My two children attend Austin Discovery School, one started in Kindergarten. We love this school, which focuses on growing whole, happy & well-rounded children. The focus on social emotional learning, project based learning and creating goals for your child is fantastic. I love the Music, Ecowellness & Art programs. The teachers shine at ADS - they are allowed to teach and do this with smiling faces. Children are happy because they've been heard, cared for and taught in a manner that encompasses different learning styles & strategies. We love the emphasis on gardening, outdoors, hikes, traditions & the very involved community.
I was a student here from kinder to 3rd grade, when i withdrew and went to a different school. When I went there, the school was not academically focused. We had lots of time outside, but not a lot of time used to learn. I remember that we never had any homework at all. We were just given worksheet after worksheet that we did not know how to do. However, i do understand that the school has grown, and is doing really well. Overall, it was a great place for me to learn to like school.
When we started here, I had no idea what to expect, and we chose the school because of the small cohorts. My daughter has 12 kids in her class, and 31 in her group. They do specials as a group- and everything else is with her 12. So, even though the school has many students, the feeling is very familial.
My daughter has anxiety, and so looking for schools-we didnt want a place that had the pressure of say, St. Francis. But here is where I am really amazed. Our teachers are gentle, but firm, and they are getting an excellent education. Reading, Social Studies, Math, Art, Eco, PE, Science.
My daughter has been there 3 months, and she can read anything, explains rural and urban concepts, knows all about germination- has grown and harvested her own raddishes, and understands music has a language.
She feels happy and safe, she is learning, her anxiety isn't manifesting. What a cool place, and as hippie as it may seem- the academics are there too.
This school has been amazing for my son! He had picked up so many bad behaviors at his old school and since starting here I have seen most of them clear away. The teachers here work with the kids and coach them through social issues. My son is finally learning how to play with other kids instead of just bossing them around. Before he started school he loved reading. His old school took the joy out of it and he started to say he hated reading. Now he loves it again and loves telling me about what they're reading in class. I could give a million examples of the changes I've seen in my son since he started school here. It's really been an amazing place for him.
My son started kinder last year when the "new" principal was beginning his second year. Soon after the first day of school, he resigned and was replaced with the principal we have now. She is a founder of the school and very quickly got things back on the right track, and is 100% invested in the school's mission. The beginning of this year has been light years different from the turmoil created by the former principal. There is good energy and a productive positive feeling in the school. That said, I'd like to comment in general, that I think ADS is a very special and unique school. It is a charter and thus relies heavily on family support and volunteerism. I consider this a plus. I have been involved in public schools for thirteen years and have never felt such a strong and tight knit community. The emphasis on social emotional wellness, environmental awareness (including an eco wellness elective, gardening and hiking), and project based learning is unique to ADS. Perhaps it's not what we are all used to growing up, so at times, it seems a bit messy and unpredictable, but it is truly beautiful, outside of the box thinking and teaching, and the charter's mission surely is aiming at the right target in terms of human development. At times, I find myself needing to practice patience when things don't run like rigid clockwork, or at times communication to parents is inconsistent. But I remind myself that because I trust the intention and mission to be more aligned with my own hopes for my child's emotional and intellectual growth, I'm okay with some of the gaps I see. The teachers are committed and professional and creative and encouraged/expected to be self starters and are given the freedom to teach in a way that speaks to their own heart, all while adhering to TEKS (state standards). It may not serve every family's needs (as no one school can), but it is serving ours beautifully & I am consistently grateful for having found it.
My daughter just started Kindergarten at ADS this year. Although we are only a few weeks in, I will say that I am happy with our decision to send her here. To be completely honest there were a few things that made our decision a bit tough. Most of these things were superficial. Such as the older buildings and the lack landscaping (really does make a difference).I realized though, that what ADS offers in terms of learning experience was well above what our local elementary schools offer. My daughters class size is 17 kids. They hike, have eco-wellness and social and emotional programs incorporated into the curriculum. That's fantastic compared to our neighborhood elementary school. In just a few short weeks, her teachers (yes two) have sent (unprompted) email updates a couple times a week. The principal has sent several as well. We haven't experienced any issues with the "traffic". I'm not even sure what traffic people are referring to. Every school has issues with the car lines. We are really excited for what this school has to offer.
Major concerns about the new principal and 30% staff turnover after he completed his first year. He is trying to do too much too quickly and it is impossible to get a straight answer from him. At the rate he's running off the established teachers, the school will have all newbies within a couple of years which is a shame because one of the things that is unique about ADS is the teachers who are working hard to build a real community. Communication from the administration is non-existent and always last minute. Two examples of recent issues: 1. It's just a few days until school starts and they haven't released class lists yet (probably because they don't want to reveal how much they over-enrolled since one of the school's selling points is the low student:teacher ratio). 2. They have a new bus service and just let everyone know that it won't be running until 2-3 weeks into the school year. The new driver just got his CDL and has never driven children before and he will be driving 70 kids around in rush hour traffic on I35 - scary thought.
The new principal is going to turn ADS into a less than ordinary school. My kids will enter 1st and 4th grade next year and I have very mixed feeling right now. I m extremely worried about ADS's future. I love the community and I LOVE the teachers! However, the new principal is pretty much on probation as far as I m concerned. While he appears to be an effective leader and a go getter , he is pushing through some extremely aggressive initiatives in a short period of time. In my opinion, these initiatives are being pushed out (at light speed) at the expense of other, very important issues that still need to be fixed within the current infrastructure. I feel overall like he s a numbers guy with not a lot of emotional equity in our school (kind of like a career politician). Get the test scores up, attract more families and students, bigger, more not seeing the forest for the trees. I am not a crunchy hipster and I don t care about the sugar rules. What I do care about is this great school, and our community (and our teachers!!) being bulldozed so this guy can say oh, hey, look at all the great stuff *I* did, without considering the collateral damage. Stay gold ADS!!