher turnover, hiring friends and family to teach rather than those with subject matter expertise and demonstrated teaching effectiveness seems to be the way here. No real meaningful measurement and evaluation in the upper years 5-middle school and extreme defensiveness if children are not learning basic things like math and science. Outmoded, but again, just wonderful in those early years of discovery for the child.
Arbor's administration lacks good communication skills and treats any parent with a question as an adversary. They refuse to listen to the parent Board. They play favorites with the children of their friends/friends of their children. They do not deal well with bullying behavior, especially in girls, relying on outdated and widely disregarded methods such as mediation between bully and bullied child. If you decide that your child needs a different learning environment, the school will torch your child's recommendations. As everything is subjective, their version of your child's abilities will be all you have to show for many years of time, money, and energy you and your child have poured into his education. The classroom materials are adequate, but the facilities are outdated and overcrowded both inside and out. They have not adequately prepared for growth or change. There remain a couple of dedicated, skilled teachers, and if you get one of them, your child will have a beautiful experience in that one classroom. The school has had a very high rate of teacher turnover in the past 3-4 years to date. This instability further accentuates the administration's shortcomings.
The poor spelling and lack of almost any punctuation in the student review below should tell you all you need to know about the academic standards lacking in the upper program at this school. Buyer beware.