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I would really value this community's feedback on the following issue: how to evalute the benefits of switching from a big public school to a small private school beginning junior year? Our daughter is now a sophomore at BHS's International School. She finds BHS generally overwhelming, has had a hard time making friends, and - of equal or greater importance - is finding herself bored in class and frustrated with the pace. She is worried, for the first time, that she won't do well because her motivation to stay engaged is diminishing. I know the first course of action is to talk to the teachers and support staff, and we are doing that. She is great student, very academic, takes her work seriously and wants to go to a great college. And I write this with great respect for the educators at BHS; I know they are doing their very best with big classes and limited resources and bring a lot of talent and commitment to their work. The question: in the absence of knowing that things will get qualitatively better next year, is it the right thing to switch our daughter to a small private school? For a host of logistical and financial reasons, we chose the public school path, but I can tell this is not a great fit for our daughter and I think she would thrive in a different setting with smaller, more demanding classes and a different peer group. Is it too much to ask of her to cope with such a big change, just when she's working hard to get into college? Is it better to switch and take a big gamble on a better situation? I really want to support her love of school, which is just not happening this year at BIHS. Will kids be welcoming? Will she get integrated at this late date? Do kids switch as juniors? I don't want her to go through the whole enrollment process if this is a bad idea from the get-go, but I know high school can be different (better) than this. What to do?
When my daughter, and I visited colleges last Spring when she was a BIHS Junior, nearly every admissions officer we talked with commented that achieving the IB Diploma represents completing the most challenging high school curriculum available. She's now doing the work to qualify for the Diploma, and finds it both really challenging and engaging.
I'm sure the counselors in the IB program can make arrangements for your daughter to talk to other students who are pursuing the Diploma. That may be a good first step before going down the path of switching schools. S.
I have a daughter who graduated from BHS a couple years ago. She was rarely challenged by the classes offered at BHS even though she finished with 10 or 11 AP classes. She was accepted into a small prestigious private university and is in college with people from the ''top'' small prep schools in the country. She is still not particularly challenged. She knows students at her university from some of the east bay small privates and she is definitely doing better than they are and really not very challenged.
My husband and I decided early on to look beyond the classroom to stimulate our daughter. Our strategy was lots of activities, community service, travel and work along with an expectation of excellent grades. BHS offers those opportunities much better than a small school could - there are tons of sports, music, drama and extracurriculars to keep students of all academic levels engaged. We always had her at least participating in both sports and arts. On top of that we had to do a lot of active parenting - lots of engaged conversations about life and what was happening in her life, why she was bored and what to do about it.
And in the end she is really happy that she went to BHS instead of one of the local private schools, she was exposed to a lot of culture and had some life altering experiences (not all good) that would not have happened at a small school.
So your child is not my child, but I think it is worth exploring your child's boredom a little more carefully before switching schools. former BHS parent
I would say that its small size would not suit every kid. It is not for someone who wants a classic ''big high school'' experience, for example. But it may suit your daughter very well. Happy Maybeck Parent
If you send her to a very demanding private school she could be in for quite a shock academically! At the same time, there does seem to be a significant ramp up at BHS in both AC and BIHS in the junior years, so it could be that she'll be okay with sticking it out. Her math and science could be plenty challenging, language should be at 3rd, 4th year level, right? So the main academic issue would be whether other classes are sufficiently engaging, and whether she can help create that challenge for herself. As happy as my daughter is, it's partly because she has two really challenging AP classes, so she is just kind of putting up 2 out of 6 classes being less interesting. And because she's in AC, she has electives which she really likes. Perhaps with next year's change to block schedule, there may be opportunities for BIHS kids to add in some more personally interesting courses.
Also, my daughter joined two clubs and a sports team which puts her with some great, interesting kids. She's a fairly introverted kid, actually, and yet she's making friends. It's odd in a way that she didn't do so in a small school - maybe she was less motivated to do so because she wasn't happy there, or maybe it was because the social environment was TOO small so she didn't have enough kids to choose from.
As far as whether the kids at a new school will be welcoming, it depends, there's usually interest in someone new in a small school. Does your daughter have a sport or other interest that would help her integrate with a group of kids at a new school? Maybe your child is less motivated to make friends through clubs and sports because she just doesn't like Berkeley High? Do you have a feeling for whether she's likely to reach out and take advantage of both the academic and social offerings of a new school? Can you encourage her to do so this year at BHS so she's happier (and so she learns that skill if she moves to a new environment?)
Best of luck. I know how hard it is when your kid isn't happy, and how scary it is to take a leap of faith that a change will make things better! =went the other way=
We are thinking of switching schools next year when my daughter enters 7th grade. I would like to get people's advice about changing schools in the 7th grade and whether that is a particularly rough time for a girl to change schools emotionally, socially, academically. She does have one good friend there already. Thank you.
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