beacon open house thoughts

I don't know about today, but yesterday's open house was quite the scene. I got to meet some 411 people (!), see the new building, and get a sense of what's the same and what's changed. One thing I thought was interesting was that things are apparently still in flux. Several times one of the teachers said, "well that's how it's working THIS year." 

I'm compiling post open house comments from me and other parents here, for ease of reference. 

PARENT: My two cents on the Beacon OH: We arrived at 4:30, the line was insanely long but it moved at a decent pace and we were inside by 5:38 and did the tour of the 3 classrooms. It was not as I bad as I expected from all the warnings. It's a largely liberal arts school with art infused into every class. Their aim is to help kids figure out what they want to pursue. If your kid needs more structure and direction it may not be the best fit. There grading system is based on PBAs (performance based assessments). Their advice was to get portfolios in sooner than later as they expect about 5,000. One lady recommended dropping it off at the school rather than mailing it in. For the interview -if you get invited-it is a panel and done in a conversational style. Scripted answers are frowned upon. 

PARENT: We were the first group to enter. 

When we left the building at 5:45pm the line stretched completely around 2 avenues. 

I'm sure not everyone was getting in. It was complete madness. 

We were extremely impressed with the school and they conducted a great open house. Broke into smaller groups where we toured 3 classrooms who had a teacher and students explain the school and answer questions. Got a good presentation of academics how Beacon is different than most schools, PBA performance based dissertation style learning. More like a college environment.  The electives were pretty amazing too. 

The facility is awesome. An amazing vibrant place with very engaging peppy students. 

I hope everyone was able to attend. I'm sure people are still outside waiting :(

PARENT: I was online with a group of friends who arrived by around 2:30pm, and by the time we left, we heard that they were starting to turn people away.

I agree that the tour was extremely well-organized, and the student guides kept everything moving. I saw English, Math and Art classrooms and enjoyed hearing the kids' take on things.  Several of them mentioned that the school felt like a very supportive community, and that they really appreciated the number and variety of academic and extracurricular choices they had as they grew within the system.
A few other interesting nuggets offered up by students:  

--all students are exposed to a variety of arts courses during their first year (visual art, music, dance, theater), then in later grades they have the option to take multiple electives within one core arts area
--they eat lunch inside, except for select juniors and seniors who earn the privilege of an outside lunch on Fridays, and many people bring their own lunch "because the food isn't that great"

--there are three guidance counselors per grade, and it seems to be pretty easy to connect with one when you need or want to

--the transition to Beacon from a smaller school isn't too difficult because students and teachers are welcoming

FROM ME: That was an amazingly well run tour. Very impressed. I wanted to see their new building and it truly is beautiful - before they’d been in a very cramped space where not all classrooms had windows that the halls were so narrow it was hard to navigate. 

I was a bit disappointed that no one from the administration spoke more, but the teachers and students we saw (English, chemistry, dance) were lovely and they all do seem to love it there. 

A couple of quick notes: PBAs (performance based assessment). This sounds interesting and different and unique. Could be great for some kids and not work for others. The English teacher described it as students verbally present their work to two teachers who ask questions and discuss in real time. Both teachers saw the work beforehand. She said it was sort of a dissertation defense system. They don’t give regents exams there, except for English in 11th grade. They only do APs in science and math, not humanities. 

Freshmen rotate through 4 art based classes they’re assigned to freshman year and after that they get to rank what they’re interested in for the next year. 

Just about every student said 3 to 5 hours of homework, most gravitating towards the latter. 

I was a bit surprised when some kids mentioned up to 5 hours a night. They did clarify that those students were also taking AP chemistry and AP Calculus in the same year.  It was a bit surprising as the tech and elro kids did not mention 5 hours. Most seemed to say 30 mins per night per subject. 

I hope my kid heard from most of these tours that you start to learn pretty quick not to procrastinate and do get a better handle on time management. 

The other thing you have to ask yourself about the PBA model is: Does it prepare kids adequately for college? I realize that it is meant to be a lot like defending your dissertation, but the fact is that the vast majority of colleges grade kids on their writing and test-taking abilities.