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"Unsolicited" reviews on the BPN website are reviews that are not preceeded by a question from another parent or by an "Re:" line. BPN accepts unsolicited reviews in the style of Yelp only for daycares, preschools, schools, and tutors. All other BPN reviews (for doctors, professional services, places, products, etc.) must be posted in response to a recent request in one of the BPN email newsletters, per this policy.
An unsolicited review for a school on the BPN website may represent a parent's spur-of-the-moment expression of satisfaction in their child's daycare or school, or the review may have been prompted by a request from the school to parents.
One or two unsolicited reviews each year is typical for most schools on BPN. Multiple unsolicited reviews for the same school within just a few months is unusual. It might indicate that the school is having trouble keeping enrollment up and has asked parents to post reviews to generate more interest in the school. It could also be a signal that the school is compensating parents for posting positive reviews - see the next section.
It is unusual for BPN to receive more than 1-2 reviews for the same school in response to a single question, unless the question itself was directed to a single school or was very specific, such as "All-boy schools in the East Bay". With this exception, when multiple parents post to recommend the same school for a particular question, it is usually an indication that the school administration has asked parents to post responses.
Parents who are new to the school may be more biased toward presenting their child's school in a positive light. They may be blissfully unaware of longstanding problems such as administrative dysfunction or teacher turnover, and they may have little experience with practices at other schools. The reviews that have the highest value are those from parents who have been at the school for many years, or whose children have attended other schools.
This is against BPN's policy on Compensated Reviews and we do make an effort to monitor for this, but it is difficult to enforce. Occasionally we hear from parents about schools that offer credit toward participation obligations for posting to BPN, or even discounts on tuition in exchange for favorable reviews. Here are some indications that a school might be compensating parents for posting flattering reviews: a name is signed to the review (rather than a more anonymous sign-off), or there are multiple unsolicited reviews within a short span of time, or there are numerous glowing reviews despite a significant number of complaints and/or license violations (click "view" next to the license # to see citations and complaints on the State's website.)
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