LNFI is a truly amazing school. My daughter is going into third grade this fall and thus far we have nothing but positive experience with the school. Immersion is inherently more difficult than other education methods, and the teachers have high expectations; they generally seem to run gentle but firm classrooms, they know their kids, and they teacher to high standards. After three years of immersion my daughter is above grade level in all her subjects and was able to express herself at a nearly fluent level in the French-speaking world this summer. The principal runs a tight ship but that's a good thing, especially with language immersion.
We enrolled our daughter in LNFI for Kindergarten in 2012, and we have been very pleased with our experience there. Her experiences with her teachers and Discovery Club have been wonderful. I am frankly surprised at some of the criticisms posted here. They tend to focus on particular program strengths/weaknesses and issues such as uniforms and diversity. Given the open public choice system in St. Paul, parents have a lot of options in terms of programming, so they can select according to particular program strengths. The anti-bullying program that Discovery Club promotes is actively supported by the school leadership, and they have a great curriculum. Diversity is increasing in part due to the location of the school, and this was a major point of discussion in the relocation. This school is great at fostering a rigorous learning environment in a foreign language. If you want your child to take advantage of a challenging language immersion opportunity, this is a great choice. If you are looking for a program with different strengths, then take advantage of the other opportunities in the SPPS system.
Think twice about this school if your child has a physical or learning disability or the potential for some sort of diagnosis down the road. Those students and their families struggle at this school. Most leave. It is a top down environment, with no real community building. Few new students transfer in due to the language requirement so dynamics established in the early grades are hard to change. By the upper grades bullying can be rampant depending upon the year. The Discovery Club is the only area that works on antibullying. The school has no program of its own. The teachers are deeply committed to immersion education but the principal has a reputation as tyrannical. (Think screaming.) Few TAs stay more than a year or two & staff who stays learns to keep their heads down. The district recommends a maximum number of 25 in kindergarten classes but you'll find closer to 30 in K & 1 at LNFI. Parents fundraise throughout the school year for foreign interns who come for a year to "enrich" the program. In reality, they are scheduled primarily in the younger grades because the teachers really need the help. At about 3rd grade, students no longer have much interaction with interns.
I sent my 5 year old to this school for kindergarten and was disappointed by the security measures at the school. For dismissal they send all the students to the gym and anyone can walk in and grab your kid. My child actually walked home by herself across busy Minnehaha - they just don't watch and let anyone leave! When I approached the school about this the receptionist was like "that can't happen" and I said "well it did!" The principal didn't even call our family to follow up. For about a week they increased teachers at the doors but that only lasted a week. My husband and I just make sure we are there before they let the kids out the door. I am however impressed by her teacher this year. She really works with the kids to excel them as best as she can. My child is learning so much - we love our teacher! Great academics- lousy security.
While most of kindergarten through 4th grade have been great for my daughter, 5th grade has been dismal. The classes are huge, her teacher left midway through the school year due to multiple issues, and after several replacements a sub was hired who is unqualified and does not have the correct training or skills to teach, and seems to think yelling at the children will improve performance. The principal does not train or adequately monitor new teachers and the kids pay the price of a inadequate and unhealthy environment. Many of the teachers are exceptional, but leadership is poor, and issues are not dealt with by the principal.
LNFI is a very good language immersion school. Overall, I am happy with my child s education, but wish more academically-challenging math and reading options were available. Because LNFI is a city-wide St. Paul public school it has the flexibility to move (and has moved) to new locations throughout the city of St. Paul. As a result, this school retains parents who are very committed to language immersion. I encourage the SPPS district to better manage the enrollment of L Etoile du Nord in order to be able to continue to guarantee students the ability to attend the established language immersion programs at Ramsey Jr. High and Central Sr. High.
We LOVE this school! It's a public school, with a private school feel. The diversity is amazing - there are children, families and teachers from all over the world at LNFI. There is a warm and genuine sense of community, the teachers and staff are incredible, and the parental involvement is absolutely phenomenal. The 15+ French and Belgium interns and student teachers that are there each year, provide an even more enriching environment for all grades on a daily basis. Anyone that wants to get involved and participate is very welcome and appreciated. We can't believe our good fortune in getting an open enrollment space for our out of district child, we are happier here than we could have ever imagined we would be in a public school. The only thing that would make us happier, is if it became a K-8!
Why are the low parent reviews of LNFI I saw last year on greatschools.org absent? After a year at LNFI, we have applications in at several other top performing schools outside the SPPS system. Communication from our child's teacher is poor and does not seem to be a unique challenge in the school. The principal seems unaware of her own school's demographics and constantly passes the buck on responsibility. To get a sense of the parent community, I highly recommend you read through the FB discussions. You will see everything from the way new parents interested in a uniform policy are dismissed to a shocking lack of concern over the low diversity of the school. There is a lot of good at this school, but it seems to come with a heap of bad.
I am so glad that I picked this school for my son.It has been a great experience and I look foward to my daughter going there in a few years.I love the fact that the Interns at the school is from a French speaking Country.We plan to be a host family for an intern someday.This is the best school ever!
A great community of teachers , students and parents all interested in learning and broadening their horizons. Intimate, the staff and teachers know and care about the students individually.
i love this school all of the teachers are nice and caring they can put up with any kid at any time this is a best choice you can make for a school . I'm also really good french speaker . i hope i can tell you Bienvenue a notre ecole.
L'Etoile du Nord offers an over all enriched education for all kids, develops globally-minded citizens, and critical thinkers. There are very few schools in this state that offer the excellent educational experience that all students get at this school.
Extra language perspective yields better thinking skills in children, as well as in the teachers/school workers. Teachers have global perspective and respect /tolerance is more apparent at this school than in our normal school district. We drive far for such an institution! The poor teacher ratio is only because each classroom has an assistant which is not counted due to 'only' foreign country teaching qualification but not USA teaching qualification. Also a positive is the active use of parent volunteers. However, too much fundraising... hopefully govt will simply provide more funding for such a superior education, for the future of this nation.
I was committed to the idea of bilingual education for my child from the start, but L'Etoile has even more on offer: the principal is savvy and effective; the students are challenged in both creative and academic areas, teachers are excellent, and parent involvement is stellar. The intern program which brings young native French speakers to all classrooms is really the glue that binds teachers, students, parents and administrators in an effective collaborative learning environment. I thought I was getting the next best thing to a private school, but now that I've seen what it has done for my child, I'm convinced that it's quite a bit better than any of the expensive private schools in the metro area.
Our daughter is a current 4th grader at L'Etoile du Nord and we all love this school! She came in as a new 1st grader and we were all impressed at how quickly she acquired an ease with her French! The staff at the school is phenomenal! We cannot say enough great things about them all. The 10 or so native French-speaking interns that help teach at the school each year are an added bonus! At L'Etoile du Nord our daughter is being challenged academically, nurtured in her creativity, and receiving the irreplacable gift of fluency in a foreign language. You can be confident in choosing this school for your child!
Aside from the obvious benefit of acquiring a foreign language at a tender age, some other things to love about LNFI: Student confidence. During my 2005 tour, every child who met M. Beni and I in the hallway greeted him, 'Bonjour, M. Beni!' I toured five schools that spring: not a single child from any other school even met the staff-members' eye much less hailed them with enthusiasm! Student and Staff diversity. Cultural diversity, not just skin color. Their collective world vision and experience is hard to match in a traditional school. Child-Staff connection. 2/3 of the staff knows my Kindergartener's name and something about her. Child-child connection. Sometimes kids are naughty. Mostly the kids are really caring and supportive. Test scores are high and there is still time enough for art, music, gym-- even violin/band. LNFI isn't conviently located for most parents but that doesn't seem to matter. They care.
When it came time to choose a Kindregarten for our children, we didn't want them to be bored, since they already were quite familiar with all of the traditional things taught in Kindergarten (numbers, colors, etc.). We felt that learning those things in another language would provide an additional challenge, and enhance their Kindergarten experience. I have been extremely impressed with every teacher my child has had. LNFI has a relatively young, vibrant staff that is willing to work, learn, and grow together for the benefit of the student population. In addition, the parental involvement is outstanding. Classroom doors are always open to parent volunteers, and many families are involved in school functions such as the Pumpkin Carnival, Silent Auction, Class pizza parties, and fieldtrips, just to name a few. I would highly recommend this school if you are looking for a challenging, welcoming, nurturing academic experience for your child.
Overall the experience for my son who finished fourth grade prior to moving out of town was a gift. The school's parents are highly committed, the teachers involved and caring overall. The parents worked hard to get a new school building and the school continues to grow. Areas of work include: facilities for sports and arts. The tradeoff is the amazing gift of a second language early in life with committed strong parents and teachers.
Our daughter is a fourth grader at the French Immersion School and we are very happy with it. We chose the school after our experience with our older daughter, who is now a junior at Grinnell College in Iowa. She went to Adams Spanish Immersion some years ago, even though we don't speak Spanish, or French for that matter. The schools attract a very high quality student body and a very involved group of parents. The result is a very high achieving student body. Their language skills are really amazing in both languages. Learning Spanish at a young age helped our daughter later on when she became an exchange student in Chile. They were amazed at her fluency. We chose the French Immersion because we like its small size and dedicated faculty. Its like a private school with no tuition.
Early on we knew we wanted our daughter to attend a language immersion school so she could be fluent in a second language. While there were Spanish schools available we chose French for it's uniqueness in the metro, historical ties France and French-Canadians had on the Minnesota territory so long ago and business/international career opportunites she'll have someday. Of course, the thought of a family trip to France was nice too. There have been some anxious and frustrating moments as she has made the transition to reading/writing in English (2nd grade), requiring extra study time at home. Considering our limited French knowledge, a neighborhood school in English would have been easier but its the end result at 6th grade we are working towards, we have confidence not only in her but the program and staff. The school has an active PTO, great parent involvement. Take advantage of this great public school.
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