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About This School

International School of the Pen is a private middle school in Palo Alto. The principal of International School of the Pen is Mr. Philippe Dietz. 570 students attend International School of the Pen and identify mostly as White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; and Asian. The ratio of students to teachers at International School of the Pen is 8:1. Hope Technology School is one of the nearest middle schools.

Extracurricular Activities

  • Arts

    • Ceramics sculpture
    • Chorus
    • Computer arts
    • Dance
    • Drawing painting
    • Orchestra
    • Photography
    • Theater drama
    • Video film production
  • Languages Taught

    • Arabic
    • Cantonese
    • French
    • German
    • Italian
    • Japanese
    • Latin
    • Mandarin
    • Russian
    • Spanish
  • Sports

    • Badminton
    • Baseball
    • Basketball
    • Cross country
    • Fencing
    • Field hockey
    • Football
    • Gymnastics
    • Lacrosse
    • Martial arts self defense
    • P.E. classes
    • Rock climbing
    • Rugby
    • Soccer
    • Softball
    • Swimming
    • Track
    • Ultimate Frisbee
    • Volleyball
    • Wrestling
    • Yoga

Student Ethnicities

Ethnicity School
White, non-Hispanic 78%
Black, non-Hispanic 3%
Asian 18%
Hispanic 0.2%

Community Rating & Reviews

  • (1 year ago)

    The good The teachers kids and parents at the school are great. However the teachers get held back by the administration. For example if a child in kindergarden asks the teacher to learn to read the answer will be that they are not allowed to. On the lower campus there is a lot of tension between the teachers and the director. The administration takes decisions that are not in the interest of the children such as assigning teachers to classes they are not qualified to teach (For example a nursery teacher assigned to a 1st grade class. It's a good thing the teacher was wise enough to refuse the position) Fundraising is in the center of school activities and the children are also solicited to get the parents to donate to the school. If you are looking for your children to learn a second language it's a great school. The kids and parents are fantastic. But be prepared to battle with the administration.

  • (1 year ago)

    Fantastic teachers and community of parents. It is a great way to get the kids to learn a foreign language (French or Chinese). The little ones love to go have fun there while learning about the world. Unfortunately the administration is much more focused on fundraising activities and politics rather than children education. The school lost quite a few good teachers because of the administration. I guess it confirms that even in education principal leadership is key.

  • (1 year ago)

    Our child is in the elementary school program and so far we have had a good experience with the school. The administration and faculty are responsive devoted to the idea of bilingual education and very much want to create a lasting and unique educational institution. The school does not have the endowment of other private schools in the area but nor does the school want to become a haven for primarily wealthy families. This does create some robust fundraising efforts but we haven't noticed any more pressure than at other private schools and probably less. That simply is a fact of life for a school that views itself as having a particular mission (bilingualism global outlook and academic preparation) that does not draw as widely as a traditional school.

  • (1 year ago)

    We joined ISTP when my daughter entered pre-k in the mandarin immersion program. Ten years have passed and the promise and benefits of a bi-lingual education in combination with rigorous academics has been fulfilled. ISTP has prepared her well to take on the challenges ahead academically socially and emotionally. The Chinese program has matured significantly during our tenure. The Chinese teachers are excellent from Nursery to Eighth. We have travelled to China and it is easy to see her language competence and confidence. Whether her mandarin skills will be important professionally or simply personally it is a wonderful gift for her to know both the Chinese language and culture. Regarding overall academics she got the attention she needed at each grade across all subjects to be the best student possible. Homework is demanding but rarely overwhelming. There is time for other activities besides homework and to go to bed on time. The small classes allow kids and parents to really get to know each other. The parent community is vibrant and warm everyone bonded together to make ISTP a great school and experience for all the kids. We are happy that we made ISTP our choice!

  • (1 year ago)

    I have two children at ISTP both of whom started in Pre-K. As non-Mandarin Chinese speakers we believe we have given our children a great gift in not only a great education through ISTP but also in the ability to be poly- literate and polylingual. ISTP is the best at what it does. In reading the reviews I think it is disingenuous that many have posted incorrect facts. They are flat out wrong. ISTP has practices that are normal for independent schools regarding fundraising education and budget. The school is managed financially conservatively and has grown its enrollment to an all-time high an endorsement by parents who believe ISTP is THE best choice for their children. ISTP offers a school that emphasizes education first and uses multiple languages through which to teach. Arts collaboration and special attention to social-emotional learning are all hallmarks of this great Nursery through 8th grade school. Before making a decision on where you send your child to school please research to find the best fit for your family. We have have found the COMMUNITY of parents to be one of the best aspects of this experience. We count them as our closest friends today.

  • (1 year ago)

    My eldest daughter graduated from the french program last year and my youngest is in french elementary. Both joined the school in pre-K and have attended both campuses. My husband and I couldn't be more pleased with the quality of the school. The teachers are supportive and caring but most of all they are teaching our children to THINK. The complaint I hear from friends from other schools is that there is too much memorization and not enough critical thinking. ISTP teaches children how to think for themselves and to solve problems. On the rare occasion our girls struggled with courses the teachers never let them fall behind they always did something proactive to help them succeed to keep them on par with their classmates. As for the attrition rate while every year we lose one or two kids to other schools this mostly this seems to be a result of the difficulties experienced by non-french parents trying to keep up with their kids' french-language homework. That said there are plenty of tutors to help. Bottom line I highly recommend this school to anyone who wants their kids to have a bilingual education. It's worth every penny.

  • (1 year ago)

    Our experience from the Chinese program. The school is undergoing an expansion building a new site costing 20 million dollars. The administration refuses to borrow and has little endowment so the pressure is on parents to donate money. The emphasize of the principal is money and his legacy his staff support this mission or is out the door. While at this school we felt endless pressure to conform donate money and please. Teachers are evaluated on how much money they raise. The amount each family donate is public information printed in a booklet and mailed to each household. The teachers criticized kids' smallest infractions with exaggerated reaction and on a daily basis bombarded parents with issues. My child's confidence and our sanity were constantly under attack. What little issues my child had the teachers blew it up and made it worse not better. After our child left and joined a different school we were surprised at how kind fair positive and skillful the teachers are at the new school.

  • (1 year ago)

    There have been 5 different Chinese section directors at the school since 2001. Unfortunately these changes in leadership do affect the direction and spirit of the program. There is a resultant lack of oversight and vision for the Mandarin section. The administration is fairly dysfunctional (from the parent perspective the French and Chinese administration seemed always at odds - perhaps one reason the directors leave?) This in turn affects the teachers with the final trickle down to the students. I wish our experience at this school had been good because in theory a bilingual education is a wonderful thing. In actuality it is inconsistent from year to year sometimes good sometimes out right awful depending on the combination of teacher and current director. Social/emotional development is given only lip service unless you happen to be the child of a major donor and then your emotional well being is considered above that of other children. Bullying is otherwise generally ignored. Instruction in the lower grades is solid but once in the upper grades it deteriorates. This is reflected in poor test scores and poor placement into private middle schools.

  • (1 year ago)

    Finding the right school for your child is no small task. If you are looking for a rigorous school that strikes balance between academics and social / emotional growth consider ISTP. We have two kids and this is our third year at the school. The elementary program has a strong program and the real strength is the true bilingualism these students acquire. The middle school is where we find the school really shines. The principal is outstanding and a true leader. Academically teachers push students to their best and the students strive. Graduates are well received by leading high schools. This is not just a language school. It is a school where children learn about other cultures and the world. Finally the parents in this community work together to help make this an amazing community.

  • (1 year ago)

    A neighbor who is considering enrolling her daughter asked me my opinion about some of the posted reviews knowing how much my kids and I love the school. All I can say is that those who leave with a negative impression are the proverbial squeaky-wheels and I can only sympathize with their unfortunate experience. I'm sure that no school is perfect for every child but having had kids who have gone through nursery to middle school all I can say is that they have received superior academic preparation (got into all advanced classes in high school). More importantly not only are they tri-lingual they have experiences unparalleled to most other students whether it's from daily exposure to multiple cultures or from international school trips ( China Costa Rica France!). The teachers are more than qualified to teach such a curriculum and the parent community is fabulous.

  • (1 year ago)

    I have two children at ISTP and I'm a bit shocked by some of the reviews. My children are in the Chinese program and I've had great experiences with the teachers and staff. The teachers are truly and honestly the best both Chinese and English. They are exceptional and have shown real care for my children. I think what we all want is for our children to be happy at school and I can 100% say that my children are. Compared to their friends that are not at ISTP they are at grade level in English and math. But what they have that their friends don't Chinese! As for facilities the Cowper campus was recently renovated and it's great. The classrooms are spacious and the outdoor space is amazing.

  • (1 year ago)

    Research thoroughly your decision to attend this school. Academically standardized test scores in both the elementary & middle school are low. When asked to see current test scores the administration shared old data. Although bi-lingual schools can academically lag English-only schools parents who left for other schools said academically their kids needed lots of extra tutoring. Instilling a joy & love of learning it is not practiced at all. The French teachers motivate kids negatively ie yelling berating & humiliating them & sometimes causing them cry. The admin speaks of "teaching emotional intelligence" "building leaders' "teaching positive risk taking" but in practice it doesn't exist. When issues are raised they are dismissed/unresolved w/out teacher accountability. Overall attrition rates are high test scores are low teaching methodology is archaic & out dated & teachers & administration have questionable backgrounds. Find & speak to families that have left. Bottom line if you have goals of your child attending a top American university do not go here. There are many positive proven alternatives in the area to teach your child Chinese or French.

  • (2 years ago)

    I still believe what children learn at this school are great. However my experiences at Cowper campus were lots of shocking surprises. When we just started I met parents who had already been at school told me "Why did you chose here? We are thinking to leave this school.." It seems people do leave and the number of students in higher grades are very small. From my own experience at Cowper I think they should consider to improve in administrative area. It was shocking to me that my child came back home from school with some food and drinks sometimes ate/drunk something already at school which I never want my child to eat/drink. They have snack list but they give students food/drinks not listed and not informed to parents in advance. When children get sick they let such children sit at the end of the corridor facing to the entrance door where everyone is passing by. Once I saw a child who looked like almost vomiting was sitting there with a trash bin placed in front of him. They do not have a proper room to treat such sick or injured children. When my child got injured they did not treat properly either and I was very sad. They didn't apologize for whatever happened either.

  • (2 years ago)

    Our child is in the French program in the middle school section taking Chinese for the first time as a third language. The middle school Chinese teacher is absolutely phenomenal. My child comes back home happy eager to communicate in what little Chinese he knows of and is excited even about doing homework. Which brings me to my point this school is doing an amazing job in cultivating not only linguistic competency--bilingualim trilingualism and what not--but also the love of learning. I see my child enjoying everyday and every moment in school. What more can I ask for as a parent?

  • (3 years ago)

    ERB scores are an important measure of achievement comparable to the STAR testing in public schools. Despite the fact that kids are learning everything in two languages here ISTP still has scores ABOVE the average in Math and English for urban private schools (the higher level of ERB test scores). Language tests also score higher than at other private schools for both French and Mandarin testing. A win-win situation given that the children receive excellent character development and global citizenship examples from their teachers.

  • (3 years ago)

    We have found the school lacking in many aspects. Our daughter has been in the Chinese program for past 4 years. Greatest weakness of the school is the administration and it's lack of insight. They drive away the good teachers by burning them out leaving weak teachers to stay long term. There is little disciplinary action against troubled kids so they terrorize the class unabated. The early preschool years are fine at Cowper campus but instruction degrades rapidly from 1st grade on at Cohn campus. English instruction is especially weak as is science. Math is fair. Mandarin instruction is fair. The parents who tend to like the school do not know Mandarin so they are unaware of the level of instruction. There is very little exploratory learning but plenty of rote. You will see that most native speakers leave the school since the Mandarin and English are not up to their standards. Ask to see how the students fair on the standardized tests (ERB and separate Mandarin test) You will find the administration will give excuse after excuse for the level of performance. There are other options for Mandarin instruction such as weekend school tutoring afterschool programs

  • (3 years ago)

    We absolutely adore this school. Our son is currently in his third year in the French program - so this review is specific to that program. I think it is important for prospective parents to understand that ISTP is basically a French school - it is French accredited follows a French curriculum and for the most part the teachers are French. Parents unfamiliar with the French educational system would therefore do well to learn about it and how it differs from the American system before enrolling. Our son's facility with the French language is astounding and we love the diverse down-to-earth and decidedly "normal" parent community refreshingly devoid of the Botox-and-BMW set that dominates other area private schools. Our son is something of a perfectionist so the highly structured environment with clearly-outlined goals and expectations and the relative meritocracy of the French system (in which hard and careful work is rewarded) makes sense to him. We also love the high number of male teachers; our son has no shortage of role models at this school.

  • (4 years ago)

    My daughter was at ISTP for 4 years. My daughter made good friends there and we have made great friends with the wonderful families. ISTP is a worthwhile investment if your child has never been exposed to Mandarin Chinese and do not have support at home. By 1st grade the Chinese/English exposure is 50/50 so it's about 3 active hours a day. There is little differentiation in the teaching of kids of various levels and the English program is not as strong as in the public schools (we are now in a public immersion program). Though we were not entirely happy with the math curriculum at ISTP it is FAR better than the public school math curriculum. If you have the money ($18k) and do not have a public immersion program in your area ISTP may be a good fit for you.

  • (4 years ago)

    This is the 3rd year our child is in the Mandarin immersion program at this school. He is thriving. His teachers have been absolutely stellar. He is already speaking Chinese (and we don't speak it at home) and understanding everything that is going on in the class. We have no doubt that he will be bilingual even trilingual when he finishes his education here. He is currently in Kindergarten and comparing notes with public school parents in this area - I am so glad that I have my child in private school and especially glad that it's ISTP. They are teaching children in a very fun low-pressure manner yet the kids are really figuring things out (English reading) themselves and feeling very competent. I have no doubts about sending my child to this school.

  • (4 years ago)

    Excellent Chinese Immersion program - Both my children attend ISTP and we love the school. The teachers are extremely nurturing and there has been much thought invested in developing a curriculum designed to promote critical thinking through age-appropriate exercises. The academics are excellent in addition to supporting strong social/leadership skills and other soft skills. Additionally my daughter who started in Nursery and is now in K has an impressive mastery of Mandarin despite the fact that we primarily speak English at home. The Chinese Immersion program was created in 1996 making it the longest established full-day Chinese Immersion program in Silicon Valley. They also have an excellent French Immersion program that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. For our family the ISTP experience has been culturally rich beyond expectation.

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