Friday, March 26, 2010

Hot topic: Parochial schools

This from a reader:
It would be great if you could start a topic on parochial schools. I'd like to know where families were accepted. Anyone got in the Big Three: NDV, St. Brendan, St. Cecilia? Were they members of the parish? Siblings? Any other schools that were especially selective this year? I'm also interested to hear from families at St. Thomas Moore.


  1. I'm curious to hear what happened this year too. We're moving to within about a block from St. Cecilia's and don't know much about how difficult it is to find a spot there. Seems like a great school. Last year we never made it of NDV's waitlist so to see St. Cecila's mentioned in the same group makes me think we have no hope to transfer.

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  3. FYI,

    Nationwide reading survey indicates that while there's a gap between publics and privates*, reading scores at catholic schools are essentially the same as the indepent privates:

    Worth thinking about if you're deciding between a parochial and an independent private. For reading, at least, you're not getting more for your money by going for the more expensive independent school.

    * Not adjusting for socioeconomic status

  4. my reason for not applying to the parochial schools were a few small things, not one big thing. but overall they do matter to us because of our kids, not necessarily for everyone.

    the reasons were class size, the fact that they aren't necessarily perceived as gay friendly, and the fact that the religious training isn't important to us.

    on class size, this is less an issue of whether it makes a difference on tests, it is more that i think my kid needs more specific attention because she isn't really outgoing. for many kids this would not be an issue.

    while we are a straight family, that matters to us if gay families aren't as drawn to parochial schools. i didn't get to research this in depth and i wish i had. this was an issue for us with SH and convent (not many gay families are there, or at least in their discussions, they don't make it clear that they care about diversity in this respect. and not clear that in curriculum, references to the importance of gay marriage etc would be there, etc. I am not saying by the way that they discriminate overtly (i don't know if they do), i'm just saying that it is my guess that there aren't as many gay families there as at other private independents and overall this is a negative to us. i also assume catholic schools don't draw as many jewish kids (again, i'm sure they draw some. probably not as many.)

    the last thing is the religion - since we aren't so religious i would rather kids be taught other things in that period. again, not a big big deal but if religion is taught an hour a week, where other schools may have languages for example or art or music that is a minor negative. i would be interested to know actually what the difference is. this is also why we did not apply to brandies.

  5. We got a spot at St. Brendan and are not parishioners but are Catholic. Our parish doesn't have a school, don't know if this helped us. We accepted and feel very fortunate to have the spot.

  6. To 8:14am

    I don't believe other choose between parochial and an independent private on reading alone. I believe they might have other reasons... ;)

    Also, the study could me more usefull if it was San Francisco alone since we are not sending our kids Nationwide nor have any plans to move.

  7. What parochials still have space for K this fall? I'm kicking myself for not applying to any. Is there still a chance? We are in the SW part of the city.

  8. 12:33 - Have you checked at Holy Name? St Stephens? St Anne? St Gabriel I'd imagine is full. Don't know exactly where you are, but St Finn Barr in Sunnyside might also be worth asking.

  9. THX, I've never even heard of half of these. It's hard to find a good list online of parochial schools. I'll make some calls today.

  10. Check out St. Anne's, Holy Name and St Finnbars- St. Stephans is as popular as St. Brendans . St. Finn Barr has Spanish language instruction which is rare for the parochials.

  11. We are a St. Thomas More family, and we like the school so far. Though my child finds Kindergarten a bit too rigid (understandable for a 5-year old), he can now read well and is strong in academics. Even if the big classes can be daunting, big groups can also present an excellent social opportunity.

    If I am not mistaken, they still have spots open in their Kindergarten class. They also have a great preschool called Utopia. Might be worth checking out.

    By the way, to the poster who gave the link to the article about private vs. parochial - thank you!

  12. Nationwide reading survey indicates that while there's a gap between publics and privates*, reading scores at catholic schools are essentially the same as the indepent privates:

    ... For reading, at least, you're not getting more for your money by going for the more expensive independent school.

    * Not adjusting for socioeconomic status

    The "not adjusting for SES" is pretty important! National studies show NO difference in outcomes for public vs. private school students when adjusting for SES status; public school students perform as well or actually better than private school students of similar SES background:

    In terms of reading and math outcomes, the public school parents are getting by far the best value of anyone. My kid who is the same SES status as your kid will probably come out about the same (averaged over a large group, of course).

    Yes, I know parents send their kid to parochial and private for other reasons. Religious reasons for the parochials, or "building of character." For the fancy privates, the many bells and whistles and classes that middle school public school parents often go outside the school for. And, frankly, avoidance of too many poor people (right?).

    Just worth bearing in mind that you if you have 2 kids x 13 years x an average of $25,000 (inclusive of trips, fees, child care) that you are spending $650,000 on those bells and whistles and avoidance of poor people's kids. Not what I would spend that money on; obviously others would and do.

  13. NDV, St. Cecilia, and St. Bredan seem like excellent (and popular) schools. The archdiocese caps each class at 35 students max, so these schools typically enroll the max.

    That said, I toured other Catholic schools that typically enroll fewer than the 35 max and still seem great. (I was worried about my not-so-outgoing daughter getting lost in the class of 35, so I looked around a lot!)

    St. Monica at 23rd & Geary usually has 22-25 kids in kindergarten, and the K teacher is a former Montessori preschool teacher, so she has lots of good early learning experience.

    The director at Sts. Peter & Paul in North Beach says she accepts students on a rolling first come, first serve basis, so you might look into that.

    We also have friends at St. Finnbar in Sunneyside and St. Thomas the Apostle in the Richmond and they are very happy.

    Here is a link where you can access a PDF of all the Catholic grammar and high schools. Lots of these schools get an influx of public-school students in grades 6-8.

    Also useful is a book called "Finding a Private School for Your Child in San Francisco and Marin." You can compare tuition (that was a big driver for me), ethnic make-up of students and faculty, percentage of kids on financial aid, etc.

  14. We toured St. Brendan and NDV this year and decided Catholic education wasn't right for our family. I am Catholic and my husband is agnostic. I attend mass on holy days or days and we have chosen to let our children decide what faith and path they desire. I respect both schools and know their reputations are excellent, however I felt there was too much emphasis on prayers, sacraments, and religious rituals.

  15. "The "not adjusting for SES" is pretty important! National studies show NO difference in outcomes for public vs. private school students when adjusting for SES status; public school students perform as well or actually better than private school students of similar SES background."

    At the K stage it's hard to tell how any one child will turn out. However, averages, while useful, are not your child. A free education is not free if your child emerges without actually getting educated. Most high SES children will do fine in most environments, but you have to pay attention to your own children as well as to statistics.

  16. SW poster - also consider St. Elizabeths, Corpus Christi and Epiphany. We liked St. Finn Barr a lot. Also St. Paul and St. Philip in Noe, or Mission Dolores if the Mission is doable for you. St. Anne's if the Sunset works for your logistics.

    St. Cecilia's & St. Brendan's will be oversubscribed, so I don't think they're worth pursuing given you're getting into this a bit late.

    After you apply, a good time to pulse the school secretary will be right after SFUSD announces what it's class size will be increasing too. There'll be a lot parents getting into their desired public there, and freeing up their parochial slots.

  17. The real reason most peope go private over public is not reading, it's SES. Let's face it, the few who can afford private but go public always go to the " trophy" schools. They wouldn't send their children to publics in the city if they had to bus them to true inner city schools. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wish people would be more honest about it.

  18. A free education is not free if your child emerges without actually getting educated. Most high SES children will do fine in most environments, but you have to pay attention to your own children as well as to statistics.

    Of course, 3:35. And I'm betting that most high-SES families, such as the ones who seem to read this blog, are paying very close attention to their own children's outcomes all along the way. I know I am (to the chagrin of my two children currently in middle school). And if you see signs that your child is not getting educated, you take action. No disagreement there!

    All I'm saying is that since, as you say, "most high SES children will do fine in most environments," then the mostly quite decent schools in SFUSD are a pretty easy bet, and that paying $650,000 for my two children to go private K-12--which is the pressure once you are in that system--is overkill, or over-insurance, or bad value for the money, or however you want to put it.

    I know for some that is a drop in the bucket, but I'm betting not for most of us. College and retirement savings strike me as better value investments for most families, plus an extracurricular class or sport and even maybe a fabulous family trip to a foreign country if we are enough up the income chain. And most of all, a lot less family stress to make ends meet; family time strikes me as the best investment of all, in fact, for which I can thank my modest middle class job. :-)

    I know some disagree with me, and that's fine. I'm just putting out how I see it. Something to think about.

    Btw, I'm not a zealot, trying to convince you to come to my kids' school for some political purpose or campaign. My thing is that I like to find good value. What I see from the data is that educational outcomes from different kinds of schools are statistically similar across SES status groups. I'm highly educated and not poor, and my kids are very likely to have similar outcomes to those of most of the other kids on this list from educated, not-poor families, whether they attend public or parochial or private schools or a mix.

    My children not only score "advanced" on the CST tests, they can also write and research and think critically and do algebra (well, the 8th grader so far). I bet you couldn't tell my children from private or parochial kids at a birthday party or by the papers they write. The biggest difference between my kids and the others is the huge sums amount of money their families will have paid out by the time we all run into each other at freshmen orientation day at our kids' colleges.

    Again, just something to think about. YMMV.

  19. Does anyone have a child at St. Brendan or St. Cecilia? How many children are in their current k classes? Someone mentioned that the archdiocese has a max 35 per class. Does anyone how many children were accepted this year?

  20. "The real reason most peope go private over public is not reading, it's SES .... They wouldn't send their children to publics in the city if they had to bus them to true inner city schools. .... I wish people would be more honest about it."

    The proof of this is the perception that schools like Vis Valley ES or Parker ES are in need of a turnaround, and families here never look at them. Why? They have high test scores! But middle class white families don't want to send their kids to schools with low-income Chinese kids, even though they do really, really well in school and their families value education.

  21. "YMMV." Ours did, a lot, which was why we moved our high SES kid from "blue ribbon" public to private. Fortunately, we were accepted when we applied, we had the means to pay, and the small classes and personal attention got our kid caught up and ahead of the game. A lot of factors specific to our kid and family made it the right choice in the specific situation.

  22. 4:19- where does your child go to school? Not attacking you, I am no better, just wondering how do things start to turn around?

  23. The biggest difference between my kids and the others is the huge sums amount of money their families will have paid out by the time we all run into each other at freshmen orientation day at our kids' colleges.

    Only if you consider the destination and not the journey.

  24. I love the idea that a public education is identical (my words)to the parochial schools, but I'm not quite convinced. I will hazard to guess that parochial schools in small rural towns may not outpace their public counterparts, but after touring many Catholic and public grammar schools throughout the City, it's hard to believe that the publics offer the same opportunities. Not trying to criticize the publics, really. I really liked what I saw, and I want to believe!

    In any case, the $650,000 out-of-pocket expense estimates for parochials is way off for most. Convent is pricey, but NDV and St. Brendan, including all their extra fees, only adds up to about $7,000/year. That's A LOT less than $25,000/year. And St. Brigid, St. Monica, and Star of the Sea are closer to $4,000-$5,000/year.

  25. NDV is a costs a lot more than 7K. If you add all the additional mandatory fees, comes out to about 12K/child. About 20K for 2 kids. Cheaper than Privates, but definitely one of the pricier parochials.

  26. Forgot to mention, NDV 12K tuition includes aftercare.

  27. For the St. Thomas More Family, thanks for your response. How is your child doing? He's finding k too rigid? In what way? Was admission selective? I'm looking into the utopia pre k as well. It does look like a wonderful program.

  28. Yes, you are right, aftercare costs a pretty penny--especially at NDV. I think a lot of kids take part in the program there. I wasn't including aftercare.

    I see lots of grandparents picking up kids at the less expensive Catholic schools in the Richmond. Our family depends on the goodwill of relatives for childcare, too, so I just focus on tuition & fees. I think a lot of parochial families are like that, so the expense is far less intimidating than $25,000/year that an earlier poster suggested.

  29. "Only if you consider the destination and not the journey."

    Oh, I'm sure the journey is very special in private school! I'm just not sure it's worth *that* much money. Because it is a lot of money. (And yes--less in parochial, a lot less in some cases, but still a fair amount, esp with more than one child).)

    All I'm saying is, there is a lot of hype and it's easy to get swept up into the idea that one must do the "best" for one's child, but it's good to look at what exactly you mean by that. Again, I'm not a zealot here, I just like to ask hard questions about value.

    I appreciate that it is fantastic to have small class sizes and two teachers to a class. And all the bells and whistles too. I just see the price tag as being out of whack for what that gets you, at least for most kids, since most kids are going to be very well-educated anyway if they come from an involved, educated family. I don't spend a lot of time teaching algebra and assigning term papers, but the school's job is made easier by all that we do at home. The rest is not strictly necessary. Great, maybe, but not needed, especially when compared to two parents who are in low-stress enough jobs not to be pecking away at their Blackberries during school events like I see so many daddios (and moms too) doing.

    And while I can see how amazingly beautiful the facilities are at some of these places, they are frankly newer and nicer than where I work and definitely where we live. I'm sure it's lovely to go to school in such places, but again--strictly necessary? Compared to time on weekends for a bike ride or board games, or a multi-generational family reunion vacation in the mountains that you couldn't afford if you were paying tuition? Compared to not saddling your kids with student loans, because you are socking it away in 529 accounts--so they will have a choice of career and not have to earn a lot of money to pay it back?

    Some folks have all this money for school and all the rest, to spare, and bully for them, and why spare any expense in that case. I'm just guessing most of us are not in their shoes. I just think it is smart to figure out where the line is for one's family, where you are stretching, working harder, not saving as you probably should be, and that is where you should be asking yourself, for what? Maybe you come down on the other side, but you should ask.

    I would especially point out that if don't want to be paying 13 years / child, but might want private school at some point, it might be better to save it for later. Most kids will do really well in kindergarten anywhere.

    Guess I would also point out that part of the equation needs to be what is gained from at least some years of public school exposure, which obviously is diversity, and learning how to navigate that. And once again, parochial may be in the middle between the public and private worlds there. And I do wonder how much of the real cost "value" of private is actually avoiding that diversity, especially the kids coming from poverty--though no one wants to say it.

    I just want to say that diversity's been fine for us. We have had a fine mix, and these are real people, and it's not as scary as you might think. Every parent I know wants the best for their kids. So I'm not sure that my kids' low-cost "journey" is really such a loss compared to what we might buy with all that moolah.

    Seriously--not saying there is a right or wrong answer, or that you must take mine, just advocating that you think it through in the light of the cold facts about money, how it adds up, and also what are the real goodies you want to pay that much for. Because the thing is that our kids really will be at the same freshman orientation for college. So what is that $300+K/child (or $100K+K/child for parochial) really buying?

  30. I think when people talk about the $25,000/yr cost of private education, they tend to be talking not about the parochial schools, but rather the "elite" independent schools...

  31. Beware of Star of the Sea, who took applications and applications fees from many families only to have us find out at the acceptance phase that they had so many siblings and children entering from the preschool that there were in effect no spots to give.

  32. Thanks for the star of the sea tip. Most schools offer applications to anyone who ask, but this practice seems unfair as the school knows exactly how many spots are available.

    Do parochials, specifically NDV, offer FA?

  33. We got into St Paul's and are very happy. The kindergarten and first grade teachers (the only ones I have observed much) are wonderful and have full time aides. The new school is beautiful and the k classroom is colorful and full of fun stuff to play with and learn from. There is a science teacher, spanish class twice a week, and other extras after school. Total cost, including after care, is about $7,200. There is a cost savings if you pay the full amount at beginning of the year and the rates go down if there are siblings. After care at the publics seems to be about $300-400 per month, so the additional cost is not enormous. Each family is also required to volunteer at least 40 hours (20 for single parents) and fundraise a reasonable amount. We wanted a small school with good logistics, an involved community, good academics, and nice extras. I am sure many publics also fit the bill, but St.Paul's is a good fit for us.

  34. All the Catholic schools offer assistance through the same assistance fund--BASIC, Bay Area Scholarship for Inner-city Children.

    You have to be moderate/low income, $30,000/yr for a family of four, or something like that. Very different from the independent schools that sometimes offer assistance to families who make up to $180,000/yr.

    Still, it helps quite a few families.

  35. 11:22 am again. I just did the math, and it is ~$36k for K-8 for one kid, assuming we would be paying $350 a month for aftercare at a public, and not taking inflation into account.

  36. "I just see the price tag as being out of whack for what that gets you"

    Really? Just because the $10,000 (or less next year) for public education doesn't feel like it's coming out of your pocket, it takes that much -- and quite obviously a hell of a lot more -- to do it right. *Those* are the "cold facts about money." $20,000+ sounds about right to me. That money is buying an education as close to ideal as I can fathom. And we still ride our bikes and play board games.

  37. 12:10, it's me again, who likes to look at data. I'm honestly curious, since you say $20,000 "sounds about right" to you, what specifically do you think that is paying for? What goes into that calculation?

    Let me be clear--I am a taxpayer several times over and I do know that I am paying for public schools, as I should be, whether or not my children are in the schools.

    I also believe, as you suggest, that our schools, especially in California, are grossly underfunded. If I could get the state to raise and allocate more funds, I would encourage investment in teacher training and salaries, wrap-around services such as health care and counseling in low-income schools, extended day and year, enriched afterschool and summer programs, investment in science, an array of arts programs, motor skills, and improved food programs. All this would take money. I don't know about $25,000, but maybe $16-$18,000, averaged across the whole population.

    All that said, I don't think my own kids are suffering too much this underfunding. I think the lowest-income kids are suffering disproportionately from this underfunding. However, they would hardly benefit from me spending $25,000 on my kids for private school.

    The thing is that the core curriculum, plus arts, and most of all the teaching is really great at all the schools my kids have attended, so they have gotten what they need, and we, being an educated and not-poor family, have been able to supplement the rest (summer programs, health care, decent food, books). I think most middle class+ families do, at a much, much lesser cost than private school. It's the lower-SES kids who don't get these things due to underfunding, and they are the ones who need it the most. I'm just not sure my kids need $25,000/kid worth of education, though it would be nice. I'm very sure that would benefit some of their friends a LOT though, because of what they are not getting at home.

    This "need difference" is probably why the outcomes for high-SES kids, whether mine at public or yours at private, are about the same in the long run. The main difference between you and me will be in how much and how we spend as individual families, but the outcomes will be broadly similar.

    Yeah, I did spend on afterschool in the elementary years, and for summer camps and music lessons and pursuing a sport. Not $50,000/year combined for my two kids though, not even close.

    So unless your kid is really not doing well at his/her school, in which case, of course take action, I think it worth *asking the question* what that extra $300,000 buys for thirteen years. Especially starting at the K level. Everyone wants "the best" for their kid, I get that. But is that the best way (and amount) to invest your resources in your probably-not-high-needs kid? Would parochial or public meet the educational needs and leave a lot left over for other potentially higher-payoff investments for your family, that would benefit your children in other ways? It's a strategic question, really.

    By the way, I do understand that parochial school is a good value overall and that costs/family are lower than for elite private school--perhaps almost comparable to public if you take afterschool and extracurriculars into account along with family subsidies.

  38. Do you really need to feel superior to parents checking their Blackberrys? Newsflash - the halcyon days of the middle-class in America are over. They are feeling anxious, and so should you.

  39. It appears that everyone is feeling anxious. Why else would non Catholics even consider Catholic education? They want private, but can't afford it and don't want to send their children with the poor kids.

  40. 4:15 p.m., they want private and did not get in so they are looking to spend their $$ elsewhere before going public.

  41. I'm in a small music ensemble in which I'm the only member who had music education in K-12 school (learned to read music, played in an orchestra, had singing in class) -- because everyone else in the ensemble went to Catholic school, where the amount of arts was exactly zero.

    Of course this was years ago, and I realize that Catholic schools tend to have more enrichments now -- due to competitive pressure from public schools! I'd question how much they really have, though.

  42. What are the class sizes in parochial schools..I keep hearing 30 kids!! Which is more than public.

  43. Class size really depends on the school. 35 is the max for Catholic schools. Some K classes are much smaller. Closer to 20-25, which is in line w/the public Ks projected to be 22-24 the coming academic year. Class sizes go up in the upper grades at public schools, too. So it might be a wash.

    If you want small class sizes, Hillwood Academic Day School on Scott Street is a non-religious private that bears resmeblance to Catholic schools in that they offer a solid no-frills education that has very successful placement at the City's prestigious high schools, like Lowell, S.I., and University.

    Hillwood has very small classes (they do split classes: K/1; 2/3; etc.) AND includes aftercare & lunch in their fees for about $7,000/year.

  44. Star of the Sea offers music as part of the curriculum.

    Star also offers Chinese classes K-8 as an after-school program, as does St. Monica's, and I'm sure a few of the other schools that attract non-Catholic families.

  45. Any feedback on St Gabe's?
    Specifically on the strength of the science / math program?
    Any Catholic schools known for their good science programs?

  46. Is Hillwood accredited? Nonprofit? Are teachers credentialed?

  47. 1:57, I would love to believe that outcomes are more or less the same -- you make a very persuasive case. But I went to private school on heavy financial aid, and my best friend to our mediocre local public schools, both of us K-12. By the time we were in high school I was 3 grade levels ahead of her in the work I was doing for school, and she was a total party girl with no homework to speak of who got out of school at 2 pm with nothing but trouble to occupy her. We had both been classical musicians as middle-schoolers, and she dropped it in 9th grade, while I went on to play in a Conservatory orchestra. She went to our mediocre state college and I went private liberal arts and two advanced degrees. She and I were both kids who could easily have blown off our potential, but I had really close supervision at my school, adults who really cared what happened to me and had the resources at the school to look out for me. And I had a scholarship to not lose, which kept me in line. She didn't have these things.

    When we met again in middle age, she told me that she had begged and pleaded with her parents to send her to my school. She says now that she envied me every step of the way and wishes she'd had the same opportunities, though she is a happy, functional person with an interesting life and a good marriage, and she's a great mom. I think she just wishes she'd been more challenged. And lest we attribute all this to our different home environments, her sister went to the same mediocre schools, and onward to a private liberal arts college, and has done more with her talents. So if your kid is like her sister, ambitious, fairly straight-arrow, not bent by peer pressure, and so on, yes, the outcome will probably be the same. But if she's like my friend or me, bright but giddy, experimental, prone to follow the crowd, not particularly mature, then private might well be worth the bucks.

    I guess it boils down to what is the value of (public, private, parochial) for a particular kid, not in general.

    Now, back on topic -- are there any Catholic schools where alternative family structure and/or gender nonconformity acknowledged and welcomed? Or is that question completely insane? I'd love to be able to consider parochial (and sadly, Jewish, Quaker, and Episcopalian are as pricey as the secular privates). But it just doesn't seem like an option.

  48. Why does every conversation on this blog have to devolve to the public vs. private debate? It's been beaten to death already.

    Back to the topic at hand, I know of one family who did get into Star of the Sea despite not having sibling preference or being enrolled in the Star of the Sea preschool.

    Also, St. Brigid in Pacific Heights has a banner hanging outside that says they are taking applications.

  49. "Newsflash - the halcyon days of the middle-class in America are over. They are feeling anxious, and so should you."

    Don't worry about me! I have a civil service job with plenty of seniority, even in the present crisis. My department isn't going away anytime soon. My husband is similarly secure in his job. We won't get rich, by any means, but we'll be okay.

    That said, you are right that the middle class is under pressure and in crisis....and the job insecurity is creeping up the income ladder. All the more reason to ask hard questions about value and affordability when it comes to education! Note I say: ask questions. I'm not pre-judging your outcome.

    Re the anecdote about the kid who got left behind and didn't reach her potential in public school, versus her sister who did. I can only say it is up to the parents to keep an eye on their children and what is best for them (and what is good strategic investment, and value, for the educational dollar). I'm guessing there is plenty of parental focus here on this blog, in our generation of helicopter parenting, especially compared to how we were raised. Therefore, I'm not worried that my kids or most kids represented by parents here are going to get lost.

    I have a good friend who just switched to a smaller, and private, middle school for her son. Knowing the son, it makes sense for this transitional year (6th). I have another friend whose daughter is switching from private to public for high school due to some clique/bullying stuff at her old school, and her strong feeling that she wants out of the hothouse atmosphere of a small school--plus she wants the opportunities of large activities and clubs that are offered at our public high schools--primarily music, in her case, but it could be sports or any number of things. This also makes sense.

    I'm only suggesting that committing to such an expensive route for 13 years *may* be overkill at the level of kindergarten. Especially with the uncertainties of the economy these days and into the future. This isn't a decision that should be made as a default, or out of fear of the unknown at the publics. Most kids of our demographic do just fine in public, so why not try it?

    Regarding parochial, it can also be a good-value option. Historically, they have done a good job--perhaps as well as any kind of school in working class communities, actually. Downside would be the religious stuff for some people, I would think, as it comes as a package.

  50. 7:54, I know loads of committed, but unmarried straight couples that have children enrolled in Catholic schools in SF. I don't know about gay couples. It doesn't hurt to ask if you find one you like! I know St. Dominic's in Pac Heights has prominently displayed traveling AIDs quilts over the years. They host a school on site, Meghan Furth Academy. The school serves mainly lower income families in the Western Addition, if that doesn't fir you, you might be better served considering one of the other schools mentioned in this thread.

    I wonder if some of the Catholic schools around Noe/Castro/Mission might be more open... I think somebody mentioned St. John Boscoe in Glen Park as being welcoming. They seem like good kids--I always see the 7th/8th graders hanging around the library after school.

    I hope this all helps!

  51. 7:31, at their value price, Hillwood is definitely nonprofit! :)

    I can't tell from their site, whether the teachers are credentialed, but does it really matter? Plenty of my terrible public school teachers were credentialed (as were the great ones).

    They're definitely worth a look. Maybe it's the answer to some of the parents here w/non-traditional family structures.

    I encourage you to call the director. He is very nice, very honest and unsnobby. He says he accepts students on a first come first served basis, so there's none of that nonsense that the independent privates do, raking you over the coals, only to reject you.

    If I hadn't been raised Catholic and was weirded out by all the bloody thorn imagery, we would have applied (and probably accepted). But having grown up around post-Vatican II, guitar-playing Catholics, I am less worried about the religious thing. Cafeteria Catholic and proud, I guess you could say.

  52. 7:21, don't know about St. Gabe's, but St. Monica and Star of the Sea pride themselves on strong science programs. When I toured St. Vincent de Paul, they had a vacant science teacher position. Not sure if they have filled it yet.

    St. Monica also offers and after-school science club, and has a female math teacher in the upper grades who makes it her mission to keep girls interested in science and math.

    I wouldn't worry about the Catholic schools here being all Flat Earth and Creationism. The parents here know they have to raise intelligent children who will be competitive in the global economy, and the Catholic schools know it.

  53. Forgot to mention Hillwood also offers a summer program, so you do not have to hobble together a bunch of week-long camps!

  54. FWIW, Catholics accept evolution, as do the mainline Protestants (Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc.). It's the fundies that don't.

    The issues people tend to have with Catholics is their official stance on homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and the role of women. And concerns about the pedophilia scandals--which are related both to the celibacy vows of their priesthood (causes lots of issues, let's just say that) and the authority and secrecy imperatives of the institution that have led to cover-ups of those scandals. And around here, the official and financial support for Prop 8, which hurt a lot of gay families. They joined forces with the Mormons for that.

    It's important to counter all this with the history of the RC Church as a voice *for* social justice in other areas, especially for workers and immigrants.

    It's a contradictory and huge institution. Look at the recent stance of the American bishops on health care--they opposed the bill unless draconian abortion language were put into place. But the leadership networks of nuns broke ranks and spoke out in favor of the bill.

    And all that said, I've heard most of the schools here in the Bay Area are fairly tolerant and progressive. Presumably what goes on in the classroom is not addressing a lot of this. I don't really know what they do for sex education in the upper grades though, or how they talk out loud about the diverse family structures that are so common in our city (as opposed to mere tolerance of them.)

  55. 12:10 AM, thanks for the thoughtful answer. I am definitely aware of all the progressive work the Catholic community has done, historically and in the present. But we moved to SF so we and our child would be more than tolerated -- for instance, her preschool discusses gender identity and alternative family structure in a matter-of-fact way, just like they describe shapes without "tolerating" the triangles or some such nonsense. If any parochials do likewise, I hope current parents will describe which school!

  56. Yes, thank you 12:10 for a thoughtful answer.

    To 7:06, I toured about 7 Catholic schools and didn't hear the tour guide mention anything about teaching alternative family structure, though it was mentioned that alt families are welcomed.

    Maybe ask someone at the Universalist church on Franklin? They are multi-denominational and I have gay friends who were married there, so they might have a better pulse than I do.

    I would guess that maybe alt structure is not actively taught at many Catholic schools because alt families haven't gained critical mass at those places. I think that stuff can be self-selecting. I have been told by gay and lesbian friends that they would never even consider Catholic school because the Church hierarchy is so intolerant (Prop 8) and just general baggage the Church carries.

    BUT if you don't get into the public you want and you're not a gazillionaire, you have to weigh the pros/cons.

    Too bad other denominations/faiths don't offer similarly priced educational options. I'm talking to YOU, Friends and Brandeis!

    I would have applied there in a heartbeat were it not for the price tag way beyond my reach.

  57. The Episcopalians (which would include Cathedral and St. Paul's in Oakland) also have gay weddings, at least in this diocese, and have many gay clergy including up at the Cathedral, even gay clergy with kids. The Lutherans are moving in that direction. These are pretty liberal traditions on social issues (and also on evolution, as previously mentioned). Of course, Cathedral is not affordable and accessible as many of the Roman Catholic parochial schools are. :-( It's a function of the RCs being better on class issues and the others being better on social issues. Too bad there isn't the complete package somewhere. Which is really the issue, isn't it, in this whole d*** school search. There are trade-offs everywhere you look.

  58. Does anyone know of parochials with gay families? Does Cathedral have many? Which seem more accepting?

  59. Ya think?

    "The issues people tend to have with Catholics is their official stance on homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and the role of women. And concerns about the pedophilia scandals..."

    I can't imagine why anyone would have anything to do with this outfit, frankly. What does it take before the scales fall from your eyes?

  60. Cathedral is Episcopalian. There's a big difference. The Catholic church believes that homosexuality is a sin. The Episcopal church doesn't.

  61. Parochial class sizes just seem to large with teachers who are not credentialed (minus Sacred Heart Schools and Cathedral). Its an honest question, why parochial over a public with a great school rating of 6 or better?

  62. My experience with St Gabe's is that several openly gay families are as loved and involved in the the school as any other families. You should have seen the turn out for one little girl's first communion; from China, adopted by 2 dads, the most elegant and tasteful dress, and about a thousand "family" members there to see her take this step. So sweet.

  63. The teachers at SF Catholics schools are not required to be credentialed, but most are. At St. Monica's all are, and I would guess the same for others.

    Re: why parochial over public? It's really a hard call, because even though it's not as pricey as the independents, it's not free.

    For me, leaning toward a parochial over a public that's rated 9, it comes down to:

    * Size (one K class v. five and 21-25 K students v. 22-??

    * Parental involvement (mandatory for participating families v. having everything fall on a few families shoulders)

    * Knowing the K teacher (there's just one at Catholic)

    * Classmates that come from families who value education and good behavior v. ??? (there are more good than bad at public, BUT you can't weed out the kids who come from abusive homes and parrot that behavior. Most SF publics have the opposite of zero tolerance, they want to do everything they can do to avoid suspension or expulsion)

    It just seems like a sure thing over a pretty big gamble. But that's me, and some other families we know, too. Other families seem to feel it's less of a gamble. So that's fine, too.

  64. I would highly recommend St. Monica's. I really liked it and felt strongly that my child would get a great education in a positive environment. The upper grades seemed particularly strong. We decided not to take our space ultimately because my husband could not get over a discomfort with cathoicism, but I still thought the school was great.

  65. Ditto to the posters who recommend St. Finnbarrs. My kid is in K there and we are really really happy. We looked at St. Gabes, Stevens, St Johns. We ultimately went with Finnbarrs for three reasons 1) Prinicpal Dooher is awesome, 2) we wanted a small school where we could meet the other families and that's exactly how it's worked out and 3) Spanish every day. If we lived in another part of the city, we might have went with St. Gabes, but I'm totally happy with how it's worked out. Parents and kids we have met are smart, cool and mellow.

    We did not consider St. Cecilia as I know the school well. It's a great school, but I didn't want a "big" school experience again (my son went there)

  66. NDV seemed very welcoming of different family structures. But it's probably comparable to the big-ticket independents in the competitiveness of the admission process. It's got a high-end feel at a bargain price compared to the independents (though more costly than many other parochials especially when you add in after-care costs).

    RE: Hillwood and credentialed teachers: I don't believe the school is independently accredited and if the teachers are accredited, the web site does not say so. I have not visited, but the web site strikes me as somewhat like homeschooling at somebody else's house. The HS admit record seems just fine. It is an affordable secular alternative to the parochials with very small classes, if you think small classes would be good for your child. I believe it is for-profit--I think it's what the family does for a living. If you have a small facility, no administrative bureaucracy, no transportation, no USDA lunch guidelines, no special needs kids, no scholarships, and a no-frills program, $7000 per year per student is apparently adequate to get the kids a decent education and pay yourself a decent living.

    On accreditation of the school and the teachers, here's a question: If Lowell and Lick-Wilmerding, which admit several students from our non-accredited school most years, don't care whether a K-8 is accredited and don't care whether it has all-credentialed teachers when they make their admission decisions, why, as a parent, should it cause me to eliminate a school that would otherwise be a good fit for my child and family? (Not that I think those two HSs are the be-all and end-all, but both are considered to be at the top of the public and private HS heaps.)

    I have posted more than once asking if any teachers could post to explain how the teacher accreditation process helps them become better classroom teachers. I have not yet read a single response. The only teacher I've spoken to personally said he did not think it made any difference. I hear repeatedly that public schools are better because the teachers are required by law to be credentialed, but that seems as non-substantial to me as arguing that private schools are better than public because the parents pay tuition. I would still like to hear more teachers' voices on the subject of how obtaining a teaching credential helps them in the classroom, since I don't think the friend who said it made no difference is necessarily the most reliable source on the subject.

  67. ditto to 10:04. I went to catholic highschool in SF. My non credentialed teacher had a masters in math from Stanford and challenged me way more than the"credentialed" instructors. I was so well prepped for college that i ran circles around the kids from the top scoring API schools in Piedmont and such.

  68. Responding to Star of the Sea comments - they dont know how many kids from the preschool will end up at the elementary school - we are in the preschool and I know a good portion of the parents were considering public or alternate private schools so the elementary school really doesnt know til they get their deposits in. You could ask how many spots there would be if all sibs and preK's went to the K and then decide if the application is too much of a gamble but please dont malign the school or principal - they are wonderful people and just dealing with their somewhat new found popularity (their preschool is only a few years old and its upping their application volume).

  69. Has anyone been accepted to NDV from their waitlist? I've heard in the past there hasn't been much movement. Thanks.

  70. 10:04am: a credential seems like just another piece of paper, but it represents many hours of study and training. To get a credential, teachers learn not just what to teach, but the most effective, researched ways of teaching. All credentialed teachers complete an internship program where they work with a master classroom teacher, gradually taking over teaching responsibility. To maintain a credential, every five years teachers document that they have continued their professional development.

    At the elementary level, it is particularly crucial that teachers know a range of teaching strategies: a PHD in economics is not helpful when the task at hand is teaching a group of children of differing abilities to read. An advanced degree in mathematics does not provide strategies for building classroom environments where children can work together in groups, solving conflicts as they arise.

    You might run into some private school, uncredentialed teachers who naturally 'get it' without having been through training programs, but if you can get into a place with credentialed teachers, you're in better hands.

  71. 2:47 p.m., I hear NDV movement usually happens later in the Spring/Summer.

  72. St. Monica has 20-25 children per classroom and offers art and music as part of the curriculum for all grades. After school activities range from science club, piano lessons, guitar lessons, chinese lessons, spanish lessons and drama club as well as the normal athletics for both girls and boys.

    It is a warm and vibrant community and we have been thrilled to see our child thrive there.

  73. To clarify 6.25, I was talking about high school, not elementary.

    I think the big issue here is whether or not credentialling correlates with school quality. Is there any evidence that it does? Perhaps college placements stats are the appropriate place to look since parochial schools don't have API scores.

  74. All the Catholic schools in SF take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), as a way of gauging students/schools. Anyone know where we can compare scores like API on the publics?

  75. Is anyone still checking this topic? We are in the process of transferring from a private over to a parochial. The price is right. I will refrain from naming the parochial in fear of jinxing our chances. Parochial is definitely no frills, but I know they provide a solid education. Will have to supplement the arts & language outside of school. Looking forward to being able to put money in the savings.

  76. April 1 -- I know people make a big deal about arts, but, frankly, arts kind of die away by second grade, so I wouldn't make that the breaking point in deciding right now. Here are the big differences I see, as someone who is not biased against Catholic schools but is currently in public school (although we may bolt next year). With most Catholics, you are getting a culture that is more sport-focused than publics or other privates. The second is size. That is, although some of the Catholics have individual classes as big or bigger than many publics, entire grades are generally much smaller. So, a kid who is likely to "disappear into the woodwork" is going to do better at a parochial. But it also means a kid who is socially awkward or quirky may stick out more at a Catholic school than at a bigger public school. Third factor I see is that, generally, the Catholic schools are teaching to the middle of the pack academically. If your kid is gifted or if he has learning issues, Catholic school is probably not going to work. In our case one of our kids is always smack dab in the middle of his class academically, loves sports and is socially advanced. And that's the kid we are likely to send to Catholic school next year. These are terribly broad generalities, but I hope they help.

  77. Thanks 8:54. It's 3:44 here.

    I myself attended Catholic school (one of the "Big 3") and I swore I'd never make mine go there because of their teaching methods (worksheets galore & lots of memorization), 35 plus in a class, and many of the same teachers are still there! It's not an option for us. We're hoping for another one that seems to have a great community of teachers, parents, and kids (bit smaller class size). Although a few years ago I could have cared less about a sports program, I am now looking forward to a well, organized sports program that the school offers.

    Also, many of our friend's kids attend parochials all over the Bay Area, and all these kids seem smart and just plain GOOD kids. Thoughtful and polite. I think my kids can definitely benefit from this. They've become quite sassy at the private.

    Good luck to you!

  78. I have a lot of trouble understanding how even someone indoctrinated into the Catholic Church since birth can remain loyal now, with the Pope claiming that criticizing him for enabling pedophile priests is just like the Nazis gassing Jews. But it's absolutely boggling that a non-Catholic would allow his/her child to have anything to do with anything run by the church now.

  79. There is no doubt that the pope's behavior (as well as that of the pedophile priests) has been despicable but the Catholic church is a large, complex institution, which has done a lot of good, too (especially in terms of promoting social justice in Latin America). I'm not Catholic but have no compunction about sending my child to parochial school (run by nuns - not priests) because I know she'll get a solid education there.

    But the comment above is an attempt to hijack this thread away from the original question.

  80. 4:00- What school does your child attend? Are the nuns teachers and/or administrators? If it is a parochial school then priests must have some involvement in the school or is that not the case at all parochials?

  81. I posted a few pro-parochial comments here earlier, but I don't think the pedophile concern is an attempt to derail. Frankly, as an until recently practicing Catholic, the news WORLDWIDE about scores of priests molesting children over DECADES makes me want to vomit. I think the Catholic schools need to do a better job telling us how these crimes will not take place again.

    I appreciate that someone else brought this up because it is really bothering me and my husband. And my mom!!! She goes to church on holy days of non-obligation fer crissake! When she questions, you know there is trouble!!!!

    Parochial parents, have you talked to your schools about this? What is being done? I am seriously considering our public spot over our parochial spot.

  82. Even if you're convinced that YOUR parochial school is protecting YOUR kids from abuse, doesn't it trouble more people to be affiliated with such a horrific institution? I mean, the Catholic church is all about judging everyone else for their sins, and then they expect you to be all forgiving and nonjudgmental and looking the other way about their massive-scale abuse?

  83. Church leadership's bizarre response to the pedophile priests is a very serious concern. Both my husband's family and mine have been Catholic for generations. My brother and I and our older child got outstanding educations in Catholic schools. We drifted away after the anti-stem-cell-research campaign, really got alienated after prop 8, and this has got to be the last straw. It seems to me that although it's a very top-down institution, the Church must be reformed from the ground up. I don't see how to accomplish that short of a boycott of the churches and the schools. I know that's not easy, especially when public schools are facing unprecedented gutting of their already limited resources, and when many are shut out of the independent privates by lack of space or cost.

  84. "I mean, the Catholic church is all about judging everyone else for their sins, and then they expect you to be all forgiving and nonjudgmental and looking the other way about their massive-scale abuse?"

    Just for the record, the statement that "the Catholic church is all about judging everyone else," while an understandable outsider's perception, is not an accurate statement about the Catholic Church or any Christian denomination. However, that doesn't make the abuse or the hierarchy's response to it any less egregious.

  85. Hear, hear! "...the Church must be reformed from the ground up. I don't see how to accomplish that short of a boycott of the churches and the schools."

  86. Read an article in Newsweek today (more like an op-ed piece) claiming that there were something like 290,000 sexual abuse cases in public schools between 1991 and 2000, with an implication that the NEA covers it up. Reactions?

  87. 2:23

    Link? I saw what I think you are referring to in the comments thread on one of Newsweek's online articles, but comments are not fact-checked. The number of 290,000 was cited by the anonymous commenter as coming from Wikipedia.

    Tragically, abuse has happened everywhere there are children. And has happened most frequently in places where children spend the most time, so of course schools, and especially boarding schools, were a major locus for it. My cousin had an "affair" as a teenager back in the 1970's with her private school teacher; now we would call that abuse.

    The question is whether systems can be put into place to prevent it from happening and to deal with it when it does. There is more awareness now, and teachers (who are now mandated reporters for abuse) get training, and policies are in place to minimize the context for it to happen. I'm not saying it doesn't happen ever, but the context for it has shifted, the issues are more clearly defined (no, it's not an affair, it's statutory rape), and the lines of communication and reporting are better delineated in most schools. Definitely in public schools that is true. It is true in most mainline denominations and in the Jewish synogogues too.

    The issue with the RC church is the level of covering up that occured and is *still* happening at the level of the hierarchy. It is clear that the bishops have prioritized protecting the clergy and covering up for the institution over protecting the children and dealing with the actual abuse. I don't see that in the public schools at least. There is not that loyal brotherhood feeling toward other teachers. I also know for a fact that there are policies and procedures in place and that the administrators are hyper-aware of the issue.

    The anonymous commenter also mentions a 1986 study, but I would point out that the awareness and policy development around this issue has really happened in the last 20 years or so.

    That's why the RC "head in the sand" moments even NOW are so shocking. They don't seem to "get it." Lots of institutions have grown up on this issue. It's not clear that the RCC has. It doesn't help that their leadership is totally unaccountable, all male, mostly old school, and is supposed to be celibate, which is a messed up thing for most of them.

  88. It's not even "head in the sand." The Church very actively moved its pedophile priests from parish to parish to hush up the complaints, pro-actively giving the pervs access to more and more victims. "Enablers" is putting it mildly. And now they are ATTACKING those who criticize them. It's unbelievable that a high-level Catholic leader compared the Pope's accusers to Nazis and the Pope to a Holocaust victim!


  89. "I have a lot of trouble understanding how even someone indoctrinated into the Catholic Church since birth can remain loyal now, with the Pope claiming that criticizing him for enabling pedophile priests is just like the Nazis gassing Jews."

    Ever heard the term Cafeteria Catholic? [I'll take the free will, grace through acts, and social justice, please. No thanks on the sexuality teachings.]

    "If it is a parochial school then priests must have some involvement in the school or is that not the case at all parochials?"

    In the nine-odd parochials I toured, the pastor maybe occasionally did a religion class (e.g. prep for Holy Communion) but otherwise weren't actively teaching. There's too much of a shortage of priests now to have have them teaching (at least at the elementary level).

    In a few (St. James, St. Anthony's) there were nuns teaching. The nuns were cool.

    [Shame the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence don't run a school - they do the Easter Egg hunt, why not branch out?]

  90. We were accepted at NDV and we feel very grateful to have the spot. I understand it was a particularily competitive year. We are non-catholic though my husband is an alumni of NDV so that may have come into play. I have my reservations about how my child will do in a "traditional" school setting but I found NDV to be quite progressive (Reggio inspired K, arts, language & music programs). I also appreciate the focus that parochial schools put on sports and think this will be a big plus when my child is older. We also applied at St. Cecilia's and were waitlisted, though I've heard that list does move at least more than NDV. We were also accepted at St. Monica's but chose NDV for convenience. St. Monica's is definitely worth checking out, it has low enrollment due to location and a small parish but it seemed like a great school. Lastly, regarding class size, in all the schools the K classes were around 33 but there was one teacher and one aide (not a parent) per class.

    Good luck!

  91. Are there any families out there with children at St Peter and Paul in North Beach. I would love to hear what you think. We toured and thought the facilities were very nice and the director seemed easy to work with. I have never heard of anyone mention the school so I am wondering if I missed something on the tour.

    Anything good or bad would be great.


  92. We are in at St. Brendan's and at St. Philip's. We have paid to hold our spot at both, but are really soul searching to choose the right school. Anyone with any thoughts on these schools? As I understand, many of St. Brendan's graduates end up at SI. Anyone know where St. Philip's grads are going to high school?

  93. My children attend a West of Twin Peaks Catholic School which has a lay principal and all lay tachers. The Msgr. does have a role in the school, but, I have not a single concern about his involvement with the children. In fact, his warm manner and sense of humor delight the children. Alas, he's retiring...

    Attending one school for nine years, intense parental involvement and friendships, high percentage of SF native parents, school based sports teams, VERY high behavioral expectations, and accountability result in a tight community that eclipses what you **might** find in a k-5 public school. Also, as many parochial students in the city end up at 2 high schools, these friendships/community ties often extend through HS and beyond.

  94. I'm just starting research a couple years early, so I'm way behind everyone. Still, if anyone feels like sharing, I'd love to hear your impressions based on your experience.

    How competitive are the popular Catholic schools? If you're non-parish or non-catholic, is there even a chance of getting in, or is it just as hard as getting into the popular public schools?