Friday, June 13, 2008

Why did you decide to switch?

A few people have emailed to suggest that I start a post where people can comment on why they left a private school or the public school system--after attending the school for one or more years. I would especially love to hear from the parent who is pulling her child out of immersion this year; she commented in the post on gifted children.


  1. I know several children who were "counseled out" aka asked to leave privates. Really great kids- just didn't fit the mold so to speak. Nice huh?

  2. I don't think there is ever one reason people switch schools. Usually it's a cumulative decision, at least it was for us. It's also a painful one, with so many overlapping factors that it's too difficult to summarize coherently.

    Of course, a few people just get their dream school in the lottery in second grade, or get transferred, but those are the more unusual cases.

  3. Most privates are not set up to fully-accomodate challenged kids: ADHD for example.

    They make that clear up front and dont pretent to be all things to all kids.

    So "couseling out" is a reasonable response for a kid that needs a different type of teaching environment.

    Nice, yes. It's in the kid's and the parents' best interest.

  4. I can't wait for the day that parents start to sue all those private schools for refusing to educate a child in their program, simply because the child has a disability.

    It's called discrimination.
    It's illegal.

  5. If you went to In-N-Out and they didnt serve steak would you sue them?

    Stay in the public schools where they legally must be all things to all people.

  6. Wow, your logic is inane. It isn't about 'what is served" by establishments, it is about WHO THEY MUST SERVE TO BE IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW.
    If a disabled person goes into In and Out and they are refused to be served, that business is guilty of discrimination.
    If a parent of a child with a disability applies to a private school, and that private school refused to admit the child because of that disability, that school is guilty of discrimination.
    You can be as flippant as you want about "not being all things to all people", but that's what school administrators said to Linda Brown's parents; they didn't want Linda to go to their school because she was Black. {Brown vs, Board of Education} I suppose you think that was OK too, "there's plenty of schools "those kids" can go to, you'd say.
    I feel sorry for people who are so full of hate and so afraid of differences. Sadly, those attitudes seem quite prevalent among private school parents.

  7. Not all discrimination is illegal. It is not correct to compare a "public accomodation" like restaurant or hotel (strict rules about discrimination apply) to private clubs, parties and organizations (less stringent rules apply).

    E.g.: even though religion is a 'protected class' under the law, and therefore under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to discriminate by religion (and race, sex, disability, age and national origin) at restaurants, hotels and places of employment based on that, a private religious school may use religion as a criterion for selection. Therefore, Catholic schools, Jewish Day Schools and Quaker schools are not violating the law by prioritizing members of those religious faiths.

    And, when it comes to discrimination by disability, the law only requires that 'reasonable accomodations' are made to serve the needs of the disability.

    There is just not a strong legal case for a family with a kid with a disability suing a private school for failing to accomodate them when the school can show that to do so would require acommodations which are unreasonable. I have heard of parents striking deals where they pay for the acommodations so they can keep their children in the private school.

    But most of the time, people who choose private know that there is simply no guarantee that the school will decide to acommodate disabilities in their children. Those who are more concerned ask those questions during the applications process and proceed with caution. Certain schools are known to be more accepting/accomodating than others and it is not hard to get that information.

    And, of course, there are expensive private schools like The Laurel School (and to some extent Nueva) that are better equipped to deal with outliers (in Nueva's case, some families send their highly intelligent kids there when other schools are not able to serve them socially).

    I'm not trying to justify the system, just explain it.

  8. "Students attending private schools may be entitled to accommodations under the ADA Title III. Under the ADA, private schools are required to provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure that students with disabilities are not excluded, denied services, segregated or treated differently than other students.
    Private schools run by churches may be exempt, because the ADA does not apply to “religious organizations or entities controlled by religious organizations”."

  9. You "feel sorry for people who are so full of hate and so afraid of differences. Sadly, those attitudes seem quite prevalent among private school parents"?

    I feel sorry for people who feel the need to stereotype an entire group of people to make a point. Oh, and by the way, I am disabled. Sorry to rain on your parade, but I am not afraid of differences nor do I *hate* people with them. I was sad when we visited schools where I would not have been able to attend certain school functions because of accessibility issues, but luckily there were other schools that not only were fully accessible but also went out of their way to accommodate my disability, such as scheduling our interview and our child's screening at a time of day that worked with my disability. We applied to both public (0 for however many) and a few private schools. The private schools we chose to consider are ADA accessible.

  10. I said "seem quite prevalent" I did not write: "ALL PRIVATE SCHOOL PARENTS THINK LIKE THAT".

    So I made no such stereotype, you misinterpreted what I wrote.

    It is great that those private schools were welcoming to you as a parent, but would they be as welcoming if your child was the one with a disability? I think not.

  11. We have one child in public school and one child in private school.

    We felt that the older child (girl) could flourish in public school because she is an independent learner, is self-motivated, and gets along with just about everybody she meets. We attained a slot at the local elementary school for her, and this has met our needs perfectly.

    For our son, we felt that private school was a better fit. He is shy, and a sensitive boy. And the school we chose has been excellent as well.

    When our son reaches middle school, we may put him into public school. Our daughter is entering middle school in the autumn (Presidio). She doesn't need much crutch support, and I'm sure the rigorous academics there will be just right for her. For our son, we will wait and see.

    In any case, we are not the only parents with children in both public schools and in the so-called elite, non-parochial private schools. There are a lot of us around.

  12. I think some private schools are making more efforts to accomodate kids with mild/moderate learning disabilities. Some private schools have learning specialists on staff. But, my impression is they help the kids who are already there, and it becomes clear later that they have a learning disability. Whether they would admit a child with a disability is another story.

  13. It is exactly because some of our kids need different approaches to education (smaller class sizes, project-based, etc.) that we get mad about private schools automatically excluding kids with disability labels. (and yes, not all private schools have smaller class sizes, some in fact, have 30 kindergarteners instead of 20).
    Lots of kids with autism are brilliant and not necessarily disruptive, but if you are open with the admissions people, they immediately say "no - we cannot meet his needs." No two children with autism are the same, so it makes little sense to lump them all together.

  14. Listen to this 6 minute interview with Barbara Curtis, about
    Including special-needs children in classrooms.

    She talks about how doing so has a wonderful effect on the non-disabled children, they learn compassion, tolerance, and become better people because of the experience. So the benefits are not only for the included child, but for all the children in the class.

  15. "they learn compassion, tolerance, and become better people"

    Many on this list could stand to learn those lessons.


  17. We are on topic, you are not. Take a valium or something and get over it.

  18. Wow - lot's of bitter, hostile people on this blog. Obviously the tone of all who's kept in touch with K Files are those who didn't have a choice and are now just being bitchy to anyone and everyone.

    Yowza. Likewise on the advice " Take a valium or something and get over it."

  19. re. having special needs kids "has a wonderful effect on the non-disabled children"

    I think it depends upon the nature of the speical needs kids.

    Good friends in an excellent, small, outside SF pubic school district are struggling with a group of disruptive (speical needs) boys who will continue thru the years in the same grade as their daughter.

    This is a case where the downside of these kids outweighs any "wonderful effect".

  20. We left a wonderful private school, The San Francisco School, which we really liked, for two main reason:
    We wanted more language.
    We couldn't afford it. Two kids is $40 K a year. When we began it was $11K a year for preschool. We didn't take into account annual tuition increases of between 5% and 10%.
    It was a great place, still is. But just not within our budget.
    Ancillary reasons include wanting more diversity, wanting to be a part of the public schools because we believe in them, knowing our kids are pretty capable learners so we're not too worried about them, etc etc.
    And we've been quite happy in the public school system thus far.

  21. I said "seem quite prevalent" I did not write: "ALL PRIVATE SCHOOL PARENTS THINK LIKE THAT".

    So I made no such stereotype, you misinterpreted what I wrote.

    Um, ya.
    I see. So if I said something like, "Being cheap seems quite prevalant among Jews," (picked Jews because I am Jewish) you would say that I am not stereotyping? Unless you have actual statistics to back up your generalization, you are stereotyping. How large is your sample size? What methods did you use to ensure it's a representative sample? Oh -- just your bitterness? Got it. Look in the mirror. Your hate is showing.

  22. Wow. What an unpleasant crone you must be.

  23. whoa!!!
    The tone on this blog is getting seriously scary.
    Even Caroline is keeping her distance!

  24. As a parent of a child with a learning disability, what I really want is for my child to be educated. While it's nice that other children might learn compassion etc., it's not my child's job to teach them that. Of course all children should learn compassion, including my child with a learning disability.

  25. Notice the person never answered the question:

    "private schools were welcoming to you as a parent, but would they be as welcoming if your child was the one with a disability?"

    Instead, she choses to sling mud at the person who asked the question and accuses that person of being biased.

  26. Shouln't a parent going for private school interview that school really well re: their child's issues (hyper, can't sit still, HDAD, extra shy, acts out, won't speak in public, etc.)

    I would think that before you attend a school is the time to find out that school's limits. If you don't know your child has a special need before then, be greatful you find it out (at least the school is able to identify a need). You can chose to be happy to learn that the school does not have a good person on staff to help your kid.

    What can you do? Leave, and get a refund for your time spend there. Suing is silly, I think. As with In and Out, if you order steak and they serve you a cheeseburger, get your money back, and don't eat there again.

    We liked private for the size and intimacy, and what appeared to be a better, more flexible curriculum. We appreciated the "every child is a genius" talk, I admit. We also found the one we applied to more diverse than our neighborhood school. We were, however, not what they had in mind, and were not offered a place.

    The public school we're assigned to is 80% latino (not very diverse), calm and peaceful with some talented teachers (so they tell us.) We saw dirty, crowded classrooms, and are very aware of the total lack of funds to do most of what they want. This school has a reputation for sticking to worksheets in order to bring up test scores. It also has an excellent conflict resolution and mentor program we loved.

    Both of the private and public schools we toured had pros and cons. But we had different expectations of what they "had to" offer, based on where they got their $$$.

    What I'd like to know is the specifics of why YOU left WHAT school. Is this not the link for that conversation?

  27. "What I'd like to know is the specifics of why YOU left WHAT school. Is this not the link for that conversation?"

    Kortney: I'm all for honesty (offline, please) but think this could be a dangerous topic as it is so subjective...especially for those of us who are still recovering from having their school choice slammed by others on this blog. We are feeling really good about our K choice, but would prefer this to not turn into a public bashing of one particular school. I think I am not alone in feeling this way.

  28. "Suing is silly, I think. As with In and Out, if you order steak and they serve you a cheeseburger, get your money back, and don't eat there again."


    I see now that it is unrealistic of me to expect many of you to realize that this is a human rights issue.
    If someone looked at your kid and said "we don't let his kind in here", perhaps you would know what it felt like and have some inkling of right and wrong.

    Now go discuss favorite ice cream parlors or new york pizza or whatever fluffy topic like that which matters to you.

  29. Shouln't a parent going for private school interview that school really well re: their child's issues (hyper, can't sit still, HDAD, extra shy, acts out, won't speak in public, etc.)

    I'll try to write this without being snarky, because feelings do run high.

    The problem with this approach is that, with the exception of a few private schools such as Nueva (for those who are way-out-there so-called gifted) and the school in Laurel Heights that deals with learning differences, these kinds of disclosures will generally lead to automatic disqualification from your kid being considered at most privates. Because, as many have written here, quite brutally honestly I think, most of the private schools do not have the resources, or do not want to, deal with the extra challenges posed by children with such differences. They do a great job of educating socially advantaged, bright (but not overly bright) children, and that's what they mostly accept.

    In saying this, I'm not defending the practice, just trying to say what others who are in that world seem to think is the plain truth. If I am wrong, and there are private schools that ARE interested in taking kids with issues of ADHD, aggressiveness, painful shyness, mild autism, disabilities, etc. please speak up, and name the school! It would be really, really useful for prospective parents of kids with learning differences to know this! Unfortunately, it is my impression that the generalization is true. Most private schools have more many applicants than spots, so they can pick and choose. This is one of the ways they do that.

    Of course, not all of these "issues" are readily apparent at the pre-K level; and there are also siblings to consider--they accept one kid and the sibling comes along with "issues." That's where a school may decide to "counsel out" at a higher grade, or conversely, to live with it and do their best. And parents must decide if the school meets their needs as the needs manifest themselves.

    And maybe, as Kortney implies, that should be true too at the K level: if you know your child is "different" in significant ways in learning style and/or behavior, maybe you shouldn't even want to send your kid to one of these private schools! Maybe that is part of the discernment.

    It's just that it is hard to know sometimes just how different your child is, and also--parents want more options, right, especially if your child has greater needs. Seems unfair that the greater options go to the kids who need them the least, hmmm? (Same is true of course for low-income, socially disadvantaged kids whose parents would never even think of going private because of the cost and not being in the loop about them.)

    This is why parents of special needs / disabled / learning differences kids get so frustrated. The poster is right--it's not about cheeseburgers. It's about educating our kids, all of them. Saying that you have a wonderful and successful school when you are only willing to work with those who are already primed to succeed seems a little disingenuous at best.

    I have a friend whose kid is mildly autistic. He has mainstreamed and has done pretty well, but there are definitely social/behavioral issues that are not always easy. He would benefit from a small environment for middle school, but the family is resigned to the prospect of going the IEP route in a larger, public setting, because despite their efforts no private school would take him. Similarly, my sister's child in another state has some developmental delays; while my sister and her husband could afford private school, they know already that it will not be an option.

    Meanwhile, I am grateful that our public system is required to provide education for all our kids. It would be a lot better, though, if our schools were better funded so that SPED programs and IEPs and other supports could function better and not be in apparent competition with the needs of other kids. A bigger pie, more teachers on site, etc. would really, really help. Most parents I know whose kids are in this situation are having to be major-league advocates for their kids. This is one of the reasons I care so much about improving and funding the public schools overall, because of their mission to educate all of our kids.

    -written by one who is "temporarily abled" but not knowing when disability could be a part of my family too.

  30. 2:54 --
    I would be happy to answer your question. Yes, I believe the specific private schools who welcomed me would have welcomed my child if my child had a similar disability. That being said, I have a physical disability. I also agree that children with disabilities that lead to behavioral issues and/or learning difficulties would have a hard time getting into these schools. My point was not that private schools accept children with developmental disabilities. My point was simply to defend against the attack that attitudes of "hate" and fear towards those with differences appear, according to the poster at 6/15 6:54, to be "quite prevalent among private school parents." In general, I am sick and tired of being attacked for choosing private school. And I am very sorry for those of you who have endured similar attacks for choosing public schools. However, please don't think that it is okay to attack private school parents because public school parents have been attacked for their choices. It hurts just the same. I have tried to stay out of the private/public debate as it seems to go nowhere fast. However, as a person with a disability, I was so offended by that post and the one that followed (with words in all caps, the text equivalent of screaming at me) attempting to justify it that I responded out of frustration and anger.

  31. Wow.

    I would like to hear about people who tried public school A but found it didn't work for them and why and what they tried or will be trying next. And people who tried private school A and found it didn't work for them so tried public school or private school B and why.

    The movement from school to school and issues around it are what some of us are after here.


  32. I moved my kids from parochial to public school in second and fourth grades. Without getting into the "why's" I will say that both children adjusted very well. I was worried it would be a huge trauma, particularly to my older daughter who transitioned poorly when she was younger, but it was just fine. They quickly settled into their new school and made new friends. Children are much more adaptable than we adults give them credit for.

  33. Is there anyone reading this who decided to switch out of a language immersion program? We kind of ended up in one out of 0/7 panic and I am worried it will be too stressful for my son. If you did, why, and how did it go?

  34. I am the person who posted on the "gifted children" thread about taking my child out of K.

    I don't feel like I can identify the school we are moving out of, but I will say that the language had NOTHING to do with why we moved - it was one of the best things about the program.

    Why did we decide to move?

    -too little infrastructure for parental involvement. It was developing but not enough for us; it just got too hard being one of the same 5 parents who always showed up for things;
    -lots of rote learning - worksheets, worksheets, worksheets.
    -not a lot of focus on family diversity - we are an LGBT family and felt that we could find a school that made this more of a priority
    -and to be honest - my child's teacher seemed really overwhelmed; I saw some things in the classroom that really bothered me - and suddenly a light bulb came on and I realized that we could do the lottery for 1st grade. At the same time I realized that we could reapply to the private school that we really loved (our child was too young last year) - and in the end we had 2 excellent choices for our child for this fall - so we made the decision to switch. It remains to be seen whether it was the right choice...

  35. Anon @ 9:01

    We made a switch from a public to a private several years ago. I posted previously on some other thread about our kid "failing to thrive" in K. I'm not going to name the school we left because while that school was a bad fit for our kid, we know many families with kids still in that school who are doing just fine.

    In the intervening years I have seen kids move into and out of both of these schools. There is a lot of churn and I've come to appreciate that while it's great to have as many options as we have, it's also a crazy-making luxury, to try and find the optimal environment for your kid. Every school, even the "top-tier" publics and privates, have had discontented parents who've moved their kids.

    My advice is to give a school a shot, and keep your focus on how your particular kid is doing.

  36. Someone asked if there were another school in SF other than Laurel School that will take kids with learning disabilities. Sterne School in Pacific Heights is a private school for kids grades 6 to 12.

    My daughter did fine in elementary school with accomodations, but middle school was going to be difficult for her. Sterne has been a great choice. She has soared academically, and socially it's a very safe space.

    Some kids stay at Sterne for high school, and some kids transition back into the regular school system. We will be looking at high schools next year, but it's nice to have the option to stay.


  37. Thanks, Anne; that is helpful information.

  38. I think it might be good to move disability accommodation discussion to a separate thread. It's a valid issue in the discussion of public school programs and the public/private school debate. However, it raises so many moral, emotional, legal and practical issues that people have gone way off-topic on this thread, which is "why did you decide to switch?"

    As far as switching is concerned, we switched our daughter from public to private because after going through 8th grade in Lafayette schools, which are supposed to be really good, she could not write English, her native language, coherently. It was a question of sad experience and finding what worked for her. Lots of kids do perfectly well in the schools we felt compelled to leave. We also moved from the burbs to the City for her to go to private high school. We all love living in San Francisco. We know there are those on this blog who would disagree, but we not sorry we mortgaged our house to send her to that school because the private nurtured strength, confidence and academic skills she was lacking before. We think her chances at a happy, successful adulthood are much enhanced as a result. I'd rather mortgage my house to ensure her education and mental health now when I still have many working years ahead of me before retirement, rather than work until I'm dead to support a permanent basket-case. (My 75-year-old father-in-law is still working like a dog to support his middle-aged basket-case children and that's no doubt colored our perceptions.)

    The decision to move our son from private to public is money-motivated. If money were no object we would keep him in his private at least for now. The small classes, flexible teachers and variety of teachers and subjects really suit his personality and learning style. We just really like this school for him. That said, we are delighted with our public assignment . . . if only we can find acceptable aftercare. If we can't find aftercare we may make the financial sacrifice and keep him private.

  39. This a really interesting topic for those us already in the school system. My son is in a private immersion school (the Lycee) and we absolutely love it. Choosing that school a year ago over our public assignment was one of the hardest choices we ever made, because it IS financially a stretch for us. But we decided to go for it "for a few years" so that he could re-inforce his bilinguism (he was already fairly bilingual in French from having spent the first three years of his life in France). We are sticking with it for now, especially since the Lycee offers preschool for my younger son at basically the same cost as any other preschool. But we are likely to move them in two years to public due to the financial stress. Was this an unfair decision for them? Will it be terrible for my son to move in 3rd grade to a public school? Maybe, but at least he will be bilingual and got to go to the Lycee for a few years, becoming bilingual and getting lots of individual attention in a class of just 16 kids.

  40. I think the challenge some families face in getting into private schools may not be their learning challenged kids but rather the attitudes of the parents.

    There seems to be a lot of entitlement, why dont we sue private school talk.

    Given that private schools have a large pool of applicants from which to choose, why would they pick a parent (regardless of the kids) who cops major attitude during the interview process. And I'm sure the admissions people can smell it a mile away.

    No thanks. Next.

  41. Interesting stories about why switch schools. Thanks. When you get down to the details, everyone has a different version. I've known plenty of kids who switched in the 3rd-5th grade years and they have always adapted, as kids do. I think we worry too much.

    1:40, no doubt there are many examples of obnoxious parents being turned away from private schools (unless they are hugely wealthy, perhaps, in which case I know of a few who made the cut--money talks louder than anything, right). But that doesn't mean that perfectly nice and dedicated families are not being turned away and counseled out simply because of their childrens' learning differences. It happens every year.

    As for parents of children with learning differences coming off as "entitled" or obnoxious, I can only say that in my experience these are parents that have to fight like hell to get the services their kids need. In private school and in public school too--where these services are indeed an entitlement. Being a good parent in this situation may require one to become a bit of a fierce mama or papa bear--and to become a not-so-nice person in the process. Maybe it gets a little heated, but how else have kids with disabilities, including cognitive and behavioral issues, ever gotten what they need? How have these rights evolved if not from fierce advocacy?

    I say, wish these parents the best and support them as you can. Ultimately, they are fighting for the right of all children to be educated in our society, because we can judge our system on how it educates those on the margins of the norm, those who don't look or behave like the model "above average" children--the dream many of us have before our kids are born. Someday, this could be your child or your grandchild that you love with all your heart, and then you will understand first-hand why these parents fight.

  42. "I think the challenge some families face in getting into private schools may not be their learning challenged kids but rather the attitudes of the parents."

    Wow. My son has a disability label but he is not "learning challenged", far from it. His challenges are not with learning, they are with having to be raised in a world with too many prejudiced people like the one who wrote the above hateful crap, those who automatically think that children with disabilities are "learning challenged".

    The challenge is that, no matter how cool and nice we parents are, when admissions administrators alike the one above basically tell us "we don't let his kind go to OUR school", well, when they say that, yup, we get sad, and then yup, we get angry, and yup, we want to sue ... not for money, but for human rights and justice.

    But those schools will go ahead and pretend that they are full of humanitarians and socially aware people, and go on saying: "No thanks. NEXT."

  43. Sorry.

    I meant to say your kid is disabled.

    And that you're learning challenged.


    "Children are much more adaptable than we adults give them credit for."

    June 16, 2008 9:14 PM

    Your children are much stronger than you think. Don't be afraid to throw them out into our Film Noir word and watch them survive and thrive.

  45. 9:43

    and you're just a creepy person

    there's a special place in hell ...

  46. OK. Elephant in the Room Time:

    People send their kids to private schools so that their kids will not ever be around poor children, children with disabilities,and children with learning disabilities. That is what they pay the big bucks for. They won't admit it, but come on -- it isn't because the class sizes are smaller -- they aren't. It isn't because the teachers are better -- they aren't, in fact -- many of them do not even have credentials for teaching in California. It isn't because they get a better education -- they don't. They pay the 20 Grand a year to keep them away from 'defective' kids.

  47. To anon at 7:53. Please do not bunch all the private school families together in your generalization. We are sending our daughter to private not because we want to get away from anything in particular, but because we want a single sex school, with low teacher to child ratio (1:7) as well as small class size (15), foreign language introduction beginning in kindergarten, and the ability for the school to have more of a say in deciding what the curriculum is and how they choose to educate the girls (not beholden to NCLB). We live in the city and will continue to do so (as opposed to moving to the less diverse public schools in the burbs) because we want our children to grow up in a diverse world. We did go through the public school process (toured 12 schools) and went 0/7. So, please, keep your generalizations to yourself.

  48. "People send their kids to private schools so that their kids will not ever be around poor children, children with disabilities,and children with learning disabilities. That is what they pay the big bucks for. They won't admit it, but come on -- it isn't because the class sizes are smaller -- they aren't. It isn't because the teachers are better -- they aren't, in fact -- many of them do not even have credentials for teaching in California. It isn't because they get a better education -- they don't. They pay the 20 Grand a year to keep them away from 'defective' kids."

    That may be true for some parents. But it is a gross generalization, and if you really think that way you are an incredibly close minded person yourself with a HUGE chip on your shoulder.

    I have worked for over 15 years with some of the most disenfrachised, impoverished, mentally ill and substance abusing individuals in San Francisco. We have severe mental illness in our family. Please don't presume to tell me that I am sending my daughter to private school to avoid "defective" people.

    I have seen attitudes on this blog among "public school only" parents, and in other public school parents who I have met in person, who would not even consider MANY public schools b/c they're just not good enough, IE don't meet their white, upper middle class, well educated, perspective of what is OK for their kids. There are so many privileged people in this city who have NO IDEA what others suffer through. So please, people in glass houses should NOT throw stones.

  49. We switched our kids from public (in an excellent suburban district) to a private school because:

    1. the school has a cohesive, aligned curriculum from K-8 that is meaningful and realistic to cover in each grade level.

    2. teachers there get significant chunk of DEDICATED time weekly to work collaboratively on instructional strategies. Teaching should be a team sport, not a private practice. No matter how experienced a teacher is, there is always more fresh ideas he/she can learn from others.

    3. the school offers foreign languages at an early grade.

    4. all children are encouraged to pursue the arts (significant amount of dance, drama, music weekly integrated into the curriculum and after school)

    5. parents are super involved, regardless of social-economic class or any other circumstances

    6. no standardize testing

    Our decision to switch had nothing to do with not wanting our kids to be around "diverse" kids. Our kids are Hispanic(Mexican/Columbian)and we are a middle class, immigrant family struggling to pay the tuition. However, after spending a few years in our neighborhood school and touring some of the private schools, we have to give our kids what we believe is the best education they can get in America. That is why we (and our parents) moved to this country. Many of our friends educated abroad (China, India, Europe)are appalled at the craziness of American education (public or private). The amount of coddling, low expectation, and lack of cohesive curriculum are going to impact our place in the world (If it hasn't already happened).

    IMHO, the private/public discussion is inane. We should focus on how best to educate our kids - what knowledge should they master? what instructional strategies produce the best results? how to recruit the best people into the teaching profession?

    If I could change/improve our neighborhood school to be more like this private school, I would. I rather not pay the $40K tuition for 2 kids. However, the amount of effort it would take is beyond me and my kids don't have the time to wait.

  50. "However, the amount of effort it would take is beyond me and my kids don't have the time to wait."

    Here here.

  51. 12:09, I am in no way maligning your personal decision to switch. The details of everyone's situations are very different. I just wanted to say that other than your #6 (standardized testing, which takes part of two weeks), our public experience has very much included your #s 1-5. To be fair, in a SF school that is now quite popular (though much less so when we put it on our lottery list years ago).

    The teachers dedicate time to collaboration. Immersion teachers meet regularly as a group, grade level teachers as well, and there is one grade that is specifically team-taught.

    We have lots of arts. Maybe not all the resources of several privates I have seen, but that's where you get into judgment calls about that $25K tuition and other issues. Certainly I was amazed at all the wonderful art pieces that came home at the end of this school year, in several media. The teachers did an excellent job of incorporating art into academic work too, e.g., watercolor paintings for report covors, and special trips to local museums that included art classes in Chinese painting and so forth.

    In terms of foreign language, well, we were lucky to get an immersion spot, so we've had lots of second language! I am glad to see the district expanding these opportunities, though obviously there are not enough spots for those who want them. If I were doing it again I would seriously consider Mandarin instead of Spanish, and would gladly have taken one of the Rosa Parks JBBP spots that remained open till open enrollment--though not immersion, still a good exposure to Japanese.

    Our parent community is amazing. As a working single mom I do what I can, and others do more, but the whole effort is stellar. We got a whole new energized bunch of K parents this past year too, so a lot of the 5th grade parents breathed a sigh of relief to see that and know that it would continue.

    Finally, the state curriculum has a lot of logic to it. Of course any curriculum is just dry bones without good teaching to bring it alive, and there are enormous challenges in teaching curriculum to a very diverse student body whose educational backgrounds range widely. More financial resources for the schools would help a lot in terms of meeting the needs of all the kids! But seriously, the curriculum is well-planned and when I look at it I can see that my kids are learning in accordance with it--fractions, writing skills, art history knowledge, etc.

    Again, not to say your choice is wrong, but there are public schools in San Francisco--not all, and yes this is a problem--that do what you are saying. The challenge is to spread the wealth around so that all schools can be assumed to do this. Not all parents want to be on the ground floor to help with this project; fine. But getting parents involved to improve the schools is a wonderful strategy, and it has been working pretty well; we also need other core strategies like the parcel tax just passed to support teacher recruitment and retention. But just compare the state of our city's schools to where they were ten years ago. They are worlds better.

    My position with incoming K friends is that I do not judge their final choice of a school, but I do urge them strongly to at least consider the public schools and to give the lottery a try. I know, it doesn't work for everyone, but don't dismiss it out of hand because you think that public schools don't have arts, or good teaching, or a curriculum, and so forth. That's why I keep telling the story of our family's success with it.

  52. That's all well and good, but not everyone gets one of their choices in the lottery. Yes, there are great public schools in SF. There are also crappy schools in SF. (I'm sorry, but it's true.) There are also schools which need lots of time and parent commitment and a whole lot of love to begin to offer what many of us want RIGHT NOW.
    Some of us wish we could be more committed but also need to work fill time. Some of have the means and maybe don't want to have to deal with the stress/uncertainty of the lottery. And why should they?

    Instead of resorting to name-calling and bitchiness, why can't some of the parents on this blog be a little less judgmental and realize that we all have unique situations and that our kids all have unique needs.


  53. Geez, Susie. I'm the person who wrote at 12:44, and you seem to be responding to my comment, yet I'm pretty sure I didn't call anyone any names, and I also said clearly that I don't judge people's outcomes. This is bitchy?

    What I did say was that I strongly urge my incoming K friends to at least consider the public schools and also to give the lottery a try. By which I mean, please do not pre-judge our public schools and assume that there are no options there. I stand by this. I think it is good advice for my friends and important advocacy for the public schools.

    I also acknowledged that not all the public schools are wonderful, and that the lottery doesn't work out for everyone. That's one reason among several why I don't judge people's final choices. But what does it cost anyone to at least look at the public option with an open mind? My friends could even forget going on tours, and just peruse the options online one evening, and base their choices on test scores, location, and start time if they wanted. It costs basically nothing to submit that form, and they could put most of your energy and money into applying to private schools--which definitely does require a lot of work, and money to boot. All I urge is that they not rule out the public schools without giving it a try. It doesn't have to be so stressful if they are putting most of their hopes on private anyway.

    Why would you try to discourage me from doing this? My friends increase their potential options by going through the lottery, and maybe they get their minds changed about public by taking a look, even if they end up elsewhere. What is the problem with that? How is this being judgmental? You think public schools are going to attract more active and involved families if we all keep our mouths shut and don't encourage our friends to check them out?

    I guess I say all this because it seems like the chatter on this blog (especially this blog, since I think a high percentage of those who remain active are those who didn't have a good outcome in the lottery) and at the playground would lead next year's cohort to be too discouraged to try.

    Plus there are all the disparaging comments that slam public schools in general instead of pointing out that there ARE some good options, and increasing numbers of them--though, yes, of course, we all get it, still not enough. There are shades of gray here, and the incoming K families should know that. They should know that public schools are worth a look. A guaranteed perfect process and result? No. But worth a look. It is as irresponsible to discourage people from doing this as it is to say they're guaranteed lottery winners.

    We all know ad nauseum it is very possible to be unlucky in the lottery. There are strategies for improving your chances, but we all understand that might mean listing a few schools with more marginal reputations in the middle class milieu. Not every family is in a position to volunteer in a school that isn't already full of parent volunteers. I get that. Most of us get that. I still don't see why I am bitchy and judgmental to encourage my friends not to dismiss public schools at the outset, and to tell them they should at least try the lottery and see what they get. Lots of families did get lucky, after all. They are just mostly not posting here.

    Finally, you don't have to lecture me about the time commitment issue. As I said, I'm a single working (full-time) mom, so I truly understand the pressures of getting the kids up and out the door every morning by myself, no backup, then putting in a day's work, then picking the kids up at the end of the day, getting dinner on the table, helping with homework, baths, overseeing and doing chores, getting them to bed--all by myself. Believe me, I get all that. I do manage to volunteer for the school via computer at home, and to swing a couple of field trips, weekend work days and such. Not everyone can do that much. Still, it's worked out for us. I encourage others to imagine how it might work for them too. That's all.

  54. To 7:53, you are just plain wrong about the smaller class sizes in private.

    True, parochial schools have 30 in kindergarten, but the tuition is not $20K a year in parochial either (more like $7K). Many Catholic schools are actually quite ethnically diverse and offer scholarships so economically disadvantaged children going there.

    HOWEVER, Our $20K private kindergarten has 14 children in the class and a teacher and an assistant in the room for each subject. Our daughter went to Convent for high school and never had more than 16 kids in a class, usually 12 or fewer, and there were many kids there on full or partial scholarship. Our kids have received personal attention, individualized instruction and mentoring in those environments. Our daughter in particular benefited because she's bright enough, but was shy, lacked confidence and had missed acquiring a lot of basic skills in her K-8 public experience. Not all kids are such brilliant, confident self-starters as Caroline's kids--I think kids like Caroline's can thrive in any environment.

    I have no illusions that either of the private schools we have attended is perfect or meets the needs of all children as public schools are required to do. Convent had many kids on full or partial financial aid but far from a representational population of of African-American or Hispanic students. The K-8 kindergarten our son attends does not offer financial aid so he's not experiencing economic diversity in school. The ethnic composition seems comparable to Convent. Neither school's program is designed to accommodate learning-challenged children nor, in the K-8, physically challenged children, or children with severe emotional or behavior issues. (Convent did provide free psychological counseling to students.)

    Public schools get public funds funding to pay for professionals and facilities to handle the challenges of special needs children; privates do not. Whether private schools should put more of the money they have into accommodating special needs children, rather than scholarships (giving access to economically disadvantaged kids or kids from historically under-represented ethnic backgrounds) or program quality (some would say bells and whistles) for their current student populations, is a rather large philosophical and ethical question. Perhaps they should take public funds to cover the resources needed to teach special needs kids their current programs are not set up to accommodate. Well, that raises lots of fascinating questions about separation of church and state, taking already paper-thin resources away from publics, and other topics I have not yet thought of, doesn't it?

    As to the notion that 7:53 raises that the teachers in privates are not as good because they lack credentials: I'm open to other views, but in my experience, it's a red herring. I have a friend who left his law career to teach in SF public school. He went through the credentialing process and I asked, "Do you think you've learned anything that will make you a better teacher?" He said, "You're the first person who's thought to ask me that. No, I can't say that I have." This is a very thoughtful person who loves children and has honors history degree from Berkeley and a law degree from Stanford. (Sadly the public school bureaucracy was so bad at the time that he did not last. He was supposed to teach middle school history but instead was assigned to "teach" 6 hours a day of detention and actually prohibited by his principal from teaching them any substantive material--his ONLY permitted activity was to keep order.) In contrast, another acquaintance is the brightest bulb on the tree only in his own mind. I can barely stand to be around him because he spouts his ignorance with such absolute confidence (gosh, a bit like a White House Occupant I could name). He's got a teaching credential for high school English. You name a college outside California and he's never heard of it. You try to talk to him about about literature and he looks at you like you're speaking Martian. So I'm not convinced that a teaching credential necessarily makes one more qualified to teach or work with students. If you know your subject and have the desire and ability to communicate that knowledge to students you're a good teacher whether or without a piece of paper. If you don't, no piece of paper is going to make you a good teacher. All schools have teachers of greater and lesser skill.

    As for the idea that people put kids in private school to keep them away from "defective kids" (7:53's wording, not mine), we have close relatives (not even as distant as cousins) whom we voluntarily see regularly who suffer from, among other things, mild to severe physical physical disabilities, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, dyslexia and borderline psychosis. We're not in private school to avoid "defective kids." We're there because we like the curriculum, the teachers, and the results for our kids. I'm sure what's true of us is true of many private families.

  55. Sorry, my last post had quite a few typos. I'm actually not so poorly educated as the post would indicate.

  56. Comparing people with disabilities to alcoholics and drug addicts is repugnant. Yuck.

  57. You're missing the point. What makes you think I am "comparing" "disabled people" to alcoholics and drug addicts just by mentioning them in the same sentence? 7:53 on 6/18 said that private parents put their kids in private school to keep them away from "defective kids." Given the frequent comments that public schools must take all kids regardless of physical or learning differences or emotional, psychological or behavioral problems and the fact that private schools by and large do exclude those kids, I read the label "defective kids" broadly to include children with every conceivable difference and problem. I would characterize dyslexia as a learning difference, inability to walk as a physical difference, and most of the others I listed (including alcoholism and drug addition) as combinations of emotional, psychological and behavioral problems. And aren't addictions typically considered illnesses?

    Anyway, my point was that that's hardly fair to say that private parents are making that decision to isolate their children from what 7:53 called "defective kids." 7:53 has no idea what anyone else's family encounters in the way of so-called "defective" people, nor, does 7:53 seem to take into account that private schools are not in fact monolithic on this issue. Applying the list of "defects" in my earlier post, I'm "defective," my husband is "defective," my mother is "defective, my mother-in-law is "defective" . . . The list of immediate family of goes beyond that and I could have expanded to include a number of close friends, but enough. We know intimately and love these "defective" people even though we went to private school, which 7:53 seems to think is some sort of Lake Wobegon fantasy land far far away from the real world.

  58. Our private school -- as with the majority of privates in the Bay Area -- requires that all classroom teachers have at least a teaching credential, MOST if not all have masters degrees, and they must have a minimum of one year of prior teaching experience. We don't even hire our own support teachers for classroom positions unless they've had experience as a lead teacher elsewhere.

  59. "Comparing people with disabilities to alcoholics and drug addicts is repugnant. Yuck."

    This isn't a very compassionate response to people with alcohol and drug addiction if you ask me. Are you implying these folks are somehow less deserving than anyone else? Typical of the completely clueless, entitled, holier than thou attitude that is so often on this site.

  60. Private school teachers are not better than public school teachers, but incompetent teachers can be fired much more easily in private than public schools.

  61. "This isn't a very compassionate response to people with alcohol and drug addiction if you ask me. Are you implying these folks are somehow less deserving than anyone else?"

    No, not less deserving, but if you could manage to comprehend the discussion so far, we are talking about KINDERGARTENERS being denied entrance into private schools because of their disabilities.
    So comparing children with disabilities to alcoholics and substance abusers is bizarre.
    I have never met a 5 year old alcoholic or drug addict. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but luckily, they are not commonplace.

    Addictions are a disease and not a disability. Individuals with addictions choose how they deal with their disease.

  62. "Private school teachers are not better than public school teachers, but incompetent teachers can be fired much more easily in private than public schools."
    This is very true, 5:02. Also, in the absence of a teacher's union, privates can pick and choose the teachers they want more easily than publics. However, many privates (especially parochials) offer much lower salaries than do public schools and, consequently, have a harder time attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.

  63. In the 1990's, the Archdiocese of SF mandated that parochial schools pay their teachers comparably to public school teachers. Many schools raised their tuition rates accordingly, and enrollment suffered at some schools that were losing enrollment anyway due to demographic changes. But many are still thriving. Catholic school tuitions are still pretty reasonable, mostly likely because they have bigger class size and of buildings that are for the most part paid for.

    I wouldn't agree that the quality of teachers is any less than at public schools. There is a lot of cross-over in fact -- teachers do move back and forth between the two systems. Also, Catholic schools in SF require all teachers to be credentialed.

  64. To Anon at 7:16pm June 19:

    Susie here. My apologies for the misunderstanding. Only the first paragraph of my post was a response to your post. The 2nd part about "bitchiness" was more of a general comment on the tone of this thread and anti-private school crap spewed by some which feels really judgmental. I think your response was perfectly reasonable.
    So, no hard feelings, 'kay?


    PS: My kids are in public, but we came very close to going the private route when we got fed up with the system.

  65. For all the "anti-private school crap" that is dished out on this blog, there's been an equal amount of anti public school crap. Snippy comments about "you get what you pay for" and "yeah, go on deluding yourselves" in response to posts from parents who love their kids' funky public schools.
    So how about a goddamned TRUCE?
    There are good things about both public AND private schools, there are bad things about both private and public schools. It should not be an "us vs. them" scenario, we are all parents, trying to do our best in this not-so-kid-friendly city.

  66. I agree that there's been an equal amount from both sides.


  67. A point that needs correcting:

    "Public schools get public funds funding to pay for professionals and facilities to handle the challenges of special needs children; privates do not."

    Special education is what's often called an "unfunded mandate" -- more accurately an underfunded mandate. Public schools are mandated by the feds to serve children with disabilities, and the original intention was that the feds would foot the bill. But actually the federal funding for special education covers a fraction of the cost.

  68. Addendum: My knowledge about special ed is fairly limited; there are posters here who are much better informed. I did a quick Google search and am correcting myself and elaborating. Various sources seem to agree that under IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, the feds committed to pay 40% of the cost of special education for disabled students. But the actual funding provided by the feds is estimated at percentages ranging from 11% to 17% of the full cost of special education. In any case, clearly the feds are not paying anywhere near the cost, and the rest must be covered by school districts.

  69. "My knowledge about special ed is fairly limited;"

    Yes, it is.

  70. Please correct my basic point if it's inaccurate, and any details.

  71. I guess Constant Comment is back from vacation.

  72. Good heavens, people, Caroline is absolutely right about this. Kids who are disabled have a right to an education, and they should. It's a civil right. However, the feds are not paying their full share. The lack of funding puts a strain on schools financially. We should be fighting for full funding of this and lots more. It's a very important topic for anyone who cares about education, and worthy of discussion, not veering off into anonymous insults.

    For the life of me I cannot figure why someone(s) would start up with the gratituous cracks on Caroline over this point of all possible issues. She's just plain right on this one. It's not even about private vs. public, or charters. Can we be grownup enough to distinguish good points from bad, and message from messenger, please? It's like junior high school around here sometimes.

  73. I agree that the Feds should chip in the 40% they are supposed to, but I am also sick of special ed programs taking all the flak for school's budget woes. It is grossly misleading to imply that.

    I constantly hear about how much the Special Education budget "encroaches" on the general education budget, and I think it's weird to single out special education costs. Many many school programs "encroach' on the general education funding, many many school programs and services are not for all children but come out of the general education budget.
    What about the sports programs that only perhaps 18% of kids partake in? Is it fair to the kids who are not on football teams or cheerleading teams to have money taken out of their schooling for those programs?
    About 10% of SFUSD's kids are enrolled in Special Education, but wait, there's over 26% of kids who are NEP/LEP (Not English Proficient, Limited English Proficient) almost 50% of SFUSD kids are labeled EDY "Educationally Disadvantaged Youth", and 17% are in Gifted (GATE) programs. Monies are spent on programs for those kids that also, one could say, using the same divisive logic) that those expenditures "encroach" on the general education fund too.
    People always comment on how a kid with autism costs the district an average of 20K a year to educate, and then they compare that to the 7,600 a year it costs to educate a "typical" kid. Well, first, when you add in construction costs, bond interest, and retirement benefits that bogus 7,600 comes out to more like 12,000 ... and add in the costs for those other things I mentioned above and you can raise that cost even more ... that child in special ed would cost the district 12,000 a year ANYWAY, disabled or not. The 20K a year tossed around is not ADDITIONAL costs, it is a average TOTAL.
    Also, when a kid has a 1:1 aide in class, that aide is another adult in the room who helps other children too, so the whole class benefits from that "encroachment", not just the child with a disability. Special education teachers also help children who are struggling with issues but not yet identified as having any disability, so all kids in the school benefit from that teacher's skills.

    Can it please not be an "us against" them argument ALL THE TIME?


    “There’s never been anything false about hope.”

  74. I definitely didn't intend to blame special ed programs for schools' budget woes. I DID intend to blame the feds for requiring school districts to provide special ed programs, promising them a certain level of funding and then reneging.

    My point was just to refute the misconception that public schools are adequately funded for providing special ed programs. They definitely are not.

  75. I'm with you, Moggy. It shouldn't be an "us against them" argument. I didn't think that was the point being made, though. I think the original point was that we shouldn't criticize (many) private schools for discriminating against kids with special needs and/or disabilities, because public schools are set up with funding to take care of that, so no worries. Unfortunately, as pointed out, this funding is NOT being provided in full measure for the public schools. Somehow we can continue to authorize funding for a stupid war while not meeting federal funding promises for special education for our kids. Shameful.

    The solution, of course, lies not in pitting special education, which is an important right and priority for any decent society, against general education or indeed against programs for LEP kids or anyone else. The poster my mom had in our kitchen about it being a great day when the Pentagon is holding bakesales and the schools have all the money they need comes to mind.

    I appreciate your post, because all to often this is exactly how it is framed. "If we didn't have to spend money on THEM, etc....." We have to be careful how we frame the advocacy around this and I am glad for your vigilance.

  76. I said that public schools get their special ed funding from public funds. That's an accurate statement. I did not make any assertions about the adequacy of special ed funding or whether it comes from local, state or federal funds nor do I have the knowledge to make such assertions. What I know is that public schools need more money to do their job, period.

    If privates were to provide special ed, they'd need to get more money from somewhere too. I did not say they should not be subject to criticism for not offering special ed. What I said is that it's an interesting question where the money would come from to pay for it. At most privates (note I did NOT say "all privates"), even the already sky-high tuition is not sufficient to cover the cost of providing the education they already offer to the students they already have. (See for example the Convent web site Annual Fund participation request, with data there backed up by the audited annual report, which is available to the public.)

  77. Thanks for clarifying, Marlowe's mom.

    Actually, I swear I've heard that private schools COULD get the public funding for serving special education students. Maybe someone more versed than I could confirm or correct that.

  78. thought you all might be interested in this thread about NYC privates/public on UrbanBaby:
    basically same debates, different city

  79. Parents can argue for non-public school placement of kids with special needs, whereby the SFUSD pays a different education provider. This can be very hard to accomplish and can only be done if the parents can demonstrate that the child's needs can't be met in a SFUSD setting.

  80. wow, just read a bunch of the school threads on nyc urban baby site and they make the sf school process look like a walk in gg park. glad we're here, not there.

  81. Not to mention the tuition at a NYC private school is closer to $30K... oy

  82. re: urban baby. Oh dear, another place to waste hours reading online...

    Note the regular use of TT (top tier) without complaints. And what the heck are ERBs? Some sort of standardized test for K admissions? Is this what the individual screenings are here and we just don't identify them by this name?

    Sounds like we have it easier here. And UB makes this blog board look tame.

  83. I don't know what ERBs are, but I do know the public schools test for admission to special "gifted and talented" schools or classrooms, taking something like the top 5% of those tensted (not sure of the current percentage--it may have changed recently). We do not do that sort of thing for our K admissions.

    We do have honors programs at the middle and high school levels, and special admission to Lowell and SOTA at the high school levels.

    I found myself hoping that the urban baby site was not representative of parents in NYC--so elitist, and so unthinking about it, in many of its comments. (It does seem to be mainly Manhattan, and UES and UWS at that.) Glad to be here even with the tensions we sometimes have.

  84. Ay, caramba!

    Sooo glad to be living in the Bay Area at this stage of my life. Much as I complain about life in SF, NYC seems about 10x more stressful.

  85. ERBs are standardized tests that are used by private schools in NY as part of their evaluation of incoming kindergarteners. The kids also have playdates at the schools so the ERB is in addition to that evaluation.

    ERBs are given in grades higher than kindergarten (at our school they started in 4th grade) here in San Francisco and elsewhere.

    I grew up in NY but I'm glad I'm not raising kids there. San Francisco feels a lot saner on all levels.

  86. When we applied to NDV here in SF they gave our son a standardized test, I wish I could remember what it was called. He likes puzzles and seemed to take it in stride.

  87. that NY blog is sick. seriously.

  88. "When we applied to NDV here in SF they gave our son a standardized test, I wish I could remember what it was called. He likes puzzles and seemed to take it in stride."

    Possibly the Brigance test?

  89. My daughter was in Buena Vista's Spanish language immersion through 3rd grade, and we switched her to a small private K-8 school (Synergy) because of the 30-1 student-teacher ratio. We hated to leave the language program, but she blossomed academically & socially in the smaller environment. Her foreign language is still relatively strong (tho not what it would have been).


  90. ^^Thanks!!