While the education was great, the teachers were not always respectful or fair to the children in the way they talked to them. It was a very harsh social environment all the way through middle school. When there was bullying or someone was having an issue, it was dealt with strict consequences, which made all the students scared and it did not allow them to understand why what they did was wrong. Being an alum, I wish I had a safer social environment because there were too many times where I did not feel I was being heard or helped when something was wrong between other kids or a teacher. CAIS has a great Chinese language program, but lacks in the English department. It would be beneficial if more time was spent on teaching students how to write and express their creative side.
It depends on the teacher. But most are very knowledgable and are eager to teach their class. Teachers could improve on how they interact with their students by acting more as a friend as well as a teacher. I think this way students will feel safer talking to their teachers about issues they are having, and a stronger community would start to blossom.
There is a weak social environment between the students and with the teachers, which causes students to feel uncomfortable sharing how they truly feel about certain things. It also makes students feel powerless to their teachers, even though they should feel like they have a solid relationship with them.
The teachers are fantastic. There are many resources available to students, faculty and parents. But the academic targets are only above average, at best. Not excellent. After a parent at FAIS gave me the run-down of their curriculum, I realized how far behind CAIS was in rigor and breadth. There are many individuals within the faculty and administration who are doing fabulous work. But there is a big, unspoken divide b/w parents who want solid academic targets and those who just want to have fun being at what they think is an exclusive private school. By 3rd and 4th grades, so many of the kids are exhibiting such poor to mediocre levels of cognitive and linguistic development in Mandarin that one has to wonder about whether this is all a waste of time, that they ought to spend it making sure there were no gaps in their cognitive academic development in English. We were told that CAIS kids do not score high on the ERB because of having so much of their day in Mandarin. But if the kids are not hitting high targets in English and certainly not in Mandarin, then how are they going to be prepared for a demanding high school? CAIS has the resources to build the right kinds of leadership teams, but they don't curate enough of the right people. There is also a weird new "trend" from parents who have learned tourist level Mandarin through college and working in China - they claim to be "fluent" in Mandarin when in reality they are not. These parents completely miss that immersion's goal is a much more elevated one - the ability to think and function in the language, not just order dumplings and exchange niceties. The teachers know. They do their best to keep doing the noble work of teaching and engaging the kids. But they are treated like second-class citizens. They cannot be miracle workers. CAIS can and should do better. They could start with being more honest with themselves. Many parents want that honesty. But there are also many parents who do not. CAIS should just decide - is the school for the parents with mediocre expectations who just want to have fun? Or do they want to figure out how to achieve higher academic targets? They should benchmark themselves against FAIS. Doesn't matter if French is easier than Mandarin. Parents deserve to have that conversation and perspective on the bilingual cognitive development process.
As two graduates of CAIS, our opinion is that the school is decent, but the academics could be improved, and the quality of education is declining with the loss of good teachers.
Technology: Our grade did not have iPads, but we observed many younger students playing games. We feel that the addition of iPads to the school curriculum has had a negative effect on students’ concentration and learning.
Middle School Curriculum:
ELA: Mr. Gray was insightful, but his class did not adequately prepare for high school in terms of essay composition. At challenging high schools, CAIS kids struggle with deep analysis and essay structure. The classes were also disorderly, making it difficult for students to pay attention. Mr. Sproull’s 6th grade vocabulary and spelling tests helped with standardized tests and the final magazine project taught us how to use our time wisely with a major project.
ESS: Though the material was based off a textbook, the teachers, Ms. Reimer (no longer teaching at CAIS) and Mr. Sproull, were able to engage students through discussions and projects. They were also able to enhance our worldly understanding through the current event essays and presentations.
Math: During our time at CAIS, we were taught by the LEGENDARY Ms. Soukhova, who is now retired. As each grade had to take the same level of math, we did not learn anything in the actual class. Instead, we turned to the afterschool MathCounts program to learn more challenging concepts. In 6th grade, we were taught by Mr. Churchill, learning basic math skills, such as solving for a variable in a linear system.
Science: In 7th and 8th grade, we were taught by Ms. Sherman. Over these two years, we participated in the science fair and covered topics from biology to physics, from birdwatching to earthquake science. In her class, we could count on being challenged by new material everyday. In 6th grade science, we experimented with hands on activities, such as being dunked in water to learn about density.
Chinese: CAIS’ Chinese curriculum was excellent in all aspects. Though the teachers gave us mostly written assignments, we were able to improve our oral skills through class discussions. We were also able to broaden our understanding of Chinese language and culture by learning about China’s history in depth so that we could truly grasp China’s traditions.
(We would have written more.)
(Summer Review Only) While many of the teachers seem incredibly hard-working and caring, I don't think the school is run well. Classes are mixed by age, not ability, meaning if your child is a beginner he or she will likely end up feeling Mandarin is unknowable a message I can't help but feel the school intentionally projects. I watched my confident, outgoing child turn into an overtired, stressed-out mess as the weeks went by while learning very little. Language learning isn't always easy, but I think it can be fun, no? CAIS seems like someone's outdated idea of what China and Mandarin should be (painful sacrifice), not reflective at all of the dynamic, progressive models it should be striving toward in the 21st century.
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.
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.
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!).