This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
Posted August 12, 2014
- a parent
This is our 2nd year here. Our daughter is thriving. She is with students who are like her, has teachers who truly understand giftedness, and has competent, caring administrators. It is not perfect, but I am pleased with the responsiveness and the commitment to the students and to the mission. The school facilities aren't the greatest, and there have been more staff changes (not faculty) than I'd like, but the majority of core personnel are stable and rooted. I have researched far and wide and I cannot find any school in the Houston area that is truly designed for young gifted learners. The "best" public school GT programs in highly ranked school districts fall way short, as do most of the private schools. For my non-gifted children, Houston has a plethora of quality educational options. But these schools are not appropriate for my gifted child. They might have more resources, prettier buildings and more advanced technology. But they are not set up to address the academic and psychosocial needs of gifted children in the way Rainard is. We are fortunate to have found a place where my child can embrace herself and where she finally belongs. We are proud to be a part of Rainard.
We have one child in the Elementary class and this was his first year at Rainard. He (and consequently, we) could not be happier. He had been in our local public school (one of the best in the Houston area) for two years, was increasingly straining under the pressure of a large class and teachers who emphasized sitting still above all else. His 2nd grade teacher constantly complained that he was day dreaming, even though she was giving him all A grades. He simply was not understood the way teachers at Rainard understand him - and he is not twice-exceptional, ADD, or anything similar. Fast forward to this year - within a week, he was more talkative and expressive than he'd ever been, has gained immensely in confidence, and advanced 3 grade levels in language arts in just one academic year. There are only 10 kids in the class, and therefore individual tailoring of the teaching approach. Above all, he feels like he belongs! We are able to talk to his teachers almost daily after school. The administration and communications can sometimes be less than organized, but all in all it hasn't affected our child's learning. We look forward to more confidence-building years at Rainard!
We have two children at Rainard and we are looking forward to our third year at the school. Although there have been administration changes during our years here, the changes have all been for the better. The core curriculum teachers have not changed, and, in fact, the majority of the core teachers have long histories with the school. The small classes and character of the school encourage daily contact with your children's teachers. Any classroom or educational issues are dealt with promptly and goals can be made and adjusted easily this way. The administration has been very open and interested in suggestions and observations and several positive changes are being made that reflect this. There is no beaucracy, tenure problems, and red tape like at a public school - if a teacher or student or administrator is not working out, they are replaced. Very refreshing. Our children are not 'twice exceptional' and we could easily aford to send them to any private school in Houston. We choose Rainard. Other schools may promise differentiated curriculum for the gifted student but Rainard actually delivers. And my children wake up eager to go and are sorry to have the summer off!
All schools have issues. This one is no different. But it is important to compare it to the alternatives... Public schools may have 22-30 pupils/class and many children in those classes may also have ADHD or ADD or learning disabilites. They offer gifted students a pull- out class once a week at a separate campus as the differentiated learning experience. There is no effort to individually test and continue to follow the students progress and continually challenge them at their level. Other private and public schools are not interested in students graduating early and moving around to ensure that they take challenging classes with students at their level regardless of age. When we compared the alternatives, we knew we could either homeschool our accelerated children or enroll them at Rainard. We are very happy at Rainard. 12 kids/class, all gifted kids all the time, always differentiated learning and an administration not afraid to have a 10 year old in the high school classes.
My child couldn't be happier at Rainard! The school provides a challenging and nurturing environment for highly gifted kids, giving them significant opportunities for research and writing. The assignments emphasize analytic and conceptual skills. Other schools may claim that they have an advanced curriculum, but those schools rely mostly upon rote learning. Rainard actually delivers when it comes to the development of creative and critical thinking, with a project-based learning curriculum. Also, my child is amongst intellectual peers, which helps with both educational and social development. The teachers and current administration really "get" the highly gifted mind too. The kids are encouraged and nurtured, but the school demands respect and appropriate behavior. Consequently, some students had to leave/left because of their behavior (many of whom were legacies of past administrations who seemed more interested in achieving higher enrollment figures). The school is small, meaning that parents have a chance to be true partners with the school in achieving its mission. There are a lot of volunteer opportunities for parents and most families are actively involved.
This is the second year my son has been at Rainard. Before Rainard, he was always the "misfit" kid that the teacher's didn't know what to do with. He wasn't interested in doing his work, participating in group activities, and always gravitated towards the adults in the room. He wasn't a troublemaker and didn't have conflicts with other kids, but was stubborn and non-compliant when it came to participating. At Rainard, it feels like he's with his own people. He looks forward to school, has friends that he can play with and relate to, and is learning those social skills that he was missing out of in a non-gifted environment. He's also integrated very well into the educational environment. The school recognizes that a lot of extremely gifted children also exhibit other personality traits ("twice exceptional") and does their best to work with kids who have some behavior issues. At the same time, the current administration seems to understand that Rainard isn't a therapeutic school and doesn't have the resources to deal with children who are too far out on the edges of the behavior spectrum. Overall, very happy with Rainard.
Interesting that my initial review was removed. I spoke no mistruths. I am not sure what would have warranted removal of my review. Here we go again: Do not put your gifted learner in this school. It is not a safe environment for any child to thrive. Ask the following questions: Why have there now been 4 heads of school in the last 5 years? Why is the President of the Board of Directors qualified to run the school? Why were there 11 Board member less than two years ago and now there are only 3?
Not at all like our shadow days. New admin is worse than the old. They are inexperienced, reactionary & ineffective. Cruelty, intimidation & physical violence were excused as GT characteristics or attributed to special diagnoses. Children of those with influence or special diagnoses are protected from consequences while others suffer intimidation, taunts, threats & even physical abuse. Children, including ours, make mistakes, but we believe in addressing those situations to ensure it doesn t happen again. After a baffling half year struggle with nonresponsive/ineffective admin who could/would not ensure our children were safe and treated fairly, we threw in the towel & now couldn't be happier! So this review is not about being invited back we left to ensure our children are safe with administrators who listen and take appropriate action. There are enough choices that are so much better I advise you to keep looking. There are 5 teachers in lower grades - 2 are new and struggling with classroom dynamics (experience with Rainard was limited to teaching as specialists). High school may be better than our experience in the lower grades, but I wouldn t risk it just to get a bargain .
Easily the best high school bargain in the city. The classes have just 4 to 5 kids in most of them and the teachers are fabulous. The relaxed setting and smaller size allows the students to receive significant individual attention and mentoring, creating individualized and customized education plans. The small setting is conducive to developing relationships. The teachers have taken it upon themselves to stay late one day per week so the students can hang out and socialize together, playing games or whatever. And while the field trips are good for all students at Rainard, this is especially true for the high school. Yesterday they combined kayaking in Galveston with art, stopping to paint while on the water, and at the end of the month they go to the Grand Tetons for a week. This has enabled my child to make significant academic progress and is transforming him into a more dedicated and serious student as a result of the attention, compassion and genuine interest the faculty shows each student as permitted by the small classes. This creates the incredible comparative bargain.
Every year Rainard is rated harshly by parents of students who do not receive invitations for their children to return for another year. It always starts in February when contracts are due in March. There are only so many seats to fill in classes that are kept to the ratio of 1 teacher to every 12 students so administrators have to be careful who they choose to fill those seats. If students have not progressed academically, perhaps they would be better off going elsewhere. Some of the previous posts have misinformation about qualified teachers leaving. Teachers who leave have their choice of other places to work because Rainard looks great on a resume'. However, the best teachers stay! In the lower school, 80% of the teachers have 5+ years of experience at Rainard. School-wide, many teachers have over 10 years experience. As for lack of curriculum, several teachers are educational authors. They are happy to write their own books and teach at any level needed. My child who has attended Rainard for 5 years has only known 2 different administrators until this year so I don't understand how other students met more than he did. At any rate, the current two heads of school are the best!