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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elitest, exclusive, and lacking in differentiated instruction within the Mandarin curriculum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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