The Exam School Choice #11, The Letter and the Number

The LetterThe last time around, the letter was a much bigger deal because that’s how the Parent Imperfect found out about Vince’s exam school assignment. This year, when the letter came on Wednesday, it was anticlimactic. We already knew that Connie had been invited to the nation’s oldest public school, which is what we need to know to make a decision about next year.

But the letter is not content to tell us what we need to know. It also gives us Connie’s numerical score on each section of the ISEE test. We have no idea what these raw numbers mean, although it was nice to see that her raw number was more or less the same on each section.

Then came another set of meaningless numbers. The letter tells us that, of the 2009 children who took the test and chose Boston Latin School as their first choice, Connie ranked “X,” taking into account both her test grade and the summary of her grades in fifth and sixth grade that has appeared, as if by magic, there on the page.  Again, this ranking number doesn’t mean a lot to us, but we were curious to see that her ranking for BLS was actually “higher” (better) than it was for the other schools. How is that possible? The letter doles out these numbers, but provides no explanation.

In any case, without much discussion, Liz and I decided that we would continue the time-honored tradition of not sharing with our children this ranking. In Vince’s case, that worked fine. He actually asked for this number for the very first time about two months ago. Only three of the 39 students in his sixth-grade class got invited to BLS and these were not kids (including Vince) who were going to rush into school and start comparing their numerical rankings. Liz hid the letter somewhere (in fact, I have no idea where it is) and we sort of forgot about it.

But not all sixth grades (or sixth graders) are alike. Did it slip our mind that we decided to have Connie go to an Advanced Work Class? It seems that the next day, nearly everyone in Connie’s class was talking about their ranking (I must wonder if it was really “almost everyone”). In the more competitive AWC environment, this question of the number took on prime importance for some. According to Ms. Connie, three of the young ladies in her class ranked in the top 16 of all children taking the test throughout the BPS, so she was more than curious about her number. I’d like an audit of those results…

Liz and I looked at each other, suddenly realizing that we should, of course, have talked to Connie about the letter and the number before she went to school the next day. When we sheepishly told her that we had received the letter and, as in the case of her brother, had decided not to share the number, drama ensued.

weird parentsWould we please not compare her with her brother or assume that because something was the right thing to do with him, it is the right way to treat her? It’s bad enough that she can’t see TV shows, will never have her own laptop and has a phone from some other time that barely does text messages…now we’re not going to give her a chance to be proud of how she did on an important test? Having weirdos for parents is more than a girl can take sometimes.

We wavered before the real (and somewhat justified) emotions of youth denied, but did not give in (at least as far as I know). We apologized for not telling her about the letter the day before, but insisted that nothing good can come of her knowing a number that can only serve to make some people feel better and others feel not so good. The only thing that matters is what schools she has to choose from, right? I could see in her teary eyes that she was ready to go to all of the other meaningless numbers that seem quite important to us, but she spared us that observation.

Why does the BPS feel that it needs to tell this group of parents exactly where their child ranked on the private school admissions test that they use to decide who will go to the only public middle and high schools that have anything like the resources needed to educate adolescents? Why, when so much important information is not shared with parents, does this tidbit deserve to see the light of day?

Now I have to find the letter. With all our focus on the number, I’m not sure we got to the part of the letter that tells us how we need to respond to confirm that Connie will, indeed, join her brother at the nation’s oldest. Once bitten, twice…gnawed.

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7 Comments

Filed under Exam Schools

7 responses to “The Exam School Choice #11, The Letter and the Number

  1. Margaret Minor Wood

    Please stick to your guns on not sharing the ranking and explain why. There is much to like about the exam schools but this is not one.

    • After being so committed to not sharing the ranking, I left the stupid letter on our bed and dear Connie got a look at it. She insists, however, that she didn’t see her ranking, and that’s possible, given how complicated the letter is.

      • Margaret Minor Wood

        Let’s hope so. Honestly, what is the obsession? I had dinner with someone the other night who is in his 50s and he still remembers his graduating rank (he was in the bottom of the class).

  2. It’s just that sort of place. Mercifully, they seem to give less attention to class rank these days, but people of my generation who went to the school all remember theirs.

  3. Pingback: A Quarter-Step Behind… | Parent Imperfect

  4. Lynn

    For the sake of transparency right? Shared with my daughter but she did not share with others. I told my daughter that in this population one question wrong or the diff between A and A+ could separate students by a hundred or two. It put the ranking in perspective. Does that make #40 smarter than #400?
    Nevermind all the smart kids out there who did no test prep or stayed up too late or had the wrong breakfast Maybe they are the lucky ones
    Lynn

    • That sounds like a great approach. The test/grade combo is a terrible way to choose who gets in, but damned if I could suggest a better one that wouldn’t require thousands of person hours that someone would have to pay for. It would be fascinating to know how the admission ranking correlates with the graduating GPA. I bet not very closely. They are measuring something, but it may be more the parent’s ability to pay for prep than “smarts.”

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