I attended this school from 1st to 6th grade, I am now in 8th grade, and I can say that this school was one of the most difficult schools I have ever seen where the teachers are unnecessarily hard on the students and treat some students like trash, me being one of them. I was asking a question while my English teacher was reading us a story and she told me to put my hand down and stop asking questions, she told me it was clear that I didn't understand the book and that the book was higher level readers only, and told me to leave the classroom, I cried the rest of the day. The teachers Favorited some students and gave them passing A's when I put in much more work then they did and all I got were C's. This school is the epitome of unfair treatment! The teachers treated us like we couldn't learn anything. When I passed all of my SOLs I couldn't even be happy because my teachers were to busy harassing me. Overall This school was trash, DO NOT SENT YOUR KIDS THERE!
GFES has a young Principal who is going on his second year at the school and has not yet found his stride. I believe he wants to produce a school with good test scores but isn't sure how to go about doing it. This is due to inexperience. He is easily swayed by any parent who is giving him positive attention. The PTA coffers are low due to low morale in the parent body. One of the Principal's ideas, which the PTA has agreed to, is to put money towards an online math tutoring program that the students can do at home. Hello, we can do online math programs for free. No one needs to put $7,000 dollars towards a low end online math service. Many parents don't even know that this is where their money was spent. The teachers at GFES are like anywhere else in the county. Some are great and some are average. What usually sets the school apart is the parent involvement both in time and money given to the school. Both have come to a quick halt due to the poor administration. Let's hope that this Principal quickly grows up or moves on. He is holding the school back from being more successful. I have had children at the school for over 10 years and this is my 3rd Principal.
We moved to this neighborhood for the benefits of foreign language immersion classes, but GFES leaves much to be desired. The teacher is far more concerned about student performance on SOL tests and instructs mostly in English so that the material would be 'understandable.' Anyone who knows the principle behind 'immersion' learning (I was a teacher myself) knows this makes mockery of the approach. The new principal is responsive, but seems unable to make the teacher change her classroom style, despite numerous parent requests like mine that greater attention be paid to language immersion -- for example, using class materials in the target language, or learning Kanji. With time we have learned that most of the Japanese parents have gotten the word and send their children to Fox Mill, which enjoys strong support from the principal and parents for extra-curricular cultural events. As schools go, GFES is not bad but the 'language immersion' element, in fine American style, is highly over-sold and short on real content. We get far more value out of Kumon, Oen Network, Saturday school and other learning opportunities.
So far, this year, ( we are new to this school) I'm already pleased with how accessible and accommodating the principal was to our concerns that our normal learning abilities child was placed in an inclusive classroom with a lot of learning disabled children. He explained thoroughly that there would still be the same general education curriculum for all the regular kids just with a lot more teachers available in the room. Dispelling my concerns the curriculum would be watered down so all the kids could digest. However, he said that if I was still concerned he had made arrangements that my son could be switched to the normal classroom as well. All this before school on the first day, a very busy day I know! So thank you Mr. Lonnett for your time and effort!
In our Paents experience, this is the only elementary school where we have been plainly told by a 5th grade English Teacher who is still in Great Falls ES, that she and her collegue would like to practice their profession and teach our child, but "that their hands are tied by the principal".!!!!! The Principal, rather than providing education to all children, does indeed involve daily in an education deprivation self decided policy against some children, to get even with parents who complain about him and his known negative micromanagement of teachers activities to FCPS Board. He is harming this way some selected students education, and spends the majority of his administrative time retaliating against innocent children despite all their rights to education, and despite their parents complaints to all authorities: the Board of FCPS, the Virginia Department of Education, the Office of Civil Rights, and the Fairfax County Child Protective Services for child neglects such as repetitively involving in cutting also attendents in school buses, exposing this way some students in need to physical harm during school bus transportation!!!!!
The school does not have the will to fulfill its complete role as base school for its special education students, and it routinely does not respect IEPs the school itself have signed. Also, It does not prepare adequately its neighbourhood residents for middle school as other FCPS elementary schools do and it discriminates openly against students with even mild disabiities.
We have been very pleased with the educational quality at Great Falls Elementary. The principal is very responsive to parent input and is highly involved with the students. The teachers are experienced and challenge the students. If there is a problem with a teacher, the principal is willing to listen and help rectify the situation. My children have participated in both the Gifted Talented and the Japanese Immersion Programs (JIP). The well-established JIP program is fantastic and the children have a good grasp of basic language and 2 of the Japanese character sets by the end of second grade. The GT program, started 3 years ago, is still evolving but the current staff of GT teachers are dedicated to creating a great program. My only complaint is sometimes class sizes run high (close to 30 students, with one class of 34) but this is a county funding problem.