Monday, October 19, 2009

Hot topic: Tips for going through the private school process

An SF K Files reader asked that I post the following:
We're touring privates. I'd love to hear from others who have gone through the process. I know that it's tough to get into these schools and I hear that every move you make matters. Though I imagine that some things matter more than others. I hope to get some advice.


  1. Be yourself.

    Write a good and honest essay.

    Sniff out a school that is compatible with your value system.

    Be $ savvy. Don't sign up for the second gymnasium or the audio visual equipment.

    Don't get caught up in the hype.

    Avoid schools that require over the top assessments of your child . . . who will probably spend most of the interview hiding under a chair.

  2. Also be ready for the realities of pulling your kid out of preschool for the playdates. Some kids love them, others don't. I found it strange explaining what we were doing, but other parents seemed to have good explanations.

  3. If you need significant financial aid, spare yourself the trouble and work the SFUSD lottery. You'll save yourself a lot of time, money and angst.

  4. I don't think every move you make is judged. I stressed a lot because I thought I had a lot of influence in the process, when the reality is a lot is dictated by factors no one can control, like how many siblings will in a class, how many kids apply of a particular gender and how the playdate goes (which with kids this age can be pretty random). So I'd try to relax if possible, ignore the playground gossip and just try to figure out which school best suits your child.

  5. I would tell you not to care too much, since you might not have much control over the process (I do think some applicants have a certain amount of control over it sadly, through finances, connections or both, but you know who you are). It takes a lot of time and energy, places both your family and child under scrutiny and judgment, and in the end you might not get what you want, or anything at all. That feels pretty shitty, I can tell you from experience. But then, you might get what you want, and feel fine about it all. Again, if there is some way of going in without caring too much it would be great, but considering your kid is involved that is really hard. Good luck.

  6. I posted this earlier on another thread. Sorry for the repeat>

    Trying to help with actual advice for those people (for whatever reason) who are considering private schools. All these are anecdotal and based on our own experiences over two years and people we know who went through the process. I am trying to steer clear about the whole public/private debate.
    I think the biggest point that has been made before is that Admissions Directors are judged by yield. i.e. No. of acceptances to No. of spots offered. Your actions should be judged by this metric. If you are truly excited by a school and would definitely attend if offered a spot. Try to make this fact patently clear. If you are not sure, then at least minimize your trepidation and doubts when communicating to the AD or head of school.
    If you know families who attend the school, be sure to talk to them to get a real sense of the school and the obligations and mention this fact to your interviewer or the AD. I don’t think they note it for any nefarious social programming, but just the fact that if you know someone at the school – you are more likely to accept an offer at the school.
    There are some significant differences between the cultures and atmospheres of the schools. Generally, the single sex independents like Town or Hamlin are considered to have more pressure and slightly more conservative (it is SF, after all) than the mixed schools like SF Day, Live Oak and Friends. Some kids will thrive in the system, others not so much. Depends on your kid.
    The other thing which I think is important to remember is that there is always a greater number of kids who would fit any of the spots that the AD is trying to fill in making up a class. Finding out siblings spots for next year is only important to determine how much energy or investment you might put in a place. Last year Live Oak only had 3 girl spots. Plan accordingly. Don’t count on your family’s diversity. There are plenty of families who can offer the same characteristics. Emphasize the things that set you apart that can make you and your family an attribute to the school community.


  7. (following up previous post)

    Remember that this is like college. They are selecting you. This is what drives people nuts – because they have limited control of the process. Couple that with the lottery system for publics and if you are trying for both you can easily drive yourselves crazy. I would suggest keeping perspective and some emotional distance from the process and realize that yes, in the end, almost everyone ends up in a place with which they are satisfied.
    I do think that preschools can make a difference. Again, not so much that preschool directors have that much pull – but if they have a relationship with the AD, they can provide insight or info as to how likely a child will do and whether or not the family is likely to accept an offer. Keep that in mind when discussing schools with your Preschool director. Just my personal opinion.
    I also do think that late summer boys are easy for AD’s to winnow out early to reduce the applicant pool. I don’t think that this is the same for girls as younger girls seem to be able to get in at the same rate as everybody else. Again look at it from the AD’s perspective. You have 200+ applications for 25-30 spots or so. You triage as quickly as you can. If you have a summer boy and are serious about private school, I would definitely think of a Transitional K option as a backup – but definitely apply this year. If you apply two years in a row, it will help with the AD with the yield question. (i.e. Pick me, I am really, really interested) .
    On the other side, once you actually have an offer, the shoe is on the other foot. If you are trying to decide between public v. private at that point or several different privates – then you can speak to whoever you want, ask all the pointed questions you refrained from asking – put them through the wringer to make a case why you should commit to that school. We had 4 private school offers in the end (after going 0 for 4 the year before) and the mental transition of having to make a decision was jarring, to say the least. That is far in the future though. Hope this helps.

  8. My adivce is to go ahead and tour. Despite what you hear on this board, I definately got an impression of what it would be like at each school and what kind of atmosphere each school was like. Squishy? Crunchy? Pressure cooker? Nuturing? These were all things you will get a feeling for. Oh, and go ahead and directly ask the admission director about the numbers. They aren't hiding the ball. They will let you know. Financial aid wise, it doesn't hurt to go for it. You never know and worst case scenario it cost you the application fee plus the time spent which might seem onerous now but given 9 years? It's not so bad. We have a good friend at Hamlin that was hesitant because of the financial aid question and now gets significant aid and are great people. Oh and don't get too bent out of shape by the other people on the tour. Keep in mind they don't go there! I recall being a bit turned off by the stuffy people at one tour but it turns out they weren't the type of people that actually went there and I don't believe any got in.

  9. I almost forgot, also apply for the public lottery as well. Couldn't hurt and if you get a great one then you have a very nice choice in your pocket.

  10. For primary school (K-8) with competitive admissions:

    Find out everything you can about the school before you apply and sign up for a play date, including how many spots are likely to be available for a child of your kid's gender. If your child has special needs, make sure the school is able and willing to accommodate them before you apply--many private schools do not accept children with special needs. If you can't afford a school without a huge financial aid package, don't put all your eggs in that basket. Based on what you've learned, make thoughtful decisions about where you want to focus your efforts.

    If your kid is in preschool, ask for the teacher's suggestions. My kid spent a lot more time with his preschool teacher than he did with me, so I valued, though did not always follow, her advice.

    Be your best self in all of your interactions, but be yourself. You would not want to be at a school where you always have to be pretending to be something you're not. Demonstrate what you've learned about the school and how you and your child will be a good fit for the school. If you don't feel like you can do a good job with that, maybe you should not apply to that school.

    Be as enthusiastically calm, if that's not an oxymoron, as you can with your kid about the play dates and other evaluations.

    Some admissions directors may be trying to bump up the applications to admission ratio, so be aware of that possibility.

    It's hard when you are disappointed, but don't take "no" personally--unless you should because your kid is a thug or you are a pain in the a**:-). Admission directors are trying to put together a balance of students that will work well in their environment and will work for them financially. Even schools that are are trying very hard to walk the socioeconomic diversity talk can't have entire classes on full scholarship. Many private schools have dozens or hundreds of lovely children applying for very few spots. Who knows how they finally decide who will receive offers, but the fact that you did not get an offer or a place on the wait list does not necessarily mean that "you have been found wanting." Most often it simply means that lovely as your child is, they don't think s/he will thrive in their setting, or they simply don't have any more room.

    Not all private schools have competitive admissions processes; they are called "open enrollment" schools and you are admitted first-come, first-served.

  11. Deftly pull every string you can (emphasis deftly).

    If you are at a preschool with some influence make sure the director knows who you are and what schools you are really interested in.

    If you don't like a school that others do then don't waste time on the process despite that school's "rating".

    If you don't offer significant diversity; have no connections; and need financial aid seriously think about going to plan B.

  12. But pulling strings doesn't have to be the answer. My daughter is at a school that we LOVED, even though we didn't know anyone there and didn't know anyone who had ever been affiliated with the school. I did attend a number of events (in addition to the required admissions events) mostly because since I didn't know anyone there I wanted to see what the current families were like to determine if it would be a good fit for us -- nine years is a long time to be around families you don't click with! I was always honest in my essays and all other interactions with the AD and Head of School, and I made it clear that I felt very strongly about it (without being overbearing!)

    As for the playdates and evaluations, I told my daughter we were looking for a great school for her, so the playdates were her opportunity to play with other kids, check out the school and the teachers and tell me what she thought of it. It is a fairly tedious process, so I wanted her to have fun and to know she had say.

  13. If you are significantly well off, don't say anything that might be misconstrued as a bribe.

    However, DO make a very significant donation to your preschool. These things get around and every school wants to admit families who have BIG donor potential.

  14. Also: DON'T tell your kid that you are checking out schools to see which one is right for him/her and certainly don't ask for their opinion.

    A friend's daughter fell in love with MCDS, and they were not admitted. Tears were shed because the child thought her preferences were being ignored.

    Instead, tell your child that you are visiting lots of different schools so you can all get an idea of what kindergarten might be like next year. You might even explain that you don't get to pick which school he/she will go to and might even end up at a kindergarten you *haven't* visited! (That may well happen if you are playing the SFUSD lottery as well.)

  15. Well put 4:56. I was starting to feel like everyone took it personally. Oh the advice? Don't take it personally, they are filing spots for their class. Your child might be great but they might have been looking for a quieter one for that slot or louder or anything in between. People tend to freak out after letters go out.

  16. Kate, can you add a thread for parochials as well? E.g. which ones, like St. Brendan's, tend to get all filled up by parishoners and which have space? Attitudes towards non-Catholics, etc.?

  17. Disagree w/ 6:10. We asked our child's opinion. We told her we were looking at lots of schools to find out more about them, and that at the end we would find a great school for her. Which is true -- I mean whether you end up at your first choice private or your last choice private or at a public, in the end it all works out and everyone ends up liking their school and makes friends. She fell in love with one school too, but we told her it wasn't just up to her -- that between us (the parents), that the teachers at the new school and her preschool teachers would all decide which was a great fit for her.

  18. Regarding the string pulling . . .

    We didn't and got into a school we love.

    Please don't think that you can't get into a good private school without some sort of undue influence.

    Also, you might want to think about whether you want to be at a school that has a lot of parents trying to do this.

    Private schools are looking for parents that will go the distance at their school. Many schools are as interested in the willingness of parents to volunteer. It is true that some schools are very overt about pushing for large chunks of cash over and above tuition. We specifically avoided those schools.

    There are a number of new and very good private schools in the city that are not yet over subscribed. Stratford School comes to mind.

    Some private schools have preschools. You can just keep applying every year until you get in. You'll have a three year window. The Chinese American International School and the Lycee Francais La Perouse work like this.
    Synergy too?

    I've met a surprising number of parents that didn't get into a school until their second year applying. Their persistence paid off.

    Also, if you commute, you might want to look at schools either on the pennisula or in Marin.

    Look for professionalism in the admissions process, because if it is there, that is probably what the school environment will be like.

  19. It pains me to read the comments from parents who

    1. Can't afford private school, and

    2. Can afford private school, but chose other options for their families.

    We all live in the 2nd most expensive US city to live in. We've made our decisions, so let's deal with them.

    If any of us really cared about "public schools," we wouldn't live here.

    But, we all want to live in a culturally significant City, educate our kids, and have the rest of the tax-paying property-owners pay for it. Why fight amongst ourselves?

    C'mon. Stop losing focus on the big picture!

  20. 10:21, huh? I'm an SFUSD parent, I really care about public school and I choose to live here. What kind of comment was that?

  21. Mt tips –

    It's all about you, not your child. If the School want to have you as part of their community, they'll pick you. It has nothing to do with your child.

    That being said, it a MUCH better process than the SFUSD "lottery." Instead of having kids assigned based on how much their parents can game the system, kids are chosen based on how much their families can enrich the community. You'll be so much happier if you choose private school in the City.

  22. I agree with 10:21. If you choose to live in the 2nd most expensive city in the US, stop complaining about how much it costs to get a decent (ie, non public) education for your children.

  23. Wow, these comments are uninformed, unhelpful, lacking in all nuance, assume a level of choice in life that most people don't have, and are just plain nasty! Would any of you care to share what private school communities your kids attend? That would be very helpful in helping some of us gauge the snob factor.

  24. I agree 11:13

    Most of the people who post here are more worried about being able to afford their lifestyles than educating their children.

  25. " If you choose to live in the 2nd most expensive city in the US, stop complaining about how much it costs to get a decent (ie, non public) education for your children."

    Are you purposely trying to start a flame war between public and private school parents with that comment ("decent education= non public" ) or are you just really ignorant?

  26. 11:18am Do you work? And if so, what do you do?

  27. I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that if you're successful enough to be able to send your children to private school you would.

    This thread is about "going through the private school process."

  28. No, everyone does NOT agree that if you're "successful enough" to send your kid to private school you would. I'm one of a large number of SFUSD families who could have swung private school with some struggle and economizing and choose not to -- but I also know many who could have afforded private school painlessly but chose public.

  29. I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that if you're successful enough to be able to send your children to private school you would.

    Um, do you even read this blog? That question is exactly a source of much lively debate across this fair city.

    I was wealthy enough to send my children to private school, and chose not to. I am far from alone in that.

    But now I think we should all stop feeding the troll! Yes, this is a thread on tips for the private school process. But this person is adding *nothing* helpful to anyone contemplating that process, only incitement. (Because surely he/she can't be this ignorant.)

    Why do all the private school threads degenerate into blanket bashing of the public schools, btw?

    Someone, please write something on topic that is useful.

  30. Why do all the private school threads degenerate into blanket bashing of the public schools, btw?

    Why do families who can't / don't want to afford private school threads comment?

  31. I was wealthy enough to send my children to private school, and chose not to. I am far from alone in that.

    Care to disclose who you are? No one that I know would chose to take this path.

  32. Our public school community includes company CEOs, law firm partners, doctors, and others who could *easily* afford private school but choose to go public.

    So not everyone who can afford private school chooses to send their kids to private school.

  33. I found the private school process MUCH more grueling than the public school lottery.

    The essays, the interviews, the IQ/kindergarten readiness screenings, the playdates, the open houses,the coffees and the application fees.

    MUCH MORE labor intensive and not at all democratic: At our preschool, the kids who were accepted to the most private schools just happened to be the wealthiest families with easygoing kids. (Our wealthiest family only got one acceptance out of 7, but the kid had learning and behavioral issues). The only family we know who got in everywhere was super wealthy, had an easy kid AND added racial diversity.

    That doesn't mean you can't get in if you aren't super-wealthy or don't have diversity. But it REALLY helps if you have that kind of money and they know you are likely to make generous donations. REALLY helps.

    Being able to afford tuition is pretty much a MUST in this economic climate, too. We only know two families who applied for financial aid and got it -- out of 20 in our cohort who applied and were waitlisted due to lack of aid.

  34. 11:55 AM - What school is this, and who are these poeple. This is exactly the school we want to be at. Please give us more information. Thanks.

  35. We liked the private school process, because we felt that that it evaluated our educational achievements (Ivy league professionals) instead of the pseudo-race based SFUSD system. But other people may view the system diffreently.

  36. Take it easy folks. That's the same poster responding to herself and just trying to start a flame war. Just roll your eyes and ignore it.

  37. Yep, it's either a public school parent that wants to paint the private school parents as being all jerks or it's in fact a private school parent that is a jerk and just wants to start something. Don't fall for it. Discussion was fine until then.

  38. "Why do families who can't / don't want to afford private school threads comment?"

    There were a few of those, but if you read back on this thread, you'll find that it was fairly restrained and that most of the comments were actually aimed at the main question--tips for the private school process. I actually think the fact that financial aid is becoming more difficult to get in the current climate (endowments down, more people need assistance) is a salient and helpful--if unwelcome--point. Traditionally, many middle class families have strived for private school access through financial aid, but that door may be closing with the new financial contraints of the day.

    But anyway, this *was* a useful thread for lots of people until someone decided to light it on fire. He or she is trying to do the same over on the public middle school thread. It's a shame. If everyone ignores it and focuses on the actual topics, that would be most helpful for those who really do want tips and information.

  39. To the original poster, when we were going through this process a dear friend gave me the best advice: Even if you end up at the last of your private school choices, it's so much better than having to consider public school.

  40. 12:32 and some of the others do sound a whole lot like a parody.

  41. We toured both publics and privates and found the teaching to be quite comparable.

    The main differences? Whiter, wealthier kids. Shinier, more impressive facilities. Lower student-teacher ratios (though there is research indicating that class size matters least for upper middle class children).

    I would happily pay for private school if I were interested in having my kids speak French or attend a single-sex school. But when it comes to *MOST* private schools, I'm not sure the education is significantly better or different than at a decent SFUSD public... certainly not worth the price difference.

  42. Try to schedule your child's playdate with a friend. That way he or she'll feel more comfortable there and have a chance to shine.

  43. 12:32 p.m. We are looking at privates and publics, with certain privates being our top choices, followed by certain publics and then by certain other privates.

    We won't need to apply for financial aid so that won't factor into whether we are accepted or whether we attend.

    I sure as hell hope we don't end up at the same school as you or your "friend".

    I hope you realize it's people like you and your "friend" that make people bash private school parents. You probably don't though as you obviously live in your own little world where only you and yours matter.

  44. Or you are banging your head against the wall because it's the same person saying the same tired things trying to pick the same old fight. Hey look I can type "I'd go to the worst private at $200,000 a year before I'd go to Rooftop. I hear it's dangerous through a friend of a friend and I know people that say the teaching is horrible. . ." OR I can say "Privates? Oh they are only for white people with trust funds, financial aid is actually a myth, the parents are all slimy bankers, it's not worth the $200,000 they charge you and all you get is a tshirt, I heard from a friend and know personally 213 people that left the privates to go to John Muir and are so happy". Then follow it up with "I agree with X:XX (even though that was me that typed the first post)
    C'mon don't feed into the fire. If it's inflammatory then it's probably the same person and they are likely laughing that you get so incensed about it.

  45. "I'm pretty sure everyone agrees that if you're successful enough to be able to send your children to private school you would."

    Paging Mr. Biggest Billy Goat Gruff.
    Troll on Aisle 11.

  46. Hahaha, 3:31, I like you. So true. No matter what thread you go on, someone always has a friend that helps emphasize the point about how horrible publics are or how snobby privates are. Whatever.

    About half of my friends send their kids to public, the other half to private. All are lovely people, we all get along, and we all have the best interest of our kids at heart. My daughter goes to a private school, but we have gone to many a play, talent show and science fair at another friend's public school. Everyone I've met there is warm, open and friendly. I have public friends that have come with me to events at my daughter's school and have enjoyed themselves as well.

    Clearly there are jerks living in SF. Snobs? Of course. Disgruntled public school families who think that private school families are ruining the fabric of the city? Certainly. But they might only be trolling this blog, because I've never met them at the public or private school functions I've attended.

  47. Having looked over a number of threads, it seems to me that the part that makes private school threads so volatile is that the schools are judging us, the parents.

    When our kids are 5, the schools are looking at us, the parents, to figure out how our children will fit in their communities.

    I think that's why some commenters keep going on and on about financial aid - it's easier to think that our dream school rejected us because of our financial aid application, rather than just rejecting us. (This being said from a parent who went 2/7 in privates. Clearly, 5 schools rejected us!)

    I also think that may be why some people prefer the SFUSD lottery, as opposed to the private school process. At least with the lottery, your child's placement is no reflection on you.

    My assessment. Reasonable minds may differ.

  48. 7:10 -- Did you require substantial financial aid to attend?

  49. I think that comment about scheduling private school observed playdates with a friend is spot on. My kids were at a loss. They went to a public CDC where only one other kid in their class applied to privates (also turned down) so they were totally unfamiliar with the concept of skipping preschool to go to these playdates. They also knew nobody there. In our experience, in each occasion there were always lots of kids who were totally delighted with the playdates and were surrounded with several friends from their respective preschools (and also were accustomed to their classmates being absent at application process playdates.) This helps a lot. If your kid looks lost, that's a strike against you. And why shouldn't it be? With so many people applying for so few spots, the application people have to knock out a whole bunch of applicants from the start.

  50. How did this thread get so nasty? I'm new to this blog, but thought people came here to read/post because they are interested in learning about the K app process, not bashing each other.

    But I feel compelled to say this: it is incredibly ignorant to say that anyone who would consider public schools must not care about their child's education or else can't afford private. Please. There are lots and lots of us who can afford private (myself included) but are considering public as well, for any number of reasons. What is best for one family may not be best for another.

  51. I agree. Is there a way for keeping this discussion available for only parents looking at private schools? It seems like the anti-private school folks keep poking around trying to cause trouble.

  52. 8:19, that does happen, obviously, but today it was the opposite, apparently--some private school flamer saying incendiary and insulting things about the public schools. Bashing goes both ways, and today it was that way.

    Have to laugh at the idea of a "private" thread for private school parent applicants, though....sort of a gated community for those who want a gated community? ;-) (sorry, seriously, just a joke....I think we have to laugh, a little, at ourselves.)

    Anyway, I don't think your idea could work on this blog. Those who read this blog tend to be those who are considering both types, overall, or are at least interested in knowing the field. that's why the dynamism around this issue, because it plays on everyone's actual anxieties.

    I think there actually are private private school listservs somewhere around. Maybe someone knows where to find those (and they'll give you the secret handshake to access it, lol).

  53. 8:19, same troll same pot stirring. Amazing how big internet muscles can make you. Give it up already. Oh and I like the tip on bringing a friend to the play date. I hate to say it but you might want to try promising a treat afterwords. Favorite ice cream place or a favorite event.

  54. The gates have to be open to proplr looking at both because honestly there's no guarantee of getting into private schools in the first place. One has to be pragmatic. The numbers from last year demonstrated that all sorts of wonderful children and families didn't get into the (private) schools of their choice simply because there wasn't enough room. And conversely, they may or may not have gotten into the publics of their choice either.

  55. Having gone through this last year and coming up 0/4 in our search, my biggest takeaway is that it was a rough year for those of us who applied for financial aid. I had heard it doesn't matter - and maybe in a robust economy, it wouldn't so much - but I am pretty sure that we were waitlisted for all those schools because we applied for aid. Had we been able to pay full tuition + after school care + enrichment + fundraising, I think we would've had more of a chance. So, if you're seriously considering private school and do need some financial help, be very thoughtful and frank in your essay about how you can contribute to the school in a non-monetary way. The schools are looking to create a community, and if you can prove that you will enrich the community, I can't imagine why a school would view you as a liability.

    But reality being what it is, you are competing with hundreds of families. SF Friends - the school that we really wanted - had a waitlist of 90+ girls after the initial acceptances! They had two classes of 23 (I think) to fill but after siblings, there really were about 23 open to new students. I am going by my bad memory but think that's pretty accurate.

    As the very first poster said, don't get caught up in the hype. You'll tour and be wowed by the physical plant and how cool everything is, but think about whether you as a FAMILY will be comfortable there. We toured a couple of schools that have very good reps and that left us cold. We didn't feel that we'd fit in and moved on.

    Explaining playdates: I told my kid that we were visiting a school and having a playdate. She did pretty well as far as I know. We'd go out for a treat afterward to make it a special day.

    And as other people have mentioned - you're not in control, and it's maddening, but you have to let it go. It's a long, grueling process. Don't let it drive you crazy!

  56. Well, perhaps that's true about financial aid, but my son was waitlisted at all four private schools we applied to, and we requested no financial aid. I know a couple of other families that were in the same position. It was a tough year. One school even said they had a spike in applications from families in Marin County.

  57. There used to be a private school discussion that was part of an online guide to Bay Area private schools. The discussion list, which was unmoderated, was suddenly taken down during the time I used to scan it. I'd guess it was taken down because of derogatory comments about specific schools and teachers. The ones that I recall were about excessive drinking by school staff, including heads of school, at parochial school festivals (the booze does flow at those festivals), with the schools named; and a discussion about how rigid and cold West Portal Lutheran was.

  58. One slight twist: I'd focus on the right school for the child before being concerned about the right fit for the family.

    I understand what people saying about finding a school with people they are comfortable with--nine years of soccer games, volunteering etc. but the reality is however much time we spend at with a school community our children will spend far more.

    Going into the process I never would have tagged myself as a single-sex school parent. The traditions, the uniforms, the fancy buildings...none of that rang any bells for me. But our preschool director urged us to consider single-sex for our daughter and boy was he right. She's so much more confident and outspoken, and attributes the change herself to the all-girl environment. She's really, really happy there. Happy kid, happy parents.

    Another plus: The better you are at discerning the school that's the best fit for your kid, the more likely the school will see the same thing and let him/her in. Admissions Directors do want to find kids who will thrive at their schools.

  59. "I'd guess it was taken down because of derogatory comments about specific schools and teachers. The ones that I recall were about excessive drinking by school staff, including heads of school, at parochial school festivals (the booze does flow at those festivals), with the schools named; and a discussion about how rigid and cold West Portal Lutheran was."

    Wow, so even without the public/private spats, discussions about school still get bitchy.

  60. I would think that the worst thing about the private school application process isn't that the parents are being judged, but that the children are. How horrible to think that someone would tell you that your 4-year-old isn't "right" for them. And the process must be especially hard if you have a child that you know isn't easy.

  61. Everyone at the private school events talks about "finding the right fit" for your child. I'm having a bit of a hard time figuring out what this means for each particular school. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I could see my daughter doing well at all of the privates we're looking at (and the publics too). Thus for us, it comes down to better understanding the community created by each school and whether we would enjoy getting to know the other families at the school. If anyone, such as those of you with kids in the following schools, could describe the vibe at the these schools, I'd appreciate it (PLEASE be honest and not snarky): MCDS, Presidio Hill, SF Day, Live Oak, Synergy, SF Friends, The San Francisco School, Brandais, Burke's and Hamilin.

  62. I'm not sure how requests for financial aid couldn't have affected admission last year at private secondary school. They certainly did at the college and university level -- even at many prestigious schools - as was reported on the front page of the NYTimes last Spring and discussed candidly by college and university reps and presidents.

    The recession pinched all of us -- including the endowments of the private schools who provide financial aid to some of their students. And last year, those endowments went down and the number of current students who even mid-year suddenly needed financial aid went up. Do the math.

    Besides, it is those with the most resources ultimately who help fund (or contribute to helping to fund) those who need the most financial aid. That big gift parents give (or are asked to give) goes somewhere, and many people feel strongly about their gifts being used for scholarship assistance, rather say, than for a big new building.

  63. I agree with you except the endowment numbers did not take a hit at some schools. Specifically, MCDS endowment is higher and SF Day is also higher.

  64. 11:38, I'm just asking to get flamed for this but I'll give you our honest opinion:
    Hamlin- Traditional driven kids and families, good place for strong confident girls. Difficult academically but the kind of place that would turn out the next CA governor. Families are upright people that have done things the right way their whole lives, ie. education then professional.
    Burkes- More interested in the whole child, project based learning lets them develop at their own speed. Also has professional famillies but perhaps not the same polish.
    SF Friends- Brand new, suprisingly strict in some approaches, whole child approach, parents are very social minded, pacifist approach is best way to describe it as the founder/head of school will describe vividly her fathers and uncles sitting out the 2nd World War in London (drove ambulance). Think Quaker pacifist and you have a good idea. The parents are from a broad cross section but are generally also socially minded (think Prius)
    SF Day- Academic, will do whatever it takes to teach your child academics, not a hand holding school but if your child has drive, she could thrive here, new head of school is mercurial (both good and bad), has had past issues socially but seem to be fixed now. Broad cross section of people but generally all driven parents that put academics first.
    MCDS- Very whole child oriented, nurturing and uses a hybrid of traditional and nontraditional approaches. Given the wealth at the school, very grounded children. Academics not as big a priority as developing good people with solid beliefs in themselves. Still, academics is top notch. Green oriented school. Parent community is very involved. Lot's of fleece and jeans, but that doesn't mean they aren't CEO of somewhere. Facilities are the best in the bay area, bar none.
    Live Oak- Great place for quirky children. Takes all types and uses what I can only call a crunchy granola approach to school. Very new age with children learning from each other as much as from class. Teacher community non-traditional and resulting parent body is also granola. Very good place for someone with quirky girl as opposed to the prototypical child. OK go ahead and slam me and tell me you know some person that knows someone that . . .

  65. I think that's actually a pretty good summary!

    Hamlin: I don't know if I would call Hamlin families traditional, particularly in lower school. Lots of working moms (I think becaues its proximity to downtown). Generally speaking Hamlin girls are pretty well-behaved lot. Because it doesn't emphasize soccer or anything else in lower grades I think its a good school if your kid isn't athletic.

    Burke's: I'm not sure Burke's families are any less polished than families anywhere else.

  66. I think that's actually a pretty good summary!

    Hamlin: I don't know if I would call Hamlin families traditional, particularly in lower school. Lots of working moms (I think becaues its proximity to downtown). Generally speaking Hamlin girls are pretty well-behaved lot. Because it doesn't emphasize soccer or anything else in lower grades I think its a good school if your kid isn't athletic.

    Burke's: I'm not sure Burke's families are any less polished than families anywhere else.

  67. You misunderstood my term. By polished I meant Hamlin will have your Ivy educated, then Masters then possibly Doctorate and are now management consultants and made partner about 2 years ago. Children are very well behaved and academically sharp. Burkes will have the Berkeley grad that started a dot com and was very successful or the family that felt Hamlin was too stuffy. Children are less refined but more open to a wider viewpoint. Perhaps Gilt Edged would have been more appropriate.

  68. I'm a Hamlin parent. Maybe that generalization was true of Hamlin a few years ago but thinking through my daughter's class its considerably more eclectic than that. Not that you're putting the school down; it just doesn't sound like the parents I know.

  69. About Friends,

    There are very few Quakers at this school. The founder is from England. Although the Quakers did have their roots in England, it has been awhile. About 13 generations. Quakerism is utterly Pennsylvanian American in development and outlook, so I find it rather odd that the head of the school is English and trying to explain to all these non Quakers what Quakerism is all about.

    I'm not saying it is not a good school, but it doesn't have much to do with Quakerism, if that is what you are looking for.

    The school is a little overpriced for its label and by comparison to comparable privates.

    In my experience, most Quakers drive a hard bargain.

  70. Wow, very well put. I'm sure someone will say "I know someone at whatever school and they are not anything like that" but the general summary is pretty spot on. Most of those things, nobody will admit to though.

  71. OK, 11:38, let's not overdo it!

    ". . . Difficult academically but the kind of place that would turn out the next CA governor."

    Did Jerry Brown go to Hamlin?

    Actually, Barack Obama went to a kind of mediocre private school in Hawaii, one more like Live Oak. He had a B average.

    So let's not think that sending our kids to a particular school is an automatic ticket to anywhere.

    Reading all this about the "polish" makes me think I really need to get to the hair salon right now! And my nails . . . Luckily, I got my eyebrows done last week.

    Kinda, surreal.

  72. The original poster was making huge generalizations of course.

    That said Punahou is not a mediocre private school. And it is nothing like Live Oak.

  73. 3:52 PM

    Sure, perhaps comparing Punahou to Live Oak is not a good analogy.

    I know someone who attended Punahou. Her descriptions of the school sound a lot like Lowell, but maybe more cozy.

    I don't think it is very helpful to our children to assume that they are going to be a Governor or anything like that.

    When Obama's grandmother died the day before he was elected, she didn't say, "Well, I hope you win because I spent my old age living in crappy little apartment, having paid for your private school."

    She said "I've already seen him accomplish everything I ever hoped he would accomplish" or something like that.


    "Your children are not your children.

    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

    They come through you but not from you,

    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

    For they have their own thoughts.

    You may house their bodies but not their souls,

    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

    - Kahlil Gibran

  74. 11:38 to 12:43 - THANKS! This is exactly the sort of info. I was hoping to hear. I thought you did a good job of summarizing without being overly critical or snarky. (I'm just ignoring 3:33/4:11). And thanks to the other posters as well. Any other info. is greatly appreciated.

  75. Sorry 4:22 PM

    I guess my attempt at wisdom and poking a little fun at a not entirely factual description of private schools was wasted upon you.

    My child does got to private and I will not bother you with the description of the excellent school she attends, as you seem to want everything on a silver platter, all boiled down, without any work.

    Good luck to you!

  76. Punahou makes Lowell look tiny. It is one of the largest private schools in the Western U.S., if not the entire country.

    It was also in Obama's time a pretty elitist institution IMHO. Skewing white in a highly diverse state, it was the place for the kids of the wealthy and the people-who-mattered. Locals used to use the derogatory term "Punahou Boy" and "Punahou Girl" to put someone acting snooty in his/her place. Kids there did see themselves as the future leaders of the state, including governor!

    Thought it was kind of ironic given this discussion. Anyway its just an anonymous board--cut him/her some slack.

  77. 4:55 PM

    Not to get too worked up about Punahou, but Lowell does have some pretty accomplished graduates.

    People may see themselves in a particular school as becoming the next governor, but that doesn't mean they will.

    I'm not putting down the value of a good education, but I think a very good public school is often as good as a very good private school.

    There is no replacement for hard work, personality and raw ability.

    I'm not arguing public vs. private. I'm just asking for people to keep a sense of perspective. The above post about governors and polish seems to have lost perspective on this. It also leaves quite a few private schools off the list.

    Isn't there a book that tells you about the private schools in SF. It think that is the right place to start, not some ad hoc list, with questionable interpretations and silly comments about consulting firms.

    How about curriculum?

  78. 4:34/4:11 - This is 4:22/11:38 - My apologies. I shouldn't have said I was ignoring you, which was impolite. I grew up solidly middle class with a public school education and parents who in fact taught me better manners than I was displaying. I am currently the mother of two and I work full time outside of the home. I've been going to many private school and public school events and was hoping to add to my understanding with some thoughtful commentary from this blog. If your daughter attends a school that you like, everyone would benefit from reading about your school, what you like about it and how it is unique. I encourage you to share.
    4:55 - I would love to hear commentary on curriculum as well. I believe that the schools have done a good job explaining curriculum, which is why I didn't have any specific questions, but if others have comments on any particular schools' curriculum, I would certainly appreciate it.

    Thanks everyone.

  79. 7:08 PM

    So nice to hear from you!

    We're doing some Hallowe'en baking right now, but tomorrow morning, I'll do my best to do I right up of the private schools I toured last year.

    Have a nice evening.

  80. I'm a parent at Friends so I thought I'd add my impressions of the school.

    First, I'm not totally sure what 3:16 was driving at. I guess "overpriced for its label" means that because it's a newish school in a newish building they don't have as many bells and whistles yet. The building is being finished this year so in a few weeks we'll have a gym, labs, additional art facilities, etc.

    As for the overall "vibe", I personally like it immensely and it has been a great place for both of my kids, who are very different in terms of personality and academic style. The parents are a good group - lots of 2-working parent families, a wide variety of professions, generally nice people.

    I would say that the entire school community is committed to the "Quaker" approach to a pretty strong degree - not necessarily in everything they live and breathe, but in terms of their desire for kids to internalize the opinion that everyone is of value and has something important to contribute to the world around them. It's kind of interesting how you see this happen day to day. For example, when there is a school event where kids are performing, it's not the best singer or most accomplished violinist who gets trotted out; they ask the kids who wants to participate and the kids who are involved take on the taks of preparing (my daughter is practicing for a flute performance as I type this...).

    The school works very hard on the kids' ability to work together in all ways, and I do see real results from all of that effort. I find that my daughter's 6th grade class is refreshingly free of many of the classic social situations that you commonly will see with girls that age.

    Academically, I think they could probably push harder than they do, but all in all I've been very pleased with both of my kids' progress.

    One thing about Friends is that they seem to fly by the seat of their pants a little and kind of "wing it". I really don't mind that as I tend to do the same thing, but if you're a person who needs to feel that things are highly organized you might not be comfortable at Friends.

    I think the head of school (Cathy Hunter) is terrific, and she's especially good at hiring faculty -so her talents have really made the school into a special place in that way.

    My kids don't have learning differences and I've heard a range of feelings from parents who are dealing with that. It's hard to get a grasp on that without personal experience, but it seems like the school is open to finding a way to make it work on the whole. One of my children does have some physical differences/ disabilities and I think that Friends is a great community for him to be in, for a lot of the reasons that I've discussed above.

    Sorry for the long post!

  81. I'm a Hamlin parent, and here are the stats, more or less: 65% of familes have dual working parents (or one if it's a single parent home), something like 30% receive financial aid totalling almost $1.3 million per year. As far as independent schools go, it is quite diverse, with a large number of girls self-identifying as belonging to a non-caucasian ethnic group. I can find out what the specific number is, I don't know what it is off the top of my head. The head of school, Wanda Holland Greene, is amazing. This is her second year at Hamlin, and I do think she has done a lot to change the perception of Hamlin. The families are very friendly, open and down to earth.

  82. The 12:43 poster didn't say that this IS where the next governor is coming from. What is wrong with you people. She commented that the girls are very polished and driven and that this is the kind of place that would create high powered high striving women. It was a compliment to the school.

  83. When we had a choice last year between SF Day and Live Oak we flipped back and forth several times a day with our choice. We felt much more comfortable with the families and feel of Live Oak but felt that SF Day was a better fit for our child. In the end we went with our gut (reinforced by our preschool director) that the SF Day environment would be better for kid and listened to some sage advice from an older friend who said that you will find a community of people that you will be happy socializing with generally anywhere you go. So far that has been proven to be true and we are very happy with our decision.

  84. Well, it's not so much that I know some person who knows someone, but in response to 12:43's summary of the schools, I'd love to chime in about Live Oak, which is the school my kids go to. As it turns out, I know most of the 260 kids, and some of their parents. : ) 12:43's summary of Live Oak would read more authentically if it contained the words in the MCDS description (perhaps without mention of facilities, although the Live Oak building is wonderful, but on a different scale). Quirky and granola are not the words that come to my mind when thinking of our school. Families and kids run the gamut. If there's one thing that Live Oak espouses from kindergarten on up, it is that stereotypes are detrimental, so I'll avoid using them here. The culture of the school definitely revolves around seeing your child who for he or she is, so there is no quirky kid, and no prototypical kid, because each child has different learning strengths and weaknesses, different interests and abilities, and a different identity. The teaching staff is pretty cutting edge when it comes to educational philosophy; they do a lot of professional development in order to bring modern theories and approaches into play within curriculum and classroom culture. Hope this helps.

  85. I do think that preschools can make a difference. Again, not so much that preschool directors have that much pull – but if they have a relationship with the AD, they can provide insight or info as to how likely a child will do.

    The preschool director is like the lead polo pony. She can subtly work her connections within the independent school world if she feels you will be a good fit with a particular school.

  86. My advice having gone through this process last year is to try really hard (and it is hard!) to keep it in perspective. You only need one good school that works for your child and family (whether it is public or private).

    Tour both, turn in your public lottery form, if you are serious about private apply to 7, do your best with the private school essays and interviews, if you really like a school and think it would be a good fit tell the director that in the interview, make sure your child is rested and well fed before the playdates, try not to schedule more than one playdate a week if you can help it, if you have friends at private schools that you really like ask them to write letters of support and just repeat to yourself over and over we only need one good school!! Last year was a hard year for both public and private, but by the second week of September every friend I know had a school that they are happy with.

  87. San Francisco School
    Once a very crunchy granola school (when it was hot in the fall the preschool kids would strip naked and play in sprinklers. Note: they don't do this any more.)
    A very nice, loving, supportive community, cool parents, good academics.
    Lots of focus on social justice and caring for the world.
    Though it's true the school has been undergoing a bit of a shift in the past few years, from its more Birkenstock beginnings to being a school that charges $18 K a year and has a different breed of family. The school administration and staff have a times been somewhat at odds with the expectations of incoming parents. Academics have been ramped up and there's been some staff (natural) turnover. They have a new headmaster as of a few years ago.
    There are a good number of really wealthy families there, but you wouldn't necessarily know it, it's very much not cool to let on about that stuff.
    Hard to get into because it has an attached Montessori preschool, so if you don't start at age 3 the chances of getting in in Kindergarten is extremely limited.

  88. 12.43 does a pretty good job but in my opinion overrates Hamlin and to a lesser extent MCDS and SF Day, condescends toward Burke's families vis a vis Hamlin families, and is spot on re Live Oak (tough to imagine a more crunchy vibe). Friends has a great building even though it isn't completely finished yet and is on a decided upswing. Two unmentioned schools, FAIS/CAIS, particularly in the 21st Century are schools that are ideally positioned with a great though quite urban physical plant.

  89. Funny, we toured last year, and I don't understand the view that Live Oak is so crunchy. I think it might have been more before, but the families we saw there were not that different that at most other privates. "Quirky" kids seems to mean any child that isn't unnaturally quiet (everyone I met at Friends, for instance, were going on about how quiet their child was), obedient and easy-going. Also, they have been ahead of the curve in terms of teaching philosophy, and now all the other schools are starting to talk about differentiated instruction and other progressive ideas. (we are not at Live Oak).

    The familys at Burke's and Hamlin looked very similar to me, and of the people we know, the more "polished" ones are at Burke's, FWIW.

  90. Burke's felt more "old" money to me than Hamlin. I don't doubt that the parents are equally wealthy, but they seemed less flashy.

    There are pros and cons to both, of course.

  91. I'm a Hamlin parent who posted above. We don't have a lot of money, old or new, and I wouldn't really describe most of the parents in our class as very wealthy either. Sure there are some wealthy families but most parents we know are have to work to pay the tuition. A number of them are on financial aid of some amount.

    I would agree that Hamlin had a rep for rich fancy families--and maybe it even deserved it at one point--but that isn't true anymore. The school has worked very hard to increase the diversity of its community and it shows.

  92. On the Hamlin vs Burkes topic..

    Its amazing how different these schools feel to parents. I often have conversations with families who clearly felt one or the other was a perfect fit. Families made a choice about which school they prefer after the tours/open houses.

    My take away was that Hamlin felt a bit stuffy in terms of how they approach education. The emphasis was on academic rigor without a clear vision of what that's supposed to accomplish other than a kid who can make the best (whatever) in art for example. Also the building felt closed in and a bit of maze.

    In contrast Burkes was clear that the heart of the school is about their vision how education is more than academics, it's about developing the entire person for success. To me this really resonates becuase a childs life is about much more than just academic pressure. Also the setting is open, probably the most unique outdoor setting of any school in the city.

    With that said.. the families appear to be the same, in terms of socio-economic backround and polish.. But perhaps the approach to child rearing, location of school, and of course where you got in make the difference of the families at the two schools...

    Look forward to hearing other thoughts.

    To end on a positive note. I have yet to meet any girl from either school that was not super proud of their school, super happy to be part of the community, and super excited about being at school with friends... Not to mention super smart!!

    I guarantee regardless which of these two schools your kid attends the bar will be high and your child will be challenged; whether its academically or socially.

  93. Regarding Hamlin and Burkes, I absolutely loved both schools and would have been happy with either one. I thought academically they were similar, although Hamlin has more of a hard-core academic reputation (even though Burkes had an excellent academic program) and although Burkes talks more about the "whole girl" like the previous poster said, I thought that that was equally present at Hamlin. Both schools are very focused on developing confident, happy girls.

    The "feel" of the schools are fairly different -- as the previous poster mentions, the Hamlin campus is very vertical, very urban while Burkes has a beautiful, open campus. The Heads of School, Wanda Holland Greene at Hamlin and Kim Wargo at Burkes, are very different.

    In the end we chose Hamlin because it had more visible diversity and because Wanda blew me away. But both schools are excellent and my friends at Burkes are equally happy. That being said, I have friends who were determined to send their daughter to an all-girls school, and instead got into a co-ed school. They were disappointed all summer, but now that their daughter is in her new school they are absolutely thrilled and wouldn't change a thing. It's been said before, but it does seem that in the end, things always work out -- everyone ends up happy and finds a good group of people wherever their child goes to school.

  94. Can someone give an honest opinion of how much income is needed to afford private school? I prefer the privates to publics that I have seen and would like to send my children to private. But I don't know if I can afford it.

    Leave financial aid out of it as I can't count on receiving. For tuition, fundraising, other expenses, what is lowest household income level you think is realistic for 2 children?

  95. We liked both Burkes and Hamlin and our daughter is at Hamlin.

    She enjoys the academics at Hamlin but what I'm happiest about is how she's thriving emotionally and socially. She used to be shy, withdrawing with adults and among unfamiliar kids. Now she's completely different-volunteering to lead things, asking lots of questions. Recently she approached two older boys she didn't know and asked to be cut in on their pick-up baseball game (she was).

    I'm not saying every kid would have the same experience. That's the good thing about have lots of schools of different flavors. But I really think Hamlin was really the right fit for our daughter academically, socially and emotionally. Hamlin's academics are challenging, but that doesn't mean it doesn't foster emotional growth.

  96. We know a couple of gifted girls who left Hamlin for Nueva. It is a good fit for smart girls, but not necessarily *really* smart girls. These girls did not feel challenged by the curriculum and discovered that they were, in fact, slightly behind in Math compared to their new school.

  97. What happened with the kinder teacher who was fired at Hamlin last year?

    We met her at one of the tours and *loved* her.

  98. According to both schools (Nueva and Hamlin), 8th grade math is Algebra I including quadratic equations (as opposed to some schools that offer Algebra I without quadratic equations.) That's an equivalent high school Algebra I course, same at both schools.

  99. "Leave financial aid out of it as I can't count on receiving. For tuition, fundraising, other expenses, what is lowest household income level you think is realistic for 2 children?"

    Going to depend on what your other expenses are, as well as your income.

  100. Algebra I, including quadratic equations, is also what is taught in 8th grade Algebra in the public schools.

    Not a flame, just pointing it out for information. We have some very smart math geeks in our public schools (says my daughter, who is working hard to keep up).

    Content standards found here:

  101. "The Heads of School, Wanda Holland Greene at Hamlin and Kim Wargo at Burkes, are very different."

    Well said. If one wants a head of school to spontaneously break out into song at the drop of a hat then one will like Greene. If such proclivities makes one cringe then one might prefer the more reserved Wargo.

  102. Hi Guys,

    Very good conversation going here!

    7:26 from Wednesday evening.

    I said I would post a little of some of the private schools I toured last year (day before yesterday.)

    I'm into language immersion, and I've mentioned some of these schools on other threads. I'll do another post of the non-immersion schools I've toured next week, but here is a review, in two parts, of three great immersion schools:

    French American International School (FAIS)

    Lycee Francais La Perouse (Lycee)

    Chinese American International School (CAIS)

    Tuition: in the $20,000 range

    Curriculum: Accredited by the French Ministry of Education, the elementary school follows the recommendations and directives of the French curriculum through an immersion program beginning with preschool. A high quality English curriculum is integrated starting in the second grade. The English program is based on the guidelines of the National Council of Teachers of English and the State of Oregon.

    The International High School, physically in the same location as FAIS, but a separate administrative entity, offers programs in the international and french baccalaureate programs. I won't go into the details here, but if you are interested, you can read about it at this link:

    During my tour, I was exceptionally impressed by the science program.

    Here is the wiki page for the school:

    The parent community at FAIS seems somewhat professional and international in composition. There seem to be two distinct groups who have there kids attend this school: American parents who are interested in the academic curriculum or French parents who want a balance between French and English classes, in the case that they are concerned that their kids won't have full command of english.

    Physical location: Next to CAIS, urban, in Hayes valley. Drop off looks to be a hassle.

    Application: Application for kindergarten. I think there may be a preschool, but it is for families that already have a child in kindergarten. Correct me if I am wrong. Sept 1st birthday cutoff.

    The initial tour, at least for me, was quite hype filled, with many parents exceptionally anxious about getting their child into this school. An interview and assessment of your child is required.

    To be continued in next post:

  103. Lycee:
    Tuition: in the $20,000 range

    Curriculum: Founded by parents in 1967, the Lycée Français La Pérouse is an academic institution accredited by the State of California and the French Ministry of Education. It belongs to a network of over 400 French schools worldwide and receives substantial financial support from the French Government. The Lycée offers a preschool through 12th grade education to French, American and students of other cultures.

    The Lycée is an American private school with a French public school curriculum. Lycée Français La Pérouse is run by the parents, with financial responsibility residing in the Board of Directors, elected from among parents and other community leaders. Pedagogical direction, however, is provided by the Agence pour l'Enseignement Français à l'Etranger (Agency for International French Education) under the guidance of the French Ministry of Education.

    I've read reviews of this school and heard parents tell me that this school is quite strict in the approach to discipline. Now a parent with a child at this school, I can say that this is completely untrue.

    Teachers are warm. Classes are well structured and interesting. For Hallowe'en, they brought a bat expert with live bats into our kindergarten class. By the way, I found out this morning that the French word for bat is chauve-souris (bald mouse). Are bats bald? I guess I should have a closer look.

    You hear a lot of French but almost anyone will switch to English (for a parent.) In the classes, there is a 90/10 split. Non-french speaking kids who start at the school get tutoring until they begin to speak French. This is the place to go if you want you child to master intellectual French.

    The parent community is similar to FAIS: international and professional. There are more bilingual French/English parents, who are not as worried about their kids learning English, and fewer Americans than FAIS. Still, the environment is very welcoming to an American non-French speaker.

    Physical location: On Ashbury, two blocks north of Haight, close to Grattan. Beautiful, eclectic building. Two beautiful outdoor playgrounds. Drop off hectic but workable. There is also an excellent K-5 in Corte Madera and some kids transfer from this school to the Ashbury location.

    Application: Parents can apply for preschool, pre-K or kindergarten. The school does not accept kids who are behind grade level in French after kindergarten. There is an interview of the family, but no child assessment. There are no play groups. I felt that the admissions process was very professional.

    If you are interested in this school, be persistent. Many parents are accepted after applying for a second year in a row.

    Birthday cutoff is in December.

    Tuition: unknown.
    Curriculum: CAIS is the premiere (only?) private Mandarin Immersion program in the city. It is highly regarded for its math and science curriculum. The language goal is to teach a child to fully master intellectual written and spoken Mandarin.

    Here is the link:

    CAIS has an eclectic Asian and international focus. Anyone who is thinking of paying their way into this school might want to read their values statement.

    The parent community at this school is professional and academically focused. Many parents are non-Asian. I don't have the percentages, but a non- Asian parent who is interested in a strong academic program and Mandarin language immersion would be very comfortable at this school.

    Physical location: Next to FAIS, urban, in Hayes valley. I am not sure how they work the drop off.

    Application: This is a very difficult school to get into. If you are interested, start when your child is two and apply for preschool. The school has a Sept. 1st birthday cutoff.

  104. 11:44, trying to formulate a serious response to what I assume is a serious question.

    As the other poster says, it is dependent on other expenses--housing costs, elder care, etc. However, I have a hard time imagining how anyone could (debt-free) afford private school for 2 kids without a gross income of at least $150,000 in San Francisco. This would put you, by the way, in the top 3-4% of income in the country, so while that is not "super-rich" it is wealthy by most people's standards (I know we all like to think we're middle class, but I think a little frankness, even with ourselves, is a good thing.)

    Ballpark figures:

    Even $20,000 tuition is really $25,000 when you consider afterschool care, uniforms, transport, special events, extracurricular activities, and expected fundraising contributions. I think realistically that $25,000/child is a good bet. So that's $50,000 off the top.

    Your tax structure may depend on your tax you own you own home? Renting is at least $2000 for a family of four for a decent, if small, place. Cost of ownership? Depends on when you bought. Figure $2500-3000/month with insurance and taxes for a small place, although this is so variable, and you get the mortgage interest deduction. But anyway, $24,000 - $36,000/year. So now you are up to $74,000-86,000 total.

    Taxes--again, depends, and do you qualify for AMT and so forth, but okay wild guess you're paying $35,000 after deductions. Now you are up to $109,000-121,000 total. So what do you spend per month for utitilies? Food? Clothing? Car insurance & gas/other transport? Maybe $2,000/month = $24,000? (perhaps you could cut this down). But in my calculations you are up to $133,000-$145,000.

    Now what about retirement? You would be foolish not to contribute something to your employer's plan, even if you are fortunate enough to qualify for a defined-benefit (pension) plan. 8% a year would be $12,000 if you make $150,000, but say you scrimp and put away only $10,000/year. You are now up to $143-$155,000.

    What are you paying for health care? Maybe your employer picks up some of the tab, but if you are a typical family, even with a good job that pays benefits, you might be paying $5,000 (or much more, I'm trying to be generous here). So now you are up to $148,000 to $160,000.

    This budget leaves *nothing* for a rainy day/big repair, job loss for one of you, extended sickness.

    Obviously these are very, very vague numbers. Maybe someone else has a better back-of-napkin calculation than mine. But I think it gives you a sense of why private school is not normally a (truly) middle class option unless you get financial aid from the school or help from family, or are willing (if you can these days) to mortgage your house or spend your retirement savings.

    I'm not trying to flog the public-private debate, rather to answer the question *realistically.* It is up to you whether or not you take the leap to pay for private school (if given the opportunity), but I think it is wise to do the math to decide if it is sustainable or not for your family.

  105. 1:46 - seems like a very reasonable set of assumptions.
    I think th ekey is to remember the famous Dickens quote:

    "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery"

  106. I haven't heard anything about Convent/Stuart Hall here. What are the kids and families like at those schools?

  107. About quadratic equations:

    Mom with kid in French immersion private program.

    Just wanted to say that a quadratic equation is a no brainer and not something you need to send your kid to Nueva or Hamlin or anywhere else to learn. Not being snobby, just giving out information. Your child could learn this at Kumon just as easily as at a private school, if they do not learn it in public.

    It is part of the middle school California curriculum.

    You could probably pick up a math tutoring book and teach your fifth grader this yourself, if your were motivated.


    y = m * x + b, the equation for a straight line? That is a polynomial equation of the first degree.

    A quadratic equation is the equation for a curve, a polynomial equation of the second order, either concave up or concave down. Here is the very good, free, wiki page:

    Polynomials are very interesting things. One of their uses is to approximate a fit (a curve or line or wiggly line) to data.

    I've often thought that kids could start to learn this stuff in grade five or six, instead of wading through heaps of long division.

    Here is a cool book about some math concepts that will help you understand what your child needs to know to go to college:

    Used Math for the First Two Years of College Science
    by Clifford E. Swartz
    published in 1993

  108. Even $20,000 tuition is really $25,000 when you consider afterschool care, uniforms, transport, special events, extracurricular activities, and expected fundraising contributions. I think realistically that $25,000/child is a good bet. So that's $50,000 off the top.

    I was already factoring in all these extras, except for food. The actual tuition is lower. But you are right, the total for two kids is somewhere on the order of $40,000 per year.

  109. 1:46 here again. Okay, 2:21, so take off $10,000 and you are left with $140,000 or so minimum--but it all depends on tax rate, housing costs, health care needs/costs, and a host of other factors including just how frugal you can be with food, utilities, clothing.

    The real point here is to do this math very realistically and carefully if you are on the bubble. The majority of SF families, who make under $80,000/family of 4, will not be in the ballpark at all. Those making from $80-140,000 would likely be very, very stretched without substantial aid. Those who can afford it easily--surely you know who you are!

    Another thing is to account for unforeseen events such as illness and job loss. Do you have short-term disability insurance? A rainy day fund? Etc.

    Love the Dickens quotation. One's sense of wealth (and happiness) does derive from relative factors--not counting out-and-out poverty, which is a condition I would wish upon no one and which, unfortunately, too many children in this city experience. I volunteer at a food pantry and we are seeing a huge uptick in families coming through.

  110. The question about income you need to support 40K in school costs, totally depends on your overall expenses...

    Generally I would say if you have 10K a month in expenses you need to make at least 200K. And that is very tight.

    Here is some math:
    3500 per month = about 40K per year
    3500 mortgage = about average mortgage
    3000 living expenses = about average for all food, bills, fun, whatever.....

    120K * 1.4 = 168K pre tax on average

    Add 30K for all the unexpected stuff, vaca, savings, etc..

    This is barebones and you probably need to be closer to 250 - 350K to be in a more comfort debt free range.

  111. FWIW, In 2008, the non-white students comprised 16% of the student body at SF Day School. The kinder class this year has 33% non-white parents. I’m not sure how they will count mixed-race kids but that’s how the parents add up. These are the numbers – you can decide for yourself what this represents for you. As a non white parent myself at SFDS, I have to say that I am more than satisfied with the school’s approach at addressing diversity and felt that they *got* it, much better than several other schools that we were considering.

  112. Well, I think the 1:46's assumptions and estimates are generally pretty good. Someone always has a story to tell though, and I guess I will be the one to do it, about sending a kid (only 1 though) to private on a much smaller income than that estimate. We send our kid to a school with tuition in the 17,500 range and no financial aid. We make about half of that estimated income, but are very frugal. It hasn't been a hardship, as we come by our cheapness naturally, plus bought our small and modest home in the 90's. We are not accruing debt, are paying off our mortgage without accessing its (shrinking) equity but are probably not saving as much for retirement as we should be.

    I love the Dickens quote from 2:01 as well, but honestly, we have a very happy life.

  113. I wouldn't be on this web site if I didn't care about education for everybody. That's me with the comments about El Dorado, as well as the info on the private language immersion programs and the arguments for perspective.

    I wish the public schools were universally better. Some of them are pretty damn good, but they are not available to everyone, and once you are in the $200,000 range, well, you can forget about Alvarado or West Portal or probably even Munroe.

    Some people choose to buy an inexpensive house in Bernal and spend the difference on their child's education.

    Public school is good in some cases. What concerns me is the lag in math scores and the dearth of good science teaching.

    I love science! It has been a major force in my life. It informs every trip to the beach, every look at the bright blue sky, and my hope for our great grand children in terms of our options to mitigate climate change. It is our guide to a prosperous and liveable economic future.

    I hope we all find the best education possible for our kids.

    I hope we are intelligent and informed consumers of education.

  114. Okay, really not trying to hijack the thread, I promise, and I don't mean this in a mean way, but I have to ask:

    * Is there an inexpensive house in Bernal? What is inexpensive? given that most families are earning under $75K/year? Buying a house requires capital and credit as well as income. Buying a house now (as opposed to the 90s or 80s) means huge property taxes since prop 13 benefits long-time homeowners. Living here is expensive, period. I don't think I know anyone who wouldn't sacrifice for their kids' education, but private school is simply, factually, out of reach for most, and many also calculate the possibility of getting a decent public education when they consider sustainability and stretching beyond their means. It's no slam on most people that they cannot do this, or choose not to do this if it means losing other good quality of life, such as family time.

    * Re science education, I think the FOSS kits have helped a lot on the elementary level. They are in most if not all of the schools, and they are pretty good. I've seen that several dozen schools have found outside resources such as SFSU and UCSF to help as well. Some schools, such as Marshall, have the Odyssey of the Mind program.

    I guess the question is, is it adequate? We would all love to have more. Is it adequate compared to stretching beyond our means to go to private school? That is a much more arguable point, and a bet many of us have been willing to make, especially supplementing with extracurricular activities (Academy of Science, Lawrence, Chabot, etc.).

    As far as facilities go, especially on the middle school level, I believe you are correct in the sense that the private schools tend to be, well, wow, when it comes to those. I have appreciated the strong public middle school curriculum, however, and my kid has loved the experiments supplied by the student teacher from SFSU.

    Re high school, there are differences across the public schools in terms of science. Lowell and Lincoln are great--and the iGen program at Lincoln beats pretty much all the opportunities out there at any school, public or private. They get to work with UCSF researchers and a very stellar teacher.

    All I'm saying is, "dearth" is a much stronger word than is warranted.

    Okay--back to regularly scheduled programming.

  115. 3:12:

    2:55 here.

    Mostly, I think you are right on.

    BTW, both my husband and I went to public school. We both have advanced degrees in engineering. My husband, who is in his forties, recently paid off the last of his Pell grants.

    I've already put up lots of info about public school science teaching. See the science thread I started a couple of months ago.

    Cheap house in Bernal, relatively speaking . . . in the $500,000 range. Total taxes paid, including city, state and federal, in the $50,000 range. Local schools: more than half the kids fail their CSTs in all subjects.

    Yes, Lowell and Lincoln are great schools. What about all the kids that don't get into them? What about those second chances, like the ones Obama had?

    Signing off 'til Monday.

    So nice to talk with you.

  116. One thing to remember is that tuition tends to go up between 4 and 8% a year. The schools tend to move in lockstep upwards, so they all keep getting more expensive. That's what finally pushed us out and into the publics, we realized that our income was going up on 2 to 3% a year and that the margin by which we could afford private school decreased every year. We chose to jump when there was a chance of getting into a good public school, rather than waiting until we really just couldn't afford it any more.
    Some schools also used to ask that parents borrow money on their houses before giving financial aid, but that was before the housing downturn, so I don't know if it's happening any more. It seemed a pretty ballsy thing to presume people would do, I thought.

  117. FYI, dirty little secret at most private schools is that while they have ALWAYS admitted lots of non-white students in kindergarten, most of these leave before middle school.

    So when you see very diverse lower grades and very white upper grades, don't assume the school has suddently gotten religion about attracting a more diverse student body. It may be that those families end up dropping out by middle school because *admitting* those families and making them feel truly *welcome* is not always the same thing.

    Buyer beware.

    BTW: Less than 30 percent of school-age kids in San Francisco are white. So even at the most "diverse" private schools, white kids are WAY over-represented.

  118. The other thing to remember is that in some schools you may have a lesser chance of getting accepted if you need financial aid. At the very least, you will have a lesser chance of being able to attend even if you are accepted, depending on the financial aid offer.

    This varies from school to school--I understood when we applied that Live Oak and Synergy give more scholarships broadly (but less money per scholarship), whereas Hamlin gives fewer scholarships but more money per scholarship. I don't know if that is true, but it's something to ask.

    But in any case--assuming a "kill rate" of 10/100 overall, you can cut that to 3.5 out of 100 if the financial aid rate is 35%. You may be able raise this slightly by applying to multiple schools (for more money and time however); say 500 people are applying for the same 125 spots at 5 schools, the kill rate may be 25/100--but then you would be at 8-9% in needing assistance.

    It is, of course, a personal decision about whether to invest in a process of tours, coffees, parent interviews, and child playdates at multiple schools for a 91-97% chance of not ending up there (I think I am being generous with the odds....schools will differ in sibling rates and gender needs). The other thing to consider is that if your child is very active, "spirited," stubborn, or quirky, or is young, then you should reduce the odds even more in your head.

    Of course--this is broad strokes. If your child is a phenomenal fit, bright-but-not-too-bright, and/or you add significant diversity (Asian/white parents don't count, nor does lesbian/gay--but Buppie and Huppie families definitely do)--then raise the odds.

    For some, it is indeed worth it to apply for even a small (single-digit) shot.

    However, if you need a lot of financial aid, I would strongly suggest having parochial backup and/or participating in the SFUSD lottery, which is, after all, free to try and you don't HAVE to tour. Although even there you have to remember the list of 11 that Rachel Norton posted about--the vast majority of 0/7s last year put one of them as a 1 and/or 2 pick.

    I guess my bottom line is, try to assess the odds very cold-heartedly in this process. It is so easy to be driven by emotion, desire, and what you see on the tour. There are lots of good schools in this town of all types.

    In any case, good luck to everyone.

  119. ROFL at poster that says "most of these leave before middle school". Wow is that amusing. Hey don't let the haters throw you. Pretty much all the "I know 3 families. . " and "I've heard that. . " is nothing more than untrue gossip. Go and see the schools and make your own decisions. Obviously the biggest question usually comes down to money. It's extremely expensive and aid is hard to come by. It happens though and it's always worth a shot. This will (has) quickly denigrate into a private vs public thing. Every one of these threads always do and lots of people play both sides of the line by purposely being a jerk for one side when they really only support the other. Best of luck.

  120. Really. My personal favorite is the "My kid is truly gifted or the gifted of the gifted" and privates don't want her.

  121. Marin Prep is probably a good back up. This year they took everyone who applied. That probably won't be the case next year, but the odds will still be better than at other privates.

  122. lots of people play both sides of the line by purposely being a jerk for one side when they really only support the other.

    is that really true, or *maybe* just a few people do this? i mean, jeez, i have my personal opinions and i care, but who would have interest and time to do something that involved?

  123. It's the internets!! Are you seriously asking that?

  124. just having a look at another blog, i was going to try to stay away from this blog 'til monday, but when my husband also said he'd read about the same thing elsewhere, i thought i'd comment.

    in the last year, four palo alto kids have committed suicide from one school, the last by sitting in front of a train.

    i read the article, and then i read the first comment, by one "travis":

    it was the travis comments that really got me.

    "My guess is that [absence of] a sense of love is a strong factor in their motivation. When we don't feel loved and we are lonely and left to our own devices and we see nothing for our future, except for more loneliness...

    Love, true unconditional love, and attention for these kids will probably do the most for them. To be lifted up and given hope. To teach that they can lift up and give others hope.

    You could probably analyze to death the reasons why. Poor economy. Negative interactions with parents, because of poor economy. . . Stress to succeed in something they aren't succeeding at."

    love. strange that we have to be reminded of something so simple, yet so difficult.

  125. Go and see the schools and see how many students of color there are in the upper grades compared to kinder and first.

    Then ask the parents of 8th graders if there weren't any kids of color admitted in kindergarten or if there were and they left. You'll be shocked by the answer.

    Schools have been pretty good about admitting "diverse" kindergarteners for a while. Keeping them is not as easy.

  126. what on earth is buppie and huppie?

  127. You're right 9:38! I asked a bunch and they said that "most" (over 50%) of the minorities leave because they feel uncomfortable. Word was, I heard it from a friend that there was a secret KKK sect in the upper school that made them leave. In fact, they all went public because the sect took money from the school endowment and dumped it into the public system. I also heard families all left because there was a rumor that only nanny approved families were allowed to attend. C'mon, where do you come up with this stuff. Think about what you are saying "Most (minority) families leave by upper school". Sure, minorities are under represented as a whole but the supposition that they are driven out or feel uncomfortable and leave or something is just such a load of BS. Think of it another way, would it be a "dirty little secret" if over HALF of the minorities left because of such a reason? Not much of a secret.

  128. This person, whoever they are, who is try to stir up trouble by implying that minority families are deliberately pushed out of private schools, should think about some of the larger dynamics that minority families experience in this city.

    The first dynamic is that African American middle class families are increasingly selling their homes and moving to Oakland, and elsewhere. There was a Chronicle article written about this earlier this year.

    The second is that minority families may find a spot open at a good public school and switch to that after several years.

    It is true that minority families such as Latinos and African Americans, as a group, are somewhat less affluent than some of the other private school families. These families are probably more likely to switch to a good public school when they get the chance.

    Latino families also have more children, as a group, than other families. That is not a judgement. It is statistically true. I know very few private school families in this city, of any demographic, that could afford to pay for three or more private school tuitions.

    I am not sure what the dynamic is in the Asian community, but I have met a lot of very accomplished and wealthy Asians in my time here in SF. Many of them do send their kids to private school and don't look like they will be pulling them out anytime soon. Same for Indian families.

    My point here is that there are many reasons that minority families leave private school, but they are unlikely to have very much to do with not being welcome at the school. And if a family decides to leave because they got fed up with "upright polished consulting firm mom" I think they should reconsider. None of us are all that crazy about "upright polished consulting firm mom" either. Not to knock you too much, Hamlin mom, but you need to cool it.

    It is an important conversation to have: yes, we must strive to create a community at a school for all families. However, I see the controlling, selfish, entitled, unwelcoming white people argument leveled a little too often.

    I'm also tired of the collective white guilt arguments. I heard one of these zinger arguments made on an NPR program the other day, but a Harvard student, no less. These arguments are not productive. My ancestors were either starving in Scotland and Ireland during much of the time of slavery or were ardent Yankee abolitionists and reformers.

    There is a Free Methodist Church at the end of my street that gives out free food every weekend. The line wraps around the block. Yep, those evil 'white guy' Methodists.
    Let's throw them into the bin.

    I'm not religious, but if you are going to condemn all Europeans and white people as evil doers, then you condemn in one brush stroke the hard fought moral basis of one of the greatest world struggles for dignity and equality over the last 2500 years.

    Perhaps it is time to move on to more nuanced and productive topics than the endless, blunt ended, ridiculously carved out discussions of white vs. black, white vs. asian and white vs. latino?

  129. Anyone go to the Burkes fair this weekend? A great way to learn about the school and see all the families..

  130. buppie = black urban professional
    huppie = hispanic urban professional

    if you are one of these, your child will be sought after by most of the private schools because you will be adding racial diversity in exactly the ways that private schools are most lacking, without adding in the complications of class diversity that are probably the most challenging issues of all (not saying that it's ever easy to be any kind of minority, e.g., one of two black kids in a class of mostly white kids).

  131. "Perhaps it is time to move on to more nuanced and productive topics than the endless, blunt ended, ridiculously carved out discussions of white vs. black, white vs. asian and white vs. latino?"


    I agree that more nuance would be really good, but I don't think head-in-the-sand is good either. Certainly there is no KKK or any effort to drive kids away. I assume good will on everyone's part. But that doesn't mean it is always comfortable to be one of the few kids of color in a classroom, especially for Black and Latino kids who are particularly under-represented in our private schools. That may not be why families leave--attrition happens for all kinds of reasons--but then if there are only a few Black kids, when one leaves, that is a significant drop in %, and it also has an impact on those remaining.

    I can think of several things schools could do to strengthen retention rates: 1) be intentional about celebrating Black and Latino cultures along with everything else (some schools do this, I know); 2) hire Black and Latino faculty/staff (hooray, Hamlin, and I saw a Black and female science teacher at Live Oak, which is doubly awesome); and 3) be intentional about recruiting from the beginning a critical mass of kids of color, especially Black and Latino (and not only mixed-race kids and adopted/mixed family kids either, but also fully Black and Latino families) from the beginning. It would be amazing to have 1/3 of the class be in this category. The whole feel of a school would be different. If half the kids were kids of color altogether, including Black, Latino, and Asian, that would be amazing too. It would just be a different dyanmic. Just imagine how it would feel to walk into such a community. It would be different. Now try to see that from the perspective of a Black child and how it would feel to him or her to have a critical mass of role models and peers who "look like me." In terms of race, we're just not quite there in the U.S.--although we have come far--and something like this would help.

    There is largely a public/private racial divide for kids in this city but it does not have to be that way! We have such diversity here in SF, so unlike some places it would be possible to do this, I would think. I think Synergy has focused on this issue more than any other. Perhaps Hamlin will too with their new director.

    So go ahead and slam me for being a naysayer. I don't think it's a big racist plot or anything, but I'm sorry, I don't think it's not a real issue for the private schools either. And there are practical steps that can be taken to help.

  132. I wonder why Hamlin gets mentioned so much on this board. If I was from another city I'd assume it was one of four privates in SF!

    Anyway, one reason Wanda Greene came to Hamlin was because she was so impressed with the school's efforts with regards to diversity. It attracted us and many other parents we know as well. I'd encourage anyone curious about the issue to check out the school for themselves.

    Hamlin and other schools have families with one child in private and another (or more) in public. Sometimes public school parents and private school parents are the same people.

  133. Thank you, 3:20.

    It is good to hear from you. I like your specific suggestions about hiring and promoting diverse faculty.

    Some of your comments made me recollect some strange private school tour experiences. I remember one school last year that made a big todo about increasing diversity by grovelling to enroll two adopted African American children of a very wealthy white gay couple. In another school, I observed a cluster of African American children in one class in a school that was otherwise very white. That surely must have occured in a year with low enrollment or some other event that was not subsequently continued. I'm not saying these were bad things in and of themselves, but it is strange to observe how awkward and contrived some of our efforts at diversity are.

    It is of course always very disconcerting to think of the loneliness that comes with being one of a very few number of black or Latino chilren in a sea of otherwise white faces. I do think it is important to have a diverse staff. Not just so that minority children can have roll models, but so non minority children can have roll models. We all need to have our boundaries pushed, after all.

    On the topic of kids having a critical mass of peers of their own race . . . That is sometimes hard to achieve for a large number of reasons. Over the years, I've been surprised by the number of times a black person, usually American, not from the Caribbean or Africa, will tell me that academic learning is a white thing. I can see why they would think that, but it is very defeating. When minorities think that, it does reduce the pool of people that will be willing to slog it out through the years of academic learning private school and beyond are likely to entail.

    I'm not saying that having a critical mass of minority kids isn't important, but families must be prepared to take on the years of work of an academic education. It is sometimes hard to find a large number of these academically focused minority families, even in a city like San Francisco. Economics also weigh in.

    Many of us whities are well aware of how lonely our minority parents and kids must feel at a school. We want them to come with us, but we also don't want to be in their face.

  134. I'll add, in my comment above, about the African American kids of the wealthy gay couple, that that was the example the admissions director gave, when asked about diversity at the school.

    This seemed to be the only example he had. Meanwhile, there was a white lesbian couple in the room with one daughter, who the admissions director didn't seem that interested in.

    Another school I toured, although at least half white, had many different faces from all over the world. It seemed a much more comfortable place.

    It would be interesting to know why certain schools naturally attract a more diverse group and what makes that happen.

  135. Question many applicants? and how many acceptances? No one can force anyone to apply or accept so perhaps Hamlin is just doing the best it can. You also did not say, how much of the K class is diverse in other ways besides of a latin background and how you figure there are 3/4 students who are latin (eye-balling does not support the number as many kids do not look "latin" or any other background). How many kids add socio-economic diversity? How many are diverse in other ways? I find it ironic that there are public schools that are over 86% of a single race for K-5 with such a critique of a private school.

  136. In Hamlin's kindergarten class of 44 there are (as the last person pointed out somehow negatively) 4 Latina girls, as well as Asian girls and African American girls. Of the three kindergartens classes there is one African American teacher and one Latino teacher. I have two daughters at Hamlin, one in upper school and one in lower. Over the past few years I have seen them make an increasingly concerted effort to have a school that is more representative in the student body and staff.

  137. " I find it ironic that there are public schools that are over 86% of a single race for K-5 with such a critique of a private school.

    Well put.

  138. More white kids apply to private schools. The pool is bigger, and more are accepted. Less kids that lend diversity apply to private schools. Lots of reasons, many already mentioned. But the pool is smaller, so less are accepted. They aren't going to accept a child just because s/he is African American or Latino or Native American, or is Muslim or has gay parents or single parents or is at a lower socio-economic level. There are lots of other variables that come into play, including birthdate, social and academic readiness, parent interviews, many other things. And as another poster stated, just because a school accepts someone doesn't mean they will choose to attend. So sure, an academically bright, socially mature African American boy would probably be on the top of many school accpetance lists, but if he gets into three schools he can only go to one. And really, as much as I'm sure the independent schools would love to have more diversity, the entire Mission is not applying to Hamlin. It just isn't. Schools are doing their best, all things considered.

  139. "Yes, Lowell and Lincoln are great schools. What about all the kids that don't get into them?"

    Actually, the notion that Lincoln is an outlier second only to Lowell is simply not true, unless you're going by un-quantifiable factors other than API.

    First, a disclaimer reminder that Lowell admits by academic achievement, so it skims off top achievers from all schools -- thus the far higher API.

    Spring 2009 API:

    Lowell 949
    Washington 785
    School of the Arts 781
    Galileo 757
    Lincoln 751
    Balboa 747
    Raoul Wallenberg 744
    Gateway Charter 743

    Again, before anyone flips out about the fact that all the other high schools are under 800, remember that Lowell has skimmed off most the top X percent of achievers (I don't know the percentage, but Lowell is a big school).

    If you removed the same percentage off the top of any school -- private or public -- the overall score would drop considerably. That doesn't mean your individual student won't do as well in any of those other schools as he/she would at Lowell. It just means the students who would raise the average have clustered at Lowell.

    You can see that the spread among the six high schools behind Lowell is not large.

  140. 3:20 PM

    I'm going to ask you a tough question.

    Why should recruit a critical mass of kids of color, ESPECIALLY Black and Latino?

    What about other minorities?

    I can think of some obvious reasons to recruit African American families, such as the fact that most are the descendents of slaves and have been segregated for centuries.

    I am not as sure about the case for Latinos.

    If I'm missing something here, please fill me in.

    What about our responsibility to indigenous Californians, for instance? Does a Latin American from Chile have minority rights that are equal to a Latin American from Mexico?

    You can probably see where this is going.

    How do you draw the boundaries of who is and is not a minority?

  141. Oops, I mean the seven schools behind Lowell. I added one at the last minute.

  142. Sorry:

    Rephrasing in the above:

    "Why should WE recruit a critical mass of kids of color, ESPECIALLY Black and Latino?"

  143. " I find it ironic that there are public schools that are over 86% of a single race for K-5 with such a critique of a private school.

    Well put.

    Except that:

    1) the vast majority of SFUSD schools are not this segregated by race or ethnicity. the majority of SFUSD schools are phenomenally diverse by almost any standard, and much more so than most if not all of the private schools.

    2) those that are segregated are a cause of concern for the BoE and this is one of the areas of focus of the assignment redesign, so they are taking practical steps to address it.

    3) SFUSD, unlike any private school, is not allowed to consider race as a factor in assignment, so the district has fewer tools to use to address racial segregation.

    In any case, I'm not sure it was a public school parent or advocate who was making the critique. 3:20 for example seems to be a parent who has toured private schools and had this as a concern. It's a valid concern for private schools in this city all on its own, with no need to go attacking the public schools along the same lines (I think this would be called argument by deflection?). Yes, the public schools have to address this and lots of issues, and have to use different means to do so. On matters of diversity, they obviously have the private schools beat by a long shot at all but a few schools. On other matters, that's a different question.

    Anyway, 3:20 had some very good suggestions about what private schools can do. To the ideas of celebrating culture, hiring teachers, and recruiting a critical mass, I would add--in response to those who say there is not a critical mass of folks applying--that resources can be devoted to actually recruiting that critical mass. If a school wants to tackle the diversity question, there is enough diversity in the city, including lots of people of color who would love a shot at a stellar education for their children, to imagine being able to pull them in.

    But it might take hiring someone to implement a strong networking campaign and special events within communities of color, and it might mean providing more scholarship $$$ too, because that is the economic reality of race in this city. Does anyone know which schools are actually doing anything like this? I think I heard that Synergy was, but I'm not sure about others.

    I really think it could be done, given the population here, just that I don't think most private schools can just rely on people walking through their door if this is a priority.

    I do agree it would make a huge difference to a community to have one-third to one-half people of color, including significant #s of African Americans and Latinos. That would be transformative for some of these schools, in a good way.

  144. 8:02/8:07

    I don't think it's a question of owing anybody anything, or entitlements.

    I think it's about how to raise our kids in our multicultural world and ever-smaller world, to be global citizens with facility in cross-cultural interaction. The fact is that private schools in this city far over-represent the % of white kids and under-represent everyone else .... including Asian kids except at CAIS, but at least there are significant numbers of Asian kids at most private schools! There are not significant numbers of Latino and Black kids, however.

    Private school kids are deprived of the cultural richness of our city and state. The schools would be more dynamic places if there were more cultural diversity. I do believe that some families are leery of sending their kids to some of these schools, despite the amazing opportunities there, because they are afraid their children will be lonely or isolated. Even some white families avoid them because they just seems so whitebread--and that is not great education in 21st century America! So the schools themselves are losing potential families.

    Becoming more diverse would mean recruiting more Black and Latino kids. You are right though that "Latino" is a broad term--Chileans, Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Salvaradans, Dominicans, Peruvians--all very different. And African Americans have a different cultural heritage than those from the Caribbean and Africa--itself a huge continent. But I'd say, start somewhere, anywhere!

  145. Just to remember, all races of kids are minorities in San Francisco. There is no majority racial group of children in the city as a whole. Therefore any school that claims to represent the cultures of San Francisco will not have any majority group. (I'm not aiming this comment at any one school or type of school, just pointing it out as food for thought).

  146. 8:00PM

    I'm the one who made the comment about Lowell and Lincoln.

    I don't know about the details at every public high school. There are bright lights in many schools, obviously. I know of a very good computer science/math teacher at Balboa, from MIT, for instance.

    I did visit Washington High recently. It seemed shockingly overcrowded.

    Some of the kids at these schools will succeed, there is no doubt of that. But the CST test scores could be better. It is hard to think about the kids who are struggling with the large class sizes and perhaps, little outside help or encouragement.

    One thing is for sure. The kids that do succeed at these schools will probably be well prepared for college, at least in terms of their self motivation.

    Thank you for putting up some numbers.

  147. 8:02PM Here again.

    So here is lose demographic at my child's private school, the Lycee:

    I don't have the numbers, so admittedly, this not based on data, just experience.

    There are obviously many French Nationals at the school, representing the many ethnicities and regions of France. There are also North Africans, several parents from Martinique and other Caribbean countries, several mixed race Japanese, many francophone Canadians, many anglophone Canadians, at least two families that are Sub Saharan African, several families of Greek ancestry, several families from south American including one specifically from Argentina, a number of Chinese families, several Vietnamese families, some Germans and several families of Indian Ancestry. Finally, there are a number of Caucasian Americans. I am sure I have missed a few.

    This mix is a little different than the specific African American, Latino, Asian, Caucausian mix that you guys are talking about. Some of the diversity is a melange of Caucasian ethnicities and cultures. Some isn't. It's French, after all.

    Anyway, I hope we are broad enough to be diverse in our thinking about how we define diversity.

  148. Thanks, 9:04. You make a good point about differing ways to define diversity. However, I tend to think the Lycee is a special case in San Francisco. As it is funded by the French government, and aimed at French nationals first and foremost (who are subsidized, right?), it is natural that diversity there would be defined in very French terms--former French colonies and other francophone areas--West and North Africa, Vietnam, Quebec....this is France's legacy of diversity, no? The diversity that one must understand to live in France or in the French-speaking world today. CAIS and FAIS might also have specifically different set of ideas with regard to diversity.

    For schools whose tradition is not defined by a specific country or culture such as that, it would make more sense to define diversity in terms of San Francisco, California, and the U.S. ... this is the world these kids are being raised in, and the one they will be contend with.

    In any case, I tend to think that cross-cultural skills are transferable. Those who learn early and through experience in their daily lives how to live within significant diversity will be well-prepared in that sense. Those who speak more than one language with fluency will be even better prepared. The world is only getting smaller.

  149. How about trying to have a graduating class that reflects the demographics of San Francisco?

    White kids are a MINORITY in the city overall. There are FAR more Asians and Latinos than white, school-age kids in SF. And yet... just 4 latinos at Hamlin?

    White kids are WAY over-represented in private schools vis-a-vis their proportion of the population.

    That's because it is all about $$$$, and attracting more minority families would mean committing more money for financial aid.

    And yet, those families will not feel truly welcomed and included until there is more of a critical mass.

  150. White kids are a minority in SF, but they are a majority in the applicant pool at independent schools. Hamlin has a diversity committee that goes out into underrepresented groups (liaisons w/ preschools, churches, community groups, in unrepresented areas etc.) to try to get a more diverse applicant pool. They aren't just waiting for these people to walk through the door at an open house. I'm fairly certain Cathedral School for Boys and Synergy do this as well, and I'm sure others that I don't know about. This is a silly argument anyway -- go look at the school. If you have questions, go to diversity meetings and ask the questions you are throwing out here. Ask if there are 4 latina girls. Maybe there are more. Maybe there are less. I don't think this blog is an accurate source of information. If you like what you see and you like what you hear, apply. If not, that's fine too. Independent schools will never be as diverse as a public school. I don't think anyone is claiming that. But I will claim that Hamlin (and other schools) are actively working on it, and I will also claim that it is a comfortable and welcoming environment regardless of ethnic and socio-economic diversity.

  151. We have a kindergartner at SF Day. We are non-white. There are 20-21 kids who are mixed race or non-white out of 44 kids in the kindergarten classes. Someone else earlier noted that a third of the parents are non-white.

    We are happy with how they are addressing diversity at our school. Speaking frankly, there are schools that just talk about diversity because they are supposed to. We didn't feel that way at SF Day and one of the reasons we chose the school from several choices that we had.

    YMMV. For some people, it will be never enough. We can only tell you our experience and if you are interested in the school, go see for yourself and talk to the parents and staff and see if it is a viable option for your family.

  152. To 11:10 PM

    Very helpful. And hopeful too.

  153. More on SFUSD high schools:

    Washington is a big school; my understanding is that it's not overcrowded based on the usual definition -- just that it's really big and holds a lot of students.

    It also has an amazing principal in Ericka Lovrin, by the way.

    But, as noted, I posted the numbers to dispel the erroneous notion that reflects what was the '90s myth about SFUSD elementary schools: "There are only (fill in tiny number) decent schools, and if you can't get into one of them, you have to go private or move."

    As with elementary and middle schools, the situation with high schools has actually been a picture of consistent improvement, even with the ongoing budget crunch. Not that long ago, the belief WAS that if your child wasn't Lowell or SOTA material, it was Lincoln, Washington, maybe Wallenberg or Gateway, or doom. The rise of Balboa and Galileo to the level of Lincoln and Washington has taken that pressure off -- as you can see, families now have a decent selection of successful high schools to choose from. And, frankly, it's not hard to get one of them unless you really screw up your strategy on the application (putting down ONLY Lincoln, for example).

  154. ...and, 8:20, I would say that many of the students at those high schools will succeed. As with any school (including private schools!), the students who come to school with the advantages that predispose them to succeed will do fine; those in more challenged situations will face more difficulty -- that's unfortunately the way of the world.

    As I know a Latino Balboa alum from the projects who's on full scholarship at Stanford and doing fine there, I know firsthand that this can happen.

  155. it would be foolish to leave class out of the diversity (lack of diversity) critique of private schools. in some ways, it's the bigger albatross, highlighting, as it does, the fundamental problem with private institutions: with a very few exceptions, they only let in people who can buy their way in.

    then again, we'd be just as foolish not to recognize that some don't view this as a problem! i mean, aren't many parents choosing these places because they *don't* want their kids to associate with poor, middle-class, AA and L students? surely, a significant slice of the pie regards the exclusivity as a plus, not a minus?

    let's be real. this view is present even at some of our more self-selected publics (the west side, largely asian schools, miraloma, grattan and clarendon are good examples). we attended clarendon last year, so i'm not completely without first-hand experience. there are many nice people there. there may even be a couple of diversity chasers (never met one, but i think they could, you know, survive). but there is also a significant -- very significant -- number who view their kid's placement as a fortuitous escape from the great, unwashed, swarthy, impoverished, un-academically inclined masses. once, a parent i had found simpatico told me they too had had their hearts set on immersion -- until they actually toured immersion schools and began to dislike the children from the target language group. "the kids were very disruptive," she said. "these families just don't value education." hmm...another parent once told me how grateful they were to have transferred to clarendon because, "children actually got out of their seats" at the other school during class. it strikes me that these attitudes are very culturally bound and for whatever reason, exposure to the mere prospect of experiencing "diversity" -- whatever that means -- made them want it less, not more.

    since many, if not most, of clarendon families would have been headed to private schools if they had not been assigned there, i can only imagine this view is also pervasive in the private milieu.

  156. Back to cost and income. What is the cost for after-school program? What is the cost for summer camp(s) to cover 8-10 hours per day while school is out? We know we our income to need more than the $20,000 tuition, but how much more?

  157. Depends on how much of the summer and holidays you can take as vacation to spend with your kids vs. how many weeks you need for childcare.

    But I would say $5000 minimum for the whole kit-and-kaboodle, per child. You may be able to pay up to that amount pre-tax if your employer has a dependent care account, so take your federal tax % off the top of that; however that means filing a lot of paperwork and getting reimbursed, which may not work if your cash flow is very tight.

    Thus, I think $25,000 is a pretty reasonable estimate for private school tuition. Go up from there if the tuition base is over $20,000, or if there are a lot of fees for extracurricular activities.

  158. To: 11:09 AM

    "What is the cost of after school and summer school?"

    It varies all over the map. Some schools get their juice out of these extra programs. In others, they aren't cheap but are less expensive.

  159. We are applying to independent schools now, and I cannot find any information about standardized test scores at these schools.

    I believe too much attention is paid to testing, but this is a useful way to compare academic results between schools.

    Do independents have something equivalent to the STAR test?

    If so, why aren't the data readily disclosed?

  160. Most private schools will tell you up front what the cost of their aftercare is. The cost of camps really does vary widely. We have generally spent about $2000/year on camps. That's for 8 weeks spead through the year. When we needed aftercare, that was about another $1000.

  161. Kim,

    Lycee mom here.

    We can bisect and trisect the diversity argument. As there is intelligence, there is also ignorance in every class and racial demographic.

    Lycee mom married one of the "great unwashed, swarthy, impoverished, [apparently] un-academically inclined" kids of a generation ago, a Greek. I don't think I am alone in marrying a smart, driven, funny, good-looking kid from the other side of the tracks.

    When I told my Dad, who had studied some theology, about my intensions, he told me that "they" were going to put smoke on me. [The incense, for those of you who don't know much about the Orthodox faith.]

    His great aunt still keeps a herd of goats in her basement. I don't feel very much in need of rounding out our family's experiences by sending my daughter to a particular school.

    Class and the perception of race can be rather fluid things. What we want is for that kid from Balboa who made it to Stanford to fly.

    Perhaps it is too simple, but I'm asking you:

    "Do you want to bring the bottom up or the top down?"

  162. Full-time licensed afterschool care (till 6pm for working parents, as opposed to extracurrciular programs set up mainly for enchrichment) for 9 months is probably at least $300/month if not a little more. So, $2700-3000 is not out of the ballpark for the school year.

    For the summer you can do Park and Rec for as little as $100/week, but it doesn't cover full-day care, e.g., Silver Tree has a Thursday night campfire thing and doesn't open until 1pm on that day, and pick up is earlier than 6pm. If you can swing a flex schedule with 2 parents, that's great; otherwise, you'll need to pay more for full-day care. Fancy camps that teach a big skill will cost a lot, even $400-500/week for day camp. $250/week, or $50/day including extended hours, is probably normal.

    I get three weeks of vacation, which I take with my kids. So with 10 summer weeks that is usually 6 weeks x $250 = $1500 plus $100 for Silver Tree = $1600/child. Add in spring vacation and one week of winter vacation (we get admin leave for Christmas that doesn't count as vacation, so only one week demands childcare) and you are up to $2100. Add in various other random days and it is more like $2250. Plus $3000 regular afterschool care = $5,250.

    However, I put most of that on the flexible spending dependent care account and it is more like $3,700 per child because of tax savings.

    Hope that helps.

  163. "As the other poster says, it is dependent on other expenses--housing costs, elder care, etc. However, I have a hard time imagining how anyone could (debt-free) afford private school for 2 kids without a gross income of at least $150,000 in San Francisco."

    $150K gross income for one maybe, and even then you'd be doing substantial belt-tightening, and would have had to be lucky on when you bought your house or started renting. For two kids, I'd think you'd be talking $200K.

  164. "I wish the public schools were universally better. Some of them are pretty damn good, but they are not available to everyone, and once you are in the $200,000 range, well, you can forget about Alvarado or West Portal or probably even Munroe."

    I'm puzzled by this statement. Do you mean it that above $200K, you'd go to private, or are you suggesting that above $200K you don't have a chance of getting into said schools?

    If the latter, then you're wrong: the lottery's two economic variables are whether you're in extreme poverty or in receipt of public assistance. So, a car mechanic and a VC would score the same on the economic diversity variables. So go ahead and apply to Monroe and the rest: as 66% at Monroe receive free or reduced lunch, you'd probably be counted as adding economic diversity there.

  165. "there may even be a couple of diversity chasers (never met one, but i think they could, you know, survive). but there is also a significant -- very significant -- number who view their kid's placement as a fortuitous escape from the great, unwashed, swarthy, impoverished, un-academically inclined masses. once, a parent i had found simpatico told me they too had had their hearts set on immersion -- until they actually toured immersion schools and began to dislike the children from the target language group."

    I think there's a real lack of appreciation of how ethnically diverse San Francisco is, and that given that 10% of the intake of SFUSD is non-hispanic caucasian, there's an inability for some to picture one's kid being only one or two of their ethnicity in the school.

    It's a very subliminal xenoadversion (I think xenophobia's too strong a term for it).

  166. "For two kids, I'd think you'd be talking $200K."

    Yes, I think that is about right, maybe about $220K.

    It has taken a lot of posts to get to this.

    Many private school families don't have two kids. They have one. With one kid, there is one less tuition to pay for. Of course, it also makes it easier for the parents, and in most cases, the mom, to focus on career, hobbies and community.

    Just pointing this out because I hear from so many parents that they feel their child will be damaged and alone if they do not have a brother or sister.

    Research does not bear this out. As it turns out, only children are not more or less selfish than other children. In their demenor and accomplishments, they are like oldest children. There is a lot of evidence to show that they benefit from the extra attention and resources their parents can afford them.

  167. correction: demeanor.

  168. xenoaversion.

    Interesting word.

    (Xeno - from Greek, literally, Outsider.)

    We are never going to completely solve this. We are wasting a lot of extremely hard-to-come-by resources, our teachers, by trying to get a particular racial mix in our schools.

    We would do better to refocus on the STAR school program. Make it stronger and better. No funds? I came across this article last night:

    Priority Test: Health Care or Prisons?

  169. Did I miss something? I thought this topic was about tips for going through the private school process.

  170. While I am sure there a few nasties out there, I have to disagree that a material number of people choose private schools (or Clarendon for that matter) to avoid being around poor or middle class or non-white people. People seek out high-performing public and private schools because of the perception that the critical mass of the kids at those schools come from families who, regardless of race or wealth, are highly focused on education. As a result, the thinking goes, the school can get right down to education, rather than devoting excessive time and resources to discipline and social service agency activities.

    The typical Joe and Jane Eduphile will need convincing before they will believe that their little Jackie can get enough attention at a school with a very high-need population. Aren't education-focused families flocking to new and untested language immersion programs in previously under-performing schools because of the perception the schools' overall performance will improve now that there will be other education-focused families sending their kids to those schools to become bilingual?

    To the extent schools are "exclusive," it seems that the attitude is not based on race or class, but wanting to maintain an education-focused environment.

    BTW, has anyone met a private family who's opposed to greater racial and economic diversity at their school? I haven't . . . I find that private families in San Francisco are very supportive of more money for scholarships and more recruiting in traditionally under-represented populations. They want their gates opened wider, not built higher . . . though it must be said that a typical private family would probably not want their school opened up to learning differences or behavior problems that would significantly disrupt its own kids.

    The tragedy is that there is not enough familial or public social infrastructure outside school to enable every kid to come to school ready to learn. Which then raises another question--would private schools do better to fund two scholarships for kids whose families lack money but who are focused on education, or to fund one scholarship plus a lot of other services for a kid whose problems are bigger than lack of funds . . . and if they tried the latter approach, could they surmount apathy/lack of support at home any better than public schools are able to do?

    Well, back to the topic: Rather than relying on bloggers' questionable speculation that racism/classism motivate people to choose private, talk to as many families as possible at the private schools you are considering. This should give you a feel for what they're really like and whether the school is a place where the culture and philosophy are comfortable for you. And if you do determine that families at any private schools are motivated by racism/classism, report back . . . that's something everyone will want to know about--seriously!!

  171. 12:05, public schools are required to give their students standardized tests and publicly report the results BECAUSE they're public.

    Private schools don't have to do that (or many things that public schools are required to do) -- that's the nature of being private.

    One still would have to control for demographics -- presumably you're aware that demographics have a huge impact on student achievement, which is why the API is wryly referred to as the Affluent Parent Index.

  172. "Did I miss something? I thought this topic was about tips for going through the private school process."

    Well, yes, it is about private school application tips, but we got onto the "great unwashed" and an endless, already answered, discussion about tuition costs + extras.

    There was a discussion somewhere back there inferring that private school would leave us insufficiently exposed to life experience.

    Just thought I would point out that at least some of us have had plenty of that.

  173. I wanted to point out there are six or seven postings above this one focused on public schools. Yet this one has far more comments, many of them criticizing schools and their communities by name and dragging the topic yet again into another round of public/private debate.

  174. Yes, 2 (or 3) kids are a lot more expensive than 1. Too late for that in my case. :)

    In my private school exploration, I haven't noticed a lot of only children. I'll look for that. Maybe that's the secret. I thought everyone (except me) was just rich so tuition is not a problem for them.

  175. Re private school costs:

    (a) You need child care from 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. 5 days a week all year round.
    (b) You don't have anybody who's going to give you free or below-market help.
    (c) The school requires you to pay for uniforms and the occasional extra (field trip fee, a book here or there).
    (d) You don't spend the entire summer at the least expensive possible camp but maybe throw in a week or two of specialized, more costly activity, and you choose some fee-based after school enrichment.
    (e) You use the after-care provided at school rather than having your child go to an off-site program.
    (f) You don't qualify for, or the school does not offer, any financial aid.
    (g) These are elementary/middle school numbers. High schools usually have higher tuition, expensive book bills, and costs for specific activities (e.g., the AP art history class takes a trip to New York to visit museums).

    For parochial, I would budget $12,000 per child.

    For most other privates (including non-parochial schools with religious affiliations such as Convent, Stuart Hall and Brandeis), I would budget $28,000 per child. Some come in a bit lower (Lycee Francais, Adda Clevenger) but don't even think of a number under $20,000.

    For public, if you can afford to pay, I would think at least $5000 (remember this number includes market rate child care during school vacations and the summer).

    This is all after-tax money, but after-care fees (as opposed to tuition) may qualify for a modest child care tax credit.

    Of course your numbers are going to vary with your circumstances, your zeal as a bargain-hunter, the programs you pick (for example, if I recall correctly, JCC is very pricey), whether you qualify for any financial aid/subsidized services, and whether you indulge your child's passion for [fill in the blank with expensive hobby/lesson]. If cost-conscious people budgeted it out before breeding, they'd probably sterilize themselves.

  176. Based on those assumptions, I would agree--$5,000 public, $12,000 parochial, $28,000 private per child, per year. You can go higher or lower depending on how you jigger those assumptions, as some must and others can or want to do, but those are in the ballpark.

    No judgments! Other than I would suggest taking these #s seriously before you go through the process (and before you decide not to apply for aid).

  177. "If cost-conscious people budgeted it out before breeding, they'd probably sterilize themselves."

    Well, no, but they might wait a bit longer or have one fewer. . . or move to Vermont or something.

    Thanks for the budget. I don't mean to sound glib, but while it is helpful to break out the costs of education, it seems like we are stuck on this point, for some reason.

  178. I'm a parent responding to the blogger who seems intent on inquiring about Hamlin's Kindergarten teacher. I think that inquiries about any school's personnel decisions is out of bounds for this blog. It is not anyone's business except Hamlin's, and teachers at every independent school come and go for a variety of legitimate reasons-- none of which should be a matter of public discussion. I think that parents writing on this blog need to temper their curiosity and anxiety with respect for teachers and all the schools.

  179. Might be nice to have extra money for enrichment or tutoring, as most private school kids get one or the other... or BOTH.

  180. What on earth is wrong with disclosing the test scores of independent schools?

    Parents want to compare schools, and test scores are one of the only tangible means of doing so. I understand that most independents give their students the same standardized tests. This would facilitate comparision for potential incoming parents. It would certainly make our job easier.

    Just because schools are "private" does not mean data about them need be "private" as well. We all know the racial breakdown of the independent school demographic, the educational background of the teachers, tuition costs, endowments, etc.

    Certainly parents at the schools themselves are privy to their schools' test score averages. Or is this kept "private" from them, from the people paying the tuition costs, as well?

  181. 5:52, someone or someones keep asking about tuition costs and budgeting. People are responding. I wouldn't flog it to death, but I think it is helpful information to know. Not everyone is aware of the extra costs like uniforms and school trips.

  182. "5:52, someone or someones keep asking about tuition costs and budgeting. People are responding. I wouldn't flog it to death, but I think it is helpful information to know. Not everyone is aware of the extra costs like uniforms and school trips."

    5:52 again. True enough. Sorry! We got put through the mill with preschool, so already had our heads up about how much private school might cost and what to watch out for.

    The frills can get very expensive and it is true that parents should try to figure this out up front.

    Some schools seem to have greater respect for limiting the cost of extras.

    Another hidden cost is the school calendar year. How often and how much are you going to have to pay for fill in childcare?

  183. For private school tips, if anyone has them on the school assessments or parent interviews. Specific schools or not, would love to hear them.

  184. Sure 7:37, the private/public debate these all degenerate into is getting boring anyways. After your tour you will get a feel for what the school is about and what is important to them. Tailor your responses to emphasize that your parenting and living style would reinforce the general style that the school is emphasizing. For Friends, for example, it might help to visit the Quaker meetinghouse south of market and sit in on some of their meetings (it's like church). It's a good way to get a better understanding and then apply that to your interview. On assessments, let your kid know in advance and don't make it out to be too big a deal but make sure they know they are expected to do their best. Their personality will come through. A nice reward like a trip to the toy store or something isn't the worst idea either. Good luck. Please don't debate my advice folks, it's just my personal opinion and we were 5/7.

  185. Totally OT, but since we are in danger of getting boring, and are discussing the cost of private school, we might want to read this article, for a little reality check. Just in case our morning commute isn't exciting enough . . .

    License to drive unlicensed
    By Debra J. Saunders

  186. SF Friends is not *that* Quaker. I think there are only 2-3 Quaker families in the whole school.

    Most SF Quakers are against the very idea of an elitest private school and send their kids to public school.

    Ironic, isn't it?

  187. "Most SF Quakers are against the very idea of an elitest private school and send their kids to public school. "

    That's funny to hear. The Quakers on the East coast don't seem to object. (I know this because I attended a Friends Academy back east for Middle School.)

  188. When I phoned SF Friends school last year, to set up the initial interview, they were pretty uppity, telling me about how many applicants they had and how exclusive they were.

    Didn't sound very Quaker like to me.

    I quickly crossed them off my list.

  189. On the tour at Friends watching students and staff in the glassed-in meditation room. It all looked fake to me.

    Also, if you are a doctor or lawyer and send your kid to Friends, you will be in the lower quadrant of salary earners there. That place is filled with families with too much money. I think it's starting to be more like Sidwell and less like Germantown Friends.

  190. Germantown Friend’s mandate is determined by the Friends Meetinghouse of Germantown, which means that even though the neighborhood has long been run-down and somewhat dangerous, the school’s been committed to being a part of the community, and has refused to move to posher environs, which is where all the other Friends schools are in Pennsylvania. Every class at GFS has a certain number of kids on scholarship from the surrounding community. Which makes the class much less homogenous feeling than the other schools. Also, given that the school was determined to stay in Germantown, the campus has always had a nice gritty feel to it. The school’s appearance and location has something to do with which parents decide to send their kids there. The parents who send their kids to GFS are, as a general rule, much more diverse and progressive and down-to-earth than the parents who can afford to send their kids to a Friends school but want them to go somewhere snazzier.

  191. "This is all after-tax money, but after-care fees (as opposed to tuition) may qualify for a modest child care tax credit. "

    After care should qualify for reimbursement from a Flexible Spending account if your employer offers it, so almost all the aftercare should be pre-tax dollars, given the cap on Flex.Spend accounts is $5,000. I guess if there's two earners, you could have up to $10K aftercare pre-tax.

  192. I love the suggestion about visiting a Quaker meeting and then taking your kid shopping.

  193. A lot of the snootier Friends families left when teh school decided to relocate to the Mission instead of the Presidio.

    But yeah, some of the wealthiest families in the city send their kids there.

  194. Ha, you people are hysterical. Someone actually answers a request and like sharks, you run in for a bite. Tear down the school, tear down the privates, tear down the advice, tear down the people at the school, and even take a shot at people that may have left the school. Of course, it has to come with "I heard that" "There are only" "I know a familly" stuff. I love the internet. So much nastiness. Hey 9:30, 10:05, 10:06 (cough cough, same person), 9:41, 9:48 (cough cough same person); Your kid is just not good enough for Friends and if you are in public school, your public school is terrible and isn't educating their kids. Oh and you are a bad parent too.

  195. Ha, didn't you know all these discussions end up in the same nasty discussion?

  196. 9:35: the cap on Flex.Spend accounts is $5,000. I guess if there's two earners, you could have up to $10K aftercare pre-tax.

    Sorry, you can't do $10K unless you're an unmarried couple with two or more kids and you both work.

    If you are married, or if you have claims for only one kid, you're limited to $5000 in your Dependent Care FSA.

    Another twist: if one spouse is a stay-at-home parent and not disabled or a student, you aren't eligible for a Dependent Care FSA at all.

  197. 10:00AM

    At least the 10:05PM comment from last night was not "the same person."

    I actually enjoyed the banter about Germantown. I didn't know that. I like the comment about the "nice gritty feel" to the school.

    As an odd coincidence, I was talking to a parent at our school (the Lycee) yesterday and it turns out he went to Germantown Friends.

    I think the skepticism about SF Friends comes from the juxtaposition of the current parent community there, and the values that are traditionally espoused by practising Quakers.

    It is fine if people know this, but not so fine to be sold a phony bill of goods.

    And by the way, Rachel Norton has a new post up, above, and on her site, that makes for some pretty grim reading about the state of education in our city. Something the wealthy Quakers might want to take a look at.

  198. Admin should seriously consider banning discussion of private schools. It gets nasty too quick and threatens to quash any real informative discussions. Gossip, innuendo and outright attacks seem to be the norm while hiding behind the Anonymous shield.

  199. OK, might as well discuss hypocrisy a bit.

    In the past, private schools didn't really do harm to public education -- they just coexisted.

    But in recent years, with public education increasingly underfunded and under fire, it really hurts public schools and the kids in them to lose students to private schools.

    So this comment doesn't apply to the founders of private schools that have been around for a long time. But by the time SF Friends was started (<10 years ago), if you had convened a group of malevolent people to sit around evilly discussing how to do harm to the community, especially the most vulnerable members of the community (low-income children) -- creating a new, attractive private school to drain even more resources families away from public school would have been tops on the list.

    So how could the supposedly ethical Quakers do such a malevolent, harmful thing? It shocked me then and still shocks me today.