Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hot topic: Does where you go to preschool matter?

An SF K Files visitor suggested the following topic. This might be an especially sensitive topic for some so please try to be thoughtful in your comments.

"I am curious if people felt their preschool helped them get into private school. Which preschools were more helpful and which were least helpful?
It seems like there is an insane amount of sibling in the 2 and 3s class of preschool this year."


  1. Our child goes to a newer, not well known preschool and the admissions directors were definitely interested in hearing about it. Almost always the first thing they asked about. Have no idea if that would actually affect admission decisions, however.

  2. To be honest, I think preschools are overrated. The majority of things your child learns at this age will come from parents, not the preschool. The one really big thing that preschools give children is structure and socializing with other kids - but it's certainly not about academics.

    Yes, both my children went to preschool (one is still in preschool), and the older is now in Lower School at MCDS. I can honestly say that the real learning happened at that age with what I was teaching the kids, not the school. At that age it's kind of like daycare (let's be honest).

    And no, I have no problems with preschool. It's just that I hope that people don't have the perception that preschool is REAL school and your child will learn a great deal in terms of academics - it's not about that at all at this early stage.

  3. Kindergarten teachers at our school have commented that kids from some preschools are better prepared to manage their bodies and their needs than others. They seem to be looking for preschool to provide socialization rather than academics. The academics are their job. Getting the kids ready to learn is for the parents and their preschool program.

  4. I had sort of a different take on the question than the MCDS parent above. I read it as, "Do the connections your family makes from being at a particuler preschool help with getting admitted to certain privates?" I have no idea, as our kid goes to an open-enrollment private.

    I would imagine most privates do prefer kids with preschool experience, so they have some of the basics down. I'm talking about raising hands, taking turns and forming a line, not academic skills. My daughter started in public, and a surprising number of kids didn't know how to do any of those things when K started. Those were the kids who got the bulk of the teacher's attention. (Rightly so.)

  5. Preschool directors (at least at some schools) communicate heavily with the admissions directors. I think the ADs count on them to serve as a "reality check" from someone who knows the kids and their families. I think for any individual school/preschool/child this might help or hurt things - I'm not sure in the end that the overall picture of admissions would look different without preschool directors' involvement, but it certainly could make a difference for any individual child.

  6. I am the MCDS parent. I think that it always seems to come down to the same thing. People always seem to look for ways that may benefit them in terms of admissions. To many, there always seems to be a 'story' or some controversy to it.

    My advice in the whole process is to forget what you have heard about 'connections' and 'what admissions directors are thinking' and all that other stuff. The bottom line is that you don't kow for sure, and you shouldn't let it bother you.

    That's why I answered the question differently than the politically charged question of whether preschool admissions directors or a particular preschool (maybe due to its name) impacts admissions. I don't think it should - it may very well make a difference depending on the school you are applying, but even if it does .. why would you really care?

    That is such a minute thing to figure into the whole process of applying that I wouldn't even care to think about it. I guess if you have a lot of time on your hands - but I can only imagine it would add more strss and false thinking. The bottom line is that admissions are very competitive, and the preschool in which they came will have little or most likely no impact on your childs chances, connections or no connections.

  7. I personally think there has been a trend away from feeder preschools in private school. When my child started preschool, the buzz around town was that certain preschools could almost guarantee admittance to certain privates.

    A few years later, whoosh! It almost seemed as if the opposite was happening, and the gateway preschools were some sort of penalty agaist admission.

    That being said, no one can discount personal relationships that directors and preschool heads have with each other. That is an unquantifiable, but if your preschool director knows your child, thinks he is a great fit for a school and knows the admissions director, it certainly gives the appearance of an "edge."

  8. "Hot topic: Can preschool help you get into private school?"

    God, I hope so!

  9. If you want to go to private school, I think it makes a huge difference. It seems that Pacific Primary and the Little school are both feeder schools and the staff provides help and support in getting into private schools. That said, a poster above mentions that this trend might be changing. And I think there's some truth to that. I have plenty of friends who have gotten to smaller, lesser-known preschools and gotten into private schools. It seems as if Live Oak does a great job of accepting kids from a diverse range of preschools. What I wonder is how much pull do these preschools have when it comes to wait lists? I have heard that preschools can call the admissions directors and help push kids through the wait list. Any thoughts?

  10. Our preschool director goes to great lengths to quash any notion that ours is a feeder school. Yet, by the end of that dreaded week in March, every one of the 30+ kids are happily admitted to a variety of "top tier" private schools. What I think is going on is that our director does a really good job at suggesting schools that are a good fit for the child/family. Parents are not just sent out to tour all schools. Suggestions are made with the particular needs of each child/family taken into consideration, which surely improves the odds. After that, I think the reputation doesn't hurt.

  11. 1:22,
    Are you willing to name the preschool?

  12. If I had been paying closer attention, I would have enrolled our daughter in a preschool that fed into one of the private schools we liked--Children's Day School, for example, has a preschool. Katherine Michiels School has a daycare and preschool. You get priority.

  13. Old information, but back around 2000 the word was that St. Brendan did NOT like kids coming from my kids' preschool, Miraloma Co-op, because it was a play-focused preschool and they wanted kids who had been drilled in academics. This would have been notable because they're geographically close together. I think I heard this from the parents in the one Miraloma family in our time whose kids did go on to St. Brendan -- they were church members already.

    Miraloma kids did go to Live Oak, Synergy, FAIS, Brandeis and others that I'm forgetting.

  14. what about the idea that some bigger programs (graduating maybe 30 kids per year, as opposed to 12) can't get all kids into the 6 private schools all of their parents want, bc those 6 schools aren't interested in having tons of kids, from, say, St. Luke's or Calvary? Has anyone seen evidence of this?

  15. 1:29,

    I was going to mention that, too. Our school, CAIS, has a 2-year preschool... and now that the preschool will be expanding (and moving off-site), it's going to be even harder to get in for Kinder since most of the spots will already be filled by the preschool kids. (So... "where you go to preschool" obviously does matter if it's the preschool attached to one of your preferred private schools.)

    Also, I would consider JCC preschools to be "feeder" schools for Brandeis. (Not that it's a guarantee....) My children attended the JCC preschool on Brotherhood Way (we LOVED it), and the preschool director was in close contact with the admissions director at Brandeis. (Or at least, that's how it seemed to us...) Of course a lot of Jewish families attend JCC, and then go on to Brandeis. (Nothing too surprising there...) But we are not Jewish, and were made to feel very welcomed by Brandeis. Maybe that would have been true, anyway, but I think the preschool connection helped. (We think Brandeis is a great school, btw. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a non-immersion private school.)

  16. The private schools would be doing a disservice to themselves and their mission statements if they took kids from all the same 3 or 4"feeder" pre-schools. They are all about diversity now (in some form or another.) From what I can surmise, if your child is happy in their pre-school (small, big, new, old, co-op, "feeder) and it is working for your family, it will not matter. I also agree with a previous poster, no one should be relying on a pre-school to fully prepare your child - that comes from the home environment. Personally, I would not even want to be at a private school that had an overabundance of "feeder" pre-school kids - not my scene for so many reasons.

  17. Hi ..

    I am curious what are the typical feeder preschool schools for private schools..

    Which preschool directors have good relationship with private schools..

    I think the following
    The Little School
    St Lukes
    150 Parker

    St James
    Montessori Children's House on Lake

  18. I think it's pretty obnoxious to say that preschool is like daycare and therefore children don't learn anything.

    FIRST, daycares can teach many wonderful social and pre-academic schools. I am always told that daycare children are the ones most able to share, wait their turn and recognize that life doesn't revolve solely around them.

    SECOND, for parents who work, good preschool and daycare PM hours definitely serve as learning vehicles! A good full time preschool program will provide many worthwhile skills for children.

    As an example, a preschool with one of the best track records of placing kids is the JCC's Rosenberg Center. Last year, it sent kids to all of the most popular private schools, including Hamlin and even a girl spot at Friends, which had almost no openings for girls last year. Rosenberg Center is a full time program with no part time availability, serving families where both parents work outside the home. I have met many children of Rosenberg families, and they are great. Full time preschools, and preschools with great aftercare, are often considered great ways to prepare children for the rigors of kindergarten.

    So anyway, I do think that preschool is important, that daycare can be valid, and that going to a well-run preschool can greatly help prepare your child for kindergarten.

  19. But on the other hand, we hear some of these same conversations about schools feeding into colleges. Preschools that largely enroll high-income white kids feed into expensive private schools that largely enroll high-income white kids. Is it BECAUSE of the preschool? If the same high-income white kid went to a hippie co-op or an SFUSD Child Development Center and then applied to a private school, would that child be less likely to be accepted to the private school?

  20. What about Pacific Primary, Cow Hollow School, Lone Mountain or even Little Gators or Circle of Friends?

    They seem to get good placements as well.

  21. or even the Russian Hill School (though it seems that its star is falling)?

  22. I just wanted to add that kids from JCC Brotherhood Way also went on to many privates (and publics) besides Brandeis. (But Brandeis was a popular choice…. especially since it was where the “big kids” went, right next door.) Several of the families we know at CAIS have come from the various JCC campuses. And as I said before, our family really loved JCC. Even though my daughter left for CAIS at three, she went back to JCC every summer for camp until she aged out last summer. (We were very sad to leave.)

  23. One thing is for sure: the preschool director/teacher evaluation plays a big role in how the admissions panels evaluate a child.

  24. 1:22 here
    We were at Lone Mountain.

  25. Personally, I have a hard time truly understanding the difference between preschool and daycare. Either way, if your child is in a good one, there are great benefits. There are plenty of licensed family day cares that have pre-school like programs run by directors with degrees in education. Just because they may serve working parents and offer full time care, does not make them less beneficial than a "preschool". Admittedly, the lesser known daycares/preschools may not have any connections to private schools and may not be as helpful with recommendation letters.

  26. All the Admissions Directors like to brag about how many different preschools are represented in their kinder class, so it might be an advantage to come from a smaller, lesser known school that doesn't have 40 kids applying to the same private schools.

    On the other hand, the preschool directors at the larger, more established schools, all know the admissions directors and have credibility with them so they can advocate for you are reassure the admissions directors that your child is not pathologically shy, just slow to warm.

  27. I agree with all of the wonderful comments made about the JCC-Brotherhood Way. Both of my children have attended that school and I consider it an amazing place. The teachers, director, art, enrichments, and application of Reggio principles are beyond match. And it does place children great in the privates. We had kids attend Cathedral, Burke's, Town, Day, Live Oak, Friends, CAIS and of course Brandeis. As the poster above noted, Brandeis isn't a sure thing from JCC-BW, but it does give a leg up, it seems to me. Regardless, it's a great school, and I feel so fortunate to have been part of this special community for so many years.

  28. My daughter currently attends 1st grade at a private school. We had no luck in public lottery but were able to secure admission in a few top privates.

    I believe that your preschool is important, but there are more than a few that meet the "requirements". I don't agree that there is any sort of established "feeder" system.

    It semed clear to me going through the process that the privates actively track their preschool roster. I think it is rare that you would see more than a few spots going to kids from the same preschool (i.e. top privates track preschool diversity). In fact, I remember quite a lot of chatter when a single school picked up 4 kids from the same preschool (i.e. it was unusual).

    So, in some ways I believe your "primary competition" comes from your fellow preschool appllicants. Your best strategy may not be to attend the most visible preschool where vast majority pursue private (and have established sibling bias).

    We were clearly messaged by an admissions officer at a top private that our acceptance was unlikely because of planned attendance by twins from our same preschool class (with a sibling history).

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