This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Sandy Spring Friends School5
Posted December 18, 2014
- a parent
We have had four children at SSFS in each of the three divisions for the past 5 years. I am a teacher at another area school, and I researched SSFS very thoroughly before sending my kids there. In the past five years, I have watched each if my children grow exponentially as kind and thoughtful friends, engaged and creative thinkers, and committed, caring members of society. I am 100% thrilled with this school and it's consistently excellent teachers, exacting yet creative and developmentally appropriate curriculum, and commitment to service learning and social justice.
Teachers have been there for years and are not current in professional development. The school has a tendency to hire alumni or family of alumni, who teach the way they were taught . Rather than according to standards and practice. There is little oversight and/or guidance for the faculty because there is a shell of administrative support staff. Suddenly this year, the school has linked some of their upper school curricular content directly to the Common Core outcomes, but few of the faculty have the skills to teach the Common Core because they are not required to learn it or keep current in learning theory. I have heard it is because they are trying to get reaccredited. The school has never functioned as a school with an integrated and implemented curriculum at least for the years our kids were there.
Two of our children attended the Lower School at SSFS. We had an inconsistent experience at the school. The pros: the art and music programs, the beautiful campus, the interaction between the divisions (Lower School, Middle School, Upper School), the focus on service to community and the environment and the time spent engaging with nature. The cons: lack of accountability from the teachers, persistent behavior problems in the classes, lack of differentiation in very small classes, weak math and science instruction. The new head of the Lower School has addressed many of these issues and has made changes to the math curriculum and discipline policies, but some of the veteran teachers pay lip service to those changes at best. K and 2nd grade have outstanding faculty and solid teaching and classroom management; other classes are less positive experiences both socially and academically. The parent group is not particularly involved with a small group of parents who contribute a lot of time and energy and a large group who do very little. Classes are small which seems great on the surface but makes it hard for kids to be part of meaningful academic and social groups.
Sandy Spring Friends Middle School. There are many things to love about SSFS, but the middle school has some challenges. The academic quality ranges from outstanding to poor so it can be hit or miss. After years of complaints, nothing has been done about it; the same teachers are kept for whatever reason although many, many parents have complained. ALL of the teachers are good human beings, but some for some, teaching is a challenge! Unfortunately, the head of the middle school prefers appeasing the teachers to addressing concerns of the parents, so the previous feeling of community that was a strong point of the entire school has been diluted. It is a beautiful campus, with many wonderful people who care deeply for the school and its students, but the Middle School program definitely needs some work!
My years at Sandy Spring were a gift that continues to enrich my life. My teachers cared deeply about my success and were also deeply committed to creating a vibrant, nurturing school community. As at any school, there are challenges, but these are offset by the wealth of strong, creative, committed, teachers the school attracts and retains. I got a strong academic grounding that prepared me for college, as well as a lifelong love of the arts and creative expression.
There are many things about Sandy Spring that I love. But there are just as many that I don't. While there are some fabulous teachers in the upper school, there are several that only teach to one style of learning. While the Head o School for the last 12 years WAS fantastic, he retired at the end of last school year. The Head of the Upper School, on the other hand does not follow through with resolving concerns. I guess with any school there will be a hit or miss with getting a good educators, but when you are paying 26 thousand dollars a year, I think more of an effort could be made. My child has been at SSFS for three years and will graduate this year. I can't say it has been worth it.
My son just completed 7th grade at Sandy Spring. We have had a rough ride as far as schools go and have dealt with several schools with financial problems, so he needed a stable, happy place to grow. They blew me away. Teaching is a MISSION at Sandy Spring. Teachers publish home numbers for help at night. Communication is open and teachers want to help your child succeed. Students are open and welcoming. Kids with learning differences are accepted. Why couldn't more schools be this way?