We have been with the school for six years. This is not a school for every kid. This is a great school for kids that are gifted and self-motivated. Not good for kids who are bright, but not gifted. Not good for kids who need taught organization and discipline. The school has changed very much over the past six years. Mostly, not for the better. We are changing schools next year. Two of my "gifted" students have abysmal standardized test scores and are not learning the basics. I'm not blaming the school, but rather concluded these kids just need a slower pace. Either way, they are being left behind here. I am unhappy with the high teacher turnover, high director turnover and over crowding. It is a good peer environment for gifted/ nerdy kids. I'm still happy with the jr high grades, but not with the lower grades. I see degradation there from the time my oldest was in those grades until now. Too many talented and inspired teaches leave Menlo. I don't want to tell you not to send your kid here, just want you to be aware that this school is not for every kid. Some kids are going to thrive here, others need time and attention that is just not offered.
It's a glorified charter school that found a way to leave out difficult students in order to raise their scores but not actually provide exceptional education. My student, who actually has a high iq score not just some teacher deciding she's gifted, is so bored here. We moved from an area with an actual gifted academy and are so disappointed. We've already begun touring private academies for a mid-year transfer. The gifted label is clearly only used to appease parents desperate for validation and has no actual meaning.
I have been very happy with Menlo Park Academy. My child is both gifted and has learning disabilities associated with Aspergers. Working with the school we have been able to craft an approach that helped him excel academically and, importantly, develop socially and emotionally as well. In another school he may have been shuttled off into a separate Special Ed classroom and his giftedness ignored. At Menlo Park he is integrated and excelling thanks to all the dedicated staff and teachers. It has been three years, and in that time I have seen tremendous growth and positive development in my child due to the nurturing and high quality school environment at Menlo Park Academy. The facilities are marginal, but what matters is the environment inside - top scores here.
We love MPA. Cons: old building, it's too small, too. I have no current complaints about the staff, I'm sad the current director us leaving. The biggest problem I see is the parents. They are all quite demanding of the staff's time and attention, making it harder to focus on the kids. There is also not a fast enough learning pace, but I fear this is due to state laws. Every parent wants their kid accelerated, I do, too. I'm not thrilled that my kids aren't differentiated more. The pros: there is nowhere else where my quirky kids feel loved and accepted. There is nowhere else my kids have true peers. Even when my child was grade skipped in our home district, his asynchronous development was noticeable. At MPA my kids are just like everyone else. At our home district my kids were "problem" kids, and I was getting calls multiple times a week. In the two years at MPA not a single issue requiring my presence at the school. The grade level curriculum is more advanced than same grade curriculum at other schools. A perfect school: more subject acceleration, a bigger building, and employment of a parent-school liaison to deal with the high maintenance parents.
THIS school is not being run in a effective manner. The building is old and falling apart. They keep saying the are looking at new building but you can never get an answer as to the plan for that. The director is almost never there and she stinks at communications. The WHOLE School is SO unorganized not to mention there safety is REALLY lacking. Of course the School is going to have high test score all the students are gifted so the ranking does not give you an idea of the school as a whole. They have a HUGE teacher turn over. Don't let the tuition free fool you either you have to pay $500 a year and every other day they are asking for money and if you can't volunteer 45 hours a year they want more money also. I think the worst part is most parents don't even notice the problems with the school they over look it because they are just happy their child is gifted and in a "Gifted School" I can't even tell you what my child's work is like because nothing gets sent home no matter how many times I ask I never get a answer for anything I just get blown off! My daughter will be back next year and we are already looking for another school.
This is our first year at MPA and so far it has exceeded our expectations. Each classroom is it's own specialized environment created by its students. There is a very specific curriculum that each grade level follows however creativity and inquisitive personalities are very much encouraged here. Since the students share many of the same interests and traits, a comradery is seen among them. Menlo Park offers an amazing environment for a gifted child to thrive in. The teachers and directors understand their students emotional and academic needs which enables them to succeed at their highest level. Most of the parents are also very involved in volunteering in areas that are needed so the school can continue to thrive for many years to come.
My son has attended Menlo for 2 years, starting with kindergarten. His first year was frought with issues, including the aggressive behavior (bullying) by other boys. The school was dismissive of the bullying events, and seemed clueless and completely ill-prepared to deal with the behavioral/social/emotional issues of its students; which by the way are all FAR more present in the "gifted" subset of children. We ended first grade with my "gifted" son not performing at grade level! I believe this was the result of the school doing a fine job with curriculum acceleration, but being incapable of addressing indiviual learning styles that may differ from the "stereotypical" gifted kid. As result, our family is spending our summer trying to catch-up and plan to change schools in the fall. My take on the school is that it is a great "concept" but is lacking some of the fundamentals that are necessary to insure its success. They need better policies and support services to address the unique behavioral and emotional needs of these gifted kids...the teachers are not equipped to handle difficult children on their own, nor should they be expected to.
This is a great school concept...great community, curriculum and, for the most part, great teachers. I do, however, have great concerns about the survival of this school as the school board is completely inept and refuses to acknowledge their short comings and utilize their resources....very very reactive, not at all proactive, which is not a good ingredient for a successful long-term run.
My daughter has attended three different public schools & shadowed at various private schools, & has never found an environment as nurturing, stimulating, & challenging as that provided by this school. At Menlo, she is exposed to: 1). lively classroom discussions that always inspire further inquiry at home, 2). monthly field trips, 3).a multitude of independent research projects, 4). and a Singapore math program that has rigorously prepared her (a 10 yr. old) to perform at an 8th grade level. Despite the academic rigor, she can still manage to gush about one "amazing" and "fun" day after another. Yes, the teachers are that impassioned & inspiring and the curriculum is that creative. There are many strong reasons why this school has such a long waiting list & why so many parents will make the sacrifice & commute 2 hrs./day so that their children can attend. My daughter sees the school now as her extended family. Here, she is not afraid to be a nerd, because every individual talent & eccentricity is celebrated and supported with great sensitivity--from the mildly gifted to the one 1st grader, who in a flash of flying fingers, could easily bust any adult at solving the Rubyk's Cube.