Students enrolled 449
Hours no info
School leader Dr. Jeff Bissell
Transportation options no info
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150 Oak Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

School website
(415) 865-6000
(415) 865-6006
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Map of Chinese American International School address.

4 stars
Based on 29 ratings

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think about this school

March 23, 2014
We have been with CAIS for 8 years, and we are growing disappointed with the school, especially their middle school division. There have been a lot of changes of teachers in the last several years, and it seems more so in middle school. My 6 grader's math and science teacher left middle of the school year, and the replacement teacher does not have his heart in teaching. In fact, he has not checked the students' math homeworks once. There will be two very good 7th grade teachers leaving the school by the end of this school year, including the outstanding math teacher. There will be a new middle school director next school year as well. CAIS middle school is falling apart! There were some good teachers in the earlier years although some of them have left, and my rating is based on our current experience with the school, the teachers and the Principle's leadership.

- submitted by a parent
October 24, 2013
I sent my child here for summer camp, so our experience is ltd to that. The camp organizer told me that they don't want their own students going there (b/c they need a summer break), so maybe they just don't care what goes on over the summer- and the regular school is better than what we experienced. Also, my child tested as fluent for SFUSD K-level Mandarin before entering here. In any case, w/all of that in mind- this is what I will say about CAIS: My child was bored, the aftercare was atrocious (e.g., they weren't allowed to go outside b/c the teacher couldn't control them), there were no field trips, the classroom was like a cave with no natural light, the teachers tried to push gender stereotypes on my child, & my child left there thinking the teacher did not like her, and that she was going to be "bad at school." If your child is bright and energetic, this school will be a bore. If your child already speaks Mandarin, they probably will be bored. If you are a progressive thinker, this school will appall you. There are better options. I would send my child to a Chinatown summer camp for 10% of the price before I would go back there.

- submitted by a parent
December 09, 2012
After suffering through the public school Mandarin Immersion program for a couple years, we are very happy here. The teachers are great and set reasonably high expectations within a very supportive context. My child's literacy in both English and Chinese is moving forward at great speed. My child's intellectual curiosity is also well stimulated by the great science and arts projects that are taught. The new head of school is very knowledgeable about Chinese culture, history and language. He speaks Chinese very well. And there are many parents who participate to support both academic achievement and school fundraising. There are also very supportive learning specialists who support the teachers in identifying learning problems quickly, so they can be addressed quickly.

- submitted by a parent
May 25, 2010
My children have been attending CAIS for several years now and we are very happy with the education they are receiving. The students are very well prepared to enter the high school of their choice. Teachers are truly top-notch and the curriculum is excellent. The biggest challenges for the school right now are finding good administrative staff and leadership. Next year there will be a new Head of School, Middle School Director and PreK/K Director. While there are challenges ahead, these are typical of schools growing from a "small school" to "big school" in a relatively short period of time. I am discouraged with the current lack of good communication, strong leadership, and professionalism but am optimistic with the new hires and time, all will resolve. The education is excellent (I try to ignore the rest!).

- submitted by a parent
November 27, 2009
After sending three of my children to CAIS from K-8th, I have to say that I am completely satisfied! The kids all speak Chinese fluently with my grandparents, and all were perfectly able to understand people when they went on the Shanghai exchange trip. The Lower School curriculum is slightly better than average, but in Middle School, the quality just explodes! A host of brilliant teachers, especially the Math teacher. I was completely satisfied with their education, and all three are doing incredibly well in high school and beyond right now.

- submitted by a parent
no rating October 31, 2009
The teachers are fantastic, the students engaged and the parent body is supportive. The proactive counseling department is one of the best I have ever seen in any independent school.

- submitted by a community member
September 05, 2009
I have two children at CAIS (1st and 3rd grades). We have had excellent teachers who have inspired them to learn in all the years that we have been there. We have been particularly impressed with the CAIS families that we have gotten to know over the years - we thought the community is more diverse socio-economically as well as in terms of nationalities than communities of most other private schools that we are familiar with. Although the mandarin instruction is clearly a main reason why we chose CAIS, we had looked carefully at all the other elements that we believe are important for our children and our family - interesting people, support within the community, strong values, and positive overall learning experience. Is the school perfect? Probably not. Has it met our high expectations? Definitely.

- submitted by a parent
August 21, 2009
I have two children that attend CAIS and they both love the school, their teachers and friends. As a family, we have connected with the CAIS community and feel like we are apart of a diverse interesting group of families with a common goal. Here is an example of why we love CAIS: we are a non-Mandarin speaking family and this summer I took my son, who is entering 1st grade, to China for the first time. I was amazed to hear over and over how well he spoke Mandarin and to see how relaxed and engaged he was with children and adults who only speak Mandarin in the middle of mainland China. My husband and I have always hoped our children would speak other languages fluently and without effort and CAIS is helping us to realize that dream.

- submitted by a parent
July 08, 2009
My daughter has been attending CAIS for the past 5 years (pre through 3rd) and I have very mixed feelings. Mandarin had been my daughter's primary language through toddlerhood. As soon as she started preschool, she'd forgotten all the Mandarin she'd learned within months because all the kids around her spoke English. Even after 5 years, she still has difficulty saying a complete sentence in Mandarin. I do agree with other parents that the variance in language background does hinder the development of children with background in Chinese. I would prefer that the children are place in diferent classes based on their curent language/academic abilities, rather than mixing the entire grade level randomly. On the positive note, my daughter loves CAIS and excels in all subjects. I do agree that CAIS plays an important role in inspiring her love for learning.

- submitted by a parent
no rating September 30, 2008
Elitest, exclusive, and lacking in differentiated instruction within the Mandarin curriculum.

- submitted by a parent
September 24, 2008
I realize different families will have different views of the school, but I strongly disagree with the most negative reviews, particularly the one posted on Feb. 14, 2008. Of course there is a spectrum of academic levels, as there is at any school. I have two children at the school, and both are doing quite well. My older daughter went on a two week exchange program to Taiwan in 5th grade and did amazingly well. (She ended up speaking mostly Mandarin to her 'buddy', *both* while the buddy was here in SF, and while she was in Taipei.) Having studied languages myself in grade school, high school and college, I'm very impressed with CAIS. My older daughter is doing extremely well (several grades above level) in English, math and science as well. It's true that CAIS is not perfect, but then, no school is.

- submitted by a parent
August 20, 2008
This review submitted without content.


- submitted by a community member
no rating June 11, 2008
It is arguably a difficult task to understand what makes a great school and to select one for your children. CAIS came recommended to us and so far lived up fully to our expectations. Dedicated teachers that our children love and respect, top-notch facilities, a wealth of extracurricular activities for our children to chose from and an outstanding academic program. If we are to chose again, it will be CAIS.

- submitted by a parent
April 11, 2008
Chinese is a complex lanugage. Many meanings, many combinations, many homophones. The Chinese education at CAIS doesn't cover Chinese indepth. Many kids can not hold a Chinese conversations and the class is slowed down by the slow learners. There are a few in every class. The teacher helps them the most. The good students are urged to help the others. Too expensive. Not exactly what I expected. We've been there for 5 years. In English, there are slow students who slow others down also. The kids who do well are the bright ones who are good at learning indepently at school and outside of school. This is a good school but not what I expected.

- submitted by a parent
no rating March 19, 2008
The academics are mostly good, but some areas of the school are very weak. Bullying is an issue at the school. The same problems happen year after year.

- submitted by a parent
March 05, 2008
We are a non-Mandarin speaking family and have been very pleased with CAIS. Our daughter is in her second year and is picking up the language quickly. The school provides one of the best language immersion environments in SF. We wanted our daughter to understand what it means to be part of a different culture and to learn a difficult second language at an early age, when acquisition is easiest, giving her an excellent base on which she can rely if she wants to pursue Mandarin when she is older. The instruction in the Chinese classes is rigorous and very structured, and this takes some getting used to for American parents. The English classroom provides more room for creative and individual expression, which we feel helps to provide balance to our daughter's overall academic experience. The parent community is diverse and very friendly.

- submitted by a parent
March 04, 2008
We are not Chinese, and we have 2 kids at CAIS. We've been at the school for 8 years and really love it. Our kids have a wonderful appreciation for the broader world beyond the US US US

- submitted by a parent
March 04, 2008
It's a fantastic school. My wife speaks mandarin and I don't. She says our son's mandarin is 'perfect'. His english is fantastic. The school values and teaches an international perspective--I wouldn't send him anywhere else!

- submitted by a parent
March 03, 2008
We have a 3rd grader at CAIS, who is adopted from China (neither parent speaks Mandarin or is of Chinese Descent). She loves school, is excelling in every subject, and has very nice children as friends. The school provides an english speaking curriculum where students score at or above the median of independent schools across the country in virtually every subject, AND they learn Mandarin. It is a wonderful bilingual immersion school for non-Mandarin speaking families, with excellent support such as supervised study hall and tutoring for those that need it. Summer School in China is an option starting the year between 3rd and 4th grade. We are very happy with the school.

- submitted by a parent
March 01, 2008
We are non-Chinese parents and love CAIS! We have two children there, and both are doing great. The kids get plenty of help with Chinese homework at school -- including lots of support from their Chinese teachers -- and also learn to be independent and do homework on their own. Most children at CAIS speak English as their first language (and many families, if not most, don't speak Mandarin at all). Our kids are above grade level in English, love science and math, do creative art projects, and are happily learning Chinese. We do not expect that they will be completely fluent by 8th grade -- this is an immersion school (Chinese and English), not a Chinese school. Our children are getting a fantastic education. And the parent community is fun and engaged. It's a great fit for our family. Tuition is consistent with other independent schools in San

- submitted by a parent
March 01, 2008
This is our son's 5th year at CAIS, and we're very happy with it overall. He started in preschool and is now in 2nd grade. I think the school is academically challenging in both English and Chinese, and CAIS is not the right fit for every child. However, our son has thrived there. He does very well, including in Chinese, even though our family does not speak Mandarin at home. I don't believe it is neccessary to hire outside tutors or that parents have to be able to help with Chinese homework. Many, many students at the school do not speak Chinese at home and do fine. Students can stay for an optional one hour study hall after school and do their Chinese homework then. We've been very pleased with the education so far, and the teachers have been great.

- submitted by a parent
no rating February 28, 2008
I have 2 complaints the Mandarin program and the high tuition. CAIS Mandarin program is weak. The analogy is like putting ESL kids and native English speaking kids in the same class to learn English. At CAIS, there are CSL kids (Chinese as a secondary language) and native Chinese speaking kids learning Mandarin in the same class. The Mandarin lessons are dumbed down and reduced to the lowest common denominator so every kid will understand. Native Chinese speaking kids are bored and not progressing as fast and they quickly loose interest. CSL kids learn too slowly without real progress. By 8th grade, no kid is proficient in Mandarin without extra outside tutoring. CAIS tuition is $19,900 for 2008-09. If a school charges $20K per child, I expect perfection. CAIS is far from perfect, it s just slightly above average at best. It has mediocre facilities like libraries, computer labs and gyms.

- submitted by a parent
no rating February 28, 2008
CAIS exposes kids to Mandarin/Chinese culture. The program is not perfect. If you don t mind spending $20,000 for a 10 month program for Chinese language/cultural exposure by all means send your child here. Chinese is a difficult language to learn. Even for children in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, achieving 8th grade level Chinese is not enough to be considered proficient. One must complete Chinese studies at the high school level to be considered truly fluent. If your child finishes 8th grade at CAIS you ll need to enroll him/her in high school level Chinese in order to keep their Chinese. Otherwise, all the money you spent at CAIS will be a waste.

- submitted by a parent
no rating February 14, 2008
This school is overated and is a big disappointment. Although the class size is small and ideal, and the parents are very involved, the wide spectrum of academic levels in a class dragged the whole class behind. This is especially noticable in the Mandarin Chinese class. Those kids who have already mastered the materials are often bored because they have to wait for the rest of the class to 'catch up'. From my child's experience, extra work to keep him challenged meant isolation from the class. The administration of the school made the situation worse by deliberately separating the students with similar academic levels into 3 different classes. At the rate they are learning, I doubt my child will be bilingual by 8th grade! Also, the English department needs major catching up. Some parents end up sending their children to some form of after-school tutoring to fill the gap.

- submitted by a parent
August 31, 2007
The academics at Chinese American are great. Where else can your child get a bilingual education in Mandarin? The greatest weakness at this school is the counseling department.

- submitted by a parent
June 17, 2006
The school is still going through expansion growing pains. The academic programs for the most part are good, but as the school continues to grow, the programs continue to evolve. Parents and students must be flexible and willing to go with the flow as the school determines the best path for its students. The music program is very limited without much diversity. The sports programs are limited due to the small student body, but should improve as enrollment grows. Parents are heavily involved in this school. Staff and faculty know most parents by first name and parent are expected to be very active in the schools many programs. Overally we are happy with the school. My child loves the school!

- submitted by a parent
March 30, 2006
School encourages cutthroat academic competition and discourages cooperative work. Teachers are great. Diversity has not been valued. Policies favor highly compliant academic overachievers and disfavor creative thinking. Boys tend to do more poorly in this environment. School weeds out in elementary school because administrators have chosen not to accomodate as many students in middle school. High numbers of parents seek extra academic work outside of the school to supplement both Chinese and English, and in order to keep up with the other students. Many parents are very involved and work hard to make the school better.

- submitted by a parent
January 16, 2006
We have two children (a boy and girl) who have both been enrolled at CAIS for 5 1/2 years. We love the school, and both of our children are thriving. The teachers are excellent. Each child has an English teacher for 1/2 the day and a Chinese teacher for 1/2 the day, so between both kids, they've had 24 teachers. Over that time, I'd rate about 20 of the teachers as outstanding and the other 4 as being good, not great. But we haven't had a bad teacher yet. I'm also very impressed with the administration. CAIS got a new head of school, Andy Corcoran, about 4 years ago. Andy strikes me as a strong leader, and I think the school has gotten better each year he's been there. CAIS is a very challenging academic environment, and some students struggle with the workload.

- submitted by a parent
October 02, 2005
The academics are definitely strong, but socially the school does not provide any foundation for the children. The school focuses on conformity and seems not to recognize the need for bi-cultural exposure.

- submitted by a parent
September 09, 2005
We have two children at CAIS. So far, we've been very happy with the heavy focus on academics, the multicultural experience, and the language immersion approach. It seems to suit our older son's (2nd grade) personality and strengths. (He's on the quiet side, very detail-oriented, and likes to read, build Legos.) He's already learned enough Chinese to converse with his Chinese grandparents, and remains interested and challenged by his classwork. (It's still early to tell for our younger child, having just started there.) CAIS has lots of after-school enrichment programs that are diverse, and the parental presence is high at school events, making for a strong school community spirit. As the kids grow older, one area we'll be watching closely is their creative development, including art, music, drama -- as well as communication/social skills. CAIS tends to focus most strongly on disciplined academics. Clear-cut negatives? CAIS is too EXPENSIVE!!

- submitted by a parent
no rating May 26, 2005
This review submitted without content.


- submitted by a parent
no rating May 26, 2005
This review submitted without content.


- submitted by a parent
April 03, 2005
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- submitted by a parent
August 17, 2004
My children have thrived at this school. They are both bilingual and biliterate, thanks to the small class sizes and dedicated teachers at CAIS. The art, dance, and music programs at CAIS are top-notch. The middle-school math and science programs cannot be topped in San Francisco. CAIS students win top honors at yearly city-wide math and science competitions.

- submitted by a parent
April 18, 2004
This review submitted without content.


- submitted by a parent
March 28, 2004
This is a very good school. It has an excellent bilingual program and the middle school Math teacher is one of the best! She has won many awards, and the school MathCounts team is one of the top in the city. I was enrolled into this school in 6th grade, and I started learning how to speak, write, and read Mandarin very quickly. I was accepted among my peers and not left out at all. The classes at this school are not too big, which lets the teacher concentrate more on the individual students. That let them learn faster. CAIS has provided many approaches to learning and I have learned so quickly in the past two years! My family and I truly appreciate this school and the faculty's efforts in keeping the school in a positive environment. I thank this school for giving an excellent education!

- submitted by a student
November 10, 2003
Very good academic school only has 64 students in the whole middle school.

- submitted by a parent
August 10, 2003
This review submitted without content.


- submitted by a former student
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Chinese American International School
150 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA  94102
(415) 865-6000
Last modified Chinese American International School is a Private school that serves grades K-8
Chinese American International School Rating: 4 out of 5 based on 38 reviews.