NEIGHBORHOOD COFFEES, SPEAKER SERIES PRESENTED BY THE PARK PARENTS’ ASSOCIATION AND PARK CONNECTS, ADMISSION OPEN HOUSE AND TOURS WITH PRINCIPALS!
We’re well into fall and that means it’s time for local independent schools to open their doors for their annual open houses. Click here to read about what local independent schools have to offer, see open house dates, and find out what you need to know to make the best independent school choice.
The Baltimore Sun has published today on its website a letter to the editor from the head of Friends School of Baltimore, Matthew Micciche. In it he responds to The Sun’s story on the value of AP courses in high school. Micciche gives the reasons Friends does not offer AP courses and why the private Quaker school has no intention of doing so. – The Eds.
I read The Sun’s investigative report on Advanced Placement courses (“Some parents, educators are rethinking role of AP,” Jan. 18) with great interest, in part because our school, on principle, has never offered AP classes. Our rationale is simple: We believe the AP program and its heavy weighting toward the memorization and recitation of facts inhibits the development of critical thinking skills and deeper conceptual understanding.
It is heartening to see that the College Board has begun to acknowledge and address this significant pedagogical shortcoming. In a 2011 New York Times article, Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president, said “the new AP needs to be anchored in a curriculum that focuses on what students need to be able to do with their knowledge.” We concur wholeheartedly with this assessment and have acted on this conviction by continually adapting and evolving our curriculum to develop students who are highly engaged creators of their own understanding, rather than passive recipients of a static body of knowledge.
As reporter Liz Bowie noted in the article, over the past decade a growing number of highly regarded public and private high schools have made the decision to drop AP from their curriculum for precisely these reasons. (Anecdotally, I can tell you that when colleagues at other schools learn that we have never offered AP, they often express the wish that this were the case at their own schools.)
Some consider teacher and counselor recommendations to be the icing on the cake of a stellar college application, but they serve an integral role in the college application process.
Most understand that the strongest recommendations don’t succumb to platitudes like, “Johnny is a great, hardworking student,” or “Sarah always goes the extra mile in class,” but use anecdotes and examples to illustrate a student’s unique brand of excellence.
The best recommendations, however, also accomplish even more, like corroborating the writing ability in Johnny’s essays or explaining the extenuating circumstances that had an impact on Sarah’s grades. Recommendations provide context to the many intangible aspects of a college application.
On the Common Application’s recommendation form, for example, teachers are required to rate each student according to 15 qualities that don’t necessarily factor into a student’s GPA (see below). In my opinion,
it’s no coincidence that academic achievement, intellectual promise, quality of writing, creative thought, and productive class discussion feature at the top of the list. After all, what college professor wouldn’t want a class full of students who excel in those five categories?
College counselors, on the other hand, fill out a form called the Secondary School Report in which, among other things, they rate the level of challenge of a student’s course selection. Colleges take this evaluation very seriously: it helps them measure the quality of an applicant’s GPA. All else being equal, a class schedule filled with honors and AP classes will always trump one without in the admissions process.
Last year, Baltimore Fishbowl writer Rachel Monroe reported on the parental angst incited by the low acceptance rates of Baltimore students at elite colleges. Since then, not much has changed: acceptance rates remain relatively low at area high schools while New England’s best prep schools still send students by the dozens to top colleges. Why is this so? Myths abound claiming either children of billionaires or impoverished students who have overcome impossible circumstances have the advantage, but, in truth, these applicants remain the exception.
Well, what’s the difference? Do the most competitive colleges have a prejudice against Baltimore? Not at all. The difference lies in a simple reality: Baltimore is situated in one of the most competitive geographic regions in the nation. Colleges first evaluate applicants on a regional basis, and the vast majority of admissions offices group Baltimore with the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Savvy D.C. parents—like those in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston—understand the level of competition and realize that, in college admissions, doing well at a good school is only half the battle. That’s why those aforementioned markets are saturated with excellent SAT tutors, subject tutors, and private admissions consultants.
In this respect, Baltimore lags behind. Indeed, many Baltimore parents might balk at the rates that the best SAT tutors and private college counselors charge in hyper-competitive markets. But in New York, $150 an hour for a private SAT tutor is considered on the low end. Similarly, private counselors offer packages that range from $4,000 to $15,000. That might sound pricey, too, but these counselors get results. The best test prep consultants help students achieve an average 300-350 point increase on the SAT, which can make a significant difference in an applicant’s chances for admission.
On Tuesday, October 22, Roland Park Country School will hold the fifth annual Robinson Health Colloquium, which this year focuses on adolescent depression awareness. The event features Karen L. Swartz, M.D., founder and Program Director of the Johns Hopkins University Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (ADAP), who will help educate the community about the medical illnesses of depression and bipolar disorder.
Dr. Swartz will address parents in the RPCS Sinex Theater at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. In addition to the evening program, RPCS will also host a panel of psychologists, pediatricians, and social workers, who will speak with the Upper School students during the school day. Mary Beth Marsden, news anchor at WBAL Radio, will be the moderator for the panel. Dr. Swartz will also hold a workshop with the faculty in the afternoon.
Karen L. Swartz, M.D. is an expert on mood disorders with a particular interest in women’s health. She is the Director of Clinical and Educational Programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has also been the Director of the Affective Disorders Consultation Clinic at Johns Hopkins for over ten years. Swartz received her B.A. from Princeton University and her M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1995 followed by a fellowship in Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
ADAP is a school-based program designed to educate high school students, faculty, and parents about adolescent depression. Depression affects approximately 5% of today’s teenagers, making it one of the most common illnesses teenagers face. ADAP aims to increase awareness about mood disorders in young people while stressing the need for evaluation and treatment.
As it turns out, we learned nothing last year. I was hoping we would have gained some insights from having watched our oldest trudge through Senior year, trying to figure out where to apply, how to position herself, which side to feature, to get into the school of her choice. Unfortunately, it seems, we are just a year older. No wiser.
Michael Latman (Friends, ’14) and several of his classmates were standing in line one morning this fall waiting to sign in at the school’s front desk when an idea came to him. “I said to my friend, ‘Why don’t they just make a phone app so you can check in from anywhere on campus?’” Latman recalled. Mere weeks later, such an app had fully replaced the old-fashioned paper and pen check-in system at Friends Upper School. The mastermind behind the mobile device? Latman.