Warsaw, Poland Real School Experiences

Personal Experiences from Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland 10/17/19

American School of Warsaw

School Website

https://www.aswarsaw.org


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?

2nd - 4th, 2017 - 2020

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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)?

government

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

Yes, lots of international boutique-style private schools have opened in recent years, along with British, German, French schools. We chose it because we heard it was good from other parents at post.

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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?

Yes, admissions procedures were relatively clear. We had a difficult time getting any real substance about the school's teaching approach when we were considering schools. But I was able to find a few parents to speak with.

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

Medium. They do a welcome day for new students and families, but unfortunately it is not very well organized and its unnecessarily confusing due to poor communications. Sadly, that is kind of one of ASW's big downfalls.

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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?

In my opinion, communication is poor and disorganized. The school does one weekly email for all 3 schools (Elementary, Middle and High) and PTO so I am overwhelmed with a lot of information that is not relevant to me. The Elementary portion of the update is often outdated or too late to be of help. My emails to the principal and director regularly go unanswered. Teachers have all been very responsive to email communication and happy to talk in person any time. As a parent, you have to be proactive to learn about your child, the teachers don't share much information about the class with the parents.

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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?

For lower elementary, the extra costs are minimal: 100 pln toward a class fund to pay for parties, class gifts.

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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?

They have a fantastic elementary counselor who goes into the classes to teach mindfulness. One of the best parts about this elementary school is Ms. Hamlin.

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

No before or after-school care but they offer after-school activities to elementary students for free. They are awarded based on a computer generated lottery system, and it seems fair. Some of the activities are more interesting than others. This year my child was able to take violin as an after-school activity.

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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?

Yes, large, well stocked library and knowledgable librarians.

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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?

Lots of tech, starting young. Lower elementary use iPads, starting in 3rd they use laptops. I think there is too much reliance on technology and no strong enough training of teachers in its application. They now have 2 "tech coaches" for the elementary level but so far it has not resulted in less/more responsible tech use. I think they are overwhelmed with day-to-day computer logistics like fixing buggy computers.

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

ASW is known for its amazing campus. 3 gyms, large pool, tennis courts (poorly maintained and sadly not used much), track, soccer fields, baseball fields, large playgrounds, basketball courts. PE is 2x a week in elementary and 2x recess every day. Kids move a lot at this school which is great.

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

All three years is been 18/19 kids in a class, one teacher and one assistant. The assistant quality varies. Some teachers are better able to handle to class size. I've been disappointed with the low level of English some kids have at the middle-elementary level.

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7. 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?

ASW is not an academically rigorous school. My child loves going to school and has fun. She is not challenged. We have had to supplement at home to keep her growing and on track to return to US schools and not fall way behind. They do testing but in our experience don't seem to really apply the outcomes from the testing.

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

No homework. I think that is appropriate for elementary but we feel that the school isn't really keeping up with the basic curriculum needs to stay on par with a US PYP school.

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

Lots of specials like art, music, languages.

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

No. My daughter's teacher is not a native English speaker and it is noticeable. Fortunately we are native English speakers at home so we can stay on top of it.

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

None that i am aware of.

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

They have learning support teachers for each grade and lots of it for ELL. I have noticed some students also have teachers assigned to them throughout the day.

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

The school has handicap accessibility, including an elevator.

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

We haven't utilized them but there are a lot of ELL services.

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15. 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?

Just about every sport you can imagine is offered. Sports is huge but they don't use the tennis courts for elementary students which I was disappointed by.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?

At the elementary level, lots of mindfulness and kindness practices; social emotional learning. There does not much exclusionary behavior that I am aware of.

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2. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?

Limited ability to handle some special needs

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

At the elementary level yes although there is not a lot of socializing outside of school, partly because of the geography of housing. Local students tend to live further out in non-expat communities.

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4. 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.

Not that i've seen in elementary.

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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?

B- ; I would likely chose it over the British school because the British school is too rigorous for my child's personality but i would look into some of the newer schools opening up in royal wilanow. There are lots to chose from and they look like they have strong academics.

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2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.

My child developed a lot of self confidence at this school in her ability to learn - they practice the growth mindset which is a great fit for her. Reading was a big challenge for her and the school didn't take it seriously enough so we had to do a ton at home. She had gaps in math understanding that we found while doing some activities at home so we've had to help with that. We were truly surprised because teachers never gave us any idea - all the reports were qualitative and vague - she's "at grade level", etc. No details.

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

The elementary school has gone through a lot of change in recent years. We arrived when they were in the midst of transitioning to the PYP program. We have been in the middle of a lot of those growing pains. It's possible the school will find its way now that the PYP is approved but I am not convinced as the teacher quality is highly variable. We had one excellent teacher and 2 so-so teachers. Same with the assistants. My child has had some growth based on MAP testing but not as projected. The school focuses a lot on the soft skills of life. This is good and often overlooked in some schools. But the hard skills have taken a backseat to the PYP program so be prepared to supplement at home if your child isn't a self-learner. The school is a well-established expensive private school but it still kind of runs like it's only been around a few years. But it is a fun happy place for elementary kids.

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Warsaw, Poland 03/30/17

American School Warsaw (ASW)

School Website

http://www.aswarsaw.org/


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?

Between multiple kids, over the last few years, they attended all grades from Kindergarten though eight.

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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)?

Government

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

For English speakers there is a British school which has a comparable academic reputation, but does not have an equivalent facility. There is a French school and also a German school.

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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?

Admission info is on the website. There is an admission counselor.

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

Lots of fanfare, not much substance.

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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?

Oh. My. Gosh. Create a special email address because if not your phone will never stop buzzing.

The school inundates you with newsletters, letters for the administration, letters for the PTO president, blah, blah, blah. If they had a mascot it would probably send twice weekly updates. None of it is focused or directed to the relevant audience. Expect to spend thirty minutes a day scanning past robot club calendars and nutritional info from the caterer to find the one or two tidbits of information that is relevant to you.

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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?

Optional athletic/Music/Club trips. ASW is part of CEESA, which includes Central Europe, Turkey and Russia. Because the teams/groups do home-stays the cost is mostly airfare. Expect anywhere from $200 - $400/trip.

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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?

There is an American counselor at the HS currently.

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

There is a pre-K. The elementary school runs after school activities, but not every day and there is a mystery lottery for the popular activities. Your kid may put in for after-school swimming and be offered swimming at 7 AM instead. For middle school and high school the sports teams and interest clubs meet after school.

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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 large, well stocked and current library. The elementary grades all have a library class during the week and are encouraged to take books home.

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

There are ample IT resources. Students in the fifth grade and up are issued a MacBook Air to take home and the curriculum/assignments require that it be used.

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

A large (olympic-size maybe?) swimming pool. Three separate gymnasiums and a full size track and field facility.

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

I would estimate it to be about 15 - 1, on average.

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7. 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 full IB program is available. I don't think they have any AP. They are in the process transitioning in to the IB Middle Year Program (MYB) and Primary Year Program (PYP).

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8. 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?

No. At best they are simply not focused on academic rigor. At worst, I suspect that the current administration is actively throttling high performing students so as to not be accountable to the fee-paying parents whose children would otherwise be below average.

Do not expect your avid learner to be challenged. It is not a focus or priority at this school.

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

At the elementary level, other than reading, my kids don't get much homework at all. At the middle school level they get homework, but nothing excessive. If anything, they don't get enough.

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

There is a lot of music and drama. There is rock band, rock band, chorus, and I think they do a drama production every semester.

They have plenty of visual arts.

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

All academic staff is fluent in English.

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

So this has been a big point of contention.

They will tell you that they have a gifted program. The school Director himself will tell you "I know gifted!" But the fact that conversation happened at all tells the story. There is no gifted admissions testing, there is no panel for gifted, they don't know what to do with students who are transferring in from an existing gifted program. They will tell you to go talk to the principal and work something out. What that means is that the school is more than happy to share credit with you for the gifted program that they expect you to design yourself.

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

Several years ago the school, in response to the reduction in students coming from North America due to the financial crisis and the resulting loss in revenue, reduced English language admission standards significantly. The effect has been to introduce a large number of English language learners that consume a lot of services. If your kid's issue isn't BIG (in which case they probably won't admit anyway), they don't have the bandwidth to provide services.

Anecdotally, the British school has a good reputation for working with learning disabled kids.

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

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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 English language learners, and not in a good way, academic standards suffer.

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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?

Most sports activities are available. The focus is definitely on sports/performing arts. Not a lot of chess club/math-lete kind of stuff.

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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?

No, they do not. No, they are not. We've done several international schools and ASW is the worst we've ever seen in this regard.

With the exception, at the lower grades, of the invite-the-whole-class party don't expect to intermingle with the locals.

Prior to the financial crash, the school did a large capital expenditure project and over-extended itself. To recover they significantly increased the percentage of local admits. And now they don't know how to unwind it.

The administration will do nothing to risk local parents' patronage or a lawsuit. They're on their third director in two years.

They are reporting a much smaller local population than is actually enrolled. Many of the students they report as "American" may in fact hold an American passport, but they have never lived outside of Poland and speak Polish at home. I would estimate that, particularly in the upper grades, the population is 60% Polish, 20% American and 20% other-expat. The American/other-expat population socializes some, but not with the Polish population or vice-versa.

There have been instances at the elementary levels of one American child in the whole class. Do not expect there to be more than 2 - 3 Americans in any one class.

If you are from the States, you can look forward to your kids being trotted out and displayed as the token Americans.

In fairness, there seems to be an similar issues at the British, French and German schools also.

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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 are two parallel universes, the locals and expats, and they are held to dramatically different standards.

Within the expat population I would qualify the bullying/exclusionary behavior as better than an average American school district. Within the local population, I would qualify it as much, much worse.

They do a terrible job of screening for/dealing with behavioral issues and it seems like almost every class has one or two real stinkers. The elementary school principle is very, very busy dealing with behavior issues.

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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?

C. Probably not.

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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!

Just know that academic rigor is not a priority. Or any sort of rigor for that matter. Just expect lots of flash and promises and poor execution.

If your kid is a 95 percentile kid when they enroll, hopefully they'll be a 95 percentile kid when they leave. Academically, this school isn't going to move the needle.

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