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.
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.
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.
Our daughter has been in this school in the French immersion track since nursery (she just started 4th grade). Her current teacher was suprised that we don't speak a word of French of at home--she is that fluent. In addition, she speaks Hindi (and reads and writes at the India 3rd grade level). The attitude towards multi-culturalism and multi-lingualism has been totally fostered by the school. I saw other second-gen Indian and Chinese children in public schools around who are embarrassed to speak their parent's languages! I totally disagree with the parent below about the lack of rigor. Most of the children at ISTP including my daughter consistently test in the top 10 percentile in ERB testing. I have two nephews in the same grade as my daughter in Encinal (a blue ribbon public school) in Menlo Park. She is clearly a year ahead in most areas.
This school not only has excellent academics, but a wonderful and nurturing community. In order to reap the full benefits of the rigorous bilingual education, you should stay through middle school. Children are educated to be responsible, global citizens; they respect other cultures and are intellectually curious. We are thrilled with our children's experience at this chool.
I was not happy with the education my children received at ISTP. My kids were at both campus and the administration at both campus was very uninviting. There was no differentiation at the kindergarten level. Kids who were reading at the first and second grade level, were taught basic phonics. At the first grade level, the differentiation in reading was which box you could select your reading book. The program is not rigerous. Although class sizes are small the Kindergarten class had a 1:15 ratio and the First 1:12 ratio, they weren't able to build any differentiation into the curriculm.
If your child/family fall into their expectations, your child and you will find great satisfaction at ISTP. However, if your child falls outside of the 'norm' (high/low achieving), the school is not equipped with the teachers/specialists to tailor to your child's exceptional needs. Being the hot educational issue, differentiation is talked a lot at school but is not often practiced in the classroom (the extent of differentiation means different work sheets or different reading bins). As a parent familiar with progressive educational pedagogies, I find the school's teaching pedagogy to be very traditional. I am also a bit disappointed at the lack of rigor across the subjects - Chinese, English, and Math. The expectation levels set for the children seem to be even lower than that of the local public schools. The diversity of the student body and the cohesiveness of the families are wonderful, very positive aspects of ISTP.
This school is brilliant! Our children are both now bilingual, despite coming from a monolingual home. During the summer in France I was asked why my children spoke such good English! The man was astonished to learn they were not French. But what's more, they are happy, well-rounded, superbly educated citizens of the world who do not expect special treatment because they have learned to stand confidently on their own two feet. I am somewhat surprised, and saddened, by the negative reviews. It may come down to expectations: not every child - or indeed every family - is cut out for friendly rigor of ISTP, where education is left strictly to the professionals (a practice I wholeheartedly endorse), but where there are myriad opportunities to enjoy the vibrant, multicultural, multinational parent community outside of the classroom. What better preparation for tomorrow's world could your children have?
I am a parent of 3 children in the French Program (PreK, 2nd grade, 4th grade) at ISTP and we have been a part of the school community for 6 years. My husband and I are very pleased with our childrens' education thus far. First of all, and most importantly, the older two are fluent in French, which is wonderful because we do not speak it at home. Also, we really value the multicultural community of families, teachers and support staff and the richness it brings to the education and social life at school. As an example, I love the fact that my youngest daughter has 3 nurturing teachers who are from 3 different french-speaking countries. They bring such wonderful diversity to the classroom. There are many, many opportunities to get involved at ISTP as a parent, if you wish. We feel lucky that ISTP is a part of our lives!
I'm a parent of a child in the Chinese program and thoroughly love the program and school. I've found my daughter's teachers to be engaging and they know the students and their personalities and learning styles. It saddens me to see the other reviews about the teachers. Perhaps they had a bad teacher, but all the teachers I've had have been great. I value the international perspective my daughter is gaining and I strongly believe she couldn't get such an education any where else. Compared to other Chinese schools in the area, I believe ISTP has the most balanced approach to a bilingual immersion education, one that takes into account both an education in Chinese and English. Not too mention she is being exposed to so many other cultures, not just Chinese. There is no other school like ISTP and for that I'm grateful that my daughter is a student there.
This is our 4th year at ISTP, in the Chinese program and I am seriously considering other options next year for my child. One parent put it succintly 'I want my child to be the deal-maker, not the translator.' Just having knowledge of a second-language doesn't make you a global leader... Giving children the ability to engage deeply in problem solving and opportunities to think outside the box is what gives children the global perspective. Unfortunately, this has not been our experiences at the school. With a hands-off attitude towards differentiation (non-existent despite what they tell you) discipline/social development (aside from a few one-day seminars, non-existent), the school is very traditional in its pedagogy. The curriculum supports the child that fits in their box. Curiousity and exploration are not encouraged. Though we will miss the 4 hours of Chinese instruction, a deep and well-rounded education is far more important.
This is our first year at French program, and my daughter doesn't like it... I don't like it neither: it is extremely expensive and you just feel that teachers and stuff don't work hard enough for $25K+ a year (tuition + after-school child care + classes + camps during three breaks! and this is Pre-K!!!...) Teachers are definitely on a colder side... I asked to be present during a circle time to be able to learn all the songs and rhymes and then help my daughter with learning at home, but I was discouraged to do so and was told that the idea of an immersion program is for kids to step up and figure out by themselves... And even though my kid is quite sharp for 4-year old, the learning with this approach is painful.. Summary: too expensive, not inviting, not nurturing, even not educational, at least in Pre-K...
We sent our children to the french program at ISTP and found the overall classroom atmosphere to be cold and uninviting. This is not a nurturing environment, the social emotional program is a joke. There is no differentiated learning whatsoever, it is a cookie-cutter approach to every child. This is a very old-fashioned approach to education. The parents are actively discouraged from remaining involved in their children's early education experience here. Communication from the teachers to the parents is almost non-existent (other than the 3 formal 15-minute P/T conferences each year). We found the education to be lacking in many areas, the only real plus here is the language itself. You have to be prepared to sacrifice a lot as well, like more advanced math and reading skills, and any social emotional learning. However, the school's big strong point is fund-raising, be prepared to be asked constantly to give more money.
I have three children. Two have graduated from ISTP and the third one is currently enrolled. They were all enrolled in the French Program and I cannot make comments on the Chinese program. By the way, everyone was surprised at our children's good Parisian accent when My eldest child attended the school while it was still called the 'French School of the Peninsula'. The academic standard was very rigorous back then. it has softened over the years However, the academic strength, even though pretty good, is not really the ultimate focus of the school. The 'globalism' is the real value. The small school constantly has students from dozens of countries. Everyone learns about respecting different cultures, from east to west, north to south. The school truly teach their pupils to be global citizens. Where else in America can a kid eat a baguette sandwich next to one having home-made fried rice?
This was our child's first year in the Mandarin Chinese/English program, and we are very disappointed with the school. Our child is not being challenged/stimulated in the English program. And the Chinese curriculum cannot complete with other nearby programs such as CASE and CLIP. At ISTP they don't do any differentiated instruction. The teachers stick to a set curriculum, so many of the children in the classroom are bored. The problems seem to come from the top -- the director is unaware of (or chooses to ignore) what's going on in the classrooms and general feeling of discontent among many of the parents.
There are actually two schools within ISTP. One is the upper school which comprises K-8 (Cohn Campus) and the lower school which comprises Nursery-K. Our children have attended both campuses and we are far more satisfied with the Cohn campus - more resources, smaller classroom size (fewer children in a class), better curriculum, more qualified and inspired teachers, more differentiated teaching, more specific feedback on child progress. The early childhood education at Cowper could be far better considering the many wonderful options in the Palo Alto area. Not much creativity, too much circle time, not enough emphasis on social development (often a blind eye during recess), very little parent participation within the classroom (parent participation in the classroom is not encouraged). The biggest problem we have experienced at Cowper is the classroom size - often 21-22 students in a class with 2 teachers, so our children did not have regular opportunities to participate.
We love ISTP! This is our daughter's 2nd year in the Mandarin program. She loves learning and speaking Mandarin, the many school events that includes parents, kids and staff; and the fun afterschool Chinese dance class. She comes home singing in Mandarin. She loves cooking in French class. She had and has dedicated, wonderful, loving, nurturing teachers who have helped her with her social-emotional learning. All of the teachers treat the kids as individuals and really care about them. The head of school and his staff have been most helpful and they do listen to the parents' concerns. My husband and I expressed our concern that the school buses for school trips didn't have seat belts -- by the next school trip all school buses were equipped with seat belts. We love the parent community, and all the languages that are spoken at the school.
If you're desire is to maximize your children's chances for success in the future and you want them challenged academically, this is your school. They will be citizens of the world, not just citizens of California, and will be incredibly well prepared for the chaos of modern life. They will be confident in their own abilities and comfortable anywhere in the world. The French curriculum is rigorous, and, at times, seems to take no prisoners, but it is worth every penny. While the parents are very involved with the school, they are, thankfully, not allowed in the classrooms. This school believes in leaving the classroom to the professionals. I couldn't agree more. My children have been totally happy at this school from kindergarten all the way to 8th grade. I never second-guessed myself on the decision to go to ISTP. You won't either.
If you are French, francophone or francophile you could do not better. Children study both the French national and the California curricula. Staff are focused and dedicated. It is a phenomenal system that cranks out bilingual, disciplined students by the end of 8th grade.
We have two kids at ISTP and are very happy. Having read the reviews of those who are not happy, I can only assume that they were not 100% into having their child be bilingual. You do have to be very supportive for your child(ren) to succeed in a bilingual school--supportive of both the child(ren) and the teacher(s). When I hear my kids switch with ease between two languages (French and English), one of which is never spoken at home, I am truly amazed. It's a great feeling for both parent and child when they can translate for you on your trip to France! Regarding after school care--they have many great options in classes after school, the parents complaining just chose not to pay for these options! If you do the basic day care, you get what you are paying for, someone to watch your child while they play!
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