Both my kids went to the DTS, they have some very good teachers there, and yes class sizes are smaller, however, I learned at my youngest first conference in middle school this year that she did not know basic math. How did that happen? Both of my kids struggle with math, and it doesn't help when each school seems to have there own "inovative" way of teaching it. Apparently the DTS didn't teach my daughter the basics and went right into algebra. Her middle school teacher had a plan at least to help her, so she basically has had to relearn math from the beginning so she could understand the basic's they are teaching in her school right now. I was actually shocked and rather disappointed to hear this at her first conferences, especially when her DTS teachers said she was ready for middle school and she'll do fine. Not sure how this school manages to maintain one of the best ratings for a school in DMPS, (most DMPS schools rate VERY poorly), when my daughter didn't know basic math skills going into middle school. I will say they have excellent teachers there (most), however, I have no idea what it is they're teaching. Very concerned about all DMPS school curriculums at this point.
I've been happy with the school so far. My son is a kindergartener. I'm continually impressed by how much the families who have been there love it. We haven't totally "bought in" yet, but I can see the potential.
My daughter was in this school for 6 years, kindergarten through fifth grade. As she grew older, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that I did not know how she was doing considering they do not give grades and do not assign any homework. Only now do I realize the unique means of learning (no textbooks, project based learning) did not work for my child. She is far behind other kids in her middle school, especially in math and science. What a mistake. Now, she has homework and I can interact with her, see if she understands. There was no way to do that before. I know I'm in the minotiry in my opinion, which is why I did not trust my instinct and left my daughter in the school too long.
Wonderful teacher/parent relationship at this school. The teachers are awesome and so dedicated to creating an inspiring, enriching educational atmosphere for the students. The classrooms and structure are very interesting -- classrooms are mixed, with younger and older students learning together. There are no rows of desks. Students sit together in pairs or threesomes at learning tables where they can work independently or collaboratively. Every six to eight weeks, the classes have "culminating events" where parents, grandparents and other family are invited to attend a classroom presentation. Each child gives a short presentation to the group and presents their corresponding artwork. It's a wonderful way for families to participate and see first-hand what their children have learned and created. It's just a wonderful learning environment! We love this school!
I have three children in the school and I do believe there is no other school out there as dedicated to the students as Downtown School is. My children enjoy going there and parents are welcomed to walk in at anytime to visit the school. No appointment needed. The teachers are wonderful and caring. They have more time to work with the students because the class ratio. And the unit studies are a great way for the children to learn.
I followed this school closely prior to having children. The multi-age classrooms, the focus on active learning versus standardized test performance, and the location was very exciting. When our son was in preschool, I considered our neighborhood school and the Downtown School. When our neighborhood school told me they tried not to have more than 25 children per class, I knew that the Downtown School was for us. Our son has really benefited from the small class size (16 students), the extended school year (only 6 weeks off in the summer), and the ability to explore his passions. Volunteer opportunities are readily available and parents are always welcome.
The Downtown School is the premier educational model of the Des Moines School Systems. It does not teach to the test. It teaches children how to learn. The children at the DTS are blessed with small classrooms and hands on learning.
I have a third grade son and now a kindergartener in this school and I have been very pleased with the teacher-student ratio, multi-aged classroom and the hands-on learning approach used. The goal to encourage mentoring among the students in each class and the leadership skills learned has been invaluable. Project based learning has really instilled a love for learning and presenting information has fostered a love for public speaking in a child I would have considered painfully shy when he entered the school as a five year old. I have thoroughly enjoyed the years we have been a part of the Downtown School family.