McDonald has a lot of pros but many cons, too. The language immersion classes have instructional assistants and rotating interns, allowing for one teacher to sometimes focus 1:1 or take small groups aside for focused work. (Parents fundraise for this, which requires time & a lot of money. Sometimes the fundraising gets out of control with a competitive, disrespectful tone but that has improved in the years we've attended.) Some teachers have done a nice job respecting the needs of different paces and abilities, but it seems that this isn't a great school for kids on either end of the bell curve. Some aren't challenged enough and there's not enough resources to help them not be bored, others are far too challenged without the support they need. The leadership doesn't seem to handle requests for support or change well. Many families leave because of this. This is part of why the upper grades are significantly smaller classes than the lower grades. (Plus, you have to be fluent to attend after 1st grade.)
There is a huge difference between the Japanese and Spanish programs. If you're considering this school, I recommend interviewing parents on both sides, with kids in the upper grades, as well as lower. And try to find a few who've left the school, if possible. Lots of teacher turnover recently. It's changing a ton, so old reviews don't mean much.
WIthin the first two years, my children were speaking in the other language and frequently wanting to teach me words. They also grew tremendously in knowledge of other cultures and the world. This, and a pretty involved parent community, is by far the school's greatest strength. Many other aspects of education here are less impressive.
Teacher dependent. Some of the K teachers gave homework. Some first grade teachers, too. There's a tremendous difference between the Japanese and Spanish sides on this, as well. Parents can always refuse it, though.
Completely staff dependent with tremendous variability. Sadly, office staff often doesn't set the tone for compassion. I would love to see late parents and kids embraced with kindness and grace. Getting out the door, especially with younger children can be extremely difficult. Sometimes a kid just needs to go to the bathroom. "We're sorry you had a rough morning" would be so much more compassionate than a side eye. Parents and kids often feel judged for being late. Also, kids struggling to enter the building are often not allowed to vent their emotions and feel sad, but rather told they're fine. It's a bit of a "buck up" attitude. Lastly, some kids get punished with loss of recess or "specials" (like not getting to attend music class, which rarely happens anyways), depending on the teacher. There are many teachers and staff doing an excellent job with allowing kids to express emotions, who provide empathy in difficult situations, but parents here should be aware that it's not consistent and there are some staff who children find scary. (Rightfully so.)
Some teachers are great at promoting this, others pit kids against each other by rewarding or punishing entire table groups or classes for one child's struggles to attend or participate. Very teacher dependent.
We couldn't be happier with McDonald International School. The teachers are so invested in student learning and the immersion program. We have strong community support, which I hope continues, as we have now shifted from a community school to an option school. The PTA is so supportive and raises the money needed for classroom IA's, organizes afterschool programs, and amazing community events. It is almost like a private school in the middle of Seattle.
My son is a kindergartner in the Japanese Language immersion program and is doing beautifully! McDonald has some of the most competent, patient and impressive teachers and immersion assistants I have every seen. I am so happy that he is receiving a multi-cultural education. What we are doing at McDonald will change the course of our children education on up to college. So incredibly pleased
Wonderful school! We were lucky to have this school. It is a dual language program with half the day spent learning math and science in the foreign language (either Spanish or Japanese). We are in Japanese immersion and while I was disappointed at first, the teachers are second-to-none. The school is also in a newly remodeled building. A huge percentage of parents volunteer and the community is terrific.
We feel so lucky to live near this wonderful school. Our son started kindergarten this year. He went to a Waldorf play-based preschool and we were worried about such a shift to a different learning style. Our son, though, comes home talking excitedly about what he learned at school and sings songs in Spanish. He loves his teachers and they have enough assistants to give kids the attention they need to learn at their own pace. The community is warm and welcoming and the principal is very approachable. We love McDonald!
The opportunity to learn a foreign language while in public school is phenomenal and I give the school 5 stars for that. On the critics side, I think that other aspects of the elementary experience are pushed aside in favor of the language immersion program. No theater, no choir, no school yearbook, no band (except upper grades not in language immersion).