Stuttgart, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 09/08/20
Personal Experiences from Stuttgart, Germany
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
Parent of two kids in the upper school.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Started in 5th and 9th. Attended 3 years, will finish in June, 2021.
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
There are really only two other expat options -- the DOD schools, if you're affiliated with the military, and the Swiss International School. We chose ISS as it has a very diverse student body and the integrated class approach of the IB program was appealing. (I&S, for instance, which is a blend of history, geography and other social sciences, is really appealing. The fact that the literature and I&S classes sometimes dovetail content was also great).
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, very. Some have found that the admissions director is not very customer friendly, however. For example, I learned that a State family coming from another IB school was informed their high school aged daughters would have to repeat a year, since the IB program at ISS taught classes in a different order [they enrolled at the DOD high school]. A different State family had one child admitted, and the other wait listed. The school seems strongly supported by Bosch and other tech companies, and part of its diversity is due to their expat staff rotating in for a handful of years, which adds a lot to the school. Hindi, Japanese and Korean are among the most commonly spoken home languages after German.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Mixed. The students do a nice job onboarding new students, and the school makes an effort to help families from Asia with home language instruction, etc, but there is no particular outreach to new families. We had a sponsor, who we never met (she told us we could stop by her house if we wanted). No one gave suggestions on finding sports or activities. There are a few familiarization tours of hospitals and how to shop at a German grocery store.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Bizarre. The administration seems to be a black hole, and their communication seem opaque and difficult to understand. Teachers can be fairly good, although they don't flag problems until late. Our daughter's 6th Spanish teacher did not clue us in until several months had gone by that our daughter was struggling. By then, she was sitting in the back of the room, disconnected. We addressed it, but I would suggest checking your child's Veracross every week or two to see if assignments are being turned in or if there are other signs of concern. There are parent teacher conferences twice a year, but they felt very rushed for us.
The upper school principal is very hard to make an appointment with. She once cancelled an appointment on me as I walked into the building and it took some lobbying to get it rescheduled. We also felt that the principal did not accommodate my student's individual needs even though we had counselor recommendations.
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?
Yes, all of those. The PE uniforms are probably 40 or 50 Euro each. More if you want a jacket. They arrange a discount on Apple laptops. Musical instruments are rented privately through various places around town. Field trips for the upper school can run about 700 or 1,000 Euros.
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 are personal counselors at both the lower and the upper schools. I am not sure how engaged or good they are (we have limited experience). There is a college counselor at the upper school, who is quite knowledgeable but can appear quite intense. At their 10th grade assembly he told students that everything they do from here on out affects their college prospects. It stressed several students out. We transferred our daughter over to the DOD high school, so I am not sure how good he is on college research and applications.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Yes! It's great. The books are current. There is one for the lower school and a separate one for the upper school. Yes, books can be borrowed to read at home.
3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
They do need laptops. The integration is rather extensive. Kids in the upper school seem to have their laptops with them and in use in every class. This also means they can IM each other during class, which isn't great. It has been hard to patrol our daughters' use of technology at home since all their schoolwork must be on the computer.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There is a gym and playing fields.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
Classes were about 20 students, sometimes much less.
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?
This is a point to be aware of: the full diploma is very much required of all students. While a passing grade on the MYP exams is about 28, the upper school principal is clear she will have a talk with any family whose student scores below 32. Similarly, the school will not allow students to select to have simply an ISS high school diploma and not a full IB DP. The only kids I know of who are not doing the DP are ones who failed an MYP exam or are on an IEP for learning disabilities, and even they are still doing all the DP coursework, extended essay and projects. They just won't sit the DP exams. In our observations, it was Ia very high pressure situation. Upper school kids are expected to work on significant projects over the summer break, and turn in drafts or semi-finished versions the second week of school.
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?
Some of the courses are really well done -- especially I&S and English. The teachers are imaginative, the material is challenging, I am impressed with some of the work. Sometimes the IB nature of the curriculum is overdone, however. Do people really need to write reflections on PE? Math instruction has varied widely, from some really good teachers who made an effort to connect with students to other teachers who can't explain the material and just pressure the students. My children didn't enjoy the music classes. One of the teachers is good at motivating and engaging the students, but the classes seem mostly like a tick the box exercise for producing well rounded students, not for imparting any joy in playing music or singing.
8. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
The homework itself is ok. The number of projects and special requirements is too much, though. The school has a Service as Action component that enforces volunteer work. While I think we should involve children and teenagers in making the world a better place, Service as Action feels forced.
9. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
As mentioned my children didn't enjoy the music classes. The drama teachers are really good, and involve the students in festivals and creative experiences. The design and visual arts teachers are usually good.
10. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Their English is all extremely good. What the requirement is, I don't know, but they are all absolutely fluent. Many have taught at other international schools around the world also.
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?
There are very few sports available for upper school girls. Our older daughter pulled together a soccer team her first year, but it barely managed to field enough students to play (and it ended after one season). This has been a real disappointment. It is true that there are sports clubs around Stuttgart, but our local one does not have a good soccer program for teenage girls. I have been surprised, given how progressive Germany is, at the lack of opportunities for teenage girls to be physically active.
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?
Very welcoming and supportive. I am not sure there is active support, but there is no exclusionary behavior. There are several kids in the upper school who are out and visibly so.
2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, they seem well integrated.
3. 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, not that I am aware of.
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. The instruction is generally good, but the school is exceedingly rigid in implementing rules. In our experience, it seems that systems matter more than students, which is unfortunate. It is not a warm place for parents, nor does the school check on how families with known issues are doing. When we withdrew our daughter from 10th grade, I got a cursory two sentence goodbye email from the principal and a short email from the registrar that I could pick up her record [we had not been problem parents]. During that incident or others, when teachers knew our other child was having issues, no one from the school reached out to check on us. Even when we advocated for better support for kid 1 or kid 2, we were denied.
I would not it choose again. It stands in stark contrast with the DOD high school, which was supportive and warm. The DOD SHS principal called us several times to see if everything was all right, and the counselor made real suggestions how to meet our daughter's interests while leaving time for her health issues.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
The drama classes and drama trip to London were amazing. The 9th grade travels a lot, and she learned a great deal from the field trips (they went to Verdun, did an outdoor adventure sort of trip in southern France, and she did a Spanish immersion trip to Malaga). They have both learned a lot in terms of organizing their work, having a broader view of history and politics, and learning to think critically. Our other daughter very much enjoyed participating in musicals, teaching others how to play violin, and getting to know friends.