This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
International School of Tucson5
Posted September 11, 2014
- a parent
I am the parent of two Preschool age children at IST. My son is starting his 3rd year in the Spanish program and is thriving. He's Spanish is amazing considering neither of his parents speak the language. He's had the opportunity to learn Chinese, play chess and participate in Zumba as well. We love IST. The teachers are amazing. I am in awe of the different opportunities my children receive at school. My husband and I have been considering a move out of state and frankly IST is the major "plus" for us to remain in Tucson.
As a parent, I saw last year how some families had been bullied by the head of school ( and by extension their children). We were one of them. The academic level is very low in Math (4 lessons in 6 months) and especially in English. We realized it when our children left IST for a charter school during the year. Their never had any behavior issue, we were just afraid for their security. The best move ever ! Denying the fact would not help the directory to resolve problems.
I have three children currently IST. My oldest have just started their sixth year. It is true that over the course of that time, there have been some transitions. What is not true, is what some people are saying about the result. The current Head of School is no dictator. He is strict. He has required certain standards be met and has pushed for consistency of program. He has required the use of testing across the board for students. He has also adopted a no-tolerance bullying policy. Some of these changes have angered some parents of children who were attending for years before. My family has welcomed them. Perhaps more importantly to new readers considering the school, my children are flourishing academically. The older two are reading, writing, and comprehending slightly above age-level (on a native scale) in Spanish and a year-and-a-half above age-level in English. One of their classmates is ranked nationally in mathematics! The teachers are well qualified. I know, for instance, that at least five teachers have Masters degrees, one in the preschool, three in the junior school, and one (music teacher) that teaches both; one of these is currently in a PhD program. I say try it!
I am a parent at the school and also a board member. I am posting here to explain some of the bimodal reviews. This is a young school and as such has gone through significant culture changes as it went from a startup school to a growing, thriving programme and acquired an experienced international school head of school. A handful of the families that were with the school in its early days have not been able to adjust to the more academic atmosphere and have taken to posting abusive reviews. There's no school that's perfect for everybody and we wish them luck with their new choices. Meanwhile the new programme has been proven very attractive and our enrollment rates (and student retention into the elementary school) has never been better. Staff and student morale is high and the children are thriving under the improved system. I have been awed with my child's ability to acquire a language not routinely spoken at home and the love of learning she has developed with the help of our wonderful teachers and administrators. Come for a tour of the school and check for yourself our unique, vibrant community, our confident children, and our first-rate language, music and science classes.
The junior school is no longer an immersion program. There is no language acquisition expert on staff. New head of school doesn't seem to understand that language arts class is not the same as immersion. He is a bully. He threatens children with expulsion if parents have valid concerns. The preschool is good, but the junior school really isn't as strong as public school options.
The environment provides for diversity of thought and rich cultural experience. Great teachers, dedicated to educating the children and providing true international education. Excellent parent involvement, feels like a family.
This is a truly unique school for the US. The preschool (which includes grade K) is a full language immersion program in French, German, Chinese or Spanish. It is amazing how fluent the kids can get with play-based instruction, even those whose parents only speak English at home. In the elementary school (which starts at Gr 1) kids get about 12 hours of foreign language instruction (so about half the day) and the other half is English, Science, PE etc. My daughter went to a traditional K and only moved to IST at grade 1. My impression is that she learned just as much (if not more) in English in half the time and she started picking up a foreign language, so don't worry that the English suffers. Kid's brains are amazing. There's a great new head of school (Jul 2013 so ignore the review on the previous administrator) that added a science lab, a computer lab, an art studio, and is introducing international-level academic testing. It is a private school but for K and elementary they have access to foundations with scholarships with quite high qualification limits (eg, for a family of four the income limit is 80K/year) so there's great diversity. Ask for a "test" day to try it out.
Wonderful school with top notch education and programs. My kids have flourished at IST. New Head of School is wonderful! Love the fact they are fluent in Spanish. German, French and Chinese offered too. Also love the sense of community.