NY Sun Grades Private Schools: St. Ann’s Earns “B”, Packer “C”

St. Ann's Flickr photo by Frank Lynch

The NY Sun has published its review of New York City’s private schools. Overall St. Ann’s is given a B, while Packer goes home with a “gentleman’s” C.  Packer also earns kudos for Best Urban Campus, while St. Ann’s receives big ups for its “Hipsters in Training”.  In the all important Harvard race, it’s St. Ann’s 5 Packer 0 (based upon students attending in the last three years).

NY Sun: For Every Private School…:

Hipsters in Training: Saint Ann’s.
Runner-up: Berkeley Carroll
“I conscientiously object,” the headmaster at Saint Ann’s, Lawrence Weiss, said when told about The New York Sun’s letter grades of private schools. His students at the Brooklyn Heights school, where teachers do not give grades — not even on tests— and the endowment is still a relatively new concept, are also masters at protest. A 2005 graduate, Sam Broadwin, said he was appalled when a few teachers started disciplining students who came late to class. At Saint Ann’s, students are more often trusted to make good decisions on their own. “It’s always less cool to be just like everybody else,” another 2005 graduate, Rachel Achs, said. “What’s cool at Saint Ann’s is creating things and being interested and passionate about things.”

Best Urban Campus: Packer.
Runner-up: Riverdale
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce heralded a renovation, expanding the size of the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights by one-third, as one of the borough’s best. Renovation is a modest term. Students treading to Joralemon Street suddenly seemed to be going off instead to the magical mansion school in the Harry Potter books, Hogwarts. A new middle school was built where a deconsecrated Episcopal church had been, and students got a new dining facility, student center, and expanded libraries. Flying buttresses and half a dozen chandeliers tower over one, and a dark-wood stairway spirals behind to an upper-level floor. Wireless access is universal, extending even to the Tiffany windows in the school’s chapel and the organ built in 1912. Uptown Manhattan Brooklyn Heights is not (yet), but the producers of the television show about East Side private schools, “Gossip Girl,” didn’t seem to mind; Packer’s campus is the background for several episodes of the show.

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  • teacher

    As a former Packer teacher, I have to agree. In recent years class sizes have increased dramatically, teacher turnover is HUGE (due to being one of the lowest paying privates in the city), faculty kids don’t get tuition breaks, and the list continues. Yes, it’s a beautiful place. Yes, the community is wonderful (although the divide between rich and poor is obvious) but a downward trend is pretty evident. I hope this rating shakes them up a bit… along with the news of the resignation of the Head of Middle School… we should see big changes over the next few years!

  • nabeguy

    Having toured the school, it’s clear that their new facilities did not come cheap, and alumni endowments are apparently not enough to foot the bill, so cramming more kids into the classrooms is the obvious quick-fix. For the tuition they charge, it’s a bit difficuly to believe that there in such a penurious state as to not allow tuition breaks for teachers, but what do you expect from a school that lauds it’s new dining facilities, yet doesn’t supply a single free meal?

  • ABC

    this is judged by how many kids get into Harvard (and only Harvard) and how large the endowment is? zzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Joe

    I wouldn’t send my child to Packer even if they paid me. St Ann’s to me is worth the tuition and not because the Harvard stat. It seems to be a better breeding ground for individual thought development and they have an emphasis on the arts though I might have qualms about sending my grade school child there since a) I feel young children need more structure than high schoolers b) their tuition is steep for grade school when many of the public grade schools in Brooklyn are very good.

  • statestreeter

    The real question is: which school has more truants loitering and smoking on stoops, St. Ann’s or Packer? Hmmm.

  • Hah-vahd

    Did the report take into account how many students actually APPLIED to Harvard, or just how many got in? (Or how many chose to attend?) Is it true that More St Ann’s kids drop out of college than anyone would expect? I heard gossip that they have a very very high drop-out rate b/c they don’t teach their students HOW to be students & as soon as there are expectations (deadlines, grades, etc.) they balk and run.

  • SA Parent

    Hah-vahd — While I don’t have actual statistics, judging from anecdotal evidence among our son’s friends who have recently graduated from SA, the drop-out rate is, at worst, average and certainly not higher than graduates from other city high schools. Saint Ann’s kids learn how to learn and to be challenged and excited by learning. While it may take a little time to adjust to a specific university’s different methods of teaching/learning, they approach that difference with a philosophy of learning that ends up serving them well — in college and beyond.

  • Sue

    I don’t know where you got your information from, but it is patently ridiculous. Many St. Ann’s students turned down Harvard, as well as other Ivy League schools. No deadlines? No expectations? The teachers there have very high expectations for the children and challenge them at every step. As for no grades, the detailed reports that they receive are worth far more than any single letter grade.
    Are you a disgruntled Packer parent perhaps? :)

  • nabeguy

    I was in one of the earlier graduating classes at SA (1974) and there was a lot of tongue-wagging back then about how difficult a time the previous graduates had adjusting to a more regimented curriculum in college. However, as I recall, there had only been two previous graduating classes with a total of perhaps 15 kids, so percentage-wise, it seemed like a lot even if only 5 were struggling. Yes, there were maybe one or two kids who didn’t make it through their freshman years, but most went on to stick it out or returned to college at a later time.
    In regards to the issue of Harvard and the Ivy’s, my recollection is that it was the parents who wanted their kids there more than the kids themselves. To SA and Stanleys credit, they steered students to the colleges that were the best fit for the talents of the individual, whether it be arts or letters.

  • SA74

    Like Nabeguy, I graduated from St Ann’s in 1974. My class — not just the ones ahead of us, Nabeguy — in fact did have a high number of people who didn’t finish college. Actually, I think St Ann’s accounted for close to half the dropouts from Harvard’s entering class of ’78.

    But I don’t think any of them would say it was because St Ann’s didn’t teach us how to be students. More that Harvard wasn’t nearly up to St Ann’s standards. After my class, for many years Harvard was (is?) far from the top of the list for most top St Ann’s students.

    And while St Ann’s has gotten more conventional in the years since then, it still seems common for its grads to view their HS education as significantly better than what they got in college.

  • marc

    Hmm being a college drop-out. Didn’t seem to hurt Bill Gates in the long run, now did it??

  • anon

    Seems odd to base grades on how many students chose to go to Harvard, rather than how many were accepted. There are definitely Packer grads, and I’m sure St. Ann’s as well, who were accepted at the big H and chose to go elsewhere.

    Funny that that would be considered a bad thing…

  • Teacher and Parent

    Having taught at Trevor Day School for six years and at Packer for ten, and being the mother of three children, two of whom attend Packer and one who attends a fellow Brooklyn independent pre-school, I have to report that the data noted in above remarks is simply inaccurate. My husband and I are the fortunate recipients of “tuition breaks” for our two older children, and I am so grateful to Packer for this financial support. In addition, the statement that class sizes have increased dramatically is also false. My colleagues and I have class sizes from 14-19, depending upon various scheduling factors, and these numbers are no different than they were 10 years ago (upon my arrival). To say that Packer is cramming students into classes to foot a bill is just not the case. Yes, we have increasing expenses (including a very substantial, across-the-board salary increase for faculty this year) that may cause the admissions team to take in a few extra students per grade, but this decision does not cause a noteworthy overpopulation of classes. And I must also state that teacher turnover is not “HUGE (due to being one of the lowest paying privates in the city).” In actuality, only a handful of teachers have left for compensation reasons. To state that “a downward trend is pretty evident” is insulting and inaccurate. Packer has undergone tremendous growth in recent years, and while we certainly have areas that warrant attention, I cannot fathom a downward trend. As part of an incredibly motivated, enthusiastic, educated, collegial, and inspirational faculty, I only see achievement (in myriad forms) ahead.

    Though finding out that Packer (a school that I take great pride in as an educator and a parent) received a “C” on a published report upsets me, I must say that the criteria used for this report are not those that I think are of the greatest importance in assessing an educational institution. Saint Ann’s, Packer, and almost any other independent school in NYC is sure to equip its students with exceptional skills (albeit different in nature) for both the present, college and thereafter, and any child would be lucky to be a part of any one of them.

  • nabeguy

    Thanks T&P for clearing up the facts. My previous comments were based more on speculation than any hard numbers so I gladly stand corrected. It’s a bit bothersome that the first poster. who was a former teacher, seems so disgruntled while you a current teacher, are so supportive. Any clues as to why your respective views are so divergent?

  • merrill

    Regarding Joe’s comment that St. Ann’s ” seems to be a better breeding ground for individual thought development and they have an emphasis on the arts.” I’m curious to know if Joe has ever been to a Packer dance concert, choral concert, stage production or in Packer’s permanent exhibition space, The Carol Shen Gallery. Has Joe ever sat inside a Packer classroom?

    I don’t know which is more absurd: neighborhood parents bragging that one school is better than the other when they’re only familiar with their school OR the criteria used by the Sun.

  • Teacher and Parent

    Nabeguy, yours is an excellent question. I can only speculate. I think that one can get caught up in a comment overheard, a belief proliferated by hearsay, a “trend” that is actually ephemeral, and information that may appear clearcut but is actually a very different truth once all of the data is honestly and objectively examined. I know that the external perspective is usually quite different from the internal reality.

  • Joe

    No I have not. My opinion is solely based on friends and neighbors who have either sent their kids or taught at the two schools. I’ve been asking about the local school situation since I first moved to the neighborhood so I can be informed when it came time to pick a school for my then unborn child. From the various conversations I had with both parents and teachers, I decided Packer was not a good fit for us. To be fair I did hear some negative things about St Ann’s but personally their flaws were ones I could live with and given my son’s interests and personality, I felt St Ann’s would be a better fit for him. Here were some draws for me. St Ann’s offer lots of art’s classes that you couldn’t find in most colleges such as costume making and film production. Besides their strong emphasis on arts, their writing and math programs are also top notch. The non-grade thing would be welcome since it would allow my child to go at his own pace and focus more on learning rather than competing (this does not for everyone). Mix in numerous academic and writing awards as well as high ranking on surveys like the one done by the wall street journal and they have one compelling story.

  • ABC

    As a parent with kids in preschool, the thinking now is you apply to both along with Brooklyn Friends, fall on your knees in prayer, and gratefully enroll in whatever school offers you a spot.

    They are very different schools, but most preferences are the parents. It’s hard to tell what kind of school is best for your — at application time — 4 or 5yo. Some people make a change down the line (my nephew did this in 6th grade) from one to the other when a kids interests and learning style become more self-evident. Some kids need more structure, some kids are more engineers than poets.

    The most depressing thing I’ve found about the local schools these days is the parental gossiping and snarkism. Some of which have been expressed here. They are all very good schools.

  • merrill

    “The most depressing thing I’ve found about the local schools these days is the parental gossiping and snarkism. Some of which have been expressed here. They are all very good schools.”

    Thank You, ABC…… I couldn’t agree more.

  • A

    I think what we all need to focus on is the stupidity of this criteria. Number of students who go to Harvard? Who cares and what does that tell us? That St. Ann’s has more snobs who think that names are all that matters?