Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hot topic: Public to private

An SF K Files visitor asked me to post the following:

"Our youngish (fall birthday) girl is currently in kindergarten at a public school. She was not eligible for private school last year, due to the Sept. 1 cutoff at most private schools. We went ahead and sent her to public kindergarten, because she really did seem ready, and it seemed artificial to wait a year -- for the opportunity to just apply to independent schools. Although we are mostly happy with our public school, we do feel we missed out on the opportunity to fully explore all our options last year. This year we are applying to just two private schools which we feel are truly exceptional, and if she were accepted, we would be thrilled to move our daughter from her current school. However, if she is so lucky as to get in, she would have to repeat kindergarten again at the new school. We don't really have a problem with this -- and in many ways we feel it would be a good thing. We know of two private schools (Synergy and Presidio Hill) that actually have two-year kindergartens for fall birthday kids, so it doesn't seem too out of the ordinary.

Has anyone out there done this (their child moved from public to private and repeated kindergarten) or know someone who has? How did it work out? Also, do SFK Files readers feel that our daughter is at a disadvantage in the application process, since she is already currently in kindergarten?

Mom Exploring Options..."


  1. At least two people who post on this blog have gone from public to private. I'm not sure if they repeated K or transferred into 1st.

  2. I've heard anecdotally that some people use public K as a sort of transitional kindergarten for kids whose birthdays are close to or past the private school cutoffs. I know one person personally who has done this. Doesn't seem to be a big deal at all.

  3. This is exactly what we will be doing for our son. He will attend a public K first, then the following year we will move him to our Catholic school and have him repeat K there. He is a very bright kid, but emotionally young. Just learning to stand in line, keep his hands to himself and take turns is a big deal for him.

    My family has always attended the neighborhood Catholic school, we are "City Irish" and we have been very happy with the parish school.

    I am a little concerned about transitioning him from public to parochial, and wondering how he will deal with the differences in structure. He is in a Catholic preschool right now, but receives Speech Therapy through SFUSD.

    I am also a little concerned about where the lottery system will take us, like many people who post here. Good luck to everybody who just entered the lottery!

  4. There was a kid at Rosa Parks last year who ended up at either SF Day or SF Friends this year, can't remember which.

  5. We would have the opposite problem switching from private to public. Our private took our son young. Most of his close preschool friends went to kindergarten at the same time, and he just assumed that his school change meant he was in kindergarten too. Now he's convinced he's in first grade because so many of his friends at other schools are in first grade, even though his birthday would require him to do first grade over again in public school. I don't think he'd be crazy about feeling like he flunked first grade and has to do it over, but if that happens, we'll work with it.

    Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a snobby public school basher, I will share this tale of switching between public districts for parents who are moving their kids from public to private and therefore repeating kindergarten (or another grade): When I was a kid we moved from a high-performing suburban district to a rural district culturally similar to the town where Ennis lived in "Brokeback Mountain." Many kids went to school because the law said they had to, not because they or their parents wanted it. I skipped a grade in the rural school, but "skipped back" when we moved back to the 'burbs. My parents told me that the school I was moving to was more challenging and they wanted to be sure I would be able to keep up with my classmates and I bought into it.

    If you explain that the new school has all these cool things their old school did not have (otherwise you would not be moving them, would you?) but it has a different rule about how old you have to be, and you want to be sure they can do everything their classmates can do, it should probably work out fine.

  6. Marlowe's Mom:
    You might not necessarily have to have your son "repeat" first grade in public school. I know several kids who are ahead of their grade, some by a few weeks (late December), and one by a year. I think you can just enroll him in the grade you think he should be in developmentally and academically. At this point he has a track record and you know how he would do, which is ultimately more important than a particular birthdate.

  7. Marlowe's mom, we have two young family friends who went from your school to public, both the same year -- one graduating and going on to 9th in public high school, one leaving after 5th for public middle school. Both were young for their grade when they started. Unlike yours, both were legally old enough to be in the grade by public standards (Dec. 1), but cutting it close.

    Your school has a philosophy of not really emphasizing what grade each student is in, or at least did at that time (both left in 2005). The levels were named after Harry Potter references, so instead of 3rd grade, kids were in Ravenclaw, etc.

    In the cases of both these students, the headmistress had had them de facto repeat a grade, but apparently spending an extra year in Ravenclaw doesn't single them out the way repeating 3rd grade would in public school. In the case of the older student, she apparently determined he needed the extra year to be prepared for high school, and I guess she just decided the younger one needed it in general, since she wasn't aware beforehand that he'd be leaving after 5th grade. Even though they were much older than yours and certainly aware, it doesn't sound like it was much of a trauma.

    The parents agree that the kids have done fine in public school but would have struggled if they hadn't had the repeated year of private.

  8. I guess this comment doesn't fit in with the non-numbered grades philosophy, now that I look at it:

    "...she wasn't aware beforehand that he'd be leaving after 5th grade."

    I mean, she wasn't aware that he'd be leaving to start 6th grade elsewhere.

  9. My nephew (Sept. Birthday) and my brother (Oct. Birthday) both went to K twice. Though my brother went to the private then the public. My nephew is currently in K for the second year and because it is a new school he does not seem to mind a bit and is doing well (it was introduced to him that because he was turning 6 he was going to a new school). My brother ended up with a doctorate degree from MIT so I don't think it hurt him in the least.

  10. Hey, thanks for the encouraging post. Somehow it seemed like a stigma to me to have a child repeat K. I hope I haven't passed on too much of that to my child.

  11. Is it just me who's irritated by the idea of a parent using public K as a free daycare for an "emotionally young" kid with full intention of sending the kid to private school the following year?

    That kid is going to be taking up time, attention, and energy of the kindergarten teacher that she could be spending on kids who are ready to learn and committed to staying in the school.

    I too am unsure whether we'll enroll my kid this fall as well, but we've gotten him evaluated and are arranging for (free) extra help from the school district to prepare him for K. We're not going to send him to a year of practice kindergarten at the expense of other kids.

  12. Remember that person's tax dollars are supporting public schools, so I feel he or she has the right to do whatever he or she wants.

  13. Yeah, and keep in mind that the person who leaves after K for private frees up a space for someone wanting to get into 1st grade. Others may enter K fully intending to stay with that school, only to have to leave the district b/c of a new job or something, which is no different than someone who goes to K intending to stay there only a year. I guess I have too much other stuff to worry about to add that to the list.

  14. I agree with both of you completely -- as taxpayers they has the right to do what they want, and the issue really isn't high on my list of problems.

    But here's an SF analogy: it's the same irritation I'd have with a neighbor who buys a Hummer and parks on the street taking up two spots instead of putting it in their driveway. It impacts other people.

    I do think there's a difference between enrolling your kid then having to leave the school for whatever reason, and enrolling your kid whom you know is not really ready.

    I'm faced with the same issue with my own son, but if the teachers feel he's not ready for K then we'll wait a year.

  15. We condsidered the same thing. I think that a Kinder is too young to feel strange about repeating, and it's not really repeating, since kids are older in private. Go for it and good luck!!

  16. I know I'm joining this converstion a little late but I just got the too-young letter from my first choice private and told to try again next year for kinder. My daughter is very bright but a little immature emotionally. Her preschool teachers all say that holding her back would not be wise and she'll end up getting bored. I agree. She's intellectually ready for a challange so I will put her in public kindergarden. Studies show that by 3rd grade, all kids are developmentally and academically on the same page. Has anyone found this to be true? Has anyone attempted to reapply to private and demand that the child be tested for his/her appropriate grade level rather than retesting for kinder?

  17. Original poster here again. To the last poster -- we also applied to a few privates last year and received a two-young/try-again-next-year letter from our first choice. We were not surprised by this, since our daughter's Sept. birthday was past the cutoff date. But our preschool was clearly telling us they felt our daughter was ready and we should send her to kindergarten.

    We actually had a spot at a fantastic TK program, and we had fallen in love with that school. But then SFUSD called us the day before school started with a spot at our first-choice public. It was a rough decision, but we decided to forego the fantastic TK program and take the public spot. For many reasons -- but the fact that our daughter seemed ready (and was quite literally begging for us to send her to kindergaten) played a big part in this. It was also a far less risky and stressful proposition than staying with the TK program and trying for public and private again in a year. So we are doing exactly what you are asking about -- we have our daughter in an excellent public K, and we are reapplying to two privates that we absolutely love. Our daughter is flourishing at the public school. It's just that we love the offerings at the two privates. But I can say that we are able to be more choosy and focus our efforts (instead of applying to 6+ privates) because we will also be OK with staying in public. And so far, I don't think our daughter's young age in public will be a factor. She's right where she needs to be.

    I think there's no getting around the birthdate cutoffs. If you want your child to go to an independent school, I believe they will have to repeat kindergarten. Having thought about this from every different angle, I really think that's OK. At the two schools we applied to, I believe there's plenty of stimulating curriculum going on, plus differentiated learning, to keep a child interested coming from public K.

  18. This thread is months old now, but in case anybody stumbles across it, I have to apologize for my earlier ignorance.

    In pre-K, our kid got an IEP from the district to receive extra help. We thought we would hold him out of K this year, but the district told us we MUST enroll him to continue receiving the extra services.

    So my previous vaguely-annoyed postings were completely out of place and invalid given the rules of the system. Sorry about that.