Rising School is a US curriculum school that opened in September 2017 in the heart of Nad Al Sheba. The location choice was a good one; there are currently no other US curriculum schools located within this area. The school was one of two new US curriculum schools to open in 2017 towards the more southerly end of Dubai around Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road; offering families further choice for a curriculum that has been relatively hard to find closer to these newer housing areas until now.
The story so far.
Rising School is the first American Curriculum school to be located in Nad Al Sheba, providing the curriculum option for families that live in this or surrounding areas and are seeking a curriculum free of external examinations until the College application level. The school will be purely US curriculum and has already started it accreditation process with NEASC (in line with KHDA requirements).
The Elementary school currently plans to have up to 600 students in total (relatively small by Dubai school standards). During its first year, it is open from KG1 to Grade 5 with one class per grade, increasing to 3 per grade once established. Additional grades will be added on an annual basis. With a team of 16 teachers and an average of 14 students per class, the current teacher:student ratio of almost 1:6 is a generous one. The school currently has an equal mix of boys and girls with 32% US passport-holders followed by 28% UAE nationals. Remaining students are from 6 further nations.
The Principal, Dr. Raychellet Williamson, who has taken over from Founding Principal, Dr. Michael Bartlett, informs potential parents of her Vision for the school -"We envision Rising School as a microcosm of an ideal city, where imagination, creativity, empathy, self-direction, and collaboration thrive among our students". The school will be "A school where future leaders develop and practice innovative skills today, for success in their tomorrow".
Teachers have been recruited from the US, UK and Jordan with a broad mix of experience – most have between 6 and more than 10 years’ experience. All have teaching degrees and experience of the US curriculum.
Rising School is certainly ambitious in its aims. It states that “the School has the goal of ensuring that every student has the opportunity to gain access to one of the world’s leading universities. This will be achieved through employing and supporting the best teachers, by establishing close, working relationships with the top universities, by equipping students with research and analytical skills, and by providing high quality career counselling.”
All staff commit to one-to-one and group tutorial work that is need-driven and not limited to set or given hours, to ensure that the necessary support is delivered.
What about the curriculum?
Rising School follows the American Common Core Curriculum (CCSS) adopted in the state of California that covers English Language, Reading, and Mathematics. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will also be delivered. The (NGSS) is comprised of “three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and each dimension works with the other two to help students build a cohesive understanding of science over time.”
This core focus on Next Generation Science Standards is explained further as 1) Cross cutting concepts - exploration of connections across the four domains of science, including Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science; 2) Engineering Design, Science and Engineering Practice - a description what scientists do to investigate the natural world and what engineers do to design and build systems; and 3) Disciplinary Core Ideas - “(DCIs) - the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines”.
In addition to the clear and ambitious focus on Science and Technology, the Rising School curriculum provides students with the opportunity to study a wide range of subjects, including English Language, Mathematics, Arabic, Social Studies, Islamic Studies, Cultural Studies, PE, Art, and Music. In line with KHDA requirements, the school has adopted the MOE standards for Arabic, Islamic Studies, and Social Studies.
The school accommodates English as a Second Language speakers and offers a specific School Literacy Development Program using an approach designed to enable ‘Limited English Proficient’ students (LEP) towards higher academic achievement while they reach English fluency.
All high school students will sit for the SAT I College Entry exam, as well as the TOEFL exam. A College and Careers counsellor will work with students to identify pathways of learning and job-seeking after high school, beginning at grade 8.
Unusually, Rising School is implementing a ‘no homework’ rule in order to allow its students to fully develop into well-rounded adults. A study carried out by Stanford University looked into the benefits of removing homework from school life. The overarching finding was that homework could actually have a detrimental impact on the learning experience, and applied to all students regardless of level of capability.
The school’s Policy of Determination is designed to support children with additional learning needs and gifts and talents. All staff have received training or have experience/certifications in teaching and supporting students with SEND and G&T requirements. Standalone classrooms are provided as well as Learning Support Assistants.
Non-Arab, Non-Muslim students will be offered Cultural Studies aimed at providing a comprehensive understanding of all cultures and religions. In addition, the students will be given time in a language lab to improve their Arabic language skills. The school also plans to offer Mandarin as an After-school activity.
Rising School says that it is committed to teaching the next generation about the planet. The school has introduced materials from National Geographic Learning, to ensure children have the very best tools for learning. National Geographic Learning develops unique materials using photography, exploration and human achievement as tools. As a user of National Geographic Learning materials, Rising School states that it is already seeing the benefit of the collaboration.
ICT is spread across the school through the use of smart boards in every classroom, access to iPad trolleys in classrooms and open-study areas, and designated computer labs. Dedicated STEM areas aim to offer innovation for students as young as KG1 and up through Grade 12 as the school expands. Problem solving and critical thinking are at the forefront of teaching – in line with the Innovation targets sought by the Ministry of Education for all schools in the UAE.
Sporting activities provide opportunities to develop students’ physical health and social interaction, and are aimed also at enhancing the holistic development of each student by offering teamwork and leadership opportunities.
Rising School provides broad Extra-curricular and co-curricular activities and a variety of activities for students to participate in after the academic program has finished each day, in part by means of an extended school day. Teachers are involved in at least two extra-curricular activities per week.
Activities such as Student Council, Charity Committees, Debating Club (the Model United Nations program is planned as the school develops into the older grades), Go Green Club, Community Service, Personality Development classes, and foreign languages are designed to provide learning opportunities outside the typical classroom environment. The school will also offer Drama productions, World Book Day, and many sports related opportunities.
What about the facilities?
The facilities at the three-storey building include interactive wallpaper, indoor and outdoor science labs, a music lab, an ICT lab, a clinic and a multi-purpose room. There is a second phase to the school which will open in September 2019 which will house the middle school and high school as well as an olympic-sized swimming pool and a performing arts centre.
It is still clearly very early days for Rising School. However, the strong focus on STEM subjects, the individualised approach to teaching and the obvious ambition that the school leadership and staff have for their students, makes this a school, that whilst modest in size, seems to have plans that, if successfully translated into action, will certainly make it stand out as is grows.
The fees for The Rising School start at AED 33,575 for KG 1 and KG2 and rise to AED 48,025 for Grade 5.
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