What does it take to go to college: An update on DH’s relatives

One of the things known by economists is that a lot of people have some college, but only ~30% of people in the US have an actual college degree from a four year school.  People go to college or start college or take classes at the local community college.  Most don’t finish a full four years.  Many don’t finish any sort of terminal degree (like an associates or vocational degree).  There’s some controversy in economics right now about whether starting and not finishing is worse than not starting at all– the answer seems to be complicated.  Some college does increase earnings even if there’s not a degree… probably causally, but not as much as finishing, and the disruption that going to school can do to finances in terms of loans and earnings potential in terms of not working is real.  It’s hard to say if it’s worth it.

DH has a relative with 5 kids.  We have tried to get all 5 to get a degree.

The oldest dropped out after having a baby a year and a half into a two year degree.

The second, who was the only one who was state flagship eligible (close to a 4.0, high SAT scores, a full year of dual credit from the high school under her belt) got pregnant at 17 and again at 19 and college was out.  She’s currently married, living in another state, and the family breadwinner (and had baby #3 a couple weeks ago).

The third is legally blind and has not started any education yet at 21, though this year his friends have been taking the train with him to places with public transportation and it’s figuratively opening his eyes to worlds where he doesn’t have to be driven everywhere, which is helping with his depression.  We still have some hope that he’ll go to college.  He has high grades and reasonable SAT scores — maybe not flagship eligible (though with an essay he might be) but should get into any of the regional schools without having to write an essay.

The fourth is in the middle of her second year at community college.  Her SAT score was too low to be able to go to their closest state schools– she just needed 10 more points to make their minimum cutoff.  There was a kerfuffle with one of her required math classes last semester and the school gave everyone their money back and struck the class from their transcripts, but now she’s behind on credit hours.  We asked about transferring to a 4-year school as had been her initial plan, but she says she wants to do a sketchy sounding program at a private school that would enable her to get all of her classes at the local community college but call it a four year degree from their school.  She has some friends who did this 10 years ago and are teachers at the local elementary.  I wonder how much this will cost compared to finishing at a state school.  (Her father wonders if this program still exists.)

DH’s relative had told us a couple years ago that it wasn’t worth trying to do anything with the fifth.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to even graduate high school and ran with a bad crowd and was flirting with getting in trouble with the law.  But a couple months ago he went to a presentation at school that clearly laid out how much people without high school diplomas make compared to those with and to those with bachelors degrees.  He decided then and there that he was going to be staying in school.  DH and I naturally pounced on this.  Unfortunately, we don’t know what his GPA is– he thinks somewhere in the Bs since he gets mostly As and Bs on his report cards (but who knows), and his SAT score is pretty low.  Fortunately for him, one of the state schools nearby no longer requires the SAT and if he does have the GPA he thinks he has, he should get in.

So this break, we dragged him over to our in-law’s house and pulled out my laptop and sat there while he applied to the two closest 4-year colleges.  Then we paid for his applications.  He talked about how he decided on a business major because everyone said engineering was too hard but there are still jobs in business.  He talked about the dorms.  He seemed excited and to have done a lot of research about the school closest to them.  We talked a little about the second closest school as well.  Then we printed off the checklist for what he needs to do with his counselor after school gets back in session to complete his application in time to be eligible for financial aid.  (We will be sure to check on that with his dad as well.)

It’s especially important for him to go to one of these schools instead of the local CC like his siblings because he’s been being preyed on by a married woman more than 10 years older than him.  There has been some drama there and the police somewhat got involved but won’t prosecute etc.  But removing him from the situation will be a good thing.  We pretended we knew nothing about this situation and just focused on the $$ and jobs and learning etc.

I hope he gets in.  I hope he completes a degree.  I hope he drags his brother to school with him.

I don’t know if going to a 4 year school is better than starting at a 2-year in terms of completing (there’s a lot of selection into who does that so the correlation is that it’s better but we don’t really know).  I know his siblings have gotten horrible homesickness when they’ve been away from home even for a week (the second is the only one who has moved out of the house!).  And he didn’t want to apply to any of the farther away schools, even though we’re told that he’s been threatening to move out once he turns 18.  I hope he pays attention to his schoolwork and doesn’t have to drop out.  I hope that the kid his dad thought least likely to start a four year degree finishes one (not first– I’m still hoping for kid #4 to complete and she has a 2 year start on him).

But other than paying for it and these periodic nudges, I’m not sure there’s much we can do.  As my MIL reminded us, they’re not our kids.  We can only do so much.

Ask the Grumpies: Schools in the SF Bay area that are good for mathematically advanced kids?

Mover:

I am moving to the SF Bay area for a new job from a city across the country.  My six year old is currently several years ahead in math at school and I would like to find a school supportive of continued enrichment/acceleration.  Any words of wisdom?

What we’ve had to do when doing sabbatical moves is to call up the school districts of all the places we’ve been thinking of moving to and just ask what is done in DC’s situation.  This has been very informative as some districts are much better than others.  In our case, we didn’t ask about single-subject acceleration which is what it sounds like you need, but instead whole-grade acceleration.  I know we posted on our process, but I cannot for the life of me find that post.  Essentially we looked at a map of a reasonable commute to my sabbatical place and called all the school districts and explained and just asked what their general policy was for our situation.  Some said they would obviously put DC1 in the next grade, some said they’d test DC1, and some said they’d put DC1 in the grade for hir age level.  You would likely want to be asking about single subject acceleration.

In terms of the Bay area specifically, I don’t know if this is still true, but Berkeley schools have always had a reputation for being anti-intellectual.  They’re very into “letting kids be kids” which means bored out of their skulls.  There used to be a forum that you could find online with lots of parents complaining about it.  Sunnyvale is another district that is not great in that respect.

In terms of out of school math enrichment:  Math Circles are great.  DC1 started going in middle school.  Our DC2 hasn’t gone to one yet, but DC2 is only doing third grade math right now.  These are usually on Saturdays.  They get to do fun stuff that often isn’t done within school.

Good luck!

Do any members of grumpy nation have experience or insight with single-subject acceleration at the elementary school level in the greater SF bay area?

How does GPA work in your local high school?

So today I discovered that if DC1 gets a 90% in a non-honors class (like JV orchestra), that is a 3.0.  Not a 4.0.  Not a 3.5.  A 3.0.  DC1’s 99% in orchestra this semester is a 3.9.  A 90% in an honors or AP class is a 4.0.

When I grew up, any kind of A was a 4.0 if there weren’t + or -.  If there were + and – then an A+ and A were both 4.0 but an A- was like 3.67 and a B+ 3.33 or something.  That’s the same way it still works in most colleges I’m acquainted with.

So at DC1’s high school, a kid can get straight As and have a 3.0.

That seems so weird to me.

Are all high schools doing it this way, or is DC1’s different?  And will everything have to be recalculated when applying for colleges?

So… how to donate to DC2’s classrooms this year?

In Kindergarten and First Grade, we donated $1K anonymously to DC2’s classroom teachers for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”.  We would like to do that again this year.

The problem is that DC2 skipped second grade.  And DC2 is the *only* kid who skipped second grade.  If the third grade teachers get the same gift cards that the K and 1st grade teachers got last year and the second grade teachers don’t, it will be pretty obvious who the anonymous donor is.  And we really don’t want to seem like we’re buying favors from the school.

So here’s my crazy thought.

Give the second grade teachers the same gift cards for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”, and give the third grade teachers slightly different cards (or maybe just one card to share) with no such restrictions.  After all, DC2 is more on-level this year and they’re doing a pretty good job with differentiation in math (though there’s a very real chance that they will run out of packets for DC2 sometime after winter break, even assuming a slow-down in the rate zie is going).

Then next year, only give the unrestricted donation to the fourth grade teachers.

DH was initially confused by this idea– DC2 isn’t in the second grade class.  Why donate?  But then he decided he didn’t like the idea of it seeming like we’re bribing them for DC2 skipping a grade and has warmed up to the idea.

The alternative is to not give at all.  Or to give something less useful than cash gift cards.

What do you think?

Skipping Second Grade?

This summer we planned for DC2 to take the tests to skip second grade. Zie obviously knew all the English material in second grade and was constantly complaining about not learning anything last year in first.  The one problem being that hir Spanish was not yet that great and could probably use another year of immersion in dual language before having to start doing things like writing paragraphs in Spanish.  (We also determined that the Kindergarten teacher who was so deadset against us skipping first grade blatantly lied about what would be required in second grade– paragraphs in Spanish did not happen at the end of first grade or beginning of second.  Zie could have skipped first grade with no problem.)

10 people had tried to skip the previous summer and none of them passed, and we read comments online that the tests for skipping first and second were bizarre and harder than the tests for skipping later grades because for the later grades they just use something based heavily on the state exams, where as the K-2 exams are all from a private company.  This is borne out in the passing rates for the district– almost nobody skips 1st and 2nd and a higher percentage of the people who try skip later grades (5th grade skipping being most prevalent).  So we didn’t necessarily think that DC2 would pass the tests this summer, but we thought it would be good to see what happened and maybe good practice for next summer’s tests.

But then zie did pass, even the social studies test that they made people take first because it had such a low passing rate (Robert Fulton showed up on the exam– he was on the study guide as well and I’m afraid I gave DC2 a rather impassioned economic history lecture on his importance as well as the difference between invention and innovation… I have to wonder how many adults who didn’t take economic history in college hear Robert Fulton and automatically think steam engine).  Zie passed two of the tests on the first try and was borderline on the next two, so we set up to retake them a month later and zie got high passing marks the second time around (our district allows two tries).

So we set up a meeting with the school counselor and the third grade teachers.  Unlike DC2’s K teacher, hir first grade teachers and school counselor were very supportive about DC2 skipping.  They’d spent much of last year assuming zie would skip and gave hir 2nd grade’s math homework in Spanish each week with hir first grade assignments.  At the meeting with the counselor and new teachers, the counselor read off a statement from them about DC2’s grit (also hir intelligence, but the emphasis was on grit).  The third grade teachers told us to be sure to warn hir that zie might not know everything and would have to work harder in Spanish, but they seemed to have no other concerns.

We were still concerned about Spanish, and also DC2 was concerned about leaving hir little group of 3 friends.  Hir best friend, the only other GT kid going into dual-language 2nd grade in our school, was especially broken up about DC2 not being in the same class.  This wasn’t a problem when DC1 skipped a grade because the school skipped both hir and hir best friend at the same time.  But there are a few things that mitigate this concern– first, most playtime happens in after school club, where all three kids are still going (along with an inconceivably immature fourth kid in their playgroup who hates and perpetually bullies (and thankfully perpetually gets in trouble for bullying, unlike when I grew up) DC2 but has been good friends with one of the other kids in their group since preschool); second there’s no guarantee that zie would be in the same class with both hir friends anyway since there are two dual-language classes (zie would be with the other G/T kids because they cluster-group); and third… DC2’s friends are all of the opposite gender, zie never really hit it off with any of the kids hir same gender in 2nd grade, but did occasionally play in after school with older kids the same gender.  While it is possible that zie will stay friends with them throughout K-12, it’s equally possible that they’ll hit the age in which kids segregate by gender and in that case it would be helpful for DC2 to be around more kids zie enjoys being with.

Because of these concerns, we asked if we could do a one month trial in third grade to see how it worked out.

It has been working out beautifully.  DC2 comes back super happy every day, talking about things zie has learned (starting the second week, the first week no learning occurred and zie kept saying zie wanted to go back to 2nd because zie heard the teachers were nicer).  The math homework is still below hir level, but still at the stage where it is good practice rather than pointless.  In class, they independently do math packets that go through third grade work, and by the end of the first month DC2 was on #8 out of 15.  Zie is also the only kid who has gotten a speed certificate for addition so far and is 84% of the way to getting a speed certificate for subtraction according to their online testing program.  (The teachers told the class that only two kids got all four addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by the end of the year last year.)  (They have a points system for these extra things, and each cluster of four tables combines their points in order to get prizes– the teacher moved DC2 to a table with only 2 other kids and they still have the most points because of hir math stuff– DC1 has 320 points and the other two kids at the table have 80 combined.)

We have, unfortunately, gotten a couple of calls from the “nice” teacher about DC2 crying when asked to predict things in English Language Arts.  Zie will get the prediction correct but then would burst into tears when asked to explain why.  This is unusual for DC2, but very much the norm for DC1 who is much older and gets silent and sullen rather than crying these days when asked to have an opinion or to support an opinion, so DH doesn’t think it’s age-related.  I’m still a bit confused because this is not like DC2 at all (who is more likely to get frustrated than sad when challenged), and when questioned DC2 did not think it was anywhere near as big a deal as the teacher did.  The “strict” teacher has had no such problems with DC2, so my suspicion is that DC2 just needed some time to hirself to calm down rather than being asked about hir feelings etc.  Since they’ve moved onto inferences (which are somehow different from predictions?), apparently this poor behavior has stopped.  DH has also started working with DC2 on the ambiguity kind of stuff using the Once Upon a Time game (sponsored amazon link, though we actually have the black and white 1st edition which was a birthday gift I bought for teenage DH but he didn’t actually appreciate until some years after DC1 was born) for some Improv lessons and using a 3rd grade ELA workbook to work on predictions specifically.

We didn’t realize a month was over until 6 weeks had actually passed.  By that point, it seemed like we might as well wait another couple of weeks for the parent/teacher conferences.  The first report card came, and zie earned in the upper 90s for all the graded subjects and Meets Expectations for all the ungraded subjects.  So… we’ll see what happens.

RBOC

  • This summer has not been great for a number of reasons, which has led to increased anxiety.
  • My anxiety has started affecting my teeth!  For the first time I’m showing evidence of grinding!
  • DC1 is in an AP class this year, but cannot sign up for an online account which is required for class because zie is 12 years old and the FTCs COPPA rule prohibits them from collecting information.  (If you’re in this situation, this FAQ says what to do:  https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/join-your-class-online. This is incorrect, as we found out.)  This whole AP class as a freshman thing is bizarre to me– in my day you did no AP courses until junior and senior year and then you drowned in testing.  So… maybe this is better.
  • After being told that DC1 is 12 (because we needed the form), DC1’s AP teacher cornered hir in the hallway and asked if zie was absolutely sure zie was ready for an AP class.  It being only the second day of class, DC1 did not know what to say.
  • The AP director called the College Board and they said that FAQ was incorrect and we have to call to get the form.  Which… they could have sent to us when we called to ask why DC1 couldn’t register(!)  SIGH.
  • After being put on hold 6 or 7 times, they said they would email the form to us in 2-3 days.  I suspect they do not know where said form is.  We have a case number in case we need to call day 3 to ask where the form is.
  • We did have to call on day 5 to ask.  It came on day 6.  Then we got an incomprehensible email response after we sent the form in and after not getting clarification when we questioned, we ended up having to call again.  Now we are on day 7 of the 7 days that we were supposed to wait before calling about the account not actually being created.
  • the account was not created in day 7 and now we have a new case number to check on the account creation case.
  • There are 42 students in DC1’s Algebra II class.  That seems like a lot.
  • There are 18 students in DC2’s third grade dual language section.  That seems like not many!  Last year there were 21 in hir first grade section which seems more normal.  I guess more dual language kids move out of district than move in (generally only Spanish-speakers can move into dual language)?  Or maybe there are demographic differences by year in the number of Spanish-speaking kids in the district (which determines how many sections of dual language there are).  DC2 says there are two new kids in hir class besides hir, which is nice so that zie isn’t the only one.
  • DC1 has been watching an old Standard Deviants Spanish dvd, and it has a very young Kerry Washington in it!

RBOC

  • The other SIL also decided to stay at home from this summer’s vacation.
  • I found out when DC2 brought home all hir school stuff that zie had written an essay on “my Christmas vacation” that had me staying at home.  I did not stay at home for that!  I only stay at home for the summer vacation!  What must her teachers have thought?
  • As DC2 gets into the terrible 7s, I have more and more sympathy for Mrs. Bennett and her Poor Nerves.
  • We’re replacing the fan in our 17 year old refrigerator again.  $83.43.  I asked DH if he wouldn’t rather have a newer fridge and he said no.  (In terms of environmental concerns, we have a low-end energy star fridge and we would probably replace it with a higher end one.  The last time I ran the efficiency numbers switching wasn’t helping much in terms of day-to-day, so we didn’t think it worth the costs of creating a new fridge.  We could replace with another low-end fridge, but I didn’t run those numbers.  I think that was a couple of years ago though, and the numbers may have changed.)
  • After having been especially trying at daycamp dropoff and having privileges rescinded (a very rare occurrence!), DC2 came home (after enjoying hirself fully at daycamp), remembered the lost privileges, shut hirself in hir bedroom, and started sadly playing hir new harmonica.
  • UGH, stupid HR sending me an email that I didn’t have the stupid wellness credit stuff done so I had to login and look up my stupid password and check even though I’ve had it done since forever and it doesn’t expire until after the school year starts.  Don’t send me incorrect information!
  • I feel like Hannah B would have benefited from watching Frozen prior to this season of the bachelor.
  • Anna rhymes with Hannah and is also a palindrome.
  • DC2 passed the test to skip 2nd grade and now we need to decide whether to do that even though hir Spanish isn’t great yet, or to wait another year.  (More people skip 3rd grade and the test is supposed to be easier.)