A couple of years ago I took a tour across the US of Jewish day schools with excellent academic reputations. Mainly, I visited schools along the East Coast, West Coast, a bit through other regions and overseas in Israel as well. My reason for doing this was to relocate for employment reasons. In the end, I made the decision to remain in Chicago. Why? Solely for the reason that I could not find a school that came even close to Akiba Schechter! I knew that had I moved, I'd be compromising my childrens' upbringing and education. Akiba is an amazing place. In order to understand what I mean, one must step into the hallways and classrooms of this special school. I have never seen an environment so full of excitement for learning; classes full of unity and respect; love and genuine, deep connection between teachers and their students. One truly feels like they are part of a large extended family at Akiba Schechter. My children are very different: one being very social and less academic, one being extremely gifted and self driven, and the other one also being quiet and intellectual, and yet they each thrive due to the individualized learning and small classrooms. Their talents and abilities are optimized and all are performing well above grade level. I am blown away by how much they are learning as students, critical thinkers, self driven individuals and moreover, as quality, contributing human beings. I cannot adequately praise this school enough for what they have given to my family.
Just as a side point I'd like to mention, there has never been a point that the school was lacking academic accreditation. Had that been the case, enrollment would have gone down and I, as a parent, and board member, would have found another school for my children. Akiba receives numerous academic accreditations: from the national and state sector as well as the Jewish umbrella organization that overseas its religious academic accreditation: Associated Talmud Torahs. Akiba is unquestionably of the highest caliber of academic PreK-8th institutions that exist!
My children started at AKiba five years ago and I continue to be impressed with what the school has to offer. In 1st/2nd grade, the teacher (many times, even the Principal) reads with every single child every single day. In fact, every child who goes through 1st grade at Akiba will have read with the Principal many times. One of my children has a health condition and the school never fails to amaze me with its professionalism and concern for her. There is always someone looking out for her--from the teacher all the way up to the front office and the administration--and having that kind of trust in my child's school is immeasurable to me. I also love the school's multi-age classrooms, because my child is learning how to be a good friend--even to people who aren't her exact age and who don't have the same knowledge set she has. She knows how to be both a leader and when to step back and give others the spotlight. This is one of the most impressive parts of the school: the commitment to imbuing the students with values of human decency, not just superb academics.
My favorite part of the school is its Buddy Program. I regularly watch 8th graders care for their 1st 2nd grade Buddies during morning breakfast or during Color War, and many other times, and it's a pleasure to see a school develop leadership and empathy in its students. I also love the fact that students regularly get involved in service projects, like making holiday cards for people in nursing homes, or packing boxes of food for those in need.
Akiba was denied academic accreditation twice. There are some good teachers but the general atmosphere is one lacking in professionalism. The older grades have very small class sizes due to lack of students and there is a large percentage of students who are children of faculty... unfortunately, this only furthers the lack of professionalism and results in questionable standards. I would strongly urge anyone considering this school to be wary of the glowing reviews - Akiba serves primarily as a school for a few gifted children and many others with behavioral and intellectual challenges. The board of the school has been led by parents with questionable motives.
While Akiba seems to do a decent job for elementary students, the middle school is seriously lacking. The teachers are of uneven quality and there appears to be little coordination between faculty leaving the middle schoolers foundering under mounds of homework. Year after year, incidents of bullying arise and yet no serviceable anti-bullying curriculum is implemented. Every year, it is as if the administration is dealing with these issues for the first time. Sadly, the weak administration is too shortsighted to see these failings as systematic. It is no wonder that there is a yearly attrition of secular students (who may have more choices among alternative schools) leaving a very small 8th grade class.
Wow- I'm very surprised that anyone would think that Akiba is not geared towards working with gifted students and helping them reach their full potential. The thing I most love about Akiba is that my gifted child is celebrated and encouraged to excel, both in Secular and Judaic studies. I love that the teachers work with the whole child and celebrate them as individuals. My child never feels out of place for being gifted as I was made to feel. I only wish that I could have attended Akiba as a child.
Akiba-Schechter is an amazing school! My children are alumni and the excellent foundation they received at the school prepared them to excel in high school and ultimately to go to fine universities. More importantly, they have retained their love of learning into adulthood.
Akiba-Schechter is a warm, nurturing environment that allows students to really soar into who they are meant to be--and this is determined by the student. I really value teaching here because the teachers and students actually enjoy each other. Learning is fun and painless--as it's meant to be.
I don't know what the May 31st poster is talking about. My daughter is gifted and working 2, 3 or 4 years above grade level in every subject. Because the school emphasizes an individualized curriculum, students get to work at their own levels. She is thriving. Furthermore, this year the school had students at the National Spelling Bee, the National Geography, the State Science Fair, and the National Bible Competition. Students from Akiba uniformly get into every good high school in the area and thrive. We are fortunate that our daughter has such a wonderful learning environment.