Monday, October 6, 2008

San Francisco Day School

Reviewed by Wendy

You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: an emphasis on social skills and community building (they consider teaching these skills equally important as academic ones); a beautiful facility, including a two-story library in the center of the school; an excellent outdoor education program (including overnight camping trips starting in third grade, and a five-day backpacking trip for the seventh grade); committed, involved teachers (many of their teachers have long tenures with the school); a great technology program (a room full of relatively new iMacs and the use of technology to aid learning in traditional subject areas); an intimate environment (the Head of School seemed to know the kids and their strengths and weaknesses); an after-school program until 5:30 p.m.; and an 8:00 a.m. start time.

The Facts
Web site: www.sfds.net

School tours: Open Houses can be scheduled through the Web site.

Location: 350 Masonic Avenue, at Golden Gate, NOPA

Grades: K–8

Start time: 8:00 a.m.

Kindergarten size: 40+ students, two classes of 23-25 children.

Playground: I did not see these during the Open House, but maybe when I tour, I will see them. I was told that they have three separate outdoor play spaces on the roof of the building and an additional one in back.

Library: Yes, a beautiful library with cozy reading spots, and a terrific alcove where the children sit on small, carpeted risers while the librarian reads to them from an overstuffed chair. Children visit on a weekly basis and check out books to discuss during class time.

Technology: Smart Boards in all classrooms, which are like giant iPhone touch-screen whiteboards. Computers in classrooms, a large computer lab, all teachers meet with the technology teacher to explore of how to use computers in support of science and other projects.
Before- and after-school program: After school care available until 5:30 p.m.
Language: Spanish instruction is required starting in 4th grade, and Latin is available in grade 7.

Highlights: Extraordinary social skills education integrated into every classroom, with two full-time school counselors and a health and education program starting in 4th grade; excellent technology program with a full-time teacher, classroom integration and awesome resources; a delightful, large library with cozy reading nooks and immense book collection; teachers that stay long term and seem creative and excited about their school; outdoor education program with overnight trips starting in the 3rd grade; backpacking adventures for the 7th grade, and the 8th graders going to the Pinnacles this year.

Wendy's impressions:

School community: This school seems to have created a loving community of students. The school teaches using the “responsive classroom” method. The mantra of this method is, “Love for self, respect for others, care for the community and environment.” (This is paraphrasing, as best I can remember) The students seem to know each other well, communicate well and support each other well. The kindergarteners are all assigned to 8th grade “buddies,” sit with them during assemblies, and help shepherd them through their first year at the school. There was a panel of six children at the Open House, speaking to a crowd of over 100 parents. All of them were articulate, confident, thoughtful and honest. They were very impressive kids.
Facility: The facility is beautiful, especially considering its very urban location. I wanted to lose myself in the library. They have two science labs, two art studios, two music studios, an immaculate gymnasium, and courtyards with plants, benches and sculptures.

Academics: The school emphasizes academics and creating well-rounded kids. The program relies on responsive teachers and staff to support kids who lag behind as well as to find additional challenges for kids who exceed expectations. Classrooms are well-staffed such that each child receives one-on-one attention and gets tailored assistance.

Teaching: The teachers seem truly energized by their work, creative, caring and nurturing to the students. For example, a history teacher that spoke to the parents had been at the school for 21 years. He focuses on class participation, analytical thinking skills, and getting kids to have civil and energetic discussions, and getting them to ask questions. He uses “the Ethicist” columns from the New York Times to encourage discussion among his kids about academic honesty. Another example is the technology teacher, who has been at the school for 14 years. He was jazzed about the whole school, especially the outdoor education program. He talked about using computers to assist with a science project. The kids were studying the effect of changes in water temperature on a fish’s frequency of respiration. He showed the kids how to use a computer to monitor the water temperature over time, so that the kids could focus on counting the respirations (“breaths”).

68 comments:

  1. Dreamy if you can afford it. And if they let your kid in after all their evaluations.

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  2. When we attended the open house a few years back, one of the eighth grade (?) students who spoke had transfered into the school in the 6th grade from D'Avila (a now-closed public school on Haight street.) I think he was one of the student body presidents. I believe they have a boy and a girl on the council for each position, yes? Anyway, I wonder whether they said anything at the open house about adding an additional class of 20 students at the 6th grade level - I thought they said they did but can't quite remember, maybe it was Live Oak? We really liked SFDAY, but did not end up applying. At the time I remember thinking that I would check back around middle school to see whether I thought it was worth the money then.

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  3. SF Day is a great school, but the parent community can be difficult, cliquish and quite snobby. If you don't live in a Pac Heights mansion, your child might be too embarrassed to host playdates ;-)

    This is not true of *every* family, of course. We know lots of cool, laid back families at SF Day. In the school's defense, they are working very hard to promote diversity. But it is part of the long-standing parent culture and that won't change overnight. It can be tough to navigate for middle-class parents and children alike.

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  4. A former SF Day family has posted here that their older child was doing well there, but Day wouldn't accept their younger child because he had some kind of facial disfigurement. That's not very praiseworthy.

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  5. Hi Wendy. Thanks for the review. How many people attended the Open House? Did you meet any current parents? If it's not too personal, how do you feel about it now for your child? Is it still on your list? We're attending an Open House there in a couple of weeks.

    What was your overall vibe?

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  6. I remember hearing the same story as well. Not the kind of environment I would want for my child.

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  7. PUT THE COST OF THE SCHOOL up front. SF Day School costs $22,000 + Per year.

    Hooray, they have scholarships, but there is never a guarantee that if you get it one year, you'll get it the next. Lots of uncertainty there.

    Just sayin.

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  8. I'm the poster whose child used to attend SF Day and whose younger child has the facial anomaly. The specific explanation that we got from the school was that the teachers didn't want to handle the social issues that could arise from having our child in the classroom.

    Although we have a very unique situation, the common thread among families who have had problems at SFDS is that the range of kids they are comfortable with is fairly small. If your kid fits in that range it's a great academic education. If not, it's not so pleasant.

    The write-up of the school doesn't fit our experience in terms of the committment to the development of social skills among the kids, but it's entirely possible that things have changed in the last 2-3 years with the new head of school.

    Our kids both attend Friends and we are very pleased with all aspects of the school - social, academic, etc.

    I've of course completely outed myself since a lot of people know us and my child is pretty recognizable around town, but there you have it. I have tried to be objective about SF Day because I recognize that our situation is so unique. Nevertheless, the entire experience was an extremely difficult one for our family.

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  9. Everyone knows what the private schools cost. It's not a big secret.

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  10. 5:25

    I am glad you are happy at Friends and am so sorry you had to deal with that sort of ignorant hateful crap.

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  11. 5:25 -- How would you compare the academic approaches of both schools?

    SF Friends seems more traditional. Is it?

    Which school has more diversity?

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  12. They are very comparable to one another. At the middle school level (5th grade) SFDS ramps things up academically more intensively than Friends does, but otherwise they seem similar. Friends has Spanish starting in K - they don't pretend that dcs will gain fluency from it, but they're exposed to another lanugage/ culture and in the 7th grade they spend a week with a family in a Spanish-speaking country.

    Friends doesn't actually have a 7th or 8th grade yet, or any kind of track record with high school admissions or achievement, so there's no way to evaluate on that benchmark.

    As for diversity, I defintiely feel that Friends is more diverse. Both schools are very "white" but Friends specifically seeks out Spanish-speaking families and puts a lot of effort towards supporting and integrating spanish-speaking families and all families on financial aid. Just as an example, the school newsletter and all other school publications are translated into Spanish. Also, even among the white families I find more variety at Friends. There are many more working moms, parents w/ somewhat offbeat jobs, etc. Friends just tends to attract a more down-to-earth crowd than SFDS, and also appeals to parents who are looking for a substantial value-based component to the curriculum.

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  13. Don't the Spanish-speaking kids get bored while their classmates learn beginning Spanish?

    How much do they differentiate the curriculum for Spanish speakers during that hour?

    I know SF Day does pull-outs with native speaking kids starting in third or fourth grade so that they are biliterate. My fear is Friends just lets them get bored.

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  14. My impression is that SF Day has one of the stronger art and music programs out there... but I could be wrong.

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  15. SF Day's choir is AMAZING!

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  16. I know that SF Day School is excellent. The teachers are outstanding and I actually know some people who teach there. I would be ecstatic to have my children in their class. But when I visited this school last year I couldn't get past the tour. Last year, it was a night tour. Is that still the case? I don't think the night time event worked in their favor--at least I don't think it's appealing to the more middle class families. The tour is more like a society event. I was so intimidating by it. Everyone seemed to know each other--and all the ladies were carrying fancy purses. Many men were dressed in suits. And there I was in my dowdy jeans and I didn't know a single soul. Once I actually started touring the school I was impressed, especially by some of the teachers. But I couldn't get past how uncomfortable I felt. If they had a morning tour, it would have been much better. Are they doing a daytime tour this year? It seems like a better approach because then there would be more emphasis on the kids in school and less on the hob-nobbing parents.

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  17. I toured SFDay last year while looking for Kindergartens for my daughter. Both times that I was there in the presence of the student body (parent led tour and my daughter's "playdate"), I saw children crying. It was the only school I toured in which I saw children that were pulled out of their respective groups because they were crying (one out of the classroom the other out of the library). I toured a lot of schools, both private and public and this was a unique experience for me. It turned me off. Sorry for the downer but felt the need to share the experience....

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  18. Yes SF Day is doing a day time tour this year - I am pretty sure it is Nov 1st, but I'm not sure of the time, you can check the website www.sfds.net.

    We are a new family at SF Day and I would agree that there is a pretty intensely upper class/upper middle class scene, where people know each other - certainly feels very high society, very well off. We are a solidly middle class family and both of us work. I have met many many nice people as well as people I feel comfortable with, yet it feels challenging I must admit.

    I will say that David Jackson, the head of school, really makes a huge effort to encourage people to welcome newcomers - there are lots of opportunities to meet a variety of families and get involved with the school. I haven't yet sorted out whether I just need some time to get used to a new place (and it does take some time) or if it will feel really alienating for the next 9 or so years.

    Overall I have been immensely impressed with the school. I am aware of the issue that occurred with the earlier poster and her son, which is horrifying. I tell myself that that kind of thing wouldn't happen now (it did happen under the previous head of school's tenure) - but who knows for sure. Might be a question worth asking if you are seriously considering the school. That kind of behavior definitely seems completely counter to the kinds of things Dr. Jackson is actively promoting.

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  19. "Middle class" at SF Day means folks who live in homes worth less than $2 million.

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  20. 8:19-

    They don't pull out kids who already speak Spanish at Friends. The approach to teaching Spanish is based around social activities like games, songs, etc rather than learning vocabulary and grammar like most of us probably did with our second languages. I'll ask some of the parents of the more fluent Spanish speakers if their kids are bored in Spanish class - now I'm curious!

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  21. Even if the Spanish speakers are not bored, their vocabulary is certainly not expanding, nor are they learning to write it correctly. Even if they are having fun, the school has decided only the English speakers deserve to be challenged in all of their subjects.

    Really, if we were talking about mathematics or reading, the teachers would find a way to challenge those children doing work way above grade level, no? When it comes to Spanish, they expect the native speakers to serve as teachers helpers even as their own skills atrophy or their vocabulary dev't is stunted.

    Statistically, it is quite likely that those Spanish-speaking kids will *not* be fluent in a few years but will be English dominant instead of fully bilingual. A real shame.

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  22. Since we aren't a Spanish-speaking family I really can't speak for the Spanish-speaking families who choose to attend Friends. Unfortunately for Spanish-speaking families, if they want their kids to attend private school there are not Spanish immersion opportunities in San Francisco that I know of. My children's friends who speak Spanish fluently often speak to their parents in Spanish, so they seem to have maintained their comfort level in both languages. I would assume that families for whom a full curriculum in the Spanish language is a priority would choose an immersion program instead of Friends, or might choose a private school with pullout instead.

    I'm glad that my kids are learning some Spanish at a young age and that there's a commitment at the school to develop a comfort level and awareness of the world they live in.

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  23. But isn't it interesting that schools that pride themselves in differentiated instruction don't extend that practice to foreign languages?

    Makes no sense.

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  24. ""Middle class" at SF Day means folks who live in homes worth less than $2 million."

    That's a pretty ignorant comment. We rent our apartment and can't afford to buy (even couldn't if we weren't going to private school).

    Yes lots of folks say they are middle class and aren't - but believe it or not, some people really are. And some of those people send their kids to SF Day, including my family. AND Friends has just as many very very wealthy people as SF Day (as do all of the privates).

    I think if people reading this blog are considering private school and worried about class issues (which I think is a very valid concern) you should really TALK to other parents at the schools you are interested in and see if you think you will feel comfortable in that community.

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  25. Hello anonymous posters,

    To answer some questions...

    I did not hear anything about adding a 6th grade class. It's possible that it was discussed, but I don't remember.

    If I had to guess at the number of parents in attendance at the open house, I'd have to say between 100 and 200.

    I met one current parent who was leading a tour, but didn't get much time to talk with her.

    It is still on our list, even though we are middle class for sure.

    I am disappointed to hear that they would not integrate a child with a disfigurement into the school. That information makes me want to rethink.

    --Wendy

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  26. 10:37 - they don't offer "differentiated instruction". They offer support to kids who need it to supplement the curriculum, and sometimes they split of kids into reading level groups, but by and large the kids all do the same work and are not grouped according to academic skills.

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  27. as a parent that went through the private application circuit last year, I can tell you that spanish is not that big of an issue. Most (a very high % of families are white).. I saw like literally 2-3 latin families and I toured several schools.

    I highly dought that there are more than 1 to 2 kids that go into K at SF day that are Spanish speakers. Just trying to bring it back and point out that there are much more important and relevent issue to debate about when measuring these privates...

    A few key examples .....

    same sex vs not?
    chance of you actually getting in?
    Is your child outgoing or shy?

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  28. Do they prefer outgoing children?

    When you're doing parent interviews do they grill you? Do they want you to gush about the school, or are they cool with a more moderate and honest response?

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  29. IMO, you'll do best if you just be yourself at the interviews. Give responses that show some thought as to how you and your child would fit at the school and what aspects of the school would be beneficial or a good opportunity for your child.

    Also, one thing to recognize is that the schools consider siblings first, and then when they're considering the other kids it's within the framework of that group - socially, demographically, etc. New families are "filling in the cracks" in a way.

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  30. It's been a couple of years since our tours and parent interviews, but it does bring back some memories. We actually entered our child into Marin Country Day School (MCDS), and it was quite intriguing as to how different the experiences were. Each school had a different feel, and the parents themselves on the tours were different from school to school.

    The interview itself was made very easy, to be honest, as we had formed a rapport beforehand through dialog with Ann Borden in admissions - who is just fantastic! She made the process actually very easy and enjoyable to be honest.

    The other schools weren't very pressured in our experience - we were open and honest. I think they are looking for how you (as a family) and your child will fit into the school community. In our experience they really wanted to know about us, our values, how we viewed school in relation to our lives.

    It wasn't very stessful at all - in fact, I think how strssful it will be will come from yourself. They go through this so many times - just try to be relaxed and yourself.

    I know that is a strange thing to say, but to be honest, when we applied we didn't realize how stressful and competitive it was until after the whole thing was over. We started late (but early enough for the school year admissions), and I think taht not knowing how hard it was to 'get in' actually made the process much easier - we were able to actually focus on what we needed to and not make this stressful for ourselves and our daughter.

    In truth, for both of our childrens assessments we told them that it was a playdate and to just go and have fun! And I really think they did!

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  31. You know, the question about being outgoing or shy is an interesting one.

    Our daughter was very sociable, but not the most outgoing at first. After she gets to know someone she is very outgoing, and actually she is popular among her peers.

    The feedback that we get all the time from her is that she is a wonderful girl, and very pleasant to be around. She is also very thoughtful and empathic - and very mature for her age. She was accepted in a very tough year at a very competitive school.

    My son, on the other hand, is quite the opposite - he is in your face, does not seem to slow down or stop talking, and extremely competitive. He also got into our top choice school.

    I know that both of them have their strengths and weaknesses - there is nothing wrong with that. Whether it's being opinionated or laid back, outgoing or shy .. 'weaknesses' are not actually weaknesses much of the time, but rather a characteristic that should be embraced.

    So, long story short, I think that each child will have their own uniqueness, and you should focus on describing that uniqeness during the process.

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  32. YOu can't always tell which kids speak Spanish from looking at them. I know Friends had at least 4-5 Spanish-speaking kindergarteners last year; SF School had a pretty high number, too.

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  33. I agree with anonymous 10:51 AM, the child assessments are really comfortable. The private schools bend over backwards to make the kids feel at home. The people doing the assessments are super friendly. Really low-key. Nothing to get nervous about.

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  34. I don't think there is a perfect formula for getting in to a private school. I definitely think it is important to be yourself, do your homework, show interest in the school of course, but don't be excessive or obsequious. Talk to parents to find out if you think it is a good fit. I would go into the interviews with 1 or 2 questions (for the inevitable, "do you have any questions" question) but that's it. I also think it makes sense to tell your child that the school visit is a playdate, but a friend of mine had a good suggestion, which is to say something to the effect of - it will be your chance to learn about the school and for the school to learn about you - I liked that. Finally if you DO know families at a private you are interested in, ask them to write a supportive letter for you. I actually think this can be very helpful - it doesn't have to be a rich or well connected family, but friends who are known at the school and who can talk about your family and the strengths and unique qualities you have to offer. I actually think this helped us.

    Really though it is a total crap shoot and there is not a lot that you can do - I do think attending all of the "events" so that the admissions folks know who you are as a family - IE recognize your name, face, etc. is also helpful.

    OK just my 2 cents. Not sure if that is helpful...

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  35. I toured and applied last year. I think the biggest issue with SF Day and other schools like it (Friends, Live Oak, Presidio Hill) is that there are SO few spots for any new kids (not siblings) that it is really a crap shoot who gets in. My recollection is that last year there were 150+ applications at these schools for 5 - 15 spots total. So, yes we applied to some of them but did not hold our breath. I also heard from many people who did get in that they were really looking to add diversity (economic, racial, family structure) and that necessarily meant that the majority of the spots went to families who were diverse in some respect because the current student bodies are not (so that siblings coming in were not). This bore out in the results of friends and other people I personally know who got into these schools, so it is not simply stories out of school. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but you really must look at the reality of the odds at getting into any of these schools. My advice (for what it is worth) is to cast a wide net, look at single sex schools (even if you don't necessarily want this because there are approx. 30 spots at these schools for new families, and fewer applicants), look at Marin and the south bay, look at FAIS, CAIS, look at NDV and other parochials and others schools with better odds, and do not just apply to SF Day, Friends, Live Oak, Presidio Hill and MCDS.

    Good luck to everyone going through the process this year, remember it is a marathon, so you do not have to go to everything the private schools have to offer, just be yourselves. There is no sure fire way to get into any of these schools, it really is a bit of a lottery just like the public school process.

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  36. We know lots of white, English-speaking, American families who got into the private schools you mention on your list. (Isn't "Kate" one of them? She got into MCDS.)

    So, I'm not sure it is as difficult as you make it sound. Granted, some were initially waitlisted, but all landed at one of their top private schools.

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  37. We know lots of white, English-speaking, American families who got into the private schools you mention on your list.

    You do? Last year? We don't.

    These schools have 5-10 spots for a particular gender, and (conservatively) dozens of applications. To not be honest about that is to lead many families to heartbreak (or, worse, to lead them to fear something is wrong with their child).

    I agree with the other poster. Cast a wide net and above all RELAX. Don't believe the suggestion that one or two coed private progressives are above and beyond all else and perfect fits for every child in the universe. Tour as much as you can tolerate and keep an open mind.

    Every school has downsides, believe me. And a LOT of SF schools beyond the handful described above are really wonderful!

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  38. I am not so sure about last year, but the year my child was admitted, there were less than five spots.

    This upcoming year there are NO new spots due to the number of siblings. In fact, the siblings (for gender, location) will probably be GREATER than the number of open spots! We know this because we have a sibling who we hope to admit this year at MCDS.

    I know the economy is dragging, but I don't think it is effecting the enrollments at the top privates one bit - in fact, I think that the number of people applying to the top ones may still be increasing, but the not-so-well known ones are experiencing a big drop in applicants.

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  39. And to clarify the above post .. I did not mean to say there were no open spots, but rather based on location and gender, as MCDS strives to maintain half Marin/ half SF, half boys/half girls, etc.

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  40. 8:21, are you talking about MCDS or SF Day? I'm confused because this is the SF Day thread. Which school has no non-sibling spots>

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  41. I am the Director of Admission for Marin Country Day School. It has just come to my attention that a recent posting indicated that MCDS has no kindergarten openings due to a large sibling pool. That is not true. While we do have a large sibling pool, we will indeed accept new children into our kindergarten class. As always, we encourage parents to apply to several schools so that they have choices.

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  42. So, I'm not sure it is as difficult as you make it sound.

    It is. This year brings another astounding bumper crop of siblings, which will affect both public and private school admissions. The past couple of years have seen a few schools accidentally having to add an additional kindergarten due to too many people taking them up on their offers. I wouldn't be surprised if this year all schools offer no more spots than they actually have, waitlisting everyone else.

    That being said, I think your best chance of getting into a private school lies in your commitment to private education. If you are on the fence because you question whether the cost is worth it, or are loathe to endure pocketbook strain for education, or need a backup for 0/15... private school is not for you and I wouldn't bother going through the hoops.

    Also, admissions directors are great bullshit detectors, and they talk to each other. So lay it on the line.

    Good luck!!

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  43. Since my child has entered private K at one of the top schools we have met two families who really wanted to put their kids in public school but did not get a school they wanted in the first round.

    While it's true that commitment to a private school education and all that that means might help you gain admission, being honest about the fact that you are exploring your options will be appreciated, too, as long as you are able to enthusiastically state what excites you about the private school in question, and why it's A good fit for your family, but certainly not the ONLY good fit. The admissions directors know that you are going after many different options. You'd be unwise not to.

    Some of us, after exploring, discovered that we weren't going to get what we wanted from public schools in SF (not to say there aren't many good ones, at least for K). And we also discovered that the privates we thought we would like most were not at the top of our list in the end. But this exploration took most of last fall and early winter. In October we had very mixed feelings about our situation. By the time we interviewed we were fairly resolved about our top choice overall (private A), our second choice (public), and our third choice (private B).

    In SF it is hard to say whether private is a back up to public or public a back up to private. It's hard to get what you want across the board. What you want is to have choices come March!

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  44. I am a current parent at SF Day and if there is anything that I can do to answer questions, I'd be happy to do so. I think some of the comments are possibly dated before the current adminstration was in place. kerrywcooper at yahoo dot com.

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  45. I hear the lower school parents are really happy but that the middle school parents at SF Day are not.

    Is there any truth to that, Kerry?

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  46. I have two good friends with kids in the middle school at SFDS. Both families are happy with the school both academically and socially. From the outside, they all seem to be thriving. Both families have been there since kindergarten, and in general I've heard few complaints.


    Anne

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  47. Kerry is correct that our experience at SF Day was with the former head. The departure of that head of school was something of a schism there - he had a certain set of priorities that wasn't consistent with the priorities of the board, some members the faculty, and some parents. The school was at something of a crossroads at the time and I don't know how they've resolved themselves in terms of direction.

    My experience was that they talked a lot about inclusiveness, but weren't very willing to be broad-minded when it came right down to actually including or supporting kids who didn't fit within their box. For all I know they have grown more open to accommodating/supporting a larger range of students at this point. If so, that would be great. I honestly don't know how someone could evaluate that, as each family's assessment is so colored by their personal experience, but I would caution someone whose kid is on the quirky side to really explore that topic before either setting their hopes on SF Day or choosing to send their child there.

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  48. 1:22

    What school did you end up at? I don't necessarily agree with being open about considering publics, and private as a back up to be honest - if someone feels that way I think it would be best to keep that to yourself and out of the admissions process when applying to a private school.

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  49. I agree with the previous poster. I think you have to seem genuinely interested in the school. They get so many applicants, if you do not seem serious about the school I don't think they consider your child a strong candidate.

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  50. What you want is to have choices come March!

    The schools want just the opposite. Private schools don't want applicants possessing 7 choices and long odds on choosing their school. That's a waste of an acceptance. They aren't necessarily looking for rock star families -- ones that might be in high demand -- but rather families that are a good fit AND likely to choose their school if accepted. Even the public school system gives you only one choice.

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  51. Yep. That is their "yield" number. Admissions directors are judged on several figures, but two stand out:

    1) Overall number of applicants. Every school wants to feel in demand.

    2) Their "yield". What percentage of those accepted actually enroll in the school?

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  52. Now that the process is over and for the most part schools have been chosen, I wanted to point out something VERY important for next year's candidates: A head of school makes all the difference in the world. The new head of school of SF Day is AMAZING - you should read his blog on the web site to get a feel for how he thinks and what he emphasizes. Anything that happened before his tenure - horrible things like not accepting children because of the way they look - would not happen under his tenure. It's like a Bush vs. an Obama administration. He's emphasizing making all children feel safe and accepted, regardless of looks, and they are working really, really hard to increase their racial and economic diversity. Yes, there are always rich people because they subsidize the rest of us. Friends seemed just as wealthy to me. We got in to SF Day and we're over the moon.

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  53. All,

    I would suggest (this may seem obvious but in case it's not) that everyone take these posts with a large grain of salt, including mine.

    I wanted to flag in particular the previous poster comments about SF Day headmaster David Jackson (or Dr. Jackson as he's referred to at the school.) I found that there was a huge disconnect between what he said and what he did, and he's the primary reason we did a pass on the school.

    We heard the good words he expressed about diversity and academic rigor but during his tenure out east his prior school was not known for either. (When you can't get your kids of color numbers above 20% in a city which is 70% of color, something smells funny.)

    This is also the school where the admission's director who is African-American started the interview by saying "I want your child in my kindergarten class" and closing it by asking which part of his multi-ethnic background did we honor in him by taking him to MOAD - the Museum of the African Diaspora. Apparently we weren't alone as a I heard of other parents who were asked flat out what their ethnic background / racial identify was.

    I know several parents who go to the school and like it - but I'd add they seem to steer clear of the headmaster and his spin machine.

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  54. Respectfully disagree with the previous poster. Dr. Jackson, for us, was the tiebreaker in choosing Day from the multiple offers that we had from other private schools. My wife is a teacher and has been highly impressed with his vision and pedagogical philosphy. SF Day has started to partner with Tenderloin Community school with their teachers and students and I have heard separately how Dr. Jackson visited a lot of the major preschools to try and discuss the admissions process and especially on reaching out for my diversity. Everybody we know with an educational background speaks extremely highly of Dr. Jackson. He has convinced this 'diverse' family that he is in earnest in trying to achieve true diversity - vs. the lip service we frankly sensed at some other schools and we are going along for the ride. TIme will tell if we made the right decision. But we are comfortable in our choice.

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  55. we also chose sf day over another highly-regarded private. I liked linda's directness in the interview. not sure what's wrong with asking someone's ethnic background (although this was not asked of us). david jackson seems decent as a head of school. although they have some leeway, they typically carry out the orders of the board so as long as they are reasonably competent they don't make or break a school generally.

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  56. Going to the welcome meeting at SF Day this Thursday. Will see if the incoming class seems more diverse. Can't always tell withthe parents though...

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  57. 5:14, please report back on your experience. some of us are very interested in sfds but uncertain how we might fit in with the parent population. I've heard that those who are admitted may be a different population from those who apply so it's hard to get an idea of what the parents are really like there.

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  58. We went to the SF Day event and was pleasantly surprised and definitely feel better about the our new school community. We were worried that the SFDS stereotype would be the truth and that we would not be able to find a way to fit in as a family. Turns out a lot of other people were also worried about the same thing and we were all relieved that we all seem incredibly nice and normal. Families from all over SF. Different ethnicities and situations. Probably not enough for public school diversity activists but as persons of color, we were more than satisfied at the level. Don't get me wrong - still richer, more international and whiter than typical SF. But it is private school. We are taking Dr. Jackson at his word - a community is only truly accepting if you can bring your whole selves to it. SF Day will have to adapt to our wacky family - not the other way around. If you are truly looking at SFDS in the future as an option, I would suggest you actively try to talk to families who are there. Do not judge based on the people on the tours or the snarky comments on the blogs or other people. Try to get the information firsthand and find out for yourself if you think you will be comfortable there. We are excited about the overall direction the school is taking and are really excited about the education our child will have.

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  59. I just had a glance at some SFDS yearbooks. Nice art. A lot of creativity on display.

    But so CAUCASIAN!

    All the photos were of white children (the school is probably 90% White).

    Not very diverse.

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  60. Just went to the incoming K class picnic. Your 10% number may hae been true in the past, but definitely not true for the past couple of classes. I encourage people to check out schools for themselves and determine what direction they are going toward rather than where they have been. For both public and private.

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  61. Re SF Day diversity:

    I don't know about the classes of the past, but SF Day is definitely diverse judging by this year's incoming class. One thing that it is not however: It is not White or Black or Asian, but, how shall I say it? Blended and multi-ethnic.

    The class may have a plurality of "pure" caucasian families, but judging by the outings we have attended (and looks can be hella deceiving), it looks like a slight majority(?) of kids are not one race in particular. There are a few "pure" Asian famililes, but I haven't seen one "pure" latino family, or black family yet. I have met many totally mixed families--Indian/white, Asian/White, Black/White, Hispanic/Asian--one with all of the above, etc.

    The trend--as far as i can tell--of these families is also that they seem mostly very (discretly)affluent, with a large amount of families that have at least one international spouse. On the whole, I have been very happy that whatever they are (and I wasn't sure the ethnicity of a lot of families) everyone (with the exception of only one aspirational socialite family)has been EXTREMELY LIKABLE, and just nice and laid back.

    I don't know what the past classes were or what the future classes will be, but I think this incoming class is ideal for our family!!!

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  62. 1:17AM

    "mostly very (discretly)affluent"

    With the emphasis on "discrete", I may add.

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  63. Yes, the SFDS parent is most definitely discrete about her affluence.

    She (or he) does not flaunt the advantages she has attained in society. She exudes her confidence in a low-key, unassuming way. She works diligently to achieve the best educational success possible for her own child, while also looking to better society as a whole by promoting volunteerism in the community.

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  64. Hi,

    I'm comparing SFDAY, Presidio Hill, and Friends? Which school has the strongest academic and how would you describe the kids graduated from each school?

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  65. all three are fine schools. I probably wouldn't spend too much energy on choosing between them until your child gets acceptances from all of them................

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  66. Any one went to SF Day school tour this year for Kindergarten Fall 2011? We're currently living out of state and couldn't make it to the tour in the Fall. Any comments about the school will be helpful!

    I heard from one of the postings that the school is only accepting 2-3 students for Kindergarten Fall 2011 after all the siblings enrollment. Anyone who has the most updated data? Thanks!!

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  67. There is no recent review of this school on this blog, so I thought I'd chime in for those parents seeking information for the 2013 application season ...

    After going through the arduous application process, we ended up selecting SFDS (despite getting a few other spots too). When we started the application process, the rumor mill in our neighborhood area (Glen Park) was that SFDS was that it was a school for the very wealthy, and we almost didn't even tour it. But we pushed on because we loved the school's approach to academics and child development, and the head seems to have his head screwed on straight.

    My advice would be to trust yourself and not others during this crazy process. The tours and open houses are overwhelming, and it's really hard to see how comfortable you feel in an environment with hundreds of other prospective parents. The crowds heighten the sense of anxiety and competition that can surround this particular school. However, at it's heart, we found SFDS to be a very thoughtful, innovative and academic school with a strong an supportive parent community. Contrary to what we thought going in, the parents are thoughtful, down to earth and don't all live in Pac Heights (in fact, as I attended the new family reception just last night and this blog came up so I thought about posting this, and met several new families who said they live in the Richmond, Diamond Heights, Portrero, Castro and Noe). I actually didn't meet a single Pac Heights family, but I'm sure there are a few.

    Some other highlights on this school: 2 teachers per class of 22, plus a floating science and art class that visits both K sections, focus on "why" versus "what" learning and critical thinking skills, responsive classroom, a head dedicated to critical thinking and the school adapting to new families (not families adapting to the school), a warm family-school vibe with a cozy lobby and courtyard, updated play areas/cafeteria, new food provider/Dariush, outdoor education and trips, Spanish starts in 3rd or 4th grade, great aftercare program with subjects such as Spanish, music, film-making, art, incredible art teachers and program, very strong academics, really impressive Science program and focus, free tutoring through homework cafe afterschool and in last 30 minutes of school day.

    How to get in? We know two families who said they had Board connections and letters who did NOT get in, but we did get in surprisingly knew NO ONE. You don't need to get into this school. However, they do some profiling of the kids during the assessment and are looking for pre-logic skills and critical thinking temperament (resilience, curiosity, coping with challenge, etc.). Also, a good amount of visible diversity based on the parent community I met last night. Lots of international and mixed ethnicity families. Another common denominator: most parents we spoke to said their kids were pretty academically inclined and that was a main factor in selecting the school.

    Hope this helps and good luck everyone next year!

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  68. Much appreciated anon @11:08, I look forward to touring and learning more about SFDS next Fall. These updated notes are v. helpful.

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