This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
The Ideal School & Academy5
Posted November 28, 2014
- a parent
I am happy to see this school grow and expand. They have been challenging my children in every grade over the last 5 years. I really like the arts, dance, and focus on whole child. They will be adding a high school next year and now have 2 buildings. I hear great things from parents in the middle school - great teachers, International Baccalaureate Diploma expected for high school graduates. They start technology in the early grades and, from what I see, they really have kids doing hands-on challenging work. LOVE the teachers and focus on social justice curriculum.
While reading the previous reviews of the IDEAL School, I have noticed that both the positive and negative aspects of the school are true to an extent. Unfortunately, the negatives definitely outweigh the positives here. The turnover rate for both students AND teachers is exceptionally high. The school has recently decided to move to a building that is an accessible space for students with physical limitations (ie. elevator, PT gym, handicapped bathrooms), which is wonderful for those in need. However, the school lacks teachers and staff with remotely enough training to effectively work with this population. When my child attended the school there was not even a school nurse, which I found quite troubling (especially due to all the very specific needs of IDEAL's students). While it sometimes seems as if there are few options for students with significant special needs, I would recommend looking elsewhere before spending a great deal of money on IDEAL.
I can't say enough good things about IDEAL. Our son is in the middle school and thriving. The teachers are exemplary, the school is visionary, and the education is topnotch for our very bright child. He is taught not only academics but also ethics, compassion, and how to be a good, decent, compassionate person. The school is insulated from the competitiveness and entitlement of many NYC privates, but still provides first-rate learning. We plan to keep him in the school through high school and we know that he will be well prepared for the demands of college. A rare treasure in NYC. See it for yourself and you will agree!
Ideal School is a remarkable place that is a social experiment as well as a fabulous setting to learn. It is the only inclusive independent school in Manhattan and, as such, has something for almost everyone. For children with special needs (my son), he has had the opportunity to learn from typical peers. I am equally impressed by what the typical kids get out of being in a setting where they learn appreciation and respect for those who are different. Since each child's learning is individualized, all students at the school are working at a level where they are challenged but also have opportunities to succeed. The teachers we've had are amazing: patient, resourceful, talented, creative and the ratio of children to staff is almost 2:1 so there is always somebody to work with and look out for your child. It is untrue that Ideal has a higher-than-average turnover or that the staff is unhappy. Teachers we know report being gratified by the high quality of faculty development and warm community. Families at the school are friendly and welcoming, and-in keeping of school philosophy-very accepting of differences in ability and behavior. We could not find a better school for our son.
We have had our child at IDEAL for six years and couldn't be happier. It's everything we could have asked and more as an educational institution and second home for our child. Our child is gifted, but has mild learning differences and sensory issues, and the school has been great at differentiating for him, allowing him to bloom in areas of strength, and supporting him in his areas of weakness. Some of the most extraordinary individuals I've ever met teach at the school and they are fantastic mentors and role models as well as great teachers. The school educates the whole child and does a wonderful job of teaching not only academics but also ethics, social skills, and life skills. The student body is diverse- not only racially/ethnically but also socio-economically- and there isn't an ounce of snootiness or exclusiveness here. The school has a warm, welcoming, friendly vibe while still being rigorous and setting high expectations for its students. It's structured but nurturing, and has a wealth of great afterschool options. The PE program is topnotch, as are music, art, & dance. A strong drama program is the only thing missing, but they are working to add it. A GEM!
Our child (with special needs) has been at IDEAL school almost from the beginning. It is a relatively new school and continues to get better each year. We cannot imagine a better program for our child. HIs curriculum is individualized, the teachers are nurturing yet still challenge him appropriately, the children are kind and completely accepting of one another. We've had fantastic teachers and great experiences with the administration. We have met a few disgruntled parents like the ones below over the years who, in our opinion, seemed to have completely unrealistic expectations of any school, but, fortunately, those parents have left! That is the only so-called "bleeding" we've noticed. It is a joyous place where the kids love learning.
Our child attended IDEAL because of developmental challenges, though none related to learning. Ideal claims differentiated instruction but we saw no evidence of this for our child. Turnover among teachers is huge and the school lacks the admin to ensure even instruction quality. While some faculty are AMAZING! others are surprisingly inept. Communication among parents, teachers and administrators is severely lacking. Our child was in the Zenith program (which costs $58K a year) and with this the school claims to offer ongoing assessment. After receiving little feedback for months, our inquiries regarding our child's progress or even basic questions about curriculum were either ignored or met with a surprising hostility for having persistently asked for information. Towards the end of the school year, feedback finally revealed that our child had regressed academically during the year, and shocking, the teachers blamed our child's regression on the very developmental issues that brought us to the school to begin with. One reviewer said the school bleeds special needs kids sadly, we know first hand why. We withdrew our child after one year.
There are essentially two populations at Ideal--special needs kids whose parents are wealthy and can afford the $60K to $100K tuition (or enough money to hire lawyers to sue the DOE for reimbursement), and underprivileged, neurotypical kids who attend Ideal on scholarship (largely subsidized by the wealthy families of sn kids who want their children to attend school with "normal kids.") This is a fine model--except it doesn't work for most sn kids. In order to be cost effective, the school hires the cheapest teachers and staff--turnover is huge. So called experts at the school simply do not have the credentials or background to support the wide range of special needs kids at the school. Parents of scholarship kids typically LOVE Ideal--but it is the sn kids (the very children the school was founded to support) that get the shaft. If you are a parent of a special needs kid and are looking at this school--be forewarned. The school will never share with prospective parents the true turnover rate for these students, but as a parent of a former sn student, I know it is exceptionally high. The school simply does not provide a supportive educational environment for these children.
This is my son's third year at this school and WE could not be happier. This is a school that practices inclusion and diversity within the student population and staff, and doesn't just talk about it. Every child benefits from this model and more schools should model it. Yes, the school has had growing pains, (it's fairly new - 10 years this year) but that's expected when trying to perfect the model and keep to the mission while the school continues to grow and expand. The administration values and considers parents' suggestion each year as to how to improve in different areas as well. The teachers at IDEAL are top notch (each summer, a bio of any new staff member is sent out) and, the staff truly differentiates their manner of teaching between the students, not just in the core subjects but in art, music, dance, physical education, etc. The academics are rigorous and help is always available for those who may need it outside of regular class or school hours. Go tour IDEAL and experience how phenomenal it is for yourself. There's a reason that it's now an accredited school and is a candidate for the International Baccalaureate Program for 6th - 10th grade.
My daughter has a slight learning disability and went to a great private school on the UWS with a rigorous academic program. She managed, with extra work and tutoring, but by 5th grade it was clear that she couldn't keep up. She fell behind, her self-confidence disappeared, and she started to hate school. We were lucky to get a spot at Ideal and changed in the middle of the school year. Not an easy thing to do when you are an 11-year old girl, but it was the best thing we could have done! She was embraced both by teachers and classmates, and within weeks her self-confidence was back and she loved going to school again. The teaching is done at her level, with enough challenge to get to the next level, the individual attention is amazing, and there is real diversity and acceptance of differences. They are starting to implement the IB programme to add a global perspective, and have a great creative arts program. The amount of homework is manageable, and leaves time after school for other interests. I could not be happier with the school and more importantly, my daughter is happy and motivated and her love for learning has returned.