The Exam School Choice VIII

Hasn’t the Parent Imperfect just about beaten this topic into the ground? Maybe, but it’s happening again. Connie is now among those thousands of Boston sixth graders (many now in private schools) who have taken the ISEE and are awaiting their results from the sorting hat. For some reason, I’m much less connected to other parents involved in this decision than I was when Vince was going through the same process. Maybe some of you will add your anonymous two cents here.

Just yesterday, I was talking with a parent who already knows her child’s ISEE result. She did this by having the kid take the test privately (not when the BPS offered the test for free) and paying and extra fee for “expedited results.” She now has a sense of her child’s likely placement, and can decide how much energy to put into exploring other options. This is something that never crossed my mind, in part because I’m “frugal” to a fault, but also because I’m just not “with the program” like some of the parents of Connie’s peers obviously are.

We’ll get our scores in March and will then very quickly need to decide what Connie will do next year. If one wants to pursue options outside of the BPS, one would have had to get started with that before now. Unless something happens very soon, Connie’s realistic options for seventh grade will include staying at the Irving or going to whichever of the three exam schools she gets sorted into.

We have much more information about the exam schools than we had when Vince was at this stage. By December of his sixth grade year, we hadn’t visited any of the exam schools, but had heard a lot about all three. The catchphrase we had heard over and over was that Boston Latin School “isn’t for everyone.” That’s not really very helpful for someone trying to decide if the school will work for their child.

We knew parents who had kids struggling with BLS at that time, and others whose children were quite happy there. We paid less attention to the families we knew who had kids struggling at the school, but at least thought they were happy there. We assumed that, if Vince was having a hard time academically, he’d be the first one looking for the door. Several friends had sent their children to BLS, but had moved them after seventh or eighth grade because the fit just wasn’t right. Many of those parents had left with a bitter taste in their mouth about the school, and had mostly bad things to say about it.

Vince was not an AWC student. He had not been invited in fourth or fifth grade, which was fine because we were all quite happy at the Hernández School. He did get invited to Advanced Work for sixth grade and we thought long and hard about the Irving before deciding to keep him at the Hernández for one more year. If I had it to do over, I would probably have taken the AWC option for sixth grade. Staying at the Hernández was much easier for us in many ways. We were comfy there. Both kids were in the same school, it was an easy transition to middle school for him, etc. But doing a year of AWC at the Irving would have given Vince and us a much better idea how he would react to the BLS environment than sixth grade at the Hernández did. In Vince’s case, this would have been important information for us all to have.

But we’re talking now about the Exam School Choice for Connie. She has gone to AWC (despite all of her parents and her own reservations about the program). We have a very good idea how she will react to the BLS environment, if she has that opportunity. She is a well-organized girl who we expect will be ready for the challenges of managing all that the school will throw at her. She will melt down too often about all of the busy work that her teachers will insist that she do at home, and she’ll miss having time for all of the things she likes to do outside of school. Fitting in socially in a large school might be hard for her, but she will have kids to sit with at lunch and she’ll find a place to fit in as time passes.

In some ways, Connie seems like the prototypical child that BLS is built to serve, so…won’t it be an easy decision for Liz and I if the test results in a BLS offer? For me, at least, the decision will be more difficult this time. The question is not as much about whether or not Connie can “hack it” at BLS (although one can never really know how a child will react to that environment). It’s just difficult sending a second child to a school that has been so difficult for her brother. Vince’s experience there has also affected Connie. She’s by no means sure that she wants to go to the school.

If you have a sixth-grader who’s is thinking about exam schools, how will you make the decision?


Filed under Exam Schools

7 responses to “The Exam School Choice VIII

  1. Angela

    By your second paragraph, there it is already, another reason why this year keeps revealing its overwhelming moments. What?! You can pay to take the test and know ahead of most everyone else the results? I am blessed with privileges and education and was not well enough informed to know about this option (though yes, that frugal thing kicks in too). What are people without means and the time to navigate supposed to do? They get stuck with whatever is left over. Aaarrgh. Not just for me, but for those single mothers in Mattapan whose children could dig their way out, if only someone would leave them a shovel.

    • Angela

      … And thank you for the blog.

    • Thanks so much, Angela. You have captured the moral of the story. There are levels of “working the system” that I’ve still not been able to uncover after years of doing my thing. People who are struggling to just fill out the forms are at a huge disadvantage, and the results certainly reflect those advantages and disadvantages. Shovels are hard to come by. And then, if you are lucky enough to get “in,” you have to deal with a system that works well for self-motivated and organized kids, but really grinds down others (and their parents). But there we are, going through the motions once more…

  2. Kathy

    So, when my son (8th grader at BLS now) took the ISEE back in 6th grade, we had applied to some private schools that required the test scores. In order to have the scores sent to the private schools, we had to pay about $80-90 for the scores to be distributed to the schools and then we got a letter with his scores. However, I had no sense of what the scores meant and went through some unbelievably anxious times trying to find out if it meant he had a chance at an exam school. I did find one person who was able to give me a sense of what the score meant in the big picture which provided some relief. However, I have a second son who is not as dedicated and organized. I have real concerns about how he would do at a school like BLS and don’t really even know what his options would be. I wish there were more choices of types of schools.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I was wondering about this, too, but the person who got her scores early seemed to have some very specific knowledge of what sort of invitation would result from what level of ISEE score. Clearly, not everyone has access to that kind of information.

      Good luck with your second child. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a lot of examples of kids who arrive at BLS without a lot of self-motivation and organization around school, but “rise to the occasion” once they get there. I’m sure it happens, but I don’t see it. Self-motivated and well-organized kids simply have a much better chance of adapting.


      • Lynn

        I appreciate the topic. I also have a 6th grader at the Irving and am grappling with this decision. I am planning to visit both schools over the next 2 months and have some more conversations with my daughter.
        I wish I knew more parents that are familiar with both BLS and BLA!
        I also think my daughter would be fine at either, but perhaps would be happier and have mor etim eforextra-curriculars at BLA. WHy is that decision so hard to make? This requires soul-searching, doesn’t it?
        And what about trying BLS and switching later on to BLA if we are unhappy. Is that an option?

      • Thanks, Lynn. Sounds like those of us at the Irving should have a little party to discuss this. It is possible to decide later that you want to go to BLA from BLS, but not as easily as you might think. Beyond the bureaucratic impediments, which can be overcome with great difficulty, it is possible that your daughter may not want to leave BLS, even though it is apparent to you that she should. Aren’t we the parents, you might ask? Yes, we are, but forcing that change is not as easy as it might seem, especially when it isn’t at all easy to do, bureaucratically. Good luck!

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