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.
Lower elementary teachers are senior(meaning they should have retired at least 5 years ago). One specifically shows preferential treatment to the kids whose parents are on the board or big donors. So for normal families, your child will not get first shot at the exciting science project or get the extra time needed to master a lesson. It's a very expensive education for grades 1-3 that's just average. Most parents whose kids go on to competitive independent schools, heavily tutor so their kids are prepared. So most families apply to other schools after their 1st year. Only communication you will typically have with the teacher is during 2 conferences a year. Because of their age, they don't use email. So any progress or activities happening in the class you wait until the few times a year for the parent/teacher conferences. The afterschool program is very limited for elementary kids. Focus is on toddlers and primary(18month - 5 years). Many opportunities for parents to get involved. However, committee leadership is very political. Head of School hand picks leadership behind the scene. If I could do it again, I would not have wasted my child's time here.
Aidan is a wonderful community with wonderful teachers! We love the fact that children and teachers work together for three years in each level(except for toddler). The teachers really get to know the children and their insight is invaluable.