BEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD. I am an 8th grader who went to Lee. Everyone who went to Lee always brags about the amazement of this school. The next middle school you go to everyone knows all the Lee kids. Its so much fun. I miss it sooooo much :(
I am graduating the 9th grade this year, and I will always remember Lee fondly. My step-mother is one of the teachers there, so I have spent a lot of time at the school even after I graduated 6th grade. There is an outstanding sense of community at Lee. Everyone knows everyone, which is something that not all schools have but is extremely important. Because of the small class sizes (my 6th grade class had 46 people), students have the opportunity to form strong bonds that will last a lifetime. My fellow classmates are the people that know me the best and I would trust most of them with my life. I can be sure of that. I will not consider anywhere else if I still live in Austin when I have kids.
Lee is a good school. Strengths are that most teachers are strong, there is good parental involvement, and there is a strong administration. Growing edges are that the school does not work well with working parents or single parents-- it seems to work off of a 'one-parent-at-home' model, which is true for many of its families. It is slow to change, dreadfully true for its artistic programming--which lacks any creativity or imagination. It also is completely focused on TAKS preparation, which I'm afraid is beyond the local school's control, really, in this day and age but true nonetheless. I also believe that rotating classes beginning in first grade is not developmentally appropriate, but I know that many parents believe it to be a strength.
Our family will have clocked a decade at Lee before our last child moves on to middle school. During this decade, we have watched and participated in many changes: the fight to keep a sixth grade against district administration initiatives, the swelling student body and closure to transfers, and a change in administrative leadership. The previous commentators' observations regarding social cliques amongst parents and kids is true of any small vocal community. Sixth grade was such an abysmal experience for my oldest for several reasons but the biggest factor was perhaps the fact that the student population dwindles to half which did not provide sufficient social diversity at an age when kids are already painfully self-conscious and struggling to 'fit in.'. I'd give the academics a 'B'. Too many worksheets. Not enough time using a textbook. Unfortunately, middle school in AISD is pretty bleak.
I love this school. Both my daughters have attened this school since the kindergarten. We really enjoy the arts, music and language programs. This year my 6th grader will learn both Spanish and German. It's a really wonderful neighborhood school. Parent involvement is appreciated and I love the emphasis on hands on/experiential learning!
Overall, Lee does not live up to its reputation. On the plus side, it has a great student body and very involved parents, a wonderful library, excellent kindergarten, good discipline, and an outstanding art teacher. Negatives include an overwhelming emphasis on TAKS preparation, unwillingness to challenge students or innovate, abysmal music instruction, and lip service given to Spanish instruction. In particular, there is a strong sense of 'This is the way we've always done it, so we're just going to keep doing it this way.' If students were trusted more and given more opportunities for in-depth academic growth, Lee could really shine. Instead, it seems easier to hand out worksheets, which is a distressing waste of potential.
I have two children who have completed their first year at Lee, one in 4th and one in 6th. The academics have been wonderful and the school makes good use of UT and other learning opportunities within Austin. The music and art programs are beyond anything I've seen at any other elementary school. I'm sad for the people in reviews that said they thought it was cliquish, because we've had the opposite experience. Because the school is so small, everyone knows everyone and there doesn't seem to be enough people to create cliques. There may be parent cliques, but my observation is that is just because they've known each other for so long. As for the kids, everyone is part of one big group, everyone is included. It is a wonderful dynamic for the kids that I am sad that my oldest is done there.