Individualized attention. Higher standardized scores. And improved college placement. When families enroll their children in private school, these are the advantages they give them. “By choosing the Dallas International School, parents provide their kids with something even better: a multilingual, multicultural, well-rounded education that will serve them from an early age through the rest of their lives,” says Wendie Meymarian, DIS’s Curriculum Development and Instructional Coordinator.
Immersing students in French and other foreign languages from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, DIS offers children an education that is classical yet innovative and flexible yet focused. DIS boasts world-renowned high-school degree programs: the International Baccalaureate and the French Baccalaureate. It also encourages students of every grade level to explore music, theater, fine arts, sports, travel, volunteer work, and other activities that will help them flourish in countless ways.
The DIS approach offers both the high quality of a top-notch private-school education and the broad cultural exposure of a large and diverse public school. It’s a combination that’s especially beneficial to students who are able to attend DIS from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade.
PRIVATE SCHOOL PROS AND CONS
Enrolling your child in private school usually guarantees that he or she will have a quantifiably more “successful” education than would otherwise be the case. Compared to public-school students, private-school attendees are up to twice as likely to score in the top percentile of standardized exams such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) administered to 11th graders. Private-school students are 50 percent more likely to attend four-year colleges, and twice as likely to graduate with bachelor’s degrees that will help them attain secure jobs and higher earnings.
Private school does have its drawbacks, however—chief among them being its insularity. Peter Gow, a nationally renowned education expert and co-founder of#PubPriBridge
, readily admits that private school students tend to be “kind of the same”: more affluent—and less diverse—than their public school peers.
How can educators provide children with the academic rigor of a private school, yet still give them broad exposure to different ways of seeing the world?
Enter the cutting-edge approach of the Dallas International School.
At DIS, students’ average combined SAT scores are 1244 (compared to the national average of 1164), and their high-school graduation rate is 100 percent (compared to 98 percent for private schools and 84 percent for public ones).
How does DIS ensure that its charges are even better educated, from a quantitative perspective, than their peers at other private schools? The secret, says Meymarian, is the individualized attention that DIS students receive from teachers, advisors, athletic coaches, and after-school instructors alike.
While the average public school class has 26 students and the average private school class has 21, DIS boasts classes that are usually less than half this size.
“I have just 5 to 15 students in each of my high-school courses,” says Simon Lee, DIS’s International Baccalaureate Mathematics and Secondary Mathematics Teacher. “This means that I can guide students through math development one-on-one, and monitor each student’s individual growth over the years.”
Recent graduate Calista Fenner, whose close-knit senior class had only 26 students, says having this specialized guidance has helped her to try new things—and to thrive. “In sixth grade, when I didn’t think I was athletic or that I’d ever had much interest in sports, I was urged to try basketball, which might have been too intimidating for me if I’d attended a larger school,” she says. “And in DIS’s IB program, I was encouraged to take political science, which otherwise would never have caught my interest.”
This fall, Calista will begin pursuing a degree in political science at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. The former captain of the DIS high-school girls’ basketball team, she’ll be attending on a sports scholarship provided by a Sarah Lawrence coach who recruited her on the merit of her athletic performance at DIS.
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
While DIS students benefit from more individualized attention than they would find at other private schools, they are simultaneously enjoying more cultural exposure than they would at a diverse public school.
Affluent youngsters from prominent families. Scholarship students whose parents come from poverty. Classmates, teachers, and administrators who speak a rainbow of languages. All this variety—and more—awaits youngsters at DIS.
“After I enrolled my son and daughter at DIS in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten, they enjoyed attending class with people of every ethnicity and religion imaginable,” says DIS parent Michelle Fenner, the mother of Calista and her brother Ethan, a DIS 11th grader. “This environment has definitely made my kids more worldly and accepting than they would otherwise have been.”
Recent graduate Annaliyse Bowden, who traveled to Canada, China, and France while enrolled at DIS, also enjoyed a cultural exchange with a student from Florence, Italy. She says that learning foreign languages—which neither her mother or father speak—has helped her broaden her perspective on the world. “At DIS from kindergarten through 12th grade, I spent eight years learning French and five years learning Spanish,” she says. “I also spent seven years studying Mandarin, which I’m now going to pursue in more depth as a freshman at Beijing Language and Culture University in China.”
For students who come from families whose native language is not English or French, being at DIS has its own benefits. Consider Noel Lee, who is math instructor Simon Lee’s son. Currently enrolled in DIS’s preschool and heading to its elementary school in two years, Noel is into the usual three-year-old stuff (dinosaurs, insects, and the color wheel)—and is equally excited about French and English classes, too.
Noel’s father says he “feels really good” about having his young son at DIS because it’s teaching him to function seamlessly in other languages besides Korean, which is what he speaks most often while at home.
“At DIS, you have a global community of people helping to raise your child,” says Chellie Bowden, Annaliyse’s mother and the president of the DIS Parent Teacher Organization. “Combined with individualized private-school education, this diverse approach offers our students the best of all possible worlds.”