The middle school at Carolina Friends School is a mixed bag. What they do well: Adviser Groups - 5th-8th graders come together weekly to discuss topics and foster community, Peer Mentors - 8th graders are paired with 5th graders, and Exploratoriums - Specialty classes offered during the last 3 weeks of school. CFS' focus on the social aspect of middle school is admirable. Students still grapple with all the normal middle school "stuff," but teachers seem well equipped and interested in handling it. What baffles me that they don't improve: Academics - Expectations aren't terribly high. The framework is there, they just don't raise the bar. Class descriptions go into great depth, but the actual learning is typically more shallow. Sports - They have a wonderful blurb on their website about competition; I agree with it wholeheartedly. Yet, there is little commitment to teaching sports properly. They have more games than practices and don't have an organized way of dealing with the number of students that want to play. It's not about winning or loosing for me, but it is about learning the game.
I would not recommend CFS at all. It has a reputation in the community for being academically weak and now having many years of experience there, I know it to be true. The school is most adept at skilled mission statements, but they do not have the personnel nor the administrative leadership to make their platitudes a reality. They are excellent at "feel good" community vibes, but when parents are waiting for a drama performance, for example, they talk about exasperation at having to re-teach each day's lesson to the kids. Kids lack fundamentals in education. Period. Teachers are given too much power/credit and are not held to the scrutiny that they would find at other schools. The school is also not immune to common interpersonal issues found at other schools - bullying, scams, physical harm, self harm, etc. The leadership in the middle school is particularly poor. The administration has an ethic that the school and the teachers are beyond reproach and while there are few sweet old souls there, this ethic leads to a myriad of problems. Very adept at marketing and trying to say the right things to enhance the bottom line, but otherwise just a mediocre school.
CFS has been a second home to me. I have been going there since I was three years old and I am happy to say that I have been challenged and supported everyday. The Teachers are there for you in every way possible especially academically and Socially. Everyone there loves the community and wants it to grow. The teacher relationship is amazing and the want you to and will go to great lengths to make sure you do well. It is a rigorous academic program during through high school as long as you choose classes that prepare your for success. I would never want to go anywhere else
Our daughters have attended CFS from the time they were 3. One is now at Stanford, getting an MS in Engineering; one is a senior at CFS. CFS's non-graded system does not impede students applying to good colleges. Colleges are familiar w/ the system of using teacher evaluations rather than letter grades & accept these comprehensive reports as evidence of student performance. In fact colleges receive a more complete picture of CFS students, which works in their favor. CFS is academically rigorous & students are encouraged to do their very best. Those who take the AP tests score very well. Each year CFS sends students to Governor's School; seniors are accepted to fabulous colleges. I am grateful to CFS for teaching my children to love learning, rather than to perform on a test. CFS encourages students to look inward and know themselves; values service to others & promotes a sense of community; fosters learning through various modes of intelligence & at a comfortable pace, & values the goodness in each child. The Senior Class's mission statement is, "Be kind. Mix it up. Support & learn from each other. Challenge yourself & others to be creative & unique." Thanks, CFS!
I have been constantly impressed with the quality of my children's education at Carolina Friends School Early and Lower school. As an education professional, I feel confident saying that the academic curriculum is top-notch. NO school is perfect for every child, but parents who have been unhappy during my children's time here have incredibly unrealistic expectations and perhaps are also unwilling to hear that their child has learning and/or behavior differences. My children's teachers are current on the research in their areas, undergo frequent professional development, and are truly concerned with the social, emotional, and cognitive development of their students. The arts, engineering, technology, and creative thinking skills are large parts of the curriculum. The community is incredible. I truly believe that CFS is one of the best places in the region for nurturing 21st century thinkers.
I would not recommend CFS High School unless your child in unable to achieve in an academic challenging curriculum. The CFS Narrative evaluation and NO Grades and No GPA will only damage an academically strong student possibilities of gaining access to a first tier colleges and college scholarship no a non-liberal arts school! CFS does not offer an accumulative GPA that makes it impossible for a CFS student to compete for college scholarships cross the academic board.
Very disappointed with the CFS. It has taken a year for my child to recover from the bad experience at CFS Lower School. I have heard that the Middle and Upper Schools are better. My child fell through the cracks at CFS though academically gifted and was not taught much of anything academically. There was a reliance on workbooks of the most unimaginative kind. Each year they declared a focus area for the year but there was little follow through with that focus. The teachers bungle their way through Spanish pronunciation each morning. Teachers sent out emails to parents with spelling and grammar errors. (This is a minor point but symptomatic of lack of excellence). Lower School leadership was weak - big on "feel good" stuff though. Many, many parents have hired tutors to fulfill the academic side of CFS students' learning. Lastly, teachers and administration pay more attention to their own sense of community rather than creating real community and support with families. There were several times when I offered meaningful input to the school and this was not welcome or encouraged. We just pay the bills and bake cupcakes when needed. Many other families jumped ship in same time frame.
My son attended CFS from kindergarten through Middle School (8th grade). He made the choice to switch to East Chapel Hill HS, a top-rated public school, for a wider set of academic and social choices. He is flourishing there in all Honors courses because of the great preparation he got at CFS. We are all still in love with CFS and recommend it most highly to anyone.
Carolina Friends School is giving my boys a wonderful education, not only academically and physically, but in being responsible, kind and global citizens. The teachers know and love my kids almost as much as I do and is instilling in them a wonderful sense of self respect.