Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hot topic: Lycee La Perouse

This from an SF K Files reader:
I am interested in learning more about the Lycee La Perouse and was wondering if any parents who follow your blog know anything more about the school. Would this be a good "Hot Topic" for discussion on your blog?


  1. My kids go to the Lycee. We LOVE it. People who don't know the school say it's "rigid", but we have not found that to be the case at all.

    Pluses: My kids are learning about ecology, music, art, as well as science, math, reading etc - of course all in French. The teachers we've had have been warm and nurturing and always available to talk by email or after school. My kids are very different, and each has found his way there. There is a big focus on academics, but we haven't found it oppressive. (2nd grade has about 20-30 min homework a night and no homework until 1st grade). Teachers are all different, this year, one of my kids has a teacher super focused on art and ecology, the other one has a teacher really into acting/performance.

    Both of my kids are fully bilingual, and were after one year. At the Lycee, they keep the percentage of French-speaking families around 50% so the kids pick up French pretty fast (they do tend to speak English on the playground, though). To us, the school doesn't have a snobby feel, as many of the French families get a portion or all of their tuition paid by the French government, so there are people from all walks of life and all over the world. (In one of my kid's classes, there are families from France but also Russia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain). It is a very white school though, not very racially diverse at all, but I would say more socio-economically diverse than other privates.

    The class size is great. In second grade, there are 13 kids in my kid's class. It can go up to 18-20 in some grades, and pre-school there are also 18-20 kids in a class, but with two full-time teachers plus the English teacher and a part-time assistant.

    They go on absolutely tons of field trips, it's almost too much! Slide Ranch, art exhibits, fundraising sports events, math-a-thons, choral performances, museums, plays, dance performances, recycling centers, Cal Peformances, camping trips, and overseas trips later on. They have swimming, tennis, circus school, clowning school, and other extra outside classes during the year. All of this in included in the tuition. The school day is 7 hours and then they have inexpensive after-care (about $4 an hour) which is not very structured and is mostly just playing in the playground. There are also lots of after-school classes for a fee (like $10-15 a class) such as cooking, acting, fencing, soccer, knitting, yoga, piano, violin etc.) as well as a study hall for kids who need help with homework.

    The one weakness I would say is the English program. They've improved it over the years and now use the standard Houghton Mifflin curriculum, but there are some English teachers who aren't very inspired (too many dittos). Others are very good, it just depends on which teacher you get for English, which is just 5 hours a week.

    The other downside is that kids are coming and going a lot as it's an international school. So kids leave to go to France and other countries each year, which can make it hard to form long-term friendships. Though of course a core of families don't budge.

    Lastly, if you want to volunteer for anything, they are open to it. (Being a room parent, doing presentations in class, helping with school projects, serving on boards etc.) But, some American families have said they find less of a sense of community than public school.

    We get some tuition assistance even as a dual-income professional family. They have increased school scholarships by 70% in the last two years for non-French families.

    That has been our experience so far! Note, we do all speak French in our family and lived in France for a long time, so I can't speak to what it would be like to go the school as non-French speakers, but there are 50% of families like that.

  2. a coworker was told to take his daughter out of the school or put her on medication.

    Without any sort of formal evaluation.

  3. The Lycee is a French public school that just happens to be in San Francisco and happens to have more than its share of non-French citizens. But make no mistake: It is a French public school with all of the good and bad that this entails.

  4. I wouldn't agree that the Lycee is a French "public school" that just happens to be in SF. We are the Lycee now, but also had our son in a public school in France, so I can really compare. The Lycee follows the French curriculum to a large extent, but the class sizes are much smaller than in France (where my son had 35 in his class) and the Lycee's extra emphasis on art, field trips, sports, music etc didn't exist at all in our French public school in Paris. (You had to do all of that on your own time on Wednesdays.) Also, French public schools run the gamut from very challenged (where the majority of kids don't speak French and come from disadvantaged backgrounds - my friend's kids are struggling at a school like this and her older kid hasn't mastered reading yet in 3rd grade) to very posh schools in areas like the 5th arrondissement in Paris (where we have another friend who's 1st grader is reading Guy de Maupassant poems). I would say the Lycee is more like an American independent school that follows the French curriculum, with lots of added "American-ness" like teaching about the environment, art and music, and other stuff that American parents seem to value like sports and field trips.

  5. My daughter goes here also. I will simply say that I love the school. We are not native French speakers or French citizens.

    I do not find the school rigid in any way. I think this comment reflects a kind of anti-French animosity.

    It is very French immersion. It is true that language immersion is not for every kid. It is probably one of the most hard core language immersion programs in the city. They truly aim for French/English biligual mastery. There is also the opportunity to do a third language.

    Beyond the academic curriculum, there are many extras, which I will not expound on here.

    If you are at all interested in the French culture and French language, you should definitely check it out.

    Tuition is held lower than other private schools in the city in a similar class due to subsidies from the French government.

    Faculty and staff are part of the French Lycee system and hence have benefits, pensions and the job security of the Lycee system.

    The lower school has a new top notch director this year.

    The school has been expanding and further developing its highschool program.

  6. Both my son and daughter went there for a number of years. Just to add a few things: the school does get a lot of financial support from the French government. This is nice in two ways: 1) tuition is lower than many other privates and 2) a lot of families who attend are middle income and able to take advantage of scholarships for French families - makes for a nice mix.

    Also, the two programs, French and English, operate somewhat independently and provide a kind of yin-yang. Yes the French program is quite structured, but the English program is more progressive. And your student gets to enjoy both sides.

    Unless you speak French at home, you need to begin your child as young as possible, preferably in pre-K, in order for him/her to be comfortable in French before the academics begin