This school is nothing short of a disaster. I strongly urge anyone considering sending their child to Calhoun to reconsider. My child attend until grade 7. He was completely lacking in basic skills. I was told at the end of a semester that my child missed more than half the homework assignments. Their concept of progressive education is a joke. The school approaches progressive education like a religious zealot. Fast forward a few years and we are still feeling the after effects of no skill development in the early years of learning. Please avoid this school.
My daughter started in the 3's program and is now in 5th grade. By the end of 4th grade, she was well into 7-8th grade books (an avid reader) and working on pre-algebra problems. She did not learn to read in Kindergarten and has never received a single tutoring lesson. I do not check her homework (yes there is homework!) since I prefer teachers see what mistakes she makes and where she needs extra help. I am happy with her progress irrespective of where same grade students at other school are at. Yes, the school isn't perfect (is there any?) and I do believe it is a school for self motivated children. But she is extremely happy and well adjusted. She loves school so much she insists on arriving by 8am every day! Regarding diversity, about 40% of my current pre-schooler's class are non-white/caucasian, a surprise given pre-schools tend to reflect the neighborhood demographics.
Some of these reviews are harsh. If there were a legitimate Calhoun website forum for parents to freely (without censorship) post questions/comments, there would less public negativity. And fewer disenfranchised parents. (Isn't that the spirit of "community"?) The "open door policy" doesn't suit working parents. It suits the school. No door is open at 9:00PM, when I have the opportunity to address school issues.
Calhoun stands apart only via Calhoun logic. Diverse compared to Dalton? Brearly? Not REMOTELY compared to any NY public school. Markers like happiness are subjective, not alternatives to things like consistent, effective teaching. Superior character? Surely not among the Admin. It s an arrogant claim. College acceptance the same or higher, says who? Controlling for what? How many traditional private-school kids receive as much dirty secret tutoring as those at Calhoun? Such comments do indeed say something about parent beliefs! Remaining among many frustrated families at a smug, unresponsive school unwilling to engage (AKA listen to ) parents, and being too lazy/frightened to re-locate your kid says a lot too. We support progressive ed. Yes, six hours of homework/crazy test pressure isn t good. But neither is Calhoun. Crowing high ideals can t disguise muddled teaching championed by a useless PA and tone-deaf admin. Far better compromises exist. The child we transferred remains as happy as before, but challenged. Transferring him out was harder for him and us. For now. But school isn t day camp, and it ll be easier for the rest of his life. Very disappointed.
As a Calhoun parent I am saddened but not surprised by some of the recent comments here. Calhoun is an exceptional school in every way that stands apart from any school in NYC in many important ways. It is a diverse student body with many different types of students and this is part of what makes it special - it is not the high stress approach that one finds throughout the so-called "elite" schools in NYC. The level of happiness, satisfaction, curiosity and character that is in evidence from students and staff when you walk in the building is something that you won't find to this degree anywhere else. Yes, it is a different method than the pressure, drill and test routine, but in the end the rate of graduates getting into their first choice college is just the same or higher than any of the more "traditional" schools in town but with a difference. The Calhoun kids are creative, considerate, well adjusted and most of all, happy; ready to become serious contributors to society without many of the traumas that the pressure cooker schools seem to have to deal with regularly. Is it perfect? No. But the comments here are much more about the parents writing in than this wonderful school.
Calhoun is a wonderful "learning experiment." Our child is now in a "real" school, where other parents whose kids were able to "escape" Calhoun chuckle knowingly. "We made it! We got out!" Interestingly, while Calhoun considers and represents itself a peer to other progressive schools like Trevor and Fieldston, no one anywhere in academia seriously regards Calhoun. No standards, no performance metrics... Sure there's no pressure! Because so little is expected of the kids, little is demanded of the teachers, who are wildly inconsistent: some great, some really poor. If only leadership were as focused on learning as on fund-raising and "defending the faith."
Calhoun is great for two kinds of students and one kind of parent: students who are either "different" in some way (needing a more support), and those who are highly self-motivated (and would do well anywhere). For the 30% of the students between - "normal" kids elsewhere - Calhoun evidences little productive "progressive education" (i.e. kids are taught. barely), preferring instead to "compress their needs to the median." "They all learn eventually!" the excuse for lazy teaching. Many parents pay for outside tutoring. The administration "actively ignores" parent feedback. Teachers are erratic; some great, many not. internally polarized. Many parents evidence odd, cultish devotion, many others trying to get their kids out. ("Testing = 'bad' means kids cannot test-out; the "Calhoun Trap!") Head-of-school handsome, eloquent, charismatic, completely internally-focused and self-rationalizing. Literally ignores everything but praise. Most kids and families lovely. Disorganized, vaguely-competent Administration is delighted with its own "specialness" rather than the real challenges of teaching diverse children, all of them, according to their needs. Great school for "different" kids.
The previous reviews were spot on... there is a real lack of guidance and curriculum particularly in the early grades that is disguised as 'progressive philosophy' and lazy teaching explained away as 'letting children find their own interests.' For example, if a child wants to play with trains all day, he will be left alone to do so and not - or barely - encouraged to participate in any other activity (verbatim from a conversation I had with an administrator). Even if your child is bright and independent, I feel like the lack of structure and guidance hurts more than it helps. We left before Kindergarten because we didn't see any learning at all this past year (neither soft skills - art, music, etc. nor hard skills - letters, numbers). The Head of School, I think, comes across as somewhat pretentious and seems more interested in bringing big names ($ donors, fundraisers, famous people) to the school than 'average' families which syncs with their very low diversity and financial aid record. He is very well spoken though and will definitely win you over to the progressive philosophy given a chance; unfortunately, the philosophy doesn't carry over into practice often.
We had our child in this school for several years and I cannot stress how disappointed we were with the education he received. The quest to be different and progressive has become cult like and there is little to no emphasis on providing a child with the foundation necessary to be a successful learner. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to be able to get our child out of this school. I would strongly discourage any parent from enrolling their child in this school unless they are a highly independent learner.