Friday, September 16, 2005

St. Louis High School Rituals

One of the more useless traditions of St. Louis is the age-old question, "where did you go to High School?". Dropping the pretense, it's code for determining your family's wealth. And it's also symptomatic of our highly parochial nature and private school tradition. Anyhow...with a child beginning 7th grade, we're in the middle of the whole "pre" high school, high school experience. Actually, it starts in the 6th grade...

Last nite, Bishop DuBourg High School held one of its "high school night" open houses. At these events, representatives from the area's many private Catholic High Schools send representatives to sell 6th, 7th, and 8th graders on their schools.

We attended three sessions: SLUH, Vianney, and DuBourg.

Lots of the SLUH kids are on a family track to attend SLUH. Their dad did, and his dad did, so it's expected junior will too. I've seen one kid turn physically ill dealing the pressure to make it into SLUH. Now I understand why. In addition to being the model child in terms of your overall "well-roundedness" and good grades, you have got to have really good grades to make it in. Get more than two final course grades of 84% or less on your report card throughout all of 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and your application goes into the second review stack. More than three and you're in real tough shape.

Basically, unless he pulls nearly straight A's for all of 7th and 8th grade, our son, Matt is pretty much already ruled out from considering SLU High. And he's a good kid: excellent scores on the "Iowa" standardized tests, multi-sport athlete, musician, with lots of community service.

Vianney's message was pretty clear: we're a good school, and we're real good at SPORTS!

And DuBourg's message was similar: we're a good school, and we're CO-ED!

Where I grew up, we didn't face these sorts of decisions. Everyone went to the same public school. Given the poker game environment of choosing a private high school in St. Louis (things like "if you don't list us as your first choice, we will not grant you admission"), public school is starting to look like a lot better option more and more.


Anonymous said...


You should check out SLPS's Metro High School. Consistently one of the highest scoring academic high schools in the state. A jewel in the SLPS.

Anonymous said...

To get into Metro though, RB would be better off improving his chances by moving to the County, since it's a lottery system for a magnet school. Yet County whites, as the flip side of busing to County districts, have the best odds for admission. But alas, the waiting lists are long for City parents, white and black, to attend the only SLPS high school with above-average test scores.

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

I'll be interested to see what option you end up choosing. I know that some people who don't like any private school options but who don't want to send their kids to an SLPS school pay a fee to have their kids sent to the Kirkwood Public Schools. I'm not sure how much that fee is or if that would interest you, but FYI! I don't know much about the Kirkwood Schools, but when I participated in an after school math program (separate from the HS; it just met there.) at the high school there in the mid 90s, it looked like.... Well, they definitely had some things that I hadn't had at my regular schools in the SLPS, that's for sure.

Yeah, as I said, I'll be interested to see what happens. I'm also wondering what's going to happen to my friend's little sister who just started at Central. This friend of mine went to Gateway and then transferred to Central, and she didn't like the whole experience much at all, but she survived and took some excellent photo classes in the process. Her little sister, though, is socially and emotionally a very fragile person, and I'm not sure she will be able to handle an SLPS high school. Her parents don't want to leave their proximity to their jobs, though, or their beautiful, cavernous Tower Grove South house. So, we'll see how they navigate this problem, and we'll see how the city at large navigates the problem of its high schools....

Joe said...

The 2:37 PM anonymous poster is operating on outdated information. While it was true, prior to 1999 or so, that County whites had a higher priority for magnet schools than City whites, that is no longer the policy.

Verbatim from the SLPS Magnet Schools Guide: "Non-African American city and county residents have the same priority for placement in the magnet schools."

That said, I applied for Metro in 1993, so of course I benefited from being a County resident at the time.

I don't know what the waiting lists look like these days, but it's certainly worth a shot. My wife was a City resident - attending Nottingham Middle School no less - but she got in to Metro, even in 1993. So it IS possible to do it.

However, you do have to realize that Metro requires test scores, good grades, teacher/principal recommendations, etc. to get in. But certainly, Catholic school kids can and do get into Metro.

Gateway and Central are not the best environments, but they are loads better than the regular high schools. My brother had a good experience at the Career Academy, but it's now a much larger program than in its early years, so it might be no better than a regular high school.

I don't know how Soldan is doing these days academically, but they certainly have a very diverse student body, which is generally a plus in my mind. It's much bigger than Metro, of course, but significantly smaller than Gateway.

If I had to choose today, my choices would probably be:
#1 Metro (realizing it has extra steps in the app, and an earlier deadline - January);
#2 Soldan
#3 Gateway, I guess; or perhaps Career Academy (which is not a magnet school, but does have its own application process).