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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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?


  8. 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.


  9. 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.


  10. 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…:-)


  11. 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!


    1. After leaving Challenger in sixth grade, I was able to test and take mostly 9th grade courses. All courses except for history and science I was able to take 9th grade level courses, but this was an online school so it may be different than a common-core brick-and-mortar school.


  12. 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?


  13. 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?


  14. 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.


  15. 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.


  16. 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.


  17. 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.


  18. 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.


  19. 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.


  20. 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.


  21. 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!


  22. 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!


  23. 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.


  24. 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.


  25. 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.


  26. 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?


  27. 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.


  28. 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



  29. 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.


  30. 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?


  31. 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.


  32. 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.


  33. 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.


  34. 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.


  35. 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?


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


  37. We have the complete set of Challenger Phonics set for sale. If interested please reply to 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.


  38. 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?


  39. 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.


  40. 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!


  41. 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.


  42. 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!


  43. 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


  44. 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.


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