Al Mizhar American Academy (formerly Al Mizhar American Academy for Girls), a Taaleem owned and run school, is located in Al Mizhar 1, near Mirdif in Dubai.
Al Mizhar American Academy has been rated Good for the eleventh year running (since inspections began) in the 2018-19 KHDA inspection process. An abbreviated version of the inspection report can be found under the Inspection report tab. An update of this review will be completed once the full reports have been published.
The story so far...
Al Mizhar is one of only a small number of Girls only private schools appealing to expat as well as local families, for whom single gender education is more common. Over 70% of students come from local, Emirati families, although over 20 nationalities are represented at Al Mizhar American Academy in totality - the majority of whom have Arabic as a first language. It has just under 640 students on its roster with 56 teachers and 19 teaching assistants. This provides a teacher:student ratio of 1:11, ensuring individual attention for the students. The school takes children from 3 to 18 years of age (pre-KG to Grade 12).
The school, although for girls only, does admit a small number of boys to KG - primarily siblings - and has the stated mission to promote "independence, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, creativity and problem solving skills".
The school follows an American curriculum based on the Kansas State Common Core curriculum, modified by including the local culture and students receive a high school diploma upon completion of Grade 12.
External tests included the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Advanced Placement exams for Grade 12 students, Pre-SAT exams for Grade 11 and SAT exams for Grade 12. The school is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The school says it limits classrooms to one gender, so girls can grow and develop leadership skills and communication as well as feel comfortable to discover their own talents. A single sex environment, the school believes, allows its students to be more curious and inquisitive.
What about facilities?
While a smaller school, resources include a swimming pool, well-resourced library, computer labs, interactive white boards, art studios, music studios, science labs, mini auditorium, fitness room, gymnasium, sports field, dance studio, KG playroom, separate KG library, outdoor playground, and a canteen. The school is considered well-resourced by the KHDA.
What the inspectors say
Al Mizhar American Academy has been rated Good since its first inspection in 2008. In fact, prior to the introduction of a common inspection process some three years ago that is being implemented across the UAE, a rating of Good meant that the school was only one step away from the highest rating of Outstanding. The common inspection process has now added a further rating of Very Good in between, and this is the rating to which the school should now be aspiring. To remain at Good for 8 years in a row suggests that although the school is operating at the minimum level that the KHDA expects, it is some way from a step up to the next grade.
The most recent 2017-18 report which follows the KHDA inspection in October 2017, highlights the following strengths of Al Mizhar:
The inspectors also noted that "Leadership in the school remains strong. The senior leadership team has a strong vision for school improvement and has conveyed that vision to the staff, students and parents. Self-evaluation process are accurate and appropriate. Partnerships with parents have improved to outstanding. Adequate resources are provided by governors for students to access technology and enrich their learning experiences." The KHDA, in their review of the Dubai Schools Inspection process after 10 years, made a very clear link between the highest performing schools and the quality of their leadership and governance.
However, when reviewing the achievement of students at Al Mizhar, it seems that although much is Good, there is considerable room for improvement. Of the 46 key measures for attainment and progress, and for Students' Learning Skills, 32 are found to be Good. There have been four improved ratings to Very Good - for progress in Islamic Education and for attainment and progress in Arabic as an additional language in the Elementary School, and for Learning Skills in the KG section. Attainment in Arabic as an additional language in High School has improved to Good.
Attainment in Mathematics in all sections, other than KG, has been downgraded to Acceptable since "students' attainment has declined in mathematics in the elementary, middle, and secondary phases, but students' progress in mathematics remains good." Although inspectors found that the Mathematical skills were being consistently developed in all phases, "[students'] understanding and skills in numeracy are stronger than those of geometric shapes or data display. Students are comfortable using their arithmetic knowledge to solve problems and enjoy memorizing formulae. Their skills in applying their mathematical knowledge or using it for reasoning are not yet sufficiently strong."
If the academic achievement of students is generally rated Good, their Personal and Social Development and Innovation Skills continue to strengthen, "with significant improvements noted in the elementary phase. The Kindergarten children and secondary age students, are more eagerly embracing innovative opportunities than were observed previously." Personal development is rated Very Good in KG and Elementary (the latter an improvement since last year), whilst it is rated Good in Middle and High School. Students' understanding of Islamic Values and Awareness of Emirati and World Cultures have also been rated Very Good across all sections (an upgrade from Good in the last report).
However, it is the Teaching and Assessment of students and the Curriculum Design and Implementation, and its adaptation, that mirror to a large degree, the ratings of the key measures for Student Achievement. Almost all measures are rated Good, with the exception of assessment in KG which is rated Very Good. There have been no changes in the ratings for these measures in the current inspection. The Inspection report notes that "Teaching and the assessment of learning remain good in all phases and subjects throughout the school. Good teaching has strong alignment with positive outcomes for students." Inspectors also found that "Curriculum design and implementation remain strong, with most lessons closely aligned with the US curriculum guidelines. The curriculum has been enriched with the addition of an activity period called 'CHIPS,' which gives students innovative experiences such as robotics, signing, and yoga. More than 40 different experiences are available to all students during this mid-day, weekly lesson."
The protection, care, guidance and support of students, in relation to Health and Safety is rated Outstanding with inspectors stating that "The protection, care, guidance, and support of students is outstanding as a result of it being the highest priority for the school." Care and Guidance is rated Good. The inspectors found that "The positive ethos promoted by all staff members enables students to enjoy school life and makes them feel appreciated and well cared for. Robust systems are in place to support the social and emotional well-being of students. Students can approach a trusted adult if they have any concerns. The school welcomes students with SEND and provides suitable intervention programs and additional support. However, the quality of support is inconsistent across subjects and grades."
Leadership and Management of the school and its self-evaluation are both rated Good, whilst the relationship between the school, parents and the community is rated Outstanding. "Parent's distinctive partnership with the school, supports students’ learning. Their contributions are a clear indication of their active role, particularly in the initiatives to engage the girls with national and international community groups." However, governance has been downgraded to Acceptable in the current report due to the Inspectors findings that "The Governing Body does not include a wide variety of stakeholders. The Governors monitor the work of the school, but have only minor influence on the school's improvement relative to the recommendations of the previous inspection report."
On a positive note, management, staffing, facilities and resources were found to be Very Good, with "Staffing [is] sufficient and the large majority of staff are appropriately qualified. The school is well resourced and the facilities are of good quality. The staff benefit from helpful professional development activities and are collectively determined to increase their capacity to meet the needs of all groups of students."
To improve further the school needs to introduce or improve a substantive list of actions. These include recommedations to:
Parents, students and teachers who responded to the KHDA's pre-inspection survey were almost all universally happy with their experience of Al Mizhar American Academy. Students appreciate the feedback from teachers who assist them in improving their work and parents are particularly positive about the high quality of career and academic guidance that their children receive.
School fees range from AED 41,322 at KG to AED 64,414 at Grade 12, putting the school top end mid range. Full details under the Fees and Admissions tab.
What's it like to just walk in?
The school stands on a large plot and is well resourced and laid out in a modern building, very much in keeping with other Taaleem schools.
Al Mizhar American Academy is owned by Taaleem Education. It was previously known as the American Academy for Girls and is located in Al Mizhar, very close to the border with Sharjah. The “for Girls” was dropped from the name several years ago, when the school started to admit younger male siblings of older female students into KG1 for KG1 and KG2 only. This was done as a service to existing parents. The boys move on, generally to other Taaleem schools, for Grade 1 onwards.
The entire staff of the school is female and comes from the US, with the exception of Arabic and Islamic studies staff. This latter element of the curriculum is a particular strength of the school. 70% of students are Emirati, a further 20% other native Arab speakers and 10% other expatriate nationalities. The school is keen to reach out to Indian and Pakistani Muslim families seeking a quality US curriculum school offering an all-girl environment. The majority of graduates go on to universities in the US, whilst others attend university in Dubai and Sharjah.
For parents seeking an English-language based school that is exclusively female, following an international curriculum, this is the only option in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Parents appreciate the size of the school with a small student body and small classes, noting students get greater individual attention as a result. There's a belief in the teaching and that teaching standards are largely excellent. Parents also note the cooperative rather than competitive nature of the school, and a lack of overt pressure on the children. They also note however, that the single sex nature of the classroom does remove "distractions" which results in better performance of students in classes. Students are broadly very satisfied. The school is said to perform well with external tests.
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