John C. Daniels School of International Communication, New Haven
September 2012. Why you chose the school: We entered the magnet lottery because it seemed like an excellent curriculum, with all-day coverage.
Any special information about getting in? It’s tough! We feel so lucky to get into our first choice of magnets. If you’re interested, it makes sense to enter the lottery as soon as your child is old enough.
What’s great about the school? The teachers, administrators, and all staff are incredibly nice, communicative and professional. Our daughter has learned so much and made amazing friends. When I pick her up at the end of the day, I linger because I love the Daniels environment so much. The one negative is that the full day and pre-K-8 environment might be tough for some young kids, but we have had a great experience.
Cara M., parent
June 2011. Our older son had gone to a French immersion elementary and middle school, so I was overjoyed to find that John C. Daniels offered a Dual-Language Immersion education in English and Spanish. I read the school climate surveys, checked the CAPT scores and Tier status, read up on the curriculum and Dual-Language program. Satisfied, I entered my kid in the Pre K lottery. Lucky for us, we got one of the coveted spots at this wonderful school.
My child started Pre K a few months before his third birthday-very young considering there were children in his class who would be turning 5 before the year was over. By the end of the week any fears were gone. The room of 22 students was well staffed with the most amazing teacher and assistants. Amidst the chaos of those first days (and the many to follow in a room of preschoolers) I never once have felt that my kid wanted for anything; whether it be a hug or a stern talking to.
Outside the Pre K classroom, I see 500 kids ages 3 through 14 from a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more well behaved, respectful, and kind group of kids anywhere. The Principal runs a tight ship and has definitely earned the respect of parents, teachers and students alike. I’m fairly certain she knows every kid by name and has eyes in the back of her head.
The facility itself is beautiful…and spotless. I’m in the school twice daily and have never seen so much as a smudge on a window. In partnership with the Yale School of Music and the school’s own music department, students receive excellent music instruction and exposure to all kinds of performers, styles and instruments. All students participate in field trips (sometimes several per month) and have access to after school programs every day of the week in sports, arts and academics. As a HOT (High Order Thinking) school, artists-in-residence work with students and teachers to integrate arts into all areas of the curriculum. The science and social studies curriculum focuses on project based global community-themed units that the entire school participates in. All classrooms are equipped with computers (even Pre K) and there is a dedicated computer lab as well. In addition to achieving fluency in both Spanish and English, the older students are offered Chinese instruction.
Although I’m beyond pleased with what I’ve seen so far, my kid is only in Pre K. The school is still at Tier 2, which means it needs improvement in one or more areas of instruction, but from what I’ve heard, those gaps are being addressed. Time will tell.
If you’re the kind of parent who wants to put your kid on the bus and forget about it for the next 6 hours, Daniels isn’t for you. From the moment you walk in the door, you’re hit with activities, committees, projects and even parent exercise classes vying for your attention. Your kid’s backpack or homework folder will come home stuffed with requests to volunteer, chaperone or enroll your family in the school wide wellness initiatives. Teachers will call your cell during the day or pull you aside at drop-off to share a success or discuss a concern. The school believes in educating the ‘whole child’ and that doesn’t start and stop when the bell rings.
Michelle M., parent
April 2011. When we decided to move to New Haven, we already had a pretty good idea of which school we wanted our children to attend. My daughter had already attended kindergarten at an award-winning dual language school in the Washington, DC area, and we wanted to continue with English and Spanish instruction in New Haven. We also have a firm commitment to community and diversity for our family. That made Daniels an easy choice.
Getting into the school through the lottery was difficult- we were on the waiting list until midway through the summer, and having spent a year abroad, we have had to reapply and go through the lottery process all over again (we are again on the waiting list). But it has been worth it because Daniels in many ways has been instrumental not just in continuing our children’s bilingual education (we have a 2nd and 3rd grader), but in helping us integrate into New Haven as a whole.
New Haven is a very diverse city—ethnically, racially, and socio-economically. We were able to very quickly establish community within our neighborhood of people with similar education and economic status, but figuring out how to connect with the broader New Haven community was more of a challenge. Because Daniels is an inter-district magnet, my children’s classmates come from all over New Haven and the surrounding towns. Most of the students are from the city itself, and many of them come from lower-income families; there are also children from Hamden, Branford, West Haven, etc. My children’s friends include international children as well– Puerto Ricans and Mexicans as well as children of resident faculty and staff at Yale New Haven hospital from France and Germany. Most of these parents are passionately concerned about and active in their children’s education, though this often looks different than at suburban schools because many of these parents work two jobs or have language barriers. Becoming part of this parent community has filled me with pride and a sense of purpose.
A few comments about the school specifics:
Daniels is a dual language immersion school. The way it works is that until 3rd grade, students have a primary teacher (either English or Spanish according to their home language) where they receive instruction in reading, writing, and other basic skills. Every other week they spend the week with their other teacher- the teacher of their target language, for most of the day. They learn continue their curriculum there, often focusing more on math as well as some reading and vocabulary building. We advocated to get our children put with a Spanish-speaking primary teacher (our home language is English) because it seemed to us that the instruction was not truly 50-50, and while we could support English learning and reading at home, we were unable to do so with Spanish.
Because of the population of the school and the fact that around half speak a language other than English as their first language, Daniel’s test scores are not as high as a school in which all the children speak English both at home and at school. Lower test scores are normal in bilingual and dual language schools, and are not indicators of poorer performance in later school years, especially among those whose home language is also the language of instruction. Some research has also shown that children who speak a language other than English at home often perform better in school and in the target language when they receive support for their first language at school. (I should mention that I have an M.A. in Foreign/Bilingual Education).
Because of low test scores, New Haven Public Schools intervenes in some of the school planning and programs, and there is more “teaching to the test” than I would like. Also, because two languages are being taught and assessed (there are standardized tests for Spanish, too), there is less time for recess, art and music. The administration has been trying to figure out the best way to balance all of these factors and address the concerns of parents who want their children to succeed and improve academically (through more instruction) as well as parents who want their children to have access to the arts and play time (as an important way of enhancing academic success and love of learning).
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention safety concerns. This is something that non-Daniels parents bring up frequently with us, and has been an issue in the school as there have been three “code reds” [school lock-downs because of neighborhood police activity] in the past year. The neighborhood where Daniels is located is near the Yale hospital. It is not a suburban, middle-class neighborhood. There have been several incidents in the neighborhood which caused the school to lock-down (Code Red) but as far as I know there have not been any incidents in the school itself. We are not worried, and feel the administration takes safety seriously, but then, we have traveled and lived in developing countries and take our kids rock climbing. We want our children to be safe, but we also do not want them insulated from the broader reality that we live in. There is no formula for achieving this balance, and other parents may weigh one more heavily than the other. It is a completely personal decision.
Leslie W., Daniels parent
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