Thursday, September 16, 2010

Public or Private School?

My older son just entered the 8th grade, so we will be spending a fair amount of time this fall visiting and thinking about high schools.  In NYC, there is considerable choice regarding where your child goes to high school.  In fact, there are no automatic assignments based on where you live.  Instead, students apply to high school based on their interests and abilities.  There are a number of specialized high schools (including  Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Tech) for which admission is based on a test that is taken in October of the 8th grade -- causing all kinds of grief and anxiety among students and their families (and leading to a mini-industry of Specialized High School Admissions Test tutoring).  Other schools base admission on a combination of grades, teacher recommendations, and a portfolio of work.  At any rate, the whole thing takes time to research, think about, and apply.   In addition to all of that, we will have our son apply to some private schools, which adds a whole separate layer of research, testing, and applications.  There are pros and cons to to all of the programs we are considering -- I get a headache just thinking about it!

For the past year or so, every event I've been to with other parents - be it a baseball game, fundraiser, or PTA meeting - has included a discussion about various schools, and, of course, the dreaded testing process.  I never had my children tutored for the NY state tests (an annual event starting in 3rd grade, and a key component of both the middle school and high school application process), but the stakes are high enough for the SHSAT and the SSAT (the private school test) that I gave in and hired a tutor for my son over the summer.  Inspirica, a local tutoring company, came highly recommended to us, and I've been more than pleased with them.  A recent article in the NY Times questions the efficacy of such testing.  How much will it help my child?  I'm not really sure.  But it can't hurt to give him more confidence via exposure to past tests.  And practice always seems to be a good thing. Will it actually help raise his score?  I don't know.

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