Madrid, Spain Report of what it's like to live there - 07/04/22
Personal Experiences from Madrid, Spain
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?
Middle and High School
3. What years did you live here?
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?
There are many school options, including a few others in English (which have few, if any, US Embassy families), German and French options, great local schools for Spanish speakers, and some bilingual options (a few families are very happy with SEK). Our kids were older and not bilingual, so ASM was the default option.
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?
For Embassy families, it was pretty straightforward, but communication with admissions staff was poor, in my opinion, and there are some onerous requirements when they are ultimately going to admit the kid in the end.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
B- The kids are assigned a small group for this purpose, but if they don’t necessarily connect with any of those kids, well, it is a small group and they have to find their own way. Families are on their own.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
There are regular generic email newsletters. Different teachers have different styles - some better than others. PowerSchool and email are regularly used.
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?
A few field trips, musical instrument rental, and PE uniforms. Not too much.
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 a counselor who was not very proactive in our opinion when a spate of racist incidents were uncovered. College counseling seems pretty limited to what they are comfortable with without a lot of impetus to help individuals who aren’t headed to the same handful of schools they know well.
2. 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 fairly weak stocked library you would expect for a school like this (expensive, elitist, Western European).
3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Tech stays at school but there is a strong assumption that families have their own equipment at home.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
Available at school, but we were not aware of any real IT teaching - the assumption is that your student is already savvy with the apps, etc.
5. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
Field, track, and even the baseball diamond used for the small local league.
6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
20 to 1? Hard to tell as they switched classes and it varied.
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?
IB - full diploma not required
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?
If your child is coming from a different academic system or their last school was ahead or behind the ASM program, good luck. They are expected to slot in without needing extra help or an extra challenge. We did not experience much flexibility.
9. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Again, because your child is expected to be perfectly aligned with the ASM curriculum, we had hours of homework in some subjects and none in others that our kids finished in two minutes during a quick break.
10. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Music, art, drama, digital, you name it.
11. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
12. 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 of sports and clubs for everyone’s taste.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
This really varies by individual. Our kids made some very close Spanish friends. However, the general tendency is for locals to stick together. Many of them are the kids of the 1% or really even the 0.1% and diplokids might struggle with the socioeconomic pressure and (of course) the language.
2. What is the climate for students who identify as ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious minorities at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Have your children had any experiences in this area?
I want to wrap up bullying, inclusion, race, LGBT, etc in one section with an emphasis on race. In our opinion, this is the worst aspect of ASM.
Outwardly progressive, the American School of Madrid reflects the underlying structural racism prevalent in Spanish society. We know of multiple children of color who were verbally abused with the most vile racist language you can imagine. We know of cyber bullying based on race happening inside and outside school. Children reported other kids giving the Nazi salute at school, laughing about it. A few assemblies were held.
A parent meeting was held to introduce “anti-racist” teaching materials, and I found that parents came out of the woodwork to condemn the school for even thinking about race since there is no racism in Spain and their children aren’t racist. This reflects broader local sentiment, sadly.
This has affected the Embassy's support for the school; I encourage parents to look elsewhere, including SEK.
3. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?
See above. As far as I can tell, the faculty and staff are 100% white (99% maybe?) and this has a direct influence on the lack of support given to children of color or children who want to be allies to POCs.
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?
D. Overall, we found the complete failure of the school (so far) to address systemic racism a dealbreaker. With a chance to choose again, knowing what we know now, we would have chosen SEK to support black and brown friends.