Anyone know what happens at elite preschools?

Many SDMB members are in teaching, so I think we can get a factual answer. We’ve all heard of the elite preschools people are dying to get their children into – begging, bribing, lying, suing if they don’t get in, etc. They’re all sure that if the child gets in, they will have a much better shot at the ivy league. But Google won’t tell me much of what happens at these schools. I find one reference to learning Mandarin instead of playtime, but that could be a joke. Does anyone know how these elite schools differ from regular preschools? Note, I am a complete idiot when it comes to preschool – I have no children, and I didn’t go to preschool, I went kindergarten at age four, that’s how things were done in the early '70’s.

In NYC anyway there’s a test that every kid who’s applying to private schools has to take called the ERB. I assume part of a pricey preschool’s allure is how well they prepare the kids for this test.

My oldest daughter went to a preschool academy which was great but not that noteworthy. It was just well organized and moved them up to kindergarten goals slowly by the time they were four. They learned computers starting at age two (which amazingly most toddlers can do better than some old people). There was no Chinese schooling philosophy though. There are places that will happily take junior and your money off your hands if you are rich enough and promise the world. Those schools mainly exist in the Northeast with a few on the West Coast though. The vast majority of people don’t fall for it.

Most of this a a long-lived but localized fad. The movie Baby Boom from the 1980’s has a notable seen where the overstressed Manhattan mothers were sitting around running through the scenario where you have to get accepted to the right preschool and repeat through the years with no misstep or Harvard is right out. It is all crap. I had an old black nanny who saw me through one of the worst high schools in the country and still made it into a great undergraduate school and on to an Ivy League PhD program. The U.S. isn’t Asia. You can potentially recover at any point and get into anything if you have the talent for it. Nobody cares where someone went to junior high let alone preschool.

I have two minds about this:

  1. Like other “top” schools, they only select the best and brightest. Around here, there’s an entrance exam to get into the top kindergartens. I used to prep 3 and 4 year olds for this test. Therefore, like other “top” schools, it’s no surprise that their students tend to be more successful. For example, the top creative writing program in the country, Iowa’s Creative Writing Lab, will only accept those who are already published.

  2. Some pre-schools use the Montessori method, which I don’t believe is any better or worse than any other method. However, having a structure is better than throwing kids in a room with a pile of random toys and calling it “class” instead of “babysitting.”

Regardless, it seems that money is the deciding factor. If the parents can afford it, their child will receive more help (although it is unknown whether it is “better” help.)

I happened to come across this story today and thought it might be of interest.

My parents sent me to whatever preschool they could find and, as a result, I too had my Ivy League dreams shattered. However, my parents knew I was middle management material at best.

I teach at one of these schools. I think we provide a really good education - I have a large classroom and two assistant teachers for my class of 20 4- and 5- year olds. We have a large budget and wonderful supplies. We are committed to diversity and offer generous scholarships to many kids.

We value free-play time but also do skill work, project work, free exploration of various materials. We cook stuff from scratch like pasta, dumplings, chicken soup. Our kids create museums that the whole school comes to visit, make books which they sew together, march around the neighborhood with signs for MLK’s birthday, put on class plays, paint sumi-e scrolls with authentic materials, and do surveying all over the school when we learn about George Washington. I could go on and on.

Though the kids are in the classroom between three and five and a half hours, I am in the classroom usually from 7:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening. I say that not to brag about what a dedicated teacher I am, but to show that parents are getting their money’s worth. In other words, some days I teach for three hours and do prep/planning/documentation for seven hours. The other day I spent the afternoon stuffing little plastic dogs into balloons, filling them with water, and hauling them to the freezer so the kids could problem-solve how to get the dog out of the ice. It’s fun. I love my job.

On the down side, the kids are under huge pressure to get into kindergarten next year, and it consumes months of our time. The average kid probably goes to four or five interviews. If the four year old screws up the interview, they probably can’t go to that school. The parents are freaking out through this process because they invest all this time and effort and do all the research, but it comes down to if their kid has a bad half-hour visit.

The ongoing schools also come visit in our classroom. Some of them come multiple times. They watch a kid or kids to see if they want to accept them. Basically I have to market my kids at the same time I am teaching the lesson. This can happen four out of five days for a couple months. When a school visits we must carefully craft the curriculum to make that one kid shine. Then they show up and say actually we want to look at this other kid… Or they come late and we just have to skip outside play time and do the math lesson we’ve been stalling on. I also have to plan a brilliant lesson but have it be something I can step away from if the admissions person wants to ask a million questions about the kid. My assistants may not be able to take over the lesson because I have deployed them at other locations in the school with groups of kids who need to be out of the classroom so that the kid who is being observed won’t be antagonized/distracted/overly helped/etc.

Some kids don’t get into any school. When that happens sometimes the parents move out of the city or even out of the country. Partly because they don’t like the public school they are zoned for, partly out of social shame. (Some NYC public schools are quite good and some are horrible.)

Except for that several months of admissions frenzy though, I think we offer a great education.

Is this mainly a Manhattan thing? Yeah, there were elite preschools and private kindergartens in my hometown, but people weren’t fighting like mad to get their kids admitted.

Want your kid to get into an Ivy?

  1. Live in a third-tier metropolitan area, smaller town or rural area. The Ivies already have plenty of Manhattanites and Long Islanders, so they’d like to add some kids from Toledo and Muncie to mix things up a bit.

  2. Push your kids hard enough so they are decent A-minus students in high school. Basically, being a bit of a nag hard, not Korean mother hard.

  3. Have them apply to some non-HYP Ivies.

  4. Enjoy hauling your kid to Providence, Hanover or Ithaca every fall.

Bingo. Once you get a Bachelor’s degree, high school becomes nearly irrelevant. Certainly, WHAT high school you went to and your GPA no longer matter unless you are trying to get into an old boys network somewhere. The fact that you got into college and got a degree is enough evidence that you have mastered High School level work. Once one has a PhD, even their BS/BA alma mater becomes unimportant. I’m not sure what pre-schools I attended, let alone seriously considered using them to advance my social or academic reputation.

Doesn’t anybody else find that sentence hilarious/horrible?
How does a four year old screw up an interview?

How much do you charge per kid? What percentage get a scholarship?
“there’s an entrance exam to get into the top kindergartens. I used to prep 3 and 4 year olds for this test”
What kind of questions were on the test?

Yes, of course. More horrible than hilarious.

A shy kid may cry, cling, and refuse to interact. A wound-up kid may run around like a crazed ferret. A nervous kid may be aggressive or silly. When the admissions person tries to shake their hand the kid may fail to pull their fingers out of their nose/underwear.

$21,700. 10% get financial aid, but I don’t know what percent get a full ride.

Copying block patterns. Verbally describing say, what a pencil is used for. Identifying what goes together.

Here’s a little bit about the ERB (or technically the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, 3rd. ed. (WPPSI-III). I don’t know if it’s the same test Superhal is referring to, but it’s one they do in NYC.

There is a lot of selection bias in that as well. The Wechsler is an IQ test and can only be taught to some degree. The parents are intelligent and have good but demanding careers so they send their kids to these schools but you need to see the right control groups to understand what you are getting for your money. Their kids would probably do just fine most places. You can’t take an average child and make them Harvard material no matter how much time or money (well, not so much these days as you could before) you have.

Block lettering, writing numbers up to 20 or so, alphabet, colors, etc.

Imho, what should be the result of a kindergarten curriculum, not the requirement for.

The teachers in the elite pre-schools hypnotize their students once a week. Each time they do, they teach the students more of the secret signals and secret codewords by which they can then unconsciously recognize, in their later life, other graduates of elite pre-schools. They are also taught, under hypnosis, that rich people are good and poor people are evil. They are told that it’s their job to make sure that the children of rich people succeed as much as possible and the children of poor people succeed as little as possible.

When, later in life, they become admissions officers at elite colleges, elite graduate and professional schools, and elite elementary and high schools, they unconsciously recognize the secret signals and codewords that the other elite pre-school graduates are unconsciously using. They then unconsciously slant the admissions to the students who are unconsciously using the right signals and codewords. They also become the recruiters who interview people for elite jobs and they unconsciously slant the interviews so as to hire as many elite pre-school graduates as possible. They become political consultants who unconsciously give good advice to elite pre-school graduates running for office so they will be more likely to be elected and bad advice to other people running for office so they are less likely. They become members of the media who unconsciously slant their news stories toward making elite pre-school graduates look good and toward making other people look bad.

Should an elite pre-school student accidentally wake up during the hypnosis and notice what’s going on, the teacher informs the principal, who makes sure that the student dies in a traffic accident before he gets home so that he can’t tell his parents what’s really going on.

But, hey, the principals are right when they tell the parents that they are really getting what they pay for with their sky-high tuition bills, since they really do guarantee that the students will do well later in life.

I figure my daughter could go to the Ivy League without paying for a preschool academy since I’m an Ivy grad, and she could be a legacy at Cornell. :slight_smile: Frankly, I think it’s just insane what some of these places cost. My daughter is already well above average in most every skill set for her age, and she hasn’t even been to preschool yet. Why? Well, shocker…we speak normally to her, taught her letters at a very early age, have read to her more or less constantly since she was born, and well, she picked it up. Could she get a slight head start? Maybe. But she’s going to go to public school, and if she works hard and gets good grades, she’ll be able to go to a good college. If she wants to go to an Ivy, great. Sure, I’d love her to attend my Alma Mater, but I’ll be happy if she finds a good school she likes and works hard. (And if she does want to go Ivy, or any expensive private college, she’d better be earning a scholarship).

It is called their accent. Don’t underestimate that.

There are no fnords in the advertisements.

I would also note, that many parents both live vicariously through their kids, and also find elite preschool etc, as a great way to meet and network with the other parents, essentially buying their way into a social stratum.

Ah, see, I’d heard of that recent story, but I didn’t read it, and that prompted me to ask the question here, after Google didn’t point me to the curriculum. I wondered what people were really getting, not what their vicarious hopes were. I didn’t read the story, or have the information – that the lady was spending upwards of 20K, expecting the full xoferew: experience and getting essentially a babysitting service. Like I said, I was dumped into the dog-eat-dog world of kindergarten, with no preparation besides 3 years of Sesame Street. But then, I didn’t even try for the Ivy League, anyway.

First, if a school only accepts the top 10% odds are their students will omstly be in the top 10% - preschool, kindergarden, school, or university…

I suspect that it’s more about networking. Who remembers what they learned in school unless they need it for their job? (Why did William the Conqueror invade, and what year?) Most likely, it’s all about networking - the people you meet and interact with in school or college are more likely to help you become more successful later in life. (Just ask Kate Middleton)

Plus I suspect the ladder-climbing parents have this idea that the great unwashed in the public schools are going to corrupt their angels; whereas rich people’s kids never get in trouble and are never a bad influence. (The private school I went to, about 10 years after I graduated one student there was charged with killing his drug dealer, chopping the guy up and storing him in a freezer.)

See, a crime fighter!

Who was the child of rich people who went to posh private schools and eventually saved millions of people from horrible criminals? Na na na na na na na na BATMAN!

This is not true. It may have been true at one point, but college admissions these days are insane. I teach high school juniors and seniors, and you wouldn’t believe the quality of kid that gets turned down from Ivy League/tier I schools these days. I don’t think it’s the end of the world: they all get in somewhere good, and there are lots and lots of great options out there, but it can be pretty devastating when you’ve been one of the most celebrated kids in your class (for good reason) and you get turned down by William and Mary and Washington University, never mind about Dartmouth and Brown.

The admissions rates for the top schools these days are in the 7-9% range, and much of the 93% that get rejected were kids you’d think had a really good shot: I’ve seen personable kids at the top of their class, with great recs and essays and four years of two sports and an NHS presidency and an Eagle scout get turned down left and right.