Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hot topic: Best and worst private school admission processes

An SF K Files visitor would like to hear back from the group on the following topic:
As you know the kindergarten process wrapped up this week for private schools. My wife and I spent quite a bit of time discussing our options before selecting the best fit for our daughter. I was surprised by how much the admissions director / process at the schools influenced our view of the school (and our desire to attend). Some of the admissions directors were respectful and responsive while others were absent and/or incompitent.
As we polled our friends we noticed a fairly consistent view of the best and worst processes (independent of where particular families were admitted). I'd love to see you post and invite parents to share their thoughts on the best and worst admissions programs in San Francisco.
For what it's worth the process as a whole treated us quite well and we're very happy with where we ended up. But I do feel that your blog could hold the admissions departments accountable by inviting parents to post their views on the best and worst. The independent schools in the city have to be held to a high standard given the amount of effort parents put into the process.


  1. Linda Talton at SFDS and Yvette Bonaparte at Friends were both great. I was really impressed with the way they handled everything, as well as with their demeanor during the parent interviews. They seemed very real and like they were honestly trying to get to know you.

  2. I was surprised by the application process at Synergy. The written portion was quite brief and didn't ask for any kind of essay. The playdate/interview was not an interview in my opinion. The kids were sent to a classroom and the parents were sent to a different classroom. About 20 or so parents sat in a circle (there was more than one classroom doing this at a time)and a teacher threw out the question "what did you like about your preschool?" We then went around the room answering the same question. Needless to say the answers began to mirror eachother fairly quickly, people were bored, and it was not by my definition an interview. By the end, there were a few minutes to ask questions, but a couple of "chatty" parents took all the remaining time and the rest of us were left with no time to say anything. I couldn't figure out at the end of that "interview" how they could make any sort of judgement - how did they even know who we were? The teacher facilitating the session wasn't even writing anything down, how in the world could she remember all of our answers to the benign question of what we liked about our preschool. It was ridiculous. Several of my friends went through it too, but were in different rooms/different times and they all walked away with the same thoughts. This is not to say that the AD wasn't pleasant and friendly, but she certainly didn't "interview" us. I continue to wonder how it is they choose the people who go there.

  3. 9:49

    Thats funny. I thought the Friends DA was weird to us. She avoided us at the coffee, and at the open house. Our interview was with Jennifer, I think, who was very nice to us. We didn't get in, but after several attempts at talking to the Friends DA, and getting rebuffed, I thought that was okay; we were admitted at several other places who were way more welcoming.

  4. Hamlin--extremely prompt and concise e-mails.

    interview was imperceptible. We had no clue what she was thinking, and we just tried to be pleasant and express our interest in the school. Didn't get in.

    Friends--pleasant interview. had no contact with director. Playdate okay, good parent to talk to. Didn't get in.

    SF Day--never replied to e-mails or calls. confusing. Interview okay. Didn't get in.

    Live Oak--extremely friendly, answered all questions promptly, great interview. Didn't get in.

  5. Synergy - Always prompt with responding to inquires. Very friendly admissions staff and volunteer parents on the tour. Difficult to ascertain what expectations were during the parent roundtable interview. During our group interview, all the parents were very pleasant and considerate about sharing the floor and no-one overly dominated the process. I am not sure how important the parent interview is to the entire process. I suspect the children's playdate and feedback from preschool teacher were more important factors. This was the only private school we applied to and were admitted. We knew no-one in the system, had no one write letters of support for us, requested financial aid (and granted some).

  6. Linda Talton and Yvette Bonaparte *are* great, but they were among the slowest in returning calls and emails, too.

  7. Best practices:

    - SF Day and Burke's did a good job of transitioning the kids at the play dates, helping them separate from parents. SF Friends and FAIS did the worst job. (Friends' director of admissions is awesome, but not an educator. I think her tone of voice made the kids more nervous and anxious, not less.)

    - Live Oak was honest about the need for financial aid affecting admissions outcomes due to increased need from enrolled families. This probably affected the outcomes at other schools, too, even though they all deny it.

    - Friends *really* should sign up for the combined screening with the other schools and not try to do their own thing.

    - FAIS needs a more thoughtful rejection letter. It verged on disrespectful in its brevity given the time and energy invested by all applicant parents.

    - Burke's essay, a mere 250 words, makes one think that they don't really care to learn much about your family or child. No need to require a thesis or masterpiece, but 250 words seems like too little.

    - MCDS stood out in its thoughtfulness in NOT hosting coffees etc. in people's homes. If you want families of all socioeconomic backgrounds to feel welcome in your school community, you shouldn't host school events in parent mansions.

    - If possible, schools should either avoid or encourage kids to attend screenings with friends. The shyest kid in our preschool, the one who screamed and cried at *every* playdate and had to be removed from the classroom every time, was admitted to the one school where there were three kids in attendance from our school at the playdate. This is not to say that this isn't a wonderful kid, just that you can't compare the behavior of a kid surrounded by friends with that of a kid surrounded by strangers and get an accurate read of which kid might have an easier time socially.

  8. Some families got multiple offers and others none. Granted, there are some families no one wants: the obnoxious parents with the violent out-of-control kid, for example.

    But in other cases the results seemed unfair: The family at our preschool that I thought would be admitted everywhere, was the one admitted nowhere. (I think each school might have assumed this family would be snatched up by someone else!)

  9. BAy Area schools should copy the "match" system used to match med students and hospitals.

    As I understand it, the applicants rank the programs and the programs rank the applicants in order of preference. The computer makes sure *everyone* gets the highest possible match based on their mutual rankings.

    Much more sane than a system that leaves some folks in the cold for no apparent reason.

  10. Any admissions directors or heads of school reading this?

  11. Wish schools would be more honest about their inability to be need blind.

    I cannot believe it is coincidence that the families I know who didn't get in anywhere (or were waitlisted everywhere) were those who needed financial aid.

    I think it would be better if schools either
    a) Admitted aid was a factor or,
    b) Sent families they liked a letter saying they are admitted but without aid (or only with partial aid) and let the family say "no thank you, can't make it" without having them second guess why their family or child wasn't "good enough" if it really came down to aid.

  12. Issue rejections instead of just waitlisting everyone.

    It will make your life easier because you won't have dozens of families and their preschool directors harassing you all week to find out if there is waitlist movement.

    If I have no chance of getting admitted, I'd rather get a "no" and then get over it instead of having false hopes for a week (or even over months).

  13. AD at Friends School (Yvette) was not easy to get a hold of. Sometimes it took her days to answer an email. And during the waitpool time, she never even bothered responding to our inquiry about where we might stand in the waitpool, or let us know that the waitpool was closed. All other AD's either emailed or called. In person Yvette was very nice and friendly. All other 4 ADs were extremely pleasant and easy to get a hold of.

  14. FAIS

    I have consistently been amazed at the level of rudeness and insensitivity this school shows. We originally thought this would be a good school for us since it offers the IB program, but after actually seeing the amount of bullying on their blacktop and inabiltity to even try to understand differentiated learning, we pulled our application. I know other families that did too, but for other reasons.

    We are glad we did because a family that did want this school--and who we thought would be such an asset to this school (nice, multi-racial, french speaking) was rejected in such a rude way. If they weren't seen as a gem, I don't know who is (but they got in elsewhere).

    FAIS promised they would change their ways and become more SF Day than Lycee, but it seems to me its more Lycee than ever. If I wanted bureaucratic, capricious, unjust schooling, I would just move to the Banlieue in Paris! We want a hybrid, not a replication of a mediocre school at the end of the RER in Paris.

    The director there is really insensitive and says the most inappropriate things.

  15. We thought Hamlin was very professional and prompt.

    What we didn't know is that Hamlin has one of the most complicated and connections oriented admission process. The interview and playdates are just part of the story; so much there is about letters of reference and connections.

    But there are always a few spots available for families who need FA, so as long as you are not part of the Heights crowd, there is hope for a spot.

  16. Does anyone know if we can get the results of the temple emannuel assessment? How?

  17. We thought Hamlin was just amazing. We got in and we had no connections and no letters of recommentions - obviously. So don't agree with the previous post.

  18. But I bet you didn't need financial aid (or not much, anyway)...

  19. 12:47 pm: yes, DAs and heads of school read this.

  20. 1:21 no, the assessment results are not available to parents.

  21. SF Friends - OK. Yvette is very nice, though I agree with other posters that she can be slow moving. I'm not sure why two different posters thought she was so great.

    Cathedral - Kathy Madison seemed to be the best AD out there. Extremely nice, honest, frank and seems to run the most honest process. By "honest" I mean Cathedral appears to take kids they think are great without regard to connections, without regard to which other schools may accept the same boy and, seemingly, without consulting other ADs. (Admittedly this is all conjecture.) She was also very likeable.

    Town - Lynn McKannay seemed nice during the process. I have since learned that she lied to me during the interview. That's not nice. Town also seems to run one of the less "honest" admissions processes.

    SF Day - Day also seems to run a less-than-"honest" process. Connections and money appear to have undue sway. Linda Talton was one of the least appealing ADs. When she doesn't need you (this covers almost everyone almost all the time) she can barely muster the energy to recognize your presence, however, when she needs you she is your new best friend. I know all ADs behave like this to some degree, but Linda represents one end of the spectrum.

    MCDS - My experience was unremarkable, however, I have heard the following story from 5 separate families, almost verbatim. The story goes like this: the parents sit down for the interview, Jeff Escabar peeks into the child's folder, and says to the parents, "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but your child is very bright"(or some other comment that indicates that the child is attractively smart). Strange to hear this story so many times.

    Live Oak - Tracy Gersten seemed great - very nice and very approachable. I did not get a power-trip vibe from her as I did from some other ADs.

  22. I have a feeling Admissions Directors have very different degrees of power at different schools. At some, they just run the process and there are others on the admissions committee whose votes carry a lot more weight. At other schools, they are quite influential and others on the committee rely on their judgment for the bottom line. That is my impression, anyway.

  23. Some of this is pretty harsh. All in all I think the DA's did a great job. One thing that isn't discussed very much is that the DA's talk to each other; a lot. We got waitlisted at one school for example not because they didn't want us to come but because they knew they were far down our list. When they found out that we were accepted at a few others, it caused us to get waitlisted. It was a fair and accurate assumption though so I wasn't bothered by it. Going down the list: Linda Talton/SFDS- Great. Honest and just an extremely nice person.
    Jeff Escobar/MCDS- Great guy and an asset to the school given how much pressure must have been put on him, I'm surprised he kept such a great demeanor.
    Cathy Madison/Cathedral- Very sweet and informative. Perhaps too nice for the job and this "niceness" can be misleading as you think you are a shoe in.
    Town- Professional, didn't seem to want to get to know us that well but the process and open houses were very informative.
    Stuart Hall- Pam was both nice and professional. I loved the school. Tours were also very informative.
    Live Oak- Tours were well done. Got a very good impression of the school from them. Interviews were a little out there but at least got to know the family very well.
    I don't blame the DA's for not calling people back and do understand the not returning email given the amount they get. I think they could have given a better running tally of how many slots were left and how big the waiting list is though.

  24. Disagree COMPLETELY with assessment of Linda Talton not being honest. She was very upfront with us and I couldn't disagree more with the money and connection comment. Linda is hard at work making a diverse class and one look at the kind-2nd grade classes confirms this. We received entrance with zero connections and zero letters. Not super rich but would not need aid.

  25. FYI, Linda Talton was at Live Oak 2 years ago, so she's not responsible for choosing SF Day's now 2nd graders.

  26. We wouldn't have applied to private school if the Admissions Directors hadn't stressed their desire for socioeconomic diversity and encouraged us to apply for financial aid.

    No one I know who needed significant aid got in ANYWHERE.

    I don't blame the schools for not having the money.

    But I do blame them for not being upfront about it.

  27. It does seem unfair to encourage people who need financial aid to throw away $75 application fee.

    To be fair I don't know that anyone could have predicted in September/October the extent of the financial crisis and the impact it would have on current families and endowment funds. Next year ADs should be way more up front though, even if they get fewer applicants.

  28. If a child is identified by their parent or preschool as particularly slow to warm, Admissions Directors should make the time to visit the preschool and see the kids in action.

    We know a very "slow to warm" boy who is quite enthusiastic, outgoing and a leader when he is in his own environment. But in new situations he is very withdrawn, sits alone in a corner and is rude to those who approach him. I haven't spoken to the parents so I don't know if he got in anywhere, but I'm sure the schools got the wrong sense of what his personality is likely to be like once he is attending school. He is really lovely boy when he is in his own element. He just gets *very* nervous around strangers.

  29. Friends Evaluation
    I did notice that both times I brought my progeny (twins, one at a time) to Friends for their evaluation, the sessions started late, and we had to wait in the not terribly comfortable library. Overall the experience was fine, but while other schools seemed like well-oiled machinery, Friends still felt a little disjointed. Still, a sweet, caring vibe.

  30. They could have been more honest about the impact of financial aid on admissions when they drafted their waitlist letter.

    Our note from Live Oak mentioned that after taking care of current families, they had very little left over for new families. They were very apologetic about the impact of this "reality" on admissions. I'm sure other schools were affected in exactly the same way, they just didn't admit it. I think it just makes families feel worse to not know.

  31. Wow this entire thread makes me feel uncomfortable. I realize that ranking and naming names on the web is trendy these days (yelp, ratemydoctor, etc.) but I know 3 of these A.D.s and can't imagine how they feel about this thread. Reflects poorly on posters (sour grapes anyone?) on Kate/Amy (it's her blog, therefore any trash talk reflects poorly on her) and on the A.D.'s who are tasked with the Herculean job of placing a few families out of many applicants. unto others...

  32. Still, some of the points are very well taken. Would have been great to know that financial need would largely be an insurmountable barrier to getting an acceptance. Just be upfront, please, even if it does make the schools look more elitist. If it's honest, tell it. $75 application fees are expensive and the process is stressful.

  33. 6:09, for the most part posters are merely commenting on their experiences. If the ADs don't want like reading about what is perceived as rude or unprofessionsal behavior, maybe they should take some of this feedback to heart.
    We all agree this is a stressful, expensive and time consuming endeavor - if we aren't offered a spot at the school, the least we can ask for is to be treated respectfully and with honesty.

  34. 6:53 is right on point. This process is stressful, cumbersome and time consuming. For a lot of us, the lack of information about the application process is frustrating. Most of us don't have the connections and resources to look behind the curtain and discover the reality of the situation. I have to admit that during the application process I was largely naive towards the competition and atmosphere. Both my husband and I work, and we only knew a few people in my child's preschool class who were applying to private schools. I started reading this blog after the fact and realized the scope of the process. I think having as much clarity and information as possible is helpful. For others, this forum provides a cathartic opportunity to vent about the inevitable frustration and let-downs that go along with the process.

  35. Here's a crazy idea: If a family applied for financial aid and was found to be making below a certain amount (say, $70,000?) and needing at least 90 percent tuition assistance, their application fee should be returned if they aren't admitted.

    Does that sound fair?

  36. You can request that the application fee be waived. Not after the fact, of course, but in advance.

  37. I think it is great that people are openingly talking about their experiences. It is the only way that change will happen.

  38. given our increasingly customer-service model of education, that has already brought major universities to their knees, it won't be long before our kindergarteners will be writing anonymous "evaluations" of their teachers too....

  39. what do you want to hold them (the admissions departments) accountable FOR?

    for being / not being polite, available, nice, competent?

    or for being complicit in a ridiculous game in which they know from the get-go that demand far exceeds supply?

  40. I doubt any private school admissions directors will read this. Vent away.

  41. The funniest thing I saw was scores of parents lining up to speak with (suck up to)Andrew Brown, and he was all, "My word, I wasn't planning on this? However did this happen? Why do they wish to talk to little ole me?" His disingenuous antics were quite entertaining. The whole process is a big, icky ego-stroking for him.

  42. I frankly find the tone and content of this discussion distasteful. If there is a complaint about the admission processs at the school that is legitimate (have not yet seen one) then it should be addressed to the School's Board. So far, all I have read leads me to the conclusion that if I was an AD or affiliated with a school that I would not want a family that is going to complain about a process that all of the applicants are faced with. If those applying did not realize that certain well-connected families received special consideration then they had not done their homework before applying. ADs are representatives of the schools they work for and the decision to accept your child is the school's decision so before your criticize them take a step back and realize they are doing their job with the resources they have been given.

  43. 10:19 PM, that's gross, and really very funny!

  44. "distasteful"....always such an interesting word. like "uncomfortable" but classier

  45. Hamlin and Ring Mountain were fantastic. Their staff was responsive and always pleasant. A very personal touch.

    Burke's and Convent were very professional. A bit less warm than Hamlin and Ring Mountain, but respectful throughout the process.

    Friend's was a little harder to get a hold of, but very warm, friendly and engaged when you did connect.

    SF Day was unresponsive and disengaged throughout the process. Very disappointing.

  46. In the "old days" (three years ago) no one would have ever thought of airing comments about people publicly in this way. Putting up anonymous postings to total strangers can make you feel like you can say anything, but is it really okay to be asking this question about best and worst processes? The individuals about whom you're speaking are professionals who really don't deserve the comments, positive or negative. This is real life, and the subjects of your comments did not ask to be on a reality tv show or star as subjects of this blog. They have real jobs. You are impacting reputations, whether in positive or negative terms. When I went through this process, I had my own experiences with the DAs at the schools to which we applied. But I certainly never told friends who were going through the process this year about my own impressions, because I wanted them to have their own experiences. Frankly all of this talk of comparing the different school's processes strikes me as such gossip-like behavior.

  47. it is gossip like behaviour, that's true.

    But I find it gross that one DA thinks it fine to gossip about me and mine to another DA.

    I wish they would simply keep their admissions processes separate and not talk about us to each other. Is this not also an ethical breach?

    How can I make the best decision for my family, If they are deciding amongst themselves what is best for us/them?

  48. I think ADs might actually find these comments useful. It is hard getting honest feedback about how to do a better job from people's who feel they need to suck up to you or from school administrators who don't have comparative data.

    We have no qualms comparing how we are treated at different restaurants or airlines. Why should we have qualms about talking about schools?

    Yeah, there's some venting. But honestly? Most of the postings are *not* irrational rants or unfair gossip.

  49. It's sad that everyone is reacting so strongly to the DAs and the schools in this very emotional time only days after the end of silent week. If you come back and read your posts a few weeks from now, you'll see what I mean.

    6:54 am: there's a big difference between writing and publishing a well-thought out restaurant review in a newspaper, or even online, with your name attached, and posting anonymously on this thread: what I'm seeing here is the writing of a lot of people who've, by and large, feel burned by the process: they've spent the last week waiting to get off of waitlists, and now that they still don't have a school, they're venting on this thread.

    I find that the comments made about the DA of FAIS are in poor taste. Rather than ranting online, why not let your feelings guide you in the process? The DA is the mouthpiece and image of the school. If you don't like the way that a DA behaves, you don't need to apply to that school. But don't lash out online.

    On March 28th 11:11 wrote that the Synergy group parent conversation "was ridiculous." Synergy doesn't play the game the way that the other schools do. They are refreshingly down to earth and relaxed about the whole thing, and you are basically attacking them for it. Synergy isn't picking over the parents and grilling them in order to find out who is the best fit, they let the prospective parents who are truly passionate about the school rise to the top on their own... all the DA has to do is wait to hear the right things, receive the right letter.

    Would you have the courage to make these same comments to the DAs in person or over the phone? When we went through the process, I called one DA months later to give some feedback about aspects of the process that did not serve the children well. My comments were coldly received, and to this day the school continues to operate their admissions screenings in exactly the same manner. But at least I had the decency to extend my constructive criticism directly to the DA.

    I agree, 2:34, that it is an ethical breach that DAs talk with one another about applicant families. I am glad that people are finally realizing that this is what happens. Keep it in mind years from now when your child(ren) are applying to 8th grade, and know that the high school admissions people are the ones deciding your child's future, not you or your child: they talk to each other and decide who gets which student, and it seems very unfair to me that they allow students and families to believe otherwise.

  50. There is nothing wrong this thread. We have every right to discuss our impressions. If you don't like it, you know what to do. Quit trying to be the room monitor and acting a like prissy miss.

  51. Maybe if the admissions process were more transparent, people would post more transparently.

  52. Which is harder to hear?

    That a colleague at another school did a better job of responding to phone calls and emails promptly?

    Or that your child/family didn't pass muster, without any details or other info as to why that might be so?

    If any Admissions Directors feel offended by this thread, they should get thicker skin.

  53. LOVE the idea of a match system like the kind they have for med students

  54. great point, 11:05 AM, i hear you loud and clear.

    but i hope we can take a little comfort in the fact that it's not really that one's child/family didn't pass muster, it's rather that there are simply far too many of us all wanting the same thing, so that except in a few cases (eg unfortunate interview, etc), the ADs have to resort to ridiculous reasons to throw out applicants. they haven't a choice. of course, one ridiculous reason is that you don't look like you'll shape us as a mega donor down the track....

  55. great point, 11:05 AM, i hear you loud and clear.

    but i hope we can take a little comfort in the fact that it's not really that one's child/family didn't pass muster, it's rather that there are simply far too many of us all wanting the same thing, so that except in a few cases (eg unfortunate interview, etc), the ADs have to resort to ridiculous reasons to throw out applicants. they haven't a choice. of course, one ridiculous reason is that you don't look like you'll shape us as a mega donor down the track....

  56. I think the AD's generally do the best they can with a crazy supply/demand imbalance.

    How'd you like to read 300+ applications, return calls, emails from even more than the 300 that apply, host daytime & evening events, do the playdates, attend normal faculty and school events, deal with sibling admissions (or denials)....and try to keep a bunch of uptight parents 100% happy?


  57. maybe they'd help both themselves and us out if they published on their websites and in their literature a line or two to the effect that "in general we receive between 100-300 applications each year, for 10-20 slots." or whatever the figures are on average.

    That is, be generous to applicants from the get-go. Give precise if of course only approximate figures of the reality of the supply/demand situation, instead of assuming that everybody applying is a realist who can read between the lines, especially when it comes to the often emotional subject of schooling one's loved ones.

    I had a general understanding that it would be difficult to get in, but I didn't know that the odds were, it turns out after the fact, 1.5%. Had I known that--or even that the odds were only 5%--I wouldn't have wasted my family's time, nor the AD's.

    Some brutal honesty up front would help not hurt.

  58. I don't understand why some folks find this topic distasteful. You can find specific posts distasteful, but this is a valid question and an important one.

    This is a difficult and emotional process for families. If I were a good AD I would want this feedback so I can serve the community (those I let into the school and those I have to turn away) better. This entire process is after all about the children... not about the parents nor the ADs.

    So I hope the ADs read this. I hope parents post constructive criticism. And I hope things get a little better next year. Let's be clear... some schools do a better job at this than others. I hope the ones that aren't set up to support 200-300 applications take notice and find a new process for dealing with that.

    Don't feel sorry for the AD having to sort through those applicatins. It's their job. They signed up for it. The question is are they capable of doing it?

    Frankly I think this is a valid topic and I hope the ADs take note and improve where they need to. If they are incapable of taking feedback I hope their head of school or their boards step up and force change where necessary.

    And for parents venting here... You can't hold a rejection or WL against a school given the odds. But you can/should expect them to be responsive (and more transparent) throught the process.

    As for me I agree with 11:05pm. Hamlin is the model. SF Day needs the most work.

    My 2 cents.

  59. Overall, I thought all of the school admission processes were just as good (or just as bad) as the other schools. Contrary to some comments, I thought the FAIS process was excellent. A request though (and this is not sour grapes - we got into multiple schools) if a school has no interest in a family based on the application then don't even waste the families time "interviewing" them. At one extremely popular school it was clear from the start we didn't have a chance. If that was the case then just don't bother interviewing us.

    Also, the coffees are a waste of time. Please stop having them!!!!

  60. WHy don't *all* the schools subscribe to the combined screening? At the very least, it gives them another datapoint on each child, just in case the kid was having an "off" day at a particular screening...

  61. 10:33, With that attitude it's no wonder you didn't get into any schools.

  62. 1:06 pm, did you ever ask the admissions directors how many spots and applicants they had? They give the answer when asked.

  63. 5:23 PM, yes, i did. one example: before applying, i asked the AD how many slots, she responded 16, and i thought well the odds aren't great but it's worth a shot. it wasn't until the final step in the process, in the parent interview, that it was mentioned well they only had 3 spots this year for boys after the gender-balance factor and the sibling factor.

    obviously she couldn't have projected in the fall the exact (and record) number of siblings, but i do feel that she ought to have been more forthcoming about the reality of the matter.

    it's very easy to say i ought to have been smarter about how this process really works. of course, and i'm kicking myself now. it's my first time doing this, and it simply never occurred to me that she would have told me 16 slots if in fact there were unlikely to be more than a few and certainly no more than 8 at best (for non-sibling boys).

    since she's the one who has been doing this for years, wouldn't it have been more professional and--yes, more "transparent"--of her to be upfront about the probable odds?

    at the San Francisco School they were really upfront when i asked (around 4 slots for ca. 200 applications), so we didn't bother to apply.

    it all seems rather petty and trivial now, in retrospect, but i do agree with numerous posters on this blog that greater transparency would be helpful. hence my original thought: why don't they just state the estimated numbers in their literature/website. it would save the ADs and busy working parents a lot of time.

  64. I heard someone ask Jeff Escabar at MCDS how many SF spots he had open and he said something along the lines of "More than the rumor mill would have you believe." He would not be more specific.

  65. We thought we had a better than average chance because they all made such a big deal about looking for diversity, including socio-economic.

    But I think that is mere rhetoric in a crisis year. When the economy is tanking you need to find donor families. The survival of these schools depends on it.

  66. Really liked Live Oak, but the admissions woman seemed disingenuous to me.

  67. "On March 28th 11:11 wrote that the Synergy group parent conversation "was ridiculous." Synergy doesn't play the game the way that the other schools do. They are refreshingly down to earth and relaxed about the whole thing, and you are basically attacking them for it. Synergy isn't picking over the parents and grilling them in order to find out who is the best fit, they let the prospective parents who are truly passionate about the school rise to the top on their own... all the DA has to do is wait to hear the right things, receive the right letter."
    This is in response to March 29, 10:20am.
    I am in no way attacking Synergy. I commented on my experience. The message from all the independent schools is "the right fit". Seemed strange to me that anyone on the admissions committee could determine if my child or family was a good fit or not based on the fact that there was no true interview and they didn't ask for an essay. No one else finds that strange? Sure, I took the opportunity to send an email following my tour and my roundtable interview. But for those of us new to this whole thing, we don't know how to play the game. How much is too much? I sort of thought it was implied that my family was interested in the school by the fact that I applied. I guess I wasn't aware of "the right letter" as you say.
    I agree with everyone else here who feels there should be more honesty, please, don't invite me for an interview if you know on paper that I will never get in. Please don't waitlist me if I don't stand a chance of moving off that list. And please, if it's about getting the right letter, stop talking about the right fit and diversity if that doesn't matter either.

  68. YES!

    Don't waitlist me if I have a snowball's chance of getting in!


  69. Amy Pearson at PHS was excellent.

  70. I work in the education sector (a research university), and we always inform interested potential applicants to our PhD program about the odds (eg that in a typical year we have 5-6 slots max for 80-100 applicants). It's about showing our respect for the person's time, energy, and, yes, money. I cannot imagine why anyone would think it professional to withhold that kind of rudimentary information.

  71. It's clear that anyone's chances of getting into these private schools is 10% or less.

    Would you feel better if it were 15% or 20%?

    No. It would still suck.

    But you cant win if you dont play.

  72. Stop pretending admissions are completely need blind.

    They aren't.

  73. This is all disgusting. For those of you who called out the names of these hardworking ADs, shame on you. These are people's reputations and lives you are dealing with. Critique the process and provide constructive feedback, but do not taint these people's names. You all are cowards for posting people's names and not yours, too!

  74. Whose mom is "Your Mom Said..."?

  75. and what's your name, oh righteous uncowardly one?

  76. I think that the schools should be more forthright in declaring the odds of admittance. Although our outcome was very good, If I had known about the scarcity of spaces at some spots, I definitely would have not applied at some schools.

    Not being more open does whip up the "buzz" for these schools, but it does lead to harried parents showing their kids to in some cases, 14 or more schools. Thats just child abuse, but parents feel forced to do this because of the unknown odds.

    I agree the info sharing amongst schools seems downright unamerican!

    Finally, I really believe that people get financial aid on a needs blind basis. I hope its only one person on this blog who is so fixated with the notion that the schools are so unfair to those applicants who need financial aid.

    perhaps your child was not admitted, its true, but so were so many other children whose parents can more than pay the full ride.

    I know so many parents on pins and needles with 5 or 6 waitlist letters and no school, and they could write the whole check right now for the whole 9 years of schooling, and they didn't admitted either.

  77. I only know one family that applied for financial aid and got admitted... and I know about 8 who applied but needed aid.

    I only know one school-less family who wouldn't have needed aid. (Okay, I know three, but one applied to just 2 schools and the other one has a kid with a late Spring birthday and got "too young" letters.)

  78. I do not feel that schools keep the odds hidden from the pool. It is certainly not published, but nobody avoided the question.

    Please keep in mind that the schools don't determine sibling commits until half way through the process.

    My estimate is the top single-sex schools receive 160-200 applicants usually chasing 30 non-sibling spots. It seems the numbers at coed schools is very similar, just chasing half the spots (i.e. 15 boy spot, 15 girl spot).

    The key is that many of the applicants are chasing the same spots across schools. Since a kid can only attend one school, the size of the cross applicant pool is important. (Yes, this implies that there is always some waitlist movement after people turn down spots).

    IMO, your odds in making it into one of these schools is at least 20% - if not better. There is at least 200 girl/boy openings across the top private pool, and I don't see 1,000 unique applicants. SFUSD only recieves 4-5,000 in total applicants (boys and girls) and I don't see more than half truly chasing private.

    In fact, I can argue that your odds at top private are better than top public lottery process (unless you meet SFUSD diversity).

  79. Yes. Please don't waitlist me and make me go through a week of hell. I would much prefer a simple no. I could have gotten over that much sooner.

  80. How can anyone say they really believe the school admissions are need-blind when several people have posted that they received notes on their letters stating "we didn't have enough aid to offer you a spot"? My family could have used aid, we make about $200k a year. We didn't apply for any because i believe a white family requesting aid was only going to hurt my chances. If anyone is counting, I only know people admitted to privates who did not request aid.

  81. 6:34,

    I think you are essentially about right

    non-sibling spots this year, from prior estimates:

    live oak: 6
    mcds: 6 sf
    sf day: 30
    friends: 35

    cathedral: 15
    town: 30

    hamlin: 30
    burke: 30

    total, 77 coed, 45 boy, 60 girl.

    so if there are 400 unique applicants, there are spots for about 20% of them in the coed schools and 45% of them if you add the single sex schools.

    if you add some other schools like phs with 15, synergy with maybe 15, brandeis with 30 spots, cds 15 spots, cais/fais 35 each, then you are starting to find enough places for nearly everyone.

    so I guess the point is if you really want a private school spot and are not satisfied with just a 1/5 shot, you need to apply broadly, to the single-sex schools and outside of the traditional "top" tier.

  82. Much less insulting for schools to just say that they didn't have enough aid, rather than putting it on your kid. It's like not only are the people who got in richer than you, their kids are better too! Well, no.

    Schools need to meet their expenses. Of course they do. Why can't they be honest and admit they only have a certain amount of financial aid to spread around and beyond that they can only take people who can pay their own way. That would be a refreshing change.

  83. do the schools themselves claim to be need-blind in terms of admissions?

    it seems to me that the financial aid that is available would be parceled out to some really special families that are bringing a whole lot to the table, enough that makes it worthwhile on the part of the schools to pay their way.

    since they are private institutions with limited endowments, once the entire financial aid budget for the year is allocated, I can see how this might lead to a situation where two equivalent, both totally ok but not particularly special families ended up on the short list, and the one that didn't need aid was taken over the other that needed a lot of aid.

    I agree that this kind of feels anti-american and wrong on a visceral level, but I think it's reality and to expect otherwise is a little unreasonable.

  84. I've been following this thread for a while now and noticed various posts about ADs not responding and being unavailable.

    I would like to share my experience with the admissions folks at Nueva. They have been helpful and truly amazing. When all hell broke loose on 3/19, our family was overseas(what timing!). The admissions director, Taryn Clark emailed our decision letter to us in addition to hard copy 'snail mail'. She made sure we received our decision at the same time as all the other folks in the Bay Area. Taryn has been sincere, responsive, available and basically has hand held our family during our admissions journey.

    In all fairness, there are ADs who are doing a great job and there are those who go well beyond their call of duty.

    Amy Pearson at PHS is another great Ad who is very organized and super efficient not to mention sensitive and extremely polite.

  85. Does anyone remember having their child in SF and there was a huge baby boom? I recall thinking a year later, WOW that is going to make it hard to get into school one day. Really turned out to be true. Just reminiscing. I went to MCDS a week ago to take ourselves off the waitlist (signed up with Friends). Really wish we'd gotten in. The kids looked incredibly happy and there were classes going on in these really bright studios doing all kinds of incredible things (I think there was a yoga class in one!). There were even a lot of parents just having lunch and chatting. Maybe they should expand that school. Oh and Jeff and the admin were very nice.

  86. "maybe they'd help both themselves and us out if they published on their websites and in their literature a line or two to the effect that "in general we receive between 100-300 applications each year, for 10-20 slots." or whatever the figures are on average."

    It took me 15 minutes to extract that kill-ratio information from the Admissions Directors at CAIS at the admissions fair held at JCC. It was like getting water from a stone, frankly. Finally he admitted it was a greater than 1/10 ratio. [WTF? I've got better odds of getting into Alice Fong Yu or West Portal or Jose Ortega Mandarin program in the SFUSD lottery.] I don't know if that figure included the slots pre-allocated to CAIS preschoolers and sibs, so the odds might have been even worse

    Mind you, even if the odds had been better, I was put off by the general arrogance of the guy. But it sounds like he was positively forthcoming and a beam of sunlight compared to other ADs.

    After that experience, I decided to stick with only applying to a few Catholic schools and SFUSD. Less expensive, less attitude, less stress overall.

  87. then you are starting to find enough places for nearly everyone

    I believe this is true. Also many of these applicants have no intention of going private, at the end of the day...

  88. 9:35--where did you get the data that Friends had 35 non-sibling spots? I think after the 20 sibs it was much lower.

  89. 10:42, just a guess, if there were 20 sibs then it's 23 open spots

  90. 6.34 and 9.35 are off (sometimes wildly) in their estimates, but accurate in their reasoning. For years, the general rule of thumb in SF private schools has been that there are private school spots for all that "truly" want them.

    This assumes that not all the initial applicants "truly" want a spot. Some will get a desired public school spot and go that route. Some will decide to move to the suburbs. Etc, etc.

    This does not assume that an applicant will receive a spot in one of their first choice schools.

  91. top choice schools, more correctly.

  92. "For years, the general rule of thumb in SF private schools has been that there are private school spots for all that "truly" want them."

    This sounds suspiciously like the "only true Scotsmen" fallacy.

  93. "Does anyone remember having their child in SF and there was a huge baby boom?"

    I think it was a post-9/11 "what do I really want to do with my life" effect. I imagine the fertility clinics had a great year in 2002.

    "I recall thinking a year later, WOW that is going to make it hard to get into school one day."

    Yeah, but the flipside is that there's certain programs that need a critical mass of kids to be viable, so there'll be more kid-centered programs. Also, the growth in kids seemed to happen particularly in certain neighbourhoods (like Bernal Heights being nicknamed "maternal heights"), so Synergy and Live Oak probably saw a bigger surge in applications that, say, schools in the west of the City.

  94. that "not a true scotsman" fallacy is a real mental workout...

  95. Right:

    A. There is ultimately room for all who want to go to private schools to go (once multiple-offer and public-school families start declining spots).

    B. But last year, XYZ family never came off the waitlists and was never offered a spot. They are now at public school.

    C. Oh yeah, but XYZ family never truly wanted private school in the first place.

  96. 12:18 PM: brilliant!

  97. 9:35 AM - I don't think your calculations are quite right. Friends had about 20 openings and Brandeis had around 20 openings (I think 18 actually). Also CDS must have had a lot fewer openings because they have Pre-K. If I remember correctly they only had about 5 spots.

    And where do you come up with a number of 400 unique applicants? There were 4,700 public school applications this year. So only 8.5% of San Franciscans apply to private schools? I thought that the number was a lot higher than that.

  98. 12.18

    B. But last year, XYZ family never came off the waitlists and was never offered a spot. They are now at public school.

    C. Oh yeah, but XYZ family never truly wanted private school in the first place.


    Were they on the waitlist at EVERY private school in the city? Did XYZ family apply to ALL of the private schools? Did they check around to see if ALL of the private schools (even ones to which they had not applied) had filled their classes. Were they realistic about the schools at which they had a legitimate shot in the first place?

    The point was not that everyone would get into a school of their choosing, rather that there are spots for those who "truly" wanted A private school as opposed to ANY public school.

  99. lmited choices, limited spaces.

    I wish those of you who weren't admitted and needed aid would just knock it off already.

    Just because you needed aid didn't make you or your children any more special, you know. Its not like because certain families can pay their own way, their kids were dithering idiots and they got a place anyway.

    Your kids are great, our kids are great. Some of your kids got in, some of ours got in. There is no crime in needing FA; there is no crime in not needing FA.

    And just because you don't know anyone who got in who requested aid doesn't mean no aid was given. Your sample size is just too small to be meaningful!

    Let it go already. We live in an unfair world--if we didn't, all schools would be excellent and free to all children.

    I'll be paying 60K next year for private school for my children (parents are expected to pay the actual cost of the school, you know, not just the tuition).

    And then to hear they only got in because I'm affluent AND your kids were better, is just too much!

    Kids is kids!

  100. My private school admission experience was not so much based on the DAs themselves, but the parents desire to attend certain schools.

    When the parents found out we were mainly interested in Live Oak, not as desired here in PH, they sort of left us alone. If we had been interested in Town, or Stuart hall (or Hamlin for the girls), or SFDAY, WATCH OUT!!!

    The mind games would have really begun!

    "How many references do you have, who on the board do you know? I heard this, that and the other thing." That is what makes the process so stressful--the Type A parents!!

  101. yeah, they're pretty scary, it's true...fortunately you survived to tell the tale

  102. BEst practices:

    - Loved the math curriculum night at Live Oak.

    - Really enjoyed the Saturday Open House at Hamlin where you got to meet a teacher from each grade and learn about that year's focus and pedagogy.

    - Husband *hated* evening Open House at SF Day. Full of wealthy Pac Heights snobs hobnobbing and jockeying for position. We returned on a Saturday for the family-friendly Open House so our slow-to-warm kid could see the place and were shocked by the difference: Down to earth families and kids exploring the school. Much more diverse crowd on the Saturday event. Shockingly different, really.

    RE: Aid... We know an ethnically diverse family with a SUPER bright and talented kid (super star in the art class our kids take together. Really incredible.) Didn't get in anywhere, though they did request a lot of aid.

  103. This comment has been removed by the author.

  104. "The point was not that everyone would get into a school of their choosing, rather that there are spots for those who "truly" wanted A private school as opposed to ANY public school."

    But were there spots at the private schools for all True Scotsmen?

  105. ""How many references do you have, who on the board do you know? I heard this, that and the other thing." That is what makes the process so stressful--the Type A parents!!"

    On a similar vein, I realised that's it's time to Shut Up About Kindergartens In Polite Society. Which is hard, as it's been almost a year of conversational icebreaker with other parents.

    But, last week I had the following conversation:

    Me (to parent I didn't know at an event): So, how's the kinder search going?

    Other parent: Not good, we went 0/7 on the lottery, and are waitlisted at privates. We really wanted to get into [XYZ] school.
    Where's your kid going?

    Me: (Looks at shoes)

    Me: (Looks at shoes again)

    Me: Errrmmm....[XYZ] school.

    Other parent: Oh.

    [End of conversation]

    Yeah, I know, I should know better.

  106. 2.47

    I think you would be better served to ask WILL there be enough spots for True Scotsmen?

    And the best answer would be that precedent would strongly suggest that there be enough spots for TRUE Scotsmen.


  107. A few years ago when we applied to Live Oak I remember the head of school dodging the question of how many opening there would be. I don't remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the lines of "don't be put off by the numbers if you really like the school." My take away was that the schools want as many applicants as possible so they can choose the "best" applicants -- however they define that. My sense was it wasn't in the school's interest to discourage anyone from applying, so they didn't.

  108. Those fees are a nice little source of revenue. won't quite cover the admissions director's salary or the marketing costs, but still, a nice little bit of cash.

  109. 4:53 so funny

    thank you for again pointing out the logical fallacy of that line of argument.

  110. Reading comments posted here and the other thread, I have to ask, to the one's that are so very against private schools, do you honestly think that we as parents are choosing these private schools for elitist reasons and to make social connections for our kids?

  111. Elitists reasons, yes. To make social connections, probably not as to most.

  112. OK, thanks. I disagree

  113. It's very hard to see how privileged you are when you are in the thick of it. What's going on here is both elitism and social connections--though it may not be how you meant that, but more broadly.

    Like all of us, you want the "best" for your kids, and for you that means something very personal and individual, and because it is something you can afford to purchase, you feel you should go for that "best." And that "best" is exactly a social network of other privileged kids. Not only can these kids' families help pay for privatized beautiful campuses and small student-teacher ratios that other kids can't have, but your are also purchasing kids whose backgrounds are so advantaged that you can pretty much guarantee they would do just fine in any school. So of course they do well and go on to the so-called "best" high schools and colleges. You are purchasing social milieu, not an education. This *is* elitist.

    Yeah, I wish we had higher marginal tax rates for all you self-identified middle-class (!) people who make $250 thou or half a mil or whatever it is, and that we could use that money to pay for better schools for all the kids instead of you using it to pay for private schools for a few.

    Yes, private schools are elitist by design, which makes you who choose them also elitist. Sorry--I know many of you are also very, very nice people with good politics on a number of issues. Doesn't mean it's you're not being elitist on this one. I know this will spark defensive responses, but oh well. Better to own up to it, but it's hard to see when you are in the thick of it. From the perspective of those of us who can't consider private school, it's all pretty clear.

  114. suggestions

    - be up front about how many non-sibling spots there will be; schools have control of when they find out sibling information--they should ask for tentative/maximum possible numbers from current families before "touring season" starts.

    - be up front about how many apps are typically received (by the way, does anyone know whether schools actually come out ahead financially by collecting all those application fees, or does it cost a lot to run the various admission events?)

    - the idea of all the admissions letters coming out the same day is a good one. expand this notion to the whole process, e.g., one week is Tour Week, and all the schools offer lots of tours or open houses or what have you all week long; another week (or maybe two) is playdate week; schools combine "screenings," etc. The process is ridiculously long for the kids (and the parents) and unnecessarily affects/infects much of the last year of preschool.

    - waitlisting everyone not admitted is not fair to waitlisted families. at a minimum, if the practice is to waitlist everyone and there are 150 people on the waitlist, that should be made clear at the time letters are sent out, if not as part of the initial admissions process.

    - if someone decides to give up a spot for whatever reason, refund all or almost all of any deposit received if school is able to fill the spot before school starts. does anyone know how big of a source of income "forfeited refunds" are for the "top privates"? (That is a serious question; I am curious). Would families REALLY just switch around pell mell until Fall unless their multi-thousand dollar deposit is at stake? Isn't it a good thing if a family moves on to a school higher up its list and another family that really wanted the school gets in off the waitlist? Why should the school get a "bonus" of thousands of dollars when this occurs?

    - like the idea of the "match" system like med school; makes sense given some of the comments that there is "a spot for everyone."

    - the "playdates" seem like the least informative part of the whole process for the schools, while also the most disruptive for the kids; can't they rely more or exclusively on preschool director assessments and/or observing the kids at their preschools rather than "playdates"?

    - be transparent and fair about the process. e.g. if your school sends out a rejection/waitlist letter that says to respond by email, then don't accept phone calls or personal visits. if the app only calls for one 250 word essay, be clear on the application whether other materials are also accepted, etc.

  115. The post above has good and valid comments on making the process better.

    However, the playdate seems to be a necessary part of the process; to rely wholly upon a preschool director's assessment is to give a huge amount of arbitrary power to them. Also, some preschools just are not oriented to private schools and this would put those children at a distinct disadvantage.

    We definitely need some “sunshine and anti-trust laws” imposed on the private school process!

    Re the deposit refund:
    My contract says its non-refundable. But it was $1000, and so I think if someone really wanted another school, I could see them losing that deposit and just chalking it to the "cost of doing business." Some other schools have higher deposits though.

    I really don't know if they would refund your money. Per the contract they are under no obligation to do so, but I would think they would give you something back--they clearly are going to fill that spot if you give it up before the tuition (in part or total) is due. But I have no clue whether that is a money maker for schools...

    Re: the elitist accusation.
    Imo, I have to say "guilty as charged."
    I don't think the poster is saying we are evil or a social climbers, but private school is inherently not a common good--it is inherently and immutably an exclusive institution (hence, "private school" and not public school). Although there are schools along the spectrum (charter schools, vouchers, magnets etc.), private schools are about the end of the line of separation and exclusion. Do private school people think they deserve special treatment (really believe in the traditional idea of elitism)? Maybe not, but they are going to get that special treatment for their children and expect this to have upward societal mobility results for their children (or they hope to at least slow the slide towards downward mobility).

    I hate myself for even considering private school because I should know how detrimental this is for society in general. But that is my own private view, and I can’t throw that at anyone else. We are human beings and we do contradictory things and things that are directly opposed to our beliefs all the time (for example, I used to have a friend who no matter how drunk she got or who she slept with the night before, was always at church for early mass on Sundays!). I like to think of our family as a good one: we give to charity, try not to take the right of way, and don’t vote Republican. But we are going to send our kids to private school.

    I also think we should be taxed at much higher rates. For too long the rich in this country have been able to keep so much money that choices that are not necessarily good for everyone are so easy to make (i.e., big cars, big houses and abandoning public schools). Writing a check for private school is something that we will never miss; it is just so easy. So that’s my mea culpa.

  116. With current budget, there is an opportunity to make education a greater priority. Let the power of the people speak up for this issue. My guess is that you could not get more people to "rally" on this issue than marched for dog rights in public parks. With all the marches/protests in this city, nothing for public schools?

    Is the root cause (and solution) of this issue the parents who can afford private school?

    You can put whatever label on us private school families (i.e. elitist), but we are just happy for our children to attend a good school.

  117. I take issue with the "if you don't have a school now you can't really be wanting one" argument. Your calcualtions are much too generous for the popular co-eds, and your argument generally assumes that everyone should feel ok about sending their kids to religious-based or single-sex schools, which is not reasonable. Both those categories are not something we want to send our kids to, and the odds of getting into a co-ed school are MUCH lower than for single-sex ones. We applied to a wide range of coed schools, but three of them had hardly any places for girls (two have feeder pre-schools (CDS and San Francisco School), and Live Oak was really tough this year for girls).One, Synergy, didn't necessarily feel like a perfect fit for us, which leaves Friends and SF Day as "realistic" choices. I really don't see that there are a ton of other schools we could have apllied to, other than PH. So, we actually were serious about wanting a private school, but there are not enough places in secular coed schools in this city.

  118. With how the SFUSD runs its "lottery", the private school option is the only real option for many families. I'm a public school kid and would have sent my kid to public school in an instant if he would have been able to go to his local public school. He can't so he's going private. It has nothing to do with elitism (although what exactly is wrong with shooting for the best) or social connections. It is simply pragmatism.

  119. We applied to seven privates, including single-sex, and weren't admitted anywhere.

    So, no... not everyone who wanted to go private got a spot.

    BTW: For those who are keeping track, we would have needed financial aid to attend.

  120. We applied to 9. Got none.
    Needed aid. Offered diversity, fwiw (not much, agreed).

  121. Anyone out there apply to more than 6 schools and get nothing, without a financial aid request?

  122. I can think of two families off the top of my head that applied to five schools each, without financial aid, and got nothing. Both had girls.

  123. 12:33am, I appreciate your honesty!

  124. Is the root cause (and solution) of this issue the parents who can afford private school?

    Well, not only, of course! Low tax rates, bad spending priorities, idiotic wars of choice that drain the budget, pick your reason. But parents who can afford private school who CHOOSE the elitist route are also part of the problem. If everyone rolled up their sleeves and contributed to public school we would have better public schools. I'm not saying any one person is evil and I know many of you to be good people, really I do, but it's still, generally speaking, an elitist move to choose to send your kid to private school. I don't expect anyone to change their minds because of this, and these are complex decisions, but I also appreciate 12:33's owning up to that.

  125. 7.08

    My argument came without calculations.

    YOU eliminate Synergy and PHS from consideration. The schools you name are not the only coed secular privates in the city, not by a longshot. Even when you further eliminate the bilinguals, there are still a number of schools to which YOU COULD HAVE APPLIED. Hint-Google "san francisco private schools".

    So yes, you were serious about wanting CERTAIN private schools. YOU narrowed it down to TWO "realistic" choices. In your case, it seems obvious that you might not have been "realistic" enough (see Mar 30, 1.13 pm).

    The point, for the THIRD time, was not that every applicant would get a spot at a school of THEIR CHOICE (did you actually read the prior posts?), rather that there were spots for everyone who "truly" wanted "A" private school before "ANY" public school.



    "We applied to seven privates, including single-sex, and weren't admitted anywhere.

    So, no... not everyone who wanted
    to go private got a spot.

    BTW: For those who are keeping track, we would have needed financial aid to attend."

    The point, for the FOURTH time, was not that every applicant would get a spot at a school of THEIR CHOICE (did you actually read the prior posts?), rather that there were spots for everyone who "truly" wanted "A" private school before "ANY" public school.


    To preempt having to repeat myself a fifth time, let me explain it a different way. I am NOT saying that everyone who applied to certain hard-to-get-into private schools will get a spot at one of those schools. In fact, many will not get into any of these schools even having applied to them all.

    Many of these unsuccessful applicants, it seems, would then prefer a public school to a lesser known, less "hot" private school. Maybe their cost/benefit equation changes with a non top-choice private vis-a-vis a certain public. Maybe the relative lack of social cachet and prestige turns them off. It could be any number of reasons, all legitimate. But in the end, these applicants wanted "CERTAIN" private schools rather than "A" private school.

  126. 7:56 AM: we went 0/6 on private schools, did no apply for fin aid

  127. that pesky true scot / scotsperson strikes again!

  128. 5:21 PM (March 29, 2009 )

    Sorry to disappoint you, but my child did get accepted into a private.

    P.S. I still think you're a prissy miss control freak, too.

  129. I think girls applying for financial aid were the least likely to get off the waitlists this year...

  130. So have we established that to be a TRUE Scotsman you have to apply to every private school program in San Francisco, regardless of proximity, cost, fit for your family, quality of program, or any other criterion one might think of to discriminate amongst the programs? That sounds, well, a little nuts....and a little expensive too.....but I suppose if one did that then one would get in somewhere that was private, and thus prove the point that anyone TRULY interested in pursuing private will surely get a spot and not have to go to public school (oh, the horror).

    I do love how this attempt to describe "truly interested" proves the logical fallacy :-).

  131. If everyone rolled up their sleeves and contributed to public school we would have better public schools.

    Sure we would. Give the government a break. Solicit private sector funds and sweat equity. Let the PTA decide how schools should be run. Peachy!

  132. 3:45, I wrote the post you quote.

    It's not either/or. I'm glad to let the teachers teach at my school and feel no need to interfere with their jobs, or the principal's. I also think the government should fully fund our schools and that we should be raising taxes to pay for this! I hate the reliance on parent foundations to do the government's job, and it seems clear to me that we are creating worse inequalities this way.

    However, I have seen firsthand the benefits of appropriate collaboration between the school staff and an active group of parents. The 2x/year work days that tackle projects that would not get done otherwise, the "greening" of the school, a little extra money for field trips....these are all good things and are in appropriate realm.

    Increased parent involvement, and the community outreach to all parents that should go along with that, means kids who see their parents involved, and better academic outcomes. It also means more buy-in from the parents, who hopefully will advocate for better funding for the schools overall. Imagine how much more effective we could be with THAT if the powerful, connected people on this thread would put their energy toward advocating for more school funding instead of this sorority rush of getting their own children (only) into the "right" private schools starting at the preschool level for heaven's sake! Which was really the point of my original post.

  133. 3.36

    but I suppose if one did that then one would get in somewhere that was private, and thus prove the point that anyone TRULY interested in pursuing private will surely get a spot and not have to go to public school (oh, the horror).

    I do love how this attempt to describe "truly interested" proves the logical fallacy :-).

    Perhaps your "proof" would be stronger if it were based upon the definition of ("truly" WANTS) as opposed to ("truly" INTERESTED) as that has been how it has been consistently phrased in the above posts. :-).

    I do recognize, in retrospect, that using "absolutely" would have been more precise than using "truly".

    "Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road"

  134. Re the deposit, and whether you can expect to get it back if you end up not going:

    People need to read their contracts carefully. Not only is the deposit non-refundable, but after a certain point in time, you become obligated for the whole year's tuition. My guess is that many schools do not enforce that, and some might even refund the non-refundable deposit. BUT ... there was an article in the NY Times last year about a family that got a spot in a desired public school over the summer, and was stuck having to pay the full year's tuition at the NYC private they had accepted.

  135. These contracts are rough, but it just seems in such bad taste not to refund it--its not like they will be out any money!

    contract of adhesion, eh?

  136. Has anyone here ever gotten a personal email response from Linda Talton?

    I've emailed her, but have never gotten a response other than the generic correspondence created for all waitlisted families.

  137. 7:23pm... If you got a "form letter" response from SFDay you're doing quite well. Most of our friends (even those that got in) found SFDay to be unresponsive. I think they need to adjust their junk filters and remove "parents applying for school" from their list. Disappointing because the schools is pretty good, but the admission process shows a lack of respect / understanding.

  138. Does anyone know whether schools typically refund the deposit and/or the full tuition if you wind up not going to the school? I've heard that most preschools do not refund deposits, even though they have a waiting list as long as your arm and could obviously fill the spot with another child within the hour . . . True, the contract usually warns you of this, but as another poster mentions, what choice do you have but to sign the contract? They've got you over a barrel. This is another of the "worsts" of the admissions process, in my opinion.

  139. I think it's fair for schools to keep your deposit. Otherwise there's a big incentive for people to hold more than one spot. But, if they can fill the spot, they shouldn't keep any more than that. If they can't fill the spot, then they are out budgeted tuition money.

  140. 12:33 thanks for your post. That's the way I see it too. I hope you consider supporting SF public schools either financially or otherwise, even though you've chosen private. It would be greatly appreciated.

  141. I think it's unconscionable for a school to keep your entire year's tuition if you say, get into public school from the waitpool in August (i.e., before school starts but after you've already paid full private tuition), drop your private spot, and the school fills the spot. But, I seem to remember from last year on this blog that exactly that happened to several people.

  142. 12:33 here,

    We do and always have financially supported our public schools (esp. our local one).

    But its only when we ALL VOTE to take care of ALL of our children that we will really make a difference.

    I know that my kid will be okay, what kills me is all the sweet little kids i see when I take my kid to school. They are just as precious as my child, but somewhere along the line, we as a society think its okay to screw them.

    Such short sightedness always seem to bite us in the ass.

  143. Never got a call back from SF Day. I don't know why.

  144. We got both a personal email response and a mass email from SF Day in the last couple of weeks. And no, we did not get in. I found Linda to be friendly, no less communicative than any of the other ADs (some have been in touch relatively promptly and some haven't). I never really expected to have my phone calls returned, but left messages more to show our interest. Emails have been returned in most cases. Most ADs seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the process, and maybe we should expect them not to be, but that would probably require a redesign of the whole private school application process, and not sure that would be their responsibility anyway. We are still stuck on wait lists btw.

  145. Our emails to Linda were returned by Antonia.

    I find it interesting that equally-busy Admissions Directors like Lisa Aquino, Tracey Gersten and Jeff Escabar find a way to respond to emails personally and promptly -- and they don't even have an assistant to help with the workload.

  146. If you drop out of a private school in August, don't assume that they'll be able to fill the spot. By that time most people have made their plans, and the ones waiting through the 10-day count in public school by and large aren't looking for the private school spots (or don't have any way of knowing that the spots are available).

  147. We have a decent public, and are planning on going there if nothing else works out. We would take a private spot in August if we didn't have one before then. There must be others in the same situation.

  148. I'm amazed that so many parents think that tony private schools will protect their kids from the social ills that "plague" many public schools. Sure, privates are leafy, green, and impart valuable small ratios and up-to-date pedagogy.

    At the same time, these schools don't protect kids from over-blown expectations (which aren't any better than paltry expectations), parental competition, and all manner of unpleasantness.

    Believe me, parents. By the time your private school child is in high school, she'll know plenty about illicit drugs, alcohol, divorce, absentee parents, and any number of social ills whether she goes to public or private.

  149. 8:27, we're in the same situation. If we get an offer in August from Live Oak or Friends, we'll most likely take it, unless our finances really tank between now and then.

  150. I think this is not the post that best satisfies what i think is going on here. The post should really be a waitlist post.

    I'm sure so many of you feel that you need support at this time--either to heal or to brainstorm on how to get the best outcome for your children.

    its clear by now all private schools processes suck--its just the degrees that varies.

    Now what?

  151. 11:22. My point exactly! Who cares if your kids spends her allowance on blow and consumes under 500 calories per day? She's going to Vassar!

  152. I still don't get your point... all school children will be exposed to drugs and whatnot, but private school students will go to Vassar?

  153. Answering the previous 11:55 poster - If you were considering private and are 0/7 in the lottery- what are your options? I think the key is to find a reasonable kindergarten for your kid. Kindergarteners are flexible and going to ‘any’ kindergarten will not hurt and would probably benefit your child in some way. This is what I would do (not necessarily in any particular order and with no value judgments):

    1. Go through Round II and beyond. Ten day count.

    2. Visit your assigned public school and register (you need a spot). Visit the kindergarten classes and try to get a sense of which teacher(s) might be better for your child.

    3. Visit your local neighborhood public school(s) and see if you can get a sense of the K-1 teachers. Make a judgment about how easy it would be to get in to your local vs. compared to your assigned school. Being in the neighborhood would be a plus for your family. Don’t forget to check the schools near your work. Make sure the school has afterschool care that is open to your family. Some schools only have afterschool for free/reduced lunch kids. Need to factor that in.

    4. Stay on the private school waitlists (doesn’t hurt or cost you anything). Check in once a week.

    5. Look at other privates / parochial schools with rolling admissions / space – see if you like them as a short term solution – again focus on K and 1st grade.

    6. If your kid is on the young side – look at the transitional K options. Especially if you are committed to getting into a specific private – the preschools usually have some space at the 5 yr. old level as some of their kids leave for Kindergarten. Call and ask and get on their waiting lists.

    7. Ask around your circle of friends (especially any teachers) for public K teachers they know who they consider very good to amazing. Repeat Step 3.

    8. If you are thinking of moving ‘anyway’. Look at rentals in the neighborhood(s) / town you want for the schools. Rentals are pretty good now and there is decent inventory. Rent out your SF digs (business rentals are great – because you can leave some furniture and some use of your house and it can generally be comparable to rents.) You might lose money on this deal – but remember the private school tuition you were willing to pay.

    9. Homeschool. Kindergarten is not required in California. You don’t have to meet any requirements to homeschool for K.

    10. Try to relax and not communicate your anxiety to your kid. Again – talking to many teachers – K is pretty straightforward. You are choosing between pretty similar options for the most part.

    11. Make a strategic plan for next year and reassess it after you have gone through K for a few months based on your circumstances.

    Looking beyond the snark - please recognize that there are a bunch of families who have no options and there is a lot of anxiety associated with that state.

  154. 12:34

    Probably not, but I get the sense that some parents think they are buying access to schools like Vassar with the private education, despite the fact that parents' education is the most important factor in college attendance, and a bright kid with good grades and APs at a public school may even have an edge in some Ivies that get too many private school apps.

    The other point the poster was trying to make, I think, is that there are social problems that seem especially likely to attach themselves to communities of wealth, for example certain kinds of drug use among wealthy teens, and anorexia (I would add cutting). It is documented--though of course that doesn't mean your private school kid will end up doing cocaine or cutting herself, any more than your public school kid will wind up a pregnant by a gangster at 17.

    I guess the question would be, is it worth paying hundreds of thousands of dollars if you are not really providing a protected space from the world nor guaranteeing that Ivy League admission or similar. If that is what you are envisioning--feeder school mania all the way down the line--you might want to reconsider the cost.

    I send my kids to public school myself, and would consider these reasons to be silly, though understand there may be other reasons to pay that much money. I think....though I don't really have that kind of money to toss around!

  155. 12:53.

    Thank you!

    I'm the poster whose points you clarified. You are spot on in your interpretation of my comments.

    My main point is that acceptance into a private school is not the be all, end all of a child's life.

    Moreover, it seems that some parents don't care if their kids are happy or well-adjusted as long as these children attend the "right" schools and so on and so forth. Who needs a functional home-life, common sense, or a social conscience at 60k per year for grade school?

    The bottom line is that dysfunction crosses income barriers and finds its way into even the toniest of private schools. Children of privilege are not necessarily happier, kinder, or smarter than their less-privileged age-mates. Nor do they grow up to be happier or better-adjusted adults.

    Conversely, functional families exist at all income levels and attend public, parochial, and "middle of the road" private schools. Happy, well-adjusted children come in numerous packages, some of which can't be purchased.

    Hell, sometimes happy people with decent incomes are products of public schools and second-tier colleges! Who would've thunk?

    That said, I think many parents here truly care about their children and want what's best for them. My point is that 1. some parents might want to consider an expanding their idea of "what's best" for little Madison or Zachary, and 2. private school isn't the penultimate in good parenting; plenty of parents across the socio-economic spectrum do right by their kids without this privilege.

  156. how many public school proponents would consider paying for private school if it was $2k year instead of $20k?

    basically, that's the type of easy decision made by many private maternity ward/private preschool/private school/ivy league families who are pulling down $500k+ a year instead of closer to the average $50k household income.

  157. 9:00

    Re: Synergy...

    I would like to think that they are more down to earth (in fact, i believe they are) and that is why their process is the way it is. However, we are passionate about them. So much so that we didn't apply anywhere else, got a letter from a current attending family, and gently poked at them every so often to remind them it was our school.

    We didn't get in.

    So, without a "real" interview, we were out of their sights. They never saw us.

  158. 8:09, that's a good point. At that price, it might be a tough call between what we have now (2 publics that we love) and *certain* private schools, but between our publics and most privates, it's super easy--we go public. And even with the one or two special privates....I'd probably still go public. Depending on the moment and needs with our kids, but that's what I would say now. In other words, I'm not closed to private, but I'm passionate about what we've got.

    We love the laid-back but hard-working, not-status-driven community--folks like us in that sense. We love the huge diversity--folks NOT like us in that sense. The academics have been solid, a good mix of excellent, creative teaching and just enough of the public school attitude of you-make-your-own-path-and-we-won't-coddle-you sort of push (the latter especially in middle school).

    There is a social education there that is meaningful to us that is just not possible in a private school. I love my kids' friends and I love that our contributions to their schools are building something that is accessible to all the kids no matter what their family background. It's something we have become passionate about, more and more over the years.

    I hope I am saying all this in a non-snarky way. And I'm not saying it's perfect. Just that yeah, a more affordable $2,000/year would not buy all that and it has REALLY grown on us.

    Like I said, I'm not totally closed....we applied to 2 privates back in the day, as well as 5 publics (the max allowed at that time). We got accepted at 1 private, waitlisted at another, and got our top public, which is popular now but was easy to get into then. That's what we took, and the rest is history.

  159. THere is a lot more diversity at Little School than at Lone Mountain,that's for sure.

  160. First of all, this comment list is supposed to be in response to a post by "kate" specifically about the admissions process and admissions departments - so all you who think we should not share our experiences are reading the wrong blog.

    Secondly - what a ridiculous chaotic system! There has to be a more logical way to organize this - the match system similar to medical schools and residencies is a great solution - although it is unlikely the most 'elite' will want to adopt it.

    Thirdly - the constant "choose us, choose us" rants of all the schools were infuriating when this is nothing about us choosing them, it's about them choosing us.

    Finally - opinions:
    FAIS - coolest parent group - no snobbery, no social hobnobbing. Interesting AD, funny guy.
    SFDS - What power trip is that woman on???? Seriously, she needs to get out more.
    SFFS - So sweet and so earnest. Clearly has real passion for her school.
    Cathedral - nicest by far. Felt she was not going to be swayed by the rich pushy parents. Also visits kids in their preschool to see them in THEIR environment when the kids are unaware they're being watched (why don't they ALL do this??)
    Town: Don't believe anything she says. Impressive tour by parents (don't believe them either - claimed completely 'needs blind' admissions.. yeah, right)

    Overall - very happy with outcome, but feel like this was worse than applying for college.
    Advice to parents for future: Try NOT to talk with other parents too much during process - just elevates the stress. Do with your partner, talk a lot, learn what's truly important to you and your family, and try to find a way to match that with your school.
    Funnily enough our acceptances were where we had the fewest 'connections'.

  161. I have met some of the most snobby people EVER from the Little School. And some of them are even diverse but just as snobby as any American banker.

  162. Wow--

    Totally had a different experience than you did.

    FAIS--would never send my kid there--Andrew Brown is a disaster, but the school is in a speeding zone, they will give a time out as soon as look at you, and just wasn't impressed with the level of French the students speak.

    SFDS--seemed very honest, and not easily swayed by bull.

    SFFF-strange experience there--AD not friendly to us, and baby voice irritates.

    Parents equally pushy/obnoxious everywhere and tried to make us feel as if we were outsiders (we are).

    They say the pushy evil parents are not the ones that get in, but I'm not so sure; we'll find out in the Fall.

  163. Admissions ARE need blind. But you have to understand that ADs make a distinction between "admissions" (who gets in the yes pile vs. the no pile) and offers (who gets a spot and who gets waitlisted).

    That's why so many families who needed aid ended up on the waitlists while the ADs claim need blind "admissions".

    They weren't rejected because they needed aid, therefore, admissions is need blind! (THey were waitlisted, instead... which, to the family, doesn't really feel much different, huh?)

  164. 12:01.

    A criticism is not the same as a demand. No one is saying you shouldn't share your experiences.

  165. Excellent point 6:52.

  166. RE Deposits:

    If it's OK for a family to drop a school in August for a "better" option, is it equally OK for a school to drop a family in August for a "better" option????

    The deposit is a reciprocal "commitment" to a school that has committed a (in some cases, very desired) spot to a family. The idea that the deposit be refunded (spot subsequently filled or not) would make sense only if schools failed to honor their "commitments" as often as families do.....

    RE need blind admissions:

    At the undergraduate college level, only the wealthiest, most selective institutions can be absolutely need blind in determining admissions and financial aid packages. If one were to consider all of the private colleges and universities in this country, the ones who are able to do this amount to a miniscule percentage of all such institutions.

    With this in mind, to expect that SF K8s be need blind is asking a bit much (just look at the endowment per student at the wealthiest Ivies and liberal arts colleges and compare it to the OTHER Ivies/top LAC's much less to one of the "hot" SF K8s).

    That said, conventional wisdom on this blog overestimates the degree to which money (or lack of it) influences the process. I'm not saying it is not a factor, just that many parents erroneously assume that applying for aid was the reason they were not admitted, when it very well may be that the child was the reason they were not admitted.

  167. I once asked an admissions director that if admissions is needs-blind, what would happen if she accidentally admitted an entire class that needed financial aid? She said that that could happen, and that in that case they would have to make offers that didn't include financial aid for some (or less for all). Some of those people would have to decline, clearing the way for others who could pay the full amount. So it's a self-balancing situation... Of course if the family is rich and famous it's hard to turn a blind eye at any point in the process.

  168. That's not quite how it works...

  169. not quite sure i understood correctly the tone of 6:52AM's post, but if true, the distinction between "admissions" and "offers" apropos the whole matter of being or not being need-blind is obfuscatory, whether intentionally so or not.

    also, 10:59 AM writes that "when it very well may be that the child was the reason they were not admitted." yes, it "very well may be," but this sweeps under the carpet, yet again, the concrete fact that demand utterly outstrips supply. so that, in fact, it may very well having nothing to do with your child and everything to do with the fact that too many of us want the same thing. and we want that thing, in part, precisely because it is what everyone else wants. mimetic desire 101.

  170. 10:59 AM, i think the complaint is not that the schools should be need-blind, but rather that they very often assert that they are!!! it's called false advertising, and some of us are suckers for it, hence the complaints about a lack of transparency.

  171. 9.49

    "but this sweeps under the carpet, yet again, the concrete fact that demand utterly outstrips supply. so that, in fact, it may very well having nothing to do with your child and everything to do with the fact that too many of us want the same thing."


    This would be true only if each applicant child were exactly equal in qualifications. Let me point out the flaw in your reasoning.

    Demand utterly outstrips supply at Stanford, to use a local example. But not all of the "demand" is equal. An applicant with an SAT of 2400 and a GPA of 4.0 is not the same as one with an SAT of 1800 and a GPA of 3.0. So, in fact, it may very well have a LOT to do with the applicant and not just with "supply and demand".

    If you were to go by the consensus on this blog, the influential factors in gaining admission into a hard-to-get-into private are, in descending order of importance:

    1)family financial status
    2)personal connections
    3)lobbying by the director of a "feeder preschool"
    4)parent interview
    5)diversity (or lack thereof)
    6)letters of recommendation
    8)assessment of the child

    In reality the factors are, in descending order of importance:

    1)assessment of the child
    2-8)order and magnitude varies case by case
    * Occasionally, certain wealth, fame, or connections can trump 1), but one might be surprised at how frequently it doesn't when 1) is especially poor.

    I'm sure someone will argue that "their child had a bad day at the playdate" or that "their child may be a late bloomer", but to think that a fairly accurate global assessment (playdate, preschool recommendation, additional observation if necessary) can't be made by experienced professionals is willful ignorance. The fact that some kids go 5/5 while others go 0/5 is not due to "needs/doesn't need financial aid" or "went to such-and-such preschool", rather it is due to the child herself.

    While there is not a problem of supply and demand at SF private schools taken in aggregate, demand does outweigh supply at *certain* schools. No argument there. Is the admissions process flawless and absolutely fair? Of course not, what in life is? But the idea that the process has NOTHING to do with the child is, quite frankly, laughable, naive, and dismissive of the qualities and talents of the applicant children.

  172. The fact that some kids go 5/5 while others go 0/5


    Let me distinguish further child may go 0/5 but be first on the waitlist at all five schools, while another child may go 0/5 and have some issue that precludes her from getting in to any of the schools period. This is also due to each child, and not mere "supply and demand".

  173. Supply and demand may very well play a role. The issue is supply and demand for a particular school, not in general. (It may be that all applicants will find placements at one or other private school. But that point is not relevant here; we're not talking here about schools in general, we're talking about the over demand for particular schools.) The fantasy that supply and demand does not play a role is, to borrow the rhetorically persuasive phrasing of the poster, "quite frankly, laughable, naive, and dismissive of the qualities and talents of the applicant children."

    The references (twice now) to the admissions processes of certain colleges and universities, eg Stanford, are entirely self-aggrandizing.

    We are discussing here the assessment of children who are 4- or 5- years old, with respect to their potential entrance to Kindergarten!!!!!! Children who do not yet read or write, children who don't even know, for the most part, that they are under assessment.

    The kind of behavioural assessment (of the child) done by the Kindergarten DA bears no relation to the assessment of highly literate 17- or 18- year olds for their potential fit within a complex research institution of the highest caliber, with distinguished faculty and an incredibly sophisticated research environment.

    It's a weak analogy posing as argument.

  174. 3:10,

    There has been much more academic research done in the assessment of 4 and 5 year olds than the assessment of 17 and 18 year olds.

  175. 17 year olds have an academic track record. 4-5 year olds do not. It is extremely difficult to diagnose learning differences at age 4. Also, even the experts agree that the was a child "tests" at age 4-5 can vary greatly from one day to the next. It is not an easy thing to do.

  176. If you need financial aid and got waitlisted, you will probably NEVER get in.

    Someone receiving financial aid would have to drop out in order for them to give you a spot. That hardly ever happens.

    So if you asked for tuition and got waitlisted, give up the dream and make sure you get a placement you can live with at SFUSD.

  177. We aren't the ones expecting K-8s to be need blind.

    They are the ones that should really should stop making those claims.

    It is not coincidence that all things being equal (a bright kid who is likely to do well academically) those with donor potential will have a higher admit rate at private schools than those asking for financial aid.

    It isn't necessarily a bad thing. Schools need to ensure their economic survival. But they shouldn't go around saying money is not a factor in admissions.

  178. From what I've seen 12:52 is correct.

    However I would also add that in my opinion how a kid fares in the K admissions process often has little/nothing to do with how successful (academically or otherwise) that kid might be in the future. This is a huge generalization of course, but in my experience schools lean towards easygoing kids who get along well with others, and (sometimes not always) away from the stronger personalities.

    But does that mean a kid with a strong personality (or a shy kid) may not be as, if not more successful, in school and in life? Of course not! Are they better or worse kids? Of course not!

    Parents of 5/5 kids should adopt a bit of modesty and realize this doesn't make them superior human beings, and parents of many 0/5 kids should realize it's often the school's loss.

    Parent of a kid at a popular private

  179. 12:52 and 1:08 well said and entirely accurate. The assessment first and foremost does the initial weaning of the applicants.

    3:10 Not a persuasive rebuttal.

    7:28 That's good advice. Waitlisted plus need financial aid essentially means no placement for your child. The child just didn't test out as well as the other applicants. Accept this fact (doesn't mean things won't change in the future obviously) and move on.

  180. It may be that assessment of the child is the most important component of the K admissions decision. However, for those schools that add a class in middle school, what is usually seen is that it is the kids who are assessed and admitted for middle school who are the academic superstars in each year's 8th grade class. That is, whatever is being selected for in K admissions does not correlate with high academic potential, but what is assessed for 6th grade admissions does.

    Private parent of middle-schooler(who entered the school in K)

  181. 12:52 accurate. One of the main problems, though, is that the "batting average" feels like a judgement on your child. It is NOT though. If your child didn't test well that day and came off surly or incredibly shy, you wouldn't get into that particular school. It doesn't mean your kid is better or worse and, while incredibly difficult, you shouldn't take it personally that way.

  182. Naturally, 9:32, at that point you have more academic background to identify. If you get to pick from children with personal AND academic history, you will of course get better results. I don't understand your point.

  183. 12:52 You might be right, but ouch! We are all Lake Wobegone parents here and want our kids to be above average. Let us keep our delusions.

  184. My point, 9:46, is that parents whose kids don't succeed at the K assessment process should not feel that it reflects in any way on their child's academic potential. Just as a parent whose kid was successful at the K process should not assume their child has greater academic potential than those who didn't. I'm getting a very smug and self-satisfied vibe off these posts talking about 4 and 5 year olds being admitted due to their "qualities and talents". Throw in the comparison to Stanford admissions and I think these parents are in need of a serious reality check as to exactly what attributes their children were selected for.

  185. I'm the parent of a girl who never would have been admitted to a private elementary school. She wouldn't have even gone through the door at a screening, much less done much of what that was required at the assessment. I didn't even put her through that. She was shy, slow to warm up, and had separation issues. Not a recipe for a great assessment.

    However, she is in 8th grade now and was admitted to several private high schools. Just to throw a bit of hope out there to parents who really wanted private but didn't get it. Your child will grow and change amazingly in the next 9 years, mostly for the better.

  186. However, for those schools that add a class in middle school,

    Which schools do this?

  187. 10:12 Oh, I see. I think the "Stanford" illustation was an example only. I suppose the author could have written Berkford and been better served but regardless, I believe most if not all of us agree with your assesment if not your general feeling. It's a bit of a myth (of course, my humble opinion only) that parents believe that this is some sort of road to Ivy's and future academic success. If you got any sort of smug vibe, I suspect it's off of the rare parent and not the norm. I for one don't believe my child is any brighter than any other child. Nor do I believe the school he is at guarantees any sort of academic success. I do believe, however, that the school offers him the best possible education he can receive and will nuture him on his academic and social journey. While you may get an awful lot of sometimes bitter pushback here on this forum, in the end, the choice is made by the parents because it is what they feel best fits the needs of their child. A true and honest survey (if one could be achieved) would likely reveal that parents choose XYZ private because they think it gives their child better opportunities to learn. Really, despite the social implications and the questions regarding whether they are correct or not, it's hard to fault that underlying desire. In any event, I hope you don't take any sort of "vibe" as typical. Me, I'm just happy if my kid is having fun.

  188. My daughter, now in the higher grades, has a very strong personality that in the preshool years manifested either as very reserved--an inability to enter a group easily almost because she saw too much or was afraid of her own power--or as very, very strong and verbal. She is off-the-charts bright. Preschool director mentioned Nueva but for various logistical reasons it wasn't possible. She was waitlisted at two local SF privates (I can only imagine how the playdate/assessments went, or even the preschool observations--on top of which, we had already spent hours in the preschool office trying to figure out her personality and behavior, so who knows what the preschool rec looked like).

    Oh well, so we ended up at funky/mixed public schools all the way down the line and it has been GREAT for her, at least. The size and the mix has created a space where it is okay to be different. There are just so *many* kids at least as different as she, although in different ways--kids on the autism spectrum, tough kids, shy kids, zany kids. Yet, teachers have accomodated her and given tons of extensions, suggested books to read, encouraged long-term writing projects, and worked to smooth out and encourage improvement in areas that are difficult (she tends to focus heavily where she wants, and tends to resist where she doesn't want, not a docile child she!). She has friends across the spectrum in terms of academic achievement.

    I don't think I'm being articulate here, but there is something about the public school experience that works for this type of challenging personality, whereas I am pretty sure it would have been difficult to fit with a small group of vanilla personalities at a small private school. My second child would probably have fit in much better in a small private, given an accomodating and less-quirky personality, and bright. Funny to think that it might have been different if that one were the older of the two, though!--we might have gotten into a private school with the sweet personality, and then they would have been stuck with my daughter (and she with them).

  189. is the kids who are assessed and admitted for middle school who are the academic superstars in each year's 8th grade class. That is, whatever is being selected for in K admissions does not correlate with high academic potential, but what is assessed for 6th grade admissions does.

    If this is true, why aren't they devising better ways to screen the K applicants? It sounds like they do well enough in the sense of finding kids who are bright enough and socialized enough to succeed okay, but if they really believe they are making an assessment of academic potential, and they are seeing that the classes they admit in K actually don't pan out as well as they might (thus they admit much more superstar kids at the upper level, presumably many of whom are coming in from public), then what are they missing?

    I'm one who is skeptical that this is even possible--and wonder how much of it isn't fooling themselves and others that they aren't mainly going by socio-economics and child's age, and okay, eliminating any outlier personalities and too-bright kids. But I'd since others here seem so convinced that they are making an academic assessment, I'd like to hear more about it and maybe be persuaded. Thanks.

  190. 11:24 here again, just wanted to say that my bright and challenging and strong daughter isn't just sufficiently okay in her public school, but is a powerhouse and a leader. She has blosommed in ways I had no way of seeing in some of the painful preschool days. (Though she is still a challenge for me as a parent!).

    I really don't think I'm expressing it well, but for parents of kids whose personalities are really really strong and/or who are maybe too smart--yes, I think this happens--to be accepted at San Francisco Day and the like, don't despair. It may sound like heresy, but public might actually be the best option for your kid. There is more room to run, room to bloom, room for kids that are different. There are also kids who will keep your kid down to earth in some good ways. We haven't had a problem finding teachers (not every teacher, I should say) who were thrilled to take on the challenge of working with a bright but challenging child who won't color within the lines but who will write a 30-page history report when only five pages were called for.

  191. I think one factor left out of the admissions equation discussion here - and one sometimes as important as the kid's assessment - is the parent's assessment. We are being considered too.

    Do they want parents who are aggressive? Do they want parents who sit back and don't say much? Each school is looking for a different type of person. You are being judged as much as your kid. And if you seem to have the potential to be a pain in the ass, your kid isn't as high on the list.

    It's part of the ADs job to read behavior, and not just of the 4 and 5 year olds.

  192. If this is true, why aren't they devising better ways to screen the K applicants? ... what are they missing?


  193. Well said 10:59. I'm curious where your child goes to school?

  194. 11:24 I don't think you are giving enough credit to the privates. I respect your opinion on your own school but saying the privates are all plain vanilla and not capable of teaching across the spectrum is . . . well it's not showing a lot of respect for the private schools and, to be frank, I think you are mistaken.

  195. He is in the middle of Marin Country Day and his sister is in 2nd grade. I also respectfully disagree with 11:24. Private schools are very capable of teaching gifted children. I imagine that schools like Nueva would not be popular if they weren't. I'm glad her daughter is having success but it does not paint a picture of the private school experience. Your school sounds great though.

  196. 11:24 is incorrect. Private schools can and do handle bright children. Its a complete myth that private schools "don't want" or "can't handle" intelligent children. Its exactly the opposite in fact. A quality private school provides an environment where a child can thrive to the maximum extent possible.


    "I for one don't believe my child is any brighter than any other child."

    I really hope this was an overstatement. I don't think there is anything wrong with a parent championing their child and assessing - as objectively as possible - their strengths and weakness. I, for one, certainly believe my child is brighter than the average person.

  197. 1:31 and 1:24 and 2:12, you misunderstand.

    I think private schools work with bright kids all the time. I think they look for bright kids.

    I also think they could work with gifted children if they wanted to; Nueva does do a fine job of teaching gifted children...but it sets out to do this, and it is one school. No doubt there are others too, but which ones?

    Depending on your definition of "gifted," I am not at all sure that most private schools really want truly gifted children, especially ones that are quirky, as so many gifted children are. I don't mean just bright.

    This is not just my ideosyncratic opinion, nor sour grapes for certain schools waitlisting my gifted and quirky child. It's pretty widely known that many of the schools don't admit the kids that fall outside a certain personality band. Nueva does, and I've heard Live Oak does like the quirky ones, but SFDS doesn't, I'm pretty sure. This has been stated plenty of times on this blog, right? It's also been told me by several specialists for gifted children; by a therapist my child saw for awhile; and by actual admissions directors (not here in SF)--most non-specialized private schools are sorting for too-gifted/quirky.

    I'm not even questioning the practice--I can absolutely see how my kid would not have fit into SF Day. She would have chafed. Some of her best friends at public are the other kids who also chafe at the rules--which makes for an interesting group of friends!--but in public, where the rules are clear and mostly impartially implied, she has learned what she needs to do to stay in the game while also forging her own path the help of mentor teachers. Again, not saying this well, but she is not the only example I can think of where public school was a really good fit for gifted and quirky, so I think there is something there.

    But what do others think? What would be the purpose of the preschool recommendations and the assessments and observations if not in part for private schools to sort for personalities that are too quirky or strong (again, this is often correlated with gifted)? Okay, maybe the "plain vanilla" description is a little unfair, but do you really think they are not sorting for personalites that are too strong or too different?

    I know it's anecdotal, but no way did my daughter score under in terms of intelligence and K readiness. Birthday was okay. We parents, who never expected a child like this, are easy-going and would have had high marks for volunteerism and donations at our preschool. We could afford to pay our way. But our daughter is quirky. Preschool director and child psychologist back in those days suggested Nueva because of the gifted factor combined with personality. Not everyone "gets" her. She rubs some people the wrong way. She does not tolerate fools of any age well.

    I guess I'm just trying to say that the public system has a wide tolerance for difference and is also large enough that a kid like mine can find her space. And that having that space she has been able to figure out the rules that she needs to follow in order to make it, without feeling like her personality is being molded into something different. This is not bad training for what she will face in life. She has learned to pick her battles.

    None of this was meant as a put-down of private schools; I'm not trying to reignite the tired public-private debate. It was meant more as a shout-out to other parents of gifted/quirky kids to think about these issues. Both in terms of thinking bout "rejection" and even before you apply--what really is the best fit for your child? You might not think about public for your gifted child, but it might actually the (counter-intuitively) better path. Surely you all are not so private-focused or defensive that you are closed to this possibility for some other parents' kids?

  198. I don't think that it's at all problematic to assess one's own child as "average". Most people, even highly successful ones have average IQs and an average range of abilities. Nothing wrong with that.

  199. 2:12 It was not an overstatement. I also don't think there is anything wrong with championing your childs strengths. I'm not sure how that is mutually exclusive. My child is kind and gentle and tends to be a leader of his group. If he turns out to be as bright as yours then I would support that full bore as well. I support him and give him the wings he needs to fly. I don't compare him.