Seattle Public Schools - Registration and Open House Information

Historically, the Seattle Public School District publishes a list of all upcoming Open House events for the area’s public schools each January. This is the one time of the year that many of Seattle schools will be open for touring, meeting staff and facility and offering families a chance to see inside each school.

Many schools offer multiple tour dates and check individual schools for last minute additions too. Open houses run from mid-January - February and vary by each school.

This is also the time of year that current students may apply for assignment to a different school through school choice - open enrollment. Information will be found on the Seattle Public School website. Open Enrollment for School Choice is offered in a very limited timeframe - No Exceptions. (even for families moving to the district after this date) - so keep on eye on the Seattle Public Schools website and start checking late Fall for the announcement of key dates.

If you child turned five (5) by August 31, of the upcoming school year, it is time to enroll in kindergarten. Registration for all new students including for kindergarten began early January and is ongoing through the school year.

New to the Seattle School District or have questions about your options within the district, please reach out, as I would love to speak with you.

National Merit Finalists - 2018-19

The Seattle Times published a list of the National Merit semi-Finalists for the 2018-19 senior class. To become a National Merit finalist, a student must place in the top 1% on the PSAT for their state. The score will vary each year, as it based on the top 1% of current test takers and also the top score differs by state. For 2018, in Washington State, a student must score a 1450 to qualify, and a score of 1480 qualified high school students in Massachusetts and a 1340 put a student in the top 1% in Wyoming.

It can be misleading to use these stats as THE ONLY indicator of overall high school quality. Many of the public school listed are feeder schools from the district gifted program and several of the private/independent schools are only admitting top academic students to their program. It remains important to look at the entire school program and not just at one sets of statistics. The test scores may be used as an indicator for the school culture (when there is a large number of qualified students) and also as a baseline for the depth of academic offerings.

Several schools start introducing their students to “mock” versions of this test as early as middle school and other students and schools are taking the test for the first time as a junior in high school.

To see the results for the graduating class of 2019 cut and paste this link in your brower:

Back to School Night

The kids are back in school and should be settling in with their homework routine, fall activities, getting to know their teacher and classmates and hopefully filling you in a bit on their day!

With the start of school, I have found several articles to get me in the back to school mindset too. As a parent of two high school students, I found the article posted on Grown and Flown about communication and expectations for your high school student and teachers to be very timely. I find myself relating to so many articles posted on Grown and Flown and I subscribe to their inbox delivery.

Also, with Back to School Nights on everyone’s schedule over the next few weeks, the article from The Washington Post outlines the 7 questions parents need to ask on back to school night. This is a great read and worth saving to revisit each year prior to attending your child’s back to school event.


Welcoming the Special Olympics USA Games to Seattle

The Special Olympics USA Games is a premier, national sports competition that showcases the power and joy of sports at the highest levels. From July 1-6, 2018 more than 4,000 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia arrived in Seattle and the surrounding region along with 10,000 family members and friends. 

In addition to showcasing the awe-inspiring abilities of thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities, the 2018 USA Games in Seattle models the ideals of inclusion and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement.

The USA Games take place every four years with previous host cities being: Ames, Iowa (2006); Lincoln, Nebraska (2010); and Lawrenceville, New Jersey (2014). Now, in its fourth running, the Special Olympics USA Games is in Seattle.

I was one of the 10,000+ volunteers working to help support the Games. I loved having the opportunity to welcome the families and athletes to Seattle by volunteering the first 2 days of the event at the Family Welcoming Center.  I was part of a volunteer group that greeted all the families fresh from the airport and worked to get them settled in the Seattle area.

It was so fun to meet families from across the U.S. and provide them information on family activities, demonstrate how to use light rail and the bus system, recommend restaurants and must see Seattle sights. Almost everyone wanted to ride the elevator to the top of the newly renovated Space Needle, attend a Mariners baseball game and get a peak at Mt. Rainier.  The athletes stay with their coaches in the dorms on the University of Washington campus and their families wanted to make the best of their "down time' to see the area.  

The games offer 14 sports including swimming, flag football and soccer. With the exception of the Opening Ceremony, all events are free and local families are encourage to come cheer, wave signs and make some noise.  Venues include the University of Washington, King County Aquatic Center, Seattle University and Celebration Park.

The Special Olympics USA Games is the biggest sporting event to hit the Seattle area in more than 25 years and I am so glad that I was able to volunteer, use my knowledge of Seattle and the area to introduce so many families to Seattle!  


What Colleges are Really Looking for in Admissions

As a member of IECA, many of my colleagues specialize in college admissions and I get the benefit of learning from them about this process.  While I do not work with students on college admissions, I thought this article was worth sharing as parents and students look ahead. 

The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) released today its ranking of What Colleges Look for in High School Students, based on an annual survey of nearly 2,000 independent educational consultants. While grades and standardized test scores are near the top of these annual rankings, a number of significant changes and surprises are challenging the assumptions about college admissions. Number 1 on the list: A challenging curriculum. New to the list: The family’s ability to pay tuition. The much-discussed social media presence of students? Not so much.

Students applying to college in the coming year often fret over every detail of the application. However, the new rankings from IECA should be a reminder to students that not all aspects of the application are treated equally. The association advises students not to worry about things that don’t matter all that much in the colleges’ decision-making.

Many students and parents are surprised to hear that the leading criteria universities want to see isn’t grades (#2) or standardized test scores (#3), but rather evidence that a student took as rigorous a high school curriculum as they could. “Colleges want to know that future students don’t shy away from a challenge,” said IECA’s CEO, Mark Sklarow. “Grades and scores are important, but it is far better to accept a challenge, show some grit, and earn a slightly lower grade if necessary than to breeze through high school with easy courses and straight A’s.”

Item #4 in the ranking—the essay—is also the most misunderstood, according to IECA. The essay tends to be more important at smaller and independent colleges. But too many students think the essay is about construction, grammar and format. The association warns that while these matter (typos and bad grammar should never happen), the essay must show insight into a student’s unique personality or life-shaping experiences. An essay that worked in an English class is unlikely to be one that is appropriate for the college application. “This essay should help the reader—that all-important admission counselor—better appreciate who you are, what shaped you, and what makes you tick,” says Sklarow. “That doesn’t mean a student needs some life altering trip; rather a simple ongoing volunteer commitment or personal interaction may be worth sharing.”

Two new items ranked on the 2018–19 list from IECA. Debuting at #7 is the family’s ability to pay. While some schools are “need blind” in their admissions decisions, most are not. Increasingly, according to IECA, colleges take into consideration who can contribute to the school’s bottom line. The other new criteria this year was a student’s character and values (#12). Colleges increasingly contemplate what campus life will be like and how a particular applicant will add—or detract—from the campus. Colleges want to see leaders, students with special skills or talents, and those who have been active in campus activities, as well as those whose values fit a college’s view of itself. Colleges also seek diversity, striving for a campus made up of those from varied cultural, social, economic, geographic, religious, and occupational backgrounds (#9).

Much has been written in recent years about two areas: demonstrated interest (how an applicant demonstrates a genuine desire to attend) and social media (what a student’s online life reveals). The IECA rankings showed these areas to be of less importance than other items.

Sklarow cautioned that “Every college is unique, so each emphasizes something different in its process of reviewing applications. One of the great benefits of hiring an independent educational consultant is their knowledge of such differences, and their ability to share this information with students as they guide them through the application process.”

About IECA

IECA was founded in 1976 as a nonprofit, professional association of established independent educational consultants. IECA member independent educational consultants are professionals who assist students and families with educational decision-making. Their educational backgrounds, specialized training, campus visitations, and professional experience equip them to help students choose schools, colleges, or programs that meet their individual needs and goals. Membership in the Association requires an appropriate master’s degree or comparable training and a minimum of three years of experience in the profession, as well as meeting IECA’s professional standards and subscribing to its Principles of Good Practice. Members continually update their knowledge and maintain skills through IECA-sponsored meetings, workshops, training programs, webinars, and information exchanges with colleges, schools, programs, and other IECs.

Your child's social skills in kindergarten are more important than their academics


I love when someone else publishes an article that works perfect for my blog. I have attached the link to an excellent read from Amanda Morgan and published on the blog - Motherly.  

While early education creates an important foundation for academic skills, many parents would be surprised to know that social skills are actually far more predictive of outcomes into adulthood than early academics.



Reducing the Stress of Taking Tests

As an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I am able to participate in monthly webinars lead by education experts across the U.S. This month, I listened to Barb Sapir from Test Prep/San Francisco and Test Prep/NY discuss her program for working with students to help reduce the stress of test taking - focused on the ACT and SAT for college admittance.

While, I don't work with college students, I felt this was of value and many of her tips are helpful for middle school and high school students that have occasional test anxiety and do not qualify for test taking accommodations.  She provided many mindset tools and test taking strategies and also encouraged each student to understand their learning style:  Kinesthetic, Reading/Writing, Auditory or Visual.  

Concerns about not having enough time to complete the test and overall anxiety about taking a test were the two main issues from all the consultants polled for this webinar. One way to help in this area is to develop a Personal Plan that goes beyond basic test taking strategies (go with your first thought...) and encourages the student to commit to a method of study (it could be in a group, with a tutor, on own) and parents can help the student to identify a specific place in the house (or library, local cafe) as their test study location.  

Students also need to understand what material they need to master. Many middle school and high school students spend too much time studying what they already know (or find easy) and save the more challenging material to right before the test or quiz.  Ms. Sapir also stated many of the students that come to her for consultation need help with time management when taking a test and most often this is simply coaching the child on speed reading techniques. Reading speed is the main reason students have difficulty completing a test - it is not reading comprehension or their lack of knowing the material.

Most students polled for her presentation answered they "just hope for the best" when taking a test, even when anxiety has hindered their past performances. Her presentation went beyond "hope for the best" and offered easy tips for students to try including breathing techniques, writing down/journaling their concerns and committing to a positive mindset.

Lastly, she spoke of many mindfulness techniques that students of all ages may practice leading up to a test or even stopping during the exam for a 15 second - 1 minute mindfulness break when they feel their anxiety level rising. Even though I don't sit for exams anymore, I  found many of her points helpful for everyday life stresses or dealing with my own children's anxiety around test taking too. 






Meet the Global Families of Puget Sound

I love this article from ParentMap magazine written by Jiaying Grygiel. A big part of my business is working with new families relocating the Seattle area from other cities in the U.S and several of my client families are relocating to the U.S. as expats with plans to return to their home country.  An interesting and welcoming read.


Parent Teacher Conference Tips

Just read this excellent article from the New York Times on parent teacher conferences and how to get the most out of your conference.  Perfect timing with the areas public and independent schools all in first quarter conference mode.


The ISEE and the SSAT - Independent School Admission Tests

Back to school just got checked off the list and now it is time for families interested in exploring private/independent school for the 2018-19 school year to start thinking ahead to next school year.

The Fall is the time of year all the Seattle area independent (private) schools host their open houses for prospective families for the 2018-19 school year. 

Independent school review tends to occur for the main entry years (the year the school starts with a new class) which are: Pre-K, Kindergarten, 5th, 6th, and 9th grade.  Applications are accepted for all grades, but the open house and classroom visits tend to focus on the entry years.  

Independent school application deadlines vary by school, but most preliminary applications are due by late fall with completed applications including essays and testing submitted by early January.  Decisions are made in late February to early March and waitlists are kept until the new school year. 

Exceptions may be made for families just moving to area and I remain in contact with admission directors all year.  Some schools “save” a spot for a qualified new to the Seattle area family vs going to their waitlist over the summer months. 

One part of the application process is admission testing and the Seattle area schools require students to sit for one of the two nationally recognized tests for students in grade 2 and higher:  Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) or the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT). Seattle area independent schools seem to be split 50/50 with schools preferring the SSAT and others affiliated with the ISEE.  Some of the schools are flexible and will accept either test, but you must get approval from the admissions director to submit the non-preferred test.  Both tests have testing dates across almost all 50 states and you do not have to sit for the test in the same state as your application school (s).

The ISEE and SSAT share several similarities, but they are different tests and have different grading systems. Both tests are roughly the same length and feature five comparable sections in verbal skills, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, math achievement and writing. Each verbal section contains out-of-context vocabulary questions; the other half of the ISEE is in-context vocabulary, while the SSAT instead tests analogies.

The SSAT is known for utilizing unconventional word problems, analogies, and various types of passages from nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The ISEE is viewed as the straighter forward test, focusing more on the depth of its content (especially in mathematics) than on the creative presentation of its questions and tends to stick to more contemporary language. 

Another big difference, and one that is very important for your child to understand, is the ISEE has no penalty for an incorrect answer. The SSAT assesses a ¼ point penalty for an incorrect answer verses receiving no penalty for a skipped question. 

The SSAT and the ISEE also include a non-graded essay section.  The completed essay is provided to the school for evaluation and, at times, comparison to the student’s application essays.  The purpose of the essay allows schools to see the quality of writing in a timed format and without parent/tutor editing that may occur in the student’s application essays.    

Both tests have three levels depending on the age of the student with an elementary, middle and upper division test.  SSAT scores range from 470-770 for middle school and 500-800 for the high school level exam.  It is my understanding the SSAT Board provides subscribing schools with an applicant student’s rank vs the past 3 years of applicants’ scores.  The ISEE scores use a percentage and a stanine score of 1-9.  For both tests, you will also be provided a percentile based on your child’s score and it is important to keep in mind, this percentage only represents students who take the test – not the entire student population.

The score is one metric to measure a student, but it is also a metric that can improve with additional study and practice.  Online practice tests are available for both the ISEE and the SSAT and there are many private tutors and tutoring centers to assist with test preparation

My client families have found that some tutoring paid off when tackling new subjects in math by providing familiarity with the concepts and easing the anxiety of sitting for a standardized test.

Both tests may be taken numerous times and you do not have to submit the score for each sitting.  SSAT testing is available monthly during admission season and the ISEE may only be taken 1 x during each test period – one time in Fall (Aug-Nov), Winter (Dec-March) and Spring/Summer (April-July) with the parent deciding which score to submit with the application. 

Accommodations are offered for learning differences and must be requested in advance.  Accommodations include additional time, use of a keyboard vs hand writing for the essay piece and use of a calculator for the math portions of the exam.

Schools are looking to build a community and a cohesive class.  The application will include student essays, interest surveys, current and former teacher recommendations and several values based questions to be answered by the parents.  It is important to remember; this test is only a part of the admissions process.

If you have questions about Seattle area independent schools, please reach out and I would be happy to speak with you about the broad range of independent schools available in our area and review the application process in more detail.