Collegiate American School (CAS) opened in September 2011 in Umm Suqeim, Dubai and takes 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 new DIA Al Barsha (opening in September 2018), and Raffles World Academy, together with the UK curriculum Raffles International School. CAS is the only US curriculum school within the group.
Collegiate American School opened seven 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 takes pride at being a truly international school educating over 600 students from 60 different nationalities. The largest proportion of students are said to come from Arab nationalities. Teaching staff are mainly from the USA and with some 76 teachers, supported by 25 teaching assistants, the school has a very low 1:8 teacher to student ratio - offering substantial individual support to students. Teachers appear to be content at the school, with a staff turnover of 15%, somewhat below the UAE average of 20-22%.
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.
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 and some 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. As yet, the school has not publicised the results.
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.
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.
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.
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 do the Inspectors Say?
The school was ranked Good again by the KHDA inspectors for 2017-18 for the fourth year in a row, after two years of being ranked Acceptable. Based on the inspectors' comments in relation to the leadership and management of the school, it would seem that this has been an area in need of improvement. "The quality of leadership has improved and, with strong support from governors, is having a positive impact on provision and student outcomes". 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. It will be interesting to see how the school develops over the coming period with the appointment of Jacquie Parr, 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 is also taking up the additional position of Elementary Head at CAS. She will be supported by Rhonda Hearns as the Deputy Head of Elementary.
The 2017/2018 KHDA report identified continued improvement in the school. Its strengths were found to be:
In terms of student achievement, progress in English remained Very Good across the school, and for Mathematics, it received the same rating in KG and Elementary. Achievement across all sections for all three English-taught core subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) remained Good, with improvements in attainment in Maths and Science in the Middle and High school sections to Good. This means that all three subjects are rated at least Good. Progress and attainment in the Arabic-based subjects of Islamic Education, Arabic as a first and as an additional language were rated a mix of largely Good in the Elementary section, but largely Acceptable or Weak in the Middle and High school sections. In fact, attainment in Arabic as an additional language in the High school section has fallen to Weak - something that will not be well-regarded by either the Inspectors or the school.
Students’ personal and social development, and their innovation skills are also ranked Very Good and Good across the school. Personal development is clearly a strength, with all four sections of the school now rated Very Good. Inspectors commented that "Staff successfully help students to acquire well-developed personal and social skills. Behavior and attitudes have improved in the middle and high schools to very good, which is now in line with the other phases. Some students show notable innovation skills".
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. Improvements were found in the High School, where the Curriculum was rated Very Good for both measures for the first time. However, in the case of both key indicators, it seems that inconsistency among teachers in the delivery of the curriculum has led to largely the same ratings being awarded again in the current inspection process.
CAS was 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 KG and Elementary and Good in Middle and High school sections in relation to the Care and Support of students. Discipline appears to be something of an issue in Middle School with inspectors commenting that "behavior management is slightly less effective in the middle school". Some High school students felt that they would benefit from better support from the Counselling and Careers Guidance team in relation to determining their next stage in learning. Inspectors praised the "strong SEND program [which] provides good in-class and pull-out support for students with a wide range of special needs. Support for gifted or talented students is emerging through a program of enriched learning experiences".
In relation to the final key performance indicator of leadership and management, the KHDA inspection team largely found the performance unchanged, aside from the improved rating for the Effectiveness of leadership which was raised to Very Good. School self-evaluation and improvement planning remain unchanged at Good, driven by their evaluation that "Raising students’ achievement in Arabic has been slow, but some signs of improvement are evident. Some school self-evaluation judgements are too optimistic".
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. The report found that "The advisory body has wide and strong representation from business, education and parents. The governors take parents' views fully into account, and the advisory body provides the school with very helpful advice. The chief executive holds senior leaders rigorously to account. The governors ensure that the school has facilities and resources to a high standard. Overall, governance makes a significant contribution to the school".
To move up to the next level of ranking, the school needs to improve attainment and progress across all subjects, by building on recent improvements in teaching to ensure that lessons are more consistently of a high quality, and by ensuring that the use of assessment information in teaching is uniformly effective across the subjects and phases, particularly in Islamic Education and Arabic. Particular focus needs to be given to the improvement in Arabic in both the Middle and High school sections.
As mentioned at the outset of the review, CAS has been rated Good for four years now by the KHDA 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, six of them were from Acceptable to Good. Until CAS is able to sustain its improvements to Very Good more broadly - and notably in respect of Student Achievement, where 33 of 46 measures are rated Good or lower - an improvement in the overall school rating from Good to Very Good seems to be some way off.
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 February this year. Parents who participated in the KHDA's pre-inspection survey (some 126 of them), were in large measure (92%) of the opinion that CAS is providing a satisfactory quality of education for their children. The report notes that "The parents who responded are very positive about the school. Almost all are satisfied with the quality of education. They feel that their children are safe and happy at the school. They think that the school is well led and that leaders listen to and act upon their views. A minority are not happy about the quality of careers guidance or support" - a comment supported within the report by the Inspection team, who felt that improvements were required in this area.
Students who responded were less positive. The 102 students who responded (and these would have been Upper Middle and High school students only, so a significant part of the senior school population) "have" according to the report, "positive views overall. Most feel safe in the school and have positive views about the use of technology in their learning. [However] some have concerns about a number of issues. For example, a large minority indicate that they are not happy in the school and do not feel that teachers treat them fairly". Although the inspection team did not find evidence of this, only just over 50% of the student respondents said that they were happy or reasonably happy at the school.
According to the WhichSchoolAdvisor.com School Survey the school is reasonably well regarded by its parents. Almost 8 out of 10 (78%) would recommend it to other parents (above the 72% UAE school average) and the same percentage are very satisfied with the academic performance of the school, compared with an average for the UAE of 63%. However, we should point out that all respondents to-date have children in the KG or Elementary sections of the school, where academic performance will be measured internally only. Two-thirds of parents believe that the fees they are paying represent good value for money 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. Click here for all parent feedback on Collegiate American School. If you are a parent of a Middle or High School student, we would particularly like to hear your opinions. You can complete the survey here..
Tuition fees at CAS have been in line with those of the top tier schools in terms of pricing, but have been significantly reduced for 2018-19 in the Elementary School. 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. Tuition fees have been substantially reduced from Grades 1 to 5 for the 2018-19 academic year - these are not guaranteed for subsequent years.
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