My husband and I often talk about what an outstanding teacher our son has at Quest. Here are just a couple recent examples:
My son had been struggling with reading. It caught us by surprise. Even more so, it caught HIM by surprise. And the classic gifted child perfectionism/fixed mindset stuff all came to the fore. At home, he was resisting reading. He was saying, "I can't read" a lot. We were keeping things upbeat, but we just weren't getting through. Then his teacher, Mrs. Skwirut, performed an assessment of him and saw he'd regressed since the holiday break. And so she had a discussion with him about it. I do not know what she said to him. I do not know if magic potions were involved. All I know is, my child went from hating reading (and ready frustration) to being on fire to improve. His shift in attitude was remarkable. He also readily agreed to use his precious 20 minutes of daily screen time at home to play educational reading games Mrs. Skwirut recommended. (Seriously, he gave up his beloved video games to find sight words.) And then, two weeks later, we get an email from Mrs. Skwirut saying our son read an entire page from a magazine aloud to his class. This is huge! Major progress. Mrs. Skwirut reports she almost cried. My husband's almost crying. I am in a puddle. And it all goes back to whatever Mrs. Skwirut said to our child. The connection she's built with him. And the way she "gets" him in the most positive sense.
And then there's Valentine's Day. Until Quest, our son never really liked school. Or teachers. This from a kid who loves to learn, a kid who falls asleep at night talking about electrical circuits or dwarf planets or the ethics of the death penalty (please, don't ask how we got on that one). Fast forward to the last few nights as my son lay in bed planning the valentine he wanted to make for Mrs. Skwirut. "Mom, we need to find a sign that says 'I love you to pieces,' okay? Because, mom, I LOVE Mrs. Skwirut! And mom, how many raffle tickets can we buy, because I really, really want to win Mrs. Skwirut's raffle, mom."
It's hard to describe just what it means to see these kinds of changes in your child, but we are very grateful for them, for all the faculty at Quest and most of all for Mrs. Skwirut and the amazing difference she's making in our child's life.
Quest is an amazing school. Class sizes are small (no more than 16 students per class). The curriculum is a minimum of one year ahead of a normal public school's curriculum and all students have math class at the same time, which enables children who are significantly advanced to have their math classes with children in a higher grade. The curriculum is known for its depth and its integration across many subject areas. For example, while second graders are learning about Native Americans in social studies, they may also be performing Native American music in their music class and/or creating Native American art in their art class.
As wonderful as the academics are at Quest, the arts do not take a back seat. In addition to the music and art classes, everyone (even at the youngest ages) also takes drama with an amazing drama teacher. There are a variety of performances throughout the year, in which members of all grades participate.
Quest has a formal Character Education program and twice per year students take the day off from school to perform a variety of community service projects.
Quest also has a number of excellent extracurricular activities as part of its after-school program, ranging from Lego Robotics to Chess Club (with a Grand Master!) to Scholastic Bowl to Minecraft, to various musical instrument lessons. The Quest sports program (beginning in 5th grade) has a no-cut policy so anyone who wants to play can play.
In closing, our son has had a wonderful experience at Quest Academy. We cannot imagine him going to school anywhere else and sending him to Quest was the best decisiohave ever made.
We are a new parent at Quest, so far we have been really pleased with activities and varieties of subjects offered such as computer science, drama, science, character building, music, etc. The Proud Head of School, teachers and staff members are all very supportive of new parents. The safety procedure at the school is very throughout. There are also faculty weekly updates to help us stay connected with my son's progress. I am happy with our choice, our son is becoming more independent and most importantly, being challenged each day so each day is well spent.
As a teacher Quest Academy affords me the ability to teach at the highest level. Our curriculum is challenging, but this school truly strives to help students understand who they are as learners and as individuals. My son started in fifth grade, and it was like night and day. Before I had to check his assignments and make sure he filed his papers in the right spot. He struggled to work in groups and lacked focus. When I asked him what he liked best about Quest, he said: "I'm challenged." His teacher even said that he was a wonderful group leader because he was engaged and worked so well with others. Never was this said before.
The teachers are what make this school. They are beyond extraordinary and are passionate about the needs of every student. They provide the most creative hands-on learning experience for the whole child while integrating a highly advanced academic curriculum.
There may have been a time when Quest was truly for gifted children. Unfortunately, the school has evolved, probably in an effort to survive financially. To be blunt, it seems they will now take almost any reasonably bright kid who has the ability to pay.
Just as an example of this change, they used to include the IQ score as a minimum requirement for admission. It was a modest 125 (95th percentile). This is a standard cut-off score for many gifted schools and programs. But now, even this minimal requirement has been removed from their website. Kids still have to take the test, but there are no longer any officially posted cut-off scores.
We did well here for a couple of years, but it became clear that a huge number of students were being tutored. This includes kids as young as preschool and pre-k getting rigorous tutoring outside of school! We slowly realized that this school was no longer for highly gifted children with unique educational needs. This school was really for kids of wealthy and highly competitive parents.
This is all fine, I suppose - but it was not the gifted education environment we were looking for. We've actually discovered better accommodations in a local public school. Keep in mind, many local school districts have average MAP scores in the high 90s. 95-99th percentile kids are the norm, not the exception in many local schools. Content-wise, Barrington schools (for instance) have standard curriculum that is advanced about one year beyond national norms... So somethign that Quest likes to point out as special about their curriculum can be had for "free" at local public schools.
The positives are that the class sizes are very small. This is a huge plus for certain kids that might get overwhelmed (or lost in the mix) in a larger classroom setting that you find at public schools. There are several outstanding and dedicated teachers. The buildings are nice, classrooms kept clean and organized. There are some really nice families, including a handful that are "down to earth". But, again, the prevailing culture is parents who push their kids very hard, spend money on tutors to try to give their kids a "leg up."
The school was OK but far from the gifted utopia we had envisioned.
I’d like to recommend Quest Academy to parents that have a highly gifted child and feel their public education will not be adequate to allow your child to fully blossom into his or her full potential.
In a meeting with our son Jacob’s first grade teacher it was brought to our attention that he was quite advanced for his class. When reviewing his math MAP, standardized scores, he placed in 99% for our district. After meeting with his principal we discovered that public schools just don’t have programs for gifted children. It seems public schools key on programs for “none left behind” but do to budgets have dropped true gifted programs.
We researched several options for gifted programs in Illinois, including us optionally moving to Chicago. Jacob tested and did get through Chicago with an invitation to join their regional gifted center. Even though Chicago does offer best high schools, which Jacob would be guaranteed a spot, we decided Chicago was not our best choice due to having to stay with “Core Standards” of a public school.
We decided on Quest Academy because during our interview process and shadow days we, including Jacob, felt people working there really made a difference, they really do make you feel like part of a family.
Moving forward one year. Jacob just finished his first year at Quest and will be in third grade next year. I can tell you with 100% certainty we made a great decision. His growth emotionally and friends he’s made just can’t be put into words. His achievement results are remarkable. It is so wonderful to wake up every day and have my son tell me how he wants to get to school early and tell me every evening on way home everything he did during day.
On Sunday, our 3rd grade daughter Prairie participated in the Bharathanatiyam dance performance. We feel so fortunate that she was able to learn an ancient cultural art form at Quest.
Ms. Chitra Nair went to great lengths to make Prairie, as the only non-Indian child, feel welcome and included in her afterschool program. Ms. Nair helped Prairie learn about aspects of Indian culture by sharing biographies and other Indian books with her. In fact, Prairie taught our whole family about Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian origin in space.
The other parents in the Bharathanatiyam program were wonderfully inclusive too. Bharathanatiyam dancers wear tradition ankle bells called "gangaroos" and we did not own any. The other mothers in the program gave Prairie sets of gangaroos and gold-colored bangles as gifts so she will have her own set for future performances. This was a truly lovely and generous gesture!
I’m grateful to Quest Academy for its support of this Cultural programming at school and for the school’s commitment to helping reflecting the diversity of the greater community. It's important to us that our daughter attends a diverse school and becomes a multi-lingual person who can thrive in and appreciate cultures other than her own.
Prairie plans to study Hindi at Quest in the Fall. We also plan to take advantage of the availability of Mandarin language classes.
Rebecca Fyffe and Vito Brancato