Donna and Karen have provided a safe and energetic learning community for the gifted students in Austin to thrive. It is a much needed service and they are extremely dedicated to their mission! Every year ACE gets better thanks to them!
I can honestly say that ACE Academy saved my 8th grader. Over the years she had grown to hate school so much that she had sunk into depression and anxiety that was so severe she missed 30 days in the first half of her eighth grade year. On the verge of medicating her, I thought back to the last place she loved learning, Summer Wonders camp, which is run by the same folks who run ACE.
At ACE my daughter quickly formed close friendships with kids who “get” her odd sense of humor; interest in books, politics, and art; and love of debate. At the public school she had been marginalized and excluded for being different, but the kids at ACE welcomed her into their community immediately.
Social acceptance is not the only advantage ACE provides to gifted learners like my kid. Much of my child’s anxiety came from the over two hours of homework she was assigned each night, which left little time for her to enjoy other activities. At ACE the teachers assign very little homework and the work they do assign is meaningful, project work that allows students to delve deeply into topics that are interesting and relevant. At ACE my child has engaged in “World Building,” studied relativistic thinking, analyzed subversive art, created photo essays, and conducted cross-pollination experiments to challenge the GMO issues, all with less than an hour per night hitting the books.
The most important difference in the education she is receiving at ACE, though, has to do with the level of instruction she receives in the classroom. The instructors at ACE are up to date on newest scientific advances, influential and controversial literature and current events, new teaching strategies. Everyday my kid comes home buzzing about what she is reading or hearing or discussing in her classes. She no longer complains about doing “busy” work or students who derail learning. ACE class sizes are generally under 10 students, so every student is heard.
I know that there is no such thing as a perfect school, and ACE has a few growing pains, but the small issues they have pale in contrast to the problems we faced in the public schools.
ACE provides smaller class sizes, deeper exploration of topics, innovative instructors, a focus on learning (not testing), and a true community of students care about each other. My only regret is that I didn’t move her to ACE sooner.
When we started with Ace we only knew that traditional settings were proving difficult for our son. After several episodes of being bullied by other children, being completely ignored by teachers, and coming home in tears, we decided to try something different. The difference after the first week at Ace was amazing - he loves school, cries on snow days, and can't wait to get there in the morning! His face lights up when he sees his teachers and he has become confident, well-spoken, and has finally abandoned the type of perfectionism that used to stop him from trying new things! He told me recently that he loves Ace because it "fills him up with ideas". There are so many wonderful things to say - from his teacher who had them learn about orca whales by having them act out an orca whale hunt, learning about the planets by each getting to play the role of a planet in the solar system, and learning about Jackson Pollock by creating a splatter paint class masterpiece! What other school has pull out science, music, and art for a 5 year old, let alone emotional intelligence (which has helped him learn to express himself and his many advanced emotional feelings)? I am humbled and amazed by the teachers who contribute their gifts here - if you are looking for a school that can offer a caring community, opportunities to dialogue with adults about advanced subject matter, and a place where your kid (who might feel like a misfit, like mine) will finally fit, this could be it for you. I get teary eyed every time we have evaluations letting them know what this school has meant for my son. I feel so lucky to have found it and look forward to giving back what I can - I wish every kid in Austin could be in a class of 12 or less with teachers who can't wait to hear what they have to say! I won't say everything is perfect, but give it a chance - you might just find you wouldn't have it any other way!
When we attended the information session, we thought "interesting but not for us". To our surprise, we found we suddenly needed to take a closer look since traditional classroom setting was not working at all. If you are looking for a traditional classroom with all the kids lined up in rows and quietly working dutifully from a textbook/workbook, you won't get that at ACE. Seeing the struggles my child had prior to ACE made me sit down really hard and think about what my view of the end result of 12 years of schooling should be. For me - that is passion in their interests and focus on a growth mindset. So we looked for a school that we felt would really allow him to be passionate about school and that won't hold him back just because of his age or size. What we love about ACE is the flexibility but high expectations - and the emphasis on working hard. Our child is not prevented from learning just because his motor skills like writing are not as strong as the rest of his class... the progress he has made in just the last two months has been amazing. His confidence has improved - he is no longer challenged by other kids on his age or on what they think he should or should not know.
We really like ACE a lot. There is nothing else like it in the Austin area. The school holds regular information sessions for parents. If you are interested this is a great way to learn more about the school. We really feel like we have found a school home for our child that will last till it's time to go to college. The staff have very impressive credentials and are also incredibly caring. They understand gifted kids and are ready to help them succeed from Day 1. Our child loves school so much an early bedtime is accepted willingly so we can be early to school the next day. I am so glad we found this school.
I am writing this review as the Curriculum Director for ACE Academy. I maintain our accreditation status and review the school s curriculum. I can speak to the incredibly strong but flexible curriculum at ACE. ACE teachers follow concrete sets of standards to create courses that exceed milestones in learning. Here s what makes ACE better suited for gifted learners: we don t follow state or national standards blindly. We consult those standards and create our own. We then allow room in our curriculum for teachers to explore more deeply the lessons the students find most interesting. So, ACE does have its own curriculum one that is reviewed internally and externally by the nation s top accrediting body. It is a myth that accelerated learning requires increased homework. If you expect your child to spend hours completing worksheets or homework, ACE is not the place for your child. If you want your child to follow a textbook cover to cover, ACE isn't what you re looking for. We consult textbooks, but, for us, that s the exception rather than the rule. ACE is innovative and flexible while remaining dedicated to the curricular standards that shape our learning goals.
Austin definitely needs a school for gifted kids. ACE is not ready to be one of them. The school do have some great teachers, but it is very disorganized, no textbooks, no strong curriculum. As a parent of a gifted child, I do not believe in giving " freedom" to this type of kids. I think they need organization as much as regular children, if not more. Their "gifts" have to be channelled, not let loose to "create". At least I know it does not work for my child. The school grows in numbers, but not quality.
I often say that if I could design a school for my son, it would look a lot like ACE Academy. They understand the special needs of the gifted and customize the learning experience based on their needs. My son is strong in science/math, but struggles with reading. In a regular school, they would hold him back in the areas where he excels. Special after school activities are designed for special interests: fencing, chess club, art, robotics, Legos, and even Hogwarts club. I am always impressed by the level of work they are doing and the pace at which they move. My 3rd grader comes home understanding scientific concepts I didn't see until high school or college. ACE also understands the emotional challenges of gifted kids and incorporates emotional intelligence and self-awareness work to help with issues like perfectionism or lack of focus/drive when things get hard. They hold parent seminars to help us all understand what our children are going through and need. I only go down one star because the physical building is not ideal, but they are working on building or finding a new location.
While our son was at a fabulous preschool when he was 3 1/2, he was waking up at 3 a.m. on a regular basis wanting to read or play games, clearly short on the stimulation needed during the day. During his teacher/parent conference, his current teacher at the time recommended we investigate ACE Academy. So we went and once he started our lives changed drastically (sleeping through the night was a wonderful change!). He loved going to school, running in calling to me to "hurry mom". Our second son started at ACE when he was 3 as well and loves it. The flexibility your child receives in their education is invaluable. One thing you never want your child to hear is "we will learn that next year" or "you are too young to learn that", which you will not hear at ACE Academy. The teachers are so patient and often will redirect the lesson plans according to the interests in the classroom.