Monday, November 3, 2008

Hot topic: private schools

I'm starting this thread for people to talk amongst themselves about the private school enrollment process. This isn't a place for debating private vs. public--as there are many places on this blog where you can do that. Please keep this thread focused on privates, the tours, applications, student evaluations, and so on. Thanks! Best, Kate

571 comments:

  1. Will private schools have *any* financial aid for new kindergarteners this year, or should we rule them out if we cannot afford to go?

    My understanding is that aid is alotted first to current families who receive financial aid, then enrolled families whose circumstances have changed since the last year -- of which there are likely to be *many*.

    Should we bother spending $ on the application fees if we know we would depend on financial aid to be able to attend?

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  2. I hear Live Oak and MCDS have very few non-sibling girl spots this year.

    Can anyone confirm?

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  3. When I toured Friends last week they only said about 1/3 of their families receive financial aid. They didn't say anything about this year's funds, though.

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  4. Our school, Adda Clevenger, is a private, family-run, for-profit school with a dual academic and performing arts curriculum. There is no financial aid. The application process is straightforward: After siblings of enrolled children, it's first-come, first served. No lottery, no vetting of the children via testing or play dates, no holding spots to try to balance gender. If they have space and you get there and put your money down, you get the space. When you enroll, you sign a one-year contract and you are committed to pay for the full year. The school is not equipped to serve special needs children. They are doing tours over the next few weeks.

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  5. Re: financial aid

    This is an excellent question to ask the admissions directors or business managers. They will definitely be getting requests from families already enrolled who may not have demonstrated need in the past, but I'm sure will also want to admit a socioeconomically diverse K class next fall.

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  6. I know some private school admissions directors troll this site from time to time.

    Wish they'd chime in on some of the Qs above...

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  7. Part of an admissions director's job is to get as many applications as possible. It is one of the cut and dried numbers assessments done to evaluate whether they are effective. Also, they know how many potential incoming K sibs they have, but some of those may end up elsewhere, for financial or other reasons. Once you decide which schools you are really interested in, I would suggest you do as much networking as you can stand to try to get the lowdown on them, including the sib situation. I was contacted by a former work collegue on behalf of some parents interested in the school my child goes to, and was happy to answer their questions.

    As for financial aid, I wouldn't let it stop me from applying. Some schools reduce the application fee for moderate and lower income families. Asking about whether they have a sliding scale for application fees might give some idea of their current attitude toward aid applicants, as well as reduce the financial burden of applying.

    Good luck.

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  8. Adda Clevenger may not vet applicants beforehand, but I know for sure that they kick students out at the headmistress' discretion. This is not a pro or con comment, just fact.

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  9. For those considering privates in Southern Marin - please take a look at MCDS, MPMS and St Hilary's. You can not go wrong with any of those schools! St Hilary's is a true gem of a school if anyone has not seen it - and costs roughly $8 k a year!

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  10. The headmistress at Adda Clevenger has a long documented history. She's impossible to deal with, yet endearing, if you get along with her. Lots of pluses and minuses about that school. It's really a specialty school.

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  11. Just to clarify, the implication made by Caroline's comment is that AC takes all comers and then whittles away the kids who would've been screened out by an up-front application process by kicking them out down the line. My kid goes to Adda, is now in 4th grade, and of the 20 or so kids who started in the entering K class, 0 have been expelled. It is actually quite rare, and I don't think it is done lightly. In the past 4 years, I have only heard of 1 student who left because the school asked them to. Perhaps there have been some I don't know about, but I doubt it, as the school community is fairly small.

    The fact is, Adda takes all comers and turns the vast majority of those who stick with it into quite competent singers, dancers and students. The kids get into well-regarded high schools, and are generally very successful at them. Not bad for a school with an open admissions policy.

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  12. Re Adda C., I personally know one kid who was kicked out and am familiar with another (my friend's kid had to step into a lead role when the boy in it was kicked out -- for a reason I would not disagree with, I should add).

    That's the prerogative of private schools, and it's NOT a minus if you're paying tuition and there's a troublemaker in the class! I only pointed it out because the implication that the classes were truly accepting all comers is somewhat impacted by the fact that they ARE free to kick kids out. I am not fully convinced that there's no vetting going on beforehand, no disrespect to Marlowe's mom. If a kid already had a record of trouble, do you really think she'd let the kid in? But again, that's not a bad thing to the family paying tuition.

    My comment was not a pro- or anti-private or Adda C. comment; just a point of fact. (Undeniable fact, though.)

    Also, by the way, when a student leaves (one left to start 6th grade at Aptos with my daughter, for example -- voluntarily to the best of my knowledge), the rest of the world doesn't necessarily know why that happened.

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  13. Caroline, your children have never gone to private school have they ? As stated this is not a private school vs. public debate thread. Why are you commenting on this thread at all ?

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  14. By the way, you might not know the real reason why someone left a school either. Maybe they told you one thing, but the truth was something different. Just saying...

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  15. 8:11

    In my experience you can call the private schools you're interested in and find out how much financial aid they have left.

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  16. Anyone have thoughts on Presidio Hill?

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  17. I have a fall girl (September 2004) and we have ruled out private school if for no other reason than my understanding is that private schools really do not make exceptions. We don't want to redshirt her so we are focusing on publics and privates that have a true PK program. It's actually a blessing though at first I was very annoyed. But it greatly cuts down on the work ahead for us.

    If anyone has experienced anything that would imply fall kids should still consider private, let me know.

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  18. You might want to look into Presidio Hill for your September b-day daughter. They accept a few younger kids for a "2-year" kindergarten every year. The kids usually have birthdays around the time of your daughter's and they do the kindergarten year twice. It's worth checking out.

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  19. <<< ... you might not know the real reason why someone left a school either. Maybe they told you one thing, but the truth was something different... >>>

    Yes, this was EXACTLY my point, so you're backing me up. So when you hear that a private school never or rarely kicks anyone out, my point is that you don't know that that's true.

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  20. I would say that this thread is veering into the "private vs. public schools" area with the discussion of whether private schools do or don't kick kids out. Please take it to another thread.

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  21. I would request that anyone with no first hand experience in a private school refrain from offering "helpful" anecdotal information about private schools. Especially when it's negative information. Especially on a thread where we've been asked to refrain from private/public comparisons.

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  22. Let's also try to keep this topic focused on SF/Bay Area schools.

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  23. I made no negative comments and did no comparing of private or public schools on this thread. I was adding to information given about a specific private school.

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  24. The only thing we can do is scroll past her posts. She's obviously going to bring negativity into every thread. She never concedes that anyone else has a point, so at this point I'm not going to bother to engage her anymore.

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  25. "I was adding to information given about a specific private school."

    Can I ask why you're even participating on this thread, given that you have no first hand experience with private schools? Per Kate, this is a thread for people interested in private schools to talk amongst themselves and share information. Frankly, 2nd hand information is of limited use, and we've heard all of it before anyway, on other threads.

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  26. Aw... let her stick around; she actually ends up harming her own cause the more she goes on.

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  27. last year we checked our presidio hill. The cirriculum and approach to education was very impressive. The kids were less so compared to other privates in my opinion.

    The big draw back.. well other than the kids for my family was the number of spots. I think there was like 3 or 4 after siblings and preschools students.

    keep in mind they have a preschool so that doesnt leave many K spots open...

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  28. I'm touring San Francisco Day School and the The San Francisco School this week. I'll post about them afterward. If you have questions for them, let me know.

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  29. Why in the world do you private-school folks make me the issue? This post is specifically to talk about schools, not about the posters.

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  30. We checked out Presidio Hill too. My son didn't get in but I think in the end that was best as I'm not sure it would have been the best fit for our family, and because he's a kid who is great at self-direction but could use some work in the "taking direction from others" category.

    PH doesn't have a preschool but they do have a 2-year kindergarten. I think 4-6 kids/ year do the K program twice. The K class has around 22 kids, 16 of whom go on to first grade and 6 of whom stay for another year of K, leaving 16 K spots (10 for 1-year K and 6 for the next batch of 2-year K) I might be slightly off on the numbers, but that's the gist of it. Some of those spots then go to siblings, etc.

    In general, it seemed like PH would be great for the younger years but in 3rd-5th grade it would start to feel small and limiting. They expand the class for 6th-8th grades and also expand the curriculum offerings.

    I know many people whose kids switched to PH after a different school didn't work out so well who have been very pleased with PH. I also like that PH is very open to accommodating learning differences and committed to helping kids discover their strengths, interests, and what really gets their own fires going, educationally speaking.

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  31. I do want to add that the application to Presidio Hill was quite a challenge. I remember something like 9 essay-length questions. Ye gods! If I remember correctly, the admissions director did confess that it becomes something of a self-screening tool - you have to be pretty interested in PH to slog through that application.

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  32. Most of the so-called "top tier" private schools have extensive essays. The exception was Burke's, with one short, 250-word one. Ironically, I found that one the hardest!

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  33. Yes, but Presidio Hill's was particularly extensive. I'm going to dig it up on my computer - I remember it being ENDLESS...

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  34. MCDS, SF Day, Nueva, etc all seemed pretty extensive... but at least we were able to re-purpose entire paragraphs from one application to the other...

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  35. My understanding is that any private school can expel any child for any reason and that most of them do expel children from time to time, regardless of whether they screen children prior to admitting them. Sometimes the reasons for expulsion may seem odious or irrational and sometimes they make complete sense. The risk of expulsion comes with private school territory.

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  36. The flip side is that publics can't expel kids or easily get rid of teachers, no matter how negative their impact on a school or class...

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  37. Laurel is a private school that is respected and that is known for taking kids with learning differences.

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  38. Thanks everyone for the recommendations. I'll look into Presidio Hill.

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  39. If you like Presidio Hill, you'll want to check out Live Oak. They have a similar vibe and educational philosophy.

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  40. I believe that Laurel is specifically for kids with learning differences.

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  41. Laurel isn't just for kids with learning differences it is also promoted as small school for kids who would benefit from that environment. This year they only have 5 kindergartners.

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  42. I think Synergy also has 2 year KG for kids with later birthdays.

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  43. Liv Oak seems a little hipper and more outgoing than Presidio Hill. Not as precious.

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  44. When looking at privates it's important to keep the educational approaches and academics in mind because they actually differ. It seems like Live Oak isn't quite as academic, while places like Burkes, Town, and Hamlin are. What about SFUSD? More academic or less? Friends? Not sure about those. I know that MCDS combines both traditional and progressive teaching.

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  45. Not sure what you mean by "academic"...

    Do you mean hours of homework?

    We know an ex-Hamlin girl who got straight As at Hamlin and her first B at Live Oak. She said the math was much harder at Live Oak and that the homework assignment were more creative than at Hamlin.

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  46. Parents should check out Notre Dame des Victoires.

    The academics are top notch, as mot of the grads go on the University, St. Ignatius, Lowell, Lick, etc.

    The community is the best of all the schools I toured last year. Yes, it's a catholic school, but as a glbt parent, I found it extremely welcoming and supportive.

    The discipline is good, the diversity is excellent, the aftercare program is fun, and best of all, the building is this great historic place on Nob Hill near the financial district, for those who work downtown.

    Everybody who goes there loves it. And for less than one third the cost of Hamlin, Burke, Town, Presidio Hill, etc. Tuition is in the $6500 per year range, plus with the extras like donations, fund drive, aftercare, you are talking $9000 per year tops. They give discounts for siblings.

    Seriously. Highly recommended, especially if you don't have the stomach to wait through the public lottery rounds.

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  47. I should also add that the foreign language instruction is French and the cultural bent of NDV is in the French Marist culture. No, it's not immersion. But for those of use who studied French, it's a good way to continue that with your kids.

    Not everybody likes to study Spanish and Mandarin.

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  48. Presidio Hill and Live Oak send their kids to the same high schools as Burkes, Town, and Hamlin. It's not about more or less academic; it's about academic approach.

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  49. Can we get into a top private if we don't know any board members or current parents who can write letters of support for us?

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  50. 6:02 Yes, if your child provides "diversity" and/or you would be able to pay full tuition and contribute generously to the schools's Capitol Campaign.

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  51. We're screwed then. Darn.

    Isn't being middle-class and needing aid a form of "diversity" in their world?

    ;-)

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  52. 6:16 - Yes, being middle class and needing financial assistance is a form of diversity, socioeconomic. You absolutely have a shot at a school that is a good fit for your child.

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  53. I have to speak up here and say that all the "top private" schools chose whomever they chose, regardless of the reasons named here on this list. I really honest to God do not think that being on a board, being famous, being rich, being poor, having connections or whatever has anything to do with the decision for 90% of the slots, if not all. They really pick the kids they want. Often, they interview the kids and pick the best and brightest. It comes down to your kid. Not you.

    It might even be your child's gender. Some years, it's easy for boys. Other years, it's impossible for boys.

    This was my experience last year when my son went through the process. We didn't know anybody. My son has one of those sparkle pop cute personalities, and he's really bright and sharp. I'm not bragging; I'm sort of a loner myself. But he just has whatever they were looking for, and even tho we knew nobody and had no connections and make a piddling middle class income, we got in three places and got waitlisted the rest. My daughter is shier and doesn't perform well in interviews and tests. We got in one place, and that was off the waitlist, and it wasn't our top pick at all.

    My friends who are connected have often ended up empty handed. My friends who have bright kids who had a bad day at the interview, didn't get in, or got waitlisted.

    It's a cruel, vexing, mysterious process. I know of no parent who likes it. It just is. My opinion: At the end of the day, it's a personality contest. I mean that in a broad way. They pick a kid whose personality they think will do well in their program. Some of them steer clear of super gifted kids because it's hard to teach them in a group. And yes, they tend not to want kids who learn differently.

    If anything, I would say that if you have a ton of money, live in a rich neighborhood like Seacliff or Pac Heights, are white, straight, and your kid is fine in every way, you are at a disadvantage. There are just too many of you in this town. Honest. I think the default position of the admissions folks is: they want a good mix of the brightest kids kids, and they go out of their way to get that. It's hard. Not that many poor or middle class families apply, much less, people of color. They have to go looking.

    So please, please stop thinking that you won't get in just because you are a middle class nobody. It doesn't work like that.

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  54. I think that if you want to try for private, go for it. There is no perfect formula for getting in AT ALL.

    To respond to some of the recent posts made on this thread, I do think a lot of it has to do with the family overall, not just your child. I think if you come across as high maintenance or are annoying or overly obsequious, I think those things can hurt you. I also think they are really looking for kids who are OLDER - so summer birthdays, esp for boys, it is unlikely your kid will get in.

    But again, you could drive yourself CRAZY trying to figure out how to make it work for you. There is no "must do" list. That being said, I would try to attend as many of the events as you can and try (without being annoying) to make sure the admissions folks know who you are. Figure out what is unique and unusual about YOUR family - don't buy into that token diversity crap. It is such a non-word. We all have diversity and uniqueness to offer these schools. Think about what is special about your family and integrate that into your essay and your interview. Don't get dragged down by the "I'm white, middle class and straight" bullshit - that is self defeating. Plenty of people who could define themselves that way are at my daughter's school. You are in the majority of people who get accepted to these schools, believe it or not. There are just so many of you that you see yourself standing out less.

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  55. Oh yeah, and middle class? Truly middle class? You definitely have a good chance of standing out AND of getting financial aid. I was advised if your family's combined income is under 250,000 it is worth applying.

    Just go for it. you never know until you try.

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  56. 7:56

    we know a family who has a high profile parent who got all their first choices. it is hard to believe your position doesn't hold weight in private schools...

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  57. Would you recommend including a picture of your child with the application materials, just so they can put a name to a face later?

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  58. That is an interesting question - we never thought of that when we applied. A picture in this context may very well make a difference!

    What schools are you thinking of applying to? What about everyone else out there - any schools being applied to or tours that you have been on recently?

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  59. Basically I think everyone's a bit right. Personality matters, maybe even more than intelligence. Outgoing personalities sell, particularly at the popular coed progressives often touted on this board. Which is why I really encourage families to think about what's right for their kid, rather than buy into the idea often promoted on this board that one school (or one kind of school) is the "best." I've heard numerous parents tell me their quieter kids really benefited from single-sex environments.

    Don't let this insane process cause you to pathologize your kid -or think someone else's kid is "better." Shy quiet kids are awesome too!

    IMHO connections don't matter to a certain extent because everyone has them. But if you REALLY matter (and it a fair amount in this town to really matter) yes it will absolutely help.

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  60. Based on our limited experience with competitive application processes (our daughter applied to 3 private high schools and our son applied to one competitive admission kindergarten), I think it's almost entirely about the kid, unless the parent(s) are obviously going to be more trouble than they're worth. We have no "connections" and live paycheck to paycheck (though we did not request financial aid). Our daughter applied at Convent, University and Lick-Wilmerding. She loved Convent, liked University pretty well, and did not really warm up to Lick-Wilmerding. She was admitted at Convent, wait-listed at University, and denied at Lick-Wilmerding. She's quite shy, but I'd bet anything that her enthusiasm for Convent showed in her interview and weighed heavily in their decision to admit her. Her middle school grades were good but not spectacular and she tests poorly. At Convent in particular, I'm sure not all adolescent girls want to be "stuck" in an all-female environment even though their parents might think it's a good idea. Having kids who are excited about being there has to create a happier and more constructive atmosphere for faculty and students. I should also mention that there were a number of kids she knew on full or partial scholarship, and they were chosen for many different reasons, including ethnic diversity and special talent.

    Our son applied to kindergarten at NDV which has far more applicants than places. He's definitely a spark plug, very outgoing and enthusiastic, unlike his introvert parents. We know what womb he came from, but not what planet. Unfortunately, although they said he was bright and kindergarten-ready, his personality was not tractable enough for their environment.

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  61. Marlowe's mom - that's amazing that you got feedback on your son's admission effort. I would think that most schools never divulge the reasons why someone didn't get in. Did you follow up with the school to get that information?

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  62. You have a K and a high-schooler? Wow?

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  63. Some schools ask for a family picture.

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  64. A family picture helps them remember which family you are. It also helps them understand if your whole family (as opposed to just your adopted child) might add racial diversity to the community.

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  65. "Outgoing personalities sell, particularly at the popular coed progressives often touted on this board".

    I'm not sure this is entirely the case. I believe the coed schools want a mix of personalities, just like they want a balance of ages and gender. A class full of one type of personality would be very challenging.

    My shy daughter does very well at Friends which has a warm, nurturing environment.

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  66. Yes, we did ask NDV for feedback because we loved the school, we desperately wanted at least some French, and we were crushed when our son was not accepted. (I did start having doubts when he cartwheeled off to the interview instead of walking but hoped his bubbly personality would prevail.) We sent a letter to the principal to ask what went wrong, and after several weeks, she called me. I appreciated her candor, respected the reasoning, and still have a very high opinion of NDV.

    Hint: If you want feedback, word your request in a way that's respectful of the school's decision and be prepared to be patient--these are busy people. We said that we were not questioning the decision, but would appreciate knowing whether our son had behavioral or intellectual issues that we should be addressing. People usually become educators because they care about children. If you ask, "Can you give us some information that will help us help our child?" you improve your chance of getting a response.

    Our daughter is 20 and a junior in college. Our son will soon turn 6.

    BTW, don't write off Convent as a socialite school. They do a lot of fund-raising for financial aid. Our daughter had an outstanding academic and social experience there. She says Convent made college easy (as do many Convent grads). Of course there are some rich spoiled goof-offs and snobs, but overall we found it to be a friendly, down-to-earth place. If you think single-sex might be a good fit for your daughter, check it out.

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  67. My son is a 1st grader at Town. We didn't know anyone or come with any special recommendations and our son is a pretty "regular" kid. I like to think that we're pretty regular folks too. The whole process was pretty benign and Town was the only private we applied to.

    Regarding the private school process in general - just watch those open houses. They can be a real turn off - a lot of people trying to make an impression.

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  68. We just signed up for Hamlin's event on Saturday morning and were told they have valet parking!

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  69. anybody have any advice or information about Burkes? We are considering to apply but would love to hear from a parent or former parent their thoughts on the school.

    Thanks

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  70. It's tough when people ask questions about admissions because often there is no clear answer. It really does differ from school to school and based upon their needs.

    I guarantee you that most private schools look for people who can afford to pay. That obviously makes sense, as they need to cover their salaries and school expenses, let alone try to build an endowment. It really is less of an issue of privilege and diversity in my mind.

    I can almost say with certainty that who you are and who you know (connections to the school) most certainly will have an impact on your chances of admission - I mean, let's be real people. When admissions are that competitive you can pick and choose who you want to admit.

    There is no blindness to being connected as some have said on this thread, that is ridiculous, but on the other hand of COURSE they want a great child. So, they have a LOT of things to weigh during admissions.

    They are literally building their future - far from an easy job. They are looking for many types of fits, not only from the perspective of the students success and fit, but also the fit of the family and how they will support the school - in time, money and resources.

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  71. Burke's has a reputation for being more nurturing than Hamlin.

    I think their kinders do a whole unit on fairies and make believe...

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  72. I appreciate some of the info on Adda Clevenger, both good & bad. We toured this school recently, and were very impressed with the atmosphere, teaching style and the dual-curriculum. However, there were some "red flags;" e.g., the headmistress seems to have a reputation of "my way or the highway," and it's unclear whether or not they welcome or frown upon parental involvement - one person said their attitude is "drop off your kids at the door and don't worry about it, we got it from here." This is particularly of concern, given the limited feedback that parents appear to get - no parent/teacher meetings, pretty much all one gets is two report cards? Would appreciate some thoughts on these issues - too, if anyone has any information to share about A/C off-list, please feel free to email me (netarc -at- gmail -dot- com). Many thanks!

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  73. Our child is in their 5th year at Adda Clevenger, and I would say they have less options for parental involvement than most other schools seem to offer. That being said, they do offer a bit more than your tour suggests.

    There is a school picnic in early September, which most of the teachers attend. If you want to interact with the teachers, and put names to faces, go. And chat people up, pretend to be an extrovert for the day if you have to, but this is a good opportunity to establish some connections.

    The school sends out a detailed course description in the fall, in it each of your child's teachers outlines their plans for the class(es) they are teaching your child's group. It usually also gives some background information on the teachers as well. We really enjoy these, we haven't gotten them yet this year, but they should be coming out soon.

    This year there is going to be a parent-teacher night in November, in past years it was in the Winter/Spring. This is a good opportunity to get some specific feedback about your kid.

    The report cards sound like nothing much, but the mid-year report card is fabulous. There is a sheet of paper for each class, and many teachers take the time to give detailed information on how your kid is doing, often addressing both academic and social development issues. There is a wealth of information in there, really go through it.

    The end of year report card is just a letter grade in each class, but also tells you the grade your child is going into. Believe it. If your child has a Fall birthday, make sure to figure out if they are in the 1 year or 2 year Kindergarten track, as they have both.

    When our child was in K and 1st, I spent a day each year in the classroom. The school didn't encourage this, but didn't give us any flak over it either. Sometimes if I could get out of work early I would sit in on the last part of the last class of the day. (Really only 3 or 4 times, probably.) It was reassuring to see things in action and my kid loved having me show up. (As opposed to now, the kid would be mortified if I tried to do anything along those lines.)

    I will say, the parental community has very few stay-at-home parents. Part of the appeal of the school is the longer school day, since our kids need to be in some sort of care for 8 or more hours a day anyway. If a SAHP asked whether AC would be a good fit, and they were looking for an opportunity to do a lot of classroom volunteering, I would probably suggest a different environment.



    Hope this is helpful, and good luck with the school search.

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  74. Please be careful when applying to The San Francisco School. We applied last year for kindergarten and paid the $75 application fee. We heard nothing until February when we received a letter saying that they had filled all the interview spots for kindergarten. I wish they would have said something when I called to ask where to send the $75 check. They sure as hell didn't hesitate in cashing the check.

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  75. Having gone through the process, tours, applications, coffees, open houses, etc. last year with our sanity intact, here are a few observations (hopefully helpful) and in no particular order for those applying to private schools this year.


    1. Diversity: Don't judge the school too much by the other parents attending coffees, open houses, etc. Investigate the composition of the most recent K classes. In our experience, the K cls at our school and at other privates was much more diverse than what we could see at the mixers, etc. Also, look more at the lower grades than the upper grades - many of the school have improved significantly re: addressing diversity.

    2. Know the differences between the schools so that you better understand what might be a good fit for your child. -- It also helps you communicate more knowledgeably re: your interest when talking to the admissions directors.

    3. Try to attend as many of the get togethers as you can (both parents if there are two) - it's yet another way to declare your level of interest.

    Gotta go... more later.

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  76. Attended an Open House at San Francisco Day tonight. So many people! Anyway, the academics seem strong and they have some really interesting things going on in the classes.

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  77. 9:02 -- That's the way all the private schools work (and even most preschools).

    Just because you pay the application fee is no guaranty you'll be admitted or even make it to the final stages of the application process.

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  78. RE: private application process...

    Remember that private schools receive NO monies from the State. The time & money they spend on producing application materials, conducting tours, etc, is on their own dime. Hence the app fee.

    However, that doesn't mean that they cannot be more transparent about their process. For example, had we known that Children's Day school would only have room for 3 boys, period, we would not have paid for an application submission.

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  79. Interesting - when we looked at CDS they were very clear that they don't tend to have a lot of K spots because of the kids coming from preschool, and actively discourage people from applying unless they really feel that it's the right school for their child. Have they changed their approach?

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  80. Okay a few truths, the application fee for private schools is partially a fundraiser. Last year for example one private high school received between 7 -800 apps. for 70 spots. Do the math. I can't remember if that was a 75. dollar fee or a 100. either way it brings in revenue. I had a similar experiance with a school telling me they had no first grade spots but urging me to send in an app. and "don't forget the check". when I asked why would I apply for a non existent spot and a place at the end of a long wait list she mumbled something about they may have a spot at some point.
    If your well adjusted charming child provides visual diversity you will get in and if you need it you will get financial aid. End of discussion .
    And @ 2:56 p.m. said it very well, of course the privates need people who can pay, or are well known or well connected. They are to a large degree admitting stategically to survive.
    Last note about private high schools, I know of at least one that has a cut off based on a students PSAT scores. Below the 75th percentile and it's no go, well unless your parents are serious endowment material . . .

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  81. Sorry that should read SSAT scores.

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  82. 9:02

    What were your overall impressions of The San Francisco School? Did the academics seem adequate or were they weaker than other privates like SFDS and Friends? How did you feel about the school's location? Was the diversity really as good as they claim? Do you think the kindergartners get short-changed by being combined with the 3 and 4 year olds?

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  83. Admissions directors waive the application fee all the time. If it feels like a hardship, just ask.

    These schools raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and charge $20,000/per kid per year.

    Application fees are not a major source of revenue.

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  84. Also, what some people do not realize is that tuition alone does not cover costs! There is still a $$ gap that must be filled, how big that gap is depends upon the school, and current conditions.

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  85. @1:53 I've had three children at three different privates where I've been extremely involved in fundraising and boardwork. I stand by my statement,
    the application process is partially a fund raiser. It didn't start out as such but with increased competition for limited spaces and multiple applications it has become one. Oh, and schools don't often fundraise more than $200k a year unless they are running a capital campaign. So if you can make 20% of your nut just in application fees of course you go for it.

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  86. What private schools were your kids at?

    The ones we're looking for raise more than that each year.

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  87. Don't often raise more than $200k a year? Not at my childs school. That would be much less I would expect at any of the top private K-8 schools.

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  88. Maybe the second/third tier privates use application fees to raise money.

    Not the top ones...

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  89. Fundraising is considered a different revenue stream than annual fund giving which falls under developement. As for which "tier" of privates now consider application fees as an additional income source, your presumption that there are first, second, and so on tiered privates is flawed. What we do have is a wide variety of very different independent schools each of which appeal to different families for different reasons. It's a stretch to say that one is somehow better than another. They simply aren't. However one may stand out head and shoulders above the rest for your particular family as it provides specifically what you are looking for, so it's the best school for your child. Please let's leave the snobbery out of the discussion.

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  90. While I agree that we should leave snobbery out of the discussion, I disagree that all schools are equal. It is simply a fact that some schools are more competitive than others. And in the Bay Area these are the schools people mean when they talk about "top tier" K-8: Town, Cathedral, Hamlin, Burke's, SF Day, MCDS, Friends, FAIS, CAIS, Convent, Stuart Hall, and Nueva.

    Yes, MANY people find a better fit at schools not on this list, but few would argue that there are not tiers. Just like college, folks!

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  91. We must agree to disagree regarding so called " top tiered" schools. That's an interesting list you give and while all the schools mentioned have very particular merits I can think of several more that would fit comfortably on that list. NDV, Presidio Hill, Synergy, Brandeis, S.F. Waldorf, Live Oak and the list could go on because it's all about what a family feels is best for them. I've also heard unflattering things about all these schools, all that tells me is someone was unhappy there, not that it's a sub par school but that it was a bad fit. To say any one of these schools is better than another is misleading. Better based on what and in whose opinion?

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  92. Does anyone have any experience with Brandeis? We were really impressed by the school at our recent tour. My only concern was that it might be too academic for our son for kindergarten. We saw kindergarteners doing worksheets with math and writing and it was only the first month of school. I'd love to hear any thoughts about that.

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  93. Brandeis, yes. Some would argue Convent and Stuart Hall shouldn't be on the list. NDV has a great program from what I've heard.

    The "top tier" category is based on high schools where most graduates are placed, quality of program and curriculum as judged by peer schools, ERB scores, which schools other schools use to benchmark things like tuition, teacher salary, benefits, where teacher's most want to work, etc.

    I agree that the other schools you mention are fine ones where many people are happy and OF COURSE you can find disgruntled parents and students at the schools I listed.

    It's kind of like the Newsweek rankings in that it depends what you look at when you're ranking. But I have ranked, I've merely grouped. Ask the schools themselves and they will tell you what schools they compare themselves to when assessing their programs.

    And just because a school is top tier doesn't make it better for your family or my family, I am not trying to argue that at all.

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  94. I think some schools have significantly better academics, for instance, SFDS. They seem to use a mix of progressive and traditional methods. A lot of the privates follow a progressive model but lose a lot of academic rigor in my opinion.

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  95. I think that the 'top tier' schools mentioned were actually being too generous. In my opinion, there are a few schools that stand out from the rest that I would have even considered.

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  96. And one other thing, there are better privates than some listed in the Bay Area. If Nueva is listed (non-SF and non-Marin), then we are missing (probably the most highly regarded private in California) the Harker School, Head-Royce, and Bentley (in the East Bay) just off the top of my head.

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  97. @ 9:58 a.m. let's not go there. In my family there's a tradition of attending St. Pauls and Deerfield Academy both of which pretty much trounce the competition. Let's keep this to day schools in the area immediate to S.F. I imagine Nueva was included because it alone limits enrollment to so called gifted children ?

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  98. First off, schools in Marin (MCDS) were included, so I don't see how mentioning Bentley and Head-Royce should be so different - they are nearly as close distance-wise. Gifted or not, Nueva is very far.

    I also did not mean that the schools I mentioned were not the best, I was merely saying that there are others that could be mentioned as top schools as well in the nearby areas. I am not sure if what you were saying was that Deerfield and St Pauls would be better than any of the aforementioned (to which I would disagree)? I fail to see why you mentioned those schools.

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  99. Are you guys talking about St. Paul's in SF? Or a more elite St. Paul's elsewhere. I mean, St. Paul's is a fine school -- my kids went there for several years -- but it isn't usually on lists of top-tier schools. That's one of the things I loved about it -- you want to go there, go sign your child up. No pretentions of exclusivity or privilege. I'm sure there are years when the kindergarten is completely full, and they have to turn kids away, but usually supply meets demand.

    Anne

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  100. No, I think he meant schools in MA. BTW, I lived in Boston for nearly a decade and can tell you MA is okay if you don't mind the four seasons.

    Keep in mind East Coast schools are very different than West Coast schools. I find the approach less rigid than that of the East Coast, with less of a 'formal' feel. Many of those schools on the East Coast have been around for ages as well, which is unlike most of the privates out here in the Bay Area. That being said, I do think the Bay Area certainly has some of the top privates in the nation.

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  101. St. Paul's in NH, Deerfield in MA. Among the elite-elite boarding prep schools back East.

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  102. I commented a couple posts back - those schools are high schools as well. Aren't we talking elementary and/or middle school?

    Anyways, I found an interesting link online about high school placement including privates. Keep in mind that this is based on admissions to only 8 Ivy's:

    http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-COLLEGE0711-sort.html

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  103. Does anyone know the amount of spots by gender that will be available at different schools this year? I don't really want to contribute to fundraising with my application fees if my child has no chance of benefitting by admission.

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  104. 1:36:

    1) you should ask the schools because things are different from one school to another, and they won't even know for sure until December or January when they've done the sibling admissions.

    2) Application fees are not part of fundraising. Let's say that a k-8 school gets 300 applications with an application fee of $75. If everyone paid the fees, they would get $22,500. However, the school has at least 1 full-time staff member who handles admissions, plus (potentially) administrative support. I can guarantee that the school spends more on salaries and benefits to staff the admissions function than they get in fees. Not to mention the direct costs of the application materials, etc.

    Also, for thos involved in the Deerfield/St. Paul's discussion - these are high schools and therefore can't be compared to ANY k-8 school, no matter what the location.

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  105. 50 percent of kinder spots at MCDS are reserved for SF kids.

    That's not the case for Head-Royce and other EAst Bay schools, which do not recruit in SF and certainly don't have bus service.

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  106. That is true about MCDS, but the reason I brought up those schools is because someone brought up Nueva, which has come up a few times. If your child was gifted there is actually also a school in Marin called Dunham Academy.

    I am actually against gifted type schools, but that is another discussion. For those who believe in those sort of schools, they are out there, and you don't have to go to San Mateo - Dunham Academy is a reverse commute and is in San Rafael.

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  107. One thing I would like to say about private school admissions this year. To be perfectly honest, it is probably one of the most opportune times to apply to a top private school.

    When we applied a couple years back we were lucky to gain admission to MCDS, as it was highly competitive. Last year would have been much easier to get in with the financial problems plaguing the economy. This year - undoubtably there will be less people looking to apply with the economy in the state its in.

    For those of you on the fence about applying private - seriously, do it this year! I know of many families who are opting for public school due to finances, all kidding aside (and the public schools in Marin are stellar for publics). There will most certainly be much less applications than the last few years.

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  108. But there will be MANY more applications for financial aid.. so if you can't pay your own way, it is probably not worth applying.

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  109. Nueva has bus service from SF. Nueva, Dunham and all the others mentioned do not, so they are not really relevant to SF discussions. They do not have a significant SF population at their schools.

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  110. SF School has only 4-5 kinder spots total, and not much aid for new families entering kinder. (The only reason they have kinder spots is because they weren't able to come up with aid for kinder families whose economic circumstances changed and who had to go to public schools instead of SF School).

    Not a good year to apply there, even if you can pay the tuition.

    If you need financial aid and are applying for kinder, don't even bother.

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  111. VEry few girl spots at Live Oak. They will probably go to close friends of insiders.

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  112. FWIW, the admission director at SF Day said that they had 22-23 spots open this year which they considered unusually high. Given the number of parents at the open house though, it still will be competitive...

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  113. I think that the 'top tier' schools mentioned were actually being too generous. In my opinion, there are a few schools that stand out from the rest that I would have even considered.

    Which would you remove (or include) from the list?

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  114. Last year would have been much easier to get in with the financial problems plaguing the economy.

    Really? I heard many schools did not even go to wait lists. Word on the streets was that it was a very tough year for girls. Just look at the extra 15 or so who ended up at Burke's. In less competitive years they might have ended up at co-ed schools instead.

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  115. 6:59 PM:

    The two schools that I consider at the top of the heap reputation-wise are MCDS and Hamlin. Other top tier schools would be Town, Burke's, and San Francisco Day School.

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  116. 7:02 PM:

    Last year was definitely less competitive than two years ago. Maybe at some schools there were more girls due to siblings, but that is definitely a generalization, and varies from school to school. It is always tougher for girls than boys as they are generally much more advanced at this age.

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  117. Thanks, 9:51. What are those reputations based on? Are these generally the hardest schools to get into? The most selective? Which, if any, choose mostly on the child's potential to succeed (rather than status of parents)?

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  118. They are older, snobbier schools attended by the Pacific Heights social crowd. Their reputations are not necessarily based on academics. There are other schools with equally strong academic programs or high school placement records.

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  119. Private elementary schools don't choose based on the child's chances for success later in life. In fact, except for Nueva, they really would rather not deal with those who are extremely gifted.

    They want bright kids, well-behaved kids and will balance for temperament (introvert/extrovert) as well as gender. They are looking to "cast" a good class as opposed to identifying super-stars.

    And yes, they are looking to avoid any parents who might be too high maintenance.

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  120. 22-23 spots at Children's Day? That is impossible. That is an entire classroom. Perhaps they meant Preschool openings, as well as upper grades?

    In the past they everage 3 or 4 spots.

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  121. "They are older, snobbier schools attended by the Pacific Heights social crowd. Their reputations are not necessarily based on academics. There are other schools with equally strong academic programs or high school placement records."

    To folks reading this thread, please note the above comments are an OPINION, not a fact. If you are interested you should go and judge for yourself and your family.

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  122. To 8.01am

    The original poster said SF Day, not Children's Day, had 22-23 spots.

    I've heard that Friends also has a similar number, split equally between boys and girls, but number of applications is significantly up against last year.

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  123. Where did you hear the number of apps is up? What is that based on? How many they've received so far?

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  124. I don't have the specific numbers or details, but I heard that from someone at the school.

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  125. Friends has had a lot of interest this year, at least partially from the fact that they're now in their new building and people want to see it. What I've heard from the admissions director (I'm a parent at the school) is that they have more requests for applications compared to this time last year. Obviously there's no way to know now how many will ultimately apply.

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  126. "They are older, snobbier schools attended by the Pacific Heights social crowd. Their reputations are not necessarily based on academics. There are other schools with equally strong academic programs or high school placement records."

    Yes, that was also my understanding of what constituted a "top tier" private school in SF. I'm sure the academics are fine, too, just not necessarily any better than those at places like Brandeis, which is decidedly unpopular among the monied Pacific Heights set.

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  127. SF Day does have impressive academics.

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  128. re: this comment in the thread...

    If your well adjusted charming child provides visual diversity you will get in ... end of discussion.

    Is this a truism? Our daughter fits this bill precisely, and I'm wondering how much skin color actually counts for private kinder schools?

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  129. I have heard through the grapevine that Live Oak has only 1 girl spot available this year. The rest are expected to be taken by siblings.

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  130. Just 1? I had heard 3.

    Any Live Oak parents care to clarify?

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  131. Did anyone go to the Hamlin event today?

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  132. 3:58 Even if the extra pigmentation isn't visible, if you can characterize your child as anything but white it will help your chances of admission immensely.

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  133. We couldn't make the Hamlin open house today due to a sick child. Did anyone go? Can you give us an overview?

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  134. We know a biracial (African-American/Caucasian) boy who only got into one out of the 6 schools he applied to.

    And we know two two-Mom families who struck out altogether.

    So don't assume you'll get in just because you add diversity.

    And if you know a "diverse" family that *does* gain admission over your child, don't assume "diversity" is what got them that coveted spot.

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  135. RE: Hamlin...

    The new head of school is a rock star.

    The Lower School seemed like a lovely place for bright, academically-oriented girls.

    But the middle school girls who led the tour seemed both jaded and stressed out. Not sure the middle school environment is a healthy one, though it is hard to put my finger on why we got that vibe.

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  136. The comments on diversity are not true. It depends on the number of diverse student families applying.

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  137. @3:58 Based on my experience, if your child is bright, well adjusted and of color you will get a spot at most private schools along with tuition assistance if requested. Consider that most privates really want to diversify their student body but actually get far fewer applications from families who are not "white". When a child of color does apply they are certainly put at the top of the list. In some ways this is only fair and diversity will certainly make the school a better place. I do know of families with same gender parents or a child of color who were not accepted anywhere they applied but in all these cases the child or the parents probably set off a number of warning bells at those particular schools. I would say find a few schools you love and apply there, it almost always turns out very happily for all involved.

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  138. @9:18 your comment implies that private schools are only accepting a limited number of non white families for window dressing as it were. If one follows this reasoning then imagine the number of white financial aid seeking families applying and calculate their chances.

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  139. "@9:18 your comment implies that private schools are only accepting a limited number of non white families for window dressing as it were."

    No, I think it implies that the enrollment pool generally reflects the applicant pool. Can only speak for our school (CAIS), but demographics of the school do reflect who is applying. Over the years the school demographics have shifted as the applicant pool has become more diverse.

    I know several "diverse" families (race, family structure) who were turned down flat at multiple privates. Doesn't prove anything, but I don't believe that "diversity" alone automatically plops you to the front of the line, though I'm sure it gives you an edge, all else being equal (right gender, right age, no obvious concerns, etc.)

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  140. Re: Hamlin tour.

    The demographics of the student body have changed fairly significantly over the last five years, so the lower school population is quite different from that of the upper school.

    Just something to keep in mind.

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  141. The lower grades have always been wonderfully diverse, from what I hear. But they start dropping out in 4th grade and by 8th they are mostly lily white.

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  142. The upper grades are mostly white now, but I don't think they started out all that diverse, so it isn't a surprise. I just don't see the "diversity" present in the lower grades leaving for reasons other than job transfer, etc. There are enough diverse families, of all types, now that I don't think any one feels like a token.

    What are you basing your posts on? If you are the same person who has made this comment several times, I would like to see something to back it up. Do you have first-hand knowledge of "diversity" leaving Hamlin after grade 4?

    This discussion is getting a little old....

    How are those tours going, folks?

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  143. My best friend's daughter is an eight there now, going through the high school admissions process. Her kinder class was pretty diverse, though you'd never know it from looking at her classmates now. Admitting a diverse group of children and making them and their families feel welcome are two different things. The latter part is hardest as it only partially depends on the school. A lot of it rests on the parent community, too. And even when those parents are warm and welcoming, their lifestyles can be off-putting or intimidating to those of different circumstances.

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  144. 9:28 -- Should be pretty easy to ask 8th grade parents if their daughters' class was more diverse in kinder than it is now...

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  145. If anyone can change the culture there, it is Wanda Holland Greene, the new head of school. Then again, the former head also tried, very hard.

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  146. Regarding diversity, gay/lesbian parents are a dime a dozen in SF, so don't count on that helping you out too much. Other things being equal, if your whole family offers color, that's better than just your adopted kid offering it. I would say that would put a biracial biological child ahead of an adopted child of color. Those are just my thoughts and observations. Not necessarily The Truth.

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  147. I saw in an old annual report (or one of the other five gazillion things we got while touring) that Hamlin gave out far less in financial aid five years ago than it does now. So in the last few years the makeup of classes must have changed socioeconomically, if in no other way.

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  148. Heard Live Oak only has three girl spots for next year. DArn.

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  149. What is the skinny on SF Friends?

    We visited the other day and, frankly, the kids didn't seem that excited or engaged and the academic approach seemed much more traditional than we expected... especially since their new lower school head used to be at the Mills College lab school and Nueva. I guess we thought it would be more cutting edge.

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  150. I keep hearing conflicting things about SF Day.

    One friend ruled out applying because she found the curriculum too loose and progressive.

    Another ruled it out because she thought it was too traditional and rigid.

    Which is it?

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  151. My kids go to Friends. Yes, the academic approach is fairly traditional. It's not the same kind of curriculum used by the progressive schools, e.g. Presidio Hill or Live Oak. As for whether the engagement level, that has never been a problem for us - my kids love their school work. One thing I think they do very well is the cross-disciplinary approach, study related topics in everything from science to language arts to music.

    The school is adding a grade each year, and this is the first year that they have the academic deans for the lower and middle schools, so it will be interesting to see how things evolve.

    In my view, I think that in terms of curriculum variations from one private school to another it's much more a matter of personal taste than a difference in quality. The dynamics of the school in all senses - administrative, academic/pedantic, and social - have a lot more bearing on whether the school is a good solution for any individual child and their family.

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  152. I toured Friends and we are applying. I don't like the schools that are heavily progressive. I like a mix of progressive and traditional. I think Friends has that. Their creative arts are excellent. They offer Spanish from K. The kids we saw looked very happy. Fridays are strictly creative arts classes in K. The social environment seems truly designed to promote kindness.

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  153. Just a note on "progressive education" (which you can google to find out more).... Contrary to what many people seem to think, it is not some hippie parent movement from the 60s set loose in the schools. It was founded in theory and practice in the late 1800s, with the notion that there is "no value in knowledge without understanding." Lately, its tenets (which I quote below) are used as a counterpoint the No Child Left Behind act.

    # Emphasis on learning by doing – hands-on projects, experiential learning
    # Integrated curriculum focused on thematic units
    # Strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking
    # Group work and development of social skills
    # Understanding and action as the goals of learning as opposed to rote knowledge
    # Collaborative and cooperative learning projects
    # Education for social responsibility and democracy
    # Integration of community service and service learning projects into the daily curriculum
    # Selection of subject content by looking forward to ask what skills will be needed in future society
    # De-emphasis on textbooks in favor of varied learning resources
    # Emphasis on life-long learning and social skills
    # Assessment by evaluation of child’s projects and productions


    Schools like Live Oak do embrace all of these, but the kids still take tests and do homework. They also end up at all the same top high schools as the kids from more academically conservative schools. In fact, as a whole they are regarded as being enthusiastic, articulate, outspoken, and socially aware, and are in pretty high demand.

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  154. Good news about MCDS - there are open spots this year in the incoming K class for all categories. SF boys and girls, and Marin boys and girls. Looks like a great year to apply!

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  155. According to John Dewy, one of the forefathers of progressive education, it is characterized by:

    (1). Respect for diversity, meaning that each individual should be recognized for his or her own abilities, interests, ideas, needs, and cultural identity, and (2). the development of critical, socially engaged intelligence, which enables individuals to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good.

    Could there be any good reason for a school to purposefully shun this approach in this day and age?

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  156. I think a lot of heavily progressive schools in SF are weaker academically than other schools. Sorry, but I do.

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  157. What is your evidence?

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  158. Or rather I should ask: What is your definition of weak academics? Is it defined by where kids go to high school? Or where they go to college? Or what they choose to do for a living?

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  159. Is the SF Friends more toned down on the religious stuff than what the Friends Council on Education describes?

    I mean this sounds like ANYthing but a traditional education, but neither does it sound the least bit progressive. It is definitely in its own category, like Waldorf, marching to the beat of its own drummer...

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  160. Based on these definitions of progressive, Town, Hamlin, Burke's, etc., are progressive schools! Go and tour them all and then decide. Don't rule out a school because you think it's traditional and don't want that, or think that it's progressive and don't want that. Most of the top schools are using an approach that leans more progressive, as described in posts above.

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  161. Okay, so they are all progressive schools, but progressive schools are academically weaker. So where does that leave us?

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  162. As a point of reference, can someone define "traditional education"?

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  163. I don't know about other schools, but MCDS strives for a blend of traditional and progressive. I personally do not a purely traditional approach. I think it is rather rigid and more of a one-size-fits-all type of an approach. That is my beef with traditional Catholic school type education.

    I think a progressive blend provides for a more well-rounded education that will leave a child better prepared. That is a big advantage of independent private schools in my opinion.

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  164. Er, umm.. Who said progressive schools are academically weaker?

    Where is the proof of that?

    I went to a progressive school. I got 1400 on my SAT's and did very well at my Ivy League university.

    Kids from traditional, pressure cooker schools had better time management skills than I had because they had been given bigger loads of homework. But I was a better writer, better able to see connections between academic disciplines, and, frankly, less burnt out on academia. And I figured out how to manage my time by sophomore year.

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  165. Okay, so they are all progressive schools, but progressive schools are academically weaker. So where does that leave us?

    I think best schools are using a blended approach, combining the best of the "progressive" model with enough academic rigor to prepare students for high school and college.

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  166. 4:23 PM

    That is strange regarding the time management skills. What school did you attend?

    At MCDS, time management skills are taught (literally TAUGHT) as part of the program. It is stressed as a very important skill that is needed in their continuing education. I am surprised that the school you attended did not have instruction in this area.

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  167. 11:07 PM
    I think teaching time management skills is a relatively recent development in education. I doubt even schools that are teaching them now, such as MCDS or most of the SF middle schools, were teaching them 10 years ago.

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  168. FRIENDS PARENT: Do you think the new lower school dean, who used to teach at Nueva and at the Mills Lab school, is likely to introduce more progressive approaches to the Friends school curriculum?

    We wanted to love Friends, but saw the children doing the exact same kind of worksheets and "carpet work" we saw the public school kids doing, albeit in a much nicer setting. Granted, Friends has a wonderful arts program, but you can buy a whole lot of enrichment for what you pay in tuition at Friends.

    We hear from Spanish-speaking parents at teh school that the language program is pretty lame and that they have not even thought through how to keep the native-speaking kids engaged -- let alone challenged -- even as they brag about differentiated curriculum in other subject areas.

    We wanted to love the school so badly, but what we heard from administrators did not necessarily match what we saw...

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  169. Speaking of languages .. A cool new thing at MCDS is that students are taught both Spanish and Mandarin in the third grade. They then choose which one they want to continue with for their remaining years - I think its nice that they get exposed to both before having to commit.

    There is a huge push to adopt Mandarin in the school, as Spanish was previously the only required language choice students had.

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  170. time management skills are most definitely TAUGHT in SF public middle schools. it is good timing as the academic work is ramping up at that time.

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  171. 6:23-

    I think your questions about the curriculum changes that could be expected at Friends would be good questions for the dean or for the director of admissions at one of the school events. I am personally very happy with the curriculum and don't feel that it's overly rote. There are some things that need to be done through a lot of practice, repetition, and memorization.

    On the whole I think Friends does a good job of building skills in a variety of ways, and their units of study bring in a lot of different skills. For example, my child is in the second grade and they have been working with mealworms a lot this year. They have been "raising" their own mealworms through to their metamorphosis (science), and are also writing extended stories "about" their mealworms, with both draft and final versions of their work.

    I agree that you can buy a lot of enrichment for the price of a Friends school tuition. My personal view is that I think it's important for kids to have a broad range of subjects in school to offer as many ways to engage them as possible. I also like that what they are doing in art, science, music, Spanish, drama, etc is all reinforcing both the academic material and the social and moral values that they are learning, which would not be the case with enrichment coming from outside school. This is obviously a decision that each family needs to make for themselves.

    We are not a spanish-speaking family so I can't speak to whether the spanish curriculum is meeting the needs of people looking for depth in the Spanish curriculum. I'm glad that my kids are exposed to another language and feel that my 5th grader has a reasonably decent grasp of Spanish at this point. If I was looking for more depth in this area then maybe Friends wouldn't be the right place.

    I think it's completely fine if you decide that Friends isn't the place for you or your family. it sounds like there's something specific you're looking for in a school, and Friends might not be it. That's the whole point of this process - to learn more about the schools and find one that's right for your child and your family. I happen to love Friends for many, many reasons and am very glad that my kids are being educated there - but everyone has their own needs, priorities, and interests, and if a school isn't going to meet them then it's not the right choice for you.

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  172. It isn't about looking for in-depth spanish. It is about keeping those who already speak it from being bored out of their minds while their classmates learn their colors.

    When it comes to reading, teachers are trained to work with classes that might include kids reading chapter books and children just learning to blend consonants and vowels. But foreign language teachers do not differentiate in the same way adn the Spanish-speaking kids actually start losing their Spanish. Can you imagine the outrage if the early readers FORGOT how to read because the teacher was so focused on helping beginning readers?

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  173. Odd that the Friends parent would talk about "breadth" of subjects since the school mantra in terms of curriculum is "narrow and deep"!

    ;-)

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  174. If you're concerned with the Spanish program at Friends and how it accommodates Spanish-speaking families, I suggest that you ask the admissions director to put you in contact with the families and find out if they feel that the program is meeting their kids' needs or not. Is the school's approach to Spanish-speaking kids a deal breaker for you?

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  175. I think best schools are using a blended approach, combining the best of the "progressive" model with enough academic rigor to prepare students for high school and college.

    I'm pretty sure you can't name more than one or two SF independent private schools that don't fit this model.

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  176. 11:16 am

    Agreed!!

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  177. The head of school told a Spanish speaking family that it was their job to maintain their kids' Spanish at home.

    But isn't that the same as telling the parents of an early reader that it is their job to keep their kid reading while the other children learn the letters of the alphabet?

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  178. "The head of school told a Spanish speaking family that it was their job to maintain their kids' Spanish at home.

    But isn't that the same as telling the parents of an early reader that it is their job to keep their kid reading while the other children learn the letters of the alphabet?"

    I actually do think it is different. I understand your desire to have your Spanish speaker challenged in school, but your child unfortunately falls in a very small minority of children who are applying to private schools. If building and maintaining your child's Spanish speaking (and reading, etc) skills is your priority, you probably will not find a private school in SF that meets your needs completely. You probably will have to supplement outside of school to some degree.
    All kids need to learn to read, in English. There are way more kids who have to learn reading skills than there are kids who have Spanish in the home with parents who want them to have those skills reinforced in an academic way in elementary school. So of course it is not going to be the priority of most schools to meet your child's needs around this issue.

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  179. I think the other poster's point is that these schools tout differentiate instruction in all other subjects, why not Spanish?

    If your child is a math whiz or reading chapter books in kinder, they are probably the only one in their class, too, or one of a small minority. And yet, teachers at the top privates will find ways to challenge them and keep them engaged. But if your kid is more advanced than his peers in Spanish, well, the school thinks it is okay for your kid to be bored and actually lose ground during those 2-5 hours a week.

    It isn't about Spanish being a priority for a particular family. It is about extending a school's claims re: differentiated instruction across all disciplines.

    BTW: In some private schools and in some kinder classes, there can be as many as 3 to 5 Spanish-speaking kids once you include those who learned Spanish from caregivers... so it is not that unusual.

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  180. All good points. It's interesting there isn't more of a Spanish focus in private schools in SF considering our demographic. (While we have 2 French schools, etc.)

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  181. Is this just a problem with Friends? How do the other private (or non-immersion public schools) tackle it?

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  182. I think the points about differentiated Spanish instruction at Friends are good ones, and hopefully over time this is something that the school would enhance. I do understand that the point of the posters who take issue with it has to do with the school saying that they offer differentiated instruction, but then not offering it across the board. I also think it's hard to know exactly how the Spanish-speaking kids are accommodated and whether their parents are satisfed with the curriculum without actually speaking to the parents. And I think that if this issue either about the curriculum or the presentation is a deal-breaker then don't apply to Friends - no school is going to be all things to all people.

    There are a number of things that need to be done each year as the school grows. This year they added a sixth grade (3 teachers) and two academic deans (for lower and middle schools) and expanded the faculty in art, music, and Spanish to accommodate the new middle school. They also moved in to a new building. I feel that the school has accommodated the growth well, and given that they have the new academic deans I see no reason that they shouldn't continue to enhance the Spanish curriculum over time.

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  183. Which private schools (besides Nueva) really offer appropriate differentiated curriculum for incoming kindergarteners reading chapter books or doing elementary level math?

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  184. SF Day's new mantra on differentiated instruction is "no threshold, no ceiling"...

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  185. Nice tag line, but really kind of pointless in the end - and therefore doesn't tell you a whole lot. Of course there's a threshold.

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  186. No real threshold for siblings.

    I read they are quadrupling the number of learning specialists there (from 2 to 8) to better serve younger siblings who may have learning differences.

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  187. My daughter is at SF Day and it seems like there are a ton of adults around - 2 regular teachers, a reading specialist who floats between the 2 Kindergarten classes, and more. It's great and the kids are really well supported emotionally and academically.

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  188. SF Day parent, how does your school accomodate highly gifted kids? I've heard that the admissions folks specifically shun early readers.

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  189. They used to shun early readers, but that was under the previous regime. Now that their mantra is "no threshold, no ceiling," they are presumably trying to differentiate instruction on all levels, including keeping gifted kids challenged...

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  190. "SF Day parent, how does your school accomodate highly gifted kids?"

    My kid is just regular, so I can't personally answer your question.

    But I will say that the school is making a huge push to accommodate differentiated learning, including hiring lots of new staff to make this feasible. If you're interested in the school I would ask this question of the administration for more details.

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  191. This is a general comment, not specific to SFDay, as I know very little about that school.

    Sorry in advance if this sounds snarky, but reading before K does not equal highly gifted. If you go into interviews asking about how the school will keep your highly gifted child engaged, your kid will likely not get in. Parents who tout their 4 year olds giftedness are parents who tend to be a PITA. If you ask how they keep early readers engaged while their classmates learn to read, you might have a shot.

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  192. 6:48, I do realize this. However, my DS did test as highly gifted according to the IQ test administered by Nueva. Early reading was just one precocious trait he displayed, but it seemed to be the most problematic as far as admission to private schools in SF.

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  193. Your kid may indeed be gifted, but being an early reader is no more a sign of intellectual gifts than being an early walker is a predictor of future athletic success. Things "click" for children at different times.

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  194. 6:43 here again. Thanks, parent of gifted kid, for not taking offense. If your kid does test well out of the normal range, you should check out the link at:

    www.hoagies.org

    They focus on issues related to parenting highly gifted children. Schooling can be very problematic, perhaps Nueva will be the solution for your family. Personally, we were not taken with it, as the level of noise and general chaos we observed would not be a good environment for our kid. Schools which are more project-based can also be a better fit, depending on the temperament of the kid. An immersion program might also keep your kid more engaged. Also, as I mentioned before, I am unfamiliar with SF Day, and perhaps they are prepared to take on kids well out of the normal range.

    Good luck.

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  195. Sorry, incorrect link. Here is the right one:

    www.hoagiesgifted.org

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  196. I went to the SF Day open house yesterday. I have to confess that I went with a huge chip on my shoulder, but because the kindergarten advisor at my daughter's preschool highly recommended SF Day (as well as SF Friends) as being a potentially good fit for my kid, I thought I'd better check it out. The facility is fabulous. The library was more than awesome, with a 'book nook' area designed for the younger set. The art studio was huge. The parents with whom I spoke were friendly and not snotty/attitude-laden at all (and I apologize to those SF Day parents who are reading this for this assumption, and I am humbled).

    I watched my daughter check things out. She was a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people milling around (her younger brother definitely was), but her eyes were huge and she was not her usual chatty self...she was observing and taking it all in.

    I asked her later what she liked best about the school, and she said the library, without hesitation. Second was the courtyard outside the library with the water fountain.

    So we will go through with the application process and see what happens. Live Oak, CAIS and SF Friends are on our list as well. I know Live Oak is a long shot, based on the comments in this thread, but heck, someone has to get what spaces there are, right?

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  197. You're right. You go!

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  198. If you are checking out CAIS, you should check out FAIS as well.

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  199. Live Oak and CAIS are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of pedagogy.

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  200. I've heard some mixed reviews about Children's Day School rangig from "the head of school is a dictator" to "the head of school is an amazing leader." Is this a case of tomato tomahhto or can someone shed a bit more light on CDS for me....

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