I have to admit, I'm shocked to see this school has only 3 stars since it's one of the best elementary schools in the state. I have two children at GFES, and it's an amazing school. It has an on-site Advanced Academic Placement as well as Japanese language immersion. Plus, it's a small school and has that small town feel. New principal is doing a great job. Teachers here are on par with anywhere in Fairfax County. Lots of great PTA events and parent participation. I do think there's a lot of emphasis on test scores, but to be fair, this is a county/ statewide problem, not something that's unique to Great Falls.
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.