What makes West so special? First, it's the most diverse school in Knoxville. Students have friends from other cultures, other races, other social classes. It makes them more tolerant and better able to understand the real world, not the "white" student body that most Knoxville schools have. Second, West is the only IB school in Knoxville, and it's first cohort had a higher proportion earning their IB diploma than the state average. Third, we have great parent involvement which has contributed to several major renovations, including a new state-of-the-art lecture hall. And, most importantly, West has the best teachers!
I have nothing but admiration for the teachers and administration at West. I have had children at the 5 star rated school, but I prefer West. The teachers really care, and the emphasis is on learning and preparing for college or AP courses. I do hate the new dress code, though.
I've worked at West for 3 years now and I can't imagine working anywhere else! The kids are fantastic, the parent support is excellent, and the administration is second to none. Even when I was offered jobs to leave and go to Oak Ridge and Maryville (both pay much more than Knox County!) I didn't hesitate to turn them down just to stay at West!
I graduated from West in 2008. I really enjoyed my first three years at West, but my final year left much to be desired. There was always problems with fighting or something that would cause a whole problem for the school. I also think that something should be done about the cafeteria, they have a whole 'new' section, but the lunch lines are way too crowded. Most of the time I would wait until lunch was almost over to go through the line just so I would not have to worry about getting pushed! I think that if you take AP classes you learn a lot, however, I took mostly CP classes. The classes got boring at times and most of the class was spend listening to the teacher telling someone to stop talking or put up the cell phone.
It's interesting to note that students have rated this school highly, while several parents have given it a low rating. I'm with the parents who think this school is worse than average. Because West does have some great teachers, I've given it two stars rather than one. Low-income, disabled, non-English speaking students are treated like second-class citizens. Administrators are generally deaf to any feedback that is not positive. Diversity of creed, race, and political outlook is not respected. Students who have excelled in both academics and citizenship are nonetheless treated like criminals--'Where's your pass?' barked at them in the halls--guilty until proven innocent. This school could be much better. As a parent who has spent many volunteer hours there, I am still at a loss as to how to effect real improvement.
Not only for rich and gifted kids. In fact, we are working class and my child had severe problems. West High School was the only school in Knox County that was concerned for my daughter enough to eventually have her diagnosed with a form of autism. No school or teacher had ever bothered before. The classes are challenging, but the teachers truly care. The guidance staff is phenomenal and did everything they could to help my daughter.