January is preschool open-house season, and parents with the wherewithal to be picky have lots of criteria to think about. In Silicon Valley—home to public schools that produce some of the best test scores in California—hoards of moms and dads are likely narrowing down their myriad options as they tour campuses, review guidebooks, and consult with fellow parents. The area reflects the degree to which American parents have become obsessed with ensuring their kids have an academic edge by the time they start kindergarten. It also reflects the growing national reality that the children born to low-income immigrants are typically among the children who get left behind: Close to three-quarters of Silicon Valley’s low-income preschool-age kids have at least one foreign-born parent, and thousands of them are not enrolled in preschool, meaning that kindergarten may be their first experience with formal education.
Fancy preschools in Silicon Valley abound. There’s Action Day Primary Plus, ranked the area’s No. 1 preschool by Bay Area Parent, whose “Tiny Tot” dance classes, weekend sports programs, and other activities “promote enjoyment and confidence through movement.” There’s Galileo Preschool, “which provides an innovative, project-based learning environment for children” and a curriculum that includes everything from American Sign Language to community service. Or there’s the Children’s World Bilingual Montessori School, where kids are exposed to both English and Mandarin on a daily basis as they learn the decimal system, Chinese culture, gardening, and more. The sticker price for enrolling full time in one of these preschools? $1,365, $1,320, and $1,200 a month, respectively.