Vilnius, Lithuania Report of what it's like to live there - 04/27/13

Personal Experiences from Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania 04/27/13

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

Parent.

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

Elementary.

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3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

2011-2014

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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

Posted to U.S. Embassy.

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?

C - The school is working on this through some policies for the admissions procedures.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

B - Everyone at the school is friendly and is always willing to stop and help what they are doing, but there are no tangible programs for helping students and families adjust and get to know the school. PSA does a nice job with coffee mornings and informative meetings for parents each month. There is a new director coming in for the 2013-14 school year, and he has shared plans with the community for improvement in this area.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

The "lower school" at AISV (which encompasses all of my children's grade levels) is a nurturing yet challenging place for them to learn. The teachers are great! There are many nice international and local families and a very active PSA which reaches out to families and students to make the experiences beyond the classroom very special. All of the classroom teachers in K-5 are American overseas hires, and the assistants in the classroom are Lithuanian. The teachers are great! And the Director does an excellent job of recruiting!

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2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

A - I haven't seen anything to suggest that there is a problem with fairness and equitable treatment at AISV.

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3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

A/B - There is a pretty good system for parents and teachers to reach out to one another through online sources such as electronic newsletters, Moodle, and DoJo. The teachers have a back-to-school night and are always available to meet through arranged conferences.

One criticism would be to have a standard way of communication across all classrooms. For example, the way the 2nd grade teacher communicates is different than the way the 7th grade teacher communicates. It gets a little overwhleming for a parent to manage every which way and really understand what is going on.

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4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

B- Without a talented and gifted program, the school challenges students through differentiated teaching. In HS they are moving from AP to IB, so this makes education more individualized.
N/A - NO SPECIAL ED.This school has about 200 students and does not accept students with special needs.

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5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

A - There has been a good variety of offerings, at least in the lower school. Everything from ballet, to MineCraft club, to robotics, to Taekwondo, to Art, Acting, Violin, Soccer, Boxing, and Cooking.

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6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

A - The school has high standards, rigorous curriculum, and stiff policies on academic honesty. AISV uses MAPS testing and a variety of reporting methods to reflect performance and standards based report cards. The school does an excellent job making sure that parents understand how to read these types of reports.

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

B - The homework quantity level is okay. It is not exactly what we were used to in other schools as far as quality and quantity, but it is consistent and does allow students to learn the basic study skills and achieve what is needed in the classroom.

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8. Administration-parent communication:

A/B - There is a weekly electronic newsletter, there are bulletin boards, there are notices. I suppose the success of these methods depends on the individual parents.

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9. Teacher-student communication:

A/B - I think teachers do a pretty good job of communicating what is expected to the students.

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10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?

Core subjects are good.
Art is excellent.
Music/PE/Lithuanian language: I am not sure how my child is challenged. I don't see or hear much from these classes.

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11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:

No.

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12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:

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13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:

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14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

Yes. Art, Music, PE, Russian, German, French, Lithuanian.
AP in high school, but moving to IB next year!

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15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:

My students have expressed interest in having more field trips. There are so many opportunities to learn from our host city and region, yet there are very few trips off the campus grounds.

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16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

Very few. AISV is a member of CEESA, but most CEESA trips and activities aren't available until 6th grade.

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17. What activities do you feel are missing?

Some more activities that allow students exposure to our host city or the global community.
MUN
Environmental Clubs

Also some more activities that allow students to take some ownership of their own school and student body.
Student Ambassadors
School improvement projects

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18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:

Yes.

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19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

I think there should be a buddy program for incoming students. I also think it would be nice to find a way to link the upper and lower school students together more for a sense of community.

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20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

I think the problems AISV has are cultural in that the local families are not as interactive in the social aspects of the school. There is also not very much effort put into recruiting an equal amount of genders in each class. There are a few classes where there are 25% of one gender and 75% of another. It does make the classroom dynamics different and sometimes challenging.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

B - There is not a counseling office. The principal is most helpful in problem solving and family support. A full time counselor would be great to help with this multi-national school.

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

B - The incoming Director has pointed to libraries as the heart of a school. We look forward to improvement in this department!

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

A - Excellent. AISV is lucky to be able to afford technology in every classroom and program. The building is not exactly tech friendly, but some creativity has made for a good program and network.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

C (moving to A+) - AISV's facility doesn't have a gymnasium or a sporting field, so students are bussed to a gymnasium for PE and sports. There is a big construction project in the works to build a new sportshall and soccer pitch on the school grounds. The school hopes to break ground in summer 2013. This will greatly contribute to what the school has to offer.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

A+ - On average, the 15:1 ratio is in place. In the pre-school classes and high school classes it is less :) Very good!

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

A - AISV has had a very strong AP program and has just been identified as an IB world school. They will begin to offer the diploma programme in 2013-14 school year.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

Yes.

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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

A++ for Art - The art teacher is AMAZING. I never had a professor as dynamic as this teacher. She is able to run an art class for 15 students and help develop each student's own talents and confidence in their skill level. She's got kids doing pastel drawings, others quilting on the sewing machine, others working on felting projects, students on photoshop doing animation, photography, sculpture, painting....
She runs several clubs per week so that students can continue to have exposure and direction in their art.
A for Drama - AISV has a new Acting Academy elective with an actress from the USA who is the director of the Vilnius Chamber Theater. She runs a acting club for lower school, a drama writing workshop and acting club for middle school students, and a Glee Club for the Upper School.
B for Music - The music program seems limited. The school has grown so quickly over the years and I don't think the music program has kept up with the amount of students. The school should spend money in this department!

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes, there is a NEW language policy which will help administration ensure that this is true.

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10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

No.

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11. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

Yes. See above.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Of course, it depends. There is a very large local student population, and the feeling is that since this is their country and city that they do not need the school to provide as much of the "community" as the foreign students do. I do wish the school would do more to promote "ONE COMMUNITY".

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2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

No. AISV has a strong policy and procedure against bullying and teasing. The problems at the school are much less than at other schools, I would imagine.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

The teachers!!! They really care about the students and strive to instill a love of learning into the students. My kids are VERY LUCKY to have had such wonderful influences in their lives.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Internationalism. This school is growing into a full-fledged international school. There are growing pains in moving from a very Lithuanian-minded school to one that is accepting of all that comes with international mindedness.

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Yes! It is a school which is thirsty for excellence and is taking big leaps towards that goal. The school understands how far its grown, and it wants to be considered amongst the highest-ranking schools. AISV is very motivated to get there and is taking big leaps to achieve it through recruitment of the highest quality staff and faculty! I would much rather be at a school which strives towards excellence than one which is satisfied with their current status.

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