ODC admissions is a very serious problem. It's arbitrary at best and political at worst. The admissions is not a real reflection of 'gifted', the VB administration seems to fail to know what that means. ODC is filled with non-gifted overachievers. Furthermore, the culture in VB is such that they spend millions of dollars on Kemps Landing/ODC but they could be using those resources to bring that sort of education to every child in VB and at worst, that money could go toward having a 'gifted' classroom for every grade in every school, instead they waste the money on one school, it's purely politically motivated.
Both of our daughters are attending this school. Teachers, staff and all administration staff is great. Our kids are learning so many new things with use of practical models and technology. We feel so lucky to have our kids getting their education here.
ODC has gone downhill. My child's experience in 2nd and 3rd grade was amazing. My daughter had Mrs. Brock in 2nd grade and Mrs. Boudreau in 3rd grade and I couldn't have been more pleased. Both are truly excellent teachers. In 4th grade we were not so lucky and had a terrible teacher who has since moved to another school, and our experience with ODC has gone downhill from there.
ODC now takes a cookie cutter, one size fits all approach to gifted education. Teaching is uninspired. There is little to no assistance for children struggling with asynchronistic emotional development, let alone children who are twice exceptional, have ADHD or on the spectrum. From my observation there seems to be a not so subtle effort to weed those children out. (this is not bias, as my daughter did not fit into any of those categories, but I can't help but notice that most of the children she started with who did fit those categories have left or really have struggled).
Teacher communication was poor in 5th grade, and I was utterly unimpressed with the teachers. At the open house for advancement to Kemps Landing, the principal was lackluster and gave a speech that basically amounted to "Don't get your hopes up, we'll pick who we want to come here, and if you want to play sports or have a life outside of school, this is not the place for you." The whole thing was an utter turn off.
I am fortunate to live in a great school district and opted to send my child to her home school gifted cluster program for middle school instead of Kemps Landing. I hope ODC takes a real hard look at itself in the coming years and gets back on track.
ODC really dropped the ball on my son. He is highly gifted in math but had struggled with writing and executive function skills. His second grade teacher thought he had dysgraphia but never suggested testing. His fourth grade teacher, who thankfully is no longer there, told him he was lazy and disorganized in front of the other kids. His fifth grade teacher told me that our son was one of the best math students he'd had and he would sometimes give him extra work to do, but for most of the time he was at ODC, he was never challenged in math. The only thing the school wanted to concentrate on was the fact that he was not doing well in language arts, and so consequently he began to hate school. We have since moved out of state and our son has gotten thorough testing, something that seemed impossible to have done in Virginia Beach, and he was diagnosed with high functioning Aspergers, which goes hand-in-hand with problems with executive function skills and attention problems. ODC (and Kemps Landing too) are great schools if your child is not asynchronous in development, but if they struggle with a subject, it's difficult to get a proper diagnosis and help.:
We LOVE Old Donation Center. Although the curriculum is based on the same city-wide curriculum as all other VB schools, it is wonderfully differentiated - complete systemic integration of scientific thinking, tons of project-based learning. Every unit includes projects which really enhance the depth of their knowledge and relates it to the real world. Teachers/Administrators are wonderful and caring... right down to the janitorial staff. Very strong parent/PTA involvement allowing for diverse special programs in-school (like the parent-run science lab) and after-school (lots of club options) and really fun activities creating a sense of community (since as a magnet school students live all over the City). Bussing is combined with Kemps Landing (Middle School) but those kids have been very friendly and helpful to the elementary kids. My only concerns are regarding dismissal. First, they dismiss non-bus-riders about 10 minutes before official dismissal time. Then, because of bus delays, the bus riders routinely wait another 30 minutes. Why lose those last 10 minutes of the day? Additionally, verification of who is picking up a child is not done at all in the car lines.
Amazing school - can't say enough good things about the level of differentiation and the quality of the teachers and administrators. The level of parent involvement is remarkable and the activities that are offered during and after school add to the already-stellar learning experience.
Despite the distance from home, we could not ask for a better learning environment for our child. Differentiated instruction across the board with the most engaging, hands-on learning that I have seen at any school. Devoted and extremely knowledgeable administrators, teachers, and staff along with enthusiastic parents and PTA. The extracurricular activities that are offered are also amazing as well.
An amazing experience. At this school they incorporate current events into class lessons. Alos they know what information is boring, and they reconize that. they try to make it fun. Like today, were were studying proper nouns and my teacher told us that she knew it was a boring topic, but she made all of our grammer problems into jokes! A great school and wonderfull support.
I am about done with my college career and looking back on my past, I have to give credit to ODC. I was a student there from the time they first opened as a full-time school when I was in 3rd grade until 5th grade. The rigor, challenge, and interesting nature of ODC led me to middle school at Kemps Landing Magnet School, then AP classes in high school, and finally to a full academic scholarship at ODU. Of course, I cannot attribute all of my academic success to my elementary days, but if I had to choose a point from which my success started, I would have to choose my time at ODC where I had the most memorable, supportive, and proud teachers and administrators. I can remember having to be bribed by my mother to agree to go to ODC full-time, but I am so grateful she did!