Challenger School: Myths, Pros and Cons

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.

Author: Pran Kurup

Pran Kurup is founder and CEO of Vitalect, Inc.

146 thoughts on “Challenger School: Myths, Pros and Cons”

  1. 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.


  2. 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,


  3. 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 ?


  4. 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.


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


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



  8. 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.


  9. 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.


    1. A couple years after I’m wondering which school did u finally choose for your kid ? Challenger or mary hill or other school ?? I’m living in Las Vegas and thinking to put my son to challenger for pre k this year too


  10. 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.


  11. 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.


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


  12. 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.


  13. 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.


  14. 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


  15. 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.


  16. 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.


  17. 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?


  18. 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.


  19. 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.


  20. 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


  21. 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


  22. 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.


  23. 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.


  24. 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: 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. 🙂


  25. @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?


  26. 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.


  27. 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”.


  28. 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.


  29. 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


  30. 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.


  31. 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.


  32. 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.


  33. 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?


  34. 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.


  35. 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!!


  36. 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.


  37. Great insight everyone! My girls are only one and I am already looking at private schools for them. I have recently toured a challenger school in Las Vegas, I liked how academically focused they are. I am also going to tour Meadows once school is in session. Does anyone in Vegas have comparison between Meadows and Challenger? I know Meadows have way smaller class sizes than Challenger (8 vs 22 for 2 teachers at age 3), but some time I worry low ratio wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing for shy kids, especially given the fact I have twins, they alone would make a quarter of the class’ population.


  38. I am the fellow parent of an elementary school student at Challenger School Middlefield campus. I came across your information on Yelp reading the reviews that other parents have written about the Challenger School.

    I would like to ask you about an issue that concerns me right now with the playground surface at the Challenger School Middlefield campus. As you have probably noticed before, the playground surface is made out of shredded recycled tires or “tire mulch.” From personally watching my child and his classmates play, I have noticed that many children walk, jump, dive, and fall onto the playground surface. In fact, the children’s hands, face, and clothing would often turn dark due to exposure to the materials that make up the playground surface. On hot days when I see the children playing outside, I can sense the strong tire smell and it really bothers me that our children could be breathing in toxic fumes containing harmful chemicals found in shredded recycled tires.

    Have you had similar concerns? If so, have you contacted school officials about it?

    I spoke to Ms. Bhave recently regarding my concern and she does not appear knowledgeable about the issue (she did say other parents have brought it up before). Ms. Bhave told me that the playground surface was installed 4 years ago and it’s the responsibility of the equipment department to make sure that these surfaces are safe for the children to play on everyday. I followed-up and asked Ms. Bhave to pass my concern to the appropriate personnel at the corporate office. So far, I have not heard anything back.

    Having done some further research, I found out that recycled tires contain an abundance of harmful chemicals such as phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are serious health risks and can cause cancer along with irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Regular exposure to these substances has even caused death in children.

    You can find numerous articles online about the harmful health effects of children playing on surfaces made out of shredded recycled tires such as this one I found from the National Center For Health Research:

    If you have friends and family with children who attend the Challenger School Middlefield campus, please pass the word around about the toxic materials that make up the playground surface and join me in requesting that school officials do something about it for the sake of our children. In the very least, I would find some level of comfort if unbiased tests were conducted by an independent agency that confirms that the materials from which the playground surface is constructed are not toxic to our children and cannot pose as health risks that could potentially cause cancer and harmful irritation.


  39. Hi!

    I approached this website as I am making a decision to begin sending my 2nd grade son to Challenger. We live in Farmington, UT, a fast growing suburb of SLC and there is a new Challenger here that opened with early grades and is growing and will open 3rd grade next year.

    I realize there is a lot of negative complaining about Challenger here with a lot of discussion of just moving the kids to Public School with supplement tutoring. I am actually surprised by this.

    I just have to say, I have been EXTREMELY frustrated with our public school which is a 8/10 on Great Schools and is known in the area to be the best public school.

    I feel like my son is lost in the shuffle. He is super smart, has been reading since age 3 and wants to be an astrophysicist.

    Here is the problem. There are 30 kids in his class, and the teacher is just so overwhelmed that my son does not get any individual attention. His is very smart but is unmotivated to learn in this chaotic environment. He has all these little issues that I feel his teacher should help him address, but there are other kids with way worse than him so he does not get any attention and just falls through the cracks. I do supplement his math education at Mathnasium over the summer but it frustrates me that he does not get it IN school.

    Last year I sent him to Challenger for 1st grade SUMMER school and it was like he had this light in his eyes! He loved it and was producing amazing work – writing in paragraphs and doing science experiments where he documented his “hypothesis” and “conclusion.” His writing was perfect and somehow they were able to get so much out of him. He loved every second.

    Fast forward to actual first grade in public school, his writing ability slid backwards and the light was gone. His math is mediocre but since he’s so smart the teacher says he’s above average but I know he can do so much more.

    So despite the cost ($1,027 a month) I am considering moving him there next year. All the things people are complaining about seem like tiny non-issues compared to what we deal with in public school.

    So we have not made our decision yet but I just wanted to write in to show the appeal of a Challenger standardized accelerated curriculum where their test results are over the national average.

    Thanks and I’ll keep you posted.


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