Challenger School: Myths, Pros and Cons

Challenger I was scouting the web for thoughts from other parents about the Challenger school system and I was surprised not to find any posts whatsoever on this topic. Schools are discussed so often in social circles so I was expecting to find at least one parent who would take the time to share their experiences. (Ok, for now, let us blame it on Google’s poor search technology).

I have had the opportunity to get familiar with the Challenger school system for a few years now. So here goes…

First, let me dispel two common myths about Challenger.

Myth #1: Challenger is too academic. The kids have to slog it out starting from pre-school and kindergarten.

This is completely untrue. There is no question that the kids learn a lot. But the slog days are long gone. The kids don’t have to stay up at night learning facts and figures by rote. The academic pressure appears to have eased up dramatically over the years. Kids get a lot more time to pursue extra curricular activities. I had heard the same horror stories before, but they are certainly not reflective of present-day Challenger curriculum.

Myth #2: Admission is next to impossible. You have to queue up overnight to get your child admitted.

Again, completely untrue. There was a time at the height of the dotcom days when this was true. The system has changed. It is now a lottery system. Besides, since the dotcom bust the number of applicants has significantly reduced. It’s a different story that that the school will act like its “full”, would want to conduct tests etc. before they admit your child. But the reality is that admission to Challenger is not as hard as it was a few years back. This does not in anyway imply that they are starved of kids. The general student teacher ratio is about 25 to 1 though it is a lot better in the pre-school and the kindergarten level (more like 1 to15).

Having addressed the two common myths, here are a few pros and cons. First, the pros.

The Teachers: The big question always on parents minds, “How are the teachers?” The reality is that the teachers at Challenger are like those at most other schools (I hear that pay scales are equally poor in both private and public schools) — there are some exceptionally good teachers and some mediocre teachers. Thankfully, the Challenger school curriculum is excellent. So if your child is lucky and lands a good teacher, the combination with the curriculum makes it terrific. On the other hand if the teacher is mediocre, the curriculum is the only saving grace (don’t expect the management to be of any help!). Note that you will also find the occasional teacher (a computer teacher in elementary school, for instance) who chooses to go his/her own way (define their own rules) and surprises parents with their own unpredictable ways.

The Parents and The Kids: This is probably the best part about Challenger. There are plenty of like-minded parents from identical social backgrounds whose kids go to Challenger. They face similar challenges and share the same values, resulting in lasting friendships and camaraderie between families.

Now the cons.

The Administration/Management: This is easily Challenger’s weakest link. The Administration operates a lot like the Bush Administration. In other words, they chose to do as they please. They never bother to look at any issue objectively. When faced with any parent complaints or issues, they simply stone-wall. You can kick and scream all you like, go up the ladder, all the way up to Ms. Barbara B. Baker , but objectivity is a non-existent commodity in the Administrative circles at Challenger. If you ever bring up an issue, it is promptly shot down with generic responses like “Its the teacher’s prerogative”, “It is only because your child is affected”, “hysterical Mom/Dad” etc. One of principals’ favorite responses to any issue (no matter how unrelated) almost always begins with “when my son was in Challenger…” Many parents who have taken their kids out of Challenger have done so because of their frustrations with the Management. (In fact, some good teachers have left the school because of their inability to deal with the management). But the general philosophy of the Management seems to be one of “If you don’t like it, you are welcome to take your child some place else”

Update Nov’ 08: Since posting this article, there have been changes in personnel at the Challenger school that I am familiar with.  I must say that my interaction with the new personnel has been far more positive .

Adoption of Technology: Considering that the Challenger schools in the bay area serves kids whose parents largely work in the high tech community, you would expect a greater degree of technological savvy at school. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Email as a means of communication is hardly ever used by the school. The website is just a bunch of static pages. The school as a whole does not seem to have embraced technology. The parents on the other hand leverage technology to remain in contact, socialize, communicate and share ideas about issues their kids face etc.

The Ethnic Mix: The kids in the Challenger schools in the bay area are predominantly of Asian Indian and Chinese descent. This is true of the teachers and also the Administrative staff. Without a doubt, Indians form the majority. The lack of a strong ethnic mix is a definite minus , but its no different than the student mix at UC Berkeley or for that matter at some of the leading high tech firms in the bay area (Cisco, Intel, Google, Yahoo etc.)

The Big Question: Should you send your kids to Challenger?

I hate to sound like a lawyer. But my answer in this case is “It depends”. The thought of developing a checklist followed by an automated “Challenger Readiness Score” did cross my mind. But I’ll stop here and let you make up your own mind based on the above. I welcome comments and thoughts from others, especially other parents.

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141 Responses to Challenger School: Myths, Pros and Cons

  1. Parent says:

    I agree with all that you have written. You may want to enquire Challenger school about tuition fees and the payment terms. Though, the next academic year starts during the last week of August’08, the parents have to pay for the entire Aug month. How ridiculous is this? Given that the tuition fees are getting increased by atleast $500/annum already and also charges like this are very ridiculous and atrocious.
    No question, the management is very money minded. Take walk into any of the Challenger schools, you will be shocked to see that the campus and playground (what?) look very lame.

    The only good part of challenger school program is teaching of phonics for the pre-school kids. Other than that, nothing magic there.

    I plan to send my kid to public school + Kumon classes next year instead of these lousy school.

    – An Indian Parent

  2. pkurup says:

    As far as I understand the fees is divided into 10 equal payments. So technically one week in Aug and couple of weeks in June account for the 10th month.

    Personally, I don’t have issues with the playground or the campus. I guess this depends on the location. For instance, the Challenger in Ardenwood is just fine in my opinion. The one in Mountain View was undergoing some renovation a while back.

    Ultimately, the choice of school is a personal decision for the parents. Public schools come with their own set of challenges. It is not that everything is hunky-dory at public schools! Public schools vary dramatically depending on the location of the school.

    My posting is not meant to be a comparison between public and private. That is an endless discussion in itself!

  3. AnotherParent says:

    It is so good to see a site like this one! I wonder why we do we pay such good money for medicore teachers who are there only to get a break in tuition and then leave when their kids graduate! Why are the teachers so strict? Why does the management not listen? Unfortunately, we do not have a better choice in this tech savvy part of the country. Anyways good site.

  4. pkurup says:

    Glad you like the site!

    You just have to weight the pros and cons and decided what works for you and your kids. The Administration won’t help you. So unfortunately, it is a take a “take it or leave it” situation.

  5. Parent says:

    how much are typical fees? Like say, for pre-school?

  6. pkurup says:

    Sorry, I can’t help you on this question. You should check with the school.

  7. Rao Chu says:

    Around $13k per 9 months, from K-5 and 12k for perschool 12 months.

    If I have a choice I will buy a house in a very expensive area, where the public schools tend to be very good, and move there. All the elites/technocrats kids are much more motivated than average Joe.

    Nothing great about challenger other than like minded above average/affluent people sending their kids there providing competitive environment. You can have same environment with high concentration of affluent communites. Moving there you are only paying for your mortgage, kind of you can get it back for your kids college. 13K tution for elementary education is waste of hard earned savings( for Indians especially) money.

  8. pkurup says:

    You raise a number of interesting points: motivation, affluence, competition. IMHO, that affluence does not necessarily guarantee greater competition or motivation. In fact, it is likely to result in other problems which your kid will probably be shielded from in a private school.

    Like I mentioned in my original post you really have to make up your mind based on what works for you and your kids. My post is not about public vs. private but more about Challenger itself.

  9. MS says:

    I sent my older son to Challenger for pre-school and Kindergarten and now he is attending a public school. Challenger taught him how to read at 4 which was their greatest achievement. But other than academics, I found that he did not learn anything else there – I had to send him to classes for other extra curricular stuff like Art, Soccer, Piano etc.
    My younger one is starting preschool this year and he is going to go to Stratford. Heard their program is a bit more well rounded – we will see.
    BTW, the Challenger Phonics program is the best. I am looking for the Phonics kit for my younger one(since they did not give that to us when my older one was enrolled there). Does anyone have it for sale? Does Challenger still sell it?

  10. Anita Kumar says:

    Challenger does sell their phonics kits, as far as I am aware of. You can just call up any of the branches to find out.

    Both my kids have been attending Challenger for some years now, and I must say I have to agree with the original post. The best part about the school is the curriculum and the like-minded parents who send their kids there. Some of the teachers are extremely good, and if your child is lucky to get a good teacher, it greatly enhances the educational experience. If they get a mediocre teacher, it’s still not too bad because the curriculum is so good. They do have some sports, music, and art in the regular class, and plenty of clubs for different sports and other activities in extended care. Overall, I have been pleased with the experience, and both my kids just love the school. But I find the management quite poor, and unwilling to listen to issues, let alone try to fix them. There is no real “answerability” as there would be in a public school, where the administration would be obliged to listen to parents and fix problems. Given that Challenger School is expensive compared to public schools, it surprises me that the management does not make more of an effort to keep parents happy, take their feedback, and use it to improve the school.

  11. Prats says:

    I will be sending my son next year.
    Can you name some good teachers in 3 year old classroom.
    Thanks

  12. pkurup says:

    I am not sure but from what I recall at the kindergarten level all the teachers are good.

  13. Jrf says:

    My daughter attended Kindergarten at Challenger in 07/08 and my 3 year old attended the pre-school since Apr ’08. I’ve been very pleased, especially with the curriculum. The administration in the Boise/Meridian Idaho area has been very responsive (including via email) and adequately addressed any questions or concerns we came across. Addressing the playground, it is amazing at our site, especially the new Everest location opening Aug 08. Overall, we’re very pleased and returning for the 08/09 school year. I find they meet my children’s academic needs very well while also recognizing a child’s need to play, sing, dance and have fun. They make learning fun, keeping them excited about school. We’ll re-evaluate each year but so far, I’m quite a fan of Challenger. Best luck to each of you in finding the best solution for your kids. Hope this helps.

  14. pkurup says:

    I didn’t realize Challenger schools are there in Idaho. Always good to hear from a happy parent! 🙂

  15. challenger parent says:

    My daughter attends challenger school. She is a very good fit for that school. However, my son never fit in there. I think it depends on your kid’s personality. Many kids find it too stressful, and restrictive. In the upper elementary level, they have an average of four tests every week. The kids have to be on their toes with homework, projects and tests. They do learn to get organized and are very dedicated to their work compared to public school kids. I have one of each so I can compare both systems…:-)

  16. Pran says:

    With equal exposure to be both Challenger and another school you are uniquely qualified to comment on this topic! You bring out an important point that Challenger might not be suitable for all kids. Ultimately, it depends on the kid and the parent!

  17. challenger parent says:

    Since Challenger curriculum is 1 or 2 years ahead of public school. Does anyone know if Challenger schools show big advantages once they go to public schools?

  18. Nayana says:

    I came to US in Jan’08. My daughter had attened school in India which was like challanger..academic oriented. We are planning to move back after two years and again she will be attending same school. Right now she is attending public school in mountain view which has API score 780 and no Indian community at all in her school. Will it harm her progress to match Indian standards when we go back ? should we opt for challnger so it will be easy for her to match Indian school syllabus ? move to cupertino ? We have great house at low rent in mountain view and really don’t want to loose this great deal. is challanger investment better choice when we return?

  19. Pran says:

    Firstly, an API score of over 900 is what is very good (I think). Secondly, there is a Challenger in Mountain View/Palo Alto border off of Charleston.
    I would think that on the academic side Challenger school curriculum would be better suited to compete (or survive!) in schools in India when you return (this is just my personal guess, I could be wrong). It also depends on how your kid is doing in the public school. If he/she is finding it too easy, its probably a sign that the kid could be kept busier at a private school like Challenger.

  20. Left Challenger for Pleasanton says:

    Our son attended Challenger School in Newark beginning in pre-school. We ended up leaving the school towards the end of second grade as we were presented with the opportunity to move to an area with excellent public schools and extra-cirricular activities.

    We thoroughly enjoyed the Challenger experience, although admit that there were many parents who were unhappy with the administration and some teachers. I think having our son attend extended care after school made the academic aspect much easier for him, as it basically extended his learning time. We, nor did he, ever feel overwhelmed by the academic workload.

    We were also very pleased with his teachers. Our son is a very good student, who is respectful, so he never caused a problem for them. There were many kids (and parents) who were frustrated with the workload, and of those children, some had problems.

    Overall, we believe that having the Challenger foundation helped serve our child well for the transition to second grade in public school. He exceeds in math, was already exposed to public speaking at an early age. He had no problem aclimating to his new surroundings. Upon arriving in public school his second grade teacher did mention that he lacked some dexterity with fine motor skills (he was a bit behind other kids in arts and crafts), but other than that he was ahead of the curve upon his arrival.

    If we had to fault Challenger we would mention the lack of diversity. The children were predominantly Indian and Chinese when we left. We also found that as he got older, developing lasting friendships that extended outside the campus was going to be difficult, as so many kids came from several cities in the area. There was little chance for him to interact with kids from school as he now is able to do. Also, the substantial increases in tuition with little obvious increases in service were a bit frustrating. But all in all we were happy with our experience and would have done it again.

  21. My daugher is in Challenger now. Challenger’s academic is advanced. Does anyone know how well the Challenger student do in their study once they go to public school? in middle or high school.

  22. pkurup says:

    When Challenger school kids switch to public school in middle/high school they generally do well. At least this is what I have heard.

  23. Manisha says:

    There are lot of changes Challanger is going through right now and they are definitely not good. I have already seen parents moving kids to public schools. Here is what parents are doing to reach out to the administrators at higher level. Hope they learn and improve instead of ignoring their customers.

    http://www.petitiononline.com/challbay/

  24. pkurup says:

    Ok, so what happens after the petition? Is there a deadline when this online petition is going to be stopped? Just curious as to what the exact process is.

    Btw, I see people signed in with names like George Bush on the petition.

  25. pkurup says:

    I have been receiving a lot of comments for this post. But please note that I won’t be approving comments with bogus email addresses. Thanks for visiting.

  26. yul mei says:

    Read the petition!!! Teachers and principals are going in and out like running water in the Shawnee Campus as well. Teachers do not leave because of their inability to deal with management. Read the petition!!! It’s the burn out of having to teach EVERY SINGLE SUBJECTs with having no time to prepare for those subjects. The students will suffer for the teacher’s lack of preparation, no matter how good the teacher is. Without good teachers, the excellent curriculum is nothing but a blurrrr.

  27. Challenger Parent says:

    BTW, the petition was submitted to school as per one of the challenger staff’s suggestion. It was told that kids would not be affected if parents submit the petition. However, someone from admin office did not like the move and the kid of the petition author was expelled from school! Go figure!

  28. Challenger Parent says:

    Today my kid comes home with a long face saying that they have no recess anymore. They already were told not to talk/socialize at lunch. Until now, we have been going along with the changes, but come on, kids have to be kids and like anyone else with a job they also need a break! Sounds more like a they’re in the military now!

  29. gayathri deodar says:

    Dear Parents,

    Challenger School does not live up to the claims of its mission statement;My child was
    with them for 5years and learnt to distrust herself and struggled to deal with teachers who were merely job seekers and not educationists. The school follows a rigid
    closed- door philosophy that is harmful to whole child development because parents cannot connect to classroom experiences except in terms of scores and test results.I
    believe parents can blame themselves and nobody else for sending their kids to this school. If there are children who thrived at
    Challenger, I wonder if there has been a pushy mom behind their success..Indian education and Challenger education cannot be compared- close analysis reveals that there are systemic differences between educational philosophies and social orientations.The only similarity is the compulsion to compete and be better than everybosy else. What a cruel joke to play with 6 and 7 years olds!
    I think Denmark has the highest literacy rate in the world and children start reaading there at 7!I don’t understand why parents are struggling to help a child read at 2 and 3 years when the human brain is calles a Language Acquisition Device! Unless
    we have special problems we will all eventually read. And read better because reading is a discursive act and the thrill of reading does not depend on decoding graphemic signs and symbols but on insights into meaning and cultural contexts. Challenger did n’t even make connections between reading and writing in its Pre school program. I think parents should check out Reggio Emilia systems to get a good alternative understanding of early childhood cognition and brain development instead of falling prey to misperceived neuro development theories Challenger prints on heir newsletters. A school that ignores art , music and kinaesthetic awareness(PE)
    should stop arguing for incremental growth during first five years of life.

  30. A parent of First Grade Child says:

    I am a parent of a child who goes to First Grade at the Ardenwood campus. Everything said in the previous discussion is 100% true. I knew a lot of parents who did send their kids to Challenger but never offered any other comments about the school other than it is “very good, good programs”. I was misled by many such parents and am planning on changing my child’s school next year. I don’t consider myself a “pushy parent”, I don’t conform, I am truly an odd parent of a child trying to be one in school. My child came back with many questiona as to “is it ok if I don’t sit straight in class, why is it bad if I ask a question?” Come on now how can anybody even a person who’s paid to sit straight do that for 4 hours, or when was it ever considered bad to ask a question esp in school? Children are not allowed to wave their jackets, laugh out of context and many, many other such normal childhood behaviours are not encouraged. This is ridiculous. I am so sad my child has to bear with this for a year.

  31. pkurup says:

    I have never come across or heard of problems like the one you mention above! If its a recent change in the environment I am certainly not aware of it.

  32. A Challenger Parent of Sunnyvale Campus says:

    My daughter has been sunnyvale campus only since this year summer school. Right now she is in Kindergarten program for two month. I am amazed by her progress. She likes the school very much and I almost do not need to spend time on her at all which is very important for busy working bay area parents. She came back home with finished homework (no correction needed). They have three tests on every Friday. She is doing very well on all those tests. I feel this school really workth the money I paid. She was in Stratford for her two year pre-school. It is a good school and does teach a lot too. The teacher cares the kids a lot more than Challenger. However, the teaching is not effective (at least for my daughter).

    Right now my daughter was accepted by Faria (#1 API score in CA public school). She was on the waiting list at the beginning of the school year. Almost 2000 students applied this school. I am struggling on if I should giving up this opportunity since my daughter is doing very well at challenger. On the other hand, I do not know if she will be lucky enough to have good teacher in her later grades in Challenger. Any suggestion?

  33. Ritu says:

    Thanks for a good insight about Challenger school. It really helps when you are looking for schools. I am looking for Stratford and Harker schools as well. Can you tell something about these schools. Good or bad any comments are welcome. Please feel free to write as this is a very important decision for us.

  34. D says:

    I have a generic question, it would be really helpful if someone could answer it.

    How do i compare challenger (or any private school) against cupertino schools (or any public school) ?, I am not able to find any metrics for comparision. I can compare schools within public school system by looking at API’s but, how do i compare a private school against a public school ?.

    I am asking this question because, I live in Milpitas where the my school API is 870, so I was considering an option of sending my kid to nearby Challenger for initial years and them maybe move to Cupertino later, but before doing that, i wanted to know how Challenger compares to Cupertino Schools so that i can get good idea about what kind of education (in relative sense) my Child will be getting.

    Any response would be really appreciated

    Thanks
    D

  35. JrF says:

    Wow, very interesting perspectives from some of the CA Challenger campuses. Thank you for sharing. Having been at the Idaho Challenger school for just over 12 months, we have seen none of this “military” approach but it is much more structured than public schools I’ve seen in MN, WA and ID. I recommend each parent thoroughly investigate each campus as it appears they may be different. So far, ours is still exceeding my expectations. Very open door policy with the administrator, loving teachers who genuinely care about the students, parents can volunteer in classroom if planned ahead, one-way mirrors on every classroom allow any parent at any time to observe class. My 1st grader is a free-spirited child and she is very happy there. For her, Challenger has been a nice mix of her natural independent spirit balanced by self-respect and self-control. The academics are challenging and clearly a grade or even 2 grades ahead of typical 1st grade work. But, she is excelling, AND enjoying school. Other students in her class of 12 are having some trouble, in each case they were not in Challenger for K. I think we were lucky that we found Challenger when my oldest was going into K. After that, I can easily see that it would be a difficult transition coming from most U.S. public schools into Challenger at any grade after K. Not impossible. The teachers here seem committed to helping these kids get caught up.
    For the parent not sold on the idea of children reading so young, I guess we all have our own opinions. My take is if they can do it at 4, why wait? Reading at an early age opens up so many doors of learning and experiences which they pursue, as opposed to being pushed or forced. Some kids crave learning more than others. Some earlier than others. No biggee. Everybody is on their own timetable and parents can watch for that interest level. I agree Challenger is not for everyone.
    In instances of a gifted child, the idea of overly simplistic games and crafts seems analogous to a Thoroughbred in a pony ride. The natural potential is there for great things but unless the right environment is provided, their best won’t be attained. To me, this is sad for them. In the right environment they can love learning, gain self-respect and begin exploring our world in a healthy, challenging manner.
    Thanks for the site and all the discussion. Always good to check in with others and keep an eye out for potential problems I might be missing. Wish you all the best as we search for what is best for our own children.

  36. s says:

    Does anybody have any idea about WPPSI IQ test for Kindergarten ? There are increasing number of private schools that do IQ testing for kindergarten entrance. Apart from IQ they also do Kindergarten readiness test. How do these test differ from each other?

  37. JJ says:

    I was looking for a job in Utah, and something that I was more than qualified for came up at Challenger School. The amount of hoops you need to jump through to get hired there is unreal, and not for the faint at heart. Plus, I felt like they were trying to weed people out, people that didn’t fit their ideals. After working on my View of America essay (first of all, what type of company requires an essay, especially one that could easily have political bias built in?) for Challenger School, I got a call back! They wanted me to come in and take a test, math, reading, etc. What? Are you kidding?! I have two college degrees, doesn’t that prove anything? Plus, I was going to work in corporate, not with children. Suddenly, I was going to have me prove that I could do long division.

    After thinking about the test overnight, I decided to go ahead and go. The test wasn’t horribly hard, just horribly written. Many questions were really vague, and although I knew what they were asking, the way to answer them was not clear. I have a test writing background, and with this, I was astonished to see that they “grade” applicants on such a horribly written test.

    After 1.5 hours of testing, I finally decided this is a job a really really didn’t want. The entire company culture seemed Nazi-like. The office staff of 20 were each wearing name badges pinned to their suits. Really? In a small office, people can’t learn each others names? Anyway, I decided this was something I didn’t want. I finished my paperwork, and hoped to at least introduce myself, after all, I had dressed in a suit for the occasion. The front desk lady said “Oh, he can’t see you, goodbye.”

    Thank goodness I didn’t get a job there, I would have been miserable.

  38. gayathri deodar says:

    Generally speaking, nobody likes to hold back a gifted child from reading at 2,3 or 4
    – well, at the same time pushing children with radically different learning styles to fit into a system that does not respect their unique cognitive style makes no sense at all.Challenger has pushed theories about early childhood learning that do not match
    the actual classroom learning experiences that children are exposed to.

    In fact, their regional manager called public school children ‘imbeciles’ while claiming that kids at Challenger are naturally capable ( like some parents seem to suggest) but others are intrinsically slow simply because they are not part of the Challenger environment. The point here is not ‘how well a child scores, API scores or the public vs private argument’- on the other hand what made me move away from the Challenger type of educational goal is the hideous ideology that informs their managerial outlook- the rule that some people are made to succeed while others who
    are truly free-spirited are ultimately dangerous to their organisational goals.

    If a child’s life hovers around test scores,
    then that falls short of goals that any community must pursue for its children.
    If parents Challenger is for children who crave learning( like there are children who don’t) then I wonder if educational equity is part of our conversation towards making children more self-reliant in a safe and challenging atmosphere.If invasive testing( my son’s in a public school now- and I see his reading abilities flower in a very balanced manner) is deemed good, qualitative education then, god save children who cannot sum up the will and understanding to respond to a test -based corrosion of their learning
    abilities and deprivation of their need to enjoy childhood without being tethered by ideological consideration.

  39. pkurup says:

    Obviously, you are more comfortable with the public school system. Like I pointed out in the original post, Challenger has its pros and cons just like any other school. So I am not surprised to hear someone say that they strongly disagree with the Challenger philosophy and prefer the public school approach. Likewise I am sure there are cases where the reverse is true.

  40. Jeanie says:

    My daughter has been attending Challenger for three years (we live in Utah and she attends a northern Utah campus). She started out in their pre-school program and is now in first grade. She has loved all of her teachers and so have we.

    I had an experience similar to JJ in applying for a position with Challenger. Their “pre-employment” tests were nothing short of ridiculous. Many of the questions were ambiguous and subjective and CERTAINLY could not predict the candidate’s ability to succeed on the job (I was going to warn them to watch out for the EEOC, but was concerned about saying anything for fear that they might see me as a hostile or disgruntled applicant). Hopefully someone at Challenger is reading this post and has an outside source review their pre-employment procedures. They are very susceptible to a lawsuit and, in my opinion, it’s just a matter of when – not if.

    In addition, the professionalism at their corporate office left a lot to be desired. I had to continually make calls and leave messages to move forward in their hiring process. Their HR Department needs to be taught how to respect candidates and give feedback in a timely manner. Disappointing!

    It was very clear to me that the administration is big on maintaining the status quo and does NOT want anyone to challenge their methods in ANY way, shape, or form. I know a parent who did and her child was kicked out of the school. Sad.

    Having said all this (whew, take a breath), my husband and I are happy with my daughter’s classroom experience thus far. She has had capable teachers and is really far ahead of her public school peers.

    I am involved in the children’s organization in my church and am dismayed at the reading and comprehension abilities of those attending public school. There are, of course, a few exceptions – but most of these kids CAN BARELY READ at 7 or 8 – some even older. My daughter is 6 and is reading chapter books. She can spell like nobody’s business and can recite many of the state capitals from memory. We read and work with her a lot at home, but I have to credit Challenger as a great partner in her education. They expect 85% or higher on all subjects and notify parents when the children need extra help at home to grasp a subject.

    I also appreciate the structure, values, and discipline that she is learning. There is a dramatic difference in her behavior vs. the same church kids mentioned above, our neighbors, etc.

    She loves the school AND has never said she did not want to go to school. I’ve heard first-hand about some of the issues and problems that public school parents have in that system and it occurs to me that many of those problems are not present at Challenger (at least that we’ve experienced). The children are expected to respect each other and my daughter has never been the target of bullies or subjected to foul language at Challenger. That, in itself, is worth a lot to me. They also do not allow disruptive or disrespectful children to stay in the classroom.

    Overall, I would recommend Challenger for pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade. I can’t recommend beyond that since I have no knowledge of anything beyond where we are now. My daughter is happy in school and we are very impressed by her education thus far (so is her Grandma, who has been teaching in the public school system for 20+ years – even though it took her a while to admit that A PRIVATE SCHOOL was producing excellent results).

    The Utah public system leaves A LOT to be desired and Challenger has been our answer. True, it’s $700 a month in tuition – but it’s a sacrifice worth making.

    My recommendation (in Utah) is to send your children there if you can find a way to afford it – but don’t apply yourself. Unless, of course, you have more than one child there and really need the tuition benefits. And, you’ll need to be a SERIOUSLY patient person who can fit into the prescribed mold.

    If Challenger isn’t on your radar, there is always Carden, St. Olaf’s, etc.

  41. Granada says:

    Hi,
    I read have read all the posts talking about Challenger and Stratford. Has any one tried a Montessori school. If yes what is your opinion about it?

  42. bette says:

    Hi, I am located in Fremont,ca and am looking to borrow Challenger School Phonic Vol.3 – Irregular Vowels DVD.

  43. Ganesh says:

    We have the complete set of Challenger Phonics set for sale. If interested please reply to ganesh50@yahoo.com mentioning your name and number and I will call you. We are located in Sunnyvale close to Challenger school. Please pass the word even if not interested. Thank you.

  44. Mary says:

    My daughter also attends the Challenger school in Meridian, Idaho. I am wondering if anyone that has their child there senses a LDS influence? In the staff and administration in particular?

  45. Jill Feeler says:

    To Mary RE her question regarding an LDS influence at the Meridian ID Challenger location. Personally, I haven’t noticed an LDS influence. What have you seen or heard that makes you wonder about this? My family is not LDS and the school presents itself as a private school unaffiliated with any religious group. With over 1 year with the school I have never observed or heard of any leaning in curriculum or attitude towards any particular religious group. In conversations with the Headmaster and my daughters’ teachers I also have never observed any religious connotations. If you have, please share.
    Actually, compared to the public schools and other private schools in our area, I find the families and students at Challenger Schools in Meridian and in Boise to be very diverse in terms of race and also religious beliefs. My children have classmates/friends from China, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Australia and India. That type of diversity is hard to find in Idaho!
    I think the school itself teaches and espouses self-respect, doing your best work, respecting others, being polite and overall being the best person you can be, while having fun. From what I’ve seen they do this well without any religious components. We can fill in the spiritual elements at home and at our place of worship.
    Again, please share if you have experiences you can share that I may be missing.

  46. A previous teacher says:

    I am so very upset with the Silverado Campus of Challenger School. I have to say that the reason there is such a high turnover ratio for teachers is because of the administration-or lack there of… I am a very good teacher and have many recommendations from parents of former children in my class. I am so upset that the administration is able to get away with treating the parents and teachers the way that they do. I was harassed severely while working there about things such as my disability and for reporting witnessed abuse to children. When I contacted the owner of the company I was again let down and told that my issues would be taken care of-only to have the harassment continue to my final working day. There is a severe lack of respect for anyone who will not conform to the “Challenger Way” from the minute you apply-with a bogus screening process that asks your political views-to the day you finally throw up your hands in defeat and leave-taking your personal political views with you!

  47. aruna says:

    Hi Challenger parents,

    How is Challenger middle school?
    If I move my kid from Cupertino public school to Challenger for 7th grade, I am wondering will he be able to cope with the challenge? Will it be too stressful?

    Thanks much for any insight.

  48. JRF says:

    So sorry to hear of the serious challenges some of you are encountering at other campuses. Hopefully the right people will listen and things will improve, or that each of you finds a solution that works.
    I am providing a new post as my earlier posts had been very positive and things have changed for us at Challenger. I have two daughters, 7 and 4, both of whom attended Challenger in Meridian ID for the 08-09 school year. For my 7 yr old, Challenger was a good fit through Kindergarten but not from 1st grade on.
    My 7yr old will switch to a different private school for 2nd grade which offers more flexibility in curriculum and more creative expression and exploration.
    At Challenger Meridian, we appreciated the dedication and efficiency of the administration. My daughter loved her 1st grade teacher we had for the 08-09 school year but, in my opinion, she didn’t seem to enjoy her job which is too bad.
    My 7 yr old had attended Challenger for Kindergarten at Boise, ID location and then attended 1st grade at the new location in Meridian, ID. Challenger’s Kindergarten program for us was great, far better for us than what we found in other public or private programs in our area. I feel the same about Challenger’s 3 yr old and 4 yr old/pre-K programs which my 4 year old has attended and is enrolled again for fall 2009. I have already commented in previous posts why we like Challenger for these ages/grades.
    The reasons we loved Challenger faded in 1st grade. I almost wish I would’ve switched schools for my 7 year old mid-year.
    Challenger’s curriculum is well-honed after 25 years and their “formula” works well for many young people. They like the formula and, in my experience, didn’t see any need to adjust it. The problem for us was that their formula didn’t fit my older daughter.
    I was very surprised by the amount of review in 1st grade, particularly in Math, Spelling and Reading. Challenger’s first grade Math was completely review material until mid-December, right before the holiday break. Since one of her favorite subjects was Math, this was a disappointment. Since most of the homework is Math, it was equally boring and, in my opinion, busy work for the group of children in her class who showed mastery in the material. Spelling and Reading work was the same issue. Additionally, Science was not as hands-on as I would expect for this grade; a lot of text book work for Science that could be much more interesting with hands on experiments.
    I worked with administrators at the local school to determine where there could be flexibility to better match the curriculum to where each particular student was. They appeared responsive and tried, making some minor tweaks to the system but it was clear they had their formula and were not interested in creative solutions. Even though a child was getting consistent 95-100% on math tests and class work, they still required homework on the same material and would not expedite new material for these students. The entire class gets the same work, same tests and same homework, regardless of where each student is in their level of mastery. No customization based on the needs of each student.
    The reality sunk in when I investigated their 2nd grade program with another meeting, this time including the 2nd grade teacher, whom my daughter who have had for the 09-10 school year. I really liked the teacher. She seemed very excited about her job. But, she confirmed they would review 1st grade Math until December before starting new Math concepts. Spelling and Reading would also be the same pace, with a lot of review and slow progression to new material. The lesson plan for some subjects appears to be quite fixed, unalterable regardless of where a student or even the whole class may be based on beginning of year assessments.
    For private school, I expect flexibility, meeting the needs of each student where they are as much as possible.
    Too bad, they could make such small adjustments to keep everyone engaged and progressing. I offered suggestions to better meet the varying the needs within the 1st grade and 2nd grade class, but they appeared uninterested. They like their system.
    Nothing is perfect but I knew we could do better for our 2nd grade needs.
    My 4 year old will stay at Challenger for pre-K and we’ll evaluate how well she fits their K program as this year proceeds.
    Best of luck to all of you in finding the right setting for your children!

  49. Cook says:

    I want to send my two children to pre school there, how ever I am afaid that I just don’t make that kind of money to send my kids. Just how much is it to send your kids there in UT

  50. Sam Mathews says:

    Hi,

    Do any of you have any experience with Champion School in San Jose?

    The buzz on them is that they have Challenger type Academics but extremely low homework load and they provide lots of 1on1 help to kids. What is perhaps more important is that they put emphasis on the whole child by also emphasizing Sports, pleanty of play/ Socialization time, Art, Music, Performances Arts… I also understand that Champion and Harker Middle Schools are the only schools that compete in Debate competitions along with High Schoolers in the Bay Area.

  51. Minee says:

    How much is the difference in fees for second grader in a full day chalenger vs. harker? ALo, can some parent share their views about Harker elementary school. Many Thanks,

  52. Marie says:

    My son just finished 1st grade at Challenger Salt Lake City. Although we hear some complaints about the Challenger system, we have no complaints. My son needs a creative outlet, and Challenger provides plenty of extracurricular programs, like Chess and art. Many parents pull me aside and ask how my son has done at Challenger–a few are even concerned for his welfare! I just tell them that we have had a great experience so far. High grades and very little homework, but I have nothing to compare to. My son has never attended public school. Has anyone else had a similar experience at Challenger-Salt Lake?

  53. Cracker Jack says:

    Between Stratford and Challenger Middle Schools in the California Bay Area, which one is better?

    I have a child going to Challenger Middle in San Jose and I have a problem with the management and teachers – they don’t take any action. The teachers are rude, unqualified people who have no passion for their job. Could you please compare this to Stratford School and tell me which school I am better off sending my child to? Thanks. I would appreciate feedback as soon as possible…

  54. Challenged Parent says:

    Challenger develops uni-dimensional kids. If you are a flag-waving Republican, closet capitalist, all for ARMY recruitment at educational institutions (the principals are ex-Marines and flaunt it), an Asian wanting your child to ‘fit in’, generally against the phrase ‘global citizen’ – then you have hit the Jackpot.

    And yes, BTW, it is a pseudo non-sectarian school that has ties to the Christian Coalition, all the way to the top.

    This is the only school in the YAY area that did not air the President’s address to the nation’s school children in the name of separating politics from education, yet forced parents to buy tickets to a private talk on ‘Small Government’ by Dinesh D’Souza (an Uncle Tom) .. welcome to the Challenger, where they churn out little military worshipping, patriotic zealots, card-carrying Republicans then look no further !

    – a satisfied parent (academically speaking)

  55. Challenged Parent says:

    A note to Current parents:

    If you are not aware about this, you are not tuned in and just the ripe fodder for Challenger, where they seek to sublimally brain wash your child via a curriculum skewed towards ‘Christian Proselytzation’. Some comments heard in school:

    1) Principal : You understand, we cannot celebrate [INsert ur favorite festival i.e Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah] in the school…yet they go ballistic over Easter..
    2) Spring Program : 9/10 songs related to u know what God & Guns
    3) History class : Christianity is the only religion with living proof, everything else is myths.
    A lot of time focussed on the evolution of Christianity by Guess what CALVARY PUBLICATONS (yeah go ahead and google CALVARY).
    4) What else.. yes, Almost ritualistic visitations by Men in Uniform at schools.
    5) Banning the President’s address to school
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/09/04/obama.schools/index.html
    6) Indirectly slandering ASIAN CULTURE and CIVILIZATIONS….

    –just ask your 8th grader
    And I am sure all 8th Graders

  56. What's Happened? says:

    Many people have told me that Challenger has a very conservative-minded stance. I have heard of ‘liberty tests’ being administered to students as early as 3rd grade these days. The purpose of these tests is to promote conservative thinking in students before they have political opinions of their own. Global warming is taught as challengable scientific theory. Schools are purple and may become a lot redder:(

    Challenger used to be good, but now it is highly conservative-minded.

  57. Dear Desi Mom:

    Are you thinking of sending your Indian kids to Challenger School in the Bay Area:

    If you had seen references to Dinesh D’Souza in the above comments, stop by and read this news article from Sept 15, 2010:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/opinion/15dowd.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general

    http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/09/12/newt-gingrich-obamas-kenyan-anti-colonial-worldview-rules-a/

  58. Right Wing Propaganda says:

    In the past, Challenger was a credible school with a dedicated, loyal staff. In recent years, the political bias has made the curriculum more right wing propaganda than the quality academic program it once was. Hiring is heavily biased towards pro- American radical conservatives, and employees are targeted if they do not comply with actively promoting right wing “Tea Party” politics. Something is terribly wrong.

  59. murty says:

    we are sending our child to Challenger school in Newark Ca. Management changed from last year and they expect a military type discipline with a pre school kid. It’s sad they don’t understand that pre-school is growing age for 3 year and 4 year old and as part of growing they try different things. They expect 3 1/2 year old child to have 8 yr old discipline. The school doesn’t teach any social skills and the school is only academical. We are very unhappy with the management and teachers as they lack professionalism in addressing the issues

    After going thru our experience and reading the above articles and we do agree with those article 100 percent.

    How is stratford? we heard that they are planning to expand in Fremont.

  60. cf says:

    I love Challenger. My little one joined when she was 4 years old. Previously she was in Bright Hotizons. That was terrible …the teachers taught them nothing scolded the children and collected a ton of money in tuition. Now in challenger everything is done through song so my pre-schooler loves it she sings about the planet and vowels. That is what you need a fun environment for learning.

  61. Betty Raines says:

    I used to work at Challenger and I saw many problems. Teachers are not certified and many are working there because their kids get reduced tuition. Barbara Baker, the founder, is extremely right wing. She spoke to a group of teachers on right wing views and implied that the end was near due to the current state of American politics. She did not mention Obama by name, but it was pretty clear what she meant. During the last election that campus was plastered with ads for conservative candidates and she was caught giving large sums to right wing candidates under an assumed name and without reporting them. She has a right to her views, but preaching them at a teacher appreciation dinner was totally out of place and placing political ads in a school is just wrong.There are few or no extra curricular activities, art,or music. There is no foreign language, There are no sports programs. Curriculum is set in stone and allows little teacher creativity. Management couldn’t care less about what teachers, staff or parents think. In the Salt Lake campus, the former director gave a great deal of power to young college girls at the expense of older and more experienced employees. She played favorities with staff, refused to listen and didn’t know what was going on in many cases. There was also a very large turnover of staff and most left very disatisfied. Parents, I think you can do better for the money. Challenger has good points, yes, but so do other schools which provide more. By the way, I am a retired teacher who taught in public school for 30 years. I was not impressed.

  62. Rohit says:

    I a recent graduate from Berkeley who is considering opening a school where we will integrate top-notch Western education with foreign language education (Hindi, Tamil, etc.), Ayurveda, yoga, cooking, and gardening. Does this idea appeal to any parents out there?

  63. Suman says:

    Hi Rohit,
    It does appeal to me as a parent of two preschool going girls as well as someone who wants to open such a school myself. Let me know if you need a partner or something, maybe it will click.
    Suman

  64. Parent of 3 says:

    Very interesting blog. Just came across this and truly find all comments very valuable. Really like Rohit’s idea, happy to support in any way. We have a child currently in Challenger 1st grade, he is really enjoying it. The crux for us has been “always watch for the messages our child is giving us”/ Keep in a school if the child is enjoying, make a change if the child is not enjoying and you are unable to make strides with teachers and/or administrators. I have 2 older children with private and public school experiences. And my lesson learned is to always watch for what the child is trying to tell us via his / her learning pace, ability to cope up, how much fun the child is having, etc. Strong foundation is a must for children, in whatever form we can give them. Harker, Challenger or Champion, we have chosen to make those investments above and beyond what the “public domain” has made available to us. The “return on investment” is purely what the child is able to get out of it. Formative years in school leave an unerasable memory for the rest of our childrens’ lives – those years really make what he or she grows up to be

    Like this blog a lot. Tks everyone

  65. Betty Raines says:

    I suppose the campuses differ but I would not send my child to Challenger for the following reasons.

    1.Teachers are not required to be certified and are not allowed much deviation from curriculum or much creativity. Certification does not guarantee a good teacher, but it does show that the teacher has had training in how to teach and relate to children in the age group they will be teaching.Simply having a college degree in something does not mean you are qualified to teach.

    2. Lack of extra curricular activities, art, music and foreign language.Other private schools in the same price range offer more.These subjects are important if a student is to be well rounded.

    3. Poor management and unqualified people at some of the locations.

    4. Lack of response to concerns of parents and teachers.

    5. Large turnover of staff in at least some locations.

    6. Too much politics. Why do you need to write an essay on your views on America to be an aide in a preschool?We are talking about 2,3, and 4 year olds.You are hardly likely to engage in discussions on governemnt and politics with them, How about an essay that has something to do with working with kids? Why is Ms. Baker plastering the school with ads for her candidates. The lady is very very conservative and pushes her agenda. I find this inappropriate and I would feel the same way if I agreed with her views.

    I know I posted these concerns above, but felt I could do it better if I rewrote it. I am a former employee of Chaleenger and veteran teacher in the public schools.

  66. AG says:

    I am in the Salt Lake City/Davis County Area. This blog is helpful and in some ways alarming. I love what my son is learning at Challenger in terms of grammar, reading, math, science. The price amongst other obvious issues as listed above are causing me to rethink enrolling him for this Fall (1st Grade). I would love other options to explore. What other private school options do we have in the SLC/Davis County areas? And how do they compare? Also, anyone who has transitioned their child from Challenger to Public school at the 1st grade level…please provide insight and your experience. THANK YOU!!!

  67. Betty Raines says:

    You might look into St. Mark’s/ Rowland Hall or the Cathedral Choir School. Both offer a lot more programs as well as excellent academics. The choir school is Catholic and I am not sure what their policy is for kids of other religions. Rowland Hall is loosely allied with the Episcopal church but it is pretty secular and any one is welcome. Both have good foreign language programs, extra curricular activities and the choir school has a great music program. The kids just got back from a tour of Italy.

  68. Jean says:

    This is my daughter’s fifth year at Challenger. Academically she is more than a year ahead of her public school peers. This year has been a huge jump academically and she was not well prepared by her previous Challenger teacher. We’ll be paying attention to the class she is assigned to next year!

    We really liked the previous director at Salt Lake City and wonder if the new director even knows who we are. He seems very formal and rigid and never seems to smile. We’ve heard that Barbara Baker has brought in former military people in several schools. It is easy to see that Challenger is not well versed in employee relations, I’m surprised they have not been sued for EEOC violations (maybe they have!) and think it’s only a matter of time.

    Disturbingly, my daughter’s grade has lost at least 9 students this year – yikes! Watch for another tuition increase next year to make up for it. We’ve struggled on whether or not to send my her back (she came home one day and said, “Mom, did you know that taxes are bad and everyone hates Obama?” We saw it as an opportunity to have an open discussion about what taxes are and also about what the left and the right believe and why they can’t agree. We are independent and encourage her to think freely – so we really have to pay attention to the rhetoric and ideology. But we know she’ll be exposed to differing opinions no matter where she goes to school.

    Overall, we still think that Challenger is a better choice than public…but really would like to see the administration do an anonymous survey of parents (SURVEY MONKEY is a great tool, in case there is a Challenger person reading this post). Thoughtful consideration of feedback without fear of reprisal could really help the school propel itself forward.

  69. CT says:

    My daughter has been at Challenger in CA since preschool and will be entering middle school in the Fall. I am now looking at Stratford as well as public schools in the Almaden area and am looking for input.

    Like Challenger, Stratford (and I would guess other private schools) does not require credentials. However, it does offer sports and other enrichment activities. (Incidentally, our campus also has after school activities…but as each campus has it’s own middle school…the middle school student population is small).

    I did notice that Stratford seems to be staffed with ex-Challenger teachers…

  70. ksaqib says:

    Hi,
    I am looking for a good school for my daughter. She will go to Kindergarten in Aug 2011. I really like the challenger school here in Las Vegas, Silverado campus. But I am confused now.
    1st problem: Compare to a public school, it will be a very expansive program, is there a very big difference in the Kindergarten program of Challenger and a public school? Should I wait one year and go to Challenger in grade 1 or is this the best time for my child?
    2nd problem: Even people who do not like challenger, accept that there academics are the strongest part. But I have come to this conclusion only by reading through all the reviews on computer. Is there any other way to get information about this school? I mean I don’t have any family or friends here who go to Challenger so my only source is the Internet. reviews on ‘great schools’ and other such sites are the only source of information for me.
    I really need to talk to someone who goes to Challenger here in Vegas.
    Hope I will be able to make a good decision for my daughter.

  71. Betty Raines says:

    Visit the school. Ask if you can visit the classroom. See how the teacher interacts with the kids. try to make it a surprise so they don’t have time to plan something special.If they are reluctant, I would be suspicious. Talk to the director and ask him about anything you have read that concerns you and listen to what he says. I would also look at other schools before you make up your mind. I don’t know what is available in Las Vegas, but I think there are better private schools in Salt Lake. I also wouldn’t discount the public schools or charter schools. Many of them are just fine.Private schools have an advantage that public schools don’t. They do not have to accept low performing or disruptive students and are free to kick out those who don’t conform. Naturally their scores are higher, but plenty of public school students also score well.

  72. ksaqib says:

    thank you for your good advice. I visited school yesterday, but that was scheduled I will make one or two more visits and will see what I feel.

  73. Betty Raines says:

    Let us know what you decide and what you think of the place.

  74. ksaqib says:

    I saw ‘Las Vegas day school’ too, I didn’t find difference in cost but found difference in education level not just by asking the office or seeing the reviews. I went Challenger to get admission in Kindergarten, they gave a test to my daughter and then told me that she needs a little more Pre-kindergarten classes before entering Kindergarten. Because they teach 1-100 counting and 1-20 back counting with phonetics and one syllable words.
    Currently my child is not attending any school and I taught her few pre-K words and 1-20 counting at home.
    I haven’t seen any other pre-K program that has the same syllabus as Challenger.
    the front desk was fine. I was quite cauitios after reading so many negative reviews about the administration but I didn’t noticed anything very cold or harsh.
    Now I will be preparing her again for re-test.

  75. Aiyer says:

    I’m not a Challenger parent, however I was toying with the idea of sending my Kinder (at a public school) to the Challenger Summer Camp at the Gish Road campus. Any reviews on the summer camp?

    Also, a note to the contributor named Rohit, my husband and I always lamented the lack of a Indian curriculum/values based school in the Bay Area. It would be great if you could put your thoughts in action; I know for sure there will be a very good response from the Bay Area parents. Pls. let us know when you do have plans to float this school.

  76. Jaie says:

    Most all children will soak up all the information you teach just as much as they would in a private school with a stranger teaching them at a young age. So why not do it yourself until they get to a grade in which you question your own ability of teaching or until kindergarten. C-mon all of us parents should remember are basics from kindergarten so why pay someone else to teach something you already know and can teach yourself??
    Honestly your child can learn phonics before 4. My daughter learned all her letters and sounds to the alphabet at 2 years old then she started reading at age 3. She will be 4 in one more month and now she knows how to read very well the kindergarten books. She also learned how to count to a hundred and now can count by fives and tens along with tell the time as far as O’clock and :30’s. She knows how to write and spell a lot of words.
    My point to all of this is that you do not have to send your child to Challenger or a private school to get them ahead in learning or buy an expensive phonics system.
    They have more reasonable phonic books with work sheets out their and the web provides endless information along with teacher stores to educate your child and have them excel at a fast pace. If I can do it then I know the majority if not most all parents can do it. I am single mother who works full time.
    Warning: I would not recommend this if you have little patients. 

  77. Betty Raines says:

    I agree with that. I was reading before I went to kindergarten and I did not attend a private preschool or any preschool for that matter. My parents read to me instead of sitting me in front of the TV. When I was old enough to go to school, I went to the local public school and got a good education. My parents were interested, helped me with my homework, took an interest and expected me to get good grades. I am not against private schools, but I think parental involvement is more important. There are many good public schools out there and I have already shared my views on Challenger and won’t go into that again.

  78. ksaqib says:

    Jaie, you are definitely doing a good job. I agree we can teach children a lot at home. I am not working full time, I have two kids, one 4 yrs old and the other 1 year old. I am a full time student too.
    BUT in my case English is not my mother tongue. As we don’t speak English at home, it becomes a little difficult for kids to catch-up all the words.
    I am teaching her regularly, and she know letters and there sounds and she can read those words which I taught her (a list of words from web on kindergarten curriculum). And now I am teaching her the numbers upto 100. But still I like my child to go and learn in a learning environment. I really will have to work hard to save money for the school. But I think this is again something coming from my parents, they gave me all the attention and send me to private school, and did all the stuff to help me in education.
    When u told about ur child reading at 3. I remember my mother telling me that I was 3 or 4 when I started reading words but…of my native language.
    I think when kids are listening and watching the same language all the time they pick the words earlier and much more easily. But when they are just in the middle and we, the parents, trying to help them to learn english BUT not forget their own native language. It becomes a little hard. Anyway, this has nothing to do with Challenger.
    I have many friends here in Vegas and their children going to public schools, I have keenly observed that their attitude towards education is ‘don’t care’. their reading capability, thier writing, their mathematics I feel like its below average. I do not want the same for my child. As I have not studied in America myself, I only rely on what I observe. So this made me move to a private school.
    One more reason, and I know nobody will agree, but well for me it was a shocking news when I came to USA that children are not required to have uniforms. I was like ‘What and why’. I still do not understand a logic. In my country, Pakistan, whether its public school or private school, all have uniforms, so may be this made me think in that way. But I really don’t like to make my kids sensitive (so early) about the social differences that become crystal clear in this environment.
    that is all just completely my opinion, and as Rohit said everyone has their own way to see things.

  79. Sometimes I miss Challenger says:

    I have my own Challenger Story. My oldest attended Challenger from PreK 3 – K. We loved the preschool program. He learned to read and speak with confidence; I thought the art program was pretty good, since they taught that pictures were made with shapes. They included science topics in day and I was amazed by the things my son learned. He would come home every day and pretty much do his class all over again in play. He would get out his stuffed animals and sing the songs with them. It was so cute.

    Then kindergarten hit. Holy Cow. Talk about homework. We had assigned homework everyday including Fridays. This was not work that my son wasn’t getting done in class. It was homework they assigned to be done at home. Ok, we’re talking about an accelerated education, but is that really necessary to go from absolutely no homework (and learning a ton) in preschool to homework everyday in Kindergarten? What about good old fashioned go home and relax after a good days learning and do homework once a week? We had a math paper, reading paper, spelling words and math facts to work on everyday. We’re talking about 5 year old kids who sat at a desk all day and need to run, jump and engage in imaginative play. (We don’t have a TV, so he really does play with toys at home). They were trying to teach these kids 1st grade math from the getgo, but all they taught in preschool was counting, so I felt we struggled all year long trying to cram kindergarten concepts so that we could do the 1st grade Saxon math program. Maybe my son is just delinquent with numbers, but I felt they were just shoving math down his throat without giving him a chance to fall in love with it like they structured the reading program.

    I still love the reading program and find that it is far better than any other program I’ve seen, but I think they could do a lot better with math. Of course, I also have my suspicions that the particular teacher my son had was mediocre. It was her first year teaching at Challenger. She had taught in public school for a number of years previously and now that some time has passed, I think she was trying to prove that she was private school material. The reason I say that is because one of the parents in my sons class said that her older child did not learn nearly as much in kindergarten as they were trying to teach that year. (Her older child went through the Challenger program too)

    We ended up moving to another state where Challenger doesn’t exist, and the public schools are among the best in the nation, so we went public. In hindsight, I still would choose Challenger for their preschool program. I’ve missed the program for my two succeeding children, although I did buy the materials and have been teaching them myself, but it would be better if their preschool teachers were using the curriculum too. However, I would have to hold my vote for Kindergarten. I loved that the remainder of the reading program was completed in Kindergarten and my son is still reaping the benefits of learning such excellent reading skills, however I am still (3 years later) trying to repair the damage done in Kindergarten regarding math. My son still thinks he is not good at math, and yet if he actually sits down and looks at the math problem he can do it. I fear that his Kindergarten teacher is much to blame since she continually complained to me about his math ability at pick up time with him sitting right there listening. I don’t know what her intent was, but I now know that it was damaging to my budding “scholar”. I also don’t know what she said to him in the classroom to further the damage. I just know that it has taken several years to get him back on track and tolerate math.

    So, my advice is to research your teachers and take and really good look at the kindergarten classroom. From my experience, there is a big gap between preschool and kindergarten in curriculum and expectations of the child. Again, it might have been the misconception/subpar teaching ability of the brand new kindergarten teacher, or maybe there really is a gap. I still think Challenger Preschool is the leader in preschool education and the measuring stick I use when I visit preschools.

  80. Betty Raines says:

    The fact that teachers at Challenger may not be certified is part of the problem. IMO. Certification doesn’t guarantee that a teacher will be good, but it does show that they have some training. As a certified teacher, this really bothers me.Having a degree in something unrelated doesn’t mean someone is qualified to teach small kids.

  81. Scared of Barbara says:

    This is a very insightful blog. I too am a former Challenger teacher. I can attest to some very odd practices going on in my classroom, including Liberty surverys that are supposed to be anonymous yet have my student’s ID numbers barcoded on them. As well, my teacher name was on each one. The point of these surverys was to see if I was teaching left-wing political ideas in my classroom, or to see which students came from liberal households. Not kidding. I did not have a teaching degree but won awards for having very high CAT scores. When I was hired they specifically told me that they were looking for teachable individuals that did NOT have teaching degrees. This was because they feel the colleges and universities did not prepare teachers properly. My family, who are mostly educators thinks it is because Barbara Baker’s methods are very antiquated. The majority of my students, ages 8-10 range had to take notes on the board for everything. Pages and pages of notes everyday. We would read our science lesson and takes notes. Read history and take notes. If you could write well, you did fine. If you were slow, then you struggled. Challenger doesn’t like for it to be made known, but every teacher is told to teach to the top 25% of the students in theit classes. All other children have to catch up or go back a grade, or are told that Challenger is not right for them. I had children transfer in from public school and I had to spend my lunch hour catching them up because Challenger will not slow down. So, if your child is in a class of 20 students and 5 of the students get a concept…then you are done and move on, even if the other 75% don’t get it. (I secretly didn’t do this because I felt it was wrong) I worked extremely hard to make sure my students knew everything, and still it was so much to learn for these little ones. These poor kids had easily 2 hours of homework per night. Our English text book is a 7th grade textbook in other schools. We had “used” text books, and it had a middle school name stamped on the side.
    Challenger is very rigid. If your child thrives on “rigid” then they will thrive here. If your student does not learn through direct instruction i.e. teacher lectures, which is the only way we were supposed to teach, then they will hate this school.

  82. Betty Raines says:

    I agree that they didn’t want teachers with experience. The Challenger method was the only way. Someone who has actually taught and has a teaching degree might have some ideas of their own that they want to implement. Someone with less experience is more likely to do things the way Ms. Baker prefers.I am not saying that uncertified teachers are bad, but experience should count for something. I taught for 30 years in the public schools before working as a part time aid at Challenger. When I needed more hours, I was passed over by kids still in college and told that they had more experience. Huh? A nineteen year old girl who is majoring in something unrelated to education , who is still going to school and who can’t even get to work on time is more qualified than a career teacher with a good work ethic? Right.

  83. Love-Hate says:

    Hello,

    I have a love-hate relationship with Challenger.

    The love comes from the fact that my child has obviously learned tons and is ahead of the game! I have a unique background in that my daughter has been in Challenger since pre-school. She is now in 2nd grade and has a total of 5 years under her belt with them. My other 2 children (my husband’s) go to public school. My daughter is in 2nd grade, his daughter is in 1st grade and his son is in 3rd grade. I can definitely say that my daughter is a grade ahead due to her time with Challenger. We also live in Davis County, where the public schools are better, so she might even be further ahead. I LOVE the fact that my daughter spends a lot of time in school. My children who are in public school are always getting out early or have days off so that teachers can prepare their report cards and such. My question is … Why are Challenger teachers able to get report cards sent out without the kids missing a day of school, yet public school teachers require the day off to get them together?

    It is obvious that Challenger’s curriculum is what makes up Challenger. Without the curriculum … it probably wouldn’t be around! My daughter has had great teachers every year … some more strict than others, but she has definitely been challenged! I feel that if public schools were to have a better curriculum and structure, they might be able to do a better job with the future generations. It is obvious that a teaching certificate and lots of money is not necessary for our children to be educated properly. From what I understand, Challenger teachers are not paid very well – less than public school teachers. And yes, the majority of them are there to get a discount on their childrens education.

    Here are my issues with Challenger –

    I have heard from a trusted source that when Barbara Baker founded Challenger she was only able to get investors from the commercial real estate/development industry. So, when you wonder where in the heck your tuition money goes … it is building strip malls! That is VERY frustrating to me! In my case … my daughters class has 30 students (that in and of itself is another issue of mine) – so that means that every year just her class brings in $222,500. My daughters class and one other is probably enough to pay the entire staffs salary for the year. So what do they do with the rest of the money from the other 19 classrooms from just this one location … STRIP MALLS. It upsets me … they should be giving back to the community and offering scholarships to these children.

    Also, isn’t one of the main reasons parents send their children to private school for the one-on-one attention? My daughter does not get that at Challenger … she is literally 1 of 30 in her 2nd grade classroom. My children at public school have less kids in their class. Also, my daughers class is over 90% male!

    My next issue is the uniform. Challenger students are required to buy their uniforms from ScholarWear. Guess who owns ScholarWear … Barbara Baker’s daughter! Guess how much 1 jumper is … $45! To top it off the quality is CRAP! My daughters seams always come out just 3 months into the school year!

    Heaven forbid your seven year old ever leaves their school lunch at home … It will cost you $6 to have the catering company bring her in a hot lunch! That is highway robbery! This might only apply to the SL campus.

    It also frustrates me when my daugher has run out of dry erase markers and I have to go and buy her new ones. Really Challenger … you can’t afford to supply the children with any type of supplies.

    Also, for those who are not familiar with Challenger, they do not go on field trips … EVER.

    I think I’ve expressed most of my frustrations, however, I’m sure I will think of more once I press submit.

    At this point, I am considering taking my daughter out of Challenger. I have heard (I have no idea how true this is) that once a student goes through the 3rd grade of Challenger, they have the study skills necessary to really succeed at any other school. So I may just wait one more year … but I am frustrated due to the price increase.

  84. Scared of Barbara says:

    Love-Hate,

    You are so right in every area. No field trips ever. No scholarships for hard-working families who just can’t quite afford it, because Barbara does not believe in charity. When I taught at Challenger, I asked my principal at the end of the year if we could have a back-pack drive on the last day and donate the packs to the less fortunate in our area. My husband’s Rotary club was more than happy to fix the rips, clean them up, and fill them with supplies. My principal laughed and said that I didn’t really get the philosophy of Barbara Baker yet, did I. She doesn’t believe in helping those less fortunate. They are supposed to pull themselves up by their boot straps. She has also had these meetings with teachers every year in which she spews her belief that “teachers are the second highest paid profession of all. The only higher paid professionals are doctors.” I was flabberghasted when she told us this! She expected us to buy into that and yet my dear father, who is a 35 year school teaching veteran is still working and can’t retire. Of course, if you disagree with her in public your job is gone. I just sat there and stewed. She has some nerve saying that I make as much as the rich parents of the kids in my class who were making, some of them, $500,000 per year. And I was making $32,000.
    Your comment about students who make it through the 3rd grade is correct. They will be so far ahead and will do very well in public. I had a student leave after 3rd grade and jumped up to 6th grade in public school the next year.
    Choose wisely with this school. The academics are very structured and rigid and your child will learn a lot. But it is very stressful on your child at the same time.
    And to answer your question about how Challenger teachers can possibly get grades done on time and not miss school…I stayed at the school until 11pm many nights before report cards to get them done on time. As well, I would work all weekend and evernings too. Being late is not an option, and teachers only get 1-3 hours of prep time per week.

  85. Betty Raines says:

    I agree that there are good things at Challenger, but other private schools have the same good things plus additional programs, extra curriular activities, field trips etc. Add to that, they don’t have the same right wing ideology, the pressure and they do have trained teachers. Just to be clear, there are many good teachers at Challenger, but I dtill think if I am going to pay private school tuition, I expect a teacher with credentials.I also expect more than just the basic curriculum of Challenger. I have subbed at some other private and public schools and there is a world of difference.

  86. ksaqib says:

    I am subbing in public schools and I felt the great difference in curriculum. Childhood, in my opinion, is the time when one can mold the mind and body to work hard. It works and it helps. The things, concepts, ideas, facts, figures, writing built in these days become life long partner. Strong foundation helps strong personalities. In public system, I am feeling that the curriculum is basically for below average student. the average, and above average kids are not feeling that they are doing something according to their level. Its important to note that more students are average. And I think the average student can be mold much easily into hard working student by giving him a challenging course instead of appreciating him for doing the easy stuff. I also felt that lots of extra curricular activities become hindrance in continuing the educational progress.
    Other private schools may be balancing, I cannot say about other private schools.
    Also, in terms of taking notes and doing lots of writing and being ahead of the public curriculum are positive things, in my opinion. Although writing may be obsolete for some people, but I really insist to have a good hand writing and ability to write well and putting your ideas on paper in your own writing. It may be because I am a writer. I feel the relationship between my hand and my brain is much more direct than the keyboard and the brain. I feel much more connected when I am writing my ideas in my own hand writing. I also love to see my old journals, in my own handwriting and I still remember that when I got stuck anywhere while studying, I used to write and draw in my own hand writing to help my mind understand and remember. So I think this habit helps in developing strong, focused study habits. Distractions lead to ADHD etc.
    Apart from the Barbara Policies, politics, etc. education is certainly the positive thing. You are right that challenger’s curriculum is certainly helping the school to stay in focus among the parents who are willing to pay for good education.
    Teacher’s pay…. ahh its bad everywhere. It should not be but it is 🙂
    I like to have uniforms in school, but this was a news to me that from where the uniforms are coming :).. welll these r the things we cannot do anything about. Its Barbara’s daughter or son or uncle or whatever. I have seen such examples before. Private sectors have such problems, I think all over the world, so have to bear it if want to have a basic strong foundation. Take the good and leave the rest. Increasing tuition isa headache 🙁 but till now its worth paying. My daughter has started reading the one vowel story books with me. She joined the Pre-K program a month back. I am so happy for her.

  87. Betty Raines says:

    I agree that the public schools have their problems. I too sub in public schools and a lot depends on the school. There are some I will not sub in, let alone send a child to, but there are others that are very good. I also agree that children should learn good habits in childhood, but I also believe that children should have time to be children. They need to have free time to play, develop their imaginations and to be children. When a five or six year old spends a full day in school and then has a couple of hours homework when he gets home, he is being cheated, IMO. This is elementary school, not high school or college. Little kids need to learn good work habits but they don’t need excessive pressure to perform. I agree that there are problems in the public schools, but we need to remember that public schools are forced to deal with kids that Challenger wouldn’t accept in the first place.It is easy to criticize.

  88. ksaqib says:

    You are absolutely right. Public schools have to accept all kids. But this should not be made a problem. If public schools can be categorized into zones, magnet schools, behavioral problem classes. They should have a plan to separate classes for below average students and students who can manage to move on a bit fast pace. I agree with the ‘being kids’ theory. But I can see that kids are having a lot of the kid time without any problem. I recently wrote a thesis on ‘Reading habit in adolescents’ and the research findings were astonishing. You may like the book ‘The Dumbest Generation’ by Mark Bauerlein. Lots of facts and figures that show how kids r wasting their time and how we are not properly showing the actual big picture of the system. I did my Bachelors as Electrical engineer, graduated in 2005. So I am not talking about very old age, but university education is all based on how strong your foundation is. Now I am doing my second Bachelor in teaching High school Mathematics, so as to enter the profession of teaching.
    I am sincerely worried at the slow pace of public schools and the behavioral problems that mostly occur because we are not diverting the whole energy of youth to some positive work. Who will not like to save money and utilize the option of public schools, but education standard should be improved.

  89. Betty Raines says:

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but I do think that there are good public schools out there. Many have accelerated programms for gifted students. Of course, there are bad ones too, but the same is true of private school. I do think that a lot of what looks like wasting time in children is not. Kids need play time. They learn by playing and they develop imagination by playing. They also need to study and develop good work habits. Kids need home work but I think 2 hours a night for kids in the lower elemetary grades is excessive. They need some time to be kids. The idea is balance.

  90. ksaqib says:

    U r right. The key is to have balance. I am not having any homework problem right now. And in Pre-K my daughter is experiencing a good balance in play time and study time. Let’s see what I find out when my kids go to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.

  91. Love2Teach says:

    Here are the positive and negative qualities that I see at Challenger. First the positive. Challenger has a great curriculum.I taught children as young as 2 yrs. 9 mos. to read one vowel words at Challenger.My whole class could read 2 vowel words and simple books by the end of the school year. The children could draw amazing pictures, write their names, count to 20 and do simple math facts, all while singing fun learning songs and laughing and enjoying it so much that they often didn’t even realize that they were learning. It’s great. It’s not pressure, in fact, it’s part of our job description that the kids be laughing and having fun while we teach! That brings me to the negative parts of Challenger. There are one way mirrored windows for directors and evaluators to watch us. Evaluators/directors also regularly come into the classrooms to check our performance as teachers. There is actually a form that they fill out as they sit and watch for hours at a time. It is very stressful on the teachers. The form goes straight to corporate without any feedback. Then if there is anything negative, we hear about it months later from our director, and this goes into our file. There is a box on the form that they fill out while evaluating that actually asks “Are the children laughing?” I am not kidding when I say that another box asks “Are the baby dolls dressed?” (We are “dinged” if they areen’t!” They also will look in the play kitchen and check if the toy foods are placed in the correct categories such as vegetables, meat, fruit, and bread. “Are there personal items in the room?” is another question.(Teachers can’t bring ANYTHING from home. Any personal items must be cleared away every evening, and should not be in view, and absolutely NOT be used while teaching.) Half day preschool teachers CAN NOT read books to the children (they are for show). Full day teachers may only do so at specified times. At no time should a book be read from during instruction (yes, it may be opened to show a picture, but NOT be read from). One year, we were not allowed to write on the eraser board EVER, all year long. Now, they lifted that ban, but we must erase everything every evening. We are NOT allowed to have a box of mixed crayons anywhere in the room (as per audit). Only multiple boxes of a single color each. (It is an extremely controlling environment.)We are not allowed to use the stage for winter or spring shows. Why not? “Corporate says so.” It is the same response to the many, many, many rediculous rules. We have a beautiful stage, unused. We will stand like statues on risers for our show. No fun actions or motions. Why not? “Because corporate says so.” Oh, about the uniforms, they are designed with room for letting out, that is why the jumpers have a weak spot; go to the Scholarware website for info on getting the jumpers repaired. I don’t have a problem with Scholarwear–they are great. They’ll fix many things for free while you shop. As far as report cards go, yep. I write them at home after work. Preschool teachers have children under their feet for the full 8 hours–zero prep time. Lesson plans are written at home. Preparing materials for craft, art, etc. are mostly done by way of miracle. We prepare snack on our own lunch period. We put up amazing bulleting boards all on our own time. Ok, that’s common for many private schools, but we are unpaid for holidays and long vacations! We have zero class budget. We are REQUIRED to actually PAINT the background of all our bulletin boards (from back in the day when butcher paper didn’t have color–a 45 year old rule). It is time consuming and pretty strange. We must hand-make all of our bulletin board borders and words-nothing store-bought. Our yearly budget for all gifts to the students was $20, and we were required to buy gifts twice a year (winter and spring). The $20 applied if you had a full class of 25 or 50 students or if you had a small class of 12 (a half-day teacher could have 50 students, with 25 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon). She would write her report cards at home, too. No extra time is given to her to do it, and no extra money given to her for the gifts. Directors don’t always have a degree, either, and some of the fear and stress that they pass on to the staff may be due to inexperience.

  92. Newbie says:

    Does anyone have any experience to share about Harker Schools in San Jose? I’m definitely not going to send my kid to Challenger if they brainwash kids to a political affiliation. I’d prefer an honest 100% pure military school over Challenger where some thugs pose to represent the military ethos(I went to a military boarding school at the age of 10).

  93. rk says:

    Does anyone have Challenger’s phonics to sell? Have heard good things about it!

  94. Good for Something says:

    I agree with much that has been said. I just wanted to make one comment on the philosophy mentioned about the school founder that we should not help those who are less-fortunate. While it is very important to help our children get a good education, it is equally important that they learn how to use that knowledge to help other people, including (and especially)the less fortunate. The most miserable I know are people are those who think only of themselves. On the other hand, the happiest people I know are those who help and serve others.

  95. Letdown says:

    My child is currently at Challenger in Vegas. I agree with scared and Betty in so many regards. I love the academics of this school and was thrilled I could send my child here. Alas, I am currently looking for a new private school as my kid is not part of the upper 25 %. I have looked at assignments that were completed together in class and found many wrong answers because my child was learning it wrong. When I questioned this it came back to it being my child’s inability to focus or my child’s behavior. After the second attempt of trying to have a discussion with his teacher, I was so flabbergasted at her lack of insight and overall non-caring attitude that I stopped interaction with her. She is new to the school and most likely not certified. Discussions with headmaster has basically come back to my child being the problem. By all means, my child is not perfect but I guess I expect a lot more than what I am getting for what I pay.
    So

  96. Letdown says:

    Basically, if child gets it and can learn in the rigid environment, it is an awesome school. You can not beat the academics or the undependence your child develops. Be prepared though for them to be politically indoctrinated as well.

    If you have a child that is easily stressed, needs a little extra or marches to a different beat, consider a different alternative.

  97. raman says:

    Our son is now a 3rd grader. We are moving back to challenger from Cupertino Garden Gate School. Found Public schools (even Faria or Portal) are nowhere comparing to ANY private schools. Public school’s Teachers are underpaid and hence they just do the minimal to save their jobs, PTAs are useless, Staff is rude. Kids just learn how to pass time. We learned this after we moved our son from challenger into 1st and 2nd grade after attending PK and K in Challenger and Stratford, and now he will be back to challenger in 3rd grade. YOU JUST have TWO options:
    1) TEACH kids at Home (FREE, if you can afford)
    2) Private School (PAID, If you can afford)
    Choice is yours: You have to pay the price, nothing is FREE!

  98. ksaqib says:

    Hello everyone,
    Interested in “Learning all about education standards, relationship of education to careers, logical thinking, and problem solving”. Just a request and a suggestion for Pakoracorner owner, if you can make a blog for discussing the effect of K-12 education on all these things and how some countries are achieving these goals. Like China, India, Japan, America. I think it will be an informative, interesting discussion.
    I hope I made myself clear. Thank you

  99. BettyRaines says:

    Ramen, I have to respectfully disagree with some of what you have said. I taught in public schools for 30 years and most of the teachers I know were underpaid, but were hardworking, did the best they could, were trained in their fields, took work home and spent their own money on supplies.They were not there for the purpose of getting reduced tuition for their kids. It was their career choice and they were dedicated professionals. Public school teachers have problems that private school teachers don’t have to deal with. They have to take everyone including mentally challenged students, troublemakers,and kids with emotional problems.Their class side is often ridiculous. Naturally the kids don’t score as high. As far as pay, Challenger teachers and other private school teachers are often paid less than their public school counterparts so if we use pay as a motivator, public school teachers should be better.I think many Challenger teachers are good, but at least public school teachers have to be certified in the areas they are teaching. All Challenger teachers have to have is a college degree in something. I just do not see how having a degree in physics, journalism, physical education or whatever qualifies a person to teach kindergarten.I am not against private school, but all public schools are not like you said. There are good and bad, just as there are in private schools.

  100. ksaqib says:

    I agree with raman on the choices. Its free to teach my child myself and give him all the education + etiquette I wish. or choose a private school so that I get 70% help from there. I agree with this too that I see kids in public school are learning to “pass time”. May be that is why, when they reach high school there attitude and interest towards education is miserable. At least this is what I see in Vegas. Personal time and interest in learning of child is very important, but school should be cooperative and leading in the right direction.
    Love2teach has given some good insight about teacher’s perspective and what they have to face.
    Apart from my child learning two vowel words in pre-school program, I am teaching her cursive handwriting at home. Its hard work, but she is learning fast. Parental involvement + school gives solid foundation to kids. I believe so.
    In terms of “personal items of teacher in class…..etc” I can say anonymously that this might be a good rule because I have an experience of going to a class as substitute where there was so much personal property of the teacher + mess that I was shocked. I still don’t know how the class is cleaned, it was miserable. So may be corporate is compelled to make such rule because some people don’t value tidiness.
    just thoughts

  101. soube says:

    My daughter is in Challenger School since her preschool. She is in her 2nd grade now. It is her fifth year at Challenger, Strawberry Park Campus, San Jose.

    First PROs:

    We live in Santa Clara, CA. We opted to buy house in Santa Clara and send our daughter to a good private school like Challenger. I did not have to repent our decision even for a split second so far. School is really great. Curriculum is extra-ordinary. By Kindergarten all kids will be reading chapter books and start writing small story on their own !!! In fact my daughter started reading books like Harry Potter, Chronicles of Nornia by Kindergarten. I was pleasantly surprised. Phonics, Grammar, Literature, Math all are well taught. Everything they thought using simple songs which kids find very interesting.

    My the end of first grade my daughter started writing poems, relatively longer stories on her own. In first grade they taught almost 75% of states in USA, introduced science, multiplication facts in math etc. Another interesting subject they teach in 1st grade is LOGO computer programming. They teach this so well that my daughter used to come home and teach me too LOL. They made it interesting to kids by making them draw simple pictures. ART combined with computer programming. In first grade they also have science fair. Making small groups of kids, allowing them to conduct experiment and presenting in a well structured manner is great. They used SCIENTIFIC METHOD for this !!!!.

    It is almost the end of 2nd grade for my daughter. This year she learnt division in math along with many other math related things such as Bar Graph, Line Graph, Pie Chart, Venn diagram, Geometrical objects, Perimeter, Area and Volume Calculations, fraction, decimal, multiplication table until 10. Geography covers all 50 states if USA, continents, oceans and seas. Science covered advanced topics beautifully taught along with experiments for each new subject.

    NOT JUST ACADEMICS: People seems to have wrong idea that Challenger teachers only Academics. This is totally NOT TRUE. They teach ART big time. Every week kids to one or the other drawing and color them. They also make crafts multiple times in a year. Each day there is PE in which kids have to work out ( running, stretching, sit-ups etc ). Along with this, there is free play time for kids everyday. Each day also includes either ART or Computer programming. Few days in a week kids gets at least 30minutes of free time inside class room. This they can use to do any of the home work for the day, write board-work in-case incomplete for coming in late in the morning, or STUDY story books available in the class room LIBRARY. Few days in a week they practice SONGS and every Friday there will be SPEECH TEST ( song recitation with action ). So Challenger is not just academics but is also filled with loads of FUN activities.

    HOME WORK : My daughter used to spent only 10 minutes in KG, 15 minutes in 1st Grade for doing home work. Now in 2nd grade she spend maximum of 30 minutes. I don’t think this is really a big-load for kids. All home-work sheets are pre-printed. Kids have to just fill in the blanks. This is true for almost all subjects except literature home work if any.

    COMPETITION: Challenger conducts various contests at class-room level as well as whole grade level. They are:
    1. SPEECH CONTEST ( students come-out of their fear of public-speaking, in simple terms stage fear ).
    2. GEOGRAPHY BEE, MATH BEE, SPELLING BEE. All to encourage kids to prepare well and learn better.
    3. ART CONTEST: Brings out artist inside your kid.
    4. YOUNG AUTHOR CONTEST : Kids write short stories and illustrate them with pictures. A beautiful opportunity for the kids to express his or her imagination.

    PUBLIC SCHOOL Vs CHALLENGER: It was really a hard decision for us to choose private over public. Because Challenger costs close to $12000 per year. Once my daughter finished pre-school and Kindergarten, we applied in the best public school in Santa Clara called MILIKINS. This is a lottery school and my daughter got the seat !!!! This school is a distinguished school whether they don’t follow standard state syllabus. They follow much better syllabus and even challenge your kids. School is rated 10/10. I went and sat inside the first grade to see what they teach and how students respond. Expectation at the end of first grade was to make sure kids learn how to read simple sentences. Remember my daughter was reading Harry Potter novels already at the end of Kindergarten !!! Kids were amazing in Milikins answering teacher’s question bravely and instantly. I found out that the best of the best school in Santa Clara is at least lagging behind challenger by TWO full years. Now, I had to choose between free education with two years of lag OR pay $12000 a year and encourage my daughter acquire advanced knowledge which she was very capable of. Option was crystal clear. CHALLENGER.
    In addition my wife quoted ” best thing we can ever give our kids is not money but best affordable education”. Why delay, we rejected the public school seat immediately and opted to stay with Challenger.

    SCHOLARSHIP: Challenger teachers do encourage kids with wonderful comments when they do good. In addition Challenger School rewards kids with a scholarship of ~$800 when students performs 99% or above on an average.

    I do not know how future years going to be at Challengers. So far we are extremely happy with the progress of our daughter.

    Now Cons: Though I sound content with Challenger School, there are some things I do not like.

    1. Restricted Communication from Teachers:

    They do not entertain parents asking questions during orientation. All questions should be asked through telephone and make up a telephone appointment with the teacher. They respond only after a day.

    2. No respect for parents.

    Teachers and management do not listen to suggestion from parents.

  102. ksaqib says:

    Soube, your feedback was so helpful. Thank you for the great insight about the difference in best public school and Challenger (specially). Me and my husband were planning to move California, may be Bay area and then take admission in a good public school. I was not sure about the difference in education level in a good public school and challenger, so I was confused and was thinking to give it a try once we move.
    Your post was very helpful,
    thanks

  103. soube says:

    ksaqib,

    Challenger started “referral” program this year. Any fresh kid who is entering challenger after April 2011, can receive 15% discount in the tuition fee for the whole year, if they are referred by an existing student. I can share details of my daughter if you are considering Challenger for your kid(s). Exciting part is, referred kid also gets 15% discount. Great !!! isn’t it ?

  104. Mark says:

    My son has been in Challenger since pre-school. We’ve changed campuses from Almaden to Harwood in 3rd grade. Overall we’re happy with the curriculum and have had good teachers with the exception of one. (That’s why we changed campuses.) I like the “conservative ideology” some people complain about. I wish more schools – especially public schools – had the same conservative ideology. (What’s so bad about teaching kids that the foundation of this country is freedom and personal responsibility, and that humans are not meant to be wards of a “nanny” state?)

    At Challenger, some teachers and administrators are very good, others not so good (just like in any organization). I understand peoples’ complaints about the management “system”. There seems to be essentially no freedom for the local school to adapt to the needs of individual students/ families. (It’s kind of like this: “Corporate HQ doesn’t allow that….”)

    (At least with a private school one can change campuses / schools if one is dissatisfied. However, it can be difficult to change campuses with public schools. )

    I think the best part of the Challenger curriculum is the weekly poems that the students must recite. This builds confidence in public speaking, and also helps with memory development.
    Challenger also has weekly “choir” / singing class. They have two musical programs for the parents during the school year. There is a limited amount of art, but they are supposed to have a weekly art class with an art “teacher” starting in 5th grade.

    Challenger also teaches Turtle Logo computer programming which helps with logic development, and they also teach kids how to type using Mavis Beacon.

    For the amount of money we spend, yes, I’d like Challenger to have foreign language classes such as Spanish or Chinese added to the daily curriculum.

    Uniforms are annoying, but we found the Scholarwear clothes are quite durable. I think we got three years out of the pants!

    Overall, if you are committed to a private education for your child, I think Challenger does a good job. “Your mileage may vary” depending on the campus and teacher.

  105. ksaqib says:

    Hi soube,
    the news is great but I think I got it a little late. My daughter is going to pre-K since March and I have just got her admitted for the Kindergarten too 🙁 I wish I had this news a little earlier, I do not think it will work now. If I now tell that I was referred by someone so need discount…will that work? no idea.
    but anyway, thanks for the information.

  106. Betty Raines says:

    My view on the politics is that they should present both sides and teach the kids critical thinking skills and let them make up their own minds. In my experience, they teach them what Ms Baker thinks. If you agree with her philosophy, that is great, but I don’t and I do not want to spend big bucks having a child indoctrinated with views I do not share.I also don’t want them indoctrinated with views I share. I want them told both sides of the issue. I am all for teaching patriotism and responsibility, but Challenger goes far beyond that. At a teacher appreciation dinner, Ms Baker talked about’Taking America Back’ presumably from the Obama administration. She gave out camp stoves to all teachers so that we would have them in the coming hard times.I got the impression she thought the end of the world was just around the corner unless something drastic is done. During the last election, the SLC campus was plastered with posters for right wind candidates and I do mean right wing.Think Tea Party. Sorry, but I would object to this if she had put up posters for any candidate-even one I voted for. A school is not the place for partisan politics.

  107. vs says:

    does anyone have the challenger phonics dvd set for sale. if interested, please contact me at vs2407 at hotmail dot com.

    thanks

  108. Shrads says:

    I am considering sending my son to challenger preschool strawberry park campus .
    I am not sure if its good to start with parttime or full time .
    I was wondering if you could recommend any specific teacher’s class for preschool.

  109. ksaqib says:

    I just found another private school “Merryhill private school” which has branches both in California and Las Vegas.
    I was trying to compare the academics and fee and found that both things are almost same.
    Although one reviewer wrote that there is quite a lot “fundraising” and that was a negative point.
    I am not sure if academics are very strong but looks like they are providing quite a lot of extra curricular activities and field trips too. will be grateful if anyone can compare these two schools.

  110. momofvishnu says:

    I’ve recently joined my son for the preschool program in challenger, newark facility.

    Please email me at momofvishnu at hotmail dot com if anyone is interested in selling their copy of the preschool(4 year old) phonics and math kit.

    Best regards, momofvishnu.

  111. wtj says:

    Does anyone have the challenger phonics kit for sale? Please contact me via email: wtj6110@yahoo.com

    Thanks!

  112. Betty Raines says:

    You might try Amazon.com. I think they had some at one point.

  113. dj says:

    Very informative site. We are considering sunnyvale challenger middle school for our daughter she is right now in Stratford. I am yet to go through all the parent comments but so far your opinions and many of the parents have been very informative.

    -DJ

    BTW – it will be helpful if you could list all the latest comments in descending order of date and time…latest first.

  114. Ram B says:

    Hi soube

    Can you provide details of the referral at Challenger Sunnyvale? Did your daughter attend Sunnyvale campus? We are also in Santa clara and deciding whether to send our daughter to Challenger.

  115. love my job! says:

    To all parents considering Challenger,

    Please keep in mind when you are reading comments made by previous teachers that there are probably reasons (other than the ones they are sharing ) they are no longer employed. I have never been mistreated or coerced in any way, and find I have great support from the office staff. I have been employed with the company for several years and love my job just as much as the day I was hired, maybe even more. I work with an incredibly talented group of people, and enjoy teaching the children I come across immensely.

  116. Kin says:

    Does any one knows whether challenger or stratford is better in Sunnyvale?
    I am sending my kids to kindergarten and live in Cupertino

    Thank you

  117. BettyRaines says:

    http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Challenger-School-Reviews-E333004.htm

    Here are some reviews by employees. There does seem to be a problem keeping workers and keeping them happy. Regardless or employeess satisfaction, Challenger still does not have certified teachers, extra programs and they still have a very conservative agenda. If these things are okay with you, you may like Challenger. If not, I would look elsewhere.

  118. Kelvin says:

    Hi all parents,
    Thanks for all the informative reviews about the challenger. I am currently looking for a good preschool program for my son who is turning 3 next year. We attended the challenger’s open house in ardenwood campus this morning and had spent almost 2 hours (yes, 1 hour was with the headmaster to go through all the questions we have in his office, one to one!) overall, I got a pretty good impression with the school. However, since we visited in open house day, I am not sure if everything was setup to impress the parents.
    Does anyone knows if the referral program still is in place? If so, could you please provide me your information so tHat we could both benefitted for the program.
    The tuition fees seems increase a lot for this coming year, preschool is now 1400+ per month. Can someone tell me what is the average percentage the tuition fees go up? The headmaster told me it is about 3% a year, is it true?
    Also, which campus has the best per-K program? We are living in Hayward and my wife is working in Sunnyvale, so we are flexible on the campus.

  119. anything4kids says:

    Hello everyone,

    Would anyone please kindly advise me which campus in San Jose area has better teacher/program for Pre-school and Kindergarden? ( Almaden, Harwood, Strawberry Park?)

    I am a single mother with two children (one is with special need) and caregivers for my parents as well. We just move to California/San Jose and I was recommended to take my 4 years old son to Challenger but I don’t know which campus is better in this area? (try to do research but can’t find anything out there).

    I was told that finding a good school is not as important as finding a good teacher/program. Right now, all I can afford is 2 or 3 days half time per week. I would like to enroll my son in Challenger school this coming Jan 2013 so any advice on school campus, class room teacher, tips on to get some discount of tuition etc… would be GREATLY appreciated.

  120. Angela Vermeer says:

    My daughter has been in Challenger for two years for pre-school and now is in full-day kindergarten. We absolutely love it!. All of her teachers have been wonderful, and amount she has learned is amazing. She is so far ahead of where my other to kids were at this age. At to make it even better, she absolutely loves school!

    Now comes my dilema. Starting in 1st grade, our public school has a Mandarin Chinese dual immersion program where they spend half the day totally immersed in Chinese. My son is in this program, and it is great. The only problem is that the English half of the day is so far behind Challenger.

    I’m not sure what would be better. An incredible foundation in English, math, and science from Challenger with no foreign language, or an incredible opportunity to learn a second language with a less than stellar education on the English side.

    Does anyone have any opinions on what sounds like the better option?

  121. workingmom says:

    My son is currently 3 yrs old and has been play base preschool for 8 months. I am planning to send him to Challenger(Newark) kindergarten-pre the 4 yrs old program. Does any one know if the child can catch up if they didn’t start at challenger from 3 yrs old class? I went to the school tour. The 3 years old can already read sight words and 3 letters word. My son can only sound out letters sounds. Worry if he can catch up with the material at 4 yrs old class.

    Can any one give review on the Challenger Phonic kits? I heard the DVD looks like 70s made DVD.

  122. K.A.M. says:

    Go for the Stellar Education and teach your child the language you want them to learn.

  123. ChallengerDad says:

    Angela Vermeer – I’d ask if your daughter (and your son for that matter) is going to go to China for middle school or high school.

    If yes, then it makes sense to optimize their Mandarin learning at the expense of their English learning.

    If on the other hand, your daughter is going to complete her schooling and college in the US, then I would give her the best possible foundation in English, Math and Science at Challenger. You could still send her to Chinese class outside of school.

  124. challenger student says:

    I have been in challenger since preschool and im in sixth grade now. I go to lone mountain campus in LasVegas. I honestly love this school. And yet yes it depends on the child. If u love challenge then its the perfect place. If u r looking for very light academics and focus on extras then C.S prob isnt ur best bet. The academics r advanced and children r encouraged. Theres lego robotics and mathcounts and science olympiad that u could join. If u stay in extended care after school there r many c,asses to join. Ex: french spanish drama choir piano softball basketball chess and more. School competitions include geography bee and spelling bee and sciemce fair (which u can advance to state then nationals) . Theres young author and speech festival and math bowl and more. We also have the presidential testing all year round. The school keeps biases toa minimum and id say xhallengers side mostly with being libertarian. Its an all american stand up for the usa type.of school but theres luttle focuss on that. Every class has two prgrams or playseveryyear. The uniforms are proper good looking and comfy. The teachers r kind and challenging.honestly…. if u r up for the challenge then challenger is.ur school.
    Ps. Ive been on student council here and am now and its really fun

  125. Betty Raines says:

    If the programs and Chinese study in the public school are good, I would go with that. You can get a good education in public school and a chance to become fluent in a foreign language is invaluable. You will not get that at Challenger along with many other extras provided by the public schools. Your child will probably be a year ahead in reading and math in Challenger, but the fact is, that in the long run, that doesn’t mean that much. They will get the material eventually and whether they learned it at 4 or at 5 isn’t really an indicator of later success.Check out the public school and make sure it has good programs, teachers and reasonable class size and make your decision from there

  126. jessica says:

    The Las Vegas campuses are great. I have one child at Los Prados and the other at Lone Mountain. My 3 year old is reading 1 and 2 vowel words and BOOKS! I can’t get him to stop. Also he says things to adults who try and do things for him like, “I can do that myself ” or “that’s my responsibility” when he forgot his backpack and I apologized and said sorry I forgot your bag. The teachers are so loving and aren’t dictated or pressure on passing state test so they actually teach kids things like logic not just prep for a standardized test. Which btw the recent tests prove the academic superioriy of Challenger schools. My kindergartener told me the story of the little red hen and said she didn’t share the bread at the end Bc they other animals didn’t help her but his teacher said she didn’t have to share but she could have if she wanted to and its not fair for someone else to tell her (the little red hen) that she had to.this opened up conversation at home on work ethic and why we give and volunteer at the City Mission. which I thought was great for a 6. year old to understand volunteerism and liberty.

  127. Former teacher says:

    As a former teacher at Challenger, I respect your viewpoint. One thing I want to also inform readers of is the pay scale. It is glaringly different at private schools than at public, and not in the way you may expect unless you realize that the govt pays well and public school teachers are unionized. Therefore, they make SIGNIFICANTLY more…in most cases, double the salary. I have a child in the public school system and have to supplement his academics with reinforcing lessons because the teachers don’t ensure that concepts are concrete before moving on. They simply “get through” the curriculum. Just my perspective from experiencing both sides. I now hold private classes in my home to help public school kids be as productive as Challenger and Stratford kids.

  128. Former teacher says:

    To workingmom, they will not catch your child up, but the curriculum is repetitive at that age so they will advise if your child is a good candidate for the curriculum. While the phonics kit is archaic, it is EXCELLENT. There’s also the open of hiring a teacher to help catch him up. Feel free to contact me for more information: greatteacher13@yahoo.com. PreK is fairly intense for kids that haven’t been in an academic setting before, but most kids love it and thrive from the challenge. 🙂

  129. Amit says:

    I am looking to purchase the Challenger Phonics kit. Does anyone have it?

  130. George says:

    @Raman,

    Hmm.. now i am in the same situation as you were in 2011. Moved to Cupertino from Challenger and to Garden Gate elementary. Experience so far has not been great, even though it has a 990 API score (not that it matters at 1st grade). My kid now seems to have a lot more free time than at Challenger. How did your son do after moving back to Challenger for 3rd grade? Was he able to cope up with the rest of the students in the class?

  131. Anamika says:

    I totally disagree with your post. My son is in Challenger since preschool and is now in 3rd grade. Initially everything went great and he got the scholarship too every year. Last yr the syllabus started getting hectic and this year it is at its worse. He spends all weekends preparing for the tests for the following week. he has 8 tests every single week and these are not really fill in the blanks type, but 30-50 marks each, essay type questions. I have a hard time trying to get his hws done and prepare him for his tests. If your kid is independent, then you will be OK, otherwise it will be a nightmare. We have decided to move him out of challenger next year. The poor kid doesn’t have a life other than studies right now. That said, I have heard that it is just his teacher who is so strict. I found that the other 3rd grade class is 2 weeks behind in their syllabus compared to my son’s class and also do not have so much homework. Not sure why the administration allows this kind of difference in syllabus for the same grade in the same branch.

  132. Former Teacher says:

    I am a 12 year veteran teacher(taught at very reputable college preparatory private schools before), and I found the Challenger campus where I taught to be horrid. The repetition in the lower grades is good for skill mastering, but by the time the students reach middle school, they are no longer challenged by the work– they are burdened by it, yes, but challenged? No.

    There was no room allowed for the use of alternative teaching methods, and teachers were expected to maintain ridiculous lesson plans– like the student’s work, it was a burden and not a help to the teaching environment since the schools curriculum was already set up by monthly and daily required lessons. Imagine, if you can, a very talented and skilled teacher being forced to break down a curriculum outlines handed to her into a more detailed lesson-by-lesson plans. It took me hours to complete these lesson plans, and because teaching is dynamic, the hours spent on breaking the lesson plan provided by the school into the more detailed plan was a waste of time from one week to the next.

    While I understand the usefulness of a lesson plan, and used them diligently at every school I have taught at previously, the ridiculous details requested by the administration (to be copied and turned in each Friday), admittedly, bred contempt in me. Not to mention, that the time wasted on their completion was time I could have spent building engaging activities for my students.

    I quickly found that engaging activities (field trips, guest speakers, etc) were not desired, but instead, they wanted lectures and structured “projects”. Lecture-based learning, in my humble opinion, is archaic and not effective with today’s students. As Sugata Mitra has proven in his many experiments in third world countries, children do not need the traditional teacher any longer — in fact, they learn more and are more successful without one.

    To understand my perspective, and my dissatisfaction with the way the curriculum at Challenger was carried out on my campus, please watch the videos: “Changing Education Paradigms”, and “Sugata Mitra: Kids can teach themselves”.

    I think that if you want your child to get a great educational start, the PreK-5th grade curriculum at Challenger is fantastic; however, they stifle the learning and imaginative process in the 6th-8th grades preventing the older students from experiencing real world applications of the information that has been given to them.

    I left the teaching profession for good after my stint at Challenger. To me, “education” succeeds when the “teachers” are passionate, engaging, and trusted as professionals to deliver information in a way that inspires “students” to want to learn more on their own. While a few of my students thrived in the rigorous classroom environment, the majority of them expressed that the only thing challenging about the middle school was the amount of work that was given to them on a daily basis; the work itself was considered “busy work”.

  133. sha says:

    I am looking to place my kids into either Stratford or Challenger. I was wondering if anyone knows where the kids go after they complete 8th grade? If they can get into a great HIgh School and then a University of their choice; then I would like them to go to an elementary school that builds towards that.

  134. AA says:

    Has anyone seen a significant advantage of a child going to kindergarten and then moving to regular public school? I have heard from other parents that , unless your child does go through 8th grade, there is no point in doing kindergarten or a few grades of the elementary , as they all level out in public school? Any input will help, as I am in the middle of making a decision of my child continuing kindergarten at challenger

  135. mathymom says:

    I am a challenger mom with a child in 2nd grade. The teaching is based on auditory learning – the teacher talks, the kids listen and learn. If you have a visual learner or another kind of learner, then, your child will be doomed. They use Saxon which has a scripted lesson plan for math. I do not like challenger because my child has tested as highly gifted for IQ and the Challenger philosophy is “one size fits all” regarding curriculum – he does the same saxon worksheet as every other child in his class. We enrich my child after school in math as the subject is too easy for him. What I like about challenger is the advanced literature studies and poetry studies they do and the fact that they taught my child with horrible handwriting to learn beautiful cursive script. I also like that they make an attempt at teaching geography, science and computer programming at the early stage. They do not have a real music program (they listen to CDs and sing) and they do not have languages at the early elementary level. My child has memorized a lot of facts for geography, science etc, but I am not sure what the retention will be in a year or two. Just look up the teachers your child has on linkedin – they are usually very unqualified (first job as a teacher, college degree in unrelated field, with zero work experience) but, they are given a standard lesson plan and told to stick to it diligently.
    I am looking for an alternative school. Maybe I will change schools for him before middle school.
    I read reviews on this thread a couple of years ago and wanted to write my own experiences now.

  136. Mom of grade 3 student says:

    Hi
    This is a very interesting website. Gives good prospects. Here are my 2 cents.
    Let me start, i am very academic focused parent, but also want my kid to be good in extracurricular which is important part of life. Here are steps i followed, my comments may help some parents… So now i start..
    First steps: My kid went to challenger Berryessa from preschool to grade 3.
    Very focussed studies
    Very academic – tests very day
    Definitely less sports- none only free play or u enroll into paid afterschool classes.
    I personally liked the different science exhibitions, speech, maths festivals etx
    Parents were involved.
    Perfect place for building strong foundation in maths, science, grammar
    Maths and grammar are ahead of public of same level until grade 3.
    Second step:
    I moved to him palo alto district -Api 960 (any good school district with 900 above api)
    Addional: kumon classes more personalized than challenger academics and same curriculum as challenger
    Robotics and other curriculum classes in same price i pay for challenger.

    Reasons of my move at Grade 3
    1. Students to teacher ratio and 1×1 attention is less 28:1 student : teacher ratio
    2. Tests and heavy academic pressure without proper guidance in class
    3. Needed lots of parental help and involvement for prep and support for tests as they are alwys in fast paced and with 28 students per class, teachers hardly have time for each individual kids. If your kid is good and focussed by himself he will do well, if not you as parent and he as student will just get depressed with marks.
    My kid was in first category- very focussed and finishes his homework by himself, still both me and he struggled with fast pace and tests and without clearing concepts
    4. Without 1×1 focus students needs to take challenger curriculum and finish at home
    5. I felt palo alto public and personalized kumon is very much like – challenger structure in maths and grammer and spelling but with more personalized tutoring (be prepar d with same homwwork though- which my kid doesnt mind)
    6. More time and can spend more money on extra curricular classes enrichment classes – robotics, tennis, basketball etx
    Finally: big one – i wanted to move to a good district pre middle school, so my kid can make freinds and grow into culture of public school and easy enrollment into good public high schools. As challenger just have until middle school, for highschool we have to apply separately
    These are my 2cents between public and private and how to transition and when to transition. Hope it’s helpful to some parents.

  137. A Student says:

    I think that Challenger is not a bad school. Now, I’m not trying to promote it, but here are some of the pros and cons I noticed:

    Pro-They come in to play when your child likes crafts and things like that. They are also teaching grammar at a young age. I think they are overdoing it a bit too much, because first graders diagram sentences and preschoolers can read and write a bit. However, there is a thing many parents noticed– when they send their kids to Challenger and graduate there, they tend to do extremely well in certain high schools.

    Cons-I don’t really know how to say this, but I think they should tune down the thing that says learning should be fun. New headmaster at the Ardenwood campus, Mrs. Salazar, is kind of a nut and not at the same time. She isn’t afraid to pull you out of class to talk to you while the other people are practicing the annual Spring Program with the music teacher. She also sets random rules that drive the middle schoolers a bit nuts too.

    That’s all I have to say.

  138. PGJ says:

    STAY AWAY FROM CHALLENGER SCHOOLS. They are dishonest and will lie to cover up their issues. Challenger in Meridian, Idaho is one of the worst. THE TEACHER IS THE BULLY!!! The teacher uses shame, humiliation and intimidation and is such a liar. Administration supports her and states she is an excellent teacher and the problem is an over-sensitive student. Will no longer attend Challenger. What a waste of money!!!!!!!!! And some day that teacher will get back what she has given out. Who hurts children?

  139. Swapna says:

    One of the worst preschools I have ever visited – office staff is not compassionate. They do not support kids trying to fit into a new environment – 3 year old kids. They expect kids to be on board the first half of the first day at class visit. I do not recommend this preschool at all.

  140. Former Employee says:

    Challenger just lost one of heir greatest assets when they fired me after challenging their decision to arbitrarily not promote my child to the next grade citing “non-comportment.” Irony is that as a teacher, all year I dealt with a child who would eat his own feces and play in the toilet – yet his attendance was still allowed. I ask, how disruptive do you think this was to the rest of my class when I am ORDERED to witness every bathroom break he had!? I was frequently put in a position where his breaks had to be denied because I was unable to watch him. Yet, apparently, playing with your shoelaces in class is DISRUPTIVE!? Ever since Barbara died, the mission of management is to squeeze out those who get discounts for their children. These extreme tea party goers (ask the elementary teachers about coercion regarding tea party rallies and ask why they no longer teach about slavery!). Mr Walton has been busted and held accountable for his racist remarks. Oh yeah I like how his kid can leap from play equipment after using improperly and yet that’s comportment!? CHALLENGER SCHOOL BLOWS!!

  141. Parent says:

    Good site. My son goes to preschool at challenger. His teacher is so strict.
    My son is kind of shy with outsiders. Teacher complains & complains, it is so hard to take it. I’d expect some kindness in teachers, (they do have good ones too) but we landed with this teacher. My son is not doing well in preschool, he learns & does everything with me at home, but not being able to speak up and show his talents in school. A good private preschool should be able to help your kid in bringing out his best. Not intimidate him at school. They complain that he doesn’t play with other kids much, can’t his teacher help him play with others, just till he feels comfortable. They just complain. I agree preschool curriculum is good, but not with any teacher.

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