Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 04/30/14
Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
I am a parent.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
We wanted to continue our children's American school education. We heard that Roosevelt was the "best" school and it is where the U.S. Embassy sends most of the kids.
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: There is a lot of tension regarding admission. The process was going to change in all of Peru for the 2014 school year. I don't know how it will affect Roosevelt.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
C: There is very little support. The expat community tends to stick together to figure out how to navigate the school. There is no information on events and systems. The school is set up for families who have gone there forever. There is a day when new families get to go for a tour but the important questions aren't usually answered. It would be more helpful if parents were assigned a family to welcome them. The expat community takes care of itself, though.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
It was very positive. We were fortunate to have very organized and consistent teachers the last year. Friends of ours did not have the same experiences. It tends to be hit or miss. Our first year was difficult because my son had a teacher who was inconsistent and disorganized.
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:
C: The school is 75% native Spanish speakers. The expat families tend to be "put up with" even though they say they want to have a cohesive school. After-school activities are in Spanish and parents (especially at lower grades) tend to leave the expat parents out by only speaking and emailing in Spanish (even PTA activities!).
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
C: There is a lot of tension about communication. Some say there is too much and some say there is too little. The main issue is that it is not consistent or detailed enough. There might be several emails about an event or some teachers communicate about it and others don't.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
D: Students who do not speak English fluently are pulled from class for extra help. There is a reading specialist but more than one teacher has said that the native English speakers don't qualify because there are so many kids below them. Speech therapy is hard to get and parents pay for it out of pocket. You have to search on your own for a therapist. Kids who are working above grade level are not challenged because teachers are dealing with most children who do not speak fluent English. My children were not challenged in reading until I put my foot down and asked for their reading levels to be tested again. My son went up 4 levels! It is disappointing. Native English speakers who enter kindergarten and are already able to read should be reading from the beginning, not at the end of the year. Most non-Spanish speakers have a Spanish tutor in addition to the Spanish class because it is not meeting the needs.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
B: There are a variety of after-school activities all in Spanish. The soccer is especially competitive. The coaches do not create a cohesive team. It is not very American minded but if you avoid soccer you can have a lot of fun.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
B: It is hit or miss. We happened to have very good teachers but friends of ours were always surprised by the work and complexity of my kids' assignments because they weren't doing the same thing in the same grade. Our kids were always "meeting expectation" even though they were reading and doing math above grade level. If that was true, then most of the other kids in the class must have been way below expectation.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
C: There is way too much homework or it doesn't seem to hit the skills the kids need. They don't believe in rote memorization but by the time kids are in the middle of elementary school, they should know their addition, subtraction, and beginning multiplication. Some kids have 2+ hours of homework in elementary school. Not sure what makes the school "American." IMHO homework in elementary school should be 20 minutes for first grade and 10 minutes more per grade.
8. Administration-parent communication:
C: On Sunday night parents receive the Monday Messenger with information about what is going on for the week. There are also emails from the administration about school issues but they are flowery and uninformative. They need to have real communication with parents and take their suggestions and make changes. Personally, the administration responded professionally to our concerns almost all the time.
9. Teacher-student communication:
A: We had very positive and frequent communication from our teachers. There was only one teacher who was a "shouter" and made the kids stay in at recess all the time. Using the planner has helped my son practice his handwriting and remember what the homework assignments are. My understanding is that the planner is on its way out and students will have to look up assignments on the computer. It doesn't seem like that will benefit all the students.
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?
Yes. Art in the elementary school should support the core subjects. The art teacher wants a bunch of masterpieces. We would have liked it to be an opportunity to master fine motor skills and learn about types of lines, geometric shapes, patterns, primary and secondary colors, etc. Instead, my son was getting comments on his report card like, "shows little understanding of the elements of art, color, and form." The art teacher also refers to her students as her "4s" "3s" and "2s" as in the 4s are the above expectation, 3s are meeting, and 2s are below expectation.
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
No. But people with the need are always reaching out for help asking for providers.
12. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
There's a violin class that the kids can do during the day but a parent has to be there so that is difficult.
13. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
The Spanish program at all levels is very disappointing. The kids see it as a fun time to see friends. The Spanish they are learning is not helpful to kids who are trying to make friends, deal with employees, bus drivers, etc. My kids learned the name of every sea-life creature and holiday vocabulary. There were several units of sea-life. It was incredible. He didn't learn how to conjugate verbs until the second year. The homework was always vocabulary 2 days a week and "memory" the other two days. When he learned a few verbs he had to write 8-word sentences so they were all "El conejo es muy grande y blanco." "La mesa es muy grande y blanca."
14. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Not really. Every once in a while they needed a certain colored shirt. It was nice that there weren't a bunch of hidden fees like we had at other schools. We didn't have to buy supplies or anything. Just the uniform.
15. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
Yes. My son played for a year but after that we found activities that were closer to home and with coaches that were more supportive.
16. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
No. They should have a Spanish-speaking buddy system. The native English speaking children seem to stick together.
17. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
The school does not teach customs/habits/expectations like standing in line, walking down the hall quietly, taking turns, not pushing. That should be a big part of the curriculum not only for the kids that have to go back to America who are only getting those customs reinforced at home, but for all the kids to understand and appreciate other cultures.
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?
D: The counselor in elementary school doesn't seem to know the children very well. She speaks very generally about the children or makes comments completely out of character. We stopped going to the parent talks because either they were in Spanish or they provided information that seemed directed toward us (put your kid to bed by 8, read to your child, listen to your child read…).
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
A: Best library in Lima. The choices are up-to-date and interesting. My kids always found something good to bring home.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
A: Technology is a very large part of the school day. There is too much in terms of homework and recording books, writing on the weebly etc. It is overwhelming, but when done well, the kids have a good appreciation.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
B: It is fine. Although I am pretty sure "dodge ball" is not on "American" curriculum. The main PE teacher tended to be pretty lax with discipline and expectations. One year a chiropractor was brought in for a discussion and ended with handing out his business card to students!
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
A:1 teacher to 22 students with an aide.
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?
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
It was appropriate but there was too much. There was more than an hour of homework at the lower elementary grades (handwriting, math, spelling/word study, Spanish, and reading) every day.
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
This is not applicable to elementary school kids but parents in middle and high school are not happy with the electives.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Most speak English well but written English is not at the level it should be. Native English students should be with native English teachers for this reason.
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
No. I would have liked for my daughter to be challenged more because of her high reading and English abilities.
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. Sports, dance, yoga, gardening, photography. A child can find something to interest him although it is in Spanish and the expectations of behavior is lacking.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Expats mostly hang out with expats. Usually every kid in the grade is invited to the birthday parties.
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 teasing but they are excluded by not being able to speak Spanish.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
It is challenging academically and uses jargon and curricula that my children will need when they return to the U.S. system. It has a great library and uses technology. The parents are encouraged to participate in school events. Many of the competing schools have a "closed-door" policy. Roosevelt is like a big family.
2. Greatest challenge?
Making the expats feel a part of the school and not like second-class citizens. The administrators always seemed to be saying "we feel your pain, that's just the way it is and has always been."
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
I would choose it again. We had very good classroom teachers (only 1 who was unsatisfactory) who held the kids to high standards and were positive and encouraged parental participation in our kids' education. Hopefully the second time around we would have similar luck.