The school seems more interested in the appearance of being academically advanced than actually doing the hard work of teaching well. At the middle school level, the school suffers from lack of administrative leadership, teacher development and curricular organization. There is much turnover of teachers, and some teachers have no experience teaching middle school. Some common and repeated complaints: assignments and due dates are not posted on the website, grading policies are inconsistent and subjective, work is assigned way above grade level with no age-appropriate breaking down of material, lack of innovative teaching (lots of vocabulary quizzes). Teachers do not offer office hours, tutoring or individualized attention. Both 7th and 8th grade Humanities is devoted to philosophy, in particular a single book called Sophie’s World, described by the New York Times as ‘philoso-Disney’.
My daughter is currently in 8th grade at The Girls’ School of Austin and has attended the school since Kindergarten. This Fall she will attend The Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), along with several of her GSA classmates. I have no doubt that my daughter is academically prepared for the rigors of LASA and socially prepared for the challenges of high school and beyond. The GSA has given her an extremely solid foundation on which to continue building her academic career. My daughter has developed a curious intellect, a strong sense of community and an affinity for challenges – these I attribute to GSA’s curriculum, outstanding faculty and supportive community. As a family, we have bittersweet feelings about moving on from the close-knit and intellectually stimulating environment of GSA. We will miss the strong bonds that we have built within the GSA community, but we are proud in knowing that our daughter is more than ready to embrace new opportunities and challenges in this next stage of her life.
Our daughter started at GSA in kindergarten, and has thrived in its unique environment. The school nurtures critical and creative thinking in all subjects, approaching teaching with ingenuity and enthusiasm. At its core is the idea of place-based learning, which helps students see – from a very early age – the opportunities to explore and create in the world outside the classroom whether that be outdoors on the campus, or in places around Austin and even beyond. The amazing teachers are innovative in the classroom and responsive to a range of opportunities, often tapping parents and members of the broader community to speak to the girls about topics in their area of expertise, thus encouraging many conversations and approaches to a subject. The girls understand themselves to be residents of a place and members of a community and to see the interconnection between subjects that allows them to engage in real thinking and learning.
The relationship between the older and younger girls is similarly inspiring. The little ones have big sisters, giving them a sense of belonging in the larger school while the upper school girls take on roles of mentor and helper. It creates a sense of community that is supportive and nurturing, and sets a tone for their lives beyond the school. GSA is a great fit for families who want to be part of a committed community of energetic and creative people who are excited about learning and teaching.
I cannot say enough good things about GSA. Our daughter has been there since Kinder and is now in the middle school and I truly can't imagine her anywhere else. The teachers are caring and engaged, challenging but empowering. I am constantly amazed how her grade-level teachers seem to pull the best out of each girl across a variety of learning styles. This approach has helped my daughter develop into a confident and curious learner who is always excited about tackling the next subject. The art and music programs are outstanding as well - I don't know of anywhere in Austin on par - and give the girls additional creative outlets.
We also love the parent community here - the administration does a great job of encouraging parents to be involved and around, and you will see any number of parents visiting for lunch on a given day. The emotional intelligence approach has been great at teaching our daughter about constructive conflict resolution, and I have seen the same reflected throughout the families in our class (most of whom we have been with since Kinder). I love that the middle school girls are encouraged to remain connected with the lower school girls both through the sister-group program and the weekly community meetings. While middle school girls often seem to forced to grow up too fast, this connection helps keep our girls "younger" for just that much longer. It's great to see kids feeling free to be kids without worrying about whether they look cool or not.
On that note, I will say I am very confused by the parents who complained about there being uniforms and not just because both my daughter and I love not having to think about what she will wear in the mornings and "fitting in" fashion-wise. The uniform component has been in existence since GSA's first year and is pretty well out there (just visit the campus or check out the website). When people complain about things that are so integral to the school they have chosen, it makes me think they will find fault anywhere. They might as well express dismay about the lack of boys - clearly GSA was not the right choice for them. But for so many of us, it certainly is!
We are extremely happy with our choice of the Girls School of Austin for our two daughters. The school has given the girls amazing opportunities and is helping our daughters develop into confident, intellectual young women. We originally chose the school because our oldest daughter was not thriving at the local public school. Moving to the GSA was instrumental in improving her relationship to the school environment and her excitement about education. Both our children are now in the middle school and the experience and education continue to be excellent. The things we love the most about the school: a supportive community of wonderful families that value academic pursuit, challenging curriculum accompanied by amazing teachers who will go the extra mile to make sure your child is engaged and learning, integration of art, music, and Spanish, and a supportive cohort of classmates with the attitude that learning is cool!
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.