Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hot topic: Has the economy affected the private school admission process?

An SF K Files visitor suggested that I start the following topic:
I am interested in learning how the private school admission process in the Bay Area went this year and whether it was a better year for admits due to the economy. Any tips for getting off the waiting lists? Do you mind not using my name or email if you choose to post the question?

74 comments:

  1. One admissions director told us they got a record number of applications, perhaps because people are worried about the impact of budget cuts on public schools.

    That having been said, they also got a record number of financial aid requests, including from students already enrolled in the school, whose families had never applied for aid before.

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  2. We applied to 5 private schools in another city (back east), since we may be moving.

    Turns out they had a) a record number of applicants this year; and b) only a handful of slots after taking into account gender and siblings.

    In the most extreme case, for example, they had 150 applicants for 4 slots!

    We were rejected by all five.

    We're also 5K down (the cost of flying us all there, spending a week hauled up in a hotel so as to do their patronizing interviews, etc etc.)

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  3. 2:50 I am sorry about your experience.

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  4. That sounds horrible and makes me think you were looking at schools in either Manhattan or D.C.

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  5. That's rough...maybe Catholic schools? If it was New York - I know people are starting to look up in Westchester now because the city has become so difficult. Our daughter went to a great pre K at a preK - 8 school in Bronxville, NY -- Chapel School.

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  6. At our San Francisco private school, the quality/number of applications were not significantly different from previous years. There are definitely more requests for financial aid from existing families given the current economy.

    I hearda that in the East Bay, the same 160 applicants are shopping around at all of the East Bay independent schools for 200+ open spots. It definitely sounds like the East Bay independent schools have been much harder hit by the economy and many are having to make program cuts.

    From what I can tell, the most popular Catholic privates in SF are managing to fill their open spots for next year, but some of the less popular schools still have openings.

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  7. wonder if the admissions people are looking more favorably at doctors and lawyers than bankers this year...

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  8. lawyers are going down too...

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  9. I interviewed/went to a number of private schools in SF and all said apps were up vs. yago. maybe it's that demographic baby bubble I read about somewhere. (so another reason why SFUSD apps were up...in addition to the economy)

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  10. I predict that there will be an increase in students leaving public school to attend a private/independent high school due to the fact that 723 students (16%) did not receive even one of their school choices. There are only 14 high schools and two of those are performance based admittance (Lowell and SOTA) so families list over ½ of their options if they list 7 schools. Most families only list two to four and apply to one or more of the charter schools to round it out.

    Many of the students from high API schools who were assigned to O’Connell, Marshall, ISA, or June Jordan are now waiting to hear from SH,SI, Lick, JCHS, Drew and the other independent high schools before making a decision regarding public school. Those who want Wash or Lincoln will probably take a private acceptance given that the demand for those schools was 9 requests for every open seat. Those that want Gal or Bal are more likely to try to get a Round 2 assignment since the demand at those schools was only 3 requests for every seat. Families are far more concerned about safety issues in high school and they think the private schools are more safe.

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  11. I don't think the applications were down this year, but next year they will be and the year after that, watch out!

    In our child's preschool, the level of income would make people alarmed, but would not result in a request for financial aid (at least not until the 3rd child hits private school). But I'm thinking the S--t will hit the fan when there is no end to the end of bonuses in sight.

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  12. We wanted private for our kindergarten-age daughter. In the last few months, we've had to re-evaluate our finances. We also applied to SFUSD as a back up. In the last month, both my husband an I have been layed off so private will not be an option for us this year. We will put her in public until our financial situation stabilizes. I guess my question is the following...

    If my daughter goes to public school for kinder and maybe even for First grade, what are my chances of transfering to private (independent and Catholic schools) at that point? Would I be blowing my chances at a spot? Any administrators care to comment? What are odds?

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  13. it will not be easy to transfer, but then again it's not easy to get in for K either. I have several friends who have moved from NYC and gotten kids in to private schools (Cathedral, Burke) in 2nd and 3rd grades. Some schools expand as the grades get higher and spots open up as people move or transfer to different schools. It definitely happens. There is also a school of thought that there isn't much difference in the lower grades where you are so people try to save money on private school by choosing public for the first few years then switch to private when the public school class size gets bigger.

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  14. You'll be able to get in if a child moves away, etc in a non-feeder grade (not K or 6).

    But you probably won't be able to get financial aid.

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  15. "If my daughter goes to public school for kinder and maybe even for First grade, what are my chances of transfering to private (independent and Catholic schools) at that point?"

    I'd say pretty good for the Catholic schools, if you're willing to go beyond the most popular namebrand schools (St. Gabriel's, St. Brendan's, NDV) and try other solid, but less popular, schools. There are strong Catholic schools in the SE and in the Noe area that are not swamped with applications as is NDV.

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  16. There are almost always 2-3 new kids per year in each of my kids' grades in private school.

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  17. Financial aid applications are definitely up from parents of children already enrolled in independent schools grade 1-8.

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  18. Do you think our chances then would improve if you didn't ask for financial aid. They say publicly they do not correlate - but I can't see how they cannot.

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  19. Do schools offer spots to families who do apply for financial aid, but without offering a financial aid package? Do they not even consider offering a spot without aid if you applied for it?

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  20. Yes, schools offer spots with no aid, but usually because based on the financials submitted, they think you can afford it. (This happened to friends last year, and they went public.)

    I think it would be unusual for a family who really demonstrated need to be offered a spot with no aid. The schools don't want you to get in, struggle, and have to leave. It's not good for your family or for the school.

    Schools are probably keeping some of their aid funds in reserve this year in case they get requests from current families mid year next year. Same reason: It's horrible if a family has to leave mid year due to cost.

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  21. FYI our Noe Valley Parochial school is only accepting applications from siblings of current students (we have a feeder pre-school program). However there are always a few higher grade openings as families move etc.

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  22. If the school says it is "needs blind" then the offer of admission is separate from the offer of financial aid. So, yes, you can get offered admission without being offered the aid you applied for. It is harder to get financial aid entering after K because what they haven't already given away they save for current family emergencies. And don't count on your emergency mattering much within the first few years you are there, unless something REALLY drastic happens and they REALLY REALLY like you....

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  23. Coupled with reading too much of Vanity Fair in one (late night, trash needing) sitting (that name is so appropriate these days), reading these posts just makes me feel depressed. All these people desperate for a leg up, for membership of a "gated community", and sincerely believing that their child is not "set up for success" without it. Yes, I have actually heard someone use that phrase. As cringe-inducing as the constant use of "academic excellence" and "networking" in my grad school. My husband appears to be in that camp unfortunately, though wouldn't admit to the motivation. Many of the smartest, and definitively the most interesting, people I know went to public school actually. They seem to have done very well for themselves.

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  24. What does this have to do with anything?

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  25. Thanks, 11:12. I've been feeling the same way. It's like I must be living in another world or something, or I guess I hang out with a different crowd of people. I have some friends with kids in private, but most of us are public school families (across a range of activities and interests).

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  26. Public schools were much better in the 70s, no?

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  27. This year SFUSD has adopted the California Everyday Mathematics curriculum.

    We may well see an additional exodus from the district in coming years as parents realize what a poor choice this is.

    I could never recommend sending a child to school where it is implemented.

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  28. 11:12...call it what you'd like but from a perspective of native San Franciscan parents who both went to school here - private (me) and public (my husband) in this city. We both agree that as far as the upper grade are concerned (6-12), private is more structure hence, students can focus better on the ultimate objective...graduating. My husband who is white middle class did not have a great experience (nor did any of his white middle/upper middle clsss friends whom he's still friends with). They talk about the feeling of isolation in high school, the violence they had to witness and the fact that they couldn't properly learn due to constant class disruptions. He learned how to be street smart in SFUSD high school but had a whole lot of catch up to do in college. Having said that, I do believe the parent movement in the public school in SF are doing amazing things...I hope those parents that have made real changes inSFUSD stick around for the high school years...that is when we will see a real difference in the attitudes toward public.

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  29. Public schools were much better in the 70s, no?

    Based on standardized testing the answer is unquestionably yes, California public schools were much better in the 70s.

    And at less than half the cost per student, in inflation adjusted terms.

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  30. Is there a lot of violence in the high schools?

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  31. 11:40...I was actually excited about the Everyday Math...it's the same program $22,000/year Convent of the Sacred Heart uses...I remembered that from the tour...they really where using that as a selling point of their curriculum...now my kids will be getting that for FREE at SFUSD!

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  32. "Public schools were much better in the 70s, no?"

    Not in my experience, no. I love my kids' schools (they are not without their problems) and there is so much less chaos, and so much more on offer in terms of extracurriculars, than I ever had in a similar-sized urban district from 1971-84. Test scores are hardly comparable given demographic shifts. Apples to oranges.

    11:40--I don't know what crowd you run with, but I'm not sure how many parents these days feel like they have so many options in terms of exiting the system over a single curriculum issue. I have an older and younger child, so I've seen all the fads come and go in this district--whole word reading, phonics, Mathland, return to basics, the works. I was a social experiment myself in the 70's with more open classrooms and "progressive" approaches to math, no grades, multi-grade classrooms....some of these reforms were useful, and a good corrective to the rote learning styles of the previous era, but the pendulum also swung maybe too far, too--it was chaotic sometimes. Not all kids learn the same way, either.

    I can only say, whatever curriculum is being used, the MOST important factor (besides the family, of course) is the teacher. A good teacher will teach any curriculum and make it his/her own. Good teaching is an art. I haven't loved every curricular fad I've seen, but I have relied on the teachers to see us through. Can't say my kids have suffered much. One of them hated learning the times tables (but I don't regret that they had to, even though it is rote). One of them loves learning stuff like Pascal's triangle--not sure that is part of the curriculum, but the teacher uses it anyway. We had a teacher in first grade who used manipulatives from the defunct Mathland curriculum because she thought they worked well for some kids. So she incorporated them into the new curriculum. With good teachers, the kids have always been fine, no matter what the district was sending out.

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  33. I'm working on a project that takes me to many SFUSD middle and high schools. I've been in four high schools in the last two weeks ranging in reputation from Mission to Lowell and I thought they all looked fine. I've seen some okay teachers and some very good teachers at all of the schools. The facilities are uniformly tidy (not all in a great state of repair) and feel completely safe. The kids are polite and friendly and look like they want to be there. I have a tenth grader myself, and I would feel fine about sending him to any of them.

    By the way, you should check out the view from the front entrance of Washington. Amazing vista overlooking their football stadium that includes the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge!

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  34. When I was in high school in California in the 70s you couldn't use the bathrooms because that's where everyone went to smoke. Eventually they set up a roped-off "smoking area." Can you image students being allowed to smoke anywhere at a school now? Some teachers were great and most were just okay. No AP or honors classes were available. My nephews and niece graduated from the same high school a few years ago, and it's much improved since then. All in all, I'd say things are better now.

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  35. 11:44

    No, there is not a lot of violence in the high schools. It's not a blackboard jungle like the movies.

    It's an urban district. Many of our kids come from neigbhorhoods that are very violent. The biggest issue I hear in middle school is how to protect the kids as they are coming and going to school. School is the safest time of the day for many of these kids and very little happens onsite by comparison.

    Sometimes kids bring this to school with them--the attitude, even, yeah, the weapons. The schools do a LOT to prevent this and deal with it when it happens. You're not hearing about people being gunned down a la Columbine in SFUSD, are you? Mostly the weapons (which are confiscated if found and the student subject to discipline) are for protection coming and going. You do hear about kids being shot on their own street, right? That's why they are scared, not because they are in school. Like the poster above, I also go to a lot of schools (middle and high) and find the hallways to feel safe and the kids friendly and amazingly polite to me as an adult--asking if I need directions, etc.

    Some schools are more high-poverty than others, with more kids who have these concerns. These schools tend to have more incidents. At performance-entry schools like Lowell and SOTA you'll find pot-smokers maybe but not the violence. You'll find the pot-smokers and more (ecstacy, etc.) at all the private schools like Lick-Wilmerding and Urban too, btw. Welcome to San Francisco.

    I'm trying to be honest. It's urban. It's not a bubble. It's also not a wasteland or a jungle. the kids tend to come out very confident and resilient. My DH and both grew up in cities (he in NYC) and came out street-smart, in a good way--it's what we want for our kids. I remember pot-smokers, cocaine, weapons, and a whole lot of a less-safe feeling back in the 70's and early 80's. And yeah, smoking in the bathrooms was tolerated then, and sometimes happens now but gets shut down immediately.

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  36. Does it always have to devolve into a public vs. private debate? Can't we just agree on to each his/her own?

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  37. People just like to take the piss. Even if most of the time they wouldn't say anything, sometimes something just gets into them, and on the internet all bets are off. Gotta let it roll off your back.

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  38. I saw a pretty preppy girl, probably 16 years of age, with her school back-pack still on, scoring a drug purchase at the 16th and Mission BART station the other day (heroin is a big seller in that location). I watched as she quickly ran down the stairs and went into the paid area of the BART to catch a train. SFUSD girl? Maybe. Girl from the affluent suburbs outside of SF? I suspect so. Problems are everywhere.

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  39. After reading the criticisms of Everyday Math I see online, I also now regard its adoption at SFUSD as a feature rather than a bug.

    I mean, come on— are we really supposed to be sad that our math teachers will be showing our kids how to use calculators to do arithmetic rather than spending countless classtime hours explaining how to perform the highly non-intuitive long division algorithm just because it's the most efficient paper and pencil method for cumbersome problems?

    Please. It's the 21st century now. We have ubiquitous computers. Let the machines do the dirty work. Let's teach kids how to use the machines effectively rather than doom them to try outperforming them.

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  40. Absolutely drugs are everywhere. Frankly, I'm more concerned about violence. If people are being honest then the high schools here are not too bad. (though I've heard conflicting stories), so I'm not sure I believe it's as good as they say. I went to a very safe, suburban, conservative, upper middle class school back in the 80's and even we had fights and beat ups and what have you.

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  41. My husband went to a seriously good private school (recently much in the news), and drugs and fights were not at all uncommon there in the 80's. I suspect it is like that everywhere.

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  42. to 1:35 - are you willing to share the name of the school? Some of us may be considering it?

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  43. It's in DC, and it was the 80's.

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  44. What is Everyday Math and why should I love it/hate it?

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  45. You said in the news recently? Sidwell Friends?

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  46. Really, drugs, partying, and maybe fighting (though possibly less so), are likely to be a part of any high school, private or public (hormones?). Right now I am worrying about K, but much as I buy the attractions of private to a larger extent in high school, I am under no illusions that my precious little thing is less likely to get high and worse there.

    Back to the private admissions process? This will get going in a couple of days most likely.

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  47. The FAQ for Everyday Mathematics is here.

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  48. Anonymous@11:44am writes: "Based on standardized testing the answer is unquestionably yes, California public schools were much better in the 70s."

    ...which is an interesting assertion to make, considering that California's current standardized testing program, i.e. STAR, began in 1998. The regime before that, i.e. CLAS, begain in 1983 and was discontinued in 1995, shortly after the discontinuation of the previous testing regime before that, i.e. CAP.

    So you're telling us that, based on comparisons between CAP scores of the 1970s and STAR scores of recent years, California public schools on the whole were "better" in the 1970s than today, despite the fact that the two tests were entirely different measurements.

    Nicely done.

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  49. My 5th grader is using Everyday Mathematics at CAIS. (Of course, he has other math books for the Mandarin portion of his day...)

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  50. The economy has affected the private school process, but I heard many privates are setting aside more FA money (at least for those already in school).

    I heard this is so at SF Day. Any other privates out there that are doing this?

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  51. Does that mean there is less money for incoming kinders?

    Most schools' endowments also took a big hit.

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  52. s9 are you really serious?

    have you seen the non-intuitive algorithms for calculating that everyday math wants your kid to memorize?

    seriously, this is not even a debate among mathematicians. the many algorithms in everyday math which include "lattice", "partial sums", "column addition" and "opposite change" to name just a few are *highly* non-intuitive, confusing, and do not promote a true understanding of mathematics.

    it's one of the major reasons adoption of everyday math is really concerning. not because of the calculators.

    info here:
    http://www.nychold.com/

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  53. Oy, we are wading into the deeper waters here of curriculum debates. NYC HOLD (www.nychold) is an anti-reform/progressive methods advocacy group based in NYC. They run an ongoing campaign attacking so-called progressive methods of teaching (guessing they would hate SF Day, for example). You can find plenty of opposing views just by googling around.

    It's an old debate. I myself was taught "new math" in the 70's and there were cool things about it--learning the exciting architecture of math, not just learning facts. There probably should have been a little more in the way of learning some "basics" though. I'm all for kids learning their multiplication tables, for example, even though it is rote.

    My own experience in SFUSD is that teachers (especially the best ones) realize that kids learn in different ways. They do use the curriculum provided, because it is there, but they also bring in their own tried-and-true teaching ideas, to reach all the kids. They mix "progressive" and "traditional" methods.

    I guess if you care a LOT that your kid is never, ever taught math using progressive techniques, you shouldn't go to SFUSD (or CAIS, or Sacred Heart, and many others that use the same curriculum). I'm sure there are rigorous/back to basics math programs out there.

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  54. CAIS kids regularly win high-level math competitions...so how bad can it be?

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  55. Letters go out today...dun dun dun!

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  56. my impression was that everyday math is new at cais. so you can argue that it's effects (or no effects) have not been seen yet.

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  57. has anyone else heard of "vip"s being called last week to be offered a spot? have heard about someone getting such a call from Day.
    is this a perq of being uber wealthy/connected?

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  58. If that's true, it's lame. Sometimes preschool directors will have some info that they may or may not pass along, but I haven't heard of early acceptances for anyone other than siblings.

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  59. --my impression was that everyday math is new at cais--

    Nope, not new. They've been using it for a few years now.

    CAIS parent.

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  60. I'm not making the case for Everyday Math, one way or the other... just observing that's what my 5th grader is studying. (Though math is kind of a big deal at CAIS, so it surprises me the school would choose an ineffective way of teaching it.) My son has always been very good at math... and has taken advantage of after-school enrichment (including MathCounts, now)...but I think he is the kind of kid who would do well at math no matter what the approach, so his personal experience probably couldn't be used to prove much of anything. However, what is more interesting to me math-wise at CAIS is the difference between the Chinese and American approaches. The kids have math twice a day, in both English and Chinese (with the Chinese math taught by teachers educated in China, using materials from China), and it has been rather eye-opening to compare the different methods for reaching the same answers. I think it makes for a broader perspective and greater competence working with a variety of problems. (If that makes sense... and sorry if I'm not describing it well...)

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  61. I couldn't help myself and checked the mail as soon as I walked in, even though I know the letters won't reach our houses until tomorrow at the earliest.
    So I'm just going to not think about it and focus on other things, like not posting to this blog...

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  62. I checked the mail today for that reason, too. You never know. :)

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  63. Had a dream that we were 0/4 as well as 0/7 - just like last year.

    There has to be a better way.....

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  64. Anonymous@12:31 writes: "s9 are you really serious?"

    Absolutely. I'm in complete agreement with what Anonymous@01:00 posted, but I'd like to add this: I'm wholly unimpressed by arguments from university mathematics professors, professional scientists and engineers about the topic of reforming primary grade education curricula. I'm an engineer and a computer scientist, and I don't trust any of those other jerks in my various related fields to know which end of a kid the poop comes out.

    Those guys (and yes, sadly, they're almost always guys) barely remember the names of their own children from day to day. Most of the ones I know couldn't tell you what grade their kid is in right now, much less which school they go to.

    Yes, I've seen the algorithms that Everyday Mathematics uses, and I think they're optimized for learning math in a world where you can buy cheap calculating machines by the nickle per kilogram. The algorithms that traditional math curricula use are optimized for teaching rooms full of formerly starving, adult pig farmers how to multiply and divide large numbers on paper using the smallest number of pencil strokes possible.

    I have no trouble deciding which algorithms I want the schools to be teaching the kids who will be designing the medical equipment I'm expecting to be hooked up to in my old age: the ones optimized for learning how to do the math in your head that you need to do in your head, and how to program a machine to do the tedious and laborious problems. To me, Everyday Mathematics looks exactly like the program I want to see.

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  65. wow, so to take your argument further, since we have machines that can spellcheck and evaluate our grammar, there's really no need to learn spelling or grammar either.

    we should codify txt msging abbreviations and teach those in ap english, after all that's what's really used in daily life.

    sorry, but everyday math comes from a good place, with a noble goal of developing number sense and higher level math ability. but they try and do this with cute shortcuts and algorithms that only serve to enable the most number of people to get the right answer most of the time by following a set of preprogrammed repeatable steps that do not lead to any real understanding of math.

    what happens when your real-life scenario doesn't fit those easy algorithms and you have to actually understand the theory to progress?

    unfortunately there's no shortcut to development of this deep appreciation and understanding of math without putting in some rote work.

    now maybe it's not a goal for all our kids to come out of k-12 knowing math in a real way. maybe it's ok they come out doing well enough to use a calculator for their taxes and with enough ability to figure tips on the back of a napkin.

    maybe that should be our standard in the usa. but I think we can do better, and there are many other countries that do.

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  66. Everyday Math includes flash cards for rote learning of math facts.

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  67. I, too, admit that I kept checking the mail today. I also called my Pacifica school district office regarding the waiting list for the school that we are on (they also have a lottery system).

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  68. So, without being able to give any specifics of why it's good, I can say that my husband whose professional career is to research models of teacher professional development and the effectiveness of instruction, gives a huge thumbs up to Everyday Math. He says it can be hard to implement well, but in contrast to using a specific formulaic way to teach math, he says it encourages kids to think conceptually about problem solving. If you have questions I can pass them on. I just know he thinks it is a positive sign for the district.

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  69. Tomorrow.

    Big envelope good.

    Small letter bad.

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  70. However much I might relish the opportunity to keep defending my viewpoint from anonymous challenges here, I think I'm in danger of derailing a perfectly good thread devoted to an otherwise worthy topic.

    If our blog host is interested in providing a fresh thread for continuing this latest little skirmish in the ongoing California math wars, then I'll be happy to move the discussion there.

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  71. The poor public schools can't win. On one side they are all the time being accused of using dreary drill-and-kill methods, but when they adopt a progressive model for teaching math that is also used in several $20K+, well-regarded schools, they get called out for being squishy. Too funny.

    Okay, s9, point taken--this thread already has a worthy topic, but it might be a fun discussion to talk about the curriculum wars.

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  72. Big envelope good.

    Small envelope SOMETIMES also good.

    (We were happily surprised by a small envelope acceptance letter from SI a few years back.)

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  73. Does anyone know if any of the private or Catholic high schools still have openings? We were assigned to an unacceptable public school and are scrambling.

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  74. Some of the East Bay Schools are being hit hard. Windrush School for example has kindergarten classes with a meager 8 and 9 children in each. This is down from their advertised number of 14. The main principal just laid off the elementary principal (who apparently was fantastic) because they are hurting so badly.

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