I have been at Westlake a very short time and I already know I'll be looking elsewhere for a new place to work. My admin is erratic, emotional, and offensive and the climate is humiliating. There was a questioner we had to fill out stating our intentions for next year (although not legally binding) And now we have a mad rush to shuffle people around so that good teachers can work under different leadership and friends of admins can be ineffective in new assignments.
The first week I was welcomed by a confusing bashing to the entire school from the town manager about gossip. With what should have been a kickoff to a brand new year felt like I walked into personal issues. This is certainly a surprise and the fear of retaliation from all the way up to the town manager has become this school's normal. Don't you all know this isn't normal? Teachers are very unhappy. Teachers have stood up but when parents don't, then nothing changes. Parents are not backing or demanding from what seems like fear or retaliation on their children. There is something worse than lots of teachers leaving, teachers staying in a school they no longer want to be at.
I have found that the teachers at this school are forced to teach to state tests. This is an IB school and over the past 2 years that has been put aside so the focus can be on state testing. Last year's IB scores were lower than they have ever been. I believe that is because the administration is not knowledgable about IB. Until the Board of Education is ready to make drastic changes to the administration I do not believe that the scores will improve. The administration is still boasting about results from 2011. Since the focus of the administration is moving forward I don't believe they should be bragging about something that they had no part in. That team is long gone as are all of those amazing teachers.
There are a wide range of opinions on this review website of Westlake Academy. A source of information and data can be found in the "2015 Westlake Academy Board of Trustees Parent Survey Findings Report", and this includes a section on comparisons with past parental surveys so that changes can be tracked.
The 2015 survey can be found on this link: http://tx-westlake.civicplus.com/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/917
Westlake Academy is an outstanding school with caring and committed educators. The most impressive aspect of the school is the IB continuum whole school approach. These outstanding educators are all qualified and deeply dedicated to 21st century educational ideals and concepts. The model is so transformative and innovative in its approach, Westlake Academy may just be the most progressive school in Texas. But, don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Come find out firsthand the wonderful things going on at Westlake Academy.
There are many comments regarding WA not teaching to the test, but that has changed. It was once true, with reviews and a sample test before the real thing so that students understood the testing format and weren't surprised. But in the past year changes have been implemented that focus on testing benchmarks, teaching children as young as second grade to find their errors and statistically analyze their weaknesses on benchmarks drawn directly from STAAR materials and textbook series (which echoes what is taught for the STAAR tests), without regard for IB curriculum requirements. Yes, there are expected learning outcomes from IB that should be taught alongside the Texas requirements. No, they haven't been getting the attention they are supposed to. If your testing outcome, measurement of progress provided to students, and primary data source for them is basically a version of "the test" then you are teaching to the test. Assessment is used to drive instruction, and those STAAR-based tests are what's driving instruction, below the DP level. DP has been able to maintain its integrity as it has the IB testing as its accountability.
As long as there are seasoned IB teachers who understand the intricacies of requirements and the importance of the learner profile, there are children who will get the benefits of IB (and those are HUGE). But they are not understood and in many instances not embraced by new staff and new administration. What has made the school and its students stand apart over the years, and shows in the success of its graduating classes, is changing quickly. If you want high test scores, there are easier, more proven roads to take.
My kids have significant holes in their knowledge when compared to their peers (objective, external testing) even though their grades are high. We have to retain tutoring services for them to make up the gaps, as do most of our friends. The softer side of IB has, until last year, made it worth it. But over and over, parents ask each other, what's happening up there? It's changed. It's not IB. Why are the experienced teachers leaving? Why are they pulling their kids too? All good questions.
As you can see by the varied comments on this site, parents either love or hate the school. I do not feel that my children are getting the tools they need to be successful later in life.
There are not a lot of choices for students in this school. The math and science departments are, in my opinion, lacking. If your student has an affinity for STEM then I would not recommend this school.
I am also disappointed with the limited options for fine arts. They have a very good art program but after primary school the options for music are very limited. There is no option for band or drama.
There is also a need for an improved technology department. The administration has tried, unsuccessfully, to incorporate technology into the classrooms. I'm sorry, but jut giving a student an iPad does not mean you are teaching technology. They have one design teacher but she is out more than in the classroom.
Overall, I believe that my children will get a better education at the public school. The ISDs offer a wide range of programs including AP classes in many subjects. The ISDs also have a wonderful STEM program and a diverse fine arts program.
Finally, this school is geared to assisting wealthy, helicopter parents. The squeaky wheel, that has money, gets what they want. That may or may not be what is best for all students. As you can see by one of the reviews, their belief is that this is not the place for "low-level students". That seems to be the current philosophy of the administration. I understand that it was not always this way. Having read the IBO statements it is not their way either. I want my children to be exposed to all sorts of people, not just the ones people consider acceptable.
Please think carefully before you choose Westlake Academy.