Thursday, April 11, 2013

WARNING! UNSOLICITED ADVICE: How to use the SFKFiles without driving yourself crazy!

Sometimes I read things on this blog that sound downright crazy. And I laugh. I assume it's a troll or that it's some "extreme parent" that is likely not in any of my circles. But then someone responds and it sounds defensive and angry.  Other people say that they are "hurt" by comments or they were getting "worried" about failing their kids. And I wonder, are those people really trolls or just real parents with some real anxiety? I hope not. But just in case, here is my unsolicited advice on how to use the SFKFiles without driving yourself crazy...

1. Believe that there are NO absolutes and question broad generalizations.  If an anonymous commenter said, "All private schools are better then all public schools" OR "The artwork on the private school walls are clearly better then the artwork on the public school walls" OR "All the children and parents at this private school are entitled snobs" OR "Most teachers find the brightest and best high school students are from this school." It should raise a red flag and you should ignore such a commenter (chances are they are a troll). We ALL know the world is much more complicated than that.  If you need to respond, respond with facts. 

2. Be weary of "scripted" responses to any criticisms of private or public schools.  I'm pretty certain some of them are from parents, teachers, and administrators of schools that are trying to maintain a better public image and are not the unbiased reports from "anonymous." This leads me to the next tip…

3. Take comments and blog posts with a grain of salt. Use issues raised to ask further questions when you actually tour the school or talk to a parent/teacher/staff member you know and trust at the school.  Form your own opinion.

4. If you think something is mean-spirited or crazy, ignore the comment. It's just not worth it. Nobody wins comment wars. But if you just have to respond, be witty and not moody.

5. Get advice from Parents for Public Schools! Ignore advice and rumors on how to “win the lotto” from anonymous. Parents for Public Schools is legit. Send them an email and they get back to you quickly. 

6. Do not take the bloggers or commenters school decisions personally.  Okay, so a blogger or two may have passed on your dream school. You are not them, they are not you. Their child is not your child. And they could not give you their school placement, even if they wanted to. In the end, the decision is very personal (for the family making it).

7. Believe in SF Public Schools and have an open mind. There are some real hidden gems if you can just give-up your list of "must-haves." You need to find them for yourself. 

BONUS: Talk to other parents face-to-face: the mamas and papas at your preschool, at your work place, and in your neighborhood. Discuss these things in person and get advice and information from people you actually TRUST, not these unknown school-obsessed weirdos who frequent this blog daily (me included).


103 comments:

  1. How do you know which ones are "scripted"? The ones that use the word pedagogy more?

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    1. There's no way to tell for sure.... so just do #3.

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    2. As above. A group of similar comments about a school is often one person posting their point of view repeatedly, sometimes over years, rather than a common experience among readers.
      A flurry of similar comments about a school within a short amount of time, especially when peppered across different threads/posts, also sets off my internal yelp auto-filter. Easier to see this with the RSS comment feed.
      Thanks for a great post!

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    3. I don't know if I agree. Sometimes a flurry of similar posts occur because a poster or commenter has hit a nerve, offended or prompted a visceral or wave of reactions. There are so many hundreds of parents reading this blog, that a wave of comments justs means you've hit a nerve and the reaction kind of explodes. I don't think anyone has any agenda to smear a particular school. I hope you didn't feel that about your soon-to-be school. Friends appears to a be a school that either causes a love-hate reaction; I know many parents who had a very strong reaction to it (good and/or bad ... you either dig the 45 minutes of silence or it drives you crazy)! :)

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    4. I don't agree either, many posts Start to become "conversations" where many people weigh in, maybe more than once.

      I would add to the list:

      If you ask 20 parents at the same school their opinion, you will get 20 answers based on their unique experiences. Anyone can have a bad experience at a great school or a great experience at a not so great school.


      Good post to put things in perspective.

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    5. More than anything else, I think this post has stifled conversation. So maybe people post repeatedly or maybe lots of people pipe in when things get interesting. Either way, seems better than when nobody says much of anything.

      Any new topics? I'd love to hear perspectives on schools/approaches outside the norm - sfschoolhouse (or whatever it's called); Brightworks; home schooling; untraditional middle or high schools; online learning. Anyone out there have any knowledge, insight, thoughts on those?

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  2. Just do your homework and in the long run you just have to trust your gut!

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  3. Best SFKfiles post ever! Well done

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    1. agree! best post ever. we as individuals need to make inform decisions that are best for our family. not every family unit are alike. thank you!

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  4. Parents for Public Schools is invaluable and touch base with your preschool directors throughout the process. Directly contact the PTA if you have additional questions after tours and if you're not sure of or happy with your school assignment, go down there and talk to the principal or staff directly. Will help so much and address directly a lot of your concerns.

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  5. Can we start a new topic on best up and coming independent schools and which ones in particular are doing interesting things? I think there are far too many parents interested in independent schools in this city to only have a five "top tier" independent schools. Specifically, I'd like to see more discussion on this blog about schools that we do have a realistic chance of getting into such as Alta Vista, Marin Prep, Brightworks, SchoolHouse, Presidio Knolls, KMS and German School. I don't want to see more about the "second tier" independents that are almost as hard to get into as the "top independents" (LO, SFFS, Synergy, etc).

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    1. I'm trying to get the lay of the land here, is this right?

      "Top Tier" independents: SFDS, Hamlin, Burkes, Town, and Cathedral

      "Runner-ups": MCDS (for location only) and Stuart Hall/Convent

      "Second Tier" independents: Live Oak, Presidio Hill, Friends, Children Day, Kittredge

      "New Schools": Marin Prep, Alta Vista, Schoolhouse, Brightworks,

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    2. 4:52 again, rather than worrying about the pecking order, I'm specifically interested in discussion around what you call the "new schools", where families have a more realistic chance of getting in only because demand for them isn't super outrageous. Kind of like "hidden gem" publics since we all can't get into Lillclarenvaradotop!

      Can someone please share tour notes on Marin Prep, Presidio Knolls, Alta Vista, KMS, etc?

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    3. Just curious, which school is considered the best co-ed school in terms of academics and curriculum after SFDS? Is it Live Oak, Presidio Hill, Alta Vista, Marin Prep or SFFS? I want something as rigorous as SF DAY, but am acknowledging that there will be a lot of demand for that school, so makes sense to identify alternatives that I may be able to get into. Looks like the next best one academically from comments on this blog is probably Alta Vista, but I'm very interested in the perspectives on this very helpful board!

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    4. If you want a progressive school Friends. If you want a traditional school, French American.

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    5. To add onto the last comment, if you look at High School placement French American goes through to the International High School and Friends has the best High School placement in the city.

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    6. Citation, 6:39?

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    7. Has anyone looked into Hilldale Elementary School in Daly City? They claim to be project-based and very rigorous with academics, touting that they teach the kids a year ahead of their current grade level. However, never heard of them.

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    8. FAIS and Alta Vista struck me as much more academically strong than Friends. By a lot.

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    9. Anyone else wonder what's going on with SF Day? Every slightest criticism brings on an immediate "scripted response" as described above by wordo'themutha. And some of the responses are the length of a small novel, lol. Of all schools, why are they so insecure?

      Are the current parents that concerned about anonymous blogosphere comments, that several have a detailed response ready within an hour? Does SF Day have a monopoly on "concern troll" parents or something, because I don't see any other current parents from other schools responding to criticism in such a manner.

      What's going on there?

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    10. To 5:50 above

      What are you basing your tiers on?

      How is there a "runner-up" tier?

      I've never heard of a "runner-up" tier between a "first" and a "second", doesn't "runner-up" mean "second" in English?

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    11. These tiers are funny and of course, we shouldn't take them too seriously. I wish there were some more established stronger co-ed schools though, as we're not big fans in our family of single sex education.

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    12. Personally, I don't see any insecurity from SF Day. If anything, it's already on everyone's list at my school and on this and other blogs. That said, it obviously not the only great school in San Francisco. I am particularly interested in reading 1+=3's "new independent school" thread and reviews.

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    13. "I don't want to see more about the "second tier" independents that are almost as hard to get into as the "top independents" (LO, SFFS, Synergy, etc)."

      Two of the three "second tier" you refer to are MUCH harder to get into than the single sex "top independents".

      Don't confuse "snob appeal" for measurable demand.

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    14. Not sure of that 10:17am (that the "second tier" independents are harder to get into than the single sex ones. ) Also don't think it really matters. Anecdotal stories and numbers don't tell us a whole lot, nor do any of us have all the comprehensive data over a multi-year period that would make that argument really measurable. The admissions people don't reveal everything to you - they give you the highlights.

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    15. 6:19, you're making a big leap by assuming that SFDS is the "best" coed school. Every single one of these schools will result in a kid who is academically well-prepared for high school and beyond. The teaching and school cultures are different at each, and any school might be a better match for one kid than for another. But when all is said and done, at 8th grade graduation, the specific independent school your kid attended is not going to change their ability to do the work in high school.

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    16. I think the poster meant most prestigious by "best", but yes, of course there are so many great public and independent schools in SF that will prepare our kids well and no one best school. It's best not to fixate on just one school or you're going to get disappointed! Also, my experience is that a parent's dream school (often related to the perceived "best" school) is not always the best fit for your child when you search your gut (you may learn during the process that your child needs a smaller environment or even single sex environment or a larger school with more challenge). Do not get overly hung up on prestige alone, life's too short and SFers are frankly, to hung up on "top tens" and "best hoods" as is. Schools are not restaurants ...

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    17. 11.31 do the math....

      The single sex schools are all dealing with one gender. So, thats double the spots to fill than the coeds in that particular gender. And there are three boys and three girls schools as opposed to one coed school that have been described by an obsessed poster across multiple threads as above "second tier".

      So, let's say that the coed school has 10 girl spots after siblings. Lets suppose that each girls school is filling say 20 girl spots after siblings. Or 60 spots total. Do you really think parents of the "top-tier" girls in the applicant pool city-wide send their kids to a single sex school at a ratio of 6 to 1?

      Or, does it make more sense that there are a few more coed schools that attract the "top-tier" kids in the applicant pool? And have been for years?

      This is not a knock on the single sex schools. They attract their fair share of "top-tier" kids that have multiple admits to high demand schools. But (with the probable exception of Cathedral which is smaller) they also have to go far far deeper into the pool of kids that don't have multiple options than the most in-demand coeds.

      Do the math...

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    18. I think this poster (who sounds suspiciously like a multiple-thread poster herself) is mixing up how hard a school is to get into numbers-wise alone with prestige. Most people do prefer co-eds to single-sex, and many co-ed privates (such as Live Oak and Synergy) receive a high number of applications relative to their spots and can be classified as "in demand". The smaller the school, the fewer the spots, the harder to get in, no doubt! However, most parents recognize that hard to get in doesn't equate with most prestigious (established academics, long track record, endowments, long history of connections to high schools, powerful alumni network, etc.). Live Oak and Synergy may indeed be "harder to get into" percentage wise than Cathedral. They may draw more applicants relative to their size than Town. But they are not more prestigious. End of story.

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    19. My child goes to a low-key preschool that's not a feeder at all, although every year a few kids manage to get into a couple of the more prestigious K-8 independents. The director is careful not to use classifications like "top tier", but it's been pretty obvious upon touring and attending events that there's a pretty clear difference in terms of resources, polish and track record between Hamlin and Live Oak, or Burkes and Friends. Nothing wrong with the so-call next or 2nd tier of independents, there's just a difference that you can perceive yourself. Live Oak and Synergy have been around for a long time, so not sure what it's deal is, but Marin Prep and Friends are fairly new and have the opportunity now to decide whether they want to move in the more academic and polished direction of MCDS (seems likely for Marin Prep given new head) and SFDS, or stay in the vein of Live Oak and focus on being less stressful academically and more about self esteem.

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    20. I find it odd when people refer to Live Oak as not being more stressful academically. We looked at schools throughout the city and found Live Oak's curriculum to be one of the most challenging in the city, certainly more so than Hamlin or Convent. If you want a school that emphasizes thinking and understanding vs memorization and facts, Live Oak is a great option. Kids at Live Oak will never have the amount of homework as some of the other schools but they are strong thinkers.

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    21. That's very interesting 3:25, I wanted to love Live Oak (I live 3 blocks away) and toured it twice but was very underwhelmed by what I witnessed academically in the classrooms compared to other schools. In more than one class I saw kids disengaged and talking amongst themselves about celebrities while the teacher didn't even jump in. Some kids were listening to music rather than paying attention to what was taught. I thought it felt to be a cozy and comfortable place, I'm sure kids loving going there, but no one looked challenged they just looked checked out, especially in the middle school. I ended up not applying which everyone thought was crazy since we live almost next to the school! I sincerely wish it had a more academic track record and reputation. I wanted to love it.

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    22. I agree, LO, just didn't impress me. ditto on SFFS, great building but not much going on in the classrooms that looked challenging. in contrast, my jaw dropped during one of the classrooms I toured at Hamlin when they were discussing a book - those girls are smarter at 10 than I am now!

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    23. 3:34 Live Oak wasn't a great fit for our family but if you believe in progressive education, it's a great school. We found the kids to be really confident and sure of themselves. We listened in on some of the classes and found the kids to be very thoughtful. Project based learning can look messy from the outside because kids will move at their own pace.

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    24. What exactly are people looking for in academics in these school? It's difficult to judge the curriculum since it is all so different. Do any parents feel like these schools have any real deficits in their approach? Most of these kids are smart and prepared for high school right? They could get into Lowell and top independents? Do private K-8 parents even look at Lowell for high school?

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    25. Yes, they're smart and they're well-prepared for high school. And yes, private k-8 parents definitely look at Lowell. I know multiple kids from private k-8s at Lowell.

      It's really hard for a prospective K parent to know how to judge the "academics" when they tour a school, yet it's a basis for making their decision. On top of that, they have to form impressions based on whatever happens to be going on in a classroom at whatever moment they happen to visit it.

      There are a lot of ways to distinguish the private schools from one another, but academic quality is not one of them. You might as a parent prefer one style or approach over another, which is a different issue.

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  6. I would include Nueva as either a "top tier" or "runner up" only due to location (it's just outside SF). It's not perfect but has some very really strong elements (endowment, facilities, recruitment of academically promising kids).

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    1. what is KMS?

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    2. Katherine Michiels School: http://kmsofsf.org/

      Have no affiliation or first-hand knowledge of the school. Currently have a (good but not trophy) public school elementary kid, a charter middle schooler, and a private high schooler.

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  7. Where is the data on Friends having the best high school placement? They've only had a few classes even go that far. Also, lots of kids who go through FAIS then go onto somewhere else for high school. Even if you do stay, there are different "tracks" you can pursue.

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  8. Friends only has three classes but the admissions into University, Lick, and Urban the past two years has been the strongest of all the K-8s. Not as sure about Branson and Crystal Springs. In addition, they've had tremendous success with the northeast boarding schools.

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    1. Can you please provide some basis for this claim?

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  9. All of the high school placement is either published on the schools web sites or annual reports. For this years data, it's anecdotal from parents at the various schools. Much like k-8 placement word gets around pretty fast.

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  10. I see. So, you've compared the annual reports of all of the K-8s. Except this year, when you've just collected the word on the street. Very definitive.

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    1. Not all the K-8s. Just the ones we applied to and our director suggested- the 3 boys schools, SFDS, Friends, and Live Oak. We looked at MCDS and FAIS.

      This year wasn't exact but the previous years were.

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    2. And CAIS. I'll wager CAIS has more impressive high school placement, too.

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    3. Yes, I was wondering about CAIS as well as it is rarely mentioned much on this forum. I hear it's hard to get into and that CAIS students are impressive. Anyone have feedback on the academics, school community, how the kids do in high school, etc? I hear that the school has made a lot of changes in the last few years, so I'd be interested in hearing from some current CAIS parents ....

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    4. My daughter graduated from CAIS in 2011. I happen to still have the HS acceptance stats on my laptop, as it was all very interesting to me back in '11 (though had no idea that people actually pored over this kind of data, and I don't have any info about other CAIS graduating classes.) The largest cohort of the class of 2011 ended up at University HS, International HS and Lowell, and then in descending order Sacred Heart, Lick, Urban, Drew, Bay, SI. The rest headed off to various other public high school in SF, Marin, East Bay and Peninsula. Some highlights:

      University HS: 19 applications, 12 acceptances, 6 enrolled
      International HS: 28 applications, 20 acceptances, 6 enrolled
      Lowell: 20 applications, 12 acceptances, 5 enrolled
      Sacred Heart: 14 applications, 14 acceptances, 4 enrolled
      Urban: 13 applications, 9 acceptances, 2 enrolled

      Lick is a special case, as noted elsewhere, in that they put a cap on the numbers of kids they will accept from any given school, a percentage of the class size. In my daughter's year, all of the Lick spots went to legacy families (3 kids) so none of the other applicants even had a chance.

      Overall, these kids did very well with HS placement, most ending up with multiple acceptances and attending one of their top 2 choices. However, I would caution anyone against reading too much into this, as these are all bright, bright kids from motivated families who, I have no doubt, would have had similar outcomes no matter what school they had attended. The only measurable difference is that these kids are also now bilingual, which is the main reason we sought out CAIS.

      I do think it's silly to correlate K-8 schools to college acceptance outcomes. I'm sure some schools "produce" more Ivy League kids, but I'm equally sure that has more to do with the families who are drawn to those schools. For instance, University High probably has great Ivy acceptances, primarily because that's where wealthy, high powered and highly connected legacy families self select. I personally thought the University curriculum was impressive (along with IHS, the most impressive in the city) but my daughter was so turned off by the student body (white, wealthy and entitled--quite a contrast from the CAIS demographic) that she didn't even apply.

      I've never seen any CAIS college acceptance stats, but anecdotally, 3 older sibs of 2011 alumni classmates headed off to Yale, Harvard and Stanford, respectively. However I certainly wouldn't use that as any kind of predictor of where my child will end up, since we're not a legacy family and we will require significant financial aid to attend any college.

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    5. Meant to say (since I know someone's gonna ask) that my daughter's classmates' sibs headed out to Yale, Harvard and Stanford via University HS, International HS and Drew, respectively.

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    6. Very interesting stats from CAIS - granted these are from 2011. The placement looks very impressive. Does SF Day and the other "top 5" schools have better placement? I'm just curious as to why, with stats like these, CAIS isn't discussed more on this forum - it's never mentioned as a top tier school. Is it because it's an immersion program?

      Also,in thinking about high school placement, someone else made the point that things will be totally different in 11 years. I agree. Given the fact that Live Oak and Friends are relatively new schools, and in 11 years, there will be at least 6 new independent schools (MPS, Presidio Knolls, Alta Vista, La Scuola, Schoolhouse & Brightworks) with graduating students vying for spots at the same top high schools, my guess is that it will be even harder for our children to get into the top high schools in SF, whether you child is graduating from private or public middle school. So we've decided not to place much emphasis on high school placement and focus more on the best fit for our child and our family (we're looking at public & private).

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    7. that brings up an interesting question. there have been many new k-8 elementary schools for the same number of high school spots.
      I wonder if we will be seeing new indep. high schools in the coming years?

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    8. Very encouraging to hear the stats on CAIS - that's where my children go and I chose it for the academics, bilingual and cultural aspect. It aligns with our parenting style and background. And I will vouch that the CAIS demographic is unlike more privates, probably because of the immersion aspect. It takes a lot of dedication and focus on a family's part to take the immersion route - even if the school does offer the needed resources and support. I'm not certain that everyone is up for that ride if they don't have a strong connection to Chinese culture or multi-lingualism. I, for one, decided against SI and even CI simply because I would feel too disconnected from my children's education.

      I would say that when you walk down the halls of CAIS, it's mostly bi-racial families with many parents who are 1st/2nd generation or native speakers.

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    9. @ 1110am, sfds sent 10 to university, 5 to urban and 3 to lick last year (from the annual report on their website), so that seems a bit better than cais. Also, @ 9am, university has the highest sat scores in the bay area. I don't think that has anything to do with highly connected or highly powered families (whatever that means). On average, university tends to choose the smartest kids, and the smartest kids tend to choose university. The sat scores and college placements come from this more than anything else. As always, I'm sure there are exceptions to this general rule.

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    10. I know for a fact that SFDS has larger graduating classes than CAIS, so your numbers are not very meaningful. It would be a more valid comparison to know how many kids applied and how many were accepted at each school (per the list above, CAIS had 12 kids accepted at University and 9 at Urban, but much smaller numbers enrolled at each school, for whatever reason.) Also, CAIS families are not drawn to Urban and Lick to the same extent as the other K-8s. They tend to gravitate in the greatest numbers to University, International and Lowell.

      As for the claim that University kids are the "smartest", are you saying the smartest kids are white and wealthy? Because that's overwhelmingly who enrolls at University.

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    11. Also look how SAT scores almost always correlate with socioeconomic background. They're not a perfect measure of how "smart" someone is.

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    12. I would say that University attracts academically-inclined kids.

      There aren't that many high schools in SF and the private k-8s all tend to get their kids into the same small group of schools. Some schools tilt more in one direction or another - for example, east coast boarding schools are a popular choice for Town families and last year several Town kids ended up at the same one (Deerfield). Lick and Urban are very popular with Friends families and in the 3 years of graduating classes at Friends there have been a relatively large number of kids accepted at both of those schools (despite the fact that Lick is known for not taking very many kids from any one school).

      In my view, what speaks very well for a school when it comes to high school admissions is the breadth/number of schools that their kids end up attending. If you see the kids scattering to many different high schools, it tells you that this is a school that will help your child develop their own individual skills and interests. You don't have any idea when your child is applying for kindergarten what high school will be the right one for them to attend, so what you want to look for is a situation that will help them develop into their "best selves." Just my opinion.

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    13. And don't forget that a white SF Day kid who goes to University needs much lower SATs than a Chinese-American CAIS kid who goes anywhere to get that Ivy acceptance.

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    14. Class of 2016 @ Lick has 3 from SFUSD's Presidio Middle, too.

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    15. Yes, Lick tries tries to take a handful of kids from every school (and I believe 50% of their spots go to public school 8th graders) rather than load up with the typical high achieving private school kids.

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    16. I think the reason CAIS isn't discussed much on this forum is that this group seems to be hyper-focused on ferreting out "the best": best high school placement, best scores, even best Ivy matriculation. There also seems to be a premium placed on prestige (i.e. endless arguments about what is meant by "top tier".) Whereas the mission of CAIS is very clearly embracing Chinese language and culture, which tends to pull from families with ties to China (themselves a pretty academically focused group.) These days more and more non-Chinese families pursue CAIS, but they tend to be more international or with an eye on now multiculturalism and bilingualism may benefit their children.

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    17. Agree, and have no kids or ties to CAIS. I was also interested to see that many CAIS families/students go on to Lowell. Interestingly, my friends' kids who have gone through other private K-8s and have looked at Lowell (from MCDS, Town, Adda Clevenger, and SFDS) have all said no to Lowell because it seemed too academic, too high powered, and too big a change from their smaller K-8s. Given the academic focus of many on this board, it's interesting that many appear not to be considering Lowell for high school.

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    18. I feel that CAIS actively seeks non-asian families to "up" it's reputation. If you look at the recent kindergarten class, it is made up predominantly of half-asian, half-causasian or fully caucasian kids. I would say maybe a maximum of 2-4 full chinese kids (both parents chinese) in its kindergarten cohort. To me this is just as "snobbish" as the schools that are historically caucasian and have much fewer minorities.

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    19. It's probably more a reflection of the demographics of the applicant pool now. Agree that the K class is "whiter" than the upper grades, but the school is still less than 25% Caucasian (around 40% Asian-Am and 35% Multiracial.)

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    20. Up its reputation to whom? White people?

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    21. I am one of those white people who is interested in having her white daughter attend CAIS. We're interested in CAIS because we want our daughter to grow up knowing, appreciating & respecting a very different and rich culture. We want her to grow up bilingual and we think that Mandarin is a very useful language for her to learn. We are very impressed with CAIS' academics - especially in math and science and also its strong arts and athletics programs. And we love the head of school and the lower school director (another Nueva transplant). The school is adopting some more progressive education concepts so it seems like a nice balance between a traditional & a progressive, project-based program. And we love the parent community - there are certainly wealthy people who attend, but it feels as if the immersion aspect is what binds the families together. So I think we'd feel comfortable driving our old clunker. Now we just have to get my daughter in!

      I think 1:47 is right - more white people and people of other races are interested on CAIS now so this shift will be reflected in its changing demographic. The AD told me the school is about 33% Asian, 40% biracial (half Asian), 20% white, and about 7% other races. Interestingly, the AD also said that less than 10% of CAIS families speak Mandarin at home.

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    22. To who said, "I feel that CAIS actively seeks non-asian families to "up" it's reputation. If you look at the recent kindergarten class, it is made up predominantly of half-asian, half-causasian or fully caucasian kids."

      In response, CAIS seeks non-asian families not to "up" its reputation but to provide diversity. Yes, the current K class is made up of predominantly of those who have some Asian blood in them, but really, that has less to do with the school's choosing than it is to do who applies to the school. I volunteered at 4 different applicant events - the current class represents who wants an immersion experience for their children. It's a very fair sampling.

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  11. There seems to be this enthusiastic SF Friends troll who comments on all threads to say how strong Friends' high school placement is and how it's the best in the city. Since it's a young school (only 10-12 years old I believe) they're only graduating their 3rd 8th grade class ever now! So there is no data that's really significant on their high school placement yet. Other schools have a 20+ year record to show. Finally, when we interviewed at Friends the very earnest person we met with emphasized that their middle school was indeed still a "start up" and they were still figuring it out, and although they've hired a lot of resources (people from Nueva), it's better if parents are realistic about expectations. All high schools wants a diversity of K-8s coming into them, so Friends is great diversity/novelty now in the Bay areas as they've never had any applicants until 2 years ago. It's really impossible to predict how those graduates will do when our K aged children graduate 9 years from now. Nothing against this school, it's a sweet place, but it's nowhere near the most proven K-8 in the area. Trying to push the idea that it has the best placement when only graduating 2 classes (soon to be 3) is a little crazy to me.

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  12. Re: high school placement:

    --When schools list high school placement on their websites (not all do) they often list schools, without any numbers attached. Could be one kid got accepted, could be 20.

    --High schools generally want to matriculate students from a wide range of schools, and some (like Lick) will severely limit the number they will take from any given school in the interest of pulling from a wider range of schools. Many also want to pull from public schools in the interest of diversity, so high achieving 8th grader from a public school may stand a better chance than a high achieving kid in a class of high achieving private school 8th graders.

    --Pretty much all of the private schools send kids to all of the private high schools, probably in relatively similar quantities. And these kids tend to all have the same profile. The notion that one school "produces" more of these kids is silly, so don't get your knickers in a twist.

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  13. For the Girls Schools, Hamlin has the best High School Placement. They give you an alumni magazine during your interview which shows where the girls go. Burkes is strong also but not as good as Hamlin.

    SF Day also has great placement among the co-eds. Friends has excellent placement but as someone commented it's only been around 10-12 years so only has a few years. Live Oak gets a lot of kids into the big name High Schools but they choose different schools. It was surprising to see how many Live Oak kids turned down University.

    Much of the quality of the school is dependent on the Head of the School so reading into anything long term is difficult as who knows how long they will be around.

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    1. They seemed very similar to me (hamlin and burke's high school acceptances). was there a particular school that stood out? Looking at the college acceptances at least at Hamlin, I noticed very few Ivy League schools. Which schools in the Bay Area actually have kids accepted to Ivy leagues?

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    2. Don't know all, but sfday, town, mt.tam school, mcds all have a good number go on to ivy.

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    3. The only school I saw that has particularly good college placement is SFDay. I think Live Oak as well, but that is anecdotal only. And of course, the newer schools are an unknown in this regard. All the girls schools were really surprisingly poor. We did not tour Mt. Tam or Town, so can't speak to those. I don't actually remember seeing this data for MCDS - maybe PP can cite a source for future readers? I know for SFDay it is in the annual reports, which can be found on the school's website. I was actually shocked by how bad the placement was for the girls' schools - esp. a supposedly "academic" program like Hamlin. Honestly, after seeing the college placement at these so called "top tier" schools, I felt completely liberated to just pick the school that seemed the most engaging and fun, and the best fit for ourselves and our kids, since the traditional "pressure cooker" schools (with the exception of SF Day) clearly aren't delivering the results anyhow.

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    4. It's simple. The girls schools go deeper into the applicant pool to fill each class, as they ALL need twice as many girls than the coeds. Not to mention missing out on the bright kids whose parents wouldn't enroll their kids in a single sex school for philosophical reasons. Ditto for the boys schools on the above points.

      SF Day needs to be less vague in their reports about their college placement list. Some posters on a different thread here have confused their college placement list as one for a particular year, when it seems that their college placement list actually comprises several years. Their list would be pretty good in any case, but they have manipulated it to seem like it is impossibly stellar.

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    5. I'm 10:24 and mcds had the info in a newsletter/newspaper that was sitting out while we waited for our parent interview.

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    6. Have you all looked at college admissions lately? It's a changed world, with many top schools now seeking international students. It's far harder today to get into Ivies or equivalents than it even was a decade ago. Also many of these schools need to be more visibly diverse to address years of not being so - their alumni magazines reflect as much. I went to a top Little Ivy and I don't think for a second my kids could get in now, even being legacies. Not as a reflection on them, but because of a changed admissions world. It seems silly to attribute a K-8 school's caliber based on college admissions. There is no direct correlation and so many other factors at play. There are also are SO many excellent places to get a top notch college education.

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    7. Oh for the love of god. K-8 has nothing to do with college placement. High school placement is the thing to look at with K-8s. Also, believe it or not, not everyone wants to go Ivy and be taught by graduate students for the first 2 years. With the exception of Princeton and Dartmouth, the Ivies are not undergraduate-oriented and it's possible to get a really mediocre education at them.

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    8. Disagree completely with that. K-8 prepares kids for high schools. At the end of the day, I have a hard time believing that the top K-8s get kids that are are really any different from one another.

      It can't be pure coincidence that the kids from SF Day thrive in high school while others don't do as well. I have to believe that the education you receive at these schools makes a difference or why else would we spend so much time trying to get our kids the best education.

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    9. "It can't be pure coincidence that the kids from SF Day thrive in high school while others don't do as well"

      Explain this. I didn't realize that kids from Cathedral, San Francisco School, or MCDS don't thrive in high school.

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    10. I guess it's how you define thrive. I'm basing it solely on how well they do academically in high school. All the evidence I've seen indicates SF Day kids end up getting into the best colleges after high school.

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    11. C'mon guys, there are more than one great school in SF!

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    12. Studies have shown that the three most important factors in predicting a childs future success are:
      - Basic needs are met (the child has enough to eat, enough sleep and a safe home environment)
      - Parental involvement (the parents read to the child, emphasize the importance of school etc)
      - Maternal level of education

      The school that the child attends has significantly less influence. So, I think it really does beg the question as to why do so many SF parents tie themselves in knots trying to figure out which SF school is the "best". And then tie themselves in further knots trying to pull every string to get their school of choice to accept their offspring. There are a lot of very good schools in SF. And most children of parents who care enough about education to be reading/posting on SFKiles, in addition to everything else they have going on, are going to thrive at any of the schools.

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    13. To 112am, the college placement data in sf day's annual report (on its website) is for a single year (it says class of 2008). Not sure what the confusion is...there doesn't seem to be any "manipulation" going on. 30% of their graduates go on to ivies, which seems better than any other k-8 in the bay area. (and no, I'm not a parent there)

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    14. yep, this looks pretty impressive. I haven't seen any other school list this many ivys and other top colleges.

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    15. If your version of "academic rigor" is memorization for standardized tests, then by all means, SF Day is for you. I cannot believe that if your are a SF family, uninterested in single sex education, that SF Day is THE ONLY choice for a "top tier" education. That is ridiculous and such a narrow view. In my interactions with other parents Dayis a love it or hate it school. We were so disappointed with our tour and the lengthy power point presentation by the Head of School (that so many revere as a God)that focused on standardized test scores. This is such a narrow view of academics that seems more and more outdated. If you want your kid to memorize for tests, go public - No Child Left Behind has left this much of a legacy already. In a city as progressive as San Francisco I am shocked that there are so many (at least on this forum) that tout SF Day as the end all be all of private schools. It's quite disappointing.

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    16. It is relatively easy to get college placement data for independent schools by looking at their annual reports, marketing materials, or alumni newsletters.

      As 9:28pm wrote, on an annual basis SFDS has the highest percentage of Ivy placements. This is year after year, not just for one year or combined as 1:12am said. If you look at the data this way, you can see that Ivy placement rate for each school actually stays relatively consistent. If you are going to put in the time to attend all of these tours, interviews, coffees, etc, you might as well do the research and look at this aspect of the school that you will end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on.

      I'm not a SFDS parent. In fact, we chose another school because we felt it would be too much pressure for our child academically speaking. I think fit is still more important than academic record. And there are a lot of other considerations when you choose a school. But we did this research and I don't think it is important to consider it as part of the larger picture.

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    17. @8:16AM here. I meant to say "I DO think it is important to consider it as part of the larger picture!"

      Also @8:03AM, as I said I am not a SFDS parent but I think it is unfair and uninformed for you to characterize SFDS that way. I attended the same tour and saw the presentation that you are referring to. The test results that Dr. Jackson spoke about are actually from a test that is not standardized at all. It is about critical thinking and not a "memorize and spit back out" kind of test. I'm sure many of the other posters on this forum would agree that the classroom interactions they saw were not about rote memorization.

      As I said, we ended up not getting into SFDS and are happy about where our son is going as I think it is a better fit for him. But I do think there is a lot of biased posting here that seems to be due to sour grapes and not objective. Lets try to be objective and helpful to the next year of applicants who may be reading this forum.

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    18. @8:25 And I believe it does a disservice to families next year to have so much emphasis on this forum about how SF Day is THE ONLY Coed choice for a "top tier" education.

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    19. @8:16AM here. I agree, I definitely do not think SFDS is the only coed choice for a top-tier education. In fact, we are sending our son to a different coed and I truly believe he will get a wonderful education and I think we will be a very happy family there.

      But I DO think we should try our best to be objective and fair. Rather than dissing schools we have an agenda against, we should write constructively about our experience in order to help others. I scoured the SFKFiles last year in preparation for the K admissions process. I found many helpful hints and advice but had to sort through a lot of angry or misleading emails. I tried to disregard those that seemed to have an agenda based upon the tone of the post. But it would be a lot easier for everyone if we all tried to be helpful and constructive.

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    20. SF Day is really the only school in the city- co-ed or single sex that does have such a stellar record of sending kids to top flight colleges. It's somewhat remarkable in a city the size of San Francisco that they are the only one. But one word of caution, things change. People don't realize this but 15 years ago, they were the up and coming school. They're only 30 years old. 15 years ago Burkes was the powerhouse school that sent their kids to Ivy League schools. The San Francisco schools aren't like the NY Schools- Collegiate, Horace Mann, Dalton, Fieldston, etc that have a long history and stay strong through various Heads of Schools.

      At the end of the day, you're making a bet on the Head of School and their team. Dr. Jackson is retiring in 2 years. It's a big question whether the new Head of School will be as strong.

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    21. Has there been any news officially that Dr. Jackson is indeed planning to retire in about two years, or are you making an assumption based on his age? The head of school at Town looks to be 100 years old, and he hasn't retired yet so why should David Jackson? He's only in his 6th year as head.

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    22. SF Day doesn't "send" kids to top flight colleges. High school has a much larger impact on a kid's college prospects than elementary. Furthermore, there can be a lot of reasons for SFDay graduates to end up at ivy league schools that have nothing to do with SF Day - such as the possibility that their parents attended ivy league schools.

      It's very hard to compare SF to the NYC independent schools when it comes to colleges. For one thing, the schools that 11:10 mentioned are all k-12 schools so there's a much more direct connection to college admissions. For another thing, California has a much stronger tradition of public education at the college level than New York does. Some of the most talented students in SF go to UC schools at a much higher rate than NYC's top students attend SUNY.

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    23. I am not 11:10, but we were also told he has two years left on his contract and will retire thereafter. I think the head of the upper school is being groomed as his replacement. So, folks in next year's process should make an effort to get to know him (think his name is Michael something) to assess future leadership of the school. I am told he is quite impressive but don't think I ever met him. Loved Dr. Jackson, though, I am sure the school will be sad to see him go! Before my time, but we were told by our preschool director that his predecessor was a bit of a disaster and there were some rough years at SFDS before Dr. Jackson arrived. Sounds like this time they are doing succession planning to assure a smoother transition, which is good.

      I loved SFDS personally, but also though MCDS, Friends, Live Oak, FAIS had lots to recommend them. It really depends what you are looking for. I was much less impressed with AV and Children's Day, which we also toured. Did not tour Neuva, MPS or Synergy. It's good to go into these things with an open mind, because you may find that what you *think* is important to you going in and what you realize is important coming out - hopefully much more educated yourself - are two very different things.

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    24. You all know that Nueva has a new high school, right? a 9th grade has been admitted for Fall 2013, and they're adding a class a year from below. If you are in the southern part of the city it is an especially great option, but it runs buses to the northern parts too. The curriculum is mind-bogglingly impressive.

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  14. Buyer's remorse? not sure which thread to post this on, but I have a elementary aged child (not kinder) transferring to private school next year from public, and I'm getting cold feet. Comparing the basic curriculum in terms of reading and math, it really does seem like our public school is on par with the private we have accepted. Since we have been at public for more than one year, I think I have a first-hand idea about how much learning our child is doing at public school and it's actually quite impressive. Granted there are other things the private can offer, such as 2nd language and music, that our public school cannot, but anyways, anyone going public and unsure about it, maybe you can be reassured by my post that really, many public elementaries in SFUSD are teaching essentially the same material as the privates.

    anyone at private school willing to help alleviate my concerns?

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    1. SFUSD offers music instruction during the school day. I think it is 4th grade they get instruments/orchestra and lower grades it's chorus. Every school I toured noted this, as well as weekly art. Does your public school not offer this or were you not aware of it? If you want serious music training for your child, you will have to go private lessons regardless of whether you are private or public school.There are lots of great programs in the city like Blue Bears.

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    2. Parochial parent here with recent public and independent experience. I don't think it's a question of what's taught (SFUSD has really upped its game in the past decade IMO) but how it's taught and whether the style and environment match your kid's needs and personality. Public schools must take all comers regardless of behavior and learning issues. As a result, we saw public teachers focused on keeping the most advanced kids engaged and the more challenged learners up to minimum standards. Motivated independent learners thrived. Kids with special needs accomplished amazing things given their limitations. But more average, passive kids tended to fall by the wayside, especially as the academics got harder in the higher grades, simply because there were only so many hours in the day and the students that demanded or required the teacher's attention tended to get it. Most private schools can pick their classes. While they seek a range of personalities and talents, overall there is more control over the manageability of the classroom, and therefore more teacher time and energy to give individual attention to each child, not just the squeakiest wheels. Our shy, passive, older child was drawn out of her shell and pushed to excel in independent school after having been allowed to slide with good grades for poor work in public school. Our younger ADD kid has received amazing support from our parochial school.

      If your child is learning well and happy in public school, I don't think you need to be anxious to move to private school just because it's private school. To me, the good reasons for private school, assuming you can make it work without severe financial damage, are
      (1) learning environment better suited to your kid's needs than public school
      (2) unique program not available in public school (language, religious education, single sex education, or extensive music and dance program are some examples)
      (3) on-site extracurricular activities you want that are not available in public school (this can be a big deal for working parents whose schedules don't allow them to take their kids to lessons).

      Also, your family's schedule and sanity are legitimate concerns. Our school's location is very easy for my commute. I love the 8:30 start time and knowing there is always extended care available on site at school.


      Good luck in your decision.

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    3. 10:12 here. thanks so much to both of you (and 11:16 below) for the thoughtful, non-judgmental, and balanced input. I feel this exchange is a wonderful example of the great help that SFKFiles CAN be.

      I know that SFUSD has music, but to me, starting in 4th grade is quite different than starting in Kinder. I also think your comment about schedule and sanity really hit the nail on the head for me and I'm so reassured that you agree these are legitimate concerns. There are some things that are not academic that I think will make my life as a working mom just slightly more manageable, and hopefully as a by product of that,I hope I can be a happier and healthier mom, which will ultimately benefit my kids more than any school in the world could. (and yes, this is all removing the financial aspects of the decision for the moment).

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    4. Thanks for this post. We turned down 3 private schools acceptances to send our children to a local public elementary school (starting this fall) and it was a tough decision. Financially we could not make the private schools work. It is great to hear that you felt your daughter was getting such a good education at public school. I hope for the same for my children! Good luck with your daughter in private this fall -- I think it sounds like you made a thoughtful and deliberate decision, considering a lot of factors.

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    5. That sounds pretty intense., Thanks.

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  15. 10:12 - hard to say what to do. What sort of music instruction do you want during the school day? Private instruction? If so, you might look outside of school to the Community Music Center of any number of places. Second language - if you want/need non immersion now, maybe private is good. Or hire tutor for a few hours a week. There are many, many language tutors seeking work. The one thing I wouldn't assume is that in private nobody wants/needs to seek supplementation elsewhere. Many still do, which isn't a negative thing about a school, but more a comment on how many amazing opportunities for instruction/learning there are locally. If what you really want is a more controlled, winnowed group of kids and classmates, then private may be a good fit. Not convinced the instruction at the elementary level is superior.

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  16. On the topic of high school and college acceptances I wanted to share my personal experience. I went to one of the top schools in NYC -actually I think it is usually considered THE top girls' school in NYC though absent from the list of the previous poster -it's a girls school and boasts many members of the Kennedy family among it's famous alum. It was a real pressure cooker -hours of homework each night starting in 4th grade. I literally did homework from the time I got home until bedtime and much of the weekend all through school. I was a pretty good student with an A- or B+ GPA. When it came time to apply for college there was no way in hell that I had a shot at getting into an Ivy or even one of the top ranked liberal arts colleges. These spots went to a LOT of legacies of the Ivys and also people with amazing connections (one of my best friend's in high school had an uncle who had given a library at one of the Ivys and despite her grades and SAT scores being considerably lower than mine she got in) -there was a lot of this kind of thing and colleges generally only take a few kids from each high school. I remember crying hysterically during a meeting with my parents and my college councilor. It was a miserable time. I really felt like a stupid failure despite having worked SO hard for so many years. I ended up at a very good but not top ranked liberal arts college and did very well there (and was very happy and much less stressed out than I'd been in high school!) and got into an Ivy League graduate school.

    The reason I am telling this story is to demonstrate that sometimes being at the so called "top" school w/ the best admissions records is not the golden ticket to the best high school or Ivy or whatever. As shown by my experience with grad school admissions sometimes being at a school with a little less competition can be helpful for getting into a better next school. I am not suggesting that you should choose a lesser school for your child for this reason but that you should consider what would be a good fit for your family and your child and that this should take priority over the school w/ the best high school/college admissions records.

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    1. Very well said. Your story is a great one to share because it shows how one can be happy, learn and succeed even when not at a "top" school. I think the term "top" is so useless. We should all focus upon what is best for our respective children and families with regard to schools and educational paths.

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