Thursday, October 23, 2014

Open House at Masterman

Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School is, according to the US News and World Report ranking, the #1 high school in Pennsylvania.  It is also a public magnet high school in Philadelphia, and your best bet in getting selected is attending Masterman's middle school, which runs from grades 5 to 8.  So guess where I and about 200 other parents of ambitious 4th graders were yesterday morning?  That's right, at Masterman, at the open house for prospective students.

The application process has already started and runs until December 12.  Because Jada is already in the public school system, the application process was a snap, once you are able to register on the School District's online portal.  Parents of other schools don't have the luxury of the School District already knowing your child's standardized test scores, grades, attendance, and behavior, so the process involves many more steps.

I had not yet stepped foot in Masterman prior to yesterday so even though I probably could've gotten all the info from online or parents, I decided to head over there for the open house.  It's a beautiful building, built in 1932 and with an auditorium whose ornate ceiling I couldn't take my eyes off of.

Fifth graders take English, math, social studies, and science every day, and have music, gym, health, math enrichment, computer, and art less frequently.  Each day consists of eight 51-minute periods, and the school day runs from 8:15 to 3:19.

As alluded to above, selection into 5th grade is based on standardized test scores, grades, attendance, and behavior.  Since every driven parent is looking for a leg up, and since not all applicants are coming in from the public schools, there is a mechanism for applicants to submit other information, and many parents choose to do so.  But, with well over 1,000 applicants gunning for only 165 5th grade spots, the school is understandably loathe to be deluged with additional information.  Indeed, the principal and middle school dean were insistent that letters of recommendations were nice but did not play much of a role in selections.

It was nice to hear from two Masterman students.  They confirmed that the ramp-up from 4th grade at a neighborhood school to 5th grade at Masterman is a big step up, but that there is ample support from students and staff alike to make the leap.  They also shared that there are many extra-curriculars to get involved in: yearbook, gardening, jazz, science fair, government, robotics, and the list goes on.

Class sizes are 33 students to 1 teacher, and, in a departure from elementary school ways, you circulate to different classes rather than having one teacher all day.  You also get a locker.  (I shudder at how messy Jada's could be.)

We will find out in March if she gets in.  All of her close friends are gunning for it, too, so hopefully she gets in and her friends do too.  I saw many of their parents there yesterday, as well as others in our neighborhood and throughout the city who I know, so that was a big plus.  I think for both Jada and her parents, we'd all be crushed if she didn't get in but would quickly recover, since she would still be able to go to Penn Alexander through 8th grade and then figure out what good public magnet high schools to apply to.  But here's hoping she gets in.  (And, Jada, if you're reading this, I don't care that Masterman gives a lot of homework; even if you get in, I'm still going to give you extra, and I'm still going to hound you to do it after you've finished your school homework.) 
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