American Community School of Abu Dhabi, Al Khalidyah – The Review
Updated January 2019 – American Community School of Abu Dhabi fees, context and awarding of SchoolsCompared.Com Top 25 Schools Award for the Best Schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi 2017, Best American School in the UAE 2019
The American Community School of Abu Dhabi [ACS] is a non-profit, US curriculum college mixed, co-educational preparatory offering a parallel stream International Baccalaureate and US High School curriculum for 1094 children between KG phases and Grade 12.
Established in 1971 -72, the school was the first American school in the capital and founded with the support of the late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who provided its current site. The American Community School of Abu Dhabi prioritises admission to families of officers within the American Embassy Abu Dhabi and the school in its founding reflects the close links between the US and Abu Dhabi governments.
The American Community School of Abu Dhabi Superintendent (Head Mistress), Dr. Robin Heslip, had been in post since July 2013 and under her leadership the school improved markedly, achieving at its last ADEC inspection the “High Performing A2” award, representing a “Very Good” school with “Outstanding” features.
Dr Heslop is an educationalist by training, receiving her BSc (education) and Masters from Wisconsin La-Crosse, and a subsequent doctorate in curriculum and Instruction from the University of Oregon in the early 1990’s. She has extensive international experience with more than 18 years in teaching, 6 years at the Director of Curriculum at the International School of Kuala Lumpur; 6 years as the Principal of Lincoln, The American International School of Buenos Aires; and, most recently prior taking her role at ACS, 6 years as Principal of The American International School of Zagreb. Her career began with nine years teaching experience in the US in Wisconsin.
In July 2018 Monique Flickinger was appointed a Principal following Dr. Heslip’s decsison to pursue her career at the US Departament of State. Ms Flickinger brings with her 25 years experience in education across schools worldwide. Latterly she worked as Head of School of The Metropolitan School of Panama, where she is the Head of School where she oversaw the authorization of the MYP/DP program and was elected to the IB Head’s Council. Ms Flickinger has specialist interest in integrating technology and innovation trends within schools. A mathematician by early training, she has secured qualifications from the University of Victoria, University of Wyoming and Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
The school’s logo has eight points, representing the four pillars of the school’s mission to develop excellence in academics, the Arts, athletics and service and the school’s four core values: courage; curiosity; compassion; and integrity.
Fees are premium, ranging between 45,400 in KG1 to 83,000 in Years 9 -12. What they do not buy prospective parents are shiny new facilities or bells and whistles. That is not what the school is about – and it is up front about this.
Instead the focus is on its namesake community ethics: developing the whole-child, delivering outstanding teaching provision across every aspect of academic, Performing Arts and sporting life, and nurturing a happy, inspirational and unforgettable school life for its students.
Investment at The American Community School of Abu Dhabi is targeted in teaching, the single biggest cost of any school, with a very high investment of 1 teacher to every 9 students to ensure that every child has his or her talents discovered and met. That investment also sees the school keeping its staff – turnover runs just short of 2%.
The ACS curriculum is designed to deliver on that ambition to meet children’s individual, focused needs. The backbone is the International Baccalaureate, but unlike a number of other Tier 1’s, the inclusive approach sees all students taking individual IB subjects according to ability and talent. A more limited number of academic all-rounders at The American Community School of Abu Dhabi sit for the full International Baccalaureate Diploma. The end result is that all non-IB students graduate with the US High School Diploma – but with the whole-child weight and depth of 1 or more IB subjects behind them, considerably strengthening the US qualification and their individual talents and gifs. Results, published in depth by The American Community School of Abu Dhabi, are impressive for both groups.
97% of students sitting the full IB Diploma pass with an average point score of 35, against a world average 32.9. Individually ACS students score an average 5.56 against the world average of 4.7. Of the non-full IB Diploma students, 97% of students at The American Community School of Abu Dhabi sit one or more IB papers with an average score of 5.2 and 41% achieving the highest tier scoring of Grade 6 or higher. The US High School Diploma programme is based on Common Core State Standards [CCCS] and accredited by the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools [MSA].compressed_ACS Profile 2016
Whilst buildings at The American Community School of Abu Dhabi are typical 70’s-feel, two-tier style, uninspiring concrete affairs, the school’s planting of flowers and shrubs in its many outdoor gardens and seating areas softens the edges. Every phase is adorned with hallway and classroom displays of student’s work adding colour, richness and life. The school actively celebrates the achievements of its pupils.
The digital campus is structured around the three Elementary, Middle and High School divisions, each with outdoor spaces/courtyards. At Elementary phase this includes separate KG and Grades 1-5 playgrounds. Shared facilities include a swimming pool; fitness centre; gymnasium; and multi-use auditorium for assemblies, events, theatre and performance; 6 dedicated science labs; 3 large indoor gyms; Community Service Centre; extensive shaded areas for play and meeting; separate Elementary and Senior combined library and media centres; prayer room; canteen; and music rooms. The school’s two central playing fields take centre stage and are used for an extensive sporting and community events programme Resourcing of all facilities at The American Community School of Abu Dhabi, across materials, technology, equipment and instruments, is outstanding.
Extra and co-curricular provision [E/CCAs] is outstanding in breadth and quality. Clubs and activities include an array of provision around the IB, TV production, architectural design, robotics, drama, music, instruments; community service; Lego; model United Nations; public speaking; arts and crafts; field trips; student council; martial arts; animal action; athletics; books; creative writing; enterprise, iVipers; Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund work; Tri-M; dance crew; Hands on Haiti; Prom Committee; boy, girl and Cub scouts; jazz band; choir; drama; and Zumba, story-time and scrap-booking for younger children.
Independent feedback to whichschooladvisor has been limited but uniformly glowing. The American Community School of Abu Dhabi students write of “loving my school” and being “blessed.” Interestingly feedback has strengthened in 2016-18 and the school has now been awarded WhichSchoolAdvisor Good School 2016-17 and 2017-18 status, its highest award for the Emirate’s best schools.
American Community School of Abu Dhabi Bottom line? The SchoolsCompared.com verdict 2019
The American Community School of Abu Dhabi is a school that you have to dig into that bit deeper to appreciate the outstanding scale of its ambition and delivery.
Unlike newer glass and steel clad, shiny “bells and whistles” Tier 1 schools, investment by ACS is not of the bricks and mortar variety. It resides, instead, in the spaces in between – the students, teachers, and resources that really matter.
A 2% turnover in staff and startlingly high teacher to child provision are telling.
The school is “alive” with students and faculty that clearly feel a deep and palpable commitment to a school filled to bursting with creativity, curiosity, learning and achievement. The academic, Arts and sporting offer at The American Community School of Abu Dhabi borders on exceptional, but the measure of this school is that electric sense of community that ACS brings to life.
There is in our view a weakness. It is frustrating to raise it. It is simply this. In our view, even in a selective school like the American School of Abu Dhabi, we think the International Baccalaureate programme is not complete without the Career-related programme. The Diploma will simply never fit the needs, aspirations, potential and ability of all children. Subject breadth has to be a measure of a school. It seems obvious to us that the school would benefit from its introduction given that only around half of children are entered for the Diploma. This means that the other half of children are dependent on a High School Diploma which simply does not have the international currency with either employers or universities of with of its IB counterparts.
This said, the American Community School of Abu Dhabi absolutely shines across the spectrum of its provision, teaching, culture of creativity, and whole child education for children. It’s something to behold – you cannot but be inspired.
Very Good with Outstanding features
Very Good with Outstanding features
YEAR 1: 68,600
YEAR 2: 68,600
YEAR 3: 68,600
YEAR 4: 68,600
YEAR 5: 68,600
YEAR 6: 68,700
YEAR 7: 68,700
YEAR 8: 68,700
YEAR 9: 83,000
YEAR 10: 83,000
YEAR 11: 83,000
YEAR 12: 783,000
YEAR 13: NA
International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme [PYP]
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme [DP]
Common Core State Standards [CCCS]
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools [MSA]
Middle States Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools [CESS]
International Baccalaureate Organisation
(1) In 2018 only 48 of the 80 student Senior cohort were entered for the full IB Diploma program.
(2) In 2017 only only 38 of the 79 student Senior cohort were entered for the full IB Diploma program.
(1) Only 48 of the 80 student Senior cohort were entered for the full IB Diploma program.
Number of students: 38
Percentage completing programme: 97%
ACS Average score 2015: 5.56
World average score 2015: 4.7
Average points awarded: 35
Non Diploma students:
Percentage sitting one or more IBD exam: 97%
Average score: 5.2
Pass rate: 100%
Grade 6 or higher: 41%
Grade 5 or higher: 78%
Grade 4 or higher: 97%
Admission to ACS is based upon the student's application, previous school records, teacher, principal and/or counselor confidential assessments, work habits, and, in some cases, an admissions test.
Admittance is by priority category (1 and 2 have significant weighting):
1. Children of ACS Faculty Members
2. Students bearing American passports or with a parent or legal guardian who bears an American passport, in the following priority:
a. Children of employees of the American Embassy Abu Dhabi
b. Children of employees of ACS Corporate Sponsors (PALs)
c. Siblings of current ACS students
d. all other such children
3. Non-American students who are children of employees of ACS Corporate Sponsors (PALs)
4. Non-American siblings of current ACS students
5. Former ACS students and children of former ACS students
6. Non-American students transferring directly from an American curriculum school abroad or in the United States
7. All other students meeting admission requirements
School is oversubscribed
Not published (WSA projected HIGH)
1971 (KHDA 1972)
Al Khalidyah, Abu Dhabi
Student number: 1,094
KG: 120 students
Grades 1 - 5: 335 students
Grades 6 - 8: 272 students
Grades 9 - 12: 367
Special Educational Needs [SEN]: 6%
Gifted and Talented (G&T): 0%
Community School (Board of Trustees)
+971 (0) 2 681 5115 Ext. 444
• Outstanding curriculum, targeted to an individualised education with the resources to make it happen
• One of the lowest staff-turnover rates in the Emirates
• High ratio of staff to student provision
• Hugely successful new Head has worked miracles in a very short space of time
• ADEC A2 rating bordering on A1 outstanding in key areas – and the school has significant more capacity available to improve still further
• Community built into the DNA – and it shows
• Resources abound
• ECA provision extensive and very high quality
• Hugely over-subscribed
• US Diplomatic families the only sure-fire priority entrance route to the school