Tell me about moving your child/niece/nephew/other relative to a private school

Background story, though it’s not necessary to post advice:

My SO’s little sister and my future SIL is a 7th grader (they’re 10 years apart). She’s very gifted in math, which I stumbled upon last year when she asked me for help with a bonus math question. After some probing I realized she was quite gifted in math, more so than I am (just a Calc tutor in college - nothing out of the ordinary on the 'dope but obviously warranting a gifted class in a public school). The district had pretty clearly fucked up somewhere by not testing her. Handwringing ensued and the district agreed to test her - and sprung the test on her without warning, the day after she’d had multiple other tests. Kid has text anxiety and still tested gifted - but barely. After we demanded retest (with at least 2 days of notification, so she could be mentally ready like the other kids had been) she tested well into the gifted class, but just a few weeks before the school year started we were told she wasn’t allowed to be in the gifted class this year because - get this - you have to get all A’s the previous year - not just quarterly grades, but on all tests :smack::smack::smack:. She’d gotten a couple B+ tests but still had all quarterly A’s. I was livid. She’s been good and gotten all A’s on her tests this year in the effort to get into next year’s gifted class but is bored because - guess what? We covered all of this material over the summer in 6 weeks in anticipation that she’d be in the gifted program this year.

Then she brings home a history assignment on a sheet where the history teacher has written that a few people were emperors who…weren’t. SO is a history major and appalled at the shallowness her assignments.

Her English teacher is a moron; disgustingly enough she has an A in the class but her reading comprehension writing skills are probably not even at grade level. Mom is an English phD and is extremely worried, both at her subpar performance and at the fact she has an A in the class. She’s seen her papers corrected by the teacher with other grammatical errors. We think she may be giving the whole class A’s and B’s. When we asked her: “Do you think you’re as good at math as you are at English?” “no, of course not” “Then do you think you deserve an A in English?” “Ummm…probably not”. Another colleague of hers with a child in the school has also voiced concerns about the English department.

To add insult to injury it’s a blue ribbon school. There’s clearly been a loss of good talent in the 10 years since the SO attended the same school. It looks like they really succumbed to grade inflation pressure from parents that was a hot topic when the SO graduated.

We talked (the SO, me and their mom) about her options. SO’s mom moved there for the district and was initially very resentful of the idea of “private” school - but in the last month she’s been furious with the English teacher’s phoning-it-in performance and sees the private schools as her only option (parochial is out of the question, they’re firmly UU/agnostic). The SO is very strongly in favor of trying to get her into a private school and they both sought my opinion on her strongest subject, math. I agree we should - because she is willing herself - prepare to get her into a private school, including applying like crazy for scholarships, crossing our fingers and hope for the best.

We asked her thoughts on the idea - she likes her friends (duh, she’s 12) but she’s also started to acknowledge how “bored” she is in school. She’s understanding that little to no homework in the 7th grade isn’t normal, that she isn’t being challenged. Her teachers aren’t listening to her and she’s becoming disgruntled herself at the slow pace of every single one of her classes. Class sizes are swelling due to rentership in the district.

So she’s become a lot more receptive to the idea of going elsewhere for her 9th grade year. She got even more excited when she heard my brother had a 2 week spring break. She said some of the “most fun” she had in ages was last summer, doing math with me (preparing for what we thought would be her entrance into the gifted math class this year). She would give up going to the pool and laying around the house; she would call and ask me a few times a week if I had “a couple of hours to do math”. Luckily my work schedule over the summer is flexible and I would work as she did problems.

She no longer says she has favorite classes, “because classes are easy.” She has favorite subjects, which she likes to engage each of us separately (me, math and science, the SO history and her mother English and Literature). She wants to be an engineer and has talked with her mother’s friends who are engineers.

So, what do we need to do to prepare her for the grueling entrance process? What books should she be reading? What websites should we be visiting for scholarship information (we’re already apprised of the situation at the various schools; we think through financial aid (single parent household) and academic scholarship she has a good shot). She’s hispanic, so we’ve got that in our favor. In spite of being just an average student in reading and writing (although her transcript makes her look like a star), many minority students at the schools we’re looking at have been given scholarships based on their high performance in one or two subject areas, most often math and science.

Please don’t post and say that she’s a bright kid and should stay in a failing school or that I’m being unfair to teachers/the public school system/beetle juice. We’ve analyzed this whole situation for a year now and have carefully thought out the upsides and downsides and we’ve tried to engage the school district on numerous occasions.

The only question remaining is how to best go about the whole process and how to cover all of our bases.

Please post any and all advice on how to prepare her for the culture shock of public to private school, what reading/writing she should be doing in advance, scholarship opportunities for hispanics, etc. Any tips on what books/websites/sources you used to prep for the ISEE would be helpful as well; there aren’t many Amazon reviews on the top books.

Private schools are all over the map as to how rigorous a cirriculum you will find. Many private schools exist primarily for religious reasons, etc.

Where are you located? Have you considered an International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma program? You can search here and see if there is an IB school in your area. The IB program is really only for junior and seniors in high school, but many schools that offer it require that the kids do a pre-IB cirriculum in the freshman and sophomore years.

My son went to a college preparatory school from elementary through middle school. He moved to the IB program in 9th grade and found it to be even more challenging than the private school. A word of warning. Not all IB programs are equal. The most successful are ones that have around 100 students per grade or more. Smaller programs are limited in the type of IB classes that can be offered, etc.

ETA: Normally you don’t have to be in the district of the school that offers the IB program to attend. You can transfer in.

I guess just I wanted to chime in to say - just because it’s a private school, doesn’t automatically mean it is better academically.

Our experience is very different than what the OP describes. Sophomore in high school moving across the country. Going from small-town public school to big-city Catholic private school. We are not Catholic - the decision was made to go there because of their sports opportunities. They are ranked in the top 50 in the nation, lot’s of college attention…so that’s the draw.

However, the kid is very strong academically. They observed that the classes at the new school, compared to the old school, were very easy. And that the homework load is much less. Stuff is being covered that the kid had last year at the old school, even in the advanced classes.

But, they school is always advertising how they place in the state, how many kids go on to which colleges, etc. Maybe the old small-town public school was just very strong? Curious.

If the system she was in has truly failed her, then you may be setting her up for a huge challenge by sending her to a private school. Most of the kids in private schools have grown up in that setting and are used to the rigor. My daughter went through private schools her whole life, but even she experienced a pretty significant culture shock at how much homework she was given, and how hard it was, as a freshman.

If she’s really that bad in English then she may need extra tutoring to get her up to speed, provided she isn’t so bad at reading comprehension that she tanks the admittance test. You’d think her mom, the PhD, could help in this area.

FYI, the pre-admittance testing process for our private schools took place in the late fall/winter and acceptance/denial letters have already gone out. Ditto for the scholarships. If you have a particular school in mind, you should get on the phone and contact them now to see if she can even apply at this late date, and if all the scholarships have been awarded.

I hope you haven’t alienated any of the current teachers because it wouldn’t hurt to get letters of recommendation from them, either.

We’re well aware of the shock involved - my younger brother is going through it this year at the most rigorous private high school in the area, he was only well prepared in math and science. We’re not underestimating it, which is why we have over a year to prepare for it. While they get along well they certainly lock heads over English; every birthday and Christmas she gets tons of books. She’d be more receptive to tutoring from the SO. I was moreso wondering what books/resources are out there to encourage better writing - like prompts and guidelines we could use so she could write more and we could guide her more. ETA; the schools we’re looking at have 3 levels of each class, so she’d probably be in the lowest levels in English/Lit/Writing. I doubt that she’d struggle to keep up in a regular class, but we’d obviously like her to be fully prepared for the onslaught of homework that it’s tough to not be surprised with.

Like I said, she’s in 7th grade, this is for 9th grade. So we have a lot of time. In science and math no, they haven’t been alienated; much of the discussion has gone through the district “higher ups” instead of the teachers, so they’ll be thrilled to give her recommendations. English will be tough, but Spanish is a possibility. Excellent point though, one I’d forgotten.

I am aware of IB programs/diplomas, but from my experience they’re much less math/science focused and much more English/History/Classics etc focused. Only problem is you’d have to pay tuition to the public school you’re transferring into, correct? That’s been my experience, but perhaps it’s different for IB?

Right, we’re aware private doesn’t equal better. Plenty are mediocre, plenty are worse. But there’s greater transparency and we’re only looking at the “better” ones.

Icarus, while I’m glad your child isn’t struggling academically, it sounds like your situation is polar opposite of the OP what with moving for sports.

Our area has what they refer to as “limited public school choice”. There are a number of slots available for students from any school at a certain number of close-by schools. After our daughter’s experience at our home town school (a fine school, but too small to accommodate students who do not fit their educational model), we put in for and received a slot at a larger (but not huge) school in the neighboring district.

Best decision we ever made.

Wow, that sounds really nice. We don’t have that here, the lines are pretty well drawn. Glad it worked out for you though, stories where it does work out are encouraging.

The public high school may be very, very different from the middle school: I’d go over there and request a tour and ask if she can shadow a student for a day before you completely write it off.

And be very careful about private schools. They do vary tremendously. I get lots of kids from private schools, and some are amazing–and others are significantly weaker than us in academics. Tours and class shadowing are a must there, too.

Private schools give you choices. You still have to select the best option. In my experience, private schools have a mission or philosophy that has more meaning than those stated by public schools. That should be what you are looking for and confirming. Many private schools have students who enter at different grade levels and different points in the school year, transitioning from other school environments. They should have experience in helping new students adapt.

Both my sons finished high school at a private school after running into problems at lower than average public school. Academically they did much better, but my biggest concern was the large number of rich kids they were mingling with, and their materialistic/entitlement culture I was uncomfortable with. It created some temporary problems, but now they are both out of college and trying to support themselves, and they’ve gotten over it.

She can do a lot of independent work in 8th grade to prepare herself. If she’s bored in math, then by all means get her the resources to study further on her own. A fun starting point might be Khan Academy, but there are book courses out there too.

The same is true in writing. That would be harder to do on her own, but certainly possible. She would probably quite enjoy reading books on setting up an argument and logical fallacies–hand her a copy of A Rulebook for Arguments and see how she likes it, then keep going.

You can HL (high level) test in math and sciences in the IB program. Again it depends on how large the program you are in as to what classes they offer. i.e. the number of dedicated teachers per subject that are specifically trained to teach IB classes. WRT to paying tuition for an out of district transfer, it would depend on the school and the district policy. Where we live there is no charge for kids coming from out of the district. In fact they love it when they get kids from out of the district, because they can notify the state that they are taking a kid from another district and state funds get reallocated to the school. The only fees that students have to pay are for testing in the junior and senior years, which are about $250-300 each year.

IB is what we chose for our kids, after a true Montessori for PS-2nd grade (3rd for our older son). We work in education and find the IB curriculum to be absolutely superior.

I must disagree with a couple of things though- IB programs ARE equal, it’s required. It’s not like “Montessori”, which can be all over the map. Also, there are three IB programs- elementary, middle, and high school. Elementary & HS are the “easiest” to become certified in, and middle school is the most difficult. IB certifications are closely monitored, and programs that don’t adhere to standards will lose their certification.

We think the linked curriculum is great- the reading unit is linked to the art unit, which is linked to the math unit, etc, so that the kids really get a more “global” understanding of a subject. For example, in the unit my youngest is in right now, they are studying ancient Egypt- reading about it, making sarcophagi in art class, and learning geometry (triangles, pyramids) in math.

I agree that for the classes that are offered in any particular school, the quality standards are high. However, with regards to the diploma program, which is what my exposure is, the broad offering of classes that are available to students to SL or HL in is limited to how big the program is. Some schools with a smaller number of IB students, just can’t afford the resources to offer as wide a range of classes. So a student could not HL in a music or art class in a particular school. The larger the program (number of students in IB) the greater number of opportunities.

Most kids that graduate with an IB diploma will enter University with about 30 hours of college credit, depending upon the scores on their IB exams.

Huh- interesting. I was not aware that a school could cherry-pick IB courses and have it actually be called IB (similar to what is possible with AP). I wouldn’t be interested in that at all.

My daughter started a private school this year. Here is my advice:

Determine which private schools you would be interested in. If you don’t know which one, try starting at the biggest one. Call them and set up an appointment.

The schools themselves, at least the good ones IMO, have all the information you will need. They inform you of scholarships, entrance requirements, etc. Many will require the student to spend a whole day there. Others have summer programs that a prospective student can attend prior to beginning a school year.

The schools I visited were very helpful. The big 3 here are all amicable in that they willingly recommend the other school if they feel it is a better fit for your child.

In short, go to the schools directly and begin from there. The sooner you start the better. An email on scholarships for the fall, for example, came to me last week.

There’s a minimum number of course offerings they are required to be an IB diploma program: English, Math, History, Science, Foreign Language. But they are not required to offer music, art, journalism, business, or specific languages.

As a private school teacher, I can assure you that any private school will be willing to role out the red carpet for any student who demonstrates strong academic ability. The time of year should not be a problem. We accept students entering on short notice at any time of year. Most private schools have suffered enrollment drops over the past three years due to the economic troubles so they are eager to enroll new students. On the downside, financial aid money may by tight.

That is all excellent stuff (didn’t want to requote it all!), just what I was looking for. Thanks dangermom :slight_smile:

Omar, thanks for expanding on the tip. I will certainly look into it further.

That’s good to know they’re all generally willing due to the economy. Unfortunately she’s definitely need of financial aid. Hopefully we’ll have luck with the outside hispanic scholarship opportunities for her. We realize there’s maybe a 50/50 shot at her getting an in-school scholarship, due to her weakness in English/Writing.

Also an excellent tip, I hadn’t thought about visiting until next year sometime. We’ll try to do it in the next month.

Thank you everyone else that I didn’t quote! This thread is helpful (and not negative, like I’d somewhat anticipated).

Oh, I’ve got piles of that kind of thing. PM me anytime for more.

I certainly will, though probably not until June when things really get underway in terms of prep work. Thank you again!!