Wednesday, August 06, 2008

School Daze: Private Edition

School Bus NYC, originally uploaded by Mr.Cab.

The New York Times includes a fairly prominent article today on widespread kindergarten overcrowding in the city's private schools.  Reporter Winnie Hu writes,
Despite mounting layoffs on Wall Street and the broader economic downturn, private schools in New York City continue to thrive, with administrators and consultants saying this year has been the most competitive yet for admission to kindergarten. Some estimate that several hundred children were rejected from every place they applied.
What's behind the growth in private school applications?  Again, from the Times,
Emily Glickman, a private school consultant for Abacus Guide Educational Consulting, which helps parents gain admission to private schools, said competition had intensified not only for brand-name schools like Dalton, Collegiate and Trinity but also for lesser-known and newer schools, as more couples opt to have two or more children; more families remain in the city rather than moving to the suburbs; and the wealthy in New York get wealthier.
And, let's not forget, overcrowding at elite public schools around the city — many of whom sit in neighborhoods of the very wealthy — has undoubtedly pushed some parents toward seeking private enrollments.

Of course, this being New York — and the Times — this problem isn't framed in terms of parents worried about finding their children somewhere to receive a quality education.  Instead, as the article's title declares (a little nonsensically), it's about "where the race begins at kindergarten." Hu points out in her second paragraph that because of all the kids and the money "the competition for kindergarten places can rival that of Ivy League admission."  The thing about Ivy League admissions is that you're always already behind and never doing enough — just the stance I want to take towards my son's education at age 5.

There is a bright side for the wealthy and a lesson for all of us here, though.  When faced with mounting admissions and growing student bodies, upper tier private schools like Mandell and (the relatively new) Claremont school actually expand:
Ms. [Gabrielle] Rowe [Mandell's head of school] has hired 20 new teachers, including specialists in fine arts, music, drama and physical education, and a psychologist, and promises a five to one student-teacher ratio for the elementary grades. She is also negotiating for an additional 47,000-square-foot space nearby for the upper grades.
What an interesting idea.


Anonymous said...

My friend went to Spence and she didn't go to an ivy league school but an artsy one. SHe is now a housewife with two kids. Hmm I can't think this far as I know you got to get kids into a good school by age 3. What competition!

teahouse said...

Seriously..more teachers can be a good thing! If there's demand, increasing supply should be the way to go. But I often think this "demand" is artificially created by crazed educators who want that fancy school cache.

As someone who went to public school (but not in NYC) and did go to an Ivy, all I can say is that there are lots of good colleges out there. A fancy pedigree name is not necessarily the best thing for each kid. Success means finding a good match for your kid that meets his/her individual needs.