Annie, my sister lives in Fairfax Co, and her high achieving kids have been in the public schools there. Her son went to Thomas Jefferson, named as the top high school in the country a couple of years ago by US News and World Report. They're very bright, athletic kids, but my niece and my sister have been really concerned about colleges. My sister reports that because there are so many high achieving students in their area colleges don't want to take them all. The colleges want to diversify their student body and even if there are x number of qualified Fairfax county students a college doesn't want to take all of them. They want to have students from other areas, too. I think this adds to the pressure to get into the right college that The Race To Nowhere portrays.
I live in a different area, but the school situation is similar in many ways. I live in a college town with a highly educated population and a well regarded public school system. The word on the street is, that it's harder for kids from our local public schools to get into the local university than kids from other less high-achieving school systems in the state. The university is a state school and they want to have kids from all across the state, as well as out of state. They want to balance their student body as much as they can, so there could be a better chance for a kid from a more rural county with good grades—say As & Bs, plus decent SAT scores—to get into the university than a kid with the same or better grades from our local public schools. It's kinda crazy, but that's what I've been told.
So, there's a drawback to being in a good district, but that doesn't mean parents don't want their kids to go to good high schools they just want them to do even better so they can be at the top of the best high school, so then they can get in the college of their choice.
We've opted out of all that so far. My kids go to a private project-based school just because my dd1 needed a smaller environment.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
My sister reports that because there are so many high achieving students in their area colleges don't want to take them all. The colleges want to diversify their student body and even if there are x number of qualified Fairfax county students a college doesn't want to take all of them. They want to have students from other areas, too. I think this adds to the pressure to get into the right college that The Race To Nowhere portrays.
You might send her a copy of "college that change lives." There are lots of wonderful little colleges out there that are fairly easy to get into. What she is saying keeps getting repeated, but it's a myth.
I'm sure that if a student/parent feels that only 1 college is the right college, it must feel very intense and crazed, but there are really a lot of options. Lots and lots of options. The whole "right college" thing is such a limited way of thinking.
but everything has pros and cons
No, I don't think it's a myth that colleges won't take but a certain percentage of their student population from a given high school or school district. There are only so many places at MIT or Harvard or UVa or wherever and they're not going to fill up their freshman class with kids from Fairfax County when there are 94 other counties worth of kids in the state of Virginia.
Now, do they have to go to MIT or Harvard or even UVa — no, and none of those places is where my nephew ended up going, but many of his classmates were hoping to go and did go to those schools. When my nephew was looking at schools, though, he was interested in biomedical engineering and you're just not going to get that at any old community college.
Here's a link to an article about the phenomenon -- http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=325186&paper=62&cat=104 . They talk about a valedictorian in Northern Va who was flat-out rejected by UVa. A lot of parents, me included, hope their kids will be able to go to a state school since out-of-state and private school tuition is so high. It'll be a real stretch if we have to pay $46,000+ for 8 years (2 kids) or let our kids get saddled with debt. In-state, right now, at our local University would be $19,000 for us although I'm sure it will be higher by the time my kids are college age, and gosh that sounds like a lot of money.
Going to college isn't for everyone and I'd like to think I could be fine with it if my kids didn't want to, but I'd want them to be able to go and to be able to go to a good school if they wanted to. UVa is a good school, but it's not Harvard and it is a state school and I think a school like that should be the kind of school that most of us strive for our kids to go to. It's not Ivy League, y'know? The fact remains, that a kid from SW Va who has grades identical or worse than a kid from NoVa is probably more likely to get in. It's a weird situation.
And I would be totally fine with my kids going to a smaller liberal arts college that is less expensive, but a lot of the smaller colleges are private and aren't any cheaper. Some are, but some aren't. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
Well said Chamomile Girl -- great points
I wonder if there are 2 concerns here with the hyper-accelerated learning trend
1. is it good for educating children (does it work)
2. even if it does work does it have corollary issues of causing stress/overemphasis on scholastic achievement/ harm to the child?
I'd say I'm a product of such education-- I remember being "tracked" in high school and the college track meant AP classes and the like. It was important for my education. My classes include the group learning, open ended projects, and the like. I loved it and did well and pursued the achievement and the attention it brought. And I did start to self-identify as the sum of my learning accomplishments.
That, to me, is the danger. I do think at least some of these educational trends toward ability grouping are necessary and best for our educational system. But in the application, the danger may lie in how kids are constructing their self awareness in response to this. An adult can see with a wider perspective that success and happiness in life are not dependent on a high school GPA of a certain caliber. There is no perfect college for achieving the perfect career that creates happiness. If anything, variety, change, messing up and trying a different direction are part of growing up and finding the personal path.
Many students find that their top tier education gave them plenty of knowledge and skills but they still can't find a job in their field. -- my mom has a joke I won't get right about how the A students end up professors, the C students are the workers, and the B students rule the world because they know how to work hard to get the grade and work well with others. Totally an oversimplification but the idea that "book learning" will translate to accomplishment and happiness is to me the danger. I don't want my kids to think that finding the right answers or being at the top of the class means that everything in life will follow that pattern. I want my kids to maximize their learning potential in away that helps them maximize their potential to be functional, empathetic, involved, loving (and lovable) members of society. I think all that can happen with ability grouped classrooms and keeping a focus on college, but there still has to be room for and an emphasis on other aspects of educating the whole person -- maybe that part is just my job at home -- but it's one of those things where it sure helps if the school system is helping and not hindering me.