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International School of the Pen

Private | PK-8

 

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Living in Palo Alto

Situated in an urban neighborhood. The median home value is $355,000. The average monthly rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1,405.

Source: Sperling's Best Places
 
Last modified
Community Rating

4 stars

Community Rating by Year
2014:
No new ratings
2013:
Based on 8 ratings
2012:
Based on 5 ratings
2011:
Based on 4 ratings

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45 reviews of this school


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Posted June 4, 2013

The good: The teachers, kids and parents at the school are great. However, the teachers get held back by the administration. For example, if a child in kindergarden asks the teacher to learn to read, the answer will be that they are not allowed to. On the lower campus there is a lot of tension between the teachers and the director. The administration takes decisions that are not in the interest of the children such as assigning teachers to classes they are not qualified to teach (For example: a nursery teacher assigned to a 1st grade class. It's a good thing the teacher was wise enough to refuse the position) Fundraising is in the center of school activities and the children are also solicited to get the parents to donate to the school. If you are looking for your children to learn a second language, it's a great school. The kids and parents are fantastic. But be prepared to battle with the administration.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted May 31, 2013

Fantastic teachers and community of parents. It is a great way to get the kids to learn a foreign language (French or Chinese). The little ones love to go have fun there while learning about the world. Unfortunately the administration is much more focused on fundraising activities and politics rather than children education. The school lost quite a few good teachers because of the administration. I guess it confirms that even in education principal leadership is key.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted February 19, 2013

Our child is in the elementary school program, and so far we have had a good experience with the school. The administration and faculty are responsive, devoted to the idea of bilingual education and very much want to create a lasting and unique educational institution. The school does not have the endowment of other private schools in the area, but nor does the school want to become a haven for primarily wealthy families. This does create some robust fundraising efforts, but we haven't noticed any more pressure than at other private schools, and probably less. That simply is a fact of life for a school that views itself as having a particular mission (bilingualism, global outlook and academic preparation) that does not draw as widely as a traditional school.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted January 22, 2013

We joined ISTP when my daughter entered pre-k in the mandarin immersion program. Ten years have passed and the promise and benefits of a bi-lingual education in combination with rigorous academics has been fulfilled. ISTP has prepared her well to take on the challenges ahead academically, socially and emotionally. The Chinese program has matured significantly during our tenure. The Chinese teachers are excellent from Nursery to Eighth. We have travelled to China, and it is easy to see her language competence and confidence. Whether her mandarin skills will be important professionally or simply personally, it is a wonderful gift for her to know both the Chinese language and culture. Regarding overall academics, she got the attention she needed, at each grade across all subjects, to be the best student possible. Homework is demanding but rarely overwhelming. There is time for other activities besides homework, and to go to bed on time. The small classes allow kids and parents to really get to know each other. The parent community is vibrant and warm, everyone bonded together to make ISTP a great school and experience for all the kids. We are happy that we made ISTP our choice!
—Submitted by a parent


Posted January 22, 2013

I have two children at ISTP, both of whom started in Pre-K. As non-Mandarin Chinese speakers, we believe we have given our children a great gift in not only a great education through ISTP but also in the ability to be poly- literate and polylingual. ISTP is the best at what it does. In reading the reviews, I think it is disingenuous that many have posted incorrect facts. They are flat out wrong. ISTP has practices that are normal for independent schools regarding fundraising, education, and budget. The school is managed financially conservatively and has grown its enrollment to an all-time high, an endorsement by parents who believe ISTP is THE best choice for their children. ISTP offers a school that emphasizes education first, and uses multiple languages through which to teach. Arts, collaboration, and special attention to social-emotional learning are all hallmarks of this great Nursery through 8th grade school. Before making a decision on where you send your child to school, please research to find the best fit for your family. We have have found the COMMUNITY of parents to be one of the best aspects of this experience. We count them as our closest friends today.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted January 17, 2013

My eldest daughter graduated from the french program last year and my youngest is in french elementary. Both joined the school in pre-K and have attended both campuses. My husband and I couldn't be more pleased with the quality of the school. The teachers are supportive and caring, but most of all they are teaching our children to THINK. The complaint I hear from friends from other schools is that there is too much memorization and not enough critical thinking. ISTP teaches children how to think for themselves and to solve problems. On the rare occasion our girls struggled with courses, the teachers never let them fall behind, they always did something proactive to help them succeed, to keep them on par with their classmates. As for the attrition rate, while every year we lose one or two kids to other schools, this mostly this seems to be a result of the difficulties experienced by non-french parents trying to keep up with their kids' french-language homework. That said, there are plenty of tutors to help. Bottom line: I highly recommend this school to anyone who wants their kids to have a bilingual education. It's worth every penny.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted January 17, 2013

Our experience from the Chinese program. The school is undergoing an expansion, building a new site, costing 20 million dollars. The administration refuses to borrow and has little endowment, so the pressure is on parents to donate money. The emphasize of the principal is money and his legacy, his staff support this mission, or is out the door. While at this school, we felt endless pressure to conform, donate money, and please. Teachers are evaluated on how much money they raise. The amount each family donate is public information, printed in a booklet and mailed to each household. The teachers criticized kids' smallest infractions with exaggerated reaction, and on a daily basis bombarded parents with issues. My child's confidence, and our sanity were constantly under attack. What little issues my child had, the teachers blew it up and made it worse, not better. After our child left and joined a different school, we were surprised at how kind, fair, positive, and skillful the teachers are at the new school.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted January 14, 2013

There have been 5 different Chinese section directors at the school since 2001. Unfortunately, these changes in leadership do affect the direction and spirit of the program. There is a resultant lack of oversight and vision for the Mandarin section. The administration is fairly dysfunctional (from the parent perspective, the French and Chinese administration seemed always at odds - perhaps one reason the directors leave?) This in turn affects the teachers with the final trickle down to the students. I wish our experience at this school had been good because, in theory, a bilingual education is a wonderful thing. In actuality,it is inconsistent from year to year, sometimes good, sometimes out right awful depending on the combination of teacher and current director. Social/emotional development is given only lip service, unless you happen to be the child of a major donor and then your emotional well being is considered above that of other children. Bullying is otherwise generally ignored. Instruction in the lower grades is solid, but once in the upper grades, it deteriorates. This is reflected in poor test scores and poor placement into private middle schools.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted October 15, 2012

Finding the right school for your child is no small task. If you are looking for a rigorous school that strikes balance between academics and social / emotional growth, consider ISTP. We have two kids and this is our third year at the school. The elementary program has a strong program, and the real strength is the true bilingualism these students acquire. The middle school is where we find the school really shines. The principal is outstanding and a true leader. Academically, teachers push students to their best, and the students strive. Graduates are well received by leading high schools. This is not just a language school. It is a school where children learn about other cultures and the world. Finally, the parents in this community work together to help make this an amazing community.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted September 23, 2012

A neighbor who is considering enrolling her daughter asked me my opinion about some of the posted reviews, knowing how much my kids and I love the school. All I can say is that those who leave with a negative impression are the proverbial squeaky-wheels, and I can only sympathize with their unfortunate experience. I'm sure that no school is perfect for every child, but having had kids who have gone through nursery to middle school, all I can say is that they have received superior academic preparation (got into all advanced classes in high school). More importantly, not only are they tri-lingual, they have experiences unparalleled to most other students, whether it's from daily exposure to multiple cultures, or from international school trips ( China, Costa Rica, France!). The teachers are more than qualified to teach such a curriculum, and the parent community is fabulous.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted September 20, 2012

I have two children at ISTP and I'm a bit shocked by some of the reviews. My children are in the Chinese program and I've had great experiences with the teachers and staff. The teachers are truly and honestly the best, both Chinese and English. They are exceptional and have shown real care for my children. I think what we all want is for our children to be happy at school, and I can 100% say that my children are. Compared to their friends that are not at ISTP, they are at grade level in English and math. But what they have that their friends don't Chinese! As for facilities, the Cowper campus was recently renovated and it's great. The classrooms are spacious and the outdoor space is amazing.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted August 29, 2012

Research thoroughly your decision to attend this school. Academically, standardized test scores in both the elementary & middle school are low. When asked to see current test scores, the administration shared old data. Although bi-lingual schools can academically lag English-only schools, parents who left for other schools said academically, their kids needed lots of extra tutoring. Instilling a joy & love of learning, it is not practiced at all. The French teachers motivate kids negatively, ie yelling, berating, & humiliating them & sometimes causing them cry. The admin speaks of "teaching emotional intelligence", "building leaders', "teaching positive risk taking", but in practice it doesn't exist. When issues are raised, they are dismissed/unresolved w/out teacher accountability. Overall, attrition rates are high, test scores are low, teaching methodology is archaic & out dated, & teachers & administration have questionable backgrounds. Find & speak to families that have left. Bottom line, if you have goals of your child attending a top American university, do not go here. There are many positive, proven, alternatives in the area to teach your child Chinese or French.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted February 20, 2012

I still believe what children learn at this school are great. However, my experiences at Cowper campus were lots of shocking surprises. When we just started, I met parents who had already been at school told me "Why did you chose here? We are thinking to leave this school.." It seems people do leave and the number of students in higher grades are very small. From my own experience at Cowper I think they should consider to improve in administrative area. It was shocking to me that my child came back home from school with some food and drinks, sometimes ate/drunk something already at school, which I never want my child to eat/drink. They have snack list, but they give students food/drinks not listed and not informed to parents in advance. When children get sick, they let such children sit at the end of the corridor facing to the entrance door where everyone is passing by. Once I saw a child who looked like almost vomiting was sitting there with a trash bin placed in front of him. They do not have a proper room to treat such sick or injured children. When my child got injured, they did not treat properly either and I was very sad. They didn't apologize for whatever happened either.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted August 26, 2011

Our child is in the French program in the middle school section, taking Chinese for the first time as a third language. The middle school Chinese teacher is absolutely phenomenal. My child comes back home happy, eager to communicate in what little Chinese he knows of, and is excited even about doing homework. Which brings me to my point: this school is doing an amazing job in cultivating not only linguistic competency--bilingualim, trilingualism and what not--but also the love of learning. I see my child enjoying everyday and every moment in school. What more can I ask for as a parent?
—Submitted by a parent


Posted June 22, 2011

ERB scores are an important measure of achievement, comparable to the STAR testing in public schools. Despite the fact that kids are learning everything in two languages here, ISTP still has scores ABOVE the average in Math and English for urban private schools (the higher level of ERB test scores). Language tests also score higher than at other private schools for both French and Mandarin testing. A win-win situation given that the children receive excellent character development and global citizenship examples from their teachers.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted April 18, 2011

We have found the school lacking in many aspects. Our daughter has been in the Chinese program for past 4 years. Greatest weakness of the school is the administration and it's lack of insight. They drive away the good teachers by burning them out, leaving weak teachers to stay long term. There is little disciplinary action against troubled kids, so they terrorize the class unabated. The early preschool years are fine at Cowper campus, but instruction degrades rapidly from 1st grade on at Cohn campus. English instruction is especially weak, as is science. Math is fair. Mandarin instruction is fair. The parents who tend to like the school do not know Mandarin, so they are unaware of the level of instruction. There is very little exploratory learning, but plenty of rote. You will see that most native speakers leave the school since the Mandarin and English are not up to their standards. Ask to see how the students fair on the standardized tests (ERB and separate Mandarin test) You will find the administration will give excuse after excuse for the level of performance. There are other options for Mandarin instruction such as weekend school, tutoring, afterschool programs
—Submitted by a parent


Posted February 10, 2011

We absolutely adore this school. Our son is currently in his third year in the French program - so this review is specific to that program. I think it is important for prospective parents to understand that ISTP is basically a French school - it is French accredited, follows a French curriculum, and for the most part the teachers are French. Parents unfamiliar with the French educational system would therefore do well to learn about it, and how it differs from the American system, before enrolling. Our son's facility with the French language is astounding, and we love the diverse, down-to-earth, and decidedly "normal" parent community, refreshingly devoid of the Botox-and-BMW set that dominates other area private schools. Our son is something of a perfectionist, so the highly structured environment, with clearly-outlined goals and expectations, and the relative meritocracy of the French system (in which hard and careful work is rewarded) makes sense to him. We also love the high number of male teachers; our son has no shortage of role models at this school.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted January 10, 2010

My daughter was at ISTP for 4 years. My daughter made good friends there and we have made great friends with the wonderful families. ISTP is a worthwhile investment if your child has never been exposed to Mandarin Chinese and do not have support at home. By 1st grade, the Chinese/English exposure is 50/50 so it's about 3 active hours a day. There is little differentiation in the teaching of kids of various levels and the English program is not as strong as in the public schools (we are now in a public immersion program). Though we were not entirely happy with the math curriculum at ISTP, it is FAR better than the public school math curriculum. If you have the money ($18k) and do not have a public immersion program in your area, ISTP may be a good fit for you.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted November 16, 2009

This is the 3rd year our child is in the Mandarin immersion program at this school. He is thriving. His teachers have been absolutely stellar. He is already speaking Chinese (and we don't speak it at home) and understanding everything that is going on in the class. We have no doubt that he will be bilingual, even trilingual when he finishes his education here. He is currently in Kindergarten and comparing notes with public school parents in this area - I am so glad that I have my child in private school and especially glad that it's ISTP. They are teaching children in a very fun, low-pressure manner yet the kids are really figuring things out (English, reading) themselves and feeling very competent. I have no doubts about sending my child to this school.
—Submitted by a parent


Posted November 10, 2009

Excellent Chinese Immersion program - Both my children attend ISTP, and we love the school. The teachers are extremely nurturing, and there has been much thought invested in developing a curriculum designed to promote critical thinking through age-appropriate exercises. The academics are excellent in addition to supporting strong social/leadership skills and other soft skills. Additionally, my daughter, who started in Nursery and is now in K, has an impressive mastery of Mandarin despite the fact that we primarily speak English at home. The Chinese Immersion program was created in 1996, making it the longest established full-day Chinese Immersion program in Silicon Valley. They also have an excellent French Immersion program that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. For our family, the ISTP experience has been culturally rich beyond expectation.
—Submitted by a parent


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Student ethnicity

Ethnicity This school
Asian 42%
White 42%
Two or more races 10%
Hispanic 4%
Black 2%
American Indian/Alaska Native 0%
Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander 0%
Source: NCES, 2009-2010

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151 Laura Ln
Palo Alto, CA 94303
Phone: (650) 251-8500

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