Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hot topic: Private school consultants

This from a reader:
"Who are the good private school consultants? What services do they provide? Are they worth it?"

38 comments:

  1. We used J.D. Worthington III. He is extremely well connected in the city and he golfs regularly with two of the headmasters at the "elites." He is not listed anywhere. If you don't know how to reach him, you have no business using him. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's reality. Hope this helps.

    Sincerely,
    Catherine and Kent

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  2. Catherine and Kent

    Amazing that you both sit down together and write such satire. I am so jealous of the "quality" date night you both share. I guess that is what the richest of the rich do - mock people or provide satire whichever you call it.

    In fact,you should start your own satire blog and keep out of this blog.

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  3. We worked with Little and Molligan a couple of years ago, when we unexpectedly found ourselves looking at private school options for our son toward the end of the admissions season. We were unfamiliar with SF private schools and they were very helpful in narrowing our targets and reviewing our essays.

    Unfortunately, we did not get into any of the schools we applied to. But I attribute much of that to: our late start in the process (December), our son's readiness (he was young for his class), and our own naivete about the process.

    We applied again this year, and got 3 out of 4 independent schools. This time, we started the process early (remembered/took all of Little & Molligan's advice), worked hard to get recommendations, and our son had matured immeasurably since the last time. So, in the end, you still have to do all the work and there is no guarantee. But they very helpful and nice to work with.

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  4. I, for one, really enjoy the commentary of Catherine and Kent, and hope they stick around. = )

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  5. We used a consultant and we are 0/4. Did not find them to be worth the money.

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  6. Unless you are relocating to SF, I think using a consultant can be a bit of a red flag for the admissions directors.

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  7. Parents use consultants to get into the best private schools in SF. They just don't talk about it. It's kept quiet and they pretend like they got their child in without help.

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  8. ^ if so, what does a consultant do that a parent cannot?

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  9. 2:36, it's another way to part fools from their way-too-much money to do things most of us do on our own (nannying, cleaning, laundry, cooking, applying for schools). And, of course, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the schools themselves. As you can see from two responses here, there is no consultant guarantee to get in anywhere, but you still have to pay big $$$$ to the consultants. (Probably most who can pay those bucks will get in somewhere anyway on the strength of future donations.) But it's another way to say that you did "everything" for little Emily or young Jack. Even if that didn't include a whole lot of actual quality time with them, which is correlated with happy and secure children more than anything else.

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  10. Holy mother of God, I was glad to see Catherine and Kent as the first comment on this ridiculous thread. Getting an educational consultant for kindergarten admissions is worthy of only the best satire.

    Unless, of course, the consultant we are talking about works pro bono with kids at CDCs, Head Start preschools, and home daycare centers, getting the families through the public lottery or to private scholarships. Then we can talk.

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  11. Why is everyone jumping on this question? Someone wanted to know if others found a consultant helping. The private school process is painful and someone is wondering if there are angles to help...aren't all the public people on this site looking for guidance and tips to get the results they want? I would have never dreamed of using a consultant when we applied, but of course, we got into 0/6 private schools and our friends who used one got into 3/6. Who knows. I don't judge and don't really care. If you aren't applying to privates and have no experience with consultants why are you even responding?

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  12. how would the schools know who is using a consultant?

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  13. The consultants call the admissions directors to make sure the schools know who their clients are and why they are a "good fit" for the school. They can help ease any questions a school might have about an applicant or just "grease the wheels" to get you in.

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  14. I did not use a consultant, and most people that I know did not use one. I do have a few friends that did, and there was no advantage to doing so at all. It is a very overwhelming process, so I know it's tempting, but I say save your money -- you'll probably do better on your own.

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  15. It seems like using a consultant could hinder rather than help, with the culture in San Francisco. Many people here like to believe we live in an egalitarian community. I'm not saying we do, but many people like to believe we're much more egalitarian than other places.

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  16. If you need to use a consultant, you probably don't possess the "connections" that some might think is the golden ticket.

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  17. I myself plan on consulting Catherine and Kent.

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  18. Catherine and Kent offend my life partner and I, and they should be encouraged to move to Connecticut. This blog should be only reserved for true San Franciscans.

    Our story: we conceived our beloved two year old on the playa at Burning Man. Of course it was an experience of great ecstasy. Hence we named our child Ecstasy.

    Now please notice that we haven't revealed the sex of our lovely two year old. We don't know. We don't want to submit our child to oppressive gender politics.

    Family life is such bliss. Most mornings begin with kale smoothies for everyone. Delicious and earth conscious. Many times we'll then join the drummers in the park. Later we write -- he's working on an historical guide to kale plantations, while she completes her to be self-published study of poverty in favelas. One day she hopes to visit one, but only if the residents will first commit to reducing their carbon footprint and taking a more responsible approach to water policy. The poor wouldn't be so poor if they could just figure out kale production. We digress.

    Someday, little Ecstasy will begin school. Of course we'll bicycle him/her to and fro, as we voted to elect Chris Daley and the other Supervisors we hope will soon and forever abolish all carbon burning vehicle traffic in San Francisco.

    We look forward to seeing you at parents' events. We'll bring fresh kale kabobs.

    Pat and Pat

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  19. sorry.....somehow, not as funny. seems more berkeley than sf parents i know. also not sure what it has to do with choice of schools or use of consultants to get into a kindergarten, etc. catherine and kent are more on point in that sense. nice try though.

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  20. ^ What 10:20 said.

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  21. Kate you should police this thread. Catherine and Kent and Pat and Pat would never be allowed to exist on a public school thread. The other snarky and clueless comments are unwelcome as well. By permitting C&K to immediately hijack this topic the person seeking information hasn't been allowed to receive what she is needs.

    ***

    We used Little & Molligan. Were they worth the money? Probably not although we did get into our first choice, an elite K program. Bottom line before being forced into leaving the City because we didn't get into a private and the SFUSD "lottery" is designed to send my child to the worst possible school (we got Muir) we wanted to give the kindergarten process our absolute all. Our absolute all included retaining kindergarten consultants (along with a number of other tasks), as inane as that sounds.

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  22. I knew as soon as I saw the topic for this thread that it would become filled with snarky, sarcastic comments. Too bad because a parent was simply seeking legitimate information.

    I agree that the public school topics wouldn't have this happen. Catherine and Kent and Pat and Pat are obviously public school parents who RESENT anybody who can afford private school.

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  23. You think "Pat and Pat" are resentful public school parents? I took it for a lame attempt at parodying public school parents by a private school person who resents the Catherine and Kent theme. Not nearly as successful as Catherine and Kent--it just didn't hit the mark of the anxieties and neuroses of public schools parents (which do exist). But whatever!

    I think everyone should lighten up. Several germane responses were made to the question; Catherine and Kent don't shut down the topic, they just make fun of it. And btw, it is entirely appropriate, in a town where half the kids come from families that qualify for free lunch, to poke a little bit of fun at hiring $300/hour consultants to get your kid into an elite kindergarten. I'd worry for this city if someone didn't poke fun. If you can't understand that, you probably shouldn't be posting on blog with diverse incomes/circumstances--stick to Pac and Laurel Heights and the gated community! If you can laugh at yourself though, by all means, hang out here with the hoi polloi :-)

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  24. If you want Kate to delete a comment you have to email her. I don't think she has time to read all the comments. She'll take them down too. There's a whole thread about that.

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  25. 10:28 am, you represent everything that is wrong with this blog. This blog is about communicating information not insulting others.

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  26. Private school consultants exist not simply because one does (or doesn't) need them; they exist because we live in an entrepreneurial (increasingly so) economy, and aspiring consultants started seeing a potential opportunity for well-paid employment. There have been consultants for secondary schools and colleges/universities for some time -- with people willing to pay high fees in a time of unease. Why wouldn't people seek to reach out to parents with even younger children? Whether they're effective is a separate matter.

    Also -- there are those who just feel more comfortable with somebody else guiding them or holding their hand (interior designers would not exist if people were entirely certain about their own tastes or ability to style their own homes.) If money isn't an issue, and you like having some direct guidance, well than a consultant makes more sense.

    I would not be surprised though to find that the schools might have some response (maybe not entirely positive) to the use of consultants, only because it could be viewed as a way to get around the schools' means of comprehensively and "fairly" evaluating applicants.

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  27. Why is everyone assuming that the negative comments are written by public school parents? My first reaction was that paying a consultant would be a waste of money. Not because I'm some anti-private school zealot, but because the director of the preschool my child attends does an excellent job at helping parents navigate the private school process and helps her students get into desirable private schools -- at no charge above what we're already paying for private school tuition.

    The person who posted the original question got some feedback here -- all free of charge. Is anyone really surprised that there were a few snarky comments sprinkled in the thread? It's low-hanging fruit. The Daily Show's Rob Corddry made fun of preschool consultants in NY years ago -- my favorite line was when he asked one of the consultants whether he should "jack off to Baby Einstein" to make his sperm smarter. "Catherine and Kent" are just continuing the tradition.

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  28. I'm serious, man. I have no beef with private schools, but find the fact that people are out there making money off of parental anxieties kind of gross. At least Parents for Public Schools does it for public school applicants for free. And the kind of people who really do need help navigating the world of private schools -- kids with less educated parents, immigrant families, and so on-- sure as hell can't afford a consultant. That means that what consultants are really selling is the idea that they can give you an edge. And that is gross. It is particularly gross if it doesn't actually work.

    And 10:28 represents everything that is right with this blog -- an open mind and the ability to be amused. Meanwhile, nobody can hijack a thread without your consent in the form of a response. Don't like a comment? Ignore it and respond to what you do like. That's called the marketplace of ideas, which is, in turn, supposed to be what a democracy produces.

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  29. Way too many jerks on this blog who can't hold their tongues on threads that have nothing whatever to do with them. A shame really. I'm done.

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  30. 3:29am -

    I don't think it's fair to call people jerks for expressing their opinions. The ones on this thread in particular seem pretty mild. Besides, expressing different points of view (even in more pointed or irritating ways) is part of dialogue (of whatever logue one has with a group of people.) Let the "jerks" just fire you up and sharpen your argument -- come up with a stronger response, one that expresses your views/points/interests!

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  31. From my friends that applied private, I'd say a consultant is not the best money spent. Definitely not if you are open to the parochials. (I don't know if we are a public school family or a parochial family as we can't decide which spot to take.)

    Best of luck. I am fairly upbeat because we got our 1st choice Catholic and 1st choice public. I tell families starting the process to not stress so much because there are so many -- maybe too many! -- good education options in SF.

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  32. 7:41 - what schools were they and how did you do it - that is fantastic!

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  33. Seriously - I wish there was an education consultant I could hire for the public process.. You know like a permit expediter. It would make this process much easier!

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  34. A word to the unenlightened:

    J.D. Worthington III is living off the reputation of J.D. Worthington II, who was a sterling consultant.

    And now I hear that J.D. Worthington IV is poised to enter the field as well! The family coattails are longer than my soiled tuxedo.

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  35. 7:41, please tell us which schools. We want to know where there might be a spot opening up??? THX

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  36. One kid at our school apparently used an educational consultant, which I only know because the entire parent body recieved a harsh email from our Director indicating that she had recieved an unpleasant call from one of the elementary schools after an evaluation saying that a kid had clearly been coached by an educational consultant and the evaluators were very put-off.

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  37. A friend who is an admissions officer at a University (to be left unnamed) told me that many of the essays submitted by applicants are from the same cookie-cutter formula supplied by consultants.

    Admissions officers apparently can tell almost immediately how much an applicant has been coached. She said off-the-wall, unorthodox essays (even those with grammatical errors) are refreshing and can give an applicant a leg up on all of the well-coached rivals.

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  38. I am Laura Roach, founder and Kindergarten admission consultant for Kinder Bound. I received my M.A. in Teaching Reading, Reading Specialist Certification, and California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. I am currently a Primary Kindergarten teacher in Marin County. I have also taught Kindergarten, third, fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. I have taught in San Francisco, Fremont, San Pedro(Belize), and my current school in Tiburon. I currently perform assessments on all incoming Primary Kindergarten and Kindergarten students as well as contribute to admissions decisions. I know as a teacher what it takes to prepare a child for the Kindergarten admissions process, as this is a focus for my classroom, but more importantly developing the whole child. I know all too well how competitive and traumatizing this process can be in the private school sector. Any advantage you (and I) can give your little one in preparation for public or private school will ease their transition into Kindergarten and better your family's chances of getting into a school of your choice. I am here to make the Kindergarten process as stress free as possible for all involved and prepare your child or students for Kindergarten.
    Happy school hunting, Laura Roach
    www.kinderbound.com

    *On a more personal note, I do NOT schmooze any heads of schools or directors, and do not believe in that. I only work with the family to assess, tutor, and help match schools to the students/families needs. I am all about Kindergarten readiness and that helps with the admissions process. See my website to learn more. www.kinderbound.com

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