This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Baker Demonstration School5
Posted December 17, 2014
- a parent
Baker is an amazingly close school community. I have children in second and fourth grades and I would say that almost every adult in the building knows them by name. Not only do the faculty and administration make an extraordinary effort to know every child, but this sense of community is fostered among the students as well. It is fairly common that an eighth grade student will greet either one of my children by name and have a conversation with them. This feeling of closeness and the trust it creates between students and teachers and students and their peers has an immense impact on learning. My children are not afraid to take risks, they embrace their creativity and passions, they don't worry about trying new things and possibly failing, they are able to be self-advocates and to ask for help without fear that they might look dumb. This environment frees them to truly love learning and to challenge themselves without hesitation. This is why we believe that Baker provides and exceptional educational experience.
Baker leaves a lot to be desired! All three of my children are performing at below grade level because of a lack of educational integrity at this school. Please look closely before you pay for this school. Many children require tutors to keep advancing. We agree, buyer beware!!!
Our children all attended Baker and our experience with the school spans from PreK to 8th grade. Each section has tremendous strength. While not every day was perfect, the vast majority of teachers "got" each of the kids and their learning styles, personal strengths and weaknesses which allowed the kids to be kids and learn what they need to know to succeed. I am not talking about "special services" for a learning challenged child, I am talking about meeting each kid - smart, middle of the road or otherwise - at the place they are to allow them to grow and succeed. The classes were small and the friendships forged were life long. Our kids moved on to New Trier where they were very successful in such a differently structured environment. Middle school prepared them for the rigor and their years at baker prepared them as thinkers and leaders. Our HS son recently wrote at paper on educational philosophies and schools. He thanked us for sending him to Baker after he studied other schools in Chicago and the North Shore (both private and public). He and his NT classmates agreed that Progressive Education at Baker better prepares students for HS (and life).
For the last 7 years our daughter has found in Baker an exceptionally caring and nurturing environment that embraces her as an individual, fosters her creativity, and has made her love to learn. As parents, we have found in Baker the personalized attention, academic rigor and results that make us realize we were right to choose Baker over public school. The best part about the school is that while our daughter is excelling academically, she also has access to robust arts and physical education programs, and is being taught by teachers who also value and foster social-emotional growth. This all contributes to what we believe is a very unique educational experience for which we are extremely grateful.
I have two children attending Baker school in grades 1 and 2 and I can say that for the first time, they love going to school every day. They are challenged, stimulated and educated in ways that allow them to learn at their ability level, which appears to be very high... and also to tend to their individual interests. Daily swimming in the school's indoor pool and PE gives them athletic and team sport education together with creative art and music departments. They create colonial families of their own to understand American history; have created butterfly atriums in the centre of the classroom to understand evolution and science... create their own businesses to experience math and business management. They learn through experience and creative expression. There is also a strong emphasis on reading, vocab and understanding not only mathematical equations but why and how they attain the right answers. I can only account for early years, but it is definitely the right school for children that are explorative, inquisitive creative and want to understand the why and how not just the formulae!
Baker is an amazing place, an oasis in a sea of schools trapped in the teach-to-the-test, less arts and PE trends so prevalent in schools these days. We've had two children at Baker for the past 8 years, one about to graduate, so we have been through the ups and downs as the school found its equilibrium after going independent. Some of challenges Baker faces are what I'd call high-class problems: ensuring parents fully understand the progressive mission of the school, demonstrating how well graduates perform in high school (very well indeed), and balancing the need for teacher autonomy with curricular oversight. But make no mistake: the vast majority of parents I have spoken to in my 8 years at Baker are passionate advocates of the school, whose kids are actually glad to come to school every day. Both my kids' classes have several transplants from local public schools where they were not challenged enough, not truly seen by their teachers, not asked to dig in and learn vs. memorize, and not understood and respected for who they were. I thank my lucky stars every day that my kids are at Baker, taught by these wonderful teachers and surrounded by such an extraordinary community.
Ah Baker -- so much potential, so much disappointment. Bottom line is that too often, Baker does not deliver what it promises in terms of progressive practices and academic excellence. Teachers have neither adequate support in nor oversight of their classrooms. Yes, Baker has many excellent teachers skilled in progressive practice and who really care about their students. If you're lucky, your child lands in one of their classes and has a phenomenal experience. However, pockets of academic mediocrity persist throughout the school. The lack of consistency in curriculum noted by many reviewers is real and quite stunning, especially in the middle school, where for the most part, one teacher is IT for his or her subject for 6-8 grades.. When a teacher who has developed a strong curriculum leaves, that curriculum vanishes with the teacher, sometimes to disastrous effect. Most families seem happy with the early childhood experience but as kids progress through the grades, more and more parents become disillusioned with the school. I know many parents who are gritting their teeth writing those big tuition checks, just "sticking it out" until their kids graduate. Look hard before you come.
BE CAREFUL! At the end of first grade I was worried abut my child's reading (or lack there of). I decided to have him tested independently and found out the issues were much worse than I thought. I brought my specialists and their reports to a meeting with school administration. All Baker could offer for academic support (weekly) was 60 minutes of group reading support (the recommendation was 120 minutes individual support) and zero speech and language (recommended was 60 minutes weekly). Baker admins sat in that meeting and told me they would turn my child away if they could not meet his needs and yet they cannot even do half of what was recommended by experts and now it is too late to pull him out for this year. So we are THRILLED to be scraping by financially to pay for a school that can't give my child the resources he needs to be successful as a student. BUYER BE WARE!!!!!!!!
We could not be happier with the experience our daughters' have had at Baker. This is a truly progressive school, where education is about meeting the WHOLE child where she is an leading her forward from there. I applaud the school's ability to assist children with social and personal growth as well as intellectual. As middle-class Chicago parents, we were nervous choosing a school with a North Shore address, but Baker is also a dynamic, diverse community of parent's from all over. I could not imagine a better place for our kids to grow.
My children have loved attending Baker Demonstration School. One of them is now in high school and succeeding at every turn. Because of Baker's emphasis on really learning, not just memorizing facts, he feels he is quite ahead of many of his classmates who are working for a grade instead of working to learn new and interesting facts and processes. My kids have especially enjoyed the math curriculum and the arts offerings. The advisory program in the middle school creates a well-balanced, community-oriented student body. Every child is important and at the same time, every group of children is important, too. Teachers go the extra mile to teach and coach the children. If you want your child to succeed in life and be a well-rounded person, Baker is the place for you. We have never regretted our choice (or our commute) to send our children to Baker.