We just did the tours for both schools and honestly had a tough time figuring out what is unique about the schools that might not be happening in a strong and collaborative district school. Does Nest actually have a focus on science and math in the k-5 grades? I ask because I was surprised that science is once a week and in the classrooms. Do they have an inquiry based approach to learning? Is there real depth to the curriculum? Our tour at Tag was not very informative - we heard a lot about rigor and excellence and academics but little on critical thinking for example and it was hard to gauge what exactly is going on in the classrooms. If you can share impressions and experiences that would be highly appreciated. Thanks!
I am a TAG parent, just finishing up K. We have been remarkably impressed with our son's progress, and other parents feel the same. Parents are sometimes frustrated by an opaque or uncoordinated administration, but I find these issues are present in any large, complicated and public system. No one ever really complains about how much their kids are learning, or that there is such a high percentage of grads who walk into specialized high schools, or that the principal has a crazy high standard for teachers, or that schooldigger shows they are the number 3 school in the state. No. Complaints. At. All.
My wife and I have artistic backgrounds, so I have been very keen on making sure what is happening isn't just wrote memorization, and it completely isn't. My son is intellectually curious in a way he has never been before, is looking for similarities in words and meanings, was heavily impacted by a deep dive into civil rights during black history month, his math skills exploded and they are doing two digit addition and subtraction, and he learned multiplication along the way, and clearly understands it. He is writing full paragraphs in upper and lower case, with punctuation. We just had a remarkable school play with 50 poised and confident 5 and 6 years olds who have all clearly been taught poise and confidence from the inside out. Not a single missed line, no mumbling or fidgeting, it was truly remarkable. He has done breathtaking work in art class with very clear lessons, and the work is shared with parents electronically. The new music teacher is amazing. It is one of the most diverse schools in the entire state. They have chess, and love it. Latin starts in 2nd grade. He loves his teacher too, Ms. T. We were just on vacation and he couldn't wait to get back to see her and his friends.
And truth be told...what makes a huge difference.....is simply a trick of the test. You have 50 very high IQ kids, and that is different than at a local school. That lets the teachers advance the kids very quickly since they don't have to bring up the rear, and tend to kids that might be learning slower. I cant say for sure if that is a tremendous advantage or not, or works out stunningly better in the end, but I can tell you it is what makes TAG, and the other G&Ts, different. No one is picked on for being smart. They are like these tiny little Xmen academies, where each kid really has a super power. So they feed off of their peers. They aren't playing chess against just someone, they are playing chess against a peer who is nationally ranked, and the rising tide raises all boats. They are allowed to set a very high bar for themselves, and with peers like that, they do.
Also, the other parents are remarkable and diverse and just as impressive as the kids.
One mans opinion. TAG has been amazing for us, and let us keep our jobs and apartment and commutes and everything we worked so hard for for years. Is it perfect, in every sense of the word? No, but what is? Is it free? Yup. Remarkable and life changing for our entire family? YES, no questions asked.
Thank you so much for these insights! Really really appreciate you taking the time to respond. TAG is closer to us actually and we were looking at it as a first choice initially but then read reviews about NEST being more progressive and focused on thinking and reflection and got swayed. Like I said, the tours didn't help us clarify much, so your insights into TAG are super. thanks again.
I would imagine part of what you heard is true. I suspect NEST is more progressive (but don't know that for sure). TAG is indeed rigorous and academic, and I don't think they would classify themselves as "progressive". We have homework every week, and on vacations. The K kids have spelling tests on 6 words every week, from week 1, and get real grades. If you get a 1 out of 6, you get a 1 out of 6, and a "This isn't your best work". K students have cumulative spelling tests on 24 words. We have awards ceremonies for kids on the honor roll. It is results driven, but not mean or unhealthy. But it isn't a cake walk; I know it isn't for everyone. I was a little scared starting there this year, re: the rigor, and my fears were completely unfounded. My son has flourished, has been appropriately challenged, and sometimes been disappointed he did not do as well as he wanted to. And then he dug in on the next spelling test and was incredibly proud of himself.
And even though I spent a lot of time in art schools, I am of the mind that an elementary and junior high school shouldn't have to apologize for being "academic" and focusing on the basics. That is their job. There are also a bunch of enrichment activities that are available in the afterschool programs there. We don't take advantage of that as we live too far away, but there are enrichment programs in aftercare too.
Thank you Wahidad,
We weren't even going to list TAG, until I went to the open house.
When I first got there, I thought I wasn't going to like the school, because the facility is old, and a bit rundown, compared to the other schools.
But the more I heard from them, the more I liked it. The 4 students who presented their experiences there were very impressive. So articulate and poised and sharp. They answered questions well too.
And as we walked around the hall and looked into the class rooms, I could see that this school does serious stuff.
The type of work they do, the art projects they display, the tech stuff, it was very impressive.
It really felt like a school for the gifted.
The main reason why we didn't want to list the school was because we heard they are very traditional, give a lot of homework, and they focus a lot on test scores. I know that's something many parents want, but our child is more free spirited and creative, so we didn't want her to be bogged down with so much academic work. Just because she's gifted, doesn't mean she should become an academic, test taking robot. But it's good to hear from someone like you Wahidad, who seem to have similar values, really liking TAG.
The commute would still be difficult, but after visiting, and seeing what they are about, we're considering listing them high on the list.
The amount of homework they give, especially as the grade go up, still intimidates me, but I'm sure it'll be ok.
We're probably going to list NEST above TAG, mainly because my daughter would enjoy the more progressive style better, but TAG definitely seems like a great place.
Thank you for your post. We live nearest to TAG of all the citywides, and were very excited to visit, but didn't end up with a great feeling from the tour - so I'm curious for your perspective on our impression.
When we were at TAG, four amazingly poised middle school kids talked about their experiences - I'd love for my son to turn out so poised. But for now he is a VERY active, and happy, little boy. We think he'd thrive in a stimulating environment where kids are encouraged to talk and get excited and engaged in projects and discussions. When we went into the Kindergarten classrooms at TAG, it was 100% heads down, quiet, writing. It didn't have a buzz, at all. In one room, the teacher was playing music that had a very tense feel to it while the kids wrote. Maybe it was just the time of day, and it isn't always like this. When we asked a couple of parents if it's always so quiet in the classrooms, they said yes, that the kids are very disciplined there. So we ultimately left the TAG tour with very mixed thoughts. (At other school tours, including a few zoned schools in our area, we've felt a distinct 'buzz' of excitement in the classrooms... which may be a product of the progressive group-based schooling, I really don't know)
We had such high hopes going in, given the proximity to our home. Given you love the school, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the atmosphere there - it's very possible I just didn't witness the right moment or ask the right questions on the tour. I was very happy to see your positive review.
Ive never experienced that, but have only been in his classroom a few times. I just asked him if his classroom was quiet or loud or tense or fun. He said sometimes its quiet and sometime its loud and sometimes its fun. I have a very energetic boy as well, so thats the perspective he is coming from.
Some of the junior high kids helped with his play, and emceed, and I felt the same way. I was like: if my boy ends up like that, I am all good.
TAG is sadly deficient at selling itself, and after a year I think they think they dont need to nor know how to. But selling eduction, and educating well, are two vastly different tasks. So from the trench, I can tell you the product is way better than the sell. But I would encourage you to trust your instincts. I went to the tour, saw the diversity of the students and the work on the walls, and it was a lock for me.
I am wondering if someone with knowledge of NEST can give me a sense of how the school is progressive. I didn't see many classes in action on the tour but the school did not strike me as particularly progressive, inquiry based or student centered. I got the sense from the presentations and the work on the walls that they are focused on accelleration and the standards. It seemed quite teacher centered to me. Nobody in the presentation mentioned inquiry at all, so I am wondering if I am missing something in terms of how the students explore topics. Perhaps, hopefully, my impression is way off, because there were many things I liked about the school. It also didn't hear or see much about the arts or physical activity and I would love to hear how these are incorporated into the students' experience. Thanks!
Thanks Wahidad - that is helpful to hear. Maybe we just went in at the wrong time, at least relative to what we were hoping to see. Clearly the TAG parents at the open house love the place, which speaks volumes.
Acr12 - for what it's worth, when we went on the NEST tour this week, we went into a few classrooms and the art room, and saw lots of buzz and the kids seemed engaged. We also saw energetic activity during a PE class in the gym - the kids were really into their game.
I can't help wonder if our impressions have a lot to do with random time of day of the tour.