Almost every week Chinese and Korean educational consultants call me seeking to partner and place students from Asia in New York City private boarding school. I also often get calls from Russian families. So it is not surprising to me that Leman Meritas now runs a NYC boarding school catering to wealthy foreigners seeking an entree into American educational opportunities.
Inside Manhattan's First and Only Boarding School is an interesting account of life at Leman, which includes luxury housing, housekeeping, and a health club membership, for the cool price of $72,000 per year.
If you have memories of roughing it at boarding school, see Chang-Rae Lee's recent New Yorker essay, Immovable Feast. Phillips Exeter Academy in the 1980's was the polar opposite of 21st Century Leman Meritas.
Watch for Avenues to follow Leman into providing a New York City private boarding school, and I expect many other for-profit school companies to follow. Meanwhile in Westchester, Masters School and Hackley both offer boarding options.
I have helped many families whose children now attend Avenues.
Today I received this email from Soraya Díaz Tamayo, who is Director of Avenues School Admissions:
We have three admissions cycles:
Early admissions—sibling and employee applicants
Application deadline October 1 / File complete November 21 / Notification December 17 / Parent reply January 9
Early notification—first-choice applicants for all grades
Application deadline November 3* / File complete December 17 / Notification January 9 / Parent reply January 16
* We will accept early notification forms after this date provided the application has been submitted and all interviews and supporting materials are completed by December 17.
Regular notification—all applicants
Application deadline December 1 / File complete January 16 / Parent reply as per ISAAGNY dates
In addition to open admissions for typical entry grades – nursery, kindergarten, sixth and ninth – we have a limited number of openings in other grades for the 2015-2016 school year. All applications will be fully processed regardless of the notification cycle, though priority consideration will be given to early notification candidates. All regular notification applicants will be interviewed, including nursery, pre-K, K and 1 (Note: this is a change from an earlier communication). Applicants to grades 2–4 must demonstrate age-appropriate language proficiency in either Spanish or Chinese.
Change to Immersion Format
For the 2015–2016 school year, immersion instruction will go through the fourth grade. Our 50/50 immersion program is now on an alternating day schedule rather than a half-day schedule. Students spend one full day in their immersion classroom and the next full day in their English classroom. This has allowed us to recover about one hour of instructional time and reduced the number of transitions our students must manage.
I appreciate Avenues' transparency with their admissions process.
Miriam Kreinin Souccar of Crain's New York profiles the new school BASIS Brooklyn: It's Academic: Families Flock to Brooklyn for School.
BASIS Brooklyn features tuition that is half that of other NYC private schools, a diverse population, a rigorous science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, and Mandarin. I find that a large number of my Brooklyn clients, many with very varied backgrounds, are interested in applying to BASIS. For a school that opened only this September and is not yet housed in its permanent building, this is quite impressive.
In Souccar's article, I said:
Education consultants say these results are resonating. "Basis is hot," said Emily Glickman, president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting, which coaches families on getting their children into top New York schools. "Its emphasis on [science, technology, engineering and math] is in line with parental desires today."
"There is such an overflow of affluent educated parents in Brooklyn who are looking for good private schools, and you really have just a handful," Ms. Glickman said.
Many Brooklyn parents are fed up by what they view as overly progressive, loosey-goosey schools that don't teach the three R's. BASIS Brooklyn, with its emphasis on STEM and academic structure, offers what many parents today want.
Apparently taking a cue from the Common App, numerous NYC private high schools, including Dalton, Grace Church and Trevor Day, have debuted the new ISAAGNY Common Essay. In 2014-2015, students can choose from common essay topics:
1) Describe the environment in which you live – your family, home, neighborhood, or community. How does it shape who you are?
2) If you could capture your life in just one snapshot, what would that photograph look like? Describe it and explain why you chose that image. You may include a photograph if you would like (you may mail or email your photo to the Admissions Office with your essay, or bring it to your interview).
3) Music spans time and culture. Explain how the lyrics of one of your favorite songs define you or your cultural experience.
4) If you could change any existing law, or if you could bring a new law into existence, what would it be
I think this is a smart direction for NYC private high schools. Too often, 8th grade applicants are caught in a crunch with too many private school essays to write in too short a time. Often I see sympathetic parents stepping in and getting overly involved helping students, either by editing and writing essays themselves, or by hiring English tutors to do the job. These actions send students the wrong message, and can be detrimental to their admissions chances. As a reader, it's irritating when an essay doesn't sound like a real 8th grader.
While I like that many NYC private high schools are sharing the ISAAGNY Common Essay, I am not keen on the questions, which are needlessly highfalutin and difficult. Can you describe your life in a snapshot? Or your cultural experience in music lyrics? It's not easy for a 13-year-old, either. I am not sure what value this exercise brings to an admissions decision.
I am working now with my clients applying to NYC private high school to help them best approach the new ISAAGNY Common Essay.
Thanks to Sophia Hollander of The Wall Street Journal, whose article New Test for Private-School Applicants Assessment for Kindergarten Takes 5-7 Minutes via an iPad summarizes just how complicated NYC kindergarten testing has become this year.
For more than 45 years, schools relied on the ERB WPPSI for NYC kindergarten testing. In 2014, presto! the WPPSI is gone, replaced by the ERB AABL at some schools (Horace Mann, Riverdale, Avenues), the KRT (Dalton, Marymount, Poly and more), no testing required (many other NYC private schools) and no testing accepted (the rest). It's a lot for a parent to digest, let alone a preschooler to undergo. I said:
This year "the admissions process has become dramatically more complex," said private-schools consultant Emily Glickman, who founded Abacus Guide Educational Consulting. "It's really hard for parents now," she said. "They don't know which end is up."
Hollander's article details the scientific thinking behind the new "Kindergarten Readiness Task", the 6 minute iPad game that purports to measure preschoolers' "executive function" and academic success trajectory. The researcher states:
"These basic foundational skills turn out to be a better predictor of long-term outcomes than intelligence as it's usually assessed," Mr. Zelazo said.
The skills are also less susceptible to test prep, he said. Since it isn't a knowledge-based exam, it is more difficult to teach.
While it is possible to improve executive function with practice, "that would be a genuine improvement in the important skills involved in learning," he said.
Well to me, if you can improve executive function with practice, that sounds like test prep. And then test prep is learning. So I am not sure why a new test solves anything.
Introducing the KRT or "Kindergarten Readiness Task", the new iPad-administered test-in-development that will be given this fall to NYC private school kindergarten applicants at a number of Manhattan and Brooklyn schools.
You've heard that NYC public school kids act as guinea pigs for testing companies; now private school kindergarten applicants will too!
The 5-7 minute KRT /"Kindergarten Readiness Task" purports to be a non-content based test that "measures a set of brain-based skills including attention, impulse control, and cognitive flexibly. This brief task assesses thinking skills in a “content-free” way and does not rely on specific knowledge or vocabulary."
What were these NYC private school admissions people thinking?
"All these preschoolers! How do we separate the wheat from the chaff?"
"We need a "kindergarten readiness task"!"
"But not one that enriches those darned test prep companies! This kindergarten test has got to be content-free!"
"I've got it! An iPad administered, NON-content-based exam!"
"That makes a lot of sense! But this KRT test is being developed by a university-branded testing company that was founded in July, so the claim sounds plausible!"
"The founder of the testing company is interested in "the brain basis of self control". Sounds like that famous Stanford marshmallow experiment."
Why a 6 minute test of a preschoolers' swiping skills measures anything of value in school admissions is anyone's guess. Certainly even the NYC private schools and the University of Minnesota and Reflections Sciences LLC don't know, since this year children's results will be used as beta research.
Fortunately the KRT test is relatively short.