School Governance. Will be attending the PNAIS Governance Conference in early November. Very interested to hear the mood of private school board members as the economy continues to struggle. And when you look at the demographics of this region, the potential market of students is flat or even shrinking a little over the next 10 years. And of course public schools are improving generally. I think we are in for greater levels of competition and greater questioning of the affordability and value of private education, which means we need to focus even more clearly on the quality of our product.
Kudos to UW Admissions site. This chart is great, provides very clear direction to students about their likelihood of admission at the U. Last year’s version was even more detailed but this is still great. Wish every university did this.
Forest Ridge Board meeting. We had a great board retreat last week. Some really great people on the board — Mike Russell at Accenture and Walt Orlowski (formerly of MD and Boeing) are great new additions to the board. I really enjoyed their articulation of the challenging market we face — every school is getting better, we have to improve just to keep our current enrollment — and of the need to have a strong quantative assessment of the market as the baseline for our planning. Really good vibe.
College Apps. Liz is making great progress on these. But a lot of work. I’ve been helping on the mechanics and the process. I’ve been exposed a lot to all the online application processes. A quick review:
- the Common App site and forms get high marks. This is the application that 200+ private schools accept. High marks for posting edittable PDF forms so that you can type in the key data before giving to the school (for instance the school report form). Also high marks for having a form that can accomodate semesters or trimesters well.
- the Pomona app and Stanford app on Embark are reasonable. Reasonably clear forms.
- the Caltech app, Pepperdine, and UW apps are all on applyweb but don’t just go to the website, you need to route there through the college sites. Applyweb is a little more confusing than Embark in my estimation. Caltech doesn’t let you advance to later parts of the form until you have submitted the first part which is a downer. UW requires that you transcribe your complete transcript into a standard form on their app, this is a lot of work that is painful.
- U of California gets an incomplete so far. The online version for 2003 is not yet available. PDF forms are available for download. Like UW, you have to transcribe your transcript into their form — a lot of work.
For all the apps you will need the Acrobat reader, a high speed connection, and a good laser printer (I recommend color). I also recommend the full Acrobat product so you can overlay text on the forms, this allows you to complete the forms with a very professional look.
UK Universities. One of the family wants to look at UK universities and colleges. Man am I dumb about these. My coworker Adrian Smith turned me onto UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), which seems to be the clearinghouse for applying to schools. There are some good online rankings sites as well — EducationGuardian.co.uk | University guide for instance, and pointers to several at UK University Ratings. Fascinating to dig into this — a whole different language of requirements, test scores, courses of study, etc.
School Year Drawing to a Close. Liz taking the SAT IIs today — Math IIc, Chem, Writing. Tough way to spend a saturday. Annie graduation weekend — congrats! John has his Latin and Math finals on Monday — I tested him by asking him “What is MCMLXI times XIV?”
He told me I was a dork.
College entrance exams. Rant. Kids these days are expected to take the PSAT in their junior year to qualify for National Merit honors. SAT in the spring of their junior year for the first time. Followed by prep work, and then the SAT again in the fall of their senior year. AP tests for appropriate classes at the end of their junior year, which could mean as many as 4 more tests. SAT II tests in 3 subject areas at the end of their junior year, followed by retesting in their senior year if they feel appropriate. Some people recommend the ACT test as well as it biases in slightly different directions.
Issue A. The amount of time and work spent on these tests is huge. And if you want to do any prep at all, it really eats up time.
Issue B. The notion that a small set of numbers somehow measures a person’s potential is of course nuts.
Each of these tests also has all kinds of scoring options — extra cost options for faster score reporting, more detailed reporting.
Issue C. The system explicitly favors higher income families — retesting, prep, scoring options all add up. I guess I shouldn’t complain as this biases the system towards us but it is not right.
Educational Update. Liz and I had a great college tour this week. We started at the UW visiting their honors program, where Liz was able to sit in on an ecology class. The honors staff was super nice and accomodating and the UW is a great hometown choice.
Liz liked Pomona. We had a great tour led by a young man in the freshman class — we saw all the dorms, the dining areas, some of the classrooms. Very small classes, nice dorms, beautiful Mission+Georgian architecture (my analysis — I am sure real architects would describe differently), a strong sciences program, an extensive outdoors program. And a small school but with the facilities of a larger university since it is part of the Claremont consortium. And Claremont is a pleasant suburban setting and very close to Ontario airport.
Caltech is also a beautiful campus but we didn’t have a chance to visit classes. But worth applying to, obviously a great sciences tradition.
Pepperdine and Oxy are also both great schools. Beautiful albeit very different settings — Pepperdine in Malibu has just a stupendous view. Oxy may be a little weaker on the sciences, though it has a good program and all the people we met were great. Pepperdine has some great new science facilities including a really cool marine biology lab. We met the Natural Sciences department head while at Pepperdine and she was very nice, setting us up with a lab tour with one of the biology professors. All these schools were super friendly and accomodating.
Liz did very well on her SATs, particularly her math, so she feels like she has a great chance of getting in most of these schools, so we feel very good about her choices. We are going to try to slip down and see classes and dorms at Reed in a couple weeks as a point of comparison. That will give Liz all the data she needs to decide over the summer the set of schools to which she applies (I am clearly not an English major, I am sure I could have structured that sentence better).
John has his own exciting academic news. His teachers recommended last week that he skip ahead next year to 8th grade math along with 4 other of his classmates. He is very excited about this, this means he will take Algebra next year, Geometry in 8th grade, and then move into Honors/AP Algebra II, Precal, Calculus, etc in high school. Liz also skipped ahead a year in math during high school and it has helped her a lot in terms of SAT scores, etc. So this seems like a great move (and much better than trying to skip an entire grade which we think can put certain kids at a social disadvantage sometimes).
This week John is not in school but is on what is called “Project Week”. His project this year is Filipino Culture and he is spending the week at various locations around Seattle learning about the subject. This wasn’t his first choice of project! But one of his friends is on the team with him, and they get to eat lots of good food, so I am sure they will have fun. The weather is beautiful here today so being out and about in the city won’t be a burden.
Educational Stuff. Heading out on some college tours next week. University of Washington Honors Program is first on our list, heading there next Wednesday. Then to Occidental Thursday, Claremont and Pepperdine Friday, Caltech and UCLA Saturday, with maybe a stop at USC sometime.
On the home front, recently bought and installed Mathematica after wanting to for years. Kind of necessary as I help the kids with high school math homework — it is getting tougher and tougher for me to keep up. Mathematica is great, going to take me a year to really dig into it.
Population Stats. I’m on the board of Forest Ridge and I am trying to get a good handle on demographics and population forecasts for the next 10-20 years. Here is what I have found so far — the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County; and it’s source data from the Washington State Office of Financial Management. Very interesting — it suggests that the middle school population in the area is declining in size in the next 5-10 years.
Back to the Grind
Both L and J back to school today. A tough morning, everyone up and moving by 620 am. 6 weeks of grind until mid-winter break in february. That’s not so bad. We’re going to Arizona for a week in February so we have something to look forward to.
Raining raining raining today. As it was yesterday. Why we hate Seattle. But on the good side of the ledger, the daffodil shoots all broke thru in the last 4-5 days, so spring is already on its way!
C and I are trying to figure out why “Oxy” is the abbreviation for “Occidental”.
One constant theme of conversation in our house these days is college — in particular, where might L go.
I have no idea where L will ultimately decide to go — I am enjoying learning about schools with her and watching her think thru the decision. I am sure she will make a great choice.
One factor will certainly be our location. The West, and in particular the Pacific Northwest, is just not as well provisioned with lots of private universities and liberal arts schools, certainly not in the way that the Midwest or East is.
Working from North to South, some of the schools we have talked about in a positive light include:
– the University of Washington
– Reed College
– Lewis and Clark College
– UC Berkeley
– UC Davis
– Santa Clara University
– UC Santa Barbara
– Pepperdine University
– Claremont McKenna
– UC San Diego
Other schools we have considered but probably ruled completely out are Gonzaga, UC Santa Cruz, and Harvey Mudd. Interesting schools all but not a good fit.
And then there are some that we may learn more about — Caltech, Loyola Marymount, University of San Diego, University of Redlands.
All lists are very dynamic. I’ll try to keep you up to date.