My boyfriend and I went through CIEE for Teach Abroad in China and would not recommend going through CIEE to anyone, for the following reasons;
1) The program costs a great deal of money ($2000+) and the services rendered are advertised as placement, an orientation, information on the teaching process and living abroad in China, and visa acquisition. When placing people, CIEE does not closely follow the requests of either the individual (We specifically requested to not be placed teaching children and were placed at a preschool) or the school (our school asked for people with two years of experience or more and they were provided with us. We had no experience working with children and my boyfriend had no work experience). Furthermore, they do not provide clear information about the ability to reject a placement. As for the orientation, the location was nice, as well as some of the activities, but the information rendered was far too little and, often, not accurate (For example, CIEE provided us no information on taxes, little information on teaching [especially for the preschool level], and their Chinese lessons, although split up into different competency levels, were all provided with the same packet).
The visa acquisition in particular is the largest strike on their system for me. We were provided little information about how the visas are secured and no forewarning about how the visas may not be acquired in time. It came as a shock to receive an email from CIEE telling us that our visas would not be acquired in time and that we needed to change our arrival date. We had spoken to CIEE previously about visa acquisition, as we wanted to arrive a few days early, and they had informed us that this would be no problem. However, when the visa wasn't coming through, I tried to get more information from them, and they became impossible to reach. Once I finally reached my coordinator, he begrudgingly agreed that the visa could be acquired in Hong Kong at our own expense, but would not provide me with details as to what would go into this effort. I understood that CIEE was not at fault for the visas not coming through, but their literature had not been forthright about the possibility. As information was the bulk of what I was paying them for, I pointed this out to the coordinator and suggested that the literature be updated to be more forthright. It was not updated.
When I asked the coordinator if I was guaranteed to get my visa by the date they told us to arrive, he informed me that we were never, in fact, guaranteed to get any visa from them, but if we had not received any visa by October, they would refund "a part" of our program fees. This was, in fact, generous of them, as their contract rather brutally absolves them of pretty much everything that can go wrong.
Once we informed CIEE that we did intend on getting our visas in Hong Kong, lest we incurred more cost, they danced on thin ice with our visa applications, waiting for the Z paperwork to come in, even though I requested that they didn't and I wanted to incur the cost on my own. We did not receive our passports with the L visa back until the day we were leaving. Once we reached Shanghai, we had been no better informed about what would occur, even after asking 2 CIEE representatives who were supposed to be the head of their departments. We were told that our school would handle everything. Once we finally went to Hong Kong to acquire our Z visa, we were informed by the Hong Kong office that our US physicals were not valid for visa acquisition in Hong Kong. When we called CIEE Shanghai, they were surprised by this fact, but did nothing to help us solve the situation. When we called CIEE Portland, they condescendingly informed us that we had been "warned" and informed that this would happen. When we told them that we were, in fact, not, they, again, did nothing other than admit their mistake.
2) CIEE representatives have often fallen off the grid and been completely impossible to get a hold of (this has been an experience program-wide over here). When CIEE representatives are reached, they often have nothing better to tell you to talk to your school about it.
3) I was informed by my school that they go through CIEE partially because it allows them to pay their teachers significantly less. That said, there are jobs in my area that require less time and experience (and no degree) that pay over double what I receive in a month.
In conclusion, what you can receive through CIEE Teach Abroad, be it information, TEFL certificate, a job placement, visa paperwork, and a short stint in Shanghai, can easily be acquired on your own and is not worth the large program fee forked over. If you are looking for a support network in China, CIEE is not a strong candidate.