We've been in the lower school for a few years now and each year wonder if the school is worth the money. The art program is wonderful, but we start to feel like that's the only reason we stay. The teaching is average and the school doesn't have the resources that a public school has to make sure your child is learning what they need to be. The strings program is nice, but you really need to make sure your child is practicing and knows the songs. There are usually a few kids who don't know the songs and just pretend to play. And kids in the middle school program who have been playing at GSA since kinder often aren't even skilled enough to play all the songs in Suzuki book 1. The lower school violin teacher yells a lot and will also make your child stand at the "wall of shame" (thats what the teacher calls it) if your child forgets her music that day. For all the school's talk about the importance of 'emotional intelligence' many of the teachers lack a basic undstanding of the concept and it's importance. That was a big disappointment. I feel like this school used to be for families who wanted a unique and artsy school for their child, but now the school caters to the 'Mercedes Benz' families who think that any private school is better than public. It just doesn't feel the same anymore.
This school was a very good place for my daughter from K-4th grade. In the middle school program I had serious problems, none of the teachers were qualified and the ones that were didn't stay long. They don't know how to handle teenage girls education, they teach you unimportant things and they never teach World Cultures. The uniforms repress freedom of expression, although there are free dress days. The only good programs were Art and Music and all of those teachers are incredible. In science you take notes every day, almost no labs. My daughter spent a long time trying to understand Pride and Prejudice, rather than learning important English concepts. I don't believe that the staff cared enough about the students' education (in the middle school program). Don't pay private school price for a public school education.
While this school has a nice campus and supplies, the teachers don't know how to deal with teenage girls. While tempers clash at every school the adults here aren't trained to handle problems and let the girls fend for themselves. The uniforms supress their self expression and if it's an all girls school, why can't they wear what they want and express themselves. The academics at this school aren't what they should be. In 6th grade english my daughter spent about a semester trying to figure out what pride&prejudice meant and didn't learn anything about world cultures unless it was from an english assigned book. The science program doesn't help the girls learn at all. The girls did one lab in a whole year and took notes every single day except for 2 field trip days. The only program my daughter enjoyed was the fantastic art program which allowed her creative growth and helped her explore her artistic side. Both her and her friends disliked this school, one of the things they hated the most was how they were treated like children but expected to be role models. Every friday they had to sit with the elementary schoolers and sing the GSA song, the staff didn't truly care about the kids and tried to get their jobs done while doing the least amount of work possible, and at the end of 6th grade half of my daughters grade left the school…this goes to show how unhappy everyone was.
GSA is a good school. Sending our second there for kinder, the first going into 4th having attended previous years. I will speak to detractors only. Sometimes a kid and a school simply don't mesh. It's not necessarily either party's "fault". I'm very wary of parents who say the school isn't up to academic snuff, as if they've done an exhaustive study. Sure, good feelings can be deceptive, but so can bad feelings. When half a grade leaves at once, what does Occam's Razor tell you? Suddenly in 6th the school turned bad, or, there's a bit of Hop on Pop going on? It's all too easy to point at the institution and declare it at fault. A lot harder to to look at the kids and say maybe they've got it wrong. My point: seems an anomaly. Guess we will see. While my daughters attend GSA, and I do think it's a fine school, I am neither a partisan nor apologist. It's not for everyone, nor should it be. Nor can it be. Hurt feeling speak loud, so, just be careful, prospective parent: give consideration to all viewpoints. Don't be unduly influenced by a vocal minority.
GSA is an amazing combination of challenging academics, employing socratic and experiential learning methods that embrace and enhance critical thinking, and enrichment from the arts and music, physical education, and spanish programs. The result is a community of intelligent young ladies that are self responsible and poised to be leaders in their communities. The administration is dedicated to the students and supportive of the staff/guides/teachers. The staff/teachers are qualified, dedicated, and superb. We could not be happier with GSA! Come visit and see for yourself!
Is there a K-8 school with award-winning teachers and students, the highest accreditation rankings, engaged, confident students and graduates, who go on to become independent thinkers and national merit scholars? Yes. It s The Girls School of Austin. Whenever we are asked why we chose GSA, the first thing we say is the teachers. They are enthusiastic experts in their fields who know how to teach and pass along their enthusiasm. Check out the school in person, talk to parents and graduates. They will be your best source of information on any school. Best of luck with your decision. Parent of a 5th grader.
Aside from moving to Austin itself, picking the GSA as the place for our daughter to start Kindergarten was among the best decisions of our lives. She is now in 5th grade and the myriad ways this school has nurtured, challenged, and expanded her are impossible to enumerate. Moreover, we have formed a truly fantstic community with other families in her class and within the school at large. The school's only "fault" may be being too inclusive and tolerant of malcontent or ignorant parents who emerge now and then. But for those who want a creative environment that is nonetheless rigorous, teachers who are as warm as they are significantly overqualified, and a head as serious as an old Northweastern prep school but as tolerant and energetic as Austin itself--well, this is the place to call home.
My daughters will be entering third and fifth grades this year (2010). Both of them have been at the school since kindergarten. In this time, the school has really grown and improved. The teachers have been uniformly outstanding. I oculd not be more pleased with the quality. The small classes (limited to 16 girls) are to everyone's advantage, and I can't say enough for the all-girls environment. There is much more cooperation than competitiveness, and the girls are encouraged to be supportive to students of all grades. Because the campus is small, all of the staff know all of the girls. The girls engage in "specials" which include PE, art, music (strings or piano), Spanish, and drama two or three times a week, which is a much richer cirruculum than is offered by AISD.