It's great - until it's terrible. We had kids in all 3 levels but have now pulled them. Lower: can be great - if you get one of the (many) wonderful teachers. Middle: some good teachers but has become increasingly rigid with a negative vibe; there is no flexibility in the (very dated) curriculum and kids who are not in lock-step (whether they are ahead, behind, or sideways) are NOT welcomed. The head of the Middle school is surprisingly rigid and hostile; even the teachers and support staff seem afraid of her. Upper: little innovation, and they rely on wealthy exchange students (who for the most part remain in their own clique and aren't required to speak English when other students are present) to pad their numbers. The Upper school head seems well-intentioned but gets overruled by the Head of school. All levels require an enormous amount of homework despite evidence that it is not useful and in the Middle/Upper schools there are lots of lectures, with self-directed learning almost nonexistent. FSS seems to be becoming just an extremely expensive prep school that happens to have a Quaker name. We also encountered almost every situation described in the 1-2 star reviews below.
We are delighted to be part of the Friends Select community. Our older child is about to begin her third year at the school and our younger could not be more excited about starting kindergarten this fall. We love that the school devotes as much attention to providing a strong social curriculum (emphasizing Quaker values throughout) and not just a top notch academic program. FSS uses the city (especially but not just Center City) as a classroom in a way unrivaled by other local schools (Independent and otherwise). This multi-sensory, no walls approach to learning impacts the way my daughter interacts with her environment and makes her a more engaged person. Don't expect an emphasis on rote learning and worksheets at FSS; do expect that the teachers and administration will help you raise creative (love the arts program!), caring, inquisitive kids who love to learn in an atmosphere that is inclusive, supportive, and always interesting.
We are mid-way through our child's second year and we love this school more every day. The teachers that she has had have been wonderful and really centered around developing the whole child. They are certainly preparing the kids academically, but much more significant is the focus on developing their social skills and their capacity to resolve their own conflicts (with support from their teachers and the administration). Everyone really knows our child---her teachers get her. And we love it that, at the end of the school year, the current grade's teachers get together with the next grade's to figure out good placement---not academic tracking--but based on making sure that classes have a good mix, balance of extroverts and introverts, and to break up some cliques and foster other friendships. The other thing we really appreciate is the "book buddy" system: older Lower School kids are buddied up to read and pair off on trips with younger LS kids. This helps the little ones feel more connected and boosts the self esteem of the older ones. All this, and great academics, a pool, a fabulous After School Program, and receptive teachers and administrators make the school great.
Go somewhere else! This is our 3rd year. To be honest, We had a great experience our first year. We had no reason to interface with the administration, so we had a reasonably good impression of them. They seemed Ike nice people. In our second year, we had a number of issues. We are not complainers - these issues were serious. The administration did not listen to us and did not take our concerns seriously. They tried to made excuses for most of our concerns. They had no warmth or compassion for what our child was experiencing. Bullying is not taken seriously. Not physical bullying, but emotional bullying. By the time we realized how unresponsive and cold the administration was, it was too late to apply to another school. This year is better in terms of the issues we raised last year, but we cannot forget how we were treated last year. One reason we can't forget is that these people don't forget either! They give new meaning to holding a grudge! Unless you know you will never have a problem to bring up with the administration, look elsewhere. We are relocating this summer, so this will be our 3rd and final year.
As far as I can see, this school is AWESOME! I recently just went for an open house, as I'm applying there for 9th grade. I just wish they had scholarships because I feel like my straight A's and Advanced PSSA scores are sort of going to waste. But the tour was amazing! There's a pool, dance room. roof field, and they have recently retrieved a 3-D printer! I really hope I get to go to this school. The area is amazing and there are lots of things to do outside of school. If you didn't know, there are two buildings. The second building has history and art. I couldn't believe how cool they were! Students were making jewlery, using torches (safely) , and more. The building is safe, friendly, and looks like perfection. I'm sure when I start, if I go, there will be some faults, and I will post them on here. Overall, Friends Select is the place to go, if you have the money for it!
We are just coming to the end of our child s second year at FSS. Our experience has been just the opposite of some of the other (negative) reviews of the lower school teachers and administrators. Perhaps we ve been lucky, but it seems that our child got EXACTLY what was needed to in order to flourish. We haven t needed much intervention or interaction with the head of the lower school, but we have seen him only to be very level-headed and focused on the children. We have, however, interacted with everyone in learning support and I can say with confidence that they DO recognize and treat the children with the understanding of their individual needs. I wouldn t say this place is perfect, but since perfection doesn t exist, we are very happy with how close this place comes for us!
As a lower school parent, I have been so disappointed in the lower school administration, especially the head of the lower school. He is arrogant and does not look out for the students' best interest. I'm sure there are great teachers and great administrators in this school but do you want pay 18$k to find out the school is just 'meh'? All I say is DO YOUR RESEARCH on this school and the lower school administrator before sending your child (and lots of money) here. There are way better (academically, socially, and administratively) schools in the area for your money.
Why can't someone state their opinion without someone else criticizing and invalidating their concerns? Experience at a school is personal. We have been happy at times and unhappy at other times. But agree with the negative reviews about the lower school administration. They are probably nice to some parents, but we have heard too many disturbing stories. There is so much potential, but we have never seen "amazing" at this school - other than a few talented teachers. New leadership would mean everything. Leaders who better understand how to balance the needs of 3 groups - students, parents, and teachers. This group of administrators falls short.
So interesting that the 3 negative reviews in the past year were within 3 days of each other! One angry family leaves 3 reviews and creates a false impression of a wonderful school. FSS is amazing, please go check it out to see if it is a good fit for your family. It has been wonderful for my kids, one of whom has a learning disability and has received incredible support.
I am the parent of 2 lower schoolers, one who suffers with ADHD. The school has been exceptional for my child. He is not an easy child, and they have accomodated him and nurtured him at every chance possible. His teachers have been wonderful. When I read the negative reviews, I think that either a) it is someone with an agenda, b)it is someone who will not be happy anywhere or c) a parent unwilling to admit their child is not perfect. Is Friends Select perfrect? No, but it is pretty darned close. The head of the lower school is AMAZING. He is smart, sincere, and a great leader. He has been incredibly impressive in all of my interactions with him. Teachers humiliating students would never, ever be tolerated at FSS! The school is full of smart , advanced children from high achieveing families. Despite this, there is very little competition as it is actively discouraged. In short, I am thrilled I send my 2 kids here. They are very different kids with different abilities, both of whom are thriving at FSS.