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Class placement question

one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
I am a very long time lurker (I have one who’s a junior and one incoming sophomore) and kind of considered myself an old hat at the boarding school thing. My older one was the kind of kid who did everything herself but the younger one needs more parental involvement and it’s giving me pause. His teacher recommended algebra 2 honors and he was placed in a regular section (this is his favorite subject and he was the top math student at his previous but much smaller school). Wondering how hard to push to get him moved. If he is bored it will NOT lead to good things. I see a lot of advice on here about schools knowing what they’re doing and to trust the process. But this I think they got wrong. Over my years as a boarding school mom I have seen many examples of parents trusting the process and their kids getting mucked up because of a lack of parental intervention. I’ve also seen a lot of over the top parents though....hence the pause.
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Replies to: Class placement question

  • RedLionessRedLioness 166 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Maybe push a little bit now if you're that concerned about him missing out, ask if he can take a placement test or something of the like. Tell the school you're concerned, and ask if there's a way to be reassured he's been placed somewhere correct for him.

    But don't really dig your heels in the sand yet. There is a truth to trusting the process and allowing kids to be placed where the BS sees fit. However, as you've noted, BS are not holy gods and can make mistakes. If the school doesn't budge on his placement, even after a placement test or something like that, then let September come and school start. Give it a few days, then call him up and talk to him. Bring up the topic of his math placement somewhere. If it's too easy for him, then dig your heels in and tell the school to move him. And if it's not, you won't regret anything.

    At least that's what I think you should do. Up to you to decide how much that's worth.
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  • RedLionessRedLioness 166 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Also, question: Do your children go to the same school? Do you have experience with your son's school specifically, or are you new to the community?
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    I would raise your concern with the school. If there were parts of the placement test that indicated major weaknesses or missing skills, they might be right in the placement. But if he was on the cusp, it is possible that they'd move him without blinking. It sounds like it would be best if they could do this during a th time period when both are offered so he can move down if it turns out to be too much of a reach. Our school generally recommended (in this situation) trying the harder class. It's easier to drop down than run after a train that's well out of the station.

    One other thought... Sometimes placements help the school create sections of the class among well matched kids. So this may simply be putting him with his peers, rather than being terribly different content. I think you should have the conversation with them. You may walk away happy with where he is or they may happily move him.
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  • bjkmombjkmom 7949 replies158 threads Senior Member
    Algebra II & Trig is a TOUGH course-- this coming from someone who teaches it. It looks to me as though the teacher who made the recommendation isn't from the same school he'll now be attending? I think this may be one of those times when you trust the school's advice and leave things as they are.
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  • CTMom21CTMom21 599 replies2 threads Member
    My experience has been that the school generally makes the right choice and generally they want to challenge the kids, BUT you’re justified in at least asking the question. I was pushing for an honors language class for DS (no placement test) and he was put on regular, which ended up being plenty challenging. Just last night I DID make a fuss about placement, since DS was pushed out of an honors class due to a scheduling constraint — obviously a different issue. I generally don’t want to be “that” kind of parent, but this was a case where we felt strongly, and when I made it clear how important it was, it got taken care of!
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1837 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Schools vary and the admissions staff has likely seen others from your son's other school. They might know that a particular score or recommendation means one thing or another. Often when the kid has been the best in their class, the parents don't really know where their kid is at in terms of other kids. My student had three kids in the math class last year all of whom were the best in their town. All had to drop down a level. My kid was not the best in the town and did extremely well. I think it depends on a number of factors not only background but also how quickly the kid learns.
    I would let me kid go for a week or two and touch base in great detail ( even with the teacher if needed) to get a sense of the pace of the class and where your son actually is. Kids know if they are struggling compared to their peers. Or if it's a cinch.
    One thing you already know as a BS mom, many BS kids are talented in a particular area. So just make sure the talents line up. Being a new student and struggling could make for a tough year. And let your kid lead. I doubt he'll want to be at the wrong level either. Sitting in a slow paced math class is boring.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
    Thank you to everyone who replied and for the advice. Very helpful and I sent an email today outlining my concerns more fully.

    The kids are in different schools (their choice due to different sport/passions/personalities). Is it wrong to wish that I could get my daughters advisor to write me a letter of recommendation for my sons school explaining that I’m very sane and totally hands off 99% of the time? Lol

    My main issue is that my son is a very fast paced learner. So a placement test is measuring what he knows now, generally a teacher gets through half a sentence and the kid already understands the concept. So it’s not what he knows it’s how he learns that indicates he needs the faster pace of honors. If there are things he doesn’t know he will watch half a
    Math video on YouTube and understand it.

    Anyway, we shall see. I did my part and feel like I said what I needed to say and I feel much better.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Good for you, @one1ofeach ! I too always cringed at the thought of being "that parent" but was reassured on numerous occasions that the school really wants to hear from you in these situations. As long as it's part of a constructive dialogue, it's all cool! Thanks for the update. Looking forward to hearing if you are happy with the resolution.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
    Disappointed all around. Sigh. Was told after my email that he did so badly on the placement test they almost considered having him repeat geometry. This seems fishy to me as his math teacher last year said he was one of her best students ever and had zero holes in his math knowledge. Also the ssat score. I feel like they made a decision based on one data point and not all the other.

    Forward to a couple weeks of class. Math is boring. The challenge problems given in class he’s already done for homework and didn’t think they were challenging at all. Other parents have told me kids never get moved. The whole point of choosing this school was to get math that he loved and it’s not happening.

    Been having a really deep gut feeling that this isn’t the right school for him and that’s a scary place to be as a parent.
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  • GoatMamaGoatMama 1378 replies12 threads Senior Member
    If I were you, I would revisit this issue with the school. If your son is not challenged he is not in the right class. It's not too late to move up. (And I wouldn't pay too much attention to parents who say that kids "never" get moved. What may be true for their kids may not be true for yours.) Talk to the teacher or have your son talk to him/her. The chances increase when the current teacher is in support of moving up. Or in talking to the teacher you may learn that the first two weeks were mostly a review of old material with little new content, and that things will pick up quickly and your son will soon find himself challenged enough, so it's best to stay where he is. Either way, I would start with the teacher. Good luck!
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    @1ofeach , just want to say I am pulling for you. I know that feeling of nagging worry for your kid, and it's rotten. Sending good vibes.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    @1ofeach , I would also add that you will need to have a conversation with your child and make it clear that it is up to him to excel and "knock it out of the park" even if he is bored. Schools do not like to set kids up for failure, so he's going to have to prove that won't be the case.

    While I know you had hoped for a great math lesson (which he still may get), the immediate lesson at hand is that there will be teachers and classes we don't like, but we only punish ourselves by not taking full advantage of them because we don't like them. I would make sure he understands how he was placed in his current class, what was done to try to move him, and emphasize that now, if there's a move to be made, it's on him to demonstrate that he's up to it. My kid, at this age, was one who tended to "revert to the average " rather than make himself the outlier, so I understand the challenge you face. But at some point, what you tell him will probably resonate. Again, I feel for you and am rooting for you both.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
    Thank so much @gardenstategal and @GoatMama as I said this kind of worry is new to me since the older one just sails through life. I will start having these conversations and hope for an outcome that he can be happy with at school.
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  • dogsmama1997dogsmama1997 481 replies30 threads Member
    Are schools actually open to feedback about this sort of thing? Our public school was not or pretended to be but really alienated parents. I am leery of making a peep but at the same time we are paying a LOT OF MONEY and I kind of have some things I am not loving. Hoping things will iron themselves out but if not I am nervous about how to handle it.
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  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom 5558 replies265 threads Senior Member
    Several times I've posted our son's experience trying to jump ahead in math at Choate but will repeat for those who are new(er) to this forum and because this question comes up every year.

    Our son loved math and was dying to get to calculus as fast as he could. He took algebra II at our local CC the summer before BS, earned an A, and passed Choate's placement test for entering the math stream at a higher level, but the math dept. seriously advised against it as they felt that their algebra II course was foundational for their upper math curriculum. They gave him the option, but the gravity of their advice to enter at algebra II caused him to do so. He was a bit bored the first few weeks, but as the pace picked up and his teacher began to teach a methodology for analyzing, problem-solving, organizing, presenting, and participating in a Choate math classroom, he did not feel advanced toward the end of the course and was very glad he "repeated."

    I will emphasize: Do not discount the part about learning how to participate in a BS math classroom. You will NOT be memorizing formulas. You will be taught first to clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve. You will learn to think mathematically about approaches to solving the problem without delving first into any formulaic toolkit. After that, you will learn some methods for crafting solutions. You will understand and own how to derive formulas so that you will know not only which to apply but also why, the same way a carpenter knows when to use a hammer over a saw. I remember one Parents Weekend watching three kids go to the board and correctly solve the same problem three different ways. The rest of the class time was spent discussing those various approaches and why each worked. Very different from the match-the-equation-pattern-to-the-one-right-formula method I was taught in school.

    It's far more important that a student learn to think like this than at what level math course s/he starts or ends. There are no prizes for accelerating in math. Generally, you can trust the BS to place each student into the stream at the right point and expertly guide their progression. On the few occasions they get it wrong, they should be quick and happy to adjust. It is perfectly OK to reach out to the teacher and/or head of the math department to get their advice on your concerns. It serves no one for a student to be in the wrong class.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
    Results are in. He will not be moved. period. There are currently 20 kids in the class (which seems absurd when they brag about the average being 8). I understand that for some kids they need to be taught a different way of thinking about math, I truly do. But know your own child and my kid already thinks about math in a creative self taught way. That was admitted to me on the phone. It was admitted that he should be in honors based on his ssat scores etc etc. The class is just full and at a small school sometimes the smallness bites you in the a$$.
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 448 replies6 threads Member
    That’s just terrible @one1ofeach.

    I get it - especially in math it can be hard for a school to have enough teachers trained to teach advanced classes. Sounds like the school is down a teacher. But that isn’t your kid’s fault. He deserves a spot in the honors class just as much as anyone else in there.

    Our story: My kid pushed to be bumped up from the math class he was assigned as a freshman, and after saying no multiple times, they finally agreed about a month into school. I don’t think they would have listened to me, but he was relentless and didn’t take no for an answer. He had to teach himself what he missed in the higher class that first month, which somehow he did. He absolutely excelled in the higher class.

    The school acknowledged later that my son was right about which math class he should be in. Schools don’t always get it right. But they should always be willing to support the student’s best academic path.

    It may be too late for your kid to push the issue, but maybe not. If he wants it he can dig in and fight for it. It might be different coming from him. He would have to convince the faculty that he can do what it takes to catch up, in addition to showing a proficiency in the lower level class.

    I hope it works out. It sounds like you’re unhappy about many things about the school. Would love to hear that your son is thriving in a couple of months.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
    @CateCAParent Thank you. I really appreciate the acknowledgment that sometimes the student knows what's best for the student. I got another story last night about accidentally doing the homework that had been assigned ahead so it hadn't been taught and he hadn't read the lesson in the book. Problems were easy peasy. We shall see. I told him to please keep track if he learns anything that may have been a "hole" from previous math. As in, did his old school skip a huge chunk of Algebra I or something? He said ok. I think he understands what's going on. I was also told that based on everything he would almost certainly be in honors math next year. Still kind of shaking my head about that logic (?).

    The better news is that socially things are improving. That was a rocky start as well but good to hear from him that he shifted perspective and he even said to me "well I think new friends are much smarter than old friends." He's not a snob, just never had a friend who was smart and cared about school. So it's good.

    I also pointed out that with two club sports in the spring to manage maybe it is good to take it easy in two classes (language and math) which is not his nature. Likely next year we will ask to be moved down a level on one of the club teams but that choice needs to be in the future.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1837 replies13 threads Senior Member
    It's hard to get math placement right. Like Choatiekid, my kid decided to take a lower level math than the actual placement Freshman year. Wanted to be sure to get the foundation part down. What happened was an easy year and solving things multiple ways. Kiddo doesn't regret it as it was a bumpy year getting adjusted and honor math is honors math. Kid also knows that math is not the future path for him/her.
    I think that many parents push their kids into levels where the kids might not fit. My kids have had to sit through many classes where Jane/Johnny was in the honors class and trying to keep up. In 90% of the cases, it was the parent pushing the kid. ( Not saying this is the case with OP, but it is a huge factor).

    Sometimes the kid has the ability but doesn't want to work and sometimes the kid doesn't have the ability and the parent keeps pushing. Honestly, if the kid is breezing through the regular level they can jump into AP/Honors next year. I do sympathize with not be able to get into the class and still paying big $$.

    There isn't really an upside to getting into math beyond Calculus in high school. In fact, some schools don't even have BC calc. IF a kid is going on to MIT/Caltech, they would be insane not to take the foundational courses and think their high school math is going to suffice. Math kids can take/make their own courses at many BS and that is great. If they are math kids they will find their niche by Junior/Senior year.

    Our Freshman experience was many kids who were the "best" in their town could not keep up with the honors level. The kids were really stressed and most dropped down. Is there a possibility for OP's kid to switch into the higher level course when someone else drops it? Change/add should be done soon.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 895 replies17 threads Member
    Just to be clear - I was pushing for the move because my son wants to be moved. Literally every single day I get a story about what was too easy in math, how he accidentally worked ahead several lessons and it was easy. I was the one who said maybe it's better to start out with two easy classes and he said no, one class that was below his level was enough. He has already figured out he will not need to study for his language class, I am not excited for him to figure out he doesn't need to study for his math class. He does not test at his level in standardized tests hence the lower placements in both language and math.

    I also am fully aware that not everyone's kid is as smart as they think they are. I have been reading CC long enough to know that it's practically the mantra around here. I am not expecting my kid to get an A++ in every subject. But to me being able to work ahead and not thinking it's challenging is a warning sign about level.

    Also, is it only me who thinks it's strange to have a system where the number of honors math classes quadruple from one year to the next?
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