We’ve had an excellent experience at Aidan over the past decade. Each of our children joined as toddlers and will likely continue through upper elementary. The building is unassuming and tucked into a quiet Woodley Park neighborhood, but that’s okay because the magic happens in Aidan’s bright, beautiful classrooms. Between our three children, we have, as parents, experienced eight different learning environments. Naturally, as with any school, there has been some variation and bumps along the way (I’ve seen firsthand what some of the other reviewers mentioned). The constants, however, are the quality of the education; the focus on the children; and the passion Aidan teachers have for nurturing a love of learning in their students. We can honestly say that our kids love going to school every day. And that innate thirst to learn and explore never turns off — not after school, on weekends or over the summer. It’s a part of who they are and (I suspect) contributes to their overall confidence in learning and in life. Some reviewers have remarked about rigidity, but our experience has been that Aidan’s adherence to the curriculum is what defines it as an authentically AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) school. There has been some changing of the guard in faculty over the past few years, and while the retired teachers were some of the most revered in the Montessori world, I can honestly say that the new are probably some of the best in the country. There will also be a new head of school next year, whom the entire community seems very excited about. One last note: We happen to love the other families who attend Aidan. I suppose we’re of a similar mindset, having together taken a leap of faith in a method of education not considered mainstream, but they are a special group of people (kind, worldly, well-educated, successful but humble) and part of what keeps us at the school. All in all, we love Aidan. It’s made us better, more mindful parents, and it’s given my kids an extraordinary foundation for learning and life.
We've been at Aidan for many years, and I can't say enough good things about the teachers and community. My kids are learning to LOVE learning! The teachers show them how to be self-directed, to develop patience and concentration, and to find joy in learning itself--not just because they get a gold star. The elementary school is a shining example of how education SHOULD be. I could not be more thrilled. A new Head of School is coming in who seems skilled and energetic. I'm excited for the future!
Our child attended Aidan for several years. It was deeply disappointing experience and we regret sending our child. While all the Montessori materials were there, the innovative and differentiated implementation of the Montessori pedagogy was not. We experienced rote and fixed use of materials, a disinterest in the unique capacities and requirements of each student (something we always believed Montessori excelled at), and an unsynthesized process to connect students from their Montessori experience to the high-performing public and independent schools they transferred to.
Our child’s teachers had favorites and were uninterested in any extra effort to support students' learning beyond the basic Montessori materials in each classroom. Effective family engagement did not exist - no ways in which families could track the progress of their student or support classroom learning. Effective communication from teachers was nonexistent, and when the time came to apply out of the school there was no process, no support, and no guidance.
While Aidan appears to have a stellar history, our experience indicates a school resting on its Montessori laurels. Rather than being on the leading edge of innovation, which synthesizes classical Montessori with education research and best practices, Aidan operated with pedantic adherence to Montessori principles and a lack of responsiveness we found shocking. It was a terrible disappointment.
We understand there is administrative change on the horizon and we wish the school the opportunity to reflect deeply on what it wants its next iteration to be. We hope it can build on its Montessori roots a school that has robust academics, an authentic interest and insight into each family, and a welcoming community.
At the younger ages, Toddler and Primary level, this is a good school. Kids benefit from a warm environment, Montessori techniques and a strong community. But from then on, beware: the school is a steep drop off for first graders on up. The school adheres blindly to Montessori pedagogy without regard to its appropriateness for kids as they get older. If your child is smart, he will accelerate through the "materials based" curriculum but be restricted to using these materials even when they are no longer needed or useful. The small size of the classes mean that children often have only one or two kids the same age/gender to work and play with - a serious social development issue. The lack of outdoor space and physical education is a huge problem, as are sub-standard substitute teachers - a particular problem with aging teachers. They also do not test. That means that when your kid moves on to another school, he will be at a real disadvantage. The head of school is a self-promoter who lacks management and financial skill and is not even Montessori trained - all while insisting on strict adherence to it. Sadly, while early years are lovely, in the end, I cannot recommend Aidan.
I have been an Aidan parent for 7 years. At one point, I had 3 children at Aidan on 3 different levels (Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary). My kids love this school, their teachers, and their peers. Although each of my children have different learning styles, Aidan has assisted them overcome their weaknesses while enhancing their strengths. With the dedicated attention of Aidan teachers, one of my children overcame a two year deficit in math and english when she entered the school to performing above grade level at graduation. Each summer, my children receive a personal letter from his/her teacher (not an email). My kids look forward to getting the letters in the mail. There are an abundant number of opportunities throughout the year to learn of each child's development. It really is a function of simply contacting the teacher. Somehow, they always have time talk and often take the initiative to share a few comments whenever they see me or my wife. School wide, I think the kids love learning and teaching. One of my kids learned simple greek expressions from one classmate; conversational french from another. (The school teaches Spanish and Chinese.)
Aidan has all the makings of a great school with one exception. I love the teachers that truly care and educate the kids, they montessori method instills an amazing love for learning that all my kids will have their entire lives because of the great teachers at Aidan. I do however believe that the adminstration is extremely political and the school leadership often misrepresents itself to appease and placate the parents but in reality has no intentions of actually changing things. There have been continual promises of expanded discovery programs with each increase of tuition -- yet no noticable improvements (in fact 2011 basically was babysitting). The last example that, ultimately made me seek a traditional school with a much more dependable leader was the fact that they intentionally waited until commitments were binding before they announced that they would have a 3rd upper elementary teacher in 3 years... sadly I had asked the head of school about the rumors before hand (in Apirl), and she denied it. After the fact, I found that they knew about the teacher's resignation months earlier... I love Aidan, but seems like Adminstation's bottom line is money.
I can hardly believe that anyone wrote a negative comment about Aidan's "senior" teachers! These incredibly dedicated, passionate teachers have 20-30 years of experience, many of which were spent right at Aidan. The love of children and devotion to instilling a love of learning and a breadth of knowledge is unmatched by the teachers I see in many of the other DC private schools. In fact, in my experience, many teachers in the other schools (including my son's) are narrow and tired. They might be younger (or not), but they seem fed up with the children and bored with the subjects. In fact, at my son's private school (unfortunately, he was not accepted into Aidan), the teachers seem to spend far too much time enforcing petty rules and far too little time appreciating and fostering the childrens' inquisitiveness or harnessing the absorbent mind. Aidan is a wonderful school. I went to a big, fancy private school. I wish I had gone to Aidan.