The academic curriculum at FISW is extremely weak. At the lower levels it is more of a day care than an academic school. There is some favoritism exhibited for the children who speak some French at home, particularly on the part of the Director. The staff to student ratio is decent.
Our daughter has been attending FISW since preschool and we don't have enough good things to say about the school and the community. When the school has had problems, and what school doesn't, they are dealt with quickly and decisively by the head of school. Our experience is that both the French and English instruction is commendable. We had our daughter tested over the summer to ensure she was keeping up in her English subjects and she was 2 years ahead in reading and 1 year ahead in writing and math. Since it's a French school, she also speaks French fluently and we do not speak French at home. Finally, the parent community is amazing. We have found many friends that I know we will have for life.
Both of my daughters attend FISW. My oldest is in her third year at the school and it has been an amazing experience for us. It is important to us that our children speak another language. The teachers are highly skilled at language development and even though we don t speak French at home, our oldest daughter s French is fluent, which is a source of pride for her. (Our youngest started the preschool this September, so she s not fluent yet.) In addition we want our children to relate to people of different back grounds. Since FISW is attended by children from a variety of countries it exposes them to all sorts of cultures. FISW is well run. They have been around for 15 years and it operates like a well-oiled machine. The school is accredited by both the French system as well as our State run educational system. Each class takes a few field trips a year. They have many after school extra-curricular activities, such as piano, chess, fencing and after school homework. The teachers are accessible in the morning and after school to touch base on what the kids are learning and how the class is going. We are lucky to have found the school. I highly recommend it.
My child has been at FISW for four years. The school is very well-run and the school is accredited by the French Ministry of Education as well as the State of Washington and the Northwest Association of Independent Schools. It is a big thing as an English-speaking family for us to place our child in a French School but the teachers go out of their way to communicate with parents and give translations of the homework, audio recordings of the poems and readings. Our child is shy and feels valued and problems are dealt with promptly. The curriculum is rigorous and there is help available for kids who fall behind. I would give this school five stars if it had a little more support for frustrated English-only parents. Such as, what might you child be feeling in K? in 1? What are good websites for free french videos? This is a minor thing but would help with the frustration that causes some to leave. I have been lucky to have French-speaking friends fill in that gap, or staff when I ask. But some people don't know/think to ask.
My child has been at FISW for four years, from moyen through second grade. Good things about the school: Small class sizes, some excellent teachers (both English and French), the foreign language immersion of course, the cost is lower than many other private schools, they hold the children to very high behavioral standards (which the kids do well with), and they do really seem to care about my child. Less than good things: the aloof and unfriendly demeanor of the headmistress and many of the French staff can be very off-putting, they do not encourage parental involvement, they beg you for money every other second, and they take unnecessary holidays (or close school due to half an inch of snow) every chance they get. We have kept our child there because he is undoubtedly thriving and it is so rare and special to have him be truly fluent in another language. However, the other French school on Mercer Island gets very high marks, as well, and has attracted away a lot of our FISW families lately. It costs quite a bit more but my friends whose children go there all say that it is better organized with more opportunities for the kids. Also they have a bus from Seattle.
If you are an english speaking family avoid this school at all costs. We have a 1st grader enrolled in the school. The french homework came home without a translation. Being a non-French speaker I was unable to help my son with the homework. When I approached the teacher to ask for a translation of the homework she grabbed it out of my hands and said she would do it in class. This school bans parental involvement in the classroom. With the skills of the above referenced teacher I now understand why they don't want parents to observe the teachers interacting with the children.
FISW is a great school, my only difficulties are with the communication & the way teachers and administrators deal with suggestions. Due to the French influence of the school, parents are not consulted as often as they would be in an American school. Sometimes this is nice, but it can also be frustrating since you can't volunteer in the classroom - it can make it hard to know what is going on with your kid. That being said, we are in year 3 and our kid is really loving it and learning lots!
Our two kids are doing great, learning a lot, and enjoying it, all in a foreign language! The French national curriculum builds skills progressively and makes learning fun and achievable -- to a high, international standard. The local public school frenzy for rankings and test scores is not an issue here; the focus is on learning, with French benchmark tests given but not obsessed over. The school is a nonprofit and offers scholarships.
We attended FISW for eight years. The staff was friendly and organized. When we started, FISW had only been open a few years. By our class, I feel like they had worked out the kinks. I loved the detailed attention and focus on different learning styles in early grades. They have excellent teachers but many stay only for 3 years due to visa limitations. Some get permanent residency. FISW polls parents annually. I see an increasing focus on listening to and addressing concerns. I love that in immersion schools they cannot replace natural attrition at the higher grade levels as easily as in typical school. With decreasing class size, you get more attention and deeper curriculum. We had 11 students in 5th. The girls are fluent in French. One daughter had the highest score the teacher had seen. Their 4th and 5th grade evaluations were fantastic. Their class trip to France assured them of their skill. Both girls tested above grade on the MSP and the IEEE last fall. Subject matter sequence differs, but ultimately, if you follow the cycles, they are usually ahead for MS. I am thrilled with the quality education. The staff and student body are close knit. I would make the same choice.