Vilnius, Lithuania Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania 09/19/18

American International School of Vilnius

School Website

http://www.aisv.lt


Background Information:

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

Parent of three children who attend/attended the school.

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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?

2016-present. Grades 4/5/6, 8/9/10, and 10/11

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

US Embassy assignment

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4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

Yes, there is another English-speaking option, Vilnius International School, but at the time we arrived they were only K-10 and we had wanted to keep all 3 kids in the same school. AISV is the most used school at post by the Embassy community, but some contractors used VIS as it was considerably cheaper.

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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?

The school website was easy to navigate and there was excellent communication with the admissions director throughout the process.

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

I would give it an A. There is an orientation for new students complete with student ambassadors on hand to answer questions from a kid's point of view. A welcome BBQ is held early in the fall offering a chance to socialize and meet other parents. Back to School night provides an opportunity to meet all the teachers and learn about the classroom procedures. Also a weekly newsletter keeps parents "in the loop".

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Administration & School Procedures:

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

The school uses various means of communication including newsletters, Facebook, Instagram, and other online platforms such as Seesaw (which I loved!) and Managebac. Seesaw allowed my son's teacher to share photos, videos of in class activities and grade reports as well as reminders and class announcements. In the upper grades, Managebac makes it easy to view grade reports, homework assignments, and teacher announcements so you can make sure your student is on the right track. Monthly assemblies honor IB traits in students, provide guidance, and encourage socialization. Monthly "Cafes" provide information on various topics to parents and give them a chance to communicate directly with the administration in a more social setting.

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2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?

There is a "bring your own device" policy in place beginning in grade 6. It doesn't require any specific brand or style, but laptops are encouraged. My daughter actually uses her Ipad with an external keyboard. There are field trips and sports events within the CEESA sphere that make travel necessary, and parents are responsible for those expenses. Each year the upper classes take a trip and this is at your expense as well. For example, IB Week Without Walls in Portugal, MUN in Poland, Art History trip to London for ninth graders, etc. Costs vary but we paid 350 euros for a trip to Berlin. The Portugal trip was 500 due to the cost of the workshops provided there. It varies. Local trips within Lithuania are usually covered by the school.

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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?

The school offers both college/academic counseling and guidance/personal counseling. They also brought in a special educational professional last year. All students take PSATs and SATs are offered. The academic/college counselor schedules meetings with both students and parents to try to gauge what type of university environment might work best for the student. I have also found her very regimented in sending out copies of transcripts in a timely manner.

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2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?

There are plenty of after-school activities and there is a program for preschooler care after hours, but I am unsure of the fees. My daughter used to earn service hours for assisting with the care.

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

There is a nice little library with a good selection of books for all grade levels. Also, there is a decent reference section with many guides for the IB classes. Students and parents are encouraged to borrow books for home use.

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4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

BYOD policy for grades 6-12. Google Chromebooks are issued to kids in the elementary program for classroom use. There is also a technology lab which is used for classroom instruction/projects. In the upper school, most work is submitted electronically. In the lower school, kids use technology in various projects and lessons.

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

Yes, there is a well supplied computer lab and a technology teacher on hand.

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

Around 4 years ago, a brand new and quite impressive gym was added to the school complete with locker rooms and an indoor track area. It is nice! Also there is a relatively new soccer field on the premises. There are separate playgrounds for preschool/K students, lower school students, and a small climbing area for upper school. There is an outdoor basketball court. Students use a nearby swimming pool for the swim team. Parents are responsible for bringing their child there for practice, then the school/instructor brings them to the school afterwards.

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

Around 16 in grades 4/5/6, 12 in grade 8/9/10, and there were about 12 in the 10/11 grade when my child was there.

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8. 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?

The Upper School is IB only (mostly). Students can pursue a regular diploma, but they will technically be in the same classroom with the IB kids, just not working towards the test. Full IB diploma is not required, but encouraged!

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9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?

I think it has been adequately challenging for all my kids.

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

Pretty standard. Of course, the kids think it is too much, but it seems normal to me. Last year, my son's teacher (grade 5) had a no homework policy and it was glorious! Just reading and being a kid for a year made us both happier.

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

Excellent and enthusiastic art and music programs! My kids complain about the art teacher being "too passionate"...lol. She gives homework and has high expectations of all students. The works produced are quite stunning. Music gives kids a chance to use instruments, learn voice control, and music theory. AISV has its own school song that is sung at all assemblies and events. Last year they performed their first musical, Into to the Woods, at a local theater and it was an amazing performance! My son has been cast in this year's Beauty and the Beast Jr. and he is very excited. There is also a "rock band" comprised of students and teachers that jams at assemblies and school events.

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

Not sure, but the main subject teachers are native English speakers. Some local hires teach classes such as German, Lithuanian, French, gym, and assist in classrooms, but they are all fluent in English.

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

No particular experience, but I have known of situations where students have received additional resources, projects, etc. to supplement their regular course and provide additional challenges.

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14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

A special education professional was brought on staff last year to work with kids with IEPs and special needs.

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15. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

There is a large population of ESL students (mostly local students but sometimes other nationalities) and there is an ESL teacher who works with them during their "foreign language" or mother tongue periods. No experience personally.

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16. 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?

LOTS! This year includes MUN, Basketball, Soccer, Badminton, Swimming, Art, Robotics, Computer Game Design, Art, Quilting, German and French studies, Math Counts, Drama, Choir, etc. It is a good selection and there are fees associated. I believe it costs 150 euro per activity per year. Activities that involve travel within CEESA (most sports) are free as parents are required to pay for travel to those events.

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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?

A bit tricky. In the lower grades, definitely, but in the upper grades it is not as mixed. I guess it really depends on the children? One of my daughters has many local friends and goes to the movies, the mall, or restaurants with them regularly. The other daughter really only connected with her American classmates and when they left post, she wanted to return to the US to finish school. I think everyone is welcome and mostly included, if they want to be, but sometimes personalities just don't click.

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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.

There have been some normal issues in this regard for my kids. Nothing targeting him for his being American or anything like that, he just doesn't always feel welcome with the "sportier" kids in class and they may "dis-include" him from games because he is not as skilled as they are. This was a problem for him stateside too. My daughter didn't really connect with her foreign classmates but she was quite introverted and did not really share the same likes/dislikes as the small group of kids in her class. Pretty normal stuff.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?

I would give it a B+. I think there is always room for improvement and no school is perfect! I would definitely choose it again and we will be very sad to leave it.

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2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

It is small, but expanding. Approximately 265 kids in all grades with a nice mix of nationalities and it feels like a big family to me :). The campus is on a hill overlooking the old town area of Vilnius and the view is beautiful. When the weather is nice, students often visit the many nearby parks and in the winter there is a special sledding day out. Bus service is available for regular school hours.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 05/14/13

American International School of Vilnius

School Website

http://www.aisv.lt


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?

Nursery and early elementary.

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

2010-2013

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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)?

Government.

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Admissions & Welcome:

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

B. There is an orientation for new families before school starts, along with a welcome back coffee and family picnic, right at the beginning of the year. These are good ways to meet other families and staff. There could perhaps be a bit more support for new families, but overall I think it is pretty good.

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Administration & School Procedures:

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

The climate is good. Both of my children really enjoy their classes, teachers and classmates. They also like the "extra" classes such as music, library, computers and PE.

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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:

B. I have not noticed a big difference between the way expats are treated and the way local students and families are treated.

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

A. Good.

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

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

B. This is growing year by year, and the school is very open to suggestions from parents about adding a specific activity.

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6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

B. In my child's elements class I feel the academic expectations are high. Overall, I think the standards for behavior could be higher, or perhaps just better inforced.

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7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

Homework starts in first grade. I felt it was a manageable amount. I have heard that the load increases, especially around fifth grade.

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8. Administration-parent communication:

B. Good, but could be even better.

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9. Teacher-student communication:

My elementary student seems to feel comfortable talking to her teacher.

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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?

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

Yes.

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

Sometimes we have paid a very small fee for a field trip, but for the most part the school covers everything.

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

Yes.

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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?

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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. Library is well stocked for our purposes, and there seem to be plenty of books for older students, too. A wide variety.

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

I can't really speak to the whole program. I know my child really likes the computer class.

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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?

A. My older child really loves the PE teacher, and it seems like the program really pushes them to be active.

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

B+. This varies from class to class. All younger grades have a teacher and an assistant, but class size varies.

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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. The school recently became an IB school, but I do not have first-hand experience with this part of the school.

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

Yes, in my specific experience.

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

A. My kids are very happy with the electives...music, art, PE, library and computers.

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

Yes.

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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.

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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?

It really depends. That hasn't been our experience, but I know many other expat kids who regularly socialize with local kids.

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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, we have not experienced this at all, and I can't ever recall hearing about such an experience.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

The small size means that changes can be implemented quickly. Since the school is still growing, parents can have great input in shaping the school.

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2. Greatest challenge?

Our space. The school is very full, but I know the board and the administration are working hard to solve this issue!

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3. Would you choose this school again? Why?

Yes, both of our children have been very happy at this school. They have learned a lot and made great friends.

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Vilnius, Lithuania 04/27/13

American International School of VIlnius

School Website

http://aisv.lt


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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