Moscow, Russia Report of what it's like to live there - 11/01/12
Personal Experiences from Moscow, Russia
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?
6-7 and 8-9
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)?
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?
I don't know. I think so. I never heard otherwise.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
A. Really excellent.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
Excellent atmosphere, good home-school relations, very positive place both in middle school and in high school
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: In that they do what they say they will do, so in that way it is fair and equitable, but it is a tiered system, so local families do not have priority on spaces and are often frustrated by this. They would probably, as a result, not give it a good grade. Embassy families have priorty.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Depends. For me, I'd give it a B+. Some teachers were great, others only so so. The administration was very good at communicating. Parents roamed the halls and dropped in to talk to teachers and it was encouraged, so in that way A+. But sometimes parents don't know all that they maybe should know, so though not in my case, maybe some parents felt that way with some teachers.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
B. Teachers differentiate pretty well. Not a perfect system. There is a differentiation staff member, but he or she works primarily in the elementary school, not middle or high school. They should get someone for the upper grades as well to support the teacher's efforts, but teachers are trained and very good for the most part, so it's not a big problem. It's just that it could be better.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
A. The full range is offered. Very good program especially at elementary level. There are a variety of activities offered every term and so if you want a different activity after school every single day (maybe not on Fridays? Not sure), then yuo can sign up for all of the days and have a wonderful variety. For middle and high school it's mostly if your child does year book, theater, band, sports, speech and debate, etc. and is more individually driven, but there is a lot there for a child who wants it.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
B-: Middle school math program was so-so, as was elementary science program (No elementary schience lab! Which is strange in this very well-resourced school). Beyond those two issues, I was very happy wtih the standards for both of my kids and as a teacher.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
A: I was perfectly happy wtih it both as a teacher and as a parent, but it's cultural. Some parents beg teachers to give NO homework while others complain there isn't nearly enough. But I found there were only rare times when my kids had so much that they were up late, and honestly, I think it was their bad planning more than that it was too much homework.
8. Administration-parent communication:
Aha, as mentioned above. I'd give an A for that. Lots of newsletters, emails home en masse and individually, etc.
9. Teacher-student communication:
A: very, very good. The student is prompted to communicate more by getting papers signed if their grades are low or if behaviour is a problem, and the "average" student can stop by almost any time at all to talk to a teacher, and I found it happened very often and was encouraged by all.
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?
Math in Middle School and Science in Elementary School, as previously noted.
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
My son had a bit of help for his lack of homework and studying work. It was pretty good. As a teacher, several of my students needed support and got it. The school has a school psychologist, which is unusual and very nice for a teacher needing some extra expertise for a student or a parent looking for educational testing, which you usually have to leave post to get, but not in Moscow as the school psychologist can administer the testing.
12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
Yes. My son got the support he needed and improved.
13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
Yes. Need more art, but otherwise, we were very happy with the offerings.
15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
None. It was good.
16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
Yes. The school was trying to make trips mandatory in print so the embassy would cover costs, but so far that had not happened. It'd be nice if they could do that. Trips for sports cost money. From time to time there's a field trip for teh litle ones that cost a bit, but not much. It's not outrageous. Mostly it effects kids who travel for sports or speech and debate or math counts or things like that -- when they go to other countries. And there is one trip a year in the upper grades that your child will want to go on, and it costs, but you can choose teh local option if you prefer and then you don't pay -- but your child will probably be annoyed with you if you do that :-)
17. What activities do you feel are missing?
Track and Field. I'd have liked that and they have the facilities so could do it. They do cross country though.
18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
Yes, quite a few.
19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Absolutely. Very, very welcoming. Very warm environment in that way.
20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
Russian boys are sexist, to a large extent. This can be a problem for the girls and they'll say so.
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+ actually. This was a notable strength at the school. Although I can't really say at the high school level as it didn't come up for us. So can't say about career advising. They did a career test on kids at 9th grade. My son said it was fun enough, but that's about it. Maybe they'd have been doing more in the upper high school years.
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: Huge libraries given the size of the school. Never ran out of room, lots of titles, and if they don't have it and you want it, they'll order it for you. Really responsive and tons of money for the library program.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
B: It's pretty well resourced. I liked that it was all PC. They were talking about putting in some Mac computers, but honestly I'd have found that confusing to be some of each. I was very happy wtih the PC choice. Each library had a class's worth of computers for instruction and there were laptop carts that could be brought to the classroom and in elementary each gtrade level had three computers in a common area for short research that just a few kids might need, but not a whole class group. As they were near the classroom, it made it easier for the teacher to manage. In Middle School, there were many Smart Boards, but not all classes had them. I hear they were getting a full set. In Middle school and in High School there were (one ofr each) tech rooms in addition to what was in the library so a teacher could bring his or her kids to that room to run a class on the computers as needed, which we did sometimes.
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. Excellent sports offerings for those who want to try out for a team and very good programs for simple PE, including running, competitive games, swimming lessons, ice skating (they flood two area in winter so they have temporary ice rinks during the freezing months. Very nice program.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
A: A very good ration. I'd say about 1:18. Certianly at the middle school and elementary level. I'm less sure about high school.
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: It's IB diploma in high school. I'm not sure if they offer any AP or not as my kids weren't that age yet. Elementary is IB as well, but middle school and teh first two years of high school are not. It was fine though, in my opinion. I never missed it at all for my kids, and I taught IB, so I saw it both ways. The school has an excellent curriculum all the way through, for the most part (again, except as noted with the science in elementary school and the math in middle school), but in elementary it was IB and still had the science problem, so being IB didn't actually effect the issue. Some peopel would have prefered that they'd have either offered all IB or no IB, but I really found it was no problem at all.
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)?
B: Very good. There is art most of the year. I'd have prefered it be offered all year. There is music offered all year and it is a more complete program. If they offered art all year, as they do with music, I'd give the school an A.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes. And tehy do. Some have strong accents, but really that's just among the teaching assistants when it rarely is the case.
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?
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes. A lot of the kids at school live at the compound right next to the school, or one that is a little farther out of town, and both of those compounds are for mixed nationalities, so kids mix with locals both at school and after school. For the US Embassy, some kids live at the embassy, and they probably mix less.
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.
I don't think so.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
The warm and welcoming environment that makes a really nice community feeling for the kids. The school is open to parents and families can use the grounds when not being used for official school business, and that makes it feel like an extention of your neighborhood, which we loved.
2. Greatest challenge?
Russia is dark. People can get grumpy in the winter. But it's not that bad.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
Absolutely. My children were happy there and they were learning well and challenged and cared for. I loved it. They loved it. Perfect blend!