My daughter is in her second year at NCS. If I had to summarize NCS, I would say it is the best education that money can buy. It literally, is impossible to not get a great education. The teachers are always good, and some are great. I don't want to attack anyone else's opinion or motivation for posting, but the negative experiences some recount, I have not seen. When I bring up my daughter's challenges to this school, they care deeply. The administration is first rate. I don't know the headmaster, and I am not anyone important. The one cautionary thing I would say, is this school is about educational excellence. If you are going for any other reason, this school may not be for you. It is harder than any school I have seen. But this school cares, and you should not listen to anyone that says otherwise, it is just not true. The great majority of parents I have spoken to are highly satisfied with the school.
IThe atmosphere is toxic. Very few girls in my daughter's class were happy by 11th or 12th grade. The problem at NCS is that the administration just doesn't care about the emotional well being of the students. The head is completely disengaged from the life of the school. The culture of the place is cold and competitive. If a girl has any issues, the administration's view is that she can't cut it and the other girls see any weakness as an opportunity to have one less girl to compete against. My daughter was a top student and hated being surrounded by girls who just wanted to check off the right boxes to get into the right college. She hated the fact that love of learning fell by the wayside. She hated the way girls could treat others so badly without anyone stepping in, standing up for a girl who is being victimized. (Fellow students and administrators). They give you the idea that this is somehow THE BEST school but there are so many others that engage and challenge girls, and teach them to care for each other. Stay away. You may think it will be different for you. I did and i was so wrong. Worst parenting decision I made.
Don't be fooled by the money at this school. It is NOT the school is used to be and does not deserve the reputation it once did. We changed schools because the high school is run by administrators and teachers who do not care about education or students. They care about money, elitism and power. We were shocked at the behavior we witnessed (by teachers and administrators) and there is no accountability since the Head of School is only interested in raising money. There is no, repeat NO, integrity at this school and the quality of education is not close to top level. The school needs a massive shake up before it can begin to compete with the other excellent schools in the area. Old or experienced teachers leave and young, frightened, and cowed teachers are hired. The girls suffer. Also--everyone knows the glowing reports written on this page were done as damage control by the admin. They are very worried about their reputation and think faking great reports will fool the public.
I love my school, and I feel like I need to give a present-day student's POV. Looking through here, the main complaints I see are: You have to be DC elite: My mom is a middle school teacher and I've had no problem making friends. Nobody cares how much money you have. I don't even know what my friends' parents do for a living. Nobody asks, because nobody cares about status. Simply if you're friendly, kind, and outgoing, people will like you. You only memorize: If you're a procrastinator who hasn't been constantly studying for a test. If you procrastinate, you'll likely find yourself cramming and memorizing instead of learning. Yet in the classroom, we're challenged to question & voice our ideas, as long as we have solid evidence. Teachers/admin don't care about the students, only reputation: This is just not true. Our mental health is placed before all else & every teacher is totally understanding if we need to reschedule a test or step out of the room. They're aware of the sometimes-stressful atmosphere, & they do their best to make sure we're not overwhelmed. The people saying otherwise are probably just bitter. No student I know feels that way.
I have strong feelings about NCS. I attended many years ago and, while I found it very difficult, the teachers worked very hard to get me up to speed. I owe a great deal in my life to having had the privilege of going to NCS. My sister also attended and has been tremendously successful in her very technical field, which she loves. A number of years ago I sent my daughter to NCS for 4-6 grades. Unfortunately, she has a chronic illness and struggled terribly. The teachers and the administration were excellent; nurturing, incredibly patient, and really first rate, in the face of a very challenging situation. NCS is a very competitive school and the parents send their children there to succeed, so be mindful that not every girl will be at the top of the class, and the focus is on academics, rather than happiness. However, the hard work will be certain to pay off in the long run, and I have never met an NCS graduate I did not find interesting and very intelligent.
From a 2011 parent. Wonderful school, but not for everyone. My daughter thrived, but she was very social, smart and driven. If I had another daughter, I would think long and hard about sending here there, because the same place might not be right for her. We are upper middle class, but by no means rich. There are plenty of "it" girls who do not come from the Washington elite.
I had two children that attended the NCS lower school and while I loved the academics, wholesome activities, and friendships they fostered I would not recommend the lower school, if the perception of your family unit can even remotely be seen as negative by the teaching staff. The perception does not have to be based in reality, yet a collaborative of assumptions based on a narrow mined view of what the ideal preferred NCS parent/student combination should be. The will target based on a perceived physical appearance. A gang of teacher s will work together to maintain their idyllic NCS perception, by making unsubstantiated negative comments about your child in progress reports. This is their way of forcing individuals they perceive as not being a good fit from wanting to stay. They are aware that no one is going to continue to pay tuition for services when the outcome is damaging to their child s confidence. They usually win the battle to push those students they have targeted out. It is a very refined, polished version of a gang mentality.
Attending NCS was a wonderful decision for me. Being in college now, I've been able to look back and identify how NCS has shaped my growth. For me, the two most striking dimensions of NCS are the community and intensity. I really cannot speak more highly of the community. The bond developed between girls here is unbreakable. Likewise, the small class sizes make it easy to get to know these devoted teachers. I actually still keep in contact with my favorite teachers, several years after graduating. Of course, the all-girls atmosphere has its highs (more openness to speak your mind, closeness with the girls) and lows (competitiveness and, let s be honest, no boys). Luckily, co-ed sports and classes keep boys in sight, but the competitiveness is more complicated. Sure, NCS was difficult the pressure to excel at your work amongst other brilliant students took mental fortitude, for lack of a better word but this aspect of NCS was largely responsible for my growth. If I could handle that, then gee, I could handle anything the world threw at me! Above all, NCS has helped me academically (its rigors prepared me well to face college standards) and given me the confidence to be a leader.
As a recent graduate of NCS, I feel qualified to assess the learning environment. I am an excellent standardized test taker, and I don't mind working hard; however, dealing with the administration drained much of my potential and energy. For a place that aims to challenge every student, when I asked to push myself further in areas of interest, I was repeatedly rebuffed. Seeing the accommodations NCS would make for other students in the face of their rigid stance toward me built up a lot of resentment. From unqualified teachers to absolutely appalling college guidance, I came to regret having attended. The simple fact is that I could not have switched schools and remained competitive in the college admissions process because of my poor curricular preparation at NCS. My family has severed ties with the school and I will be attending an esteemed Ivy League university, in spite of the administration's efforts to thwart that outcome.
I could not have gone to a better high school, and no, my standardized tests are not perfect nor was I an exceptional athlete. I have always struggled with test-taking - standardized or not - and I found the NCS teachers to be readily available and very willing to help me through my test-taking struggles. Additionally, I had some amazing coaches who helped shape my athletic career and discipline. When I first arrived at NCS in the ninth grade, I could not run a mile without walking. Now, the team attitude, discipline, and work ethic I gained from sports at NCS has shaped all aspects of my life. I would not be the same person without the opportunities NCS gave me at such a crucial point in my education. Sure, NCS is not for everyone, but the bonds you make with teachers and the friendships you form at an all-girls school like NCS are invaluable - to this day, my high school friends remain my best friends. NCS changed my life in the best way possible.
The National Cathedral School (NCS) is an extraordinary institution. The girls are shaped into leaders, young women who can advocate for themselves, and who believe nothing is beyond their reach. Our two daughters have thrived in this environment. The faculty and curriculum are beyond compare. The student body is highly diverse, racially and economically. The episcopal foundation provides the moral compass that turns these young girls into Women for the World. The Performing Arts program is outstanding and is a joint program with St. Albans, the affiliated all-boys school. Co-ed Choral, Dance, and Theatrical programs are created throughout the year, many of which are performed in the Cathedral itself. The Sports Complex rivals any at the collegiate level - including two rock climbing peaks soaring 60 feet. What's more, in the high school many of the classes are offered on a co-ed basis, so NCS provides the best of an all-girl education with opportunities for co-ed classroom experiences as well. Our oldest daughter is a Senior this year. Every university we visited was thrilled to learn that she was an "NCS girl." There is no question. These girls stand out in a crowd.
I do not recognize the school described in negative reviews below!! I had two daughters attend NCS and their experiences were outstanding. My daughters are very different and yet the school nurtured their talents and made them self confident young women by the time they graduated. The faculty were passionate about their teaching; my daughters still visit teachers when they return to DC. My dealings over 9 years with the Division Directors, senior administrators and the Head were without complaint. I found they all had the student interests at heart; why else would they join a profession that is not known for its high salaries? My family is not part of the power elite of DC and it made no difference in the way we were treated and respected by the school. NCS does have a demanding curriculum but that isn't a secret to anyone applying to the school. When my daughters confronted challenges, we found the teachers and school active partners in helping us. The Teaching & Learning Center is a tremendous resource for the students & faculty to help girls succeed academically. Bottom line- this is a unique & great school that leaves a lasting & positive impact on its students.
We have 3 daughters who graduated from NCS. Each is very different in her interests, strengths, and personality. Although each experienced NCS in her own way and took advantage of diverse opportunities, each of them thrived in the NCS environment. NCS provides an exceptional education and in my view is one of the very best schools in the Washington area. NCS not only offers a broad, deep and stimulating academic college prep curriculum but also the tools, encouragement, and support girls need to succeed. NCS students are committed to excellence in many pursuits- academic, athletic, performing and fine arts, music, community service, leadership, and more. Being part of the National Cathedral offers students a unique and special connection with a broader community, a connection which strengthens students development of character, integrity, and commitment to service. As my daughters experience the challenges of college and life beyond college, they have each articulated their appreciation of what they learned and experienced at NCS. They regularly keep in touch with certain NCS faculty and staff and their NCS friends remain and I predict will always remain- very close.
Top ten things I like about being a student at NCS: I love getting up to go to school each morning Sense of sisterhood and community Teachers are very supportive and always willing to help Teachers encourage each student s strengths and capabilities Make friends that you will keep for a lifetime Sense of independence, especially in the high school Teachers are very skilled and knowledgeable about the subject they are teaching The Honor Code The Cathedral and the importance of spirituality Diversity, which is integrated into all aspects of student life
Personal Experience I would recommend NCS if you are an athlete who also does well on standardized test. For those individuals whose standardized test scores are not up to par than your grades will suffer, it does not matter how well you perform on in class assignments and test. They will not even relinquish certain classroom test to give you an opportunity to get help from a tutor. Why, because in most instances you do not have a problem, they just make the grade what they want in an effort to get rid of poor standardized testers. They do not want people that will not perform well on the SAT, so they manufacture problems. They let you in the lower school but if you do not fit into the standardize testing mold by 8th grade you are out. They will even wait as long as the 10th grade when you take the SSAT to not offer your child a contract for the following year. Not the place to be for good students that don t do well on the standardized test.
As many of the comments attest, NCS isn't for everyone. The curriculum, which is demanding and rigorous, challenges students to focus on retaining knowledge, not just memorizing or cramming. (The teacher who claimed that the girls memorize material must have had a different experience. Or he/she was fired and is embittered.) Girls who excel at public schools often experience a rough transition to NCS as the stakes are higher and more intense. While there are some kids who come from the families of Washington's elite, there are many others who do not. My daughter has responded well to the school, and the teachers are first-rate. My one complaint is about the administration, particularly the head of school. She is incredibly disingenuous and, rather than take tough stands, often caves to unreasonable parents' demands. She also does not interact with the students; in fact, she hardly has a presence in the daily operations of the school. Consequently, the girls don't feel close to her.
This was by far the worst teaching experience I have ever had. I have taught in several schools, including colleges and high schools; my immediate boss was nasty and our department gave tests that reflected the ability of students to memorize and repeat, not learn and think. I have had wonderful teaching experiences in a variety of different public and private settings, but I will never send my daughter here. For a place that claims to be Christian, it falls far short as it waters down the so-called "chapel" services and buckles to whatever the wealthy parents and students want at the expense of academic and Christian integrity. It's a shame because the school could be such a wonderful place.
Parents, I would not recommend sending your child to NCS if she does not enjoy or does poorly at standardized tests. As I student, I am constantly tested throughout the week with various assessments. Usually it ranges from 2-3 lengthy quizzes, an essay/writing piece, and a major assessment/project per week. Because of this, my classmates and I have become easily stressed. My family has become concerned as well, noticing that I have slightly obsessive-compulsive tendencies to my schoolwork. My main concern of this rigorous testing is that I'm not sure what I'm taking in from my classes. Am I learning or just memorizing for the test?
I would not recommend NCS to anyone who s child is not a good standardized test taker or who cannot afford to get tutors to teach them to pass the standardized test. In middle school if you do not score average to above average on the standardized test, the administration does their best to convince you that your child needs testing or has a learning disability. She could be an excellent student with great class test scores, however in the 8th grade the administration all of a sudden finds her weakest standardized test score and that grade in the correlating class begins to fall. There is a false sense of intelligence here because of all the tutoring that takes place and your child is compared to all the other children being tutored to test. Although when speaking with parents and administration all pretend this is not happening, but the children talk about their tutors. Bottom line NCS wants to avoid poor standardized test takers making it to high school and taking the SAT. This process reduces a child s confidence making the education less than worthy.
NCS is located on the beautiful Cathedral grounds which itself is inspiring everyday. It is known for its intense academic program, which I can say can get challenging. When you go to NCS you need to know its not for the social life. You will be pushed to your limits but in the end the benefits are immense. It really does prepare you for college, and once you make it through you'll look back and thank the teachers for the excellent education. NCS is not a school for you if your not willing to work hard.
Community ratings and reviews do not represent the views of GreatSchools nor does GreatSchools check their accuracy or verify the reviewers' identities. Use your discretion when evaluating these reviews.
The Community Rating is the school’s average rating from its community members (e.g., parents, students, and school staff). The highest possible rating is five stars; the lowest is one star.
To start a new list, click OK. Otherwise click Cancel.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of National Cathedral School on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for National Cathedral School, including performance data and recently posted user reviews.