Collegiate American School opened in 2011 in Umm Suqeim, and admits children from pre-KG to Grade 12. The school is part of the Innoventures Group, which includes three IB curriculum schools - Dubai International Academy (DIA), the newer DIA Al Barsha (opened in September 2018), and Raffles World Academy, together with the UK curriculum Raffles International School. CAS is the only US curriculum school, and the only one within the Group inspected by the KHDA, that is not yet rated Very Good.
The story so far...
Collegiate American School (CAS) opened eight years ago and is located on a large campus in the heart of Umm Suqeim, one of the most popular traditional residential areas for both Emiratis and expatriates.
The design of the campus is a throwback to the ownership of the site by Emaar Properties, who originally opened the two Raffles schools, together with Singapore-based Raffles Education. Management of the schools was taken over by Innoventures in 2007. The buildings are set out in Singaporean style, based around two large covered quadrangles with wide corridors and traditional ballustrades overlooking the centre, set over three floors.
CAS is very much a school targeted at competing with the likes of GEMS Dubai American Academy, the American School of Dubai, and GEMS United School (formerly Bradenton Prep Academy), all of which are located around the New Dubai area, are priced at a premium level and rated at least Good. In DAA's case, it is rated Outstanding, a rating held for eight years. The not-for-profit American School of Dubai has had its own issues with regard to the Ministry of Education requirements for the teaching of Arabic and Islamic Studies, which has clearly impacted its rating (Good), but is probably the most 'American' in look and feel of all of the US curriculum schools in the city. GEMS United School is also rated Good. Price-wise, CAS is the least costly of the US curriculum schools located in this area.
CAS takes pride at being a truly international school educating students from 60 different nationalities. The largest proportion of students are said to come from United States of America. Student numbers have dropped significantly from around 600 in 2017-18 to under 400 in 2018-19. Teaching staff are mainly from the USA and with some 66 teachers (a reduction of 10 from the previous year), supported by 9 teaching assistants (a reduction from 25 a year earlier). As a result, the school has a very low 1:6 teacher to student ratio - offering substantial individual support to students. There has been some significant turnover of staff in the past year - 27% - compared with 15% in the prior year, somewhat above the UAE average of 20-22%. How much of this loss has been due to planned reduction in staff to address the reduction in student numbers is not clear.
The school is supervised by a Board made up largely of the owners of the school, but takes input from an Advisory Council which represents parents, among other stakeholders. CASPA is the Collegiate American School Parent Association, founded in 2011.The main objective of CASPA is to support the academics and activity of the school with the vision of "providing a world class education".
What about the Curriculum?
Collegiate American School follows the New York State Standards for all subjects, including the NY Common Core Standards for Mathematics and English. These standards provide students with a rigorous framework that prepares them for life after high school and their studies at university. Early years programmes are designed with standards from the U.S. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Students interact with materials and their environment in intentional play-based ways. CAS is accredited by NEASC (the New England Assocation of Schools and Colleges), the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the International Baccalaureate Organisation for the IB Diploma Programme.
Students in Grades 11 and 12 are prepared with the skills needed to successfully enter a university, a pre-professional programme or the world of work. All graduates earn a U.S. High School Diploma (accredited by NEASC and therefore recognised by colleges in the USA) and - similar to GEMS Dubai American Academy - may also choose to participate in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. In some cases, based on scheduling and availability, it may be possible to take one or two IB level courses as part of the US diploma. Grade 12 students at CAS sat the first set of IBDP exams in May 2018. For results, please go here.
The school has a particular focus on integrating technology into the curriculum and aims to infuse Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) for all students in grades 3-10, with a state-of-the-art STEM lab and specific instruction enhancing the curriculum, which is delivered by a STEM expert. The curriculum includes the practice of programming, virtual reality, and robotics. The NY State Standards in combination with STEM laboratory provide students with the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students. The school uses iPads and laptops - replacing in most cases text books. These devices are used, whereever possible, as the medium of learning.
Students are assessed using the Measure of Academic Progress Tests (MAP) that provide teachers with real-time data on the individual progress each student makes in language, science, Maths and English. Students identified as Gifted and Talented participate in the school's GATEway programme which allows staff to extend and enrich the educational experience of these students through developing their skills and special abilities. Students identified as requiring some level of learning support are categorized according to their level of need.
Focus support is designed for students who are less than or up to one grade level below their same-aged peers. Learning Support staff complete a teacher intervention plan to be monitored every 4 to 6 weeks. Students who are more than one grade level behind, not diagnosed as having a disability and where a teacher intervention plan has not been successful, are provided with Learning Support. A learning support plan (LSP) may be developed with the teacher, learning support teacher and parents. Students with Exceptional Needs, who have received a learning disability diagnosis or other diagnosis that impacts their daily participation and progress in school activities, may have external support providers who may attend school with them. Depending on student need, an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) may also be developed.
CAS probably also offers one of the widest ranges of extra-curricular activities, including a range of paid provision offering various sports including tennis, gymnastics, karate and yoga, and other activities as diverse as chess, coding, Mandarin, Russian for native speakers as well as numerous others. Teacher-led activities in Elementary range from Zumba, Dance, to a wide range of arts and crafts, Arabic activities, and Glee Club. Middle/High ECA's include a wide range of sports, academic and cultural activities such as Debate and World Scholars, Ted X, film-making, Drama Club, a range of Helpdesks supporting specific academic subjects and GATEway sessions for students who are Gifted and Talented.
Collegiate American School issued a press release in July 2018 advising of the results of its first cohort of IB students. We at WhichSchoolAdvisor.com were delighted to see this, since we strongly believe that although exam results are not the be-all and end-all of a school's achievement, they are an important factor in parental decision-making.
The school's statement noted that the school "has also demonstrated strong results and 100% success across all Diploma Programme and courses. Twenty-seven graduates have accepted admissions offers from 13 nations with studies at institutions such as Arizona State University’s School of Business Law and Newcastle University School of Biology and Oceanography.
Special congratulations to the winners of the prestigious Sandcat Awards, both UAE Nationals, Ghalya Alzarooni and Mohammed Al Faour. Ghalya who will be pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering and entering the Cadet Pilot Program at Emirates Aviation University, Mohammed continues with his passion for Environmental Awareness at Newcastle and Majed Aljanahi will attend NYU Abu Dhabi on a full scholarship after serving in the UAE’s National Service".
Unfortunately, aside from the number of students and the 100% pass rate on which they are clearly to be congratulated, no information about the average IB Diploma point score of the school, nor the break-down of students' achievement in relation to the IB scores (schools usually report the percentage of students who achieved above 30, 35 and 40 points) was provided. This makes it impossible to compare with the results of other local schools or the international averages. In 2019, no information was released for CAS at all.
What About Facilities?
The school operates on 30,000 square meters of land, its classrooms are equipped with the latest audio-visual facilities (including LCD projector/visualizer/sound system/smart boards), and it offers a STEM laboratory, computer laboratories, a library, art rooms, a dance studio, music rooms, two swimming pools, a sports hall, gymnasium, basketball courts, badminton courts, a football/soccer pitch, a Multipurpose outdoor playground for MS/HS students, a cafeteria and prayer rooms. Given the space it has to work with, most classrooms are spacious.
What the Inspectors Say
The school was ranked Good again by the KHDA inspectors for 2018-19 for the fifth year in a row, after two years of being ranked Acceptable. Based on the inspectors' previous comments in relation to the leadership and management of the school, it would seem that this has been an area in need of improvement in previous years. Leadership and Management, deemed by the KHDA to be at the centre of high-performing schools, is now rated Very Good.
These improvements have occurred under the leadership of the former Principal, Tammy Tussek, who joined the school in 2014. In 2018-19, Jacquie Parr, was appointed to the position. Formerly Head at JESS Jumeirah and latterly Principal at Jebel Ali School, Mrs. Parr's background is solidly UK curriculum and predominantly Primary school - which possibly explains why she also took up the additional position of Elementary Head at CAS.
For September 2019, it has been all change at the top again. Dr. Bruce Major, an experienced American Superintendent, took over the top position at CAS. This is very much more in keeping with KHDA expectations as regards the qualifications of leadership.
The 2018-19 KHDA report identified some improvement in the school. Its strengths were found to be:
In terms of the six key performance standards assessed by the DSIB inspection team, there is no doubt that in terms of Student Achievement, progress and attainment of children in the KG section is clearly superior to the rest of the school. All three core English-based subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) are rated Very Good. KG children are not formally assessed in relation to the Arabic subjects.
Elsewhere, the ratings for students in the Elementary section are largely Good, though English and Mathematics progress was rated Very Good. Arabic as a first language, and progress in Islamic Education and Arabic as a Second language are rated Good, whilst attainment in the latter two subjects is rated Acceptable. In the Middle school section, English, Mathematics and Science are solidly rated Good (a downgrade for English progress), and the Arabic subjects are predominantly rated Acceptable - though attainment in Arabic as a first language is rated Weak - with no improvement compared with a year ago.
The picture in the High school section is almost identical to the Middle school, although attainment in Arabic as an additional language has improved to Acceptable from Weak, and progress in Mathematics has improved to Very Good.
Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills are now rated Outstanding across the school and are clearly a strength.
Teaching and Assessment, and Curriculum design and implementation and its adaptation to meet the needs of individual students, were again rated largely Good or Very Good. There has been no change compared with the previous inspection. However, in the case of both key indicators, it seems that inconsistency among teachers in the delivery of the curriculum has led to the same ratings being awarded again in the current inspection process.
The inter-relationship between Teaching and Assessment, Curriculum Design, implementation and adaptation and Student Achievement is undeniable, and if any one element of the first two standards is weaker than the other, the impact on Student Achievement is clear and invariably negative.
CAS was again found to be Outstanding across the school in relation to the Health and Safety (including Child Protection) of its students. The school was also rated Very Good in relation to the Care and Support of students. Provision and outcomes for Students of Determination remained Good.
In relation to the final key performance standard of leadership and management, the KHDA inspection team found the performance unchanged. School self-evaluation and improvement planning remain unchanged at Good, driven by their evaluation that "too many school self-evaluation judgments are aspirational and not sufficiently rooted in reliable evidence".
The relationship with parents and the community and the Management, staffing, facilities and resources retained their Very Good ratings. Particular praise and the Outstanding rating were reserved for the Governance of the school, which must serve as a model for others - this is a real triumph for CAS and for Innoventures as the owner. So often schools do not show strong governance, which remains a real concern of the KHDA.
In terms of recommendations for improvement, the inspection team expect CAS to:
As mentioned at the outset of the review, CAS has been rated Good for five years now by the KHDA's DSIB inspection teams. Although there has been improvement over this period, it seems that this has largely been in terms of improvement from an Acceptable to a Good standard. In the current report, of the 11 improved ratings, nine of them were from Good to Very Good. However, there were two downgrades from Good to Acceptable. Until CAS is able to sustain its improvements to Very Good more broadly - and notably in respect of Student Achievement, an improvement in the overall school rating from Good to Very Good seems still to be some way off.
If you would like to read the full KHDA inspection report - and we strongly recommend that you do - you will find it here.
Of course, no school should be judged purely on its academic results or the opinions (no matter how qualified) from an inspection that took place over a four day period in March this year. A relatively small number of parents who participated in the KHDA's pre-inspection survey (some 53 of them) were, in large measure (96%), of the opinion that CAS is providing a satisfactory quality of education for their children. The report notes that "most parents are generally pleased with the quality of education provided by the school, reporting that it provides good value for money. Parents know that their children are safe at the school and have good relationships with their teachers."
Students who responded were also positive. 110 students responded to the Well-being Census (from Grades 6 to 9), and the KHDA notes that only five Emirati students did so. "A large majority of students speak positively about their school experience, noting a sense of belonging and reporting good relationships with peers. Students are confident about their future academic success. A significant minority of students report bullying, primarily while using the internet."
According to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com School Survey the school is well regarded by its parents. Almost 9 out of 10 (87%) would recommend it to other parents (above the 72% UAE school average) and the same percentage is very satisfied with the academic performance of the school, compared with an average for the UAE of 63%. Almost three-quarters of parents (74%) believe that the fees they are paying represent good value for money (in line with the KHDA survey results) based on the education being provided (compared with a 43% UAE school average). Parents feel CAS has the competencies and resources to meet their child's learning needs.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at CAS, we would like to hear your opinions and share your experience with potential members of your school community. You can complete our School survey here.
What about the fees?
Tuition fees at CAS have been in line with those of the top tier schools in terms of pricing. The school has introduced significant reductions in Elementary School fees compared with those approved by the KHDA. There is an entrance test fee of AED 500 per student.
Fees are AED 55,711 for Grades 1 and 2, AED 63,670 for Grades 3 to 5, AED 72,352 for Grades 6 to 12. Fees for pre-primary though KG1 are AED 40,071; KG2 is AED 46,751. KHDA approved fees from Grades 1 to 5 are AED 72,352.
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