Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hot topic: switching schools

Let's say you have a child named Joey who is turning five in September. You're undecided on when to start him in kindergarten: this year at five or next year at six? You tour some schools, and in January you opt to apply to both private and public—just to see what happens. Why not?

Jump forward to March: You open your mailbox to find rejections from all the privates and an assignment at a strong public. You're pleased with the public option but you're crestfallen by a "no" from your favorite private. You formulate a plan: Send Joey to public kindergarten this fall; then next year reapply to private, hopefully get in, and have him repeat kindergarten. Good idea? A friend of mine actually asked an admissions director at a private school about this. Her response? Not a wise plan. The school would rather see the child go to a special pre-K program or stay in preschool before starting a private school. I don't know exactly why, nor do I know if this is the case at all private schools. What have you heard?

Here's another scenario: You send Joey to a K–5 public school, let's say Lakeshore. He thrives for six years at Lakeshore but he's a shy, quiet kid and you're reluctant to send him to a big public junior high. You think he'll feel lost and overwhelmed. So you try to get Joey into Rooftop for sixth, seventh, and eighth? Is that possible? What's the likelihood of something like this working out?

And another: In this one, Joey's a lively little guy and so you send him to private because you think he needs extra attention in a small environment. Wrong! He's bouncing off the walls! When he's in second grade, you set out to find him a bigger public school. Can you just sign up over at Clarendon or McKinley or Alvarado? How easy is that to do?

Does it seem premature to start thinking about switching schools—when most of us don't even have our kids in school yet? Yes! But in the past few days, I've talked to so many parents about this topic. Everyone wants to know, what can they do if they pick the wrong school? Or how can they work the system to get the perfect fit for their child? Does anyone have thoughts on this?

58 comments:

  1. It may vary a lot depending on the type of private school. It is not at all uncommon for people to enroll their (slightly too young for private school) children in public kindergarten and then repeat kindergarten at parochial school. Our preschool, Lakeside Presbyterian, has a large percentage of kids who mostly go on to St. Brendan's, St. Cecilia's, and St. Gabriel's (along with a smattering of other parochial, private, and public schools). The families I know who did this did so mostly to avoid paying for Lakeside's kindergarten (which is a very nice but not cheap program). These families already had older children in the above mentioned Catholic schools so it's possible that it's a factor when the child is the first in a family to apply. It may sound odd to have cost-conscious folks going private but you have to remember that for parish members with the multiple kid discount, parochial schools can be really cheap.

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  2. Kids in K-8s sometimes leave after 5th to go to a bigger middle school so Rooftop always has a couple of openings for 6th grade. They probably have a couple of openings for every grade because people move around.

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  3. I've spoken with a number of parents who moved their kids from one SF public to another in 2nd or 3rd grade, for various reasons (a family move, a younger child in special ed, etc.) None of their kids seem to have had any problems adjusting. Personally, I went to 4 different schools in grades 1-4 and it didn't really affect me much.

    I also know someone whose son got into her first choice, high demand public school for 1st grade after spending a year in K somewhere else, but she decided to turn the spot down because he was happy where he was.

    You can actually look at past year's wait lists on the school district's website. There are wait lists in the upper grades but they are much shorter than the kindergarten wait lists.

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  4. I can't speak for the privates and what they want -- I have definitely known cases where "your child isn't ready for kinder -- try again next year" seemed to be a put-off and they got a rejection the following year too. But who knows.

    It's perfectly possible and quite routine to move a child from one SFUSD school to another during "non-transitional grades" (meaning any besides starting K, 6 or 9). In fact, sometimes it sounds like oversubscribed schools that are viewed as impossible when you're applying to K are pretty accessible, if you hit it lucky, at another grade level. I know many, many families who have done that.

    Of course, transferring from a non-immersion program to an immersion program is not likely to work. I think it happens with kids from homes where the "target language" is the home language. I do know a child from a non-Spanish-speaking home who started Buena Vista in
    1st grade after K at a non-immersion school. That seemed to work out.

    As someone else noted, It's also possible (though not a slam-dunk) to get a 6th-grade spot in a popular K-8 such as Rooftop or Claire Lilienthal. Kids do transfer out of those schools to comprehensive middle schools, leaving some openings, plus there are the usual families moving away, etc.

    If you're looking at a number on the wait list, don't forget that those don't really mean much. Lots of names listed on the wait list aren't really on it anymore (this is true in any situation) -- they like where they are after all; they've found something else they like; they've moved away; whatever.

    I know one rather extreme case -- the child has attended (get ready, and I'm not making this up): Rooftop, Synergy, S.F. Community; Presidio Hill; Clarendon; and currently Creative Arts Charter. (The family has not moved residences during that time.) The impact on the child aside, the family doesn't seem to have had difficulty finding openings when they've decided to make a switch.

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  5. When I toured Rooftop Middle School a couple of years back, the parent leading the tour said that about a third of the kids leave to go to other middle schools. The reason was that the bigger schools can offer more options (such as a language) and have AP classes instead of AP kids mixed in with the rest.

    Private schools also recognize that the switch to middle school is a time some parents want to move out of the public system and many of them have extra sections in these grades to accommodate that.

    And finally I was surprised by the number of people I spoke to who had switched their kids from one private school to another. I had thought that would be difficult to do but it does seem to happen a fair amount.

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  6. Going back to the original "Joey" scenario and slightly off topic - my daughter does not turn five until November. I have not even considered her not going to school in September, she is ready both academically and socially for school, I am sure...or at least I thought I was until I started getting reactions from friends and neighbors who live here in the city (many of whom do not know my daughter very well and despite this still make general "it's ALWAYS best to wait a year" kind of sweeping comments). The people I speak to in the city seem to have a different view from almost everyone I speak to in other cities/states (and even countries). I know this has been touched on before on this blog but I'm starting to worry, am I missing something? It has to be down to the child - no? and if I am sure my daughter is ready then she is/will be - yes?

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  7. My daughter turns 5 in November as well and I also never considered holding her back a year. She is definitely ready - no question in my mind.

    It is not "always better to wait". I would not want my child bored in school. Back in the day, kids used to skip grades if they were progressing much faster than their peers. To the best of my knowledge, those days are long gone. If your daughter is ready - go for it and disregard what you are hearing from others.

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  8. We sent out November birthday son to kindergarten when he was four and we have never regretted it. Yes some things may have been easier for him if we had waited a year, but we all agree the challenge was good for him. Every kid is different, so its bothersome when people are dogmatic about waiting a year. The hardest thing we dealt with was the people trying to talk us out of it, but once we did it, it was pretty much smooth sailing.

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  9. To the posters with the 4 year olds heading into Kindergarten...

    I have a daughter with a November birthday and she went into Kindergarten when she was 4 (she is now in middle school). At 4, she was deemed 'ready' academically and socially. She has done well overall in her (public) schools. She is GATE identified, but in Math she has, at times, struggled. The difficulties she has had with Math have seemed developmental; she couldn't quite grasp a concept, but then 6 months later it would be easily understood. Her struggles didn't appear until the end of 3rd grade and I have often wondered whether it would have been easier for her to learn Math if she had started Kindergarten at 5.

    Another thing to think about is the age span of your child's peers. My daughter has several friends that are nearly a full year older than she is. In middle school, and as she moves into high school, I can see that an additional year of maturity could be advantageous when confronted by peer pressure to do something risky or foolish.

    All this to say that when considering whether to send your child to Kindergarten at 4, there are many factors to consider, some of which are hard to imagine/forsee when you are looking at a sweet, innocent 4 year old.

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  10. Here’s some more on the “should we wait until she/he’s five before kindergarten debate: one thing that may factor into people's assumption that a child should wait until age 5 to start K is because most if not all private schools here and throughout the country have an Aug or Sep 1 cut-off. I think it is not about academics (a good school should always be able to challenge a child when necessary) at all, but about finding a good social-emotional fit and climate.

    My daughter, who is now in private middle school, has one of those fall birthdays. Though she was academically ready for K, her preschool teachers strongly urged us to let her have another year of pre-k, to mature socially. Though I second-guesssed this decision for many years, I have to say that right now, I am so grateful that we waited. She loves school and has always—since K—had a great group of close friends. When we made our decision to wait so many years ago, people repeatedly told us that kids often fare much better socially and emotionally as one of the oldest kids in a grade, rather than the youngest. Now that she’s in middle school, I’ve really made my peace with the decision: she would really be struggling if she was the youngest girl in the grade ahead of her, as I can see that she would be dealing with more peer pressure and teenage things than she is ready or interested in. Also, like me, she is a late bloomer physically, and I think she would feel conspicuous being both the youngest girl in her class and the least developed. Middle school years can be so hard emotionally—why give a child an extra burden? Academics are really the least of it: she’s always been a top student, and I’m sure she would still thrive academically in the grade ahead. But I don’t know that she would participate in class as much, or take intellectual risks as she does now.

    But I also see it is a case-by-case choice. I’ve heard that first and only children with fall birthdays often do better in K and beyond by starting at 5 not 4, but younger siblings typically do fine. I know that I would never have considered starting kindergarten late for my second child, as she had been around kids and school her whole life. I guess my parting words are don’t just think about how your four-year-old will be now among a group of five-to-six year-olds (which will be the age range in any grade), but think about her when she is only 11 among 12-13 year olds, and 14, in a class of 15-16 year olds. Good luck!

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  11. My son is 17 and in 11th grade, an Oct. 30 birthday. We also kept him out an extra year, starting him in K at 5 1/2. He was clearly highly intelligent, at least in some ways, but obviously socially and emotionally not ready for "big" school. Luckily it worked out logistically just to keep him in the same preschool for an extra year.

    It has just never been an issue one way or another. He's certainly aware that he's among the oldest in his class, but is totally unconcerned by it.

    I have to share one anecdote. My son has a schoolmate, "Jason," a grade ahead of him (now a senior), who has really fallen off track in middle and high school. Jason was a promising, precocious high achiever in elementary school and used to say eagerly that he wanted to go to Stanford. Jason's grades started slipping in middle school, and now his mom says sadly that he'll be lucky to get into City College. All he wants to do is skateboard. Jason's mom has been confiding in me sadly for a couple of years, since we met. I kept worrying that maybe this was in my son's future -- I saw Jason as being in a different developmental stage, since he's a grade ahead. So -- I just learned that Jason is ONE DAY day older than my son, and that his mom wonders whether if they'd kept him out a year this wouldn't have happened. I really doubt if that made a difference, but it's interesting.

    However, Jason aside, I think it's just a decision to make based on the individual child.

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  12. IMO Kate needs to start another Monday thread on redshirting (or move her previous thread on this topic up to the top) since there has been so much interest in this issue.

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  13. There's a great article about this topic:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/magazine/03kindergarten-t.html

    Should get the "red shirt" thread going.

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  14. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/magazine/03kindergarten-t.html

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  15. Drat - for some reason it's not working. Anyway, just google nytimes redshirt and you'll find it. It's from June 2007.

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  16. My daughter turned 5 in August and we decided to send her to public Kindergarten. We had a couple of choices last March (though they didn't all come when we would have liked them to!) but ended up opting with a public we thought we'd like. We did have the option of keeping her at her preschool for a transitional Kindergarten year, but she just seemed SO "ready".

    I have to admit, it might have been a mistake.

    I have been really surprised by the intensity of emphasis on academics and lack of emphasis on social and emotional growth in my daughter's school. I would encourage parents to think about this b/c I think going from preschool to K is a really big step - it is a huge change for kids, so if you do have a good preK or transitional K option, I would say consider it seriously. However, I NEVER would have said that last year. And, my daughter has been "fine" for sure, I don't think she's suffering - and her preschool teacher thought she was ready.

    All of that said, to respond to the earlier part of the post - we are also reapplying to some privates this year, and applying to some new ones. I have wondered whether it would "hurt" us to have that year at public K - but we didn't plan it that way, that's just the situation we're in, and I guess we'll have to deal with it - and see what happens....

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  17. I think the redshirting issue is vastly different when you're talking about public and private schools. In public school, the cutoff is December 1 and any child w/ a b-day by that date ca attend. It means you could end up with some very young kids in kindergarten. While I realize there's an economic component involved (because child care for children too young for K is expensive), I think that by and large the cutoff is too late and should be closer to the start of the school year.

    On the other hand, in private school, the cutoff is usually in August or early September, which is much more reasonable, yet there is still a push (which I believe comes from both the parents and the schools) to hold kids back whose birthdays are earlier and earlier in the calendar year. I've been hearing of kids with spring birthdays being held back. I've seen in my kids' classes that many of these late spring b-day kids who are held back really do seem much too old for the grade, and it's frustrating to see how it affects the dynamic of the class (not to mention frustrating for parents of kids who want to send their kids to kindergarten when they believe they're ready, only to be told that they're "too young" compared to the rest of the class).

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  18. What I've heard is that some private schools set birthday cutoffs as early as possible depending on their applicant pool that year (I was specifically told this about St. Brendan; I haven't heard others named). Also that they often use "your child isn't ready -- try again next year" as a put-off for applicants they're not quite ready to decisively reject.

    Anonymous with the daughter in kindergarten -- please don't feel ilke you HAVE to do private (those tuition checks! your college fund! your retirement! Ouch!) to avoid that overemphasis on young academics. The atmosphere in SFUSD elementary schools really does vary in that area. In our day we chose not to apply to Lawton for that reason, for example.

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  19. "I have been really surprised by the intensity of emphasis on academics [at SFUSD Public Schools]"

    Wow - who'da thunk it? Parents with kids at SFUSD complaining "there's too much academics!"

    Sorry, it is unfortunate that it isn't working out for your kid, but in the end it is somewhat predictable: it's a rule of organizational behaviour that you get what you measure (and give incentives for), so given the emphasis in public schools on test scores, it's not that surprising that the public schools are driving hard on this.

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  20. Just to echo Caroline - the drive for test scores notwithstanding, there are different emphases in different schools.

    From tours I've done, Harvey Milk, SF Community and Jose Ortega seemed to emphasis socialization and emotional development, so you might consider those as better fits for your kid. SF Community and Harvey Milk were noticable for having decent academics (APIs 780-800, IIRC) but having very diverse intakes and not having academics as the be-all-and-end-all of the school.

    Both SF Community and West Portal have classes with combined grades (e.g. K-1, 2-3, etc.), and that might be a good solution for your kid - she'd go from being the youngest in the class to being in the middle. [In SF Community, all the classes are combined grades, wheras I think it's only a subset of the chinese immersion kids at West Portal.] Anyway, I'm sure other schools have combined grade classes, so that might be an option.

    Best of Luck. Like Caroline said, there may be a solution out there that doesn't involve forking over the Benjamins.

    On switching - I was told by the admissions director at Live Oak that it was actually easier to get in for 6th grade than for K, because of the lower ratio of applicants for the free slots, which is contrary to the conventional wisdom in some quarters of "get your kids into the private track early because one school feeds into another."

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  21. OT, but - My daughter is not in preschool, she is home with me. I sometimes feel we are the only family in SF in this situation! She has a late birthday so will be only four in September. She is ready for school, she already reads and writes, has great concentration and loves (not unsurprisingly) being in a large group situations. We do lots of the obvious stuff, museum classes, art classes etc, she knows how to do the "sit and listen & share" side of things but has anyone out there been in this situation? Did it work out? Reading this thread it seems that any child who has not done the preschool route (if not for two years at least for one), is doomed. Should I be looking at preschool rather than K?

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  22. recently, on a transitional kindergarten tour it came up that there is actually an upper end to kindergarten admissions in private schools. If your kid is born in May,but you don't think he's mature enough for kindergarten and keep him in preschool or TK,he might be too old the next year to be admitted to some private schools. Does anybody know anything more about this?

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  23. I don't have a child in this situation. But what I've heard is that the privates like to make the decision themselves rather than have parents decide. So what many parents with young birthdays do is go ahead and apply and see what the letters say. That does mean that many families have to undergo the process twice in a row.

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  24. Can I ask for opinions on another scenario? Let's say we do not get any of our 7 choices listed for public schools, so we waitlist our first choice, and in the meanwhile, send our daughter to the private school we got into, but can't really afford.

    Then, come September, two weeks into the school year, we get the call from SFUSD that our first choice has a spot. Do we pull her out of the private. Most likely yes, if we can't afford $20,000 a year for the next 8 years.

    Anyone have this happen?

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  25. Here's another interesting scenario to consider...my child is also a November baby, and is presently in a PreK-8 private program. We applied for SFUSD to enter K in September. If we do not get one of our seven choices, or get waitlisted in, we will keep our child at the private school another year, where he'll still be in PreK.

    Then we would apply for SFUSD the following year, where he would be eligible by age to be in a public 1st grade class, but is coming from a private PreK. Do you jump him into public 1st grade or start him in a public K?

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  26. Anonymous at 9:49AM, 1/24 - I know of one instance where this has happened. But read your contract with the private school CAREFULLY. At the very least, you will be stuck paying the down payment. At the worst, you will be stuck with paying tuition for the entire school year.

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  27. To the parent thinking she knows her November birthday daughter is ready for Kindergarten, I was in your shoes six years ago and I was wrong. However, if your daughter is already reading, then she is probably ready. My daughter started kindergarten unable to read. She was the only one in her class, including at least 4 non native English speaking kids, who could not read. She has continued to be behind her peers every year except 2nd.

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  28. tuition insurance.

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  29. Then, come September, two weeks into the school year, we get the call from SFUSD that our first choice has a spot. Do we pull her out of the private. Most likely yes, if we can't afford $20,000 a year for the next 8 years.

    This doesn't make any sense at all. If you already know you can't afford private school, then what is the point of enrolling in it in the first place?

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  30. If we do not get one of our seven choices, or get waitlisted in... Then we would apply for SFUSD the following year, where he would be eligible by age to be in a public 1st grade class...

    This doesn't make any sense either. You're no more likely (and perhaps less likely) to get one of your seven choices in first grade (unless you change your choices). And for your trouble, you miss kindergarten.

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  31. For the woman who is home with her child (instead of preschool). I say - Good for you. My daughter's preschool stresses "free play" over anything else. You have managed to teach your child to read and write and it sounds like she is doing great.

    Regarding reading in K. Do all kids know how to read going into K? If so, I think I need to find a more academic preschool.

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  32. to the person who said the scenarios don't make sense...actually, due to people moving out of the city, changing jobs, etc...there usually is a possibility of getting one of your choices for first or second grade.

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  33. I don't think that is true. I know someone who just switched 1st grade from private to public 2 weeks ago. There were openings, including Calarandon and Sherman- 2 top picks.

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  34. To the parent whose child can read but hasn't gone to preschool:
    Is there any way you can send your child to a several full week summer camps? In preschool, the teachers spend a lot of time and energy on social and emotional development (such as helping kids leanr how to work through disagreements with other kids on their own). Also, preschool kids have already had to go through the process of separating from parents for the day. I could read by the time I was three, but that did not mean I was ready for kindergarten. I would have been a mess developmentally. However, your child is within the age cut-off range. A summer camp situation could help you get some actual evidence to use in making your decision. I had a friend at Yale who turned 21 on the day we graduated. Clearly she did fine academically during her childhood, despite her age. Have you asked your child's pediatrician for a recommendation?

    To anonymous at 9:49: If you are lucky enough to get into your first choice public and cannot afford your private school, I don't see why you would not change schools. Yes, you might lose some or all of one year's tuition, but that's a sunk cost. What's paid is paid, and what you've paid will be the last you pay -- if that makes any sense!

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  35. Back to the original topic, I moved my kids from parochial school to public school in second and fourth grade. I decided in May to move them, so we missed rounds 1, 2, and 3 of the lottery. I just went down to EPC and asked which schools had openings for those grades. There were a number of schools, even popular schools, that had unfilled openings in those grades. And, that doesn't even count people who move away during the summer that EPC doesn't know about yet.

    After finding out which schools had openings, we quickly toured and then registered them. It was as easy as that. Our kids did fine. It actually gave them a huge boost of confidence to know they could change schools, make new friends, and fit in to a new environment. Both of them mention it whenever they're psyching themselves up to go somewhere new and unknown, like Girl Scout sleep away camp.

    This year in my youngest daughter's second grade class at least 3 new children have joined --one just moved to SF, one transferred from a parochial school, and one from a private school. We also lost two -- one to transfer to another public school closer to his house, and the other got in to a popular K-8 school after the 10-day count.

    Every year we get kids from a variety of different schools, and most seem to adjust just fine. Knowing now that it's possible to change if things aren't working out, I would be more willing to give immersion a shot, or take a chance on an up and coming school.

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  36. My son started at a public K this year. He did not know how to read when he started, nor did at least most of his classmates. Although was starting to recognize many words. Now, nearly halfway through the year, he is able to read some simple books, recognizes many more words and is (usually) willing to sound out the ones he doesn't recognize. He also writes (mostly phonetically) a lot. I don't know where all his classmates stand on reading and writing abilities, but I believe most of them are at about the same level as my son.

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  37. My kids didn't read when they started K! None of their classmates could either, as far as I know. Have things changed that much?

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  38. The Lake Wobegone Effect has hit San Francisco! The women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are all above average.

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  39. FYI - the writer of the NY Times article about redshirting had had her child turned down at an SF private school for not being ready for kindergarten. So be cognizant of that when you read the article as it is very pro-redshirting.

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  40. RE:Reading
    In my son's SFUSD K class, only 2 children were reading at the beginning of the year. By the end of the year, ALL the kids were reading (to varying degrees of proficiency). Some of the kids had late fall birthdays and/or were not completely proficient in English upon entry to K. I'm just amazed at how far they came. I definitely wouldn't worry if your child isn't reading at the begining of K. It's certainly not expected.

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  41. I have one child who attended private K and one who attended public K. There was much more emphasis on learning to read in public. Kind of ironic, since it's the private schools that are so focused on "readiness".

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  42. I don't know about all private schools, but I know at Live Oak the emphasis for K is about playing, building social skills, experiential learning and fostering a love of learning. There is plenty of time to learn to read (and they'll all get there) but K (which isn't even a required grade by law) is your kid's last chance to be a kid.

    Sometimes we get caught up in the competitiveness of it all (I read when I was 3, my kid could read before kindergarten.) Why are we in such a rush for them to grow up?

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  43. You read competitiveness into my saying I could read when I was three? That's on you buddy! I can be a total moron, and my child is not close to reading at 4.5. My point was that when a kid learns to read is not necessarily a good indication a kindrgarten readiness. It would have been absurd for me to go to kindergarten at that age! Did I sound competitive when I said I would have been a mess developmentally? Before you go calling names, please read the whole post, and, if you did, you might want to look inside yourself. There is no reason for me to "compete" about when *I* learned to read as I am not the kindergarten applicant. My child cannot read and none of the schools we are applying to expects him to read before K. The only thing I was caught up in was trying to provide useful info about reading ability not equalling kindergarten readiness. Again, speak for yourself.

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  44. And, how dare you accuse me of being in a rush for my child to grow up??? I hope he enjoys every last minute of being a child. He is in a play-based preschool. We don't use any high-tech "learn to read" toys. My child is a fun-loving, wonderful, relaxed child. You don't know us, and don't pretend to.

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  45. I don't think the comments were directed at anyone personally. Heck - We are all competitive to a certain degree. No one wants their child to be the only one who doesn't know how to read in a classroom of readers. That doesn't sound like much fun.

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  46. I've heard that knowing how to read before kindergarten can actually HURT your child's chance of getting into some private schools (not Nueva). Imagine how bored and disruptive a kid who can already read might be in a less academic kindergarten environment like that at Live Oak or Synergy.

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  47. Is Live Oak a poor choice for early readers? We applied there because we liked its teachers and philosophy. But that post has me wondering whether its a good fit for our kid.

    Is this true for other schools as well?

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  48. The comment specifically referenced words from my earlier post, which is why I took it personally. Of course we all want what is best for our kids, and, non, none of us probably wants our kid to be the last one in the class to read. I just hope we can all steer clear of judging each other as parents, which I felt this person was doing to me. His/her last paragraph consisted of what I had said with the critique that we were getting caught up in the competitiveness and being in a rush for our kids to grow up. I think that pretty clearly calls me out, and, yes, I took offense. I am certainly caught up in the whole K process to some extent, or I wouldn't be reading this blog. However, I am not rushing my child to read or grow up too fast. As for being competitive, I reminded a mom with a child in my child's preschool class that she needed to sign up for an event at a K that is both of our top choice and gave her other info she had missed. Ya -- I'm ruthless!

    Okay, back to the actual business of the blog: re private schools not wanting early readers, I have not heard that from the ones we toured (a limited group, mind you). Most the schools we toured, both public and private, at least said they provide differentiated instruction, especially for reading. Many split the class into smaller reading groups where kids are at the same level. From what I recall, the private schools welcomed early readers but also made it clear that kids were absolutely not expected to read before starting K.

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  49. A comment to the mom feeling pressured to redshirt from friends and neighbors. I think you should go with your gut feeling on this one. I started kindergarten at 4 (mid-november bday) with no preschool (didn't exist out in the country 30+ years ago) and did fine academically the first couple of years and very well after that. It was fun starting college at 17 and I never felt "young" in high school or college relative to my peers. Oddly enough my husband also started at 4 (mid-december bday) which is unusual for a boy. He recalls lots of comments about not being able to sit still from the teaches on his report cards up till about 3rd grade and then went on to do very well academically and socially though college. We did both have older siblings.

    In spite of all that, we didn't even debate whether or not to redshirt our oldest son (mid november birthday) because he was so clearly not ready. Even with the extra year in a pre-k program he had a very rough start in kindergarten. He has significant verbal/social delays and ended up in the special-ed inclusion program. I think you should trust your instincts, every child is different.

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  50. So much of the research I've seen lately relfects:

    - early readers do not do better academically in the long run. In fact, they often do worse in reading comprehension. (I've seen this with friend's kids)

    - that kids are generally not developmentally built to be reading at 5. And if they are, see the comment above.

    Of course, there are exceptions, but remember that Einstein didn't read until very late!

    I know people who had kids reading chapter books at 4 years old, but those same kids can't play with others or relate to their peers. Different strokes for different folks, but I'll take an average reader who 'plays well with others' any day.

    Relax folks. I'll bet, barring an unforseen learning disability, all your kids will do fine.

    As to the focus on reading in SFUSD, the focus they have is to bridget the gap between those that come to school with a reading readiness background, and those that don't. There is a window in there (again, developmentally speaking) that they focus on with the goal that everyone is reading solidly by 3rd grade. Some are doing it in K, others take longer.

    My kids' public school kinder focus was on reading readiness and learning to learn. Not an emphasis on testing by any means.

    I now have two kids who are above average readers in fluency and comprehension in upper elementary - but they weren't reading in kindergarten.

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  51. As the mom of a four year old - who plays very well with others, shares toys, relates to her peers and is kind to animals etc - but who can also (eeek gasp!) already READ - what do you suggest I do?
    Take away the books? Stop helping her work out the long words in her "chapter books"? End her much loved visits to the library?? It sounds like you are suggesting that I am going to developmentally damage her if I let her continue on this dangerous path. My daughter is no Einstein but she loves books and once she had figured out the alphabet I'm not sure how I could have stopped the reading, nor am I convinced by these arguments that I should have.

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  52. "Then, come September, two weeks into the school year, we get the call from SFUSD that our first choice has a spot. Do we pull her out of the private. Most likely yes, if we can't afford $20,000 a year for the next 8 years."

    Which school do you prefer? Assuming, given you're getting your top pick, that probably you'd be as happy with that public school as the private school, then make the switch. As another commenter said, the money you've already dropped for the private school is a sunk cost. If it means you gave a whole year's tuition to the private school (you might be able to negotiate this, as the school might be able to fill the slot with someone on their waitlist, but it'll depend on your contract), then you'll feel like a bit of a schmuck, but think of how un-schmucky you'll feel the next year when you aren't having that expense.

    If you actually prefer the private school, then it's up to you whether the expense is worth it. But again, whatever you've committed to spend for the kindergarten year at the private school is a sunk cost, *and sunk costs should not influence future decisions.(

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  53. Anonymous with the reading 4-year-old, let her read! Kids read at their own pace. Just don't act like it's the norm and like other kids are substandard if they don't (or even assume it's a mark of genius, though of course it MAY be.)

    You might want to avoid Waldorf schools, though.

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  54. Anonymous with the 4 year old--
    Don't make assumptions where it wasn't implied - of course you wouldn't yank books from her hands. Continue to recognize and encourage her reading and comprehension skills while encouraging development of the whole child (gross motor, fine motor, interpersonal, etc.) It sure sounds as if you do already so IMHO you're doing the right thing!

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  55. Just catching up on this blog... Several people have commented that there was no preschool in this country 30+ years ago. I'm just curious, how many of you did attend preschool/nursery school? I did (I was born in 1968) and so did my siblings (born in the early 70s). Was this so unusual? My mom was a full-time parent, but always had us signed up for a variety of activities just to get us out of the house, I suspect.

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  56. I was born in 1961 and attended preschool for 2 years. The first was more like what we would probably now call family day care (mom called it "play school"), and the second was a formal preschool through our local Episcopal Church. When my mom was a kid (born 1931)she attended neither preschool nor kindergarten. Kindergartens existed but were not mandatory. My mother went straight from home into first grade. I was recently shocked to learn that in Burlingame, they still to this day have morning and afternoon kindergarten like they did when I was a kid, rather than all-day kindergarten.

    Now that I've finally come around to the public school idea, and we've been turned down flat by our one parochial school choice, we've got these funding cuts to worry about on top the uncertainty about where we get assigned. My very visceral response to Caroline's comment about people under 40 not having experienced anything but the low-tax-low-service mentality is: I think American civilization (if you can even call it that any more) has gone waaaay down-hill since that mind-set took over. More isolated, less communitarian, more consumerism (how convenient for the one thing the gov't is suporting, corp. imperialsm), less citizenship. I hope all the excitement about the '08 election is a sign that the pendulum might FINALLY be swinging back but there's a lot of damage to undo.

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  57. I agree with you, Marlowesmom, in seeing signs of hope -- and also that the amount of damage is daunting.

    I've been hoping for a generational shift -- a pattern in which the old folks who thought keeping all their money and living in a society that provided bare-bones services was a good plan will fade out, and younger people who have seen the downside of that will move into power and change the whole culture and attitude. (Realistically, I actually don't think those old folks seriously expected bare-bones services. They were deluded into the notion that there's so much fat in government that no one would notice a big cut in revenue.)

    By the way, I was born in 1954 and did not go to preschool, though I recall a "Tiny Tots" program -- doesn't Rec-Park still run these? I think the parent had to be present. It was someplace near our home, which was at then-working-class Baker and Sacramento.

    And also, Marlowesmom, I'm so glad you're now comfortable with the notion of SFUSD! As I've mentioned amply, I've hung with a lot of Adda C. families, and though I really like them (it is SUCH fun to hear them dish the dirt), they are really misinformed about and petrified of public school.

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  58. Just a note that we have similar situation, with kids similar ages (4 & 2) and are looking into all the schools, public and private. We live on Potrero Hill and recently had an IEP meeting with SFUSD for our son who is highly intelligent, but has Asperger's (social deficits and anxiety associated). SFUSD gave only one option, Malcolm X in Hunter's Point, 3 miles from our home. We were denied any more reasonable placement and this school is in middle of violence central (Code Blue 2nd day of school - school locked down due to gun shots). Plus all they had was a subsitutute teacher assigned to the classroom. Very dissatisfied with SF school system, its incompetence, waste, and inability to meet needs of its students. We are packing moving to Burlingame as our friends have all recommended that have left the city for the sake of their kids.

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