Woodbury Reports Archives


The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs

Archives Contents

Archives Home
Contents by Year
      1989 - Present
Contents by Topic
      Industry News
      Schools & Visits
      Opinions & Essays

Archives Search

The easiest way to find information is by using our search function. Just type in the words you would like to search for and you'll get a list of articles related to your topic.

Site Index

Schools & Programs
Chat Board
Online Store
Contact Us

News & Views - Aug, 1999 Issue #60

Advice To Prospective Parents...
From The Head Of A College
Preparatory, Therapeutic School

By: Tom Bratter
John Dewey Academy,
Great Barrington, MA.
(413) 528-9800

Special school’s admissions personnel retain a vested interest in persuading students to attend. They are public relations specialists. While not receiving bonuses when exceeding quotas, most assuredly they prefer to fill a bed rather than have it empty. The “admissions game” goal is to increase enrollment. Stated succinctly and simply, these super sales persons know how to play this game, especially when you are desperate, frightened, and demoralized, enabling them to make an easy sale. Often in a state of panic due to the recent crisis/es caused by the adolescent’s awesomely self-destructive behavior, you need to control frustration, fear, and anger by asking the admissions personnel questions. Inquire about the strengths and weaknesses of the school, its goals, the kind of student who does well, and what are other comparable programs. Frequently, you are so demoralized, you neglect to consider intermediate to long-term goals.

If the special purpose school is college preparatory, for example, ascertain what percentage of the graduates attends college, and which institutions? Every school has a few graduates who have been admitted by colleges of quality but what about the majority; where do they attend?

Encourage admissions personnel to talk, because they will not know what spin to use. Unless asked specific questions, admissions professionals will use generalities, talk glibly, persuasively, and be positive. Beware of promises.

Recognize when a school supplies a list of references, these are “success” stories, so their reports will be positive. No school wants prospective parents to converse with “failures.” It is possible to learn as much from a “failure” as a “success” by asking good questions: “What caused the failure?” “Was it the student, the school, and/or the family?” “What happened?” Did the family support or sabotage the school?” When the student tests limits at The John Dewey Academy, rather than exiling their son or daughter to the streets by changing the locks, we urge the family to find another residential program.

While temporarily comforting to find any port in the symbolic storm, recognize you retain control and a choice because there are many special purpose schools. Your goal, therefore, is to obtain as much information as you can in order to make an informed decision, because there are profound program differences. While some schools will claim they can help all adolescents, this is dishonest.

Since placement in a special purpose school will determine the future quality of life, seek competent assistance.

Finding a special purpose school is similar to selecting a stock in which to invest. There are hundreds of sources of information—television, magazines, the Internet, brokerage reports, ad nauseam. Everyone has an opinion and a source. While the stock market reaches new highs, perhaps it does not matter because it is easy for everyone to be a genius. Some brokerage companies recommend stocks that they brought public, which is a conflict of interest since they retain a vested monetary interest.

The drop-out rate of special purpose schools needs to be considered. The John Dewey Academy’s drop-out rate is 33%, because its mission is the most ambitious, which can create stress. Since our primary goal is to be college preparatory, our program is also voluntary. If successful, the payoff is the greatest. Graduation from a college of quality not only seals the past but also maximizes future educational, professional, and social options.

Do not be fooled by slick brochures. Public relations specialists have prepared much of what is written about the school, so the school’s Internet web page may not accurately reflect information about the school, or its quintessential aspects. While most schools attempt to portray themselves as capable of working with all adolescents, this is not true.

There are profound program differences. Obviously this information is essential to make an informed decision, maximizing the chances of future success. Most schools permit medication; The John Dewey Academy rejects pharmacological approaches. The Elan School, for example, during the day does “treatment,” and at night has academics. Most schools will not admit students older than 17, The John Dewey Academy does. The next step for many graduates of special purpose schools is to become employed, while The John Dewey Academy seeks to place graduates into the most competitive colleges in the country. The class of 1999 will attend Brown, Clark, Columbia, two Cornell Universities and Vassar College; so unless this is your goal, forget about John Dewey.

If given the option to converse with students, often selected by the school, ask about the merits and liabilities. Remember, it could actually be praise, when a student complains that the school is demanding. Never forget the reason(s), why you sent your son or daughter to a safe, structured, supportive, residential program. Never forget your terror. Your son and daughter need to change negative, self-destructive, illicit behavior patterns. Change often is not easy and is painful. There is a reason why most schools recommend no less than eighteen months. It takes time for the student to internalize more proactive values.

It is crucial to ascertain the credentials of schools that purport to be college preparatory. Are they “accredited” by appropriate state agencies? Discovering the licenses and accreditations the school has is important because they determine the primary identity of the educational program. If licensed as a special education facility and/or a hospital, for example, this would suggest academics have been compromised. It is important to know how many students are involuntary and have been referred by state agencies. Inquire about the credentials of the staff. From what colleges did they graduate? Which graduate degrees do the faculty possess? What is the rate of turn-over? At what kinds of educational institutions have the faculty taught?

Don’t panic. Seek competent help. Define intermediate to long- term goals. Make informed decisions based on information from many sources. Good luck.

Copyright © 1999, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

Site and content copyright © 1999-2000 by Woodbury Reports Inc. All rights reserved.