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Diversity in Private Schools
I am not sure that such a school exists, but maybe you can enlighten me. My husband and I have taught at private schools in the Bay Area, and in the process have seen firsthand how so many of them are ''pressure cookers'' filled with kids whose parents earn astronomical amounts of money. Though this is not the case for all families, and I do not begrudge them their fortune, it is not the type of environment we would like to send our own children to. On the other hand, we have been equally unimpressed with the public schools in our city (we live in Oakland) and cannot afford to live in Berkeley, where I have heard that some are slightly better. And we do see that for the most part children tend to get more individuated and creative instruction at private schools (not a reflection on the teaching capabilities of public school teachers, just a matter of time and resources differences). So we are researching private schools in the area, but are really wanting to find one that is sincerely committed to economic diversity. Where it is not just a way of marketing their commitment to diversity, but rather an integral part of the school's philosophy and raison d'etre. I guess that would mean either exceptionally low tuition or exceptionally high amounts of financial aid? I'm not quite sure, and we are still in the nascent stages of exploration, but can the BPN community enlighten me here. I know we are not alone in a) barely making it financially in the Bay Area and b) being appalled at the rising inequality between the ''haves'' and the ''have nots'' in the world and this region in particular and c) wanting a stimulating social-justice-oriented and *reflective* environment for our children to thrive in intellectually and socially.
Sorry to sound so harsh, but I'm just tired of people in the east bay wanting it both ways -- i.e., getting an educational experience catering to their child's every need, while easing their conscience about the inequity inherent in sending their child to private school. Give your public school a chance!
My daughter attends one of the ''beautiful schools'' with ''wealthy'' families. What I know is that we are on a 75% scholarship. Many of the teachers teach at and are committed to the school so their own children can attend with a large reduction in tuition. Our daughter has friends and classmates that live in multi-million dollar homes, but it may be that the overwhelming majority of the families at the ''beautiful school'' give up family vacations, drive old cars with over 100,000 miles, eat pasta rather than steak, make due with older clothes and shoes because they value the educational opportunities their children are given.
The scholarship committee asks us every year to provide the information needed to grant our scholarship. Every year as we decide to go camping for a week instead of staying in a hotel, we are grateful for the opportunity our daughter has been given. When we see the foreign languages, the arts classes, the depth of the English classes with rich discussions because all students have arrived prepared and ready to discuss the material, the science labs and the depths of knowledge in history and current events we know we have made the right choice.
And like many other families who have made similar choices we would sell our home and live in an apartment to continue to give this experience to our daughter because in the end we know the difference. Our daughter was in one of the ''hills schools'' in Oakland in which the PTA raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and yet nothing compares to being in a class in which every student is working hard to his or her full potential and is prepared for the material that is presented. Nothing compares to having teachers who know the material they teach with such depth and complexity that they do not have to think about differentiating, it is just a natural part of the learning process for all students.
So before you take a wide lens through the whole school, take a magnifying glass instead. Look at my daughter and the boys and girls she plays soccer with at lunch. Watch as they sit not 'three under a tree for the diversity shot'' but their knees tucked up as they sit in the floor in the hall and discuss life in South Africa's apartheid and then tell me what you see. Four Languages and Five Science Labs for my Daughter
Public schools actually are committed to socioeconomic diversity. They are filled with teachers and parents who are committed to providing the best education possible to kids no matter the resources of the child's family.
If you are truly appalled, I recommend you do not feed the economic disparity monster. I love our neighborhood elementary school and have worked shoulder to shoulder with a great group of parents for years to keep it going strong. I am now in the midst of watching a big chunk of the students in the top economic crust of our local public school peel off and head to private middle schools. It is painful. It seems obvious to me that private schools are not just a symptom of the increasing economic disparities in our society, but a significant driver of these disparities. I advise anyone like you who is appalled at the rising inequality to jump into a public school and be the change you have been waiting for. Involved parents and families drive the improvement of our public neighborhood schools. Within our communities we have great power, if we choose to use it. Buying a path out of the public institutions may appear to be in the short term interest of your child, but I believe the long term interests of your child and my child and of all children are better served by parents who use their resources to help build functioning local institutions and who model a commitment to the whole community. Public Primary Education Fan
1) How many children at your school would qualify for free or reduced lunch if this was a public school? If you're from a family of four and earn under 43k, you can get reduced lunch, 30k income makes lunch free.
Income guidelines here: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/rs/scales1213.asp
For reference, BUSD schools, which are very balanced, have between 30 to 60 percent free/reduced-lunch students.
2) Is there diversity of parental education level? If there is socioeconomic diversity but everyone's parents are college graduates and above, there won't be as much of a climate of diversity.
3) Does the school have students who are English Language Learners? Does the school provide materials to parents in Spanish or other languages?
Have you considered Catholic schools? They seem to be way more diverse than the independent schools I'm familiar with, and of course tuition is dramatically lower. -A mom
I'm not a public school booster, like so many people I know, who would only see the good in public school and the bad in private school. I see the good and bad in both. And c'mon, there is good and bad in both! But seriously, I don't think public middle school in Oakland (where I live) is terrible. Quite the opposite. I know many kids having positive experiences there. But if the economic diversity is a top value to you, and I 'get' why, then private school is probably not best for you. Give public a try first, it might pleasantly surprise you. Public/private, can't we all just get along?
I AM a public school booster, but I also do see the good and bad in both private and public schools. My children attend public in Oakland (elementary and middle), but many of our friends are in private. Yes, we do all just get along, but that doesn''t mean I agree with their decision to educate only their own children, while everyone else fights for diminishing resources. My middle-class white children will survive, go on to college, and be productive members of society, but what about those kids with far fewer resources than mine? Truly, the BEST solution to rising inequality between the ''haves'' and the ''have nots'' in the world and in this region in particular is PUBLIC EDUCATION, but only if it is supported by all of us. anon
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