Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 08/19/15
Personal Experiences from Amman, Jordan
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Elementary (grades 1 - 5), Middle School (6-7), and High School (9).
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
2013 - present.
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?
It is kind of the default expat school in Jordan for Americans. We did not consider other options until after the first year.
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?
A: good communication, clear standards and deadlines.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
B: There is a nice "first friends" program in elementary, and an active PTA with a big back-to-school picnic. That's the last free thing you'll see, though.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
We have generally enjoyed the elementary and middle school experience. There are some great teachers, especially in the upper elementary grades.
High school was a different experience. Poor learning environment, lack of discipline and respect. Some good teachers but generally they seemed overwhelmed and lacked strong support from the administration. When we moved our son to King's Academy we asked him what he would miss most about ACS. He couldn't think of anything. Several other top students from his class made the same change and have been happier as well.
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:
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
A-: Parents get regular emails, and members of the staff are responsive to specific inquiries.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
C: Not much.
5. 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?
Laptops, activities (paying to participate in Arabic culture night), yearbooks (mandatory), field trips, choir, school plays, ad infinitum.
6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
B: A wide variety but expensive.
7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
C+: There is a bit of philosophy of "let's get everyone through", especially for the Jordanian kids who might not have adequate language skills. In high school, only the self-motivated will really get a strong education.
8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
B: some busy work but, to their credit, one grade level team decided to focus on reading and not assign any homework home beyond what was not completed in class.
9. Administration-parent communication:
C: regular emails/blogs but the communication is pretty much one way. Staffing has been an issue throughout our stay at every level. Teacher gaps may last for longer than announced with no reasonable explanation of the plan.
10. Teacher-student communication:
B: Very poor at the HS level, better in lower grades.
11. 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?
12. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
13. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
14. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Yes, and everything here has a price tag. The consensus among expats is that wealthy Jordanians don't see something as worthwhile or valuable unless you pay for it, so ACS is all too happy to oblige them. I realize that we are quite well-off, relatively speaking, and the amounts don't break the bank. But it does get old.
15. What activities do you feel are missing?
16. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
17. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
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?
A-: There is a good counselor who intervenes quickly when needed and has developed good rapport with one of our kids who needed the support.
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-: The new "Learning Commons" is nice, but it is definitely a change from traditional libraries in that there are not as many books, but there is a nice environment nonetheless.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
D: The school is very poorly managed. Older kids have free rein to surf the internet in class --- and even to use it on tests. The seem to be no standards, different teachers use different programs.
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: Facilities are a bit limited (one small turf field and a gym; tennis courts on the roof). This should improve with the opening of new building next year.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
B+: There are rarely more than 22 students to a class; elementary has classroom assistants.
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?
B: A lot of AP courses are listed, but I am not sure how often they actually happen.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
A-: Great drama electives involve a lot of students in a different ways. Kids like art classes as well.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
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?
Good range in the younger grades, less at HS.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Some, but less as the kids get older. This is understandable as the expats cycle through, but it creates a not-so-great social scene for expats in the higher grades.
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.
The school is pretty good about combating bullying.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
Great teachers, convenient location
2. Greatest challenge?
Space (construction is underway but the site is boxed in), fostering a true community feel, and the fact that the high school is mediocre at best.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
For our younger kids, yes, because it is the best option out there. For high school, no. After 9th grade we moved our student to King's Academy and have been extremely glad we did, due to the improved academics and community feel.