Monday, November 9, 2009

Hot topic: High school

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start a thread on high school:

I know it irks some of the kindergarten crowd, but would you consider posting a discussion of the search for a high school as a topic of discussion? That way, only those really interested in the high school discussion will read/post and those looking for elementary schools need not bother (unless of coarse they realize it really is just around the corner - time flies!)


  1. I am looking at high schools with my 8th grader and was wondering whether there are any veteran parents out there that could give me their opinions of some of the advantages/disadvantages of Washington, Lincoln, Balboa or Galileo. I'd be interested in hearing about the academic, sports, extra-curricular or any other aspect of the school that you think stand out.
    We have taken the tours and shadowed at some, but still feel, as I did in the middle school search, that you only get a snapshot of the school, not always very complete picture. It seems like a school's reputation often takes awhile to catch up so word on the street sometimes feels dated.
    I've seen a lot of great opinions and observations on this website so thanks in advance to anyone who has any words of wisdom for us.

  2. 7th grade parent here. Kid is not old enough to shadow yet, but it would be great to get a jump on thinking about this. I too would be interested in Balboa, Galileo, Lincoln (Washington may be a bridge too far for us, but I'm sure others would be interested in hearing about it). We're hoping to be able to look at Lowell too (if said 7th grader keeps her grades up....a little slippage on math this grading period but fingers crossed). Probably not SOTA for this one, but second child maybe, so hey, bring it on!


  3. Both my kids went/go to SOTA (my son is an '09 graduate), but we listed Balboa second for both (not counting Lowell). Both preferred Bal; neither was excited about Lincoln, despite its higher prestige, especially at the time my older was applying.

    If geography were not an issue, and in the absence of any new negative information, I'd happily list all four of those schools, though Bal would be my top preference as well as my kids'. By the way, Washington Principal Ericka Lovrin was Aptos principal when my daughter was there, and she's fantastic. And there's a new principal at Lincoln, Barnaby Payne -- he was a very highly regarded teacher at Aptos, though my kids never had him.

    Meanwhile, don't miss checking out the Academy of Arts & Sciences at the SOTA campus. It was started in 2005 but its development was rather neglected for its first couple of years, so its reputation hasn't really spread. The new principal is giving it a lot more attention, though, and it looks very appealing now.

    I see the website isn't fully updated in every area, but don't be deterred -- come take a tour!

  4. Caroline, could you say more about why Balboa would have been your and your kids' top choice besides SOTA and Lowell? I keep hearing good things about it, but not so much about specifics. It is entirely possible that my kid will get into Lowell, but my kid will either get really into it because the academics are challenging and relevant, or totally hate it because it is full of grade-grubbing competition and not as much learning for learning's sake. I don't know if that makes sense, but anyway, I'm not sure if Lowell is the right place--we are still working on figuring that out (shadowing hasn't happened yet). We also haven't been to the Balboa open house yet--I understand that is coming up next week? But it seems like it might be a more relaxed place for strong-willed, quirky learners--IF it will indeed offer that needed academic challenge.

    Do you have a take on any of this? Or any actual Balboa parent out there? What are the strengths and weaknesses? What are the good departments, the real successes?

    It would be great for us in terms of location, too, whereas Lincoln and Lowell would be a trek....


  5. This is actually a pretty good description: "(Balboa) seems like it might be a more relaxed place for strong-willed, quirky learners..."

    I think we all got a sense that Balboa allowed students to pursue their interests and learning styles in a more personalized way than the larger schools - at least if their interests meshed with the Small Learning Community themes at Bal. I don't know that my kids had chosen those themes yet; they just liked the idea.

    The downside, I can see now, would have been that both kids would probably have dropped their music. Bal's music program isn't all that strong, and it has so many other activities to tempt students away that I think all the kids we know who pursued music in middle school gave it up at Bal. One of my son's Aptos classmates became an all-city athlete at Bal instead, though, in cross-country. I can think of worse fates. (That particular kid is at UC-Santa Cruz now, majoring in philosophy.)

    PPS can put you in touch with a parent ambassador, of course.

  6. Thanks so much for this post -- I appreciate the K-crowd giving some space to us old timers. I have a middle-schooler who's interested in science and math. For years, he has said he wants to be a marine biologist (but not the kind who gets in the water, so we'll see how long that lasts). He's also fairly proficient on the violin. Any suggestions on a high school with a strong math/science program, and some music? We'll consider both public, private, and other. Thanks!

  7. As someone who is looking for both middle and high school this year, I am appreciative of this thread.

    I have a good handle on the middle schools, actually, having gone through the lottery and 2.2 years of middle school with my older kid, but we are looking at the full range of schools again for my younger, and I'm glad to be updated. Any chance, Kate, that you could move up the middle school thread to the top--or re-start it? It's way, way down the list now, but several people have recently posted informative mini-reviews of Giannini, Hoover, Lick. Thanks.

    Regarding high schools, I too would love to hear from current or recent parents and students from Balboa. Can someone explain the small learning communities concept? I'm curious as to how that interacts with the traditional high school education requirements and the UC admissions requirements. Also, what are the AP offerings? Can you talk about academic quality of curriculum and teachers and what are the strongest programs? Also, Caroline mentioned that it doesn't have the strongest music program. What are the strong extracurriculars on offer? Finally, can anyone talk about the health and wellness programs and the school food progams, which I understand to be pioneering?

    Thanks so much! We hear a lot about Lowell and Lincoln but not so much in the way of details about Bal.

    Last thing--hard to believe any prospective K parents could possibly be irritated by the addition of this thread (more info = good, right?) but I'd like to reemphasize just how fast the time passes. Your tiny preschooler will be taller than you in the blink of an eye, and you may be glad to have previewed some of these trends in the upper grades! :-)

  8. 9:50, Lincoln has a phenomenal science program--you may have read about the genetics teacher in the New York Times a couple of years ago (the article is probably easily found on google). If your kid is really interested in a career in science research it would be the best program in the city to attend, public or private; they work with UCSF researchers in Mission Bay and have amazing opportunties to interact with college researchers and private sector genetics engineers.

    Can't speak to the orchestral music but I believe they have one, unlike some of the smaller high schools.

    Where is your kid now, if you don't mind saying?

  9. I know Lincoln has a stellar reputation, but I had no idea about the strength of its science program -- thanks so much for the great information. I'll definitely look into that school. (My son is currently in a private language immersion school, but our family has done the gamut -- public, private, charter, and even homeschool for a year. His older brother is currently at Lowell, but I don't think Lowell is the right fit for this son.) Thanks again.

  10. Can you say (in general terms) why Lowell isn't the right fit for your son? I have a daughter who will most likely make the cut, but we are trying to figure out that question of fit. Thanks!

  11. I have one child at Balboa and another that will also attend Bal.

    Both kids did well academically in middle school and could have gone to Lowell, but we and they felt that it wasn't their first choice largely because of the size and academic grind (me) and because of the experience of friends that went to Lowell (them). While they did have friends that liked Lowell, it was mainly because of the other kids there and the wide array of club activities, not because they felt there was inspiring academics. Their main complaint was the relentless focus and competition for the best grades, harder for some than others.

    Bal has been a really good fit for my child. The honors track academics have been challenging and several of the teachers have gone out of their way to connect with the kids and make themselves available during lunchtime or after school. There is a great deal of support and tutoring for anyone that needs it and I believe it is mandatory for kids on sports teams.

    The sports programs are on the rise, Bal's boy's soccer and boys and girls volleyball teams have been in the playoffs recently, and there is an active, supportive community around the football teams that prepares a dinner for the team the night before games. (You can check out all the high school sports teams records at Because of Bal's smaller size, it seems that participation on the teams is more accessible than at the larger schools (Bal is 1/2 the size of Lincoln, Wash or Lowell). Bal's cheerleaders have really sparked school spirit and they too did well in the all-city cheer competition.

    The new principal, Kevin Kerr, has large shoes to fill, former principal Patricia Gray's ten years spent turning around Balboa is a tough act to follow, but he seems to be on track to keep Balboa's turnaround going strong.

    Come check out the school at the next open house or at the principal teas held once every month on Friday.

  12. Here is a recent (July 2009) KGO story on the genetics program at Lincoln:

    And here is the NYTimes story from that was mentioned. It's a great article, well worth reading even if two years old (and the program still exists):

    Also, Valerie Ziegler, who teaches U.S. history and economics, was just this month named Teacher of the Year back CA Supt. of Ed Jack O'Connnell--an honor given to 5 teachers across the state annually.

  13. 10:44 asked "Can you say (in general terms) why Lowell isn't the right fit for your son?"

    My statement was no reflection on Lowell -- we LOVE that school and are so pleased with the education my son is receiving. The kids there are beyond awesome too.

    My youngest son also loves school, but primarily for its rich social life. I think he would buckle under the academic load that my HS son finds exhilarating, so our choice is more individual, and I encourage you to keep Lowell on your radar. (My HS son didn't want to look at Lowell at first, but now he's so glad he did. )

  14. Thanks. I wasn't asking with any animus toward Lowell at all. I AM wondering about the academic load, and also wondering is that load, the homework, etc. exhiliarating, or does it feel like a huge uphill and competitive slog? And how are the teachers? I have a child who hates work that is just for work's sake (and although I defend the school & teachers and concept of becoming organized, I have to say she is sometimes right!).

  15. Parent of Lowell freshman here. I encourage those of you who fear that Lowell is not the "right fit" or "too competitive" to reconsider. I think some of the stereotypes about Lowell's dog-eat-dog reputation are a myth, at least now as the school is actively seeking to nurture joyful learners and a supportive community as part of its Balanced Score Card.

    In my child's experience, fellow students have been helpful, collaborative, and work together to succeed. Teachers have been supportive and encouraging. The school has incredible spirit, and unparalleled extracurricular opportunities. If you are musically inclined, Lowell is the only school outside SOTA with a full music/orchestral program.

    Finally, the last word I have to say on Lowell is that most students want to be there, so there are few behavioral issues in the classroom that distract from learning.

  16. Follow up on Lowell here re: homework/workload. The homework has not been excessive, nor has it ever been "busy work" and my child has learned to use the unique modular system to complete homework/projects. The modular system means that each class meets for different times each day, either for 40, 50 or 60 minutes roughly, so some days my child has 20 minutes between classes or more time at lunch. Also, some teachers give time in class to do homework.

    Honestly, don't believe the rumors and hype that Lowell is too competitive, to cutthroat, joyless, a slog, or too big if your child has any interest at all in the school - I'm glad I encouraged my child to apply as she and the friends she has made as well as kids she knew from middle school(both boys and girls) are thriving.

  17. One important point is that by 8th grade, your child HAS to be onboard with this decision, unless you have an unusually docile and compliant child who will just let you make the decision. (I would actually worry about a teen who was THAT docile.)

    Of course it's not always a wise idea to let your child take the lead in making this choice. Some friends have also had to cope with the child who's dying to go to (fill in name of pricey private high school) and has to have it firmly impressed that 1) the school may not necessarily accept him/her; and 2) it's only feasible if enough financial aid is available. This happens with kids who want Lowell, too -- they always seem to be 1/2 point below that year's threshold.

    But if your child says "I absolutely hate the idea of going to Lowell," it's going to be a rough road if you push it. My son was determined to refuse Lowell and insist on Bal if he hadn't gotten into SOTA. Though this is hypothetical, I'm certain it would have been a disaster if we'd tried to force it.

  18. Oh, actually Lowell isn't the only school outside SOTA with a full music program. Lincoln, Washington and Galileo have full band/orchestra and choral programs; I'm not actually sure of the full extent of Balboa's or some of the other schools'.

  19. I'm not a Lowell-hater, and I have many friends with kids that are happy to be there, but what I don't like about having a Lowell in the mix is the notion that it takes the all of best students and therefore is a school far superior to the other high schools in SF. The kids that aren't admitted are left to feel inferior to the Lowell students.

    Yes they have a successful student body, the selection process assures that, so their "unparalleled extracurricular opportunities" or dominance in sports should come as no surprise. But there are as many good, bad and mediocre teachers at Lowell as there are at Washington, Lincoln. One parent of a Lowell student told me that she has seen teachers with seniority end up at Lowell to ride out their careers because "there are few behavioral issues in the classroom that distract from learning" not because they want to teach academically motivated students. I've heard that the teaching staff at Balboa is young and dynamic and that Lincoln's science department is very strong. My point is that there are strengths and weakness in all of the schools, and grouping the academic achievers in one school doesn't in and of itself make it the "best" school. Look around.

    Lowell isn't for everyone and parents (and middle schoolers!) can rest assured that there are other academically challenging public high schools in SF they can consider.

  20. Aren't the Lowell kids worried that their GPAs won't stack-up when applying for college?

  21. My comments about Lowell are not to detract from the other public schools that have great programs, but rather to assure parents and students, some of whom I have spoken to, that its either private school or nothing for high school.
    I was one of the parents who feared Lowell would be too big and not nurturing enough for my child, and I could not have been more mistaken.
    I cannot speak to the teacher quality for all teachers or the issue of biding time 'till retirement, but this is definitely not the case for my child's teachers, all of whom I met at the back to school night and were passionate, engaged and dynamic, young and old.
    I do agree that the system is flawed in that kids who don't get into Lowell are disappointed, and all SFUSD high schools should have the same resources so that all kids have a chance to shine - if Rachel Norton is reading this, I would love for her to give her opinion on this issue.

  22. Great links and info. Thanks 10:59!

    11:36, the homework load is intense, but my son hasn't mentioned that the assignments are a waste of time (and he's exactly the kind of kid who would bring that up). In some non-AP classes, the kids still use college texts, which my son finds pretty exciting and motivating.

    Most of the teachers are excellent, but my son has run into a few who were really wrong for him -- of course that happens everywhere. I think he now asks other kids and uses a teacher-rating web site when working out his schedule (My one bit of advice would be to choose the teachers carefully -- teaching methods can really differ.)

    Also, my son was surprised to find the kids more helpful than competitive, as he had heard horror stories of cut-throat behavior. So far, we haven't found that to be the case. Good luck on your search -- these are exciting times!

  23. I don't mean to start a battle here (though I probably will) but would be interested in thoughts on the following subject.

    Let's assume you want to do a mix of public and private school. Would you spend the money during the elementary/foundation years, or the high school/college prep years? If you think you might approach it differently with different children depending on their personalities, learning styles and other factors, what factors about the individual child would influence your decision and why?

  24. "If your kid is really interested in a career in science research it would be the best program in the city to attend, public or private; they work with UCSF researchers in Mission Bay and have amazing opportunties to interact with college researchers and private sector genetics engineers."

    Very true. High school kids from Lincoln competing in a synthetic biology competition and beating undergraduates from Cambridge, Stanford, etc. is A Big Deal.

  25. Thanks for the informative posts!

    I would love to hear from Lowell parents with kids in the junior/senior/graduate age range to see if the early enthusiasm of the high school years holds up through the rigor of junior year/college search.

    Also, any parents out there with a kid at Lowell and one at one of the comprhensive high schools? If so, it would be interesting to hear your perpective on the differences/similarities.


  26. I have a 7th grader and we checked out Balboa's open house a few weeks ago. I was a big fan of Patricia Gray and was curious about the new principal. I also have have spoken to numerous parents with kids at Balboa who across the board are extremely enthusiastic.

    I really liked the new principal (my husband said "Gee - I'd follow this guy ANYWHERE!". The new principal is energetic and enthusiastic. The staff that addressed the audience seemed to have a clear vision for the school.

    I've been told that the parents (many with kids who were in music programs at Aptos and Hoover) are working to fundraise to support more music programs at the school. I'd sure like that as it is a highlight for my son at Aptos.

    Balboa is definitely on our list for consideration next year.

  27. To 9:54am:

    To find a California high school or program's UC certified course list go to:

    The lists include the courses that have been certified as fulfilling the "a-g" subject requirements for admission to the University of California as a freshman. The lists also indicate courses that are UC certified honors.

  28. Thanks, 3:19 - really helpful list - if you check SF comprehensive high schools you can see all have a number of Honors and AP classes, not just Lowell!

  29. Sorry to cast a shadow here, but in addition to looking at the availability of AP and honors courses and extracurricular activities . . . look at the lowest common denominator in the high school. Your influence is waning. The peer group's influence is waxing, big-time. Bright kids can and do fall off the rails in high school. Straight A 16-year-olds turn into dropout barista 17 year olds. Sample schools where this has happened to friends who are caring, involved parents: Redwood High, Tam High (both in Marin), Berkeley High, Acalanes High (Lafayette), Miramonte High (Orinda). Every time, the story was "They got in with a really bad crowd." This is not an argument in favor of shipping your kids off to military charm school in the Aleutian Islands for high school, only a caution. Get as much of a sense as you can of your kid's susceptibility to peer pressure, look at both the best and the worst the potential high school has to offer, keep a discrete eye on things, and don't be afraid to force a change if needed to protect your kids from themselves.

  30. But there really isn't any way to tell from prior research what the "bad" crowd is like at a high school. And "bad influences" can't be blamed for every tragic outcome.

    We've been reading about a series of suicides of students at Gunn High School in Palo Alto on the Caltrain tracks. And San Francisco Magazine examined the suicides of Marin County teens:

    “Affluent teens have higher levels of depression and anxiety than other adolescents." -- Psychologist Madeline Levine

    Nobody really knows how to respond to teens' suicidal impulses or just high risk-taking behavior.

  31. I have to agree.... I'm not convinced that the most pernicious influence for upper-middle class white kids is the "lowest denominator" as you put it in our urban schools. Maybe for some kids, but the challenging realities that face our poorest kids, our immigrant kids, coming from violence-prone neighborhoods, are just so different from the challenges facing the upper/middle class kids. My experience as a parent of a teen is that the upper/middle class kids are not drawn to that, except on the edges, like to hip hop music. The bigger issues for the upper/middle class kids may be ennui, anxiety over being pushing themselves too hard, fear of failure, identity-searching, trying to find meaning in an affluent world. And sure, drugs, drinking, sex for some kids ....but in a different context. Ecstasy and pot and beer, not crystal meth or crack.

    The other influence in the comprehensive urban SF public high schools is the large, driven Chinese population--which by high school is the majority, I believe. Not all of them are immigrants, but many are. There is drive to be first in the family to go to college. They are a great influence on other kids--they are hard-working and hungry, not expecting to be handed success just because of who they are or what school they go to.

    Speaking in very, very general terms only, the urban kids living with so much diversity and not overwhelming affluence may be in some ways better off than their suburban public or private school counterparts on this terrain. Not saying all ways. But I am not seeing the drop-out barista thing, or worse, happening a lot. I see engaged, funny, worldly kids.

  32. Caroline, I just read the San Francisco Magazine article, and it did not examine suicides of "Marin County teens", but of one Marin County teen, a San Francisco teen and a Napa teen.

  33. 12:37, if so, my bad -- I read that SF Mag article when it was current and remembered it that way. Also, I just read Joan Ryan's book "The Water Giver," which discusses the suicides of two Marin teens, and have followed mainstream news reports of several, so it was in my brain that the SF Mag story included those.

    In any case, the point is that these horrible tragedies aren't about the "lowest common denominator," or at least not in any way that a parent checking out schools would be able to discern.

  34. Interesting story about music education in SFUSD high schools from San Francisco Classical Voice -

  35. Even though my child is not yet in kindergarten, I appreciate this thread. As renters, my family could easily pick up and move to the suburbs for school, but reading these posts really makes me want to stay in the city. Thanks.

  36. my child get a letter from lowell that he can apply to their school. That means he will get or does he a chance to get in? Do you this year the cut off point will go up than last year for the lowell? and will band is for those who missed out for half poitn or 1 point? Thanks.

  37. 2:04
    I have a Lowell grad and an upperclassperson and the grad was truly reluctant to go to Lowell (but didn't have much choice). She didn't want the stereotypical Lowell experience, but it turned out it really wasn't like that. I think for most Lowell kids, they find their niche and it gets better as they have been there longer. I want to emphasize that although there are many grade-motivated serious students, there are also many offbeat, creative and even flaky kids. To me it seems like a very accepting place, whereas at SOTA it seems like there's is more pressure to be cool and "creative".

    Yes the work can be hard and the GPA can suffer, but it is partly up to the student. Students do not have to take a large number of advanced classes, but many do. Some actually put a bunch of art classes in their schedules and stay away from math and science.
    The thing that irks me the most is that GPA is partly the luck of the draw about what teacher you have (Lowell kids choose but only to some extent). Some like to give As and some give many Cs and Ds, but your transcript doesn't reflect these different policies.

    If I had to do it again, I would definitely choose Lowell if I had a choice (though I agree that in an ideal world there wouldn't be a Lowell...) The main reason is that Lowell just has more courses and provides more options in what to take than any other high school in SF. You can go art-heavy or science-heavy or just light. Also, its the only comprehensive high school where you can take art, foreign language, AND social studies as freshman because they let you take 7 classes. My kids didn't feel they could do without any of those and that pretty much ruled out all the other high schools (SOTA has a different system that I don't fully understand, but I know it doesn't have the science/math options that Lowell does).

  38. Prospective Lowell ParentNovember 12, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    Thanks 11:17 for your encouraging words. I'm worried about that GPA and how it will affect applying to a UC school.

  39. For me, the main problem I have with a Lowell IS the fact that "Lowell just has more courses and provides more options in what to take than any other high school in SF". Really, it does not serve the greater population of SF high school students to have so many resources concentrated in one school. And to have those resources in a school that has admission requirements that, like the poster above mentioned, are determined by the middle school core class teachers a student is or isn't lucky to have, really strikes me as unfair.

    Spread those resources around and let ALL the SF high school students benefit.

  40. We got the same letter re: Lowell last year and many of my daughter's friends did as well - what I assume it means is that your child got mostly As in the 4 academic subjects in 7th grade (math, science, social studies, language arts) + overall "advanced" standardized test scores.

    Last year's cut off was 86 points (out of a possible 89), which meant that kids who got more than 2 B's in 7th grade or 1 B in 8th grade (Band 1) did not get in - I know several kids who were devastated - great students who definitely could have succeeded at Lowell, but got a couple of B's or less than the top of the line standardized test scores so they were out of the running.

    I wonder if the middle school teachers are uniformly aware of the high stakes/Lowell application process? Do teachers let kids/parents know they need to shoot for As to get in to Lowell, or do school administrators communitcate this unilaterally? Because I think that it's the responsibility of each middle school to let every kid (and their parents) know about the Lowell application process early on (say in 6th grade, before the grades count).

  41. Thanks for your information. my son got two Bs in 7th grade and lost 1 point in standerdized test. But he is getting all A in 8th grade. he will be with 86 points. i hope he will get it. We are also working on Band 2. Do you have any suggestion.

  42. I have a friend whose child graduated from Lowell, and was an ace student in math and science, but not so much in classes that required writing skills (she had some learning issues). She really enjoyed her experience at Lowell, but after applying to colleges, and not being accepted to any UC schools, her parents felt that her being at Lowell was not the best path she could have taken through high school. In hindsight, they wished that they had recognized her needs and choosen a school that would have provided more support in the areas she lacked and felt that that was not something that Lowell provided. Maybe they could have taken steps to "fill in the gaps" too, but didn't see the need at the time.

    As a result her sibling went to a SF comprehensive school because they felt that it was a better fit and one that would not put her on track to follow her sister (who is happy at a small private college).

  43. My daughter received 5 B's in 7th grade (the result of a bad fit with one teacher as well as raging hormones), but she has standardized test scores that are very high (590 and 578). She also received the Lowell letter saying she MIGHT be elgible. So, even though she has more than the allotted # of B's in 7th grade, pushing her under the 86 cut-off, she still received the letter.

    She has expressed a very strong desire not to go to Lowell, which is fine with me, and given her B's its not an option, because I do see other options out there (Galileo and Balboa for us).

    But I do agree with the poster above, that it is not right to have so many resources in one high school. Why not spread the wealth around all of the high schools?

  44. Caroline,

    Can I get some info on SOTA. My impression is a kid ends up eating, drinking and breathing whatever "art" category they are admitted for. Is it only appropriate for a kid who has an extreme passion for whatever field they audition for? My current 7th grader has somewhat eclectic interests, including soccer. She is in no way a shoe-in at SOTA, but it's on our radar. However, I'm not sure having to focus so exclusively on one pursuit is a good fit for her. As you have first-hand knowledge of the school, I'd appreciate your take on this.


  45. Just to clarify, Lowell has less funding per student than many other SFUSD high schools under the weighted student formula.

    The reason it has so many resources is not because it gets more goodies but because it's so large. Washington and Lincoln, SFUSD's other two largest high schools, are the same way. A school with 2,700 students can offer 11 languages, many more AP classes and electives, and so forth, than a school with 1,000 students -- for obvious reasons involving numbers, not favoritism for one school.

    Regarding GPA -- it's true that it's probably harder to get top grades at Lowell than at a less-rigorous high school. In general, college admissions offices are aware of that (at least with a large and well-known school like Lowell). I've never heard of any complaints that kids from easier schools are beating out Lowell kids for college slots, and I'm speaking as a (SOTA) Class of '09 mom who blogged about college admissions all last school year.

    One poster comments: "To me (Lowell) seems like a very accepting place, whereas at SOTA it seems like there's is more pressure to be cool and "creative"."

    SOTA kids would immediately tell you otherwise -- that Lowell puts on pressure to be an academic superstar, if not grind; while you can be who you are at SOTA. That's just kids being loyal to their school, and in this case parents. I would say it just varies based on the kid, but I've never heard of any SOTA kids suffering distress over not being creative enough. For that matter, I definitely know Lowell kids who are neither academic superstars nor grinds who are really happy there.

    SFUSD sends those form letters urging students to consider Lowell to all students who meet some academic level (I don't know what it is). It doesn't guaranteed that they'll get it, but does mean they're in the ballpark so far. Band 3, for underrepresented middle schools, seems like the most likely avenue for students who are just below the cutoff. Either way, parents should talk to the college counselor and/or principal about the options.

  46. Out of curiosity, does anyone know why other schools *don't* have the same resources? I remember hearing (great source, I know) years ago that Lowell had some of the lowest per-pupil funding in the city, because it received so little money from federal programs designed to help populations that it didn't have. Of course, that might be more than made up for by fundraising, which is pretty strong.

    So it is the PTA/alumni association fundraising that creates the extra opportunities at Lowell? Do the teachers that choose to work there make those extras happen? Is it because there is enough student demand to fill up all the different courses that are offered? Is it because parents demand it? Is it an issue of unfair expectations/stereotypes?

    A previous poster specifically highlighted the wide variety of courses available - I'd also add the wide variety of clubs, sports teams, and other student activities. In the case of clubs, at least, I think the breadth of resource comes from the students - new clubs are created when students step up and make it happen, with minimal administrative involvement.

    I'm mostly just curious, but I think that, in order to make sure more students have access to those resources, we have to understand why that's not currently the case. I would guess that it's not primarily due to structural barriers. That is, I doubt there are rules in the school district that prohibit other schools from offering a wider variety of courses, and I'm not even sure it's a funding thing (though I did hear of one instance in which the PTA or Alumni Association paid to retain a laid-off arts teacher - but there's no way the PTA could be funding enough teachers to teach the many "extra" APs and other unique classes). Is it a supply and demand issue? Something else? Is it possibly even just a perception issue, and that the variety of courses available isn't so out of scope?

  47. 12:19, I know kids at SOTA like yours who are having a fine time there. It's designed for students with a particular focus on just one art, of course, but there's variety.

    I know one SOTA student who is probably more into sports than her art and is doing a variety of club sports (SOTA has no sports teams), but focusing enough on her art to do well. She seems to really enjoy the atmosphere and life of the school (and this is a kid who's really straitlaced about drugs and other misbehavior, by the way).

    Other students who have multiple arts skills are managing to pursue more than one. One classmate of my son's (SOTA '09) in band continued to pursue dance, voice AND acting (while also being valedictorian -- she's rather exceptional, obviously).

    My SOTA sophomore daughter, a trombonist, is also in Mock Trial -- they won the citywide competition last school year and went to the state finals in Southern California. It takes an effort for her to stick with it because she has band activities outside school as well as at SOTA, but she's definitely into it -- and there are SOTA kids who are more devoted to Mock Trial than she is. So they aren't having to focus single-mindedly on their art if they can juggle multiple activities. As usual, it depends on the kid.

  48. 1:34, our posts crossed. Lowell does have a lot of PTSA resources and a powerhouse alumni association. But as I said, it's the school's size that allows it to offer such a wide variety of classes and extracurricular activities.

  49. What do SOTA students do if interested in sports? Can they try out for another sf public school's team?

    Also, i've heard from parents of college-aged kids that colleges give weight to student's willingness to take the the most challenging classes available at their high school, whether AP or honors. Does anyone out there know about this? It does weigh into our choice of high school, so I would be curious to know if this is true.


  50. I have to say its not just the size. Lincoln and Washington are just as big but don't have as many academic offerings. Last I checked Lincoln, Wash and Balboa all limit students to 6 periods and require freshman to take health, and those policies seem more limiting than number of course offered.

    Also, sadly, taking less classes a year makes it harder to get into a UC since that is one of the factors they consider (and in some cases is almost as important as GPA). I think the fact that many Lowell students take more academic classes (hence work harder...)than students from other SF high schools probably compensates for the fact that they may have somewhat lower GPAs. Plus Lowell offers many honors and AP classes which give bonus points to GPAs. I actually think, it may be easier to get into UCs from Lowell.

  51. Yes, thanks for that information. Could you expand upon why taking more academic classes at Lowell boosts your chances of getting into the UCs?

    Also, do colleges stack rank high schools based upon some factor, maybe the API or some such measure, to determine what a GPA value really is?

  52. To the people asking about how colleges look at GPA vs. difficulty of classes, and to what extent they take the school into account - you might be interested in the NY Times college admissions blog, The Choice:

    They often interview college admissions executives and college counselors/advisors (using reader-submitted questions), and people constantly ask those types of questions. If you go back through the past month or two, I think you'll find several different takes on those questions.

  53. I'll do the best I can with all these Qs, having various levels of knowledge depending on the subject...

    SOTA students can try out for sports at what's officially their neighborhood high school, or if they live at an address that has no assigned neighborhood high school (which is a lot of the city), they can just pick what works for them and work with the school. I don't know how many do it, though I know some do. My son was interested in doing X-country at Bal when he first started SOTA, but couldn't make the practice schedule work. Others -- probably most -- participate in club sports.

    Yes, colleges do give weight to challenging classes on the applicant's transcript. But they compare the transcript against the list of available classes at the school, so attending a small school with a limited number of AP classes doesn't necessarily count against the applicant.

    All students are required to take health to graduate, but I know at least some Lowell students who take it in the summer at SFCC.
    "Taking less classes a year makes it harder to get into a UC since that is one of the factors they consider (and in some cases is almost as important as GPA)." Well, I know they compare the transcript against the courses available at the high school, so I would assume they would also include the number of periods at the school -- if not, that would be a pretty outrageous injustice against lower-funded schools. I haven't heard about it working that way, and I know plenty of kids from all SFUSD high schools attending UCs. All SFUSD high schools offer honors and AP classes.

    "Do colleges stack rank high schools based upon some factor, maybe the API or some such measure, to determine what a GPA value really is?"

    I don't think they do anything this strictly statistics-based. Except to some extent for CSUs, all colleges that I know of* weigh each applicant individually, which gives them the chance to consider the applicant's qualifications and assets in light of the high school's available offerings. It amounts to the same thing, I guess.

    *I'm not sure about state colleges in other states equivalent to CSU, though.

    The whole concept of comparing a college applicant's transcript and activities to the available options is a little mysterious. My son, whose high school GPA was nothing to write home about (when there's jazz to be played, homework is not a priority in his book), had a long resume of outside music ensembles and activities by senior year -- enrichments not available to rural or even some suburban applicants. I have no idea how much admissions officers weighed that against the fact that there was so much more available to him.

  54. Caroline,

    I know your son is at Oberlin - a highly selective college. It's good to hear that his music accomplishments were given more consideration than his GPA. Just wondering - did he have many AP and honors classes, and are you willing to share his GPA?

  55. His GPA was around 3.2, which wouldn't have happened if Band wasn't 10 units every year for all four years of high school! He had some honors and AP classes, but not as many as applicants who were more diligent in high school, put it that way. He was a quirky applicant: erratic grades, strong music audition and music resume, and very high SAT, ACT and AP test scores.

  56. I went to Oberlin, and it's a great school for quirky kids who are not necessarily academic superstars, but who are very bright. If a small private college is in the cards for you, you don't have to be as relentless about your kid's GPA. But if you know you have to do in-state public, you're might feel more stuck.

    Fortunately, the transfer system gives late-blooming students a second chance. I teach in a UC, and transfers are some of my best students! The small classes at the CSUs and community colleges, and the extremely high quality of teaching there, can produce rapid improvement -- many of my transfers are better-prepared than my 4-year UC students. All of which is to say, don't despair. Unless you are shut out by the UC system's violent tuition increases and enrollment freezes (another story), your kid doesn't have to be perfect right out of the gate.

  57. Oops, I meant YOU might feel more stuck. Not you're.

  58. Thanks for that perspective 5:42 it confirms what I have found here at CCSF.

    I have been telling my partner that the CCSF students that I have met recently have surprized me because of both their motivation and their intelligence. (One of them was one of the girls on the Biotech team from Lincoln high school that entered the Biotech competition.) Most are at City for economic reasons and have told me that some of the math and science classes they have taken at City are on par with those of their friends at Cal, although they have much smaller sized classes at City and they actually get to talk with the professor. They save a lot on tuition (even more when the 30% UC increase goes through!) and then transfer on to a UC.

  59. More high school classes boost UC chances because number of A-G (UC prerequisite)classes and strength of senior year schedule (meaning number of senior year classes and number of honors classes senior year)are factors UCs explicitly say they consider in admission. In some campuses number of courses taken can boost your admission score the equivalent of .5 in GPA terms. My D with a not so great GPA but a very rigorous schedule got into many UCs.

    2:47- all this is on the UC websites and for UCs the reputation of the school doesn't matter.

    As posters have stated, private colleges do it way differently.

  60. I still have a while before I need to go through this but I recall my old boss, whose kid went to Gunn, saying that the chances of getting into UC Berkeley were very small from such a good high school because they only accept a few kids per school. He said some kids would transfer to a less competitive high school for their senior year to increase their chances at Berkeley (because they'd be at the top of the class). This kid ended up at Brown so he was clearly a good student but apparently with little hope of getting into Berkeley. How does this affect students at Lowell? I would imagine if you weren't in the top handful of students, you'd be shut out of the top UC schools as well.

  61. 8:09, it's probably unknowable for a lot of reasons -- we the public don't know who's accepted to what school but doesn't go, including (*especially*) for economic reasons.

    It's all anecdotal, of course, but my overall impression of the outcome of watching my son's classmates, and his classmates from elementary and middle school who went to other high schools, was that it was much more positive than I'd expected, given all the panic.

    It's completely unscientific, but of his friends from earlier school years who graduated from Lowell in '09, here's a list, totally at random:

    CSU Fullerton
    UC Santa Cruz
    UC Santa Barbara
    University of Oregon

    A Lowell grad who was in a band with him went to Harvard, and so did one the previous year whom we know from co-op preschool. Again, this is all random. I wish I could track a soccer team or something.

    My son's inner circle of Aptos Middle School friends:

    Balboa/UC Santa Cruz
    Balboa/Arizona State
    Lowell/UC Santa Cruz
    Lowell/UC Santa Cruz
    Lowell/UC Santa Barbara
    Lowell/UC Davis

    The SOTA advanced jazz combo from last year, all class of '09:

    Oberlin Conservatory
    SF State
    New School of Jazz (NYC) x2
    Manhattan School of Music
    Berklee College of Music
    UCLA x2

  62. Lowell/Northwestern
    Balboa/UC Santa Cruz
    Balboa/Arizona State
    Lowell/UC Santa Cruz
    Lowell/UC Santa Cruz
    Lowell/UC Santa Barbara
    Lowell/UC Davis

    That's not very encouraging! Obviously, those are all "OK" choices, but it would be more encouraging to see a few go to Harvard, Yale, Penn, Columbia, Stanford, MIT, etc.

  63. ^ Why, so they could live up to your standards ?

  64. It is my understanding that UC Berkeley automatically accepts the valedictorian from any high school. So obviously you have a better chance of being that person if the competition is not as stiff...

  65. 9:28, in-state tuition for UC is still way, way less than for private colleges (even with recent fee increases), and this is a *huge* issue for most families! You can get a good education in UC, so it's not surprising in these recessionary times that families would choose them. Public school families in general are probably biased toward the "good deal" of UC over the mythology of the Ivies, compared to private school families. And Caroline didn't say where these kids got in overall in terms of schools. In other words, it is, as she herself said, not a scientific survey.

    It's also not surprising that so many of Caroline's kid's friends would end up at UC Santa Cruz-- those who follow her family at all through her various posts know that her son is a bit on the hippy / alternative side. In terms of private colleges, I'm more surprised not to see Evergreen or Hampshire than not to see Stanford or Yale.

    On another note, the list of fine and nationally recognized music schools/program those SOTA advanced jazz combo kids are going to is definitely impressive.

  66. Carolina, do you think this year for lowell the cut off points for band 1 will go above 86?

  67. The discussion at hand was whether going to Lowell narrows a student's college options, and I would say no, it doesn't. The list of my son's middle school friends demonstrates (anecdotally) that Lowell kids are getting into UCs. (I threw in the list of SOTA combo kids apropos of nothing.)

    Some other points to think about:

    Don't forget that your kid needs to buy in to the high school choice. Some kids may go for the notion of obediently going to whatever high school the parent chooses, in the case of an ambitious parent's choosing the high school that's most likely to steer the kid toward Harvard. That wouldn't be my kid, and I'm glad it wouldn't. (Yes, it's true my son would have friends who'd be attracted to UC Santa Cruz!) But my main point is that the kid has a voice in this decision -- a loud one.

    Also, don't forget that the high school choice needs to be one that's a good environment for your kid during the difficult teen years -- it seems obvious that that needs to outweigh the "will this school steer him toward Harvard?" issue.

    There's growing resistance to the "Harvard or die" attitude. The organization Colleges that Change Lives grew out of a book listing small, then-lesser-known colleges that weren't bursting with prestige:

    And the Education Conservancy is a nonprofit with the same type of emphasis -- its theme is "beyond rankings."

    All this said, I will say that one big advantage that private high schools have over SFUSD is much more intensive college counseling. The tradition in the private prep school world runs this way: Prestige colleges hire their own recent graduates as admissions officers; then the next career step for those people is to become college counselor at a high-end private high school. They do have ins and do have connections at their alma mater and likely other prestige colleges too. And that's just something you won't see at an SFUSD school.

    On the other hand, there are excellent private college admissions consultants who serve the same function, for a fee that's far less than private school tuition.

  68. 10:50, I don't know -- it just depends entirely on the applicant pool! I think it was 86 in my son's year (2005), which by the way was the year of a birth spike (1990-91). I can't remember what it was in my daughter's year (2008).

    For a boost getting into Lowell, it's obviously helpful to aim at a middle school that's on the underrepresented schools list.

  69. I know the principal at Balboa and he's a GREAT principal. I'd definitely say it should be at the top of your list.

  70. I know I'm stirring it up here, but say you're the parent of a great student who does not make the 86 point cut off for Lowell who gets assigned to John O'Connell, Mission or Burton, but chose Washington, Lincoln and Galileo (yes, this happened last year to at least 5 kids at my child's school). What if your child is petrified of those schools, based on shadowing/open house experiences or because of word of mouth? How do you help your child know they will be safe and thrive at a school with a large population of students who don't really want to be there?

    Moreover, how do you as a parent help your child not succumb to peer pressure and "falling in with wrong crowd"?

  71. A minor point, but Evergreen in Olympia Washington is a public, not private, college. Of course CA residents would pay out of state tuition.

    Reasons for picking colleges when a kid has more than one choice can be so random. Money/financial aid packages are of course a big deal for many people. There were people in my east coast college who chose it instead of Berkeley because they couldn't get housing at Berkeley. I picked the college I attended over Notre Dame because, when it came down to deciding where to send the deposit, South Bend sounded even more scary than the then-crime-ridden city I headed for. There are lots of reasons kids don't go to schools they get into.

    I think the most helpful information to evaluate a high school's college placement record (and I realize public schools don't really have the resources to generate it) is a list of how many kids applied to each college and of those, how many were accepted. For example, 12 applied to UC Berkeley and 2 got admissions offers.

    Even this would be imperfect data, because you'd have no way of knowing how many of the students applying to a college were realistic shots to get in. However, it would tell two material things: (a) how well the school does at getting kids into competitive colleges (note I said competitive, which is a statistical ratio of admits to applications, not a qualitative judgment of the college or an assessment of individual fit), and (b) whether the college counselors are steering students towards appropriate admission goals.

    It would probably be a bad idea to publicize how many students choose to attend a school, since it could cause hard feelings between the counselors and the schools. ("We keep letting your kids in and they keep not coming!!")

    By the way, now that SFUSD has adopted an all-college-prep approach to the high school curriculum, have they done anything to improve the availability of college counseling to their students? I thought I might have heard that volunteer lawyers were running Balboa's college counseling program?

  72. 1:19, we will be going through the high school assignment process in one year, presumably under the new system. Can you or anyone else cite figures about the percentage of kids who applied to a robust # of high schools (not seven, necessarily, given the number of choices, but say 3-4) in round 1 who were assigned to the lower-performing eastside schools such as the ones you have mentioned? It's a serious question....we will be looking at Lowell, but also at Balboa, Galileo, Lincoln. Perhaps also Wallenberg and Washington, though they may be too far....I guess the question is, SHOULD we look at Washington and Wallenberg because putting Bal, Gal, and Lincoln *only* would be fool-hardy?

    We know pretty clearly what the lottery issues are for kindergarten--if you put one or both of the "notorious 11" schools like Clarendon, etc., as your top 1 or 2 picks, you are likely to go 0/7. What about at high school? I know there are lots of anecdotes out there but I'm curious about most robust facts. Also, very much wondering how it may change under the new system (!). Presumably people will still be wanting the same schools in the same numbers as before....

  73. SFUSD posts enrollment data all the way up through high school, so you can see how many requests there are per high school spot and how they're ranked. Other than Lowell and SOTA, admission is by lottery. I don't know if there's any neighborhood preference. Here's some data for 9th grade general ed programs for 09-10:

    Highly popular (more 1st choice requests than spots):

    Lincoln had 780 1st choice requests for 468 spots and 3178 requests total.

    Washington had 548 1st choice requests for 431 spots and 2933 requests overall.

    Academy of Arts and Sciences (shares campus with SOTA but lottery-based admission): 112 1st choice requests for 87 spots, 525 requests total.

    Medium Popular

    June Jordan had 70 1st choice requests for 72 spots and 387 requests overall. (this is an intentionally small school)

    Balboa had 233 1st choice requests for 380 spots and 1131 requests overall.

    Galileo had 300 1st choice requests for 575 spots and 1732 requests overall.

    Wallenberg had 103 1st choice requests for 200 spots and 988 requests overall.

    Less Popular

    O'Connell had 71 1st choice requests for 250 spots and 284 requests overall.

    Mission had 42 1st choice requests for 250 spots and 340 requests overall.

    Burton had 71 1st choice requests for 300 spots and 465 requests overall.

    Thurgood Marshall had 80 1st choice requests for 240 spots and 397 requests overall.

    International Studies Academy had 17 1st choice requests for 125 spots and 248 requests overall.

    Because of the economy, families who might otherwise have gone private for high school for a variety of reasons can be expected to be competing for spots at the public high schools with the stronger academic reputations.

  74. 1:19 We, like many families, were in the same boat, just wanting to get into an acceptable safe place. What we did was cast a wide net and I'd recommend others do as well. The charters (Gateway and others), whatever you think of them, have a different application process, so they can be a fallback. We also applied and were accepted to high school in Daly City (Westmoor) and I know some families go that route. I felt it was important to have an alternative to O'Connell if that came to pass.

    On a side note, UC Berkeley doesn't accept valedictorians to the best of my knowledge. The UCs guarantee admission to the top 4% of each high school class, but not to Berkeley -- just the UC system as a whole.

  75. "The UCs guarantee admission to the top 4% of each high school class"

    This must be why some people think Lowell may not be the best choice for their child, as even if my child has close to a 4.0 (or higher) it's entirely possible she won't be in the top 4 percent of her graduating class.

    I am going to take the long view that a great experience now at Lowell will help her sort out her college choices when the time comes, regardless of her eventual GPA, and utilize some of the great college search resources that have been posted here by Caroline and others.

  76. I know families that choose to to to the middle schools with band 3 status, like James Lick, to give their kids an extra chance at getting into Lowell. I am wondering whether anyone here has any knowledge of how these kids fair once at Lowell?

    I ask because we have thought about doing this, but then I wonder whether the rigour of the honors program at Giannini or Aptos might better prepare them for the academics at Lowell.

    Any thoughts?

  77. Honors tracks, APs, Lowell, UCs . . . as we travel this frenzied path, let's try not to let our aspirations for our children blind us to the need to love the children we have.

  78. To answer the question about Lowell rigor - purely anecdotal here - the work so far has been time consuming, but not difficult for my freshman child and her friends.

    Additionally, from what I've seen from her assignments and judging from information at back to school night, her classes seem to assume that each student is entering the school at a somewhat basic level. For example, she has had library instruction/lessons in English and History classes, and assignments that indicate no previous instruction in writing or research was expected. Also, there is free peer tutoring available every day of the week, during free periods and after school.

    She did not attend a middle school with an honors track, attending one of the sfusd k-8 schools (wish to remain anonymous here, but it's one that has a stellar reputation) where all classes were differentiated instruction/all levels of learners in each class.

    I would suggest choosing the middle school(s) your child (and you) feel most comfortable at, regardless of the band, and if you're interested in having Lowell as a choice, encourage your child to work for A's in the 4 academic subjects in all of 7th grade and the 1st semester of 8th grade. May seem pushy and unfair, but points are the one way to guarantee admission to Lowell, regardless of Band, unless the admission criteria is expected to change in the future.

  79. 4:19 again - to echo 4:04 - gently encourage your child, always with love and kindness in your heart.

  80. To 3:08 Aptos was a band 3 school for 2008-2009 school year, I can't find the details for this year.

  81. 1:19, one issue that I can see with such data would be that it would still be heavily biased in favor of schools with wealthier students (in terms of giving them more impressive results).

    For example: There's a list of I believe about 60 top schools that have a guaranteed financial aid program: Below X family income, the student pays Y (discounted) tuition, with a graduated scale down to full grants for tuition, room and board.

    Well, some colleges insist that admission is need-blind, but most will acknowledge that they only have so much to give. Thus, the applicant who is not entitled to aid does have a better chance of admission than the identical applicant who qualifies for aid -- and the more aid needed, the lower the likelihood.

    And that's undoubtedly true at most if not all private colleges, even those whose financial aid policy is not so clear-cut. (To us, it felt like all our information got swept up in a whirlwind, and then settled into an assortment of need-based grant, merit scholarship, loan offers and work-study -- we have no idea how our particular combination was arrived upon.)

    Here's what my son's college, Oberlin, says about the need-blind issue:

    Oberlin's admission process is not ''need-blind.'' However, it meets 100% of financial need of any student admitted to the college. Learn more about Oberlin's commitment to financial aid.

    Also, of course, such information couldn't possibly be audited, and since it's such a huge selling point for a school, would undoubtedly be untrustworthy.

  82. I was told that Aptos was not a Band 3 school for the last two years, and with its API score higher now than Hoovers, I don't think that it will be again.

  83. Oberlin sounds really interesting - and the founders of ODC Dance Company here in SF are all alums (i.e. ODC stands for Oberlin Dance Collective.)

    ODC has an amazing dance company and dance school in the Mission and produces The Velveteen Rabbit every year - be sure and check it out!

  84. I thought Aptos was Band 3 last year. I agree that one should not count on it being so in the future. Lots of Aptos kids heading to Lowell these days!

  85. "Here's what my son's college, Oberlin, says about the need-blind issue"

    Is it not just a tad hypocritical for a public school "advocate" to send a child to a private university? What about all the harm the private universities do to our public colleges?

  86. Private colleges are not damaging our public universities. Our state legislators are, by slashing their funding.

  87. I'm tired of bashing Caroline. I'm sure her and her son made the best choice for their family and that Oberlin met their son's needs in a way that a public college could not. Even though Oberlin is more expensive than any of the Ivy League schools.

    Seriously though, there should be a debate about the rising costs of all colleges and whether or not it is worth the expense and the debt. Especially for a liberal arts education. From a purely financial standpoint, it is a no-brainer. This will really be a problem that will be an issue by the time those of us with young kids will have to face soon.

  88. Well, I know you're just trolling, 9:25, but 6:45 has it right. The situation is entirely different from K-12 education regarding public vs. private colleges.

    For one huge point, public K-12 schools reap funding per student from the state, so the loss of each student (to private, or from SF to the suburbs) means the loss of a chunk of the funding that helps run the school.

    For another, when public K-12 schools lose their more advantaged, empowered parents, they lose some of their desperately needed support and political clout.

    Public K-12 school districts are required to educate all students regardless of their needs, challenges, disabilities, or even whether they or their families have any interest in school (that's a big point), so that's a huge challenge that public colleges and universities don't face. It's just not an analogous situation. And there is just really no sense of public vs. private in higher education, in the way there is in K-12 education.

    Regarding the cost of Oberlin, yes, it's pricey! Luckily, we have a good financial aid package (and heartfelt thanks to the donors who have supported Oberlin scholarship and grant over the centuries). We also had some college savings, thanks largely to not having borne the burden of K-12 private school tuition. Our college savings were not nearly enough to cover Oberlin's costs, but they helped.

  89. Regarding Band 3.... I posted the following list on an earlier thread. It came from the "Lowell High School 09-10 Admission - Bands Summary," even though it says "2008-09" for the Band 3 list, so I'm assuming the Band 3 schools remained the same for 09-10. How often is Band 3 status updated?

    The following schools have been determined to be under-represented (Band 3) for the 2008-2009 school year. (List may change for 09-10)

    Aptos Middle
    James Denman Middle
    St. Cecilia Elementary
    Bessie Carmichael
    James Lick Middle
    St. Charles Elementary
    Children's Day School
    Bayview Academy
    St. Elizabeth's Elementary
    Convent of the Sacred Heart Elementary
    KIPP SF Bay Academy
    St. Gabriel Elementary
    Cornerstone Academy
    Lycee Francais La Perouse
    St. James
    Corpus Christi
    Marina Middle
    St. John's Elementary
    Creative Arts Charter
    Dr Martin Luther King Jr Middle
    St. Paul's School
    Ecole Notre Dame Des Victoires
    Mission Dolores Elementary
    St. Peter's School
    Edison Charter
    Our Lady of the Visitacion Elementary
    St. Thomas More
    Epiphany Elementary
    Paul Revere
    Stuart Hall For Boys
    Everett Middle
    Presidio Middle
    The Hamlin School
    Excelsior Middle
    Roosevelt Middle
    Visitacion Valley Middle
    Francisco Middle
    San Francisco Christian Elementary
    Willie Brown Academy
    French-American International
    St. Anthony-Immaculate Conception
    Horace Mann Middle
    St. Brendan Elementary

  90. What a weird list - The Hamlin School and Stuart Hall in the same band as Lick or Paul Revere? I guess it's purely on numbers nothing else, correct?

    Seems strange.

  91. What a weird list - The Hamlin School and Stuart Hall in the same band as Lick or Paul Revere? I guess it's purely on numbers nothing else, correct?

    Seems strange.
    November 14, 2009 8:54 AM

    I think it is based on % of 8th graders from a given school... who attend Lowell? (Or does it include those accepted to Lowell - whether they attend or not?) For public schools, proximity to Lowell seems to play a role, since Presidio has a high API, but is a Band 3 school. Of the Catholic schools, a noticeable difference (regardless of proximity) between Band 1 and Band 3 schools seems to be number of Asian kids (since the Catholic schools with higher numbers of Asian kids appear more likely to be Band 1 schools). While I know more Asian students tend to get the higher grades and test scores required for acceptance to Lowell, I think the Band status for some schools also reflects the fact that more Asian kids WANT to go to Lowell, and so are applying to Lowell in greater numbers. (So, CAIS is a Band 1 school, while FAIS is Band 3.)

  92. Back to college for a minute. Before coming to the UC system, I taught at handful of public and private colleges, including Oberlin, an Ivy and the University of Chicago. Here are some things I know for sure:

    1) The best guarantee of your kid getting an education from actual professors, as opposed to badly-paid adjuncts and grad students, are the community/state colleges and private liberal arts schools. At large research institutions, whether they are Harvard or a UC, professors are much harder to reach and your kid really has to know how to make him/herself known and work the system.

    2) The best place for your kid to develop what they used to call a "philosophy of life," an informed way of seeing the world and a high degree of self-knowledge, is a small liberal arts college. But your kid has to pick a college whose mission is a good fit. SLAC (selective liberal arts colleges) are great for good kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks out of shyness or confusion. And don't be afraid to apply for financial aid; you never know.

    3) By graduate school, high-achieving kids from large public high schools and public higher-ed institutions can run circles around kids from private schools, because the spoon-feeding stops at the MA/Ph.D. level. Kids from this background tend to be very mature and self-directed. So don't be afraid your kid will be smoked by more privileged kids.

    4) Your kid's education is what he/she makes of it. The Ivies are filled with lazy and entitled kids wasting their 4 years; so are the UCs. But each also has a high percentage of "strivers;" so do the CSUs and especially the community colleges. The small colleges have more quirky, brilliant types whose excellence may not show in terms of numerical scores, but who want to be there. Wherever your kid goes to high school, be sure they don't take education for granted.

    5) It is brutally true that a Harvard or Yale education offers connections to wealth and power that most of us (myself included) don't even know about. But it is also brutally true that your kid can emerge from places like this thinking he/she is genuinely better, smarter, etc. than other people. That doesn't always happen, but it is a risk. I have many friends who went to Ivies, so I don't have contempt for the Ivies per se --but I have noticed that my friends with these kinds of degrees assume a lot.

    6) Whatever choice you make for high school, your kid is now in control of his/her intellectual life. Hopefully you've laid the ground for him/her to make good choices from within that school.

  93. We're still at the elementary school level, but I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying getting this insight from parents with older children. I agree that time flies.

  94. For any student interested in applying to MIT:

    MIT keeps detailed records of almost all classes, and especially advanced placement classes, taught in most high schools nationally and internationally. It looks for students that have taken those advanced placement classes and done well. It does not set a percentage allowable from a particular school. Students who have excellent grades but have not taken advanced placement classes will weaken their chance for consideration.

    About 25% of acceptances at MIT are given to students coming from private school. The remainder, 75%, come from public school.

    Some attention is given to extracurricular activities, but these are not replacements for academic excellence.

    MIT does look at the SAT, but marks in advanced placement classes carry more weight.

    MIT is also increasingly looking the American Mathematics Competition scores, if students have participated.

  95. "I know families that choose to to to the middle schools with band 3 status, like James Lick, to give their kids an extra chance at getting into Lowell. "

    Lick's a strong choice as a middle school for the right kid. The rock band program is awesome.

  96. "The following schools have been determined to be under-represented (Band 3) for the 2008-2009 school year. (List may change for 09-10)"

    This is the weirdest list. A combination of a privates and parochials (where the kids are underepresented because they're going to University or St. Ignatius) and publics with high %ages of low-SES kids.

  97. 8:11, I couldn't agree more about your first point. This was something that was so not on my radar when picking colleges. I was lucky to end up at a small school even though I had originally preferred the big ones (searching for anonymity after a tiny k-12 experience) but was only accepted at small schools. My spouse went to a large Ivy with a large grad program and had a lot of grad students giving the (not always inspired) lectures. I went to a very small school with pretty much no grad program and then onto a smallish Ivy with a smallish grad program. With very few special exceptions, only the professors gave the lectures. In my undergrad school, if you needed help you talked to the professor, there were no TAs. I'll certainly try to steer my kids toward the smaller schools where the emphasis is more on teaching than publishing. (although I can't help dreaming about UC Berkeley - 1/2 price tuition might worth putting up with some broken English lectures by overworked grad students).

  98. 12:01 PM

    You comments about broken English lecturers is outdated or never true, at least in the Berkeley Engineering Department.

    It is true that many of the graduate students are Asian, but virtually all are articulate, gifted and a joy to work with.

  99. Must put in a good word for Galileo HS, a school that has improved markedly over the past decade.

    The school has a strong work ethic among its teaching staff and has been well-endowed with Gates Foundation money.

    Our older son is at Lowell, but I want to steer our youngest to Galileo (much closer to home).

  100. Thank you for including a discussion thread for us 8th grade parents! We have been through this process several times now, and have war stories about the lower grades, no doubt. I wonder if this blog should be renamed to just be the "SF School Files".

    Anyway, we are struggling with the same concerns about Lowell. Our daughter received the same letter about considering applying to Lowell, and so we have become hypersensitive now about every damn test she takes. I don't wish to feel this way when she is at Lowell. I want her to get a good education, but also not suffer from alot of anxiety about grades, and I certainly don't wish to be transformed into a GPA-obsesses parent. I was relieved to read posts about Lowell, as well as Balboa and the Arts and Sciences Academy at SOTA.

    We are Presidio parents, and so we are also highly interested in Washington. The school rocks - lots of AP classes - just like Lowell.

    Caroline - I would like to get more info about the Arts and Sciences Academy - there is no info on the API etc... Do you have anymore insights on the school

    Also we have heard that the district is going to try very hard to not place as many kids at Lincoln and Washington, what have you heard about this. Last year, alot of top-notch kids from Presidio ended up assigned to John O'Connell. Do you think that trend will continue???

  101. Our daughter just graduated from Presidio and is now at SOTA. She is loving it there. She has a vary hard-working and eccentric English teacher, and all of the student performances are really top-notch.

    I think Lowell is a great school if your child 1) is naturally gifted academically, or 2) has a lot of drive and ambition to become the top student in his/her class.

    Otherwise, I would choose a different school.

  102. "I think Lowell is a great school if your child 1) is naturally gifted academically, or 2) has a lot of drive and ambition to become the top student in his/her class."

    I disagree. Although I encouraged my child to do her best in 7th and 1st semester 8th grade so that Lowell would be an option, now that she's there I'm mostly hands off. There are all kinds of students at Lowell, not just academically gifted or those with "drive and ambition."

    The homework so far (freshman) has been much less than in middle school, and none of it busy work. Most nights my child gets at least 8 hours of sleep.

    Most students that I've come in contact with do not seem nuts about getting straight As, and seem to value the learning itself and the experience versus what will look good on their transcript (not that they aren't thinking about it, but it's a balance).

  103. I would love to hear from a Lowell parent of Junior/Senior to hear their thoughts on whether the Lowell experience has remained a positive one as they move through AP classes and head down the stretch towards college.

    Anyone out there with a perspective??

  104. Hardsoundguy@gmail.comNovember 21, 2009 at 11:30 PM


    It might be even better to hear from a Lowell junior/senior! Not quite sure how I ended up reading this blog
    I am a Lowell senior, of class 2010. I can certainly debunk a few of the myths about Lowell, some of which have already been mentioned and disproven by above comments.

    1)The workload at Lowell is unbearable and stressful.
    This is true, and not true, and is different for every student at the school. Lowell offers the most freedom of any public high school in the city, and it is very much like a college. There is a “core curriculum” (the A-G courses required for graduation) and plenty of elective options to choose from. Other than the core classes, students have a tremendous amount of freedom to shape their high school experience. They get to choose their own classes, schedules, teachers and lunch periods. Students can bend and twist everything and anything every which way to get what they want. That being said, you can go to Lowell, have three lunch periods, take the basic level classes, and have the easiest time ever, or you can really, really create an almost unbearable schedule filled with AP and Honors classes. This school is what you make of it, and it is up to the you to either lay back and barely do any homework ever, or you can spend a great deal of time studying and completing homework assignments. This tremendous freedom is what makes Lowell much like a college.

    2)The competition is cutthroat and the students don’t help each other.

    Lowell is well known for being a competitive school. This is mostly derived from the parents of 8th graders who think that the actual high school experience will be the same as the highly selective admissions process. Students at Lowell tend to want to be at school and do well in their classes. Thus, the amount of interruption and misbehaving students is low, which really makes a classroom a real learning environment. Almost everybody and anybody will help you with your work if you ask for it. They will try to help you even if they end up failing. On one particular occasion I was sitting in the library, and I asked a fellow student that I had never seen before if he could help me with my math homework. He immediately stopped his work and came to my assistance. I’m positive that there are many more students like him who are willing and able to help whoever asks for it. Sure, there is competition among the kids. A common Lowell joke is that while students at other schools fight with fists, Lowell students fight with grades. But seriously, would you rather have your child go to a school where a fight is settled with grades or the amount of blood drawn? I recall a friend of mine from Washington High School telling me that he has, on numerous occasions, been offered a smoke and drugs on campus. I have never encountered any of the problems (fist fights, drugs, weapons) many of the other public high schools have. Students at Lowell have more important things going on in their lives. Time spent trying to hurt someone is time wasted.

  105. Hardsoundguy@gmail.comNovember 21, 2009 at 11:31 PM


    3)The school is too big, and students don’t get the attention they need.

    Lowell is a big school, 2600 this year. But as I said earlier, Lowell is what you make of it. You can go four years without being noticed if you so wish or you can do exactly the opposite. Again, it is like a college: you must possess the ability to talk to people if you go to Lowell. I was shy and quiet when I started at Lowell, but I have really become a more outgoing person, probably because I have learned to talk to teachers, counselors and the like. If you are failing a class, it is your responsibility to go and talk to the teacher. I have never, ever seen a teacher deny a request for help from a student. If the student goes to the teacher, the teacher will really, seriously help the student get back on track, if said student puts in the effort. One gripe I have about the school is that there just are too many students for every counselor. There are approximately 400 students assigned to my counselor. This is quite a lot of students. Your counselor will probably not get to know you very much, and that is a fact. I had to introduce myself to my counselor many, many times before he got to know me. But, once again, it is really important life skill to know how to communicate with people and to be able to get their attention.

    That is about all that I can think of right now, and if I go on any longer, I’m afraid I will write with such terrible grammar that my content will not be understandable. Therefore I will retire to bed now. If you have any questions, please do ask me or another Lowell student (rather than getting your information from who knows what other sources) as I believe the best feedback you can get on a school is from a kid who actually goes to the school and can relay to you first hand experiences.

    It is likely that I will not come back to this blog any time in the near future, so email me at, and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
    Happy Applying!

  106. Thank you to the Lowell senior for sharing your experience - this students experience echoes what I have heard from my child's friends in higher grades (sophomore, junior, senior) who I have spoken with. However, it's too bad that it's so hard to get in to Lowell, and that there is not another school in sfusd that is similar to accomodate all the students who want to be in a Lowell-like environment.

  107. Parents looking at high school would you care to comment on your middle school experiences for those of us looking for a middle school? We all know at this point that there are several good choices for middle school and it isn't as anxiety producing as the elementary search, but would be great to hear some anonymous reports. Most people we know seem to be looking at Presidio, Hoover, Giannini, Aptos, Lick, Francisco and Roosevelt. It would be most helpful to us and there doesn't seem to be a middle school thread even though I've seen it requested a few times. Thanks!

  108. My daughter is an 8th grader at Presidio. We are very happy with our choice and would undoubtedly pick Presidio again if we had to do it again. We also loved Roosevelt, and so it was really hard to pick one of these two as our top choice. For us what won out was the 0 period Chorus offerred at Presidio. Essentially she could have two elective classes, and we would be able to drop her off in the morning on our way to work. I didn't want her having to take 2 buses in the morning to get to school for the 9:05 start time. They have a great after school program and lots of team sports. The school is often times open past 6pm becuase of some kind of event.

    The teachers are amazing at Presidio and the kids truly earn their grades. During our time at the school, my daughter has had only one teacher that wasn't great.
    It is certainly a school to consider.

  109. @1:30, hi! There is a middle school way further down the blog and it does contain some recent reviews both from current MS parents and someone who has been touring.

    You have laid out the list that most people of the social class background found on this list seem to tour. I would add that Everett has a new Spanish immersion program that at least a few people I know are looking at as middle school spots at James Lick are filling up, and Lisa Schiff from PPS sends her twin daughters to Everett in the GE program (they were at McKinley). She has written about on the PPS listserve and Beyond Chron.

    We are at Aptos and it's been great. In terms of test scores it is now 3rd in the city of the 6-8 schools (Alice Fong Yu blows them all away, but there are reasons for that); Aptos also made "adequate yearly progress" with ALL sub-groups, which is actually saying something there because it is a very diverse school with several significant subgroups (demographics match the city's schools fairly closely, which few schools can say).

    The art teacher at Aptos is wonderful (Mr. Pascual), and the music program is very strong with full band & orchestra offered as daily classes, plus the jazz band in the before-school zero period. There are some fine teachers at Aptos in all subjects. The kids come out ready for high school at Lowell and beyond.

    I should say though that we had a hard time deciding between Aptos and James Lick, which is smaller and has a passionate community, small class sizes, lots of extras including an extra academic period, and different but really rockin' electives like dance and rock band, and wonderful programs onsite like 826 Valencia and a great afterschool program.

    Both Aptos and Lick are currently Band 3 for Lowell, although Aptos may be at risk of losing that status; hard to know when that might happen if it does. Aptos has an honors track and Lick does not. There are philosphical and practical reasons to like one or the other, but when it comes to your kid, you have to figure out for yourself what makes the most sense.

    I think Francisco is somewhat like Lick in being smaller and having more frills onsite. Roosevelt is for sure a rising academic star, and I have to say their track team looks amazingly well trained (my main contact with those kids). Presidio is a beautiful school with great programs like drama. AP Giannini kids are very high-scoring and they are very much a Band 1 school. They also have a good music program (band, orchestra, chorus) though the overall feel is less artsy and groovy than James Lick. Hoover also has a large music program and has Spanish and Chinese immersion classes. I didn't love it myself but am glad the physical plant is getting a make-over soon, and I know lots of people whose kids are happy there.

    It's important to remember that the middle school curriculum is the same no matter where you go (ancient cultures in 6th, world history in 7th, U.S. history in 8th; earth science in 6th, life science in 7th, physical science in 8th; etc.). And all kids get PE every day. The differences are in the electives, the size of the student body, class size, extras like 826 Valencia, honors track or not, and physical plant. And afterschool offerings and some have salad bars and fresh soup offered for lunch; all have the beanery offerings in addition to regular school lunch.

    Good luck! Fortunately there are really fine options and not too much sibling preference happening, so the lottery drama isn't so much. I can't think of anyone in our circle who didn't get their first choice in the last few years.

  110. thanks to the Aptos and Presidio parents. I did read the mini reviews, but am looking for parents who are either 7th or better yet 8th grade parents who really know their schools in a way that you cannot know on a tour or as a pretty new 6th grade parent. So..keep those reviews coming!

  111. To the parent who asked about the Academy of Arts & Sciences -- sorry; I hadn't looked at this thread for a while.

    Short answer is that I think the Academy is just starting to live up to its potential, but I would definitely look at it. Its API is currently not broken out from SOTA's; they're legally the same school, but not really (think Clarendon JBBP/Second Community for an example). It's likely to be a given that the Academy's API would be lower. That's because SOTA is an audition school that requires considerable effort to get into, and even though the process doesn't take academics into account, that process still tends to self-select for more-motivated students. The Academy admits by lottery.

    The Academy was opened, with just a 9th grade, the year my son started 9th grade at SOTA, 05-06. It was kind of left to drift, though, until the current principal of both schools, Carmelo Sgarlato, arrived in fall 08. The Academy's de facto principal is Greg Markwith, technically an asst. principal reporting the Sgarlato, and he seems fantastic.

    As an example of being left to drift, the Academy still doesn't officially have a PTSA or other parent group, though I think that's now in the works. We in the SOTA PTSA were told that the Academy parents would be starting their own group, and somehow that didn't happen for a few years.

    I did list the Academy on my daughter's high school app (she's now a SOTA sophomore), but as a backup that I figured we'd check out if the need arose. I would definitely encourage prospective high school parents to check it out, though. Here's the Academy's website, which needs updating:

  112. thanks Caroline. Another question, now that we have finished touring high schools. There are several that we like, not 7 however. We received a letter encouraging our son to apply to Lowell. We are going to put the school on our list because it wouldn't make sense not too. My son likes the school alot and we think it could be a good fit. We also really like Lincoln, Wash (our son attends Presidio) and Balboa. Last year, several families we know of kids that attended Presidio and Gianni didn't get any of there choices and ended up at John O'Connell. In one case the family didn't bother to put Lowell down as it was deemed not to be a good fit for their daughter. Anyway, I must say I am fearful that we may suffer the same fate.

    Can you shed any light at all on how the Lowell applications are treated in comparison to the regular application. What I mean is, that we will submit our combined application for the regular high schools but also the additional form for Lowell. Why do we need to get the application in so early - what does the SFUSD do with this information for a month. Seperately, does the SFUSD truly consider Lowell applicants outside of their regular "bucket" process for the other schools? Does this mean that should we put Lowell down first, and not get in, we still have a fair shot at being considered for our # 2 school, or would be in a bad spot, becuase everyone else that put, say Lincoln first, would have a leg up on us?

  113. Everyone says you should list Lowell first if you want it -- everyone being the EPC staff, PPS, the Lowell administration etc. -- and that if your child doesn't qualify for Lowell, that doesn't affect his/her chances in the lottery for the other schools.

    In case you don't have this, here's complete info about Lowell admissions, including the bands and the worksheet:

    That extra time is for processing and verifying all that information.

    Because we went through the HS application process in '05 and '08 and so many of our friends have done it over the past four years, I've watched this quite closely. I have not (yet) known of a family that listed Balboa or Galileo in the first round and hasn't gotten it. I'd bet my firstborn that the Giannini and Presidio families who got O'Connell listed only Lincoln and/or Washington, which is no wiser a strategy than listing only Clarendon, Miraloma and Alvarado for K.

    As you may be aware, there was near-hysteria over the difficulty of getting into Lincoln a few years ago -- the mass protests over that happened in spring '03. That was quietly defused after SFUSD agreed to enroll students wait-listed for Lincoln from the Sunset to Galileo, and you just haven't heard much since (except from those few families who undoubtedly only listed Lincoln and/or Washington). It's apparent that that's mainly because Galileo and Balboa have rapidly risen in popularity and success, so the applications are spread around now.

    I would be checking out Wallenberg too, if you haven't. Also, Burton has some really promising programs and is the beneficiary of a big infusion of grant funding from the Mott Foundation's New Day for Learning project. It could well be the next Balboa.

    Good luck!

  114. So, if your child qualifies for Lowell, and you have listed Lowell as your #1 choice, but then your kid decides that he would rather go to a comprehensive high school, his # 2 choice, does his admission to Lowell negate his being placed in his # 2 choice school?

    I ask because I have a child that isn't so interested in Lowell, but is likely to make the cut, and I want him to have the option, so we thought that he could list both schools (Lowell #1 and Bal #2)and then make the decision once the letters come out in March. But, I don't want him to lose the choice of going to Balboa if he makes it into Lowell. Anyone know what happens if you list Lowell, make it in, but then decide you want your # 2 listed school?

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  116. I know kids who have been accepted to Lowell but chose Balboa and Washington, but I don't actually know how that process worked, in terms of keeping them in the lottery for their other choices. This sounds like a question to take to PPS -- are you on their listserve? PPS outreach person Vicki Symonds is the liaison with the EPC for questions like that (her kids are both at SOTA, so her personal experience is the same as mine, though).

  117. Caroline,
    Is band 2 (lowell) for the kids who missed out by 1/2 or 1 point, eventhoug they don't qualify for reduced lunch, calworks etc.?

  118. Band 2 is designed for students who face hardships, evaluated on a case-by-case basis. From what I'm told AND what I've seen, it's not being used as a tool to get students who fall 1/2 point short into Lowell. Students in Band 3 schools who fall 1/2 point short may have a chance, but only truly disadvantaged students have a shot through Band 2.

  119. Regading if you don't accept the admisson to the lowell then it is up the school district where to place, eventhough you put Balboa and Washington in the list. It is in the application instructions that if you don't accept the school of your choice they will palce you where the school district wants to put.

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  121. In the years since the flap when everyone wanted to get into Lincoln, I honestly have seen very few people not get a high school they wanted, though, unless they ONLY listed Lincoln, Washington or both. If the EPC is sending students who fall short of the Lowell cutoff to schools they didn't ask for and don't want, it has been very low-profile.

  122. I saw the Galileo-Lincoln Turkey Bowl game yesterday at Kezar.

    It was great seeing all the old Gal players from the 70s and 80s in their varsity jackets.

    It made me long for the time when many African-Americans still lived in San Francisco and working-class people could afford to live here...

    ...when we all attended our neighborhood schools, and San Francisco wasn't being taken over by upper-middle-class (and worse) dwebes who eschew public school and worry too much about peanut allergies and getting their precious children into the RIGHT college.

  123. It was "when we all attended our neighborhood schools" that African-Americans in low-income communities attended schools that were starved for resources compared with the schools attended by white children. That's why the NAACP sued over school segregation originally.

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  125. It all depends on how your child prefers their commute. Ever since the change in which a student now 'chooses' which school they wish to attend, the dynamics of schools has changed completely. Lincoln was very excellent and on par with Lowell, but around 2002 things started to go downhill with the elimination of MacAteer, but Galileo was not a first choice school, but has began to be one of the better schools. Not quite sure if you should follow statistics of how many people apply, but I am biased since I graduated from Lincoln High School.
    Dont know the amount of programs and clubs at other schools, but Lincoln has over 100 clubs and teams (well it did before) and it all depends on the child on what they want to do besides the basic academic courses.
    But where ever they go, it would be best to encourage them to join a club or team early on. One thing that I believe would be beneficial to a student is if the parent actually visits the school INSIDE rather than just dropping them off. They dont need to know you are there, just that you visited them.
    Well I hope you get enough info, but the best bet is to actually visit the school rather than just researching them. And also, you are not attending that school, your child is!