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The Chinese American International School (CAIS) is an independent, not-for-profit school that has a unique history with deep and firm philosophical roots. CAIS was founded by a small group of visionary leaders and educators in 1981 as the first school in the United States dedicated to Chinese-English dual language immersion and a deep understanding of Chinese culture. From an enrollment of just ten students in its inaugural year, CAIS now enrolls approximately 520 students from Pre-K through grade eight. For the three-plus decades since its founding, CAIS’s commitment to dual language and dual culture education, international mindedness and diversity of every sort has remained at the core of our vision and educational program. Time has borne out the importance of our founders’ vision; today leaders from all sectors of society point to the growing importance of Chinese language and culture and of the values that have characterized CAIS from its inception. We are proud of our leading role in preparing culturally sensitive, globally literate young people with a high level of proficiency in Chinese for the world that awaits them.
This is an exciting time at CAIS. Based on the collaborative input of a broad group of school stakeholders, we have developed a long-term strategic vision. The strategic vision follows the development of a revitalized statement of mission, and includes a multi-year dual language immersion curriculum project; an array of China focused international exchange, study and travel opportunities. The CAIS board of trustees is deeply engaged in development and facilities planning work to support the emerging educational goals of the strategic vision. In 2015 CAIS middle school moved from its current location on the fourth floor of our main campus to the new site. This also opened program space on the main campus for new program initiatives. At 35 years old, we are a school on the move that has hit its stride.
CAIS is divided into three school divisions; early childhood (Pre-K), lower school (K–fifth grade) and middle school (sixth–eighth grade). From Pre-K through fifth grade CAIS students spend a half day in an immersion setting with a native Chinese speaking teacher and a half day with an English speaking teacher. The core subjects of math, social studies and language arts are taught in both languages. Additionally, there are specialist teachers in science, music, art and PE. CAIS makes an effort to offer a combination of English and Chinese instruction in special classes, with a particular emphasis on Chinese art and music. The lower school has a well developed social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum in both Chinese and English.
In middle school (grades 6-8) Students study their core classes of English language arts, social studies, science and math in English in addition to classes in language arts and social studies taught in Chinese. As in the lower grades, CAIS makes an effort to offer a combination of English and Chinese instruction in special classes. Middle school teaching and learning are served by a 1:1 iPad program. The middle school offers a well-developed outdoor education program each year. There is an auxiliary program that offers a wide variety of after school and summer co-curricular programs in both Chinese and English. In grades five and eight, CAIS students have the opportunity to take part in exchange and travel programs in Taiwan and Mainland China. In grade seven all students spend three weeks studying in China and living with local host families as part of the required educational program. Also beginning in grade five there are opportunities to participate in interscholastic sports.
CAIS students come from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural, national, linguistic and family backgrounds. This reflects the school’s commitment to inclusion, which is supported by a generous tuition assistance program. The common link shared by CAIS students is that their families have deliberately chosen a school committed to a Chinese-English dual language immersion program and a deep understanding of Chinese culture. Our teachers frequently remark that one of the top reasons they enjoy working at CAIS is the support and involvement of our families in their children’s education.
Teachers and Staff
CAIS has an international faculty that is roughly half native English speaking and half native Chinese speaking. Our team comes from all over the US and Greater China and share a commitment to the mission of the school. They must demonstrate a sincere commitment and sensitivity to working in an environment where cross cultural issues permeate the daily life of the school. Faculty and staff members are expected to play active roles in the collaborative planning and implementation of school initiatives. Each CAIS teacher in the early childhood and lower school programs is supported by a full-time, dedicated teaching associate. Administrative support for faculty consists of a Head of School, a whole school director of Chinese language and culture programming, a curriculum coordinator, and division directors for the early childhood, lower school, and middle school programs. Other support for faculty includes a student services team (counseling, learning and Chinese language support), an educational technology coordination team (English and Chinese) teaching specialists in science, music, art, PE and technology and a director of after school and co-curricular programs.
CAIS is located in the heart of San Francisco in the thriving and centrally located Hayes Valley neighborhood that is served by bus, streetcar and subway. We share our urban campus, which includes a gymnasium and three playgrounds, with the French American International School. In 2009 CAIS’s Early Childhood Division moved to its own facility just a short walk from the main campus. In 2015 the CAIS middle school moved into the new 888 Campus, tripling its program space.
In January of 2014, the CAIS Board of Trustees launched a long-term Strategic Vision that was developed through a thorough a consultative process involving a wide variety of school stakeholders. School year 2016-17 saw a refinement of the vision to carry us into an even brighter future. The school’s current initiatives are driven by this Strategic Vision, which may be viewed here.
CAIS by Numbers
Grades: Pre-K through 8th grade
Fulltime, lead classroom teachers: 37
Student-fulltime teacher ratio: 14-1
Operating budget: $17,000,000
Annual fundraising: $1,700,000
Tuition: $27,400 (Pre-K–Fifth), $28,100 (Sixth–Eighth)
Tuition Assistance: $1,350,000
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