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Re: Kindergarten openings in private schools?
Escuela Bilingue Internacionale added a 3rd class of Kindergarten to the roster for next year due to the ongoing HUGE demand for high quality spanish immersion elementary school options.
I think there may be a couple spots available. You should call the school and ask for Liza the admissions director.
Our family entered with a kindergartener with very little previous Spanish language knowledge, and she's fluent now! It's been AMAZING to watch her learn to read, write, and speak about all the things kindergarteners want to express themselves about - in BOTH English and Spanish.
We love the school tremendously and are so happy there. EBI mama
I'm seeking recommendations for a Spanish immersion preschool that's on the more affordable side, preferably in Oakland. I know about La Plazita and some of the other ones like KISS and Monte Tavor (the last is out of our price range), but I want to make sure I'm not missing some good ones. The recommendations on the BPN Reviews page aren't that current. Thanks! Rebecca
We plan to enroll our child in a language school this fall and are deciding between EB and EBI. I wonder if other families are in the same boat or were in past years, and would like to hear about your decision process.
For us, we love nearly everything about the French school (EB) except that the language is French(!), which is terribly impractical. The only other niggle is that the music program does not start until 2nd grade (WHY?!). But we love the 30 year track record of the school, the class size, the weekly garden program, the emphasis on cooking, and poetry and most of all, the international community. Every parent we met thusfar, we have liked and clicked with. The school seems well-organized and the admission process has been smooth. The new campus improvements coming this summer will be the icing on the cake. We are torn with the value of French in California, however.
On the other hand, EBI is Spanish - very useful and practical! But the school is new and the admissions process wasn't organized (very hard to get a phone call back) and we are worried that this might reflect the administration as a whole (although realize it may not). We have met almost no parents and have no sense of the community (again, the fault of admissions, not of the parents). The Alcatraz campus is not great: there is NO green space, no garden program and the kids have to eat lunch at their desks. The music room is literally a closet. On the other hand, they have a great music program!! The teachers seem warm and caring, the IB program is strong and class size is good.
We wonder if it is better to go with an established organized program in an impractical language, vs a new, potentially disorganized one with a big upside, the practical language, but is also more of a gamble... Thoughts? Feedback? Thank you! Nervous about our upcoming decision
We did not have complaints about the EB process but agree with your notion that French (while an important world language) is impractical in California when you look at demographics. I hope you can find the school that really suits what you really want! Oakland mom
For my family, education including teacher quality, the values of a school and the community were most important. And these things led us hands down and unequivocally to EBI.
First, education. IB-focused learning and bilingualism aligned with what we were looking for. Added to that and most important really are the teachers. It didn't take much for us to see and experience the amazing care and guidance EBI teachers bring every day. I'm glad this person saw and gave credit to the teachers. I know that I'm thankful every day knowing that I leave my son in the trust of these wonderful educators who shape a love of learning and teach to each child!
Second, the values of a school. It's important, especially for private school, to connect and agree with a school's values and mission. This should be a large factor in a decision and I'm not sure this prospective parent is considering how this relates to her family. Anyone can learn more about EBI's mission and values on its web site: http://www.ebinternacional.org/ and through any admissions discussion with the school.
Third and finally, community. EBI has community coming out of its pores so I'm not sure why this parent wasn't able to connect or see that. Maybe it's not the community for her. My family felt it immediately when walking the halls and talking to staff and existing parents. I still feel it every time I'm in the building (and P.S. I love the Alcatraz building maybe because it reminds me of my own elementary school). Many parents (myself included) volunteer at admissions events to make themselves available for prospective parents. We do this because we believe in the school and its community. The EBI community is strong and very active because everyone is like-minded around the mission of the school. Parents form friendships based on meeting at the school, having like-minded ideas, and because of their kids of course.
I'm not here to defend every point this post outlines. There's no reason for that -- a visit to the school speaks for itself at least in my experience over 5 years. But I do want to say a word about the music room comment. Yes, it may be small but ask the kids about music. My son says it's "fun" and the "room doesn't matter"! Go to the school's holiday concert or other music programs and see it for yourself. EBI kids are fortunate to have amazing music teachers, scheduled time for music learning, and music education that connects to the rest of the curriculum. Have you ever seen 20 6 year olds making music in unison i with voice and instruments in their non-native language to boot? It happens here and it's magic. Is the size of a single room a deciding factor really?
In sum, every parent makes tough decisions about what school is going to be right for their kids and their family. Make sure you're formulating a decision based on what's most important and make sure you give those factors an honest look. Then and only then, decide and don't look back! Stacy
[Editor Note] reviews were also received for Escuela Bilingue Internacional
Hi - I'd love to hear any parents' thoughts about Escuela Bilingue Internacional vs any of the public immersion spanish schools in Berkeley or Oakland? We're looking at both options for next year, and I'm wondering if EBI is worth the extra money? Thanks! anon
The benefits of EBI are considerable:
1) I think the Spanish language instruction is stronger than in the public schools. I believe this even though my kids had some excellent teachers in BUSD and were learning a good amount of Spanish. Nevertheless, the attention to speaking and practicing Spanish is more consistent at EBI. Especially in the upper grades, where BUSD appropriately begins to shift toward a greater emphasis on the mastery of English, EBI continues to give equal weight to speaking and writing in Spanish and English.
2) The EBI kid community is close-knit and accepting. I feel like my children have close friends, but are also exceptionally friendly with almost everyone in their class. Admittedly, the close-knit feel was also true of the TWI program, but EBI feels more accepting of difference. In particular, my sweet, bright son has thrived at EBI after struggling somewhat with friendships at his public school. Some of that is luck of the draw, but I think EBI works very hard to create a sense of camaraderie, openness, and fair play among its students. The kids have different assigned tasks every week and my favorite is the ''harmonizer,'' a student who is asked to help other kids resolve their differences.
3) The international baccalaureate curriculum at EBI is great. When my kids study a topic, the school finds ways to integrate that learning across the disciplines -- math, music, poetry, science, everything. It doesn't feel like they are learning information in silos, but really trying to think about issues in a multi-dimensional way. This aspect of EBI feels very different from public school. At EBI, a lot of families come for the Spanish -- and stay for the IB curriculum.
4) Taking Chinese four days a week as been a huge bonus of the EBI program. While their Mandarin is minimal compared to their Spanish language abilities, it has been terrific to listen to my kids practice a new language and to show off by reading Chinese characters. They are proud to be learning a third language.
Drawbacks to EBI:
1) Tuition! We are solidly middle class by Berkeley standards (no big house, no overseas trips, lots of shopping at thrift stores) and we don't qualify for financial aid for our two kids. Also, tuition went up just over 9% for next year.
2) More vacation days. BUSD kids are in school more. EBI starts after Labor Day and has more full week breaks during the year. Though the school offers camps on site, we don't have the extra money and figuring out what to do with our kids during these weeks is a challenge for our family.
3) Though my kids didn't enjoy riding the bus to public school, I found it very convenient. The 30 minutes that it took for the kids to get to school and back every day was also a daycare bonus. Now, we drive to and from Emeryville every day.
4) In addition to paying tuition, after school care is far more expensive at EBI than at BUSD. I would say the quality is about the same.
Here's my kids' point of view:
''I like them in different ways, '' says my daughter. ''I like the teachers at both, but I liked the playground better at the public school. I like how EBI is smaller and easier to manage and I really like learning Mandarin.''
''I liked the big field and playground at public school,'' says my son. ''But I like all the different kinds of balls you can use during recess at EBI. Also, I really like that it's not just the teachers who choose everything at EBI; I help chose what to do and what's going to happen. I like a lot of stuff, but what I like best is that everybody is nicer to me at EBI. I like my friends.'' Berkeley mom
Re: Importance of community in immersion schools?
Hi - Our family has been part of Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI) for almost 6 years and I cannot say enough about the community we have found there. Our daughter is thriving (fluent in Spanish, English, now taking conversational Mandarin and soaking in the world like a sponge by virtue of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum) - but as much, my husband and I enjoy being a part of this diverse and interesting group of parents. We have made some of our closest friends within this populace. There are coordinated parents nights out in addition to a variety of social events, a strong parents association and a committed diversity group at which we can explore complex social issues relevant not only to our children but to us as well. Opportunities to take on roles within this community abound, and can be found no matter what one's level of availability. Parents may be from very different backgrounds, but in my experience these variances are seen as an opportunity to gain different perspective from each other. We are all learners, and strive to be examples for our kids as such. on the other side of the same coin, the EBI parent community is one which really likes to play. A lot! It's a good balance.
As with any community, there is a level of reaping what you sow. I am sure there are parents who do not take advantage of the many opportunities for involvement, but as one who plunged right in, I could hardly be happier. EBI parent who likes to work and play
Our daughter is in kindergarten, her third year at Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI), and we have found the community to be a very important part of her and our experience. (Our son is still a toddler.) We see many strengths in EBI, which was why we decided to continue here for elementary school rather than go public (which we thought very seriously about).
One of the most important strengths was the community of parents and kids that we had already become part of and felt very comfortable and happy in. We have moved around a bit, and our daughter has attended four other schools/daycares. Of the five, EBI and one other place have had much stronger parent/family communities than the other three -- really thriving, warm, and connected. We feel very close to many particular other families, and connected in a really meaningful way to all of those at EBI.
I don't think the language affects the community negatively at all. None of the other places our daughter has attended had a language component (full or partial immersion) and one had a community that was as strong as EBI (but no stronger), and the others' communities were weaker. I actually can see the language component strengthening community, because there is an important, particular goal for our kids that we all share -- becoming fluent in Spanish and English -- beyond the goals universal to pretty much all parents.
EBI's curriculum and values, based on the International Baccalaureate model, are also particular to this community of parents and very important to our decision to come and stay at EBI. But that's not exactly what Gigi asked about. Jamie
Re: Spanish Immersion In Berkeley and Oakland
My kids have been at Escuela Bilingue Internacional for the past 7 years. They started as 3 year olds in preschool and now are in 2nd & 4th grades. We couldn't be happier with the school; the quality of the education and teachers are both outstanding. In my line of work, I travel to many schools in the bay area and meet all the teachers and kids. There have only been a few that I have thought, well, if something happened at EBI, I guess I could send my kids here. Most of them I end up thinking (to myself of course), ''wow- EBI is SO much better than this school!'' It's something about the way the teachers care for the kids - treating them with respect and lots of latina/o love. I really appreciate that my kids get hugged all day and called ''precioso'', ''muĂ±eco'', and ''mi amor'' as well as the fact that their brains and emotional well-beings are so well looked after. And just the icing on the cake is the parent population - warm, friendly, welcoming, happy. Sometimes we joke that we all drank the coolaide because we all love EBI so much. All in all an A+ experience. Happy EBI mom
Our 6 year old daughter started when she was 3. The children absolutely love it as do we. The program is 100% Spanish for pre-K then in Kindergarten they add an hour of English instruction and continue to add until I believe in Third grade it is 50/50. In fact, they also begin Mandarin instruction then.
We have found the teaching staff to be top notch- beyond their professional qualifications, they are a group of incredibly warm, creative and brilliant people who are committed to creating global citizens who maintain a lifelong love for learning and the inquiry process. We feel that we came for the Spanish, but we are staying for the values: the adherence to and passion for the mission.
The admissions process is laid out here: http://www.ebinternacional.org/en/index.php/site/page/30
Regarding the application process-- I recently found out that EBI is adding a third kindergarten class for next fall (2014), so I think it will be easier to get into K next year at EBI (they turned away a LOT of folks the last couple of years because pre-K families were staying and no K spots were opening up). Pre-K remains a good entry point to the school as well, they take kids who are 3+. Good luck in your search! Kris
Hi there, My son is 10months old and is currently in a Spanish immersion daycare/preschool.He can stay until he is ready for kindergarten. I'm really interested in applying to EBI for kindergarten/grade school and would love current reviews from parents. Also, I'm wondering if it is better for him to attend preschool at EBI to increase the chances of getting accepted for kindergarten. If that is the case, could I wait until he is 4 to make the change? I'd like the extra year to save money for tuition! Thanks so much for your thoughts.
And, regarding your question as to when is a good time to start at EBI, the school is getting harder to get into in general. Unlike a lot of private schools which take in whole new Kindergarten classes, most kids at the pre-K level at EBI stay at the school for K, which means fewer spots for new families. Coincidentally, I was speaking last week with the Director of Admissions at EBI (because my daughter's first cousin is starting as a 3 year old at the school next fall!) and she said that there were only 3 spots which were open this year for 4 year olds and 3 spots which were open at Kindergarten, as opposed to something like the 40 spots for two new 3 year old classes that they fill each fall.
So applying as a three year old is definitely your best bet if you're pretty sure you're interested in the school long term. These decisions are always hard! We really liked the preschool our daughter attended as a two year old, but decided to switch her to EBI as a three year old because it's easier to get in as a three year old and so that she'd be familiar with the school and the IB approach by the time she hit K. Hope this helps! happy EBI Mom
I am interested in families that have transferred out of EBI in the last couple of years -- where did you go, why, and what has been your experience? I understand that EBI has vastly improved with the new Director of School, and yet some families do go elsewhere for a variety of reasons. What have you found in terms of your child's level of preparation as compared to the children in the new school? I am familiar with the EBI reviews and IB curriculum; i'm more wondering about how it compares when people go elsewhere. Gracias!
I'm very seriously considering applying to EBI for kindergarten (and beyond), and have a few questions that I'm hoping the BPN community can help me answer. I toured the school and was quite impressed with what I saw. However, I have questions about the quality of the school's curriculum. I'm also a little worried about the values of a private school community. I attended a very posh girls' school where the daughters of Silicon Valley billionaires openly sneered at those of us who were attending on scholarship and mocked others when they didn't get cars for their 16th birthdays, so I'm hypersensitive to the slightest hint of snobbery. I'd like to hear from current or recent EBI parents with their opinions and views about these issues. Buscando informaciC3n
EBI is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school utilizing the Primary Years Program, and adding the Middle Years Program this fall for our sixth graders. The IB program is inquiry-based, meaning that while the curriculum framework is rigorous (and adheres to CA standards) the learning themes are structured in such a way as to start with what the children have experience with and activate their desire to investigate and answer many of their own questions. The themes are also trans-disciplinary - language, math, history, science, art, music and more are all integrated, so the children see the connectedness. My favorite example is one of the themes for the Kindergarten year - How We Organize Ourselves. The specific subject for this six-week period was ''Games''. My initial reaction was doubtful, but it was quickly revealed that through investigating myriad games the children were learning math skills, utilizing both languages, studying anthropology (games from different cultures and time periods), creating their own games, working in small groups to collaborate, learning to be good winners and good losers, learning how to play as a team and more. It was a pleasure to watch my child enjoy her learning as much as she did. I encourage you to look at the IB Primary Years Program curriculum for EBI, which is available on the website and here: http://www.ebinternacional.org/en/index.php/site/page/61
In regard to potential private school snobbery - as someone from a family of middle-class academics who was on work scholarship at an East Coast college prep school, I can relate to your fears! I'm happy to report that in addition to having a diverse community in many other ways, over 1/3 of the EBI community uses scholarship funds. The school truly does make huge effort to explore diversity in all its forms, right in step with striving for a globally-minded community. Teaching tolerance and kindness are incorporated into the curriculum. I find that the community as a whole is wonderful - and that we are all learners, young and old. Hope that helps! Happy EBI parent
Re: EBI vs. Renaissance School
We had our son in preschool at EBI for one first year and we all LOVED the families, warm and caring teachers, and the school commitment to language immersion and Latino cultures. However, we could not deal with shortcomings of the infrastructure of the school (e.g. uneven application of a curriculum and varying level pedagogical skills and support for the staff) We live about five minutes from EBI so it took A LOT to get us to switch schools. TRS has provided us with a community of loving families and warm caring teachers, but with an outstanding infrastructure of support for parents, teachers, and children. We didn't go out looking for a school with strong infrastructure and strong curriculum, probably because we didn't see ourselves as that sort of parents and because we didn't know of the freedom, comfort, growth and confidence that these provide. My son now is in his fourth year at TRS and our youngest child is in his third year. We have friends at EBI who are happy there and happen to have an outstanding teacher. I think there are some phenomenal teachers at EBI. After experiencing the roughest end of the stick, however, I have come to value having a strong infrastructure and strong curriculum. The best measure, however, is how well my kids are doing at TRS. Maria
The school has been around for over 5 years now, and really seems to be hitting its stride. As I've written before on BPN, we were very impressed by their teaching method, especially the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which starts at the pre-school level and carries through to all grades. While we did consider some other language schools (that had been around for much, much longer), it seemed to us that EBI understood that while becoming bilingual is very important, it is still just one component of a complete education.
As to the urban space, I can only say that our daughter has been very happy with the combination of indoor (the school gym) and outdoor play space. This has also been supplemented with field trips to parks, museums, libraries, etc.
Feel free to email me if you have any other questions. Peter
I did hear there was quite a bit of turmoil & exodus at this 'new' school prior to the current Head of School (Jon Fulk) arriving 3 years ago. Feedback I've heard from families that stuck through it is that his leadership has transformative to the school, so we feel lucky we hit it at the right time. EBI is now in its 6th year and feeling very steady, with a fantastic community (families, board of trustees) offering undying support to the staff. Good luck in your decision! Happy EBI Family
Our Head of School, Jon Fulk, has been at EBI for 3 years now and has helped develop all the teachers and continues to challenge to school community to think in new ways. All of the teaching staff and Jon are very accessible and there is a lot of communications with the parents. Every teacher is more than willing to meet with parents to answer questions and provide feedback on your child at any time.
A newer school like EBI is not for everyone, but I can honestly say that it is a home away from home for my children and we are so proud to be a part of this community.
If you have specific questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them. You can get my contact information from the moderator. A Proud and Happy EBI Mama
Re: Where does your middle-schooler go to school?
Hi, my daughter will be attending 6th grade at Escuela Bilingue Internacional. It is a Spanish/English bilingual international school that offers the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The children also learn Mandarin as a third language. Students wanting to enroll however must have grade level proficiency in Spanish. This is the first year they will have middle school. My daughter has been at the school since Kindergarten and our daughter is happy and loves school. The kids in her class get along really well and the school addresses concerns quickly and thoroughly. If your child speaks Spanish you should definitely come and check it out. We are having an information session about Middle School this Saturday at 10:30am. at 4550 San Pablo Ave. in Emeryville. Liza
Re: Elementary or middle school with a great music program
Escuela Bilingue Internacional (Pre-K through 5th grade, expanding to 6th grade for next year) has, among other strengths, a terrific music program. My daughter, currently in Pre-K, has thrived with the school's approach to music. She comes home every day belting out new songs. Her music teacher, Jackie Rago, is an accomplished musician who clearly has a talent for working with kids. My daughter is very fond of her and always makes sure to point her out to me at school. The recent Halloween performance was a real treat, consisting entirely of original compositions created in collaboration with the students. The kids threw their heart and soul into the performance, and it was spectacular. Lauren
Re: Spanish Immersion after 5th grade
The only Spanish Immersion Middle School that I know of is Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI) in Emeryville. Currently the school is Pk-5th grade but the plans are for the school to go up to 8th grade. Next year they add 6th grade and are currently accepting Middle School applications.
This is our 5th year at EBI and we plan to stay through middle school. EBI is getting accredited as an International Baccalaureate Organization school, which means that the curriculum is Inquiry based. Students are taught to think critically, to develop their analytical and experimental skills, to take responsibility for their learning and consider how it affects the world around them and to be better global citizens. You should take a tour and check out their new facility. http://www.ebinternacional.org/ Happy EBI parent
Re: Admission to Spanish immersion programs, berkeley
Though our son tested bilingual through Berkeley Ed Dept, he didn't get into any immersion kindergartens on first round. We had also applied to Escuela Bilingue Internacional and are thrilled with the teachers and robust program, which is inquiry and curiosity based with warm, responsive teachers and very little rote learning. A third of kids have some scholarship. It starts in preschool and will go up to 8th grade, is located on Alcatraz near college, with a new campus in Emeryville. - glad parent
It's a little early for my 3.5 year old, but... I'm looking for input on Spanish immersion in Berkeley/Oakland schools. I've looked through the archives, but would love some more information/advice -- on or off the listserv. I know (a little) about the Berkeley lottery schools, and Escuela Bilingue, but want to know more.
-are any of you parents who actively chose private over public immersion, or vice versa? why (other than the obvious $ difference)?
-how progressive/child-centered of an education would you say your child is getting in an immersion program?
-how good are the programs with PE, art, music?
-if your children are in their teens or older, and have gone through immersion, how fluent are they really? basically -- does it work??
-what are the biggest problems/concerns you have had about your immersion experience -- either specific to a school or about immersion in general?
Thanks so much for any time you feel like taking to answer any of this! Esme
The primary difference between EBI and a public immersion program would have to be the International Baccalaureate program that EBI is currently implementing. The IB program is very child centered, promotes critical thinking and global citizenship, and really results in kids who can ask good questions and know where to get the answers. EBI is currently a candidate school for IB certification, and expects to get their full certification during this school year.
Our 3rd grader is at the point where he is getting about half of his instruction in English and half in Spanish (plus 3 hrs per week of Mandarin). Without any support at home, he is as fluent a speaker, reader and writer of Spanish as he is English. When he comes home and reports on what he did or learned that day, it's really impossible to tell whether he learned it in Spanish or English. EBI also has PE for kindergarten and up and a really incredible music program for all of the age groups (including learning recorder in 1st grade and up).
We're obviously thrilled with our experience at EBI, and I can safely say that the immersion thing really works to create truly bilingual (and biliterate) kids. I think our biggest concern was how our children would cope with the language difference, but they have really thrived. Parent of 2 bilingual kids
EBI is an independent school, which allows us to hire the teachers we feel are best for our program. Because we only hire native speakers who have an advanced knowledge of the language, many of our teachers have had their teacher training in other countries. The public schools would not be able to hire them. We feel fortunate to have such a high caliber of teachers who are native speakers of Spanish.
EBI offers the International Beccalaureate Primary Years Program. It is an incredibly progressive framework for education and is based on inquiry as a tool for learning. You can read more at www.ibo.org
Students at EBI have music twice a week and PE three times a week. Both programs have highly motivating teachers and are well-designed programs. EBI has plans to hire an art teacher but at this time art is integrated into the curriculum by the classroom teachers.
All of my daughters are completely fluent in both Spanish and English. They also speak German. In addition to Spanish, students at EBI also begin instruction in Mandarin in 3rd grade.
I hope this information helps! Please let me know if I can answer any other questions. I hope you will come by and visit us on a tour or during one of our information sessions. Best of luck in your research! http://www.ebinternacional.org Liza
Private/public: I chose an independent school vs public because 1) public options are extremely limited and hard to get in to and 2) lack the curriculum and academic level that I was most committed to. EBI has an international curriculum (called IB/PYP) that not only addresses the immersion need, but will - in the end - create global citizens who are committed to making a difference in the world and will have the intellectual and emotional tools they need to do it.
Progressive/child-centered: EBI, because of the IB/PYP program, has it. The way the kids learn is based on THEIR interests vs something prescriptive. You can learn more about the curriculum on their website.
PE/ART/Music: PE and music are great at EBI and music in particular is an intrinsic part of the program, and are lead by a professional musician who plays all over the country when she's not teaching. Art is part of the everyday programs, vs a committed teacher, but as the kids get older I think an art teacher will be hired.
Experience: I have not had any problems other than people not understanding why it's important to me or anyone else. There is a lot of ignorance regarding bilingual education and learning outcomes, and I had to educate my family on why it was not only not a bad thing, but being bilingual helps my kids in areas OTHER than language. My kids are bilingual and easily switch between languages. As they learn to read, they are becoming biliterate....which, combined with all the other things they are learning and becoming thanks to the IB/PYP curriculum, will set them up for life. agency
Originally we wanted to send our child to a public school, but in looking at our options in Oakland quickly realized that we needed alternatives. We both liked this idea of a second language immersion, as so may studies have shown how good this is for the developing brain - how it increases mental capacity for other arenas such as mathematics and music, etc ... Although neither my husband nor I speak fluent Spanish, we recognize how important it now is to know it, so we looked into the Escuela Bilingue (EBI). We went to an info night, and learned that not only is EBI immersion, but incorporates the International Baccalaureate program - inquiry-driven, trans-disciplinary and focusing on the development of the whole child, inside and outside the classroom.
We were concerned that, especially as a younger child with no prior Spanish, our daughter would not have her communication needs met particularly around emotional issues (conflict resolution, fears, etc.) We found that this was addressed - when necessary, the teachers will revert to the first language of the child. Additionally there is now a bilingual learning specialist available on staff who is an available resource for both parents and teachers. After her second year, our daughter's comprehension of Spanish is great. She speaks Spanish as well, but generally not with us. Our attempts to speak or read Spanish at home are often met with a "no" - likely because she knows that we don't speak or pronounce things correctly (fair enough). Our concerns that she would lag behind in English have been addressed as well. She has an hour of English a day in Kindergarten with an English teacher, and we read to her at home. She's now reading in English on her own.
The staff at EBI are fantastic. In addition to training and mastery of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, the teachers have boundless energy and open hearts. There is a lot of inter-staff communication comparing what aspects of projects have worked best. EBI's music, art and physical education programs are stellar. One of the school's two music teachers has just finished her Orff certification, and this approach, which pairs very well with the IB program, will be utilized in the music department. EBI's physical education teacher is professional (also a UC volleyball coach) and pays close attention to teaching children to move comfortably in their bodies and work together as teams rather than focusing solely on competition. Our daughter is self-confident, and she loves going to school.
It is the whole school community, however, that makes EBI what it is. It is warm, tolerant and diverse culturally, ethnically and socio-economically (there is an aggressive scholarship campaign) and with an incredibly active parent community. It is a young school - only in it's fifth year - and has growing pains as systems and structures are being set in place, but frankly this can be exciting as everyone who wants to participate gets to be a part of coming up with solutions and setting the foundation. I definitely feel that at EBI our daughter is getting the school experience we want for her, and that she is being given all the right tools and skills to take an active, positive role in our fast-changing world.
Feel free to email me if you have more specific questions. A happy EBI parent heather
Re: Spanish immersion school with strong art program
My child is at Escuela Bilingue International (pre-K), so take my comments, especially about the upper grades, with as much salt as necessary. He's my second, much younger, kid, so I've seen my share of schools. What strikes me most about EBI is the thoughtfulness of the administration and community in creating the curriculum and deciding how things will be done. There's an amazing flexibility and creativity in finding the best situation for each child. There is a very sincere commitment that I see in action to enable students to direct their education. You really see classes shift direction based on the ideas and interests of the kids, individually and collectively. In some ways, this is more meaningful in the upper grades, but I see it as well even in the PK. It takes a special kind of a teacher to start a day with a certain plan in mind and integrate changes in direction at the drop of a hat, but I've watched it.
Which is to say two things about arts -- if a kid's interested in art, I know that they would get a tremendous amount of support in integrating that into many aspects of his education. And, I suspect that as the school continues to expand, arts will be strengthened. I continue to see the school fine-tune and strengthen various parts of the program (this year hiring a gym teacher who is really amazing). I'm not sure that I perceive EBI as particularly weak on the arts -- there's currently a display of children's interpretations of great artists' works.
One last thought for you -- I had a fairly specific list that I used when looking for a school for my older son, based on his pre-school experience and his interests. He's in an arts magnet school which he loves. It's a great school. But, he's lost interest in art. Not because of the school. He just grew and changed. I don't regret it exactly, but if I had to do it again I would look for the overall school that seemed to support students well, with a much less specific list.
One last thing about EBI -- it's a very international community (not surprisingly) which is very fun and, I think, broadening. EBI parent
I live in Berkeley, and don't know if private school will be an option for my future kindergartener. My daughter speaks Spanish at home, and Spanish immersion would be nice, but word on the street is that I'm not the only parent who has come up with this brilliant idea! From what I hear, parents have very little control in terms of where their kids end up. Are there public/magnet school options? Kindergarten curious
EBI is implementing the International Baccalaureate Program, which is just about everything a parent could want from an educational program (addresses whole child, emphasis on global citizenship, etc.). The community at EBI is fantastic as well - over 50 percent of the families are of color or mixed heritage.
You mentioned that private school may not be in your child's future, but please consider that EBI has a very aggressive financial aid program that currently provides tuition assistance to over 20% of the students. Proud EBI Parent
I saw EBI in its first year, and was impressed with the school philosophy, and the plans the administration had for the school. However, things have changed. I hear there's a new director, and wonder if anyone can comment on how the school is now. Are the teachers effective? Is the IB really being used, or do the teachers think this is something that will be nice in the future? Have they been trained in it? What's the director like? Have the costs changed? These are lots of questions -- if you know answers to any of them, I'd love to hear about it! I'm thinking about this school as an option for a pre-k kid. Future EBI Parent?
The kindergarten teachers are both great, and the 1st/ 2nd grade teacher (also great) is an IB expert who is implementing IB very effectively and training the teachers who are new to it.
Costs? Well, I wish it were free. Private school is a big financial commitment, but we're glad to be making it and we hope we can continue all the way through 8th grade.
Send your child there if 1. Bilingual education is very important to you; 2. You really want your child to learn by inquiry rather than taking top-down instruction from a teacher; and 3. You want to participate in growing a school. Happy at EBI
You asked about the new director and what changes that has brought to the school. The director was hired as a result of an international search (applicants came from Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paris ... quite astounding actually!) and he has more than a decade of experience in a dual-immersion Spanish/English preschool - 12th grade school in Mexico City where he was the head of the Elementary school. He is wonderful: deeply passionate about EBI's mission, very personable, a great educator, a terrific listener (when parents come with concerns), a great people manager, great with the teachers, super organized, focused on both the now and the vision. He was able to bring some teachers with him from Mexico, including one who is a trainer in the Primary Years Program of the International Baccalaureate. The teachers are teaching under the IB PYP curriculum and it's great to see the kids responding to it. I encourage you to go visit the school and check out the classrooms yourselves!
All in all, we are super happy: our son has learned a ton, is really engaged, and is completely bilingual. We're looking forward to next year when the 3rd graders will start Mandarin! 3rd year EBI parent
EBI is a new school (now in its third year) that has definitely hit its stride. The new director, Jon Fulk, is the most energetic and qualified school head I have ever encountered. He has a wealth of experience implementing the IB Primary Years Program, and the energy and vision to make EBI a premier school in the Bay Area.
As a parent, the PYP program hits all of the high points, addressing social and emotional development as well as academic pursuits. But it's not just the content the kids are getting but the love of learning they are developing that is most exciting.
The faculty are 100% committed to the school's mission and the PYP program. They have created a warm and welcoming learning community, and collaborate like no other group of teachers I have ever seen. One of the kindergarten teachers who has worked in international schools around the world said that being in the community of educators at EBI has been the most rewarding professional experience of her life.
And on the language, our child gets no support with Spanish at home, but after three years at the school is completely bilingual, and even asks on occasion how to say something in English!
In short, we're thrilled. It's a great community of families and teachers, and a dynamics and exciting place to be. It's really hard to imagine being anywhere else. Fired up EBI parent!
I have heard a lot of good things about Escuela Bilingue Internacional but not much about their summer camp. I am planning to send my 4 year old to a Spanish camp so any thoughts? -anon.
The kids have lots of fun, learn a lot, and leave their experience with a better understanding of the big exciting international community we live in. Hope this helps. Alison
Re: Spanish/English camp for 6-year-old
Hi, Escuela Bilingue Internacional has just posted their summer camp sessions. They run full and half day immersion programs. My son goes to school there and is also 6 years old. The camp should be really great this summer. I don't have the information with me as they just gave it to us on Friday, but you should be able to find it on their website which is: http://www.ebinternacional.org/en/index.html Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! suzanne
My husband and I are in the early stages of looking at school options for our sons, and are really excited about the idea of Spanish immersion; if we were to go the public-school route, our immersion option would be Leconte Elementary, but we're also considering looking at the Escuela Bilingue in Oakland. I'm curious to hear from people who might have made a choice between those two, or people who have their kids enrolled in one or the other (or not? Downsides are welcome, too!) Thanks a lot!
When a student at EBI speaks to a teacher in English, the teacher repeats in Spanish what the child just said and, depending on the situation and grade level, may have the child then repeat their statement/question in Spanish. That way the child is not only hearing the teachers speak Spanish but they also hear and speak their own thoughts in Spanish. If my child says, lI need a penciln her teacher will prompt her to say lNecesito un l7piz.n I did not hear this being done at Cragmont. The students spoke English to the teachers and the teachers answered in Spanish. This is the critical piece of an immersion program for determining who can understand Spanish and who can understand it AND speak it.
I also value the fact that EBI, to the greatest extent possible, employs native speakers or teachers with native-like fluency. My child's pronunciation is impeccable. A couple of the teachers at Cragmont, while fluent, just didnmt have native- like pronunciation. Not super important but a nice perk.
Perhaps the most compelling reason we chose EBI was the International Baccalaureate curriculum. The International Baccalaureate aims to develop linquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect... These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.'' At the center of what EBI does everyday is the IB Learner Profile: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk- takers, balanced and reflective. Excited to be at EBI
Having said all of this, I do have to comment that EBI is a new school and has felt some growing pains q nothing uncommon in the field of education or at a new institution. However, they have hired a new head of school that starts this July. I was very impressed by his immediate grasp of the school's strengths and needs, his shared vision for the future, and his innate understanding of how to get EBI there. Nonetheless, since it is a new school, you have to have a bit of the pioneer spirit to feel comfortable there. But you will be surrounded by an amazing community of diverse and dedicated families who all share the same mission as the school. Excited to be at EBI
I know there are some references to Escuela Bilingue in the archives, but there aren't a lot. I went on a tour a couple of weeks ago, and while I thought the preschool looked great -- the kids seemed to be having a grand time -- the parent tour- guides were really down to earth and friendly, and the building looks like it has potential (the yard is great), I came away with doubts in my mind after seeing the kindergarten. I can't put my finger on it exactly. Are there people with kids there, particularly in K or 1st grade? Are you happy with the school? Obviously, I know it's a brand-new school so growing pains are part of the process. And the whole idea of an IB, immersion K-8 program is wonderful to me -- I just wonder what the confidence level is like in terms of them being able to pull this off. Thanks for any advice, comments. Mom of Young 5
There are also two other teachers in the classroom: Merly, the assistant, is just who you want to be there emotionally for your child; and Pilar, the reading teacher, is a delight. She's doing the Writer's Workshop material with the kids every afternoon in the most creative and inventive ways. She's got the kids acting out stories before they sit down to write them. It's really helped the kids conceptualize what a story is.
And yes, I have every confidence that the Board knows what they are doing and are succeeding. The school is extremely well run administratively.
As a new school, the Escuela does not have everything yet, but what it does offer is really special: a second language for your child; an international faculty; an atmosphere of optimism and energy; a great music teacher; a parent community that is intelligent, dedicated, unpretentious and fun-loving; a faculty that loves children and receives them with heart and encouragement. We feel grateful for it. K/1 mom
I definitely think the language immersion aspect can have an effect in terms of engagement, especially in the beginning. During the first few weeks, my daughter didn't understand much of the Spanish and consequently only really engaged/listened when spoken to in English. Now that she understands more, she can better listen/engage with all speaking in the classroom. Overall, we think EBI is a great kindergarten for her! Mom of an EBI kindergartener
I was leery of having my son in a mixed age classroom b/c EBI is not a Montessori school and I worried that the teacher and supporting staff would be ill-equipped to handle the range of students. All of those fears have been allayed. Jana is an experienced educator who has done a terrific job of making lessons fit the varying skill levels of the students.
She is doing a great job of working with the English language teacher Pilar to ensure that the kids are developing their reading and writing in Spanish and English. She also does a good job of keeping order in the class. I can see how you might think Jana is a bit reserved upon first meeting her, but I assure you that her students are enthralled by her lessons and enjoy her company.
My son is thriving at EBI. EBI K/1 Parent
I suggest that you speak with as many current EBI parents as possible. For example, if you show up around drop-off or pick-up time, you will have an opportunity to meet many parents, and while some will not have time to talk on the spot, I'm sure that most will be willing to arrange a time to talk. I think you'll find a wide range of experiences, levels of satisfaction, and expectations for the future of the school.
We have found the Spanish immersion aspect of the school to be fabulous, and the parent community to be exceptional. Some of the teachers are excellent. But leadership and daily management have been challenges, as evidenced by significant turnover in teachers after the first year. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that the founding head of school left at the end of the first year. She has been replaced by an interim head, who will in turn be replaced by a new head next year.
The bottom line, I think, is that EBI is a very new school. It has many wonderful things to offer, but the growing pains are real. You'll need to weigh these things and decide if it's a fit for your family. Anonymous
We have applied to Escuela Bilingue Internacional next year for the Pre-K program. I’ve heard some great things about the Pre-K progam and mixed things about the Kindergarten program. Overall, my information about this new school is pretty limited. Can EBI parents please fill me in on the strengths of both the Pre-K program and the Kindergarten program AND any areas of concern or weakness. anon
The IB curriculum is concept-based so kids are taught to think ABOUT and ENGAGE WITH what they're learning, as opposed to what I grew up with which was to memorize LOTS of facts without even knowing why I had to know them. Critical thinking, basically. Because he's the youngest in his class, he's still not reading in English as well as some of his classmates. His reading in Spanish is quite good though and his teacher and Assistant are to be commended for that. My son loves the warmth he gets from the teachers and staff. He enjoys the fact that he's already able to see how people in different Latin-American countries have different words and accents (there's at least 5 different countries represented in teachers/staff). Last week he asked why Spanish people use a lisp when speaking Spanish. Because they emphasize plurality, my son will be able to feel at home in any Latin American country he goes to (today he said he wants to visit the country where the song Guantanamera comes from...but we'll wait for the embargo to be lifted, I guess).
His favorite part is music class. He ABSOLUTELY LOVES his music teacher, who comes twice a week to his class, is a well-known Bay Area performer and teacher at Berkeley's school of Jazz. Her rapport with the kids is amazingly professional. She treats them like little musicians and gives the kids her very best. They've had two performances this year and hopefully there's more in the making.
Why me and my wife like it? We are a multilingual household--three different languages are used at home. I am also a trained French language and Literature teacher and know that EBI's approach to language teaching will serve the children who go there well. I volunteer to help out in his classroom at least twice a month and am surprised to see how even the kids who have no one to practice Spanish with at home can now talk to me with confidence.
Have there been snags? Of course there have. The biggest was the fact that the Head of the school was also the kindergarten teacher and, unfortunately, that meant she was quite overwhelmed. But together with the support of parents and the board, she worked hard to hire a new teacher who is fully dedicated to the class and is always available for anyone who wishes to meet with her about their children. In general though, the snags have actually resulted in parents coming together to make recommendations to the board and Head to improve the school. In the process, many of us have realized that Head, parents and board are all working with a common goal: to make ESCUELA BILINGUE INTERNACIONAL the model for other Spanish bilingual schools in the country. Because parents, boardmembers and head are working together, I know that next year will be the year we go on the map for having a long waiting list. Overall, I am lucky to have found Escuela Bilingue and lucky to be part of the founding years. It would be easy to go to a well-established school that is already running smoothly and doesn't demand any effort on my part. But I think that part of my child's education should also reflect my own willingness to make a heartfelt effort to build a school for him and his classmates that embodies the values and global vision me and my family hold dear. If I am hoping that EBI will help these children change the world, why can't I reciprocate in advance and do my best to change EBI, each day, for the better? This is actually a contagious attitude I've caught from some of the people I've met there. Best regards and I hope we can also count on your family joining us! Douglas
We're the parents of a preschool boy who will be five years old
in early Oct. '07. He is currently in his second year at a
coop preschool and we're wondering what to do with him next
year re: third year of preschool vs. kindergarten. We have
been following the development and grand opening of the Escuela
Bilingue in Rockridge very closely; we would love to hear from
parents of pre-K and Kinder students at EBI to hear what you
like about the program, any concerns, generally ''how things are
going.'' Specifically, any input on how the school's size and
learning environment would help/hinder a highly verbal, bright,
but slow-to-warm, somewhat shy boy would be appreciated. Just
FYI, he is being raised in a bilingual English/Spanish home.
Thanks in advance for the input!
I have been extremely impressed not only with my child's
language development, but also with his growing knowledge and
appreciation for different cultures as well.
Because EBI is a brand new school, I expected things to be a
little chaotic at the outset, but I have been pleasantly
surprised by how smoothly things have been running. That said
there is definitely room for improvement. I hope that as the
school year progesses and the school gets its bearings there will
be better systems put in place for communicating with parents.
Otherwise, we really don't have any complaints.
If you choose EBI for your child I think you will find that the
community is welcoming and vibrant and one in which it will be
easy for you to get involved. I think EBI is really off to a
great start and encourage you to keep exploring it as an option
for your family. Best of luck
Happy EBI family
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