I've added my tour notes for Mission Dolores here
This was my very first school tour and I was very impressed, as it was the first I wrote lots of notes on my first impressions. After seeing public schools I am quite happy with either option. The curriculum seems to be similar. The resources are of course not the same. Anyway here are my thoughts from early October.
My first impression was wow this looks just like my old school. Statues of Saints, teachers who are on you if you stare at the ceiling, "the answer is not up there", uniforms, nuns (we met one who does the Religion class).
But in touring each classroom it was not at all like my old school. Students were engaged rather than being forced to repeat formulas or poems. This of course is just an hour to view and early in the day when the children are at their best. The classrooms had computers and every grade had 50% of the class on computers with one teacher, the second teacher in front of the class teaching. In the mornings there may only be one teacher for the first two hours as they come in at different hours so that they can oversee after school care.
In the K class where they were doing Math (sorting the order of numbers) we noticed a Red, Orange, Green chart. Green is good behavior, orange is warning. I know some people have issues with this form of discipline but I don't. My son's daycare also uses it in the preschool class.
For discipline issues they talk to the students parents to work out a plan of action to improve the behavior and figure out what is causing it. (BTW in later tours I saw exactly the same math and discipline in public schools)
They also have a random acts of kindness program where staff (all staff) usually have stars in their pockets to hand out to kids when they see them being kind and thoughtful. Positive reinforcement is encouraged (saw this in 2 public schools)
Each grade has a student of the month and they get to go for lunch with the Principal at the end of the month. (saw this in 1 public schools I toured)
The school works with SFUSD for issues regarding learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
The 8th Grade are currently working on their applications for High School and most go on to Catholic High Schools. They have to apply to at least 3 High schools with one being a public, usually Lowell or SOTA. Teachers work with groups of 6 students on essays.
All in all I really liked Mission Dolores Academy and would not think of it as a back up at all. We intend to apply, depending on the other schools we tour it may end up being very high on our list. The tuition is comparable to what we would pay with afterschool care in almost all of the other schools on our list. It won't be a cake walk but if this is the best fit for our son, then we will figure out a way to make it work.