We've been amazed and delighted to see how our second and pre-K boys have grown academically and personally. For non-Spanish speakers there's been something magical about hearing the boys' accents. Like many parents at the school, we became interested because of the Spanish, came partly for the IB program, and fell in love with the community.
I have a 5th grader at EBI, entering in to 6th grade next year. Many have written about EBI's warmth, culture, and community which are all from my experience very unique. My son has flourished in the reflective and thoughtful environment. But even more fundamental is that I am struck, weekly if not daily, at how amazing the International Baccalaureate program is from a learning perspective. The way he is learning, both language, arts and math/science, is so much deeper than I experienced as a child. The level of reasoning, confidence, presentation and problem solving skills, etc shown by his fellow fifth graders is truly impressive. Having been at EBI for many years, it feels like the "start up" days are largely over. We have had excellent teachers for multiple years in a row, and will be moving into the middle school program next year with outstanding, experienced teachers in place. Combined with the incredible culture of families and values, great leadership/support/communication from the head of school, and the tri-lingual instruction its just better than I ever imagined for my child. (Wish I could go back in time and go through the program myself!)
At EBI we have found everything that we would hope for in a school. We were first drawn to EBI for the Spanish immersion. It had been a deeply held priority that our children be fluent in Spanish and English. Then, as we learned more about the IB program- its scope, sequence, and style, we found that the IB approach resonated just as deeply as the Spanish immersion. The program is well-thought out, thorough, and educationally spot-on. The teachers have been incredible, so warm and enthusiastic, knowledgeable and kind. It has truly been a pleasure to become part of this community.
We chose EBI not only for its bilingual program but also for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. IB requires that the school invests in ongoing teacher development, and it clearly shows in the innovative teaching and learning methods applied. In 1st grade last year, my son's class project included building a 3-d model of a city as a way to learn about his community. One of his 2nd grade project this year entails re-designing the playground it in a way to accommodate different needs. He's applying math, writing, and science to perform skills such as polling, research, measurement, spatial understanding and presentation. Wish I could go back to school!
Our current 3rd grader transferred to EBI in the middle of Kindergarten. His teacher and the Head of School set up weekly meetings with us to make sure the transition was going smoothly and that my son was being adequately supported in the classroom. Not only did my son fall in love with the school, as did we, he picked up the spanish and couldn't wait to get up and go to school in the mornings. Now our daughter is in K at EBI and they are both engaged, challenged and developing a love of learning. We love the IB curriculum (which is successful world wide), the languages (Spanish and Mandarin) and the warm and loving community of parents and teachers at EBI.
The environment at EBI is truly exceptional. Don't believe me? Talk to the students. They are extraordinarily engaged, polite, funny and they have an individualism that shines. Rather than homogenizing the children, the IB program teaches kids, to celebrate their differences. The fact that at age 9 my daughter is fluent and comfortable in two languages, and learning a third (Mandarin) is a fantastic bonus.
After a couple of years at EBI, we moved our child to another independent school. While we were very excited about the program to start, we found it is just not ready for prime-time. The plusses: spanish immersion is great and some (but not all) teachers are warm. However, the academics are uneven though generally subpar; communication from school / teachers is mediocre. The school is stretching to expand with two campuses and without the solid foundation / experience / underpinnings (and increasing turn over). Different methods / policies are still in the works. Staff and teachers are not all on the same page as to how to "live" the vision and there appears to be core competence issues with some key staff members. The aspirations are laudable, the execution is not there YET. If language immersion is your top priority, and you are open to being part of a start-up, with the growing aches and pains, lack of attention to the whole child, and have the time to do a little home-schooling to make up for academic deficiencies, then I would say go for it. Mostly, I think this is a good pre-school and kindergarten program, but be cautious with higher grades.
Our son just started at EBI this fall, in kindergarden. He entered with no Spanish background and we do not speak it at home (he is already picking it up; Spanish words are creeping into his speech.) This school is incredible. The teachers are loving and exceptionally talented, the school administration couldn't be better, and the parent community is welcoming, friendly and energetic. We also are very happy with the IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum -- if you are unfamiliar with it take a bit of time to learn its approach to education; in my view it seems tailored to prepare our kids for the future that awaits them -- with an economy and culture that is going to be complex, diverse, rapidly changing, and global. Last -- check out some of the recent articles on the benefits of bilingual education for the development of children's brains and critical thinking skills specifically when you have a chance -- that alone should get lots of parents seriously interested in EBI, but there is so much more to appreciate -- in the East Bay this school is one of a kind.
We have been at the school since it opened six year ago and it is everything we dreamed of in a school: Deep bilingual experience (from the front desk to P.E. to music and everything in between), an incredible international curriculum that is inquiry-based and organized by projects / themes. The school has a big music focus with an incredible curriculum in this area: students play in ensembles as early as first grade, and are improvising at their concerts by 5th grade. But perhaps most importantly, on top of great academics and holistic learning, the curriculum stresses postivie character traits, and is structured around strong interpersonal interactions.