I went to Decatur from 1-6th grade (2008- 2014) and it was amazing. You will (most likely) never feel left out because there are only 30 or 60 kids in your whole grade depending on the year you get in. My class had so many inside jokes and it was great. All the teachers are good and they teach Latin which I find a great and easy language. The work is hard like other reviewers said but what do you expect from a gifted school. There are a few after school activities and parties with a nice graduation. I don't know how it is going to be for class of 2015 but class of 2014, 13 and 12 went to Maggiano's for a fee of around 30$. I can only think of 2 kids in my grade who could be considered "unpopular" and they still had a few friends. Decatur was one of the best experiences of my life and YES, it is hard but it prepares you well especially if you want to have a go at special enrollment again. For those of you curious I live in tier 3 and got a 140 on the entrance exam and an 835 overall. This was on the old ISAT system. I got into Lane only because I had a B in a class. IT IS POSSIBLE TO GET INTO A SCHOOL ON TIER SYSTEM. I KNOW TIER 4 KIDS IN WHITNEY YOUNG.
There is a reason Decatur is consistently in the top school list. It starts with the fact that the entry criteria is a test so the starting point is kids with above average skills and /or strongly involved parents. This parental involvement continues in various ways - fund raising, volunteer work, special projects and so on.
For a Chicago public school, this is an amazing school. Teachers are caring and experienced. Administrators are attentive. Kids are a group of bright, well-balanced diverse group with very supporting families. PTA is very active. My child always looks forward to going to school. She feels sad when she has to miss school. I just wish they receive more $ to do what they can do. Also, there is no 7th and 8th grade...yet. Also, they teach one grade above...not like some gifted programs that teach 2 grades above.
We have spent almost 3 yrs at the school, going mostly through material review, except for Latin, new to us. If all students are like my child, which my child's teachers say this is so, then all of our children are terribly under-served. Our teachers and administrators go by the book and teach one grade ahead to the test. There is no differentiated instruction. Spelling seems to be taught via word families, not via spelling rules. Writing is expected, but I do not get much sense that it is being taught. Nevertheless, the students are bright, well mannered and come from very supportive families. Chess club is strong, successful, and we do enjoy it. I wish the school would offer other such quality, progressive, programs, before or after school, like robotics, debate team, math or writing club. I wish the school would make connections with reputable universities or on-line educational sites so the students could test out from knowledge they know and then be allowed to move forward in gaining new knowledge. However, with the current administration this will not happen. It is all about the test scores and they are fine.
My son is a proud 5th grader at DECATUR and Our Family is ecstatic that he is a part of this great learning institution! He has been attending DECATUR since kindergarten and we are just as excited now as we were when he was accepted. I am very assured that when it is time for him to leave for 7th grade he will be EXTREMELY WELL PREPARED to handle a work load of an 8th grader and for that I am truly grateful; and as parents isn't that what we are looking for in a school?... A learning environment in which our children are PROPERLY PREPARED FOR LEARNING? I have the privilege to enter many schools to teach a segment on: " HOW TO AFFECTIVELY HELP YOUR CHILDREN WITH HOME WORK" and I also Tutor/ Mentor the children as well. Believe me as I write to you about the lack of: School Morale / Parent Support/ Teachers that lack luster/ and a lack of interest in the students that some schools have ! But not at DECATUR! They have vibrant and interesting teachers. So I am all for a rigorous learning environment that this school offers because the payoff is well worth it and your child will also see the benefit of what and how he was educated as he enters high school and college !
We moved our child here from a private, Blue Ribbon school. I knew the academics would be great but what I didn't know is that they accomplish this with so few resources. There is also a real sense of community. I love the way the school has addressed the heavy backpack problem. The students are learning how to organize their work and to take notes. I am particularly impressed with the math and science classes. They don't just push more faster. The curriculum is enriched. The school really should be expanded. I am sure the powers that be at CPS think the school is doing fine and isn't overcrowded so this isn't a priority. That's not the point. The point is that there are so many students out there who are in desperate need of an education like this but are not served because the school can take so few students.
I love the school. Great education, strong and very creative PTA. My daughter is very happy there. Administration staff, teachers and Parents are very friendly willing to help and answer any question. The Kindergarten teacher (Ms. W) is amazing, she knows how to implement an advance curriculum to young children, keeping them highly motivated, and gives individual instruction when is requiered. The big kids (5th and 6th grade) are very protective, they are always watching over the little ones in the bus or at school. It's small enough to give you the chance to know everybody.
My son was accepted for the incoming 2013 Kindergarten class, so I'm not terribly qualified to review the school, but here are my thoughts so far. The meetings and open houses I've attended so far do give the sense that rule breaking (or even rule bending!) is not tolerated at Decatur. However, I don't see this as being cruelly restrictive. My son, like all Decatur students, is bright, and, like most kids, he tries to negotiate, argue, or weasel his way out of any undesired activity. So, for our family, the strict but fair approach is highly attractive. The school is clean and well-maintained, but small. The parents are extraordinarily involved. My only fear is that, as a working mother of two, I may not be able to keep up with the volunteering that is encourage and that I would love to do. Recently, there was some concern over a "shaming" by the principal. While I am concerned about this, I'm willing to give Mrs. K the benefit of the doubt. We don't know the relationships or circumstances behind what happened, and she apologized (which I appreciate greatly in a person of authority), so it is impossible to judge. I'm excited for my guy to be challenged in new ways.
I could not disagree more with the review of 6/16. My child is happy and well rounded and has never been bullied. I have never heard of another child being bullied. The parents involved in the PTA are extremely welcoming and very nice. Their goal is to make Decatur the best school possible and their creative fundraising efforts continue to make that happen. As of today almost all of the graduating 6th graders have been placed in a 7th grade program that will meet their advanced needs. It is not a school that you leave unless you move or you just can't handle the academically advanced curriculum. It is that good. They don't have to teach to the test because the work they do is so far ahead of what is on it that the test itself is like child's play to those who take it. They don't have a lot of lot of extracurricular activities but that is what the programs at the park district are for. I wouldn't give up this amazing opportunity for my child because of that. After all, it is the responsibility of the parent to see that a child grows up to be a well rounded individual, not the public schools.