Sunday, November 22, 2015

What the new law means for vaccine opt out rates

A bit off-topic, but some parents may be interested in this and there seem to be some misconceptions about the recent law changes in California, so if you have strong feelings about immunizations (whether you want to avoid them or avoid people who avoid them), then read on.

[Caveat, let's not turn the comments into a giant debate between those for and against vaccines. Many other forums for that. Let's just try to give parents information they can use to make better choices of schools relative to whatever views they may have.]

Background: CA previously allowed opt-out of vaccination requirements for students attending schools, called Personal Belief Exemptions, or PBE. But a recent law makes it harder to opt-out. There are subtle details though.

First, current PBE rates for all schools in CA (public and private) can be found here (at the bottom of an article about recent overall trends in the rates):
Search for any string and all matching schools will be displayed in decreasing opt-out rate order. Just put in San Francisco for example to find the schools with the highest PBE rates in the city.

Second, two helpful links I found to help understand the recent law change and how it is being implemented:

My quick read is that existing exemptions are grandfathered: Anyone with an exemption on file by Jan 1, 2016 gets to avoid vaccination until they hit 7th grade (if they are in K already) and now that everyone knows the law is passed, they still have time to get new PBEs through the end of 2015. In addition, these grandfathered PBEs appear to be transferable school to school within California.

This means that PBE rates won't go down quickly at those elementary schools where they are already high---only slowly as new kids enter each year. And in fact, kids in kindergarten now will remain in the cohort that can have the highest PBE rates for the longest (since they won't hit 7th grade for many years).

It's worth also noting, since many people might not be aware, that many Waldorf schools (which typically have the highest PBE rates) consider "kindergarten" to be 2-years starting with 4-year-olds (the year that most other schools would consider the final year of preschool). Thus, this year's Waldorf 4-year-old K cohorts may have high PBE %s for 7 more years.

For families applying for kindergarten for next fall, it will be very hard to avoid vaccinating. Home schooling might be the easiest route to avoid it. (If homeschooling can be considered easy!)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Open Thread: How is school going for familes that started last year or prior?

Parents who went through the school shopping process in previous years were clearly more prolific at posting to this site, so how is kindergarten (or later grades) going for your families? What school did you end up at and what can you say that is good or bad or otherwise important to know about it---especially the stuff that only a family already enrolled would know?

Does anyone regret their choice and wish they had made a different one?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Open Thread: How are 2015 tours going?

How is tour season going? Where have you toured (or gone to an open house) and what was one memorable impression you got that you didn't know ahead of time?

Know anyone who is going through the process this year but maybe doesn't know about this blog? Send them a link and suggest that they post a comment here.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The science of education and the science of teaching science

This past summer Nature and Scientific American coordinated to publish special issues devoted to science and education. There's science that informs how teaching should happen as well as stuff on how science itself specifically should be taught, both of which may be of interest to readers here for evaluating and choosing schools.

All the articles from both publications can be found linked from this one page:
Here are some super-brief summaries of what I thought was relevant.

The brief 6-paragraph intro "An Education" explains why they did these special articles and motivates active (vs. traditional passive) learning, in which students are given tough problems and try to figure them out in depth, rather than just being told the answers and then needing to remember them.

"Why we are teaching science wrong and how to make it right" presents evidence that such active learning produces better understanding and memory. Project-based and hands-on-learning type schools from progressive independents to extreme outliers like Brightworks (and even public charter New School SF) would seem to be elementary school analogs to this kind of educating (vs. traditional school structures), but most of the discussion in this article centered around college-level teaching (with unclear validity to generalizing down in ages). It's hard to tell if the increasing standards demanded nationally of public education make it harder to teach this way because it takes more time to prepare for such teaching and adding more stuff to a curriculum that can't be missed leaves less time to not just tell students the answers. It's also worth noting that even at the college level, there is debate about the merits of this approach.

My take-home was to think that this type of teaching is vital as at least a component, but I didn't see enough to convince me that it has to be everything. It made me like in-depth progressive/project-based/hands-on problem solving even better, but even in schools stuck with teaching so much of a core curriculum that much of it has to be taught traditionally, there is probably room for some of this in after-school or supplemental programs, but PTAs might have to fund & choose/fight for it over other things.

"Reading, Writing and high-energy physics" discusses an approach to education (from preschool to university) whose effectiveness "has been verified by hundreds of empirical studies". The approach involves kids coming up with answers to questions (sometimes crazy answers like trees cause the wind by shaking their leaves) and then rather than teachers correcting them or adding new knowledge the teachers help nudge the kids to think of ways to test their ideas, such as asking if anyone has seen wind where there aren't any trees, or performing an actual experiment if possible. The kids then mimic the process of actual science (testing hypotheses). "The point is to spark questions, and a conviction that they can be explored rationally."

The first part of this article discussed early education, so it felt very relevant. I've seen analogs of some of these ideas at various independent schools. The Brightworks/tinkering "never say no" philosophy seemed similar but in the programs of the article it was never tell them they are wrong or give them the answer (science vs. engineering/building focus). Also, I remember reading in SFKFiles comments from prior years defenders of SF Friends School (and from the tour of that school itself this fall) discussions of teaching approaches to problem solving in math rather than just teaching the math itself. But few schools are going to teach like this all the time, and it's very hard to judge just how effective the technique is (let alone for us to judge to what extent different schools do this, or might in the future as evidence for it accumulates). [Locality note: The author of that piece writes for Nature from SF.]

"Body of Knowledge" advocates the outdoors/nature and unstructured play (vs. educational apps & traditional classrooms). Nature is immersive and kids are mini-scientists when free-playing there. Summary of the science: it's clear that time in nature is important to development but the science on the subject is pretty new, so hard to quantify how important or the details of how/why/etc. One study found that outdoor time improved 5-12yo's self-confidence and ability to interact with others & adults. Examples were discussed of how immersive natural environments lead to abstract kinds of knowledge such as math concepts (counting, categorization) not just direct knowledge of plants, etc.

I think many if not most people already agree that outdoor time, time specifically in nature (vs. just outdoors), and unstructured play (which overlaps but isn't the same) are all good. For many urban elementary schools, time in nature is only occasional trips and even outdoor time and unstructured play are pretty minimal, all to a degree that's clearly lamentable. There are some private schools with more of these but it's also clear that one gives up other things for many of those choices. The science doesn't seem at a point yet where it can help us practically make more informed choices other than vaguely factoring in outdoor- & unstructured-ness as one of many criteria in ranking schools. In the meantime, many schools give a lot of lip service to trips, to their small gardens, and to their plans to greenify their asphalt/cement-covered outdoor areas and clearly this is a big enough issue that most are moving in this direction, but some faster than others. The immediate take-home I got here was to plan to get my kids to nature as much as possible outside of school hours once they start K.

"Schools should teach science like sports" makes a great analogy that is better quoted than paraphrased: "Suppose you wanted to teach children to play baseball or softball. How would you go about doing it? One approach might be to sit them down and start having them memorize the rules of the game, the dimensions of the field, the names and statistics of past players, and a host of other facts. You would stop teaching them periodically to review the material in preparation for multiple-choice assessment tests. The students who showed a great aptitude for memorizing large numbers of facts could go into honors classes where they would memorize even larger numbers of facts. At the end of the process, without ever leaving the classroom, how well do you think the children would be able to play baseball or softball? More important, how many would even want to? Why have we thought that this process would work with teaching science to children?" You can probably guess the gist of the rest. The interesting part is that new K-12 science standards are coming down from a national standards-setting group since 2013 and 12 states + DC have adopted them already. So change seems to be coming. But it won't be at all SF schools at all grade levels tomorrow.

"Researchers find that frequent tests can boost learning" is an antidote to the idea that all testing is bad, an extreme that some progressive, project-based educational ideas seem to be taken to. Rather than throw out all testing, doing it in a way more consistent with research from cognitive science can actually improve retention and deepen understanding. The basic idea is that tests help solidify knowledge and connections to other related facts in the brain and shouldn't be used solely as assessment tools. In addition to a randomized controlled trial of the technique described (with great results), 2 other interesting things were mentioned later in the article: Use of the technique in one course in a certain study resulted in improved grades in other subjects as well. Also, the technique helped reduce achievement gaps between social-economic classes. Lastly, the article lists several ways in which current standardized tests are exactly the wrong kinds of tests to optimize learning based on the known cognitive science.

This sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I've learned much of anything about testing at different schools to help use this info to better evaluate schools. The publics for the most part do more of the unhelpful (and maybe harmful for other reasons such as stress, teaching to the tests etc.) testing, but I'm not aware of any schools that specifically use these techniques to optimize learning (but it could be this kind of detail just isn't discussed, especially since testing is such a dirty word to some parents). Interestingly, these techniques are quite a bit different than some of the ideas from the other articles or the standard "project based" or "hands-on" philosophies of many independent or charter schools.

There are other articles in the collection, but I pulled those out as the ones that seemed most relevant. Please share a summary if you read one of the others or your own take-homes from any work in this area, or what you see as relevance to specific schools in SF!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Web research links with comments

I have found this blog and its archives very helpful for elementary school research, so I've been sad to see few posts this fall as we go through the process to choose kindergartens. So I've decided to give something back in at least a small way by signing up to blog and contributing a few posts this year, starting now. I hope it both helps other families, even if they just read and don't ever post, but more importantly let's keep the great community of posters and commenters alive/renewed this year to compare notes and create useful dialogs. If you haven't yet created an account to make comments on the blog posts on this site, please don't hesitate if you have any questions, comments, or observations!

This post is a list of useful research resources, with descriptions of what's good about each, whether you are looking for public grade schools, privates, or both. It's not too late even now to start if you haven't, and even those who have done a lot might find something new and helpful below.

Web research is not a substitute for personally going to a tour or open house and Q&A, but it is a great way to decide which schools are worth the time to visit, and getting the basic facts ahead of time allows one to concentrate on the other important stuff during a visit. Also, the few minutes one gets to observe classes in session or see students outside of classrooms on a tour are somewhat random, so combining this info with other people’s reports of their tours makes for more trustable data. Plus, comments from parents already at a school (in addition to the ones the school picks to interact with you) and comparing notes from parents who are or were making similar decisions to you are both invaluable. Okay, the list.....
Obviously, I don't need to describe the basics about this site, but rather than omitting it from the list completely, let me point out that Google searches with along with school name/acronym (using multiple variations separated by OR or as different searches) is helpful to find comments from recent years that are probably still relevant.

Also, a good post on new independent schools from a 2013 may be helpful to some people who haven't heard of some of these schools: forums: Elementary Years & GGMG hosts forums on many different topics. Two forums are relevant:
The Elementary Years (one must request membership, but it seems to be granted easily)
GGMG (GGMG members only, and GGMG itself is limited to roughly SF moms only)
Both of these have discussions of elementary schools (public & private) and of the process for choosing, applying, etc. Many similar kinds of comments to SFKFiles, so just additional comments from some different folks. Using the search box with variations on school names is useful as posts are find-able that way going back more years than is probably relevant.
Has rankings for public elementaries & middle schools, public & private high schools, and even private high schools (but not private elementaries), at the national, state, or metro-area levels. (And since specific city is listed, it’s easy to take the SF-Bay-Area one and do find-in-page to get a ranking of any SF schools that make the top-bay-area 100 in each category.) The site also provides letter grades (A-, B, etc.) in several different categories, plus some other basic info (high level type of school, eg Catholic & top grade level, # students, etc.) with more detailed info for the publics (but it’s also easier to get that info other places as well). There are also some reviews.

It’s much harder to get comparative info on private elementaries of course since they don’t all have to do the same tests (or any tests). One method people use to compare is to look at what high schools the graduates attend, which most of the independent schools will tell you if you ask, or put in their annual report, or in a few cases put on their website (with the numbers). The high school rankings at this site, while surely highly imperfect (like all the rankings), can give some idea to those who don’t already know the reputations of how different high schools compare. One big hole in this approach of course is that the many new private schools have no data of this kind yet.
Has reviews and some other info for publics & privates. The reviews are the most useful info as there is little other info for privates and for publics there are other sites that provide the info too. Lots of reviews for publics but not many recent (eg, last 5 years) reviews for independent schools I checked except, eg maybe a handful or less for most, essentially none for some, and dozens in a few isolated cases. Also, the comments tend to be a bit less detailed than the above sites.
Message board, but seems pretty much unused in recent years with very few recent posts.
So obvious that maybe it shouldn’t be included, but also so obvious it could be overlooked with so many other sites to check & search. But just doing generic websearches for a school can turn up interesting things. Or searching for a school name and whatever is most important to you that you are looking for, or most worrying to you that you are afraid of. Or searching for 2 schools (such as the 2 you are having a tough time choosing between).


The above sites were all generic enough to be helpful for both publics and privates. Those below here are useful for SFUSD schools only. Most links naturally go to, but I’ll break out distinct useful resources.

Boundary map PDF for SFUSD:
Useful for both giving an idea of all the schools near you, and also one’s area school.

SFUSD enrollment guide:
Lots of details. Huge Enrollment Guide PDF for download. Lots of info on process, key dates, etc.

Demand rankings:
The 2nd page has a table listing detailed numbers for the most requested 15 Ks (and tables for middle school and high school too). There is probably a link somewhere that just gives a simple number #1, #2, #3, etc. for the top 10 schools but this table is actually better since you can see the number of people who list it vs. the number of spots.

And much longer document that gives a lot more details about every school is this:
This one is useful to see the relative demand for different tracks (eg, immersion vs. not).
Detailed quantitative info including test scores (API), diversity, parent education, etc. Usefully presented too. Even has maps. This is not SF-specific, so this site can be used also to compare SF schools vs. those in other places (Marin, Oakland, Palo Alto, etc.).

Accountability Progress Report 2012-2013:,San,Francisco
API scores and other info for all the SF public schools in a simple table. Alternative source to for the test sores & 1-10 grades.

SFUSD public schools individual data sheets:
Lots of details about each school (hours, uniforms, languages, map, etc.).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tour information now updated

We have updated the information on school tours for 2015-2016 (see link to a separate page above and to the right). Please let us know in the comments or via email if there are other school tours you are aware of or if we have gotten any information wrong.

The 2015-2016 tour season for SFUSD and charter schools has started. Tour information below is as we know it (we also left names and websites of schools where we had tour information a year ago). This information is simply what we have received from each school or noticed on neighborhood parent listservs and the like. It is not comprehensive. If you want to add a school or correct any information you see below, please please do! Just email us at Kfilesblog @ with the correct info or add in the comments.

For SFUSD, applications for Round 1 are due on January 15, 2016.

Here's a list of all SFUSD schools:

(Charter information at the end)

aka What Mornings To Request Time Off Work

Argonne 8:45-10:05
SF Community 9:10-11
Sheridan 9AM

AFY 9:30-12
Alvarado 9:15-9:30
Argonne 10/20 only 8:45-10:05
Sloat 9-10
Peabody 9AM
Lau 9-9:40
Glen Park 9-10
Lakeshore 10-11:30
Stevenson 9-10
Starr King 9:30-11
Yick Wo

CIS 9-10:30
Feinstein 10-10:45
Key 8:30
Garfield 8:45
Flynn 9-11:30
New Traditions 9:45
Rosa Parks 7:50
Ulloa 9:40

AFY 9:30-12
Alamo 9-10
Buena Vista
CIS 9-10:30
Webster 9
McCoppin 9-10
Milk 10-10:45
Monroe 8:45-9:45
Rooftop 8:15-9:45
Parks 7:50
SF Montessori 9:30-10:15
Sunnyside 9-10:30
Sunset 9 AM
Sutro 9:15 AM
West Portal 9-10:30
Grattan 8:30
Marshall 8:40
Monroe 8:45-9:45
Sherman 9-10
Spring Valley 8:45-10


Alice Fong Yu
Tuesdays and Thursdays
9:30am - 12:00pm -- info may be out of date; call the school to confirm. (415) 759-2764

Thursdays 9-10 AM on 10/15, 10/22, 11/5, 11/12, 11/19, 12/3, 12/10
Reserve a spot on signupgenius
Check in in the school office, then go to the library.
Questions: Call (415) 750-8456 or email Elizabeth Meeks,

Tuesdays 8:15-9:30
Reserve a spot on eventbrite. Oct 6. Oct 13, Oct 20, Oct 27,  Nov 3,  Nov 10, Nov 24
Questions: Do not call the school.

Mondays and one Tuesday 8:45-10:05 AM on Oct 5, Tues Oct 20, Nov 2, Nov 16, Dec 14, Jan 11
Reserve a spot: Call Grace in our Argonne office 415-750-8460

Buena Vista K-8
School Tours are held Thursdays and are coordinated and scheduled by the secretary. Call 415-695-5881 8AM - 3:45PM daily.

Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila
Wednesdays or Thursdays 9:00 - 10:30 am in Room 301. Tours will be given by Principal Rosina Tong and parent volunteers.
  • 10/22/15- Thursday
  • 10/28/15 - Wednesday
  • 11/05/15 - Thursday
  • 11/19/15 - Thursday
  • 12/03/15 - Thursday
  • 12/09/15 - Wednesday
  • 12/17/15 - Thursday
  • 01/06/15 - Wednesday

Claire Lilienthal K-8
Most tours are at the Madison Campus Site (K-2). There are only 2 tours for the Scott Campus (3-8).Tours are ONLY at 9:00 AM on the dates listed below. We are sorry, we are unable to accommodate individual schedules.Tours are for adults ONLY, please do not bring children.

Tours remaining for Scott campus: January 12, 2016 9:00 AM

If your schedule does not permit you to attend one of our tours, you may choose to come to either site (depending on the grade level you are applying for) at 2:15 p.m., Monday thru Thursdays to do a "self-guided" tour of the facility only. We do ask that you respect our rule of not entering classrooms or questioning teachers as they are prepping for their next day's lessons. For after-school self-guided tours, please sign-in at the office and get a visitor's badge.

Tours will be held from 9:45 – 10:45 am on Oct. 9, Oct. 20, Oct. 27, Nov. 6, Nov. 17, Dec. 4, Dec. 15 and Jan. 8. All tours will include information about both the Japanese Bilingual and Bicultural Program (JBBP) and the Second Community (SC) programs. Sign up here:

Commodore Sloat
Tuesdays 9-10 AM on Oct. 13, 21, 27; Nov. 3, 10, 17, 24, Dec 1, 8, 15; Jan 5, 12
Check-in in the lobby. Limited to 15 persons.
Online signup:
Questions: or call the school office at 415-759-2807.

Daniel Webster
Temporary location for 2015-16 at Enola Maxwell while permanent campus at 465 Missouri is being completely renovated. Tours will show you our temporary classrooms and teaching staff so that you can see the school in action. Renderings of the new campus here.
Thursdays 9AM on Oct 15, 22; Nov 12, 19; Dec 10; Jan 14, 28; Fri Mar 18
Meet your tour leader at the entrance at 1801 18th St
Signup online on eventbrite
Questions: email

Dianne Feinstein, tour info on left under "Visitation Days"
Tours on Wednesdays from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. beginning in October through January. Appointments and identification required. Sign up for tours on our website. Tours are for adults only.Sign up here:

Tours will be held on Fridays from 8:30-10:00am beginning in late October. Tour sizes are limited so as not to overwhelm the classrooms. Sign-ups are online only on a first-come, first serve basis.

Tours will be led by Fairmount parents followed by Q&A with Principal Luis Rodriguez. Please meet at the flagpole outside the cafeteria at 8:30am where you may observe morning circle on the lower yard. Check in at the office beforehand for a visitors pass.

Note that parking is difficult during morning drop off. Please allow additional time for parking and do not park in the white zones on either Randall or Chenery streets. There is generally parking on surrounding streets and metered parking on Mission.

October 30: Tour in English | Visita a la escuela en Ingles CLICK HERE to sign up
November 6: Visita a la escuela bilingüe – Tour in Spanish and English CLICK HEREto sign up
November 13: Tour in English | Visita a la escuela en Ingles CLICK HERE to sign up
November 20: Visita a la escuela bilingüe – Tour in Spanish and English CLICK HERE to sign up
December 4: Tour in English | Visita a la escuela en Ingles CLICK HERE to sign up
December 11: Visita a la escuela bilingüe – Tour in Spanish and English CLICK HEREto sign up
January 8: Visita a la escuela bilingüe – Tour in Spanish and English CLICK HERE to sign up

Additionally, we will host a bilingual Open House on the evening of Tuesday, November 17 from 5:30-7:30pm in the Library. No sign up necessary. Sorry, childcare will not be available.
Virtual tour at:

Francis Scott Key
Group tours are offered from October 7, 2015 until school applications are due in January. The tours are every Wednesday at 8:30 am. Personal tours with the principal are available by appointment if Wednesdays are not possible. In either case, please call 759-2811 to RSVP for a tour."

Frank McCoppin
Please contact Frank McCoppin Elementary at (415) 750-8475 to make an appointment for a school tour. Tours: Thursdays 9-10 AM Occasionally Friday. Please call ahead. Check in at main office.

Garfield Elementary
Every Wednesday morning at 8:45 am.
Call or email the Garfield office at least 24 hours in advance to make a reservation.

George Peabody
Every Tuesday at 9AM, other than November 24, between October 21 and January 12. Tours will also be offered on Friday November 6, December 4, and January 8. Tours are conducted by the principal with time allotted for questions and answers.
No reservations are required. Please sign in at the tour table outside the main office. Please allow time to find parking and enter via the 6th Avenue gate.

There are three tours offered that specifically focus on our Special Education program. During these tours we will discuss the educational program for students with special needs that are taught by our special day class teachers and our general education and Resource Specialist teacher. These tours also begin at 9:15 AM and are offered on October 29, November 20 and January 13.

Gordon J. Lau
Every Tuesday, 9:00 to 9:40 a.m. or by appointment

Grattan's school tours are conducted on Fridays at 8:30am from October 30, 2015 and going through January 8, 2016. No reservation necessary. Meet in the school courtyard just inside the main entrance. We start tours promptly at 8:30, so please arrive early to allow time for parking and sign-in. The first Friday of the month is street cleaning; we suggest public transportation, as parking is difficult on those days. Grattan has many students with special needs who receive a wide range of services at the school. If your child has an IEP or special needs, you will have a chance to speak directly to our principal during the Q&A portion of the tour.

Glen Park
Tuesdays 9-10 AM
Tours begin on October 6, and will continue through the fall. (Full schedule to be posted in September.)  Parents who are able to arrive at 8:40am are welcome to join us in the Brompton Avenue yard for our morning circle, which is a great way to get a feel for our school community. Younger children are welcome to accompany their parents on the tours.
No reservation necessary.

Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy
Thursdays 10-10:45 AM on Oct 8, Oct 22;,Nov 5, Nov 18, Dec 3, Dec 17.
Meet in the hallway outside our school's office. We ask that you sign in before the tour.
Reservations: email Parent Faculty Club at with the date you'll be attending and number of visitors. You can also find out more about our school by reading this pamphlet.

Jean Parker
Online tour available at
To arrange a personal tour of Jean Parker Elementary, call us at (415) 291-7990 or email
Come take a tour of Jefferson! School tours will be conducted onFriday mornings from 9-10:30 starting October 23, 2015, and continuing through January 15, 2016. Please note that there will be no tours on November 27, December 18, December 25, or January 1. Our principal will also be available to meet and chat with you during most of our tour dates.Please click here to reserve your spot.

Jose Ortega
School tours for children entering kindergarten in 2016 are scheduled from 8am to 9am on the following dates:
October 15th and 22nd
November 5th and 12th
December 3rd and 10th
Please sign up for your preferred tour date online.

Junipero Serra
Webpage not yet updated for 2015-16.
Call the school at 415-695-5685 to reserve a spot.

Interested in seeing Lafayette in person? Take a tour! Led by Principal Heath Caceres, the tours are designed to show you our school, community, and educational philosophy to help you decide if Lafayette is a good choice for your child and your family.

You are welcome to visit the campus during scheduled tours, beginning in mid-October. Please call the school secretary at 415-750-8484 to see what days and times are available.

Schedule a tour by filling in the tour request form on Lakeshore's website
Tours take place every other Tuesday from October 2015 through mid-January 2016.
Tue., Oct. 6
Tue., Oct. 20
Tue., Nov. 3
Tue., Nov. 17 (Full)
Tue., Dec. 1
Tue., Dec. 15
Tue., Jan. 12
Tours start at 10am and end at 11:30am.
Meet in the lobby at the Welcome table.
Let us know if you’d like information about our SDC program.
Questions: call (415) 759-2825 or email

Lawton Alternative School
School Tours are Tuesdays & Thursdays starting in October through January and begin promptly at 9:25am.Please call (415) 759-2832 to make an appointment for a tour. On the day of the tour, visitors should sign in the Main Office. A parent will lead the group out to the school yard for the morning lines. Lawton parents will lead the tour through both Elementary and Middle School. Afterwards, you will meet with the Principal or Assistant Principal.

Leonard Flynn
Tours meet at 9 a.m. and go for about an hour and a half. Meet on the yard just inside the Harrison Street Entrance. No appointment or reservation is necessary.
2015-2016 Tour Dates
Wed 10/7
Wed 10/14
Tues 10/20
Wed 11/4 (bilingual / bilingue)
Wed 11/18 (bilingual / bilingue)
Wed 12/2
Wed 12/9
Wed 1/13
One date in March TBD after enrollment letters have been received

Fridays 8:40 AM on Nov 6, Nov 13, Nov 20, Dec 4, Dec 11, Jan 8, Jan 15
Marshall school tours are held on Friday mornings, allowing prospective parents to experience our Friday assembly and sing-a-long. The Friday assembly is for both the students and the parents. It includes school announcements, class performances or presentations, and ends with the Friday Morning School Sing-Along. Touring parents will then have an opportunity to meet with the principal and/or current parents and tour the school grounds. Metered parking is available on 15th Street. Please do NOT park in the Walgreens parking lot.
Reservations: Call 415-241-6280 to RSVP.

There are 5 tour dates for 2015-16. Tours begin at 8:15am and 8:30am, and last until 9:30am. Tours are self-guided, followed by a Q&A with the principal.
Friday, October 2nd
Friday, November 6th
Friday, December 4th*
Saturday, December 12th
Friday, January 8th
* This tour is a regular tour with the added opportunity to learn about our Inclusion Program and our philosophy behind inclusive education.

Sign up here:

Self-Guided Tours: Because the tours are self-guided and to save school resources, we encourage attendees to download the pdf guide before your tour date to print at home or to read on your smartphone or tablet during the tour. If you have further questions, send an email to and one or our parent volunteers will get back to you. Please do not call the school about tours: the school will not be able to sign you up for a tour or answer tour-related questions.

The annual McKinley Open House will be on November 14, 2015 from 10am until Noon. Please feel free to bring the whole family. We hope to meet you there! School tours will begin on Monday, October 26th and run through the second week of January. You may reserve a spot here.For questions, please email

Tours of our school are given on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the week starting in early October. Please check our Calendar of Events for specific dates. They begin at 8:45 am and last approximately one hour. Interested parties should CLICK HERE to sign up via Eventbrite. Please provide your primary language spoken and language track(s) you are interested in (General Ed., Spanish Immersion, Cantonese Bilingual). On the day of the tour, please check in at the Main Office.

New Traditions
Tours are Wednesdays 9:45 AM from late October-mid January.
Sign up for a tour here:

Robert Louis Stevenson
Tuesdays from 9 to 10 a.m. Meet with the principal and visit classrooms. Please call the main office at 415-759-2837 to reserve a space.

Sign up for a tour here:
Tours are Thursdays 8:15-9:45 starting November 5th through January 7 2016.
Do note that our tours are for adults only. Baby in carrier is OK (but please be mindful not to disrupt the classrooms or the presentation). But please no preschoolers or toddlers. We appreciate your cooperation. See map for best parking (hint: it’s “above” the school)! Due to street cleaning at 9am on Corbett Street (below the school) we suggest you do not use that street for parking.

Rosa Parks
School tours cover both programs at Rosa Parks Elementary: the General Education program (GE) and the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program (JBBP). Tours start at 7:50 am in the main school yard on the following dates and can be scheduled by calling the school office at 415-749-3519 or completing this form. Tours are approximately 1.5 hours.
10/15/2015 Thursday School Tour
10/28/2015 Wednesday School Tour
11/4/2015 Wednesday School Tour
11/12/2015 Thursday School Tour
11/19/2015 Thursday School Tour conducted in Japanese
12/2/2015 Wednesday School Tour
1/14/2016 Thursday School Tour
3/23/2016 Wednesday School Tour
4/8/2016 Friday Welcome Breakfast for New Parents

Sanchez School
Fridays, call to schedule appointment. School phone: (415) 241-6380

SF Community
Tours are held at 9:10am on most Mondays from October 19th through December 7th, with a last-minute tour offered on January 11th. Registration is required. If you are driving, you will want to allow time to find parking, as it is very limited. Tour attendees will meet in the school yard, near the play structures and will start off by watch the Kindergarten and First Grade students line up, sing, and then go into class to start their day at 9:15am. The tour will then move into the Library for an information session led by Principal, Nora Houseman, followed by a brief Q & A. Classroom visits, hosted by parent volunteers, will follow and the tour will conclude at 10:30am. If you arrive after 9:15a.m., take a left towards the garden when you enter campus, rather than going into the main building. The information session will be taking place in the brightly painted bungalow adjacent to the garden.

To register for a tour, please go to

SF Public Montessori
Thursdays 9:30-10:15am:
Sept. 17, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 29, Nov. 12, Dec. 3, Dec. 17, Jan 7, Jan. 21, Feb. 4, Feb.18, March 3 and March 17
Sign up for 2015-16 tours at:

Mondays at 9AM

Fridays 9-10 AM on Oct 9, 16, 23, 30; Nov 6, 13, 20; Dec 4, 11; Jan 8, 15, 22, 29
Sign up online at

Spring Valley Science School
School tours take place every Friday beginning in October from 8:45 to 10:00. Please contact our school office at (415)749-3535 to sign up for a tour date.
Virtual School Tour:

Starr King
We hold weekly tours on Wednesdays, from 9:30am to 11am, during the touring season. To reserve a spot, please register online at Starr King School Tours or call the school office at 415.695.5797.
The street address for Starr King is 1215 Carolina St. as shown on the map to the right. However, the entrance to the school is located on Coral Road. We'll meet in front of the school office, which is on the right side of the play yard (facing the school). Please sign in and create a visitor's badge. We'll visit 3-4 classrooms and then end with a talk with Principal Cheong and a Q&A session with the parent tour guides. Parents may bring small children, but please be quiet and respectful of the learning that is taking place.
Video Tour: Here's a link to a video produced by a Starr King parent that shows what our school experience is like.

Thursdays from 9-10 AM; Q&A 10-10:30 with principal.
10/8, 15,22,29; Nov 5, 12, 19; Dec 3, 10, 17; Jan 7, 14
Online signup:
Tour Agenda
9:00-9:30 - meet in library (or auditorium) for an overview of Sunnyside and its programs.
9:30-10:00 -guided tour of the school and classrooms
10:00-10:30 - finish back in library (or auditorium) for Q&A with the principal.

Tours of Sunset Elementary are offered on select Thursdays from October through December of this year and one in January 2016. Starting at 9 a.m., prospective families meet and speak with current Sunset community parents and then are given a guided tour of the school by Principal Sophie Lee. Tours are concluded with a Q & A session with Principal Lee.To reserve a place on a school tour, please call the office at 415-759-2760. Tour dates for Fall 2015 are as follows:
October 1
October 8
October 15
October 29
November 5
November 12
December 3
December 10
January 7, 2016

Thursdays at 9:15 a.m. in English starting the first week in November.
Contact us in October to set up a date and time. Chinese available upon request.
(415) 750-8525

Wednesdays at 9:40am Oct- Dec. Meet at school’s front lobby.
Please call the school at (415) 759-2841 to confirm tour for your desired Wednesday visit. No reservations or sign-up needed.

West Portal
Thursdays 9-10:30 AM on Oct 22, 29; Nov 5, 12, 19; Dec 3, 10; Jan 7, 14
Register online at:
School tour packet:
Questions: call 415-759-2846 or email

Yick Wo
Tuesday mornings Oct-Jan. call 415-749-3540 to schedule a tour


Hoover Middle School Website says: Call the Main Office for information: 415-759-2783. PPS also passed on the info that Hoover has an Eventbrite sign-up for tours:

It looks like tours are Tuesday mornings at 9:30 starting on October 28th.

Mission High School
Tours will be available starting in October...Tuesdays/Thursdays at 8:30am.
Tours can be made with Ms. Wendy He, the main office secretary - call the school 241.6240.

If students are interested in appointment only starting in October.
Shadowing available on Mondays and Ms. Lau at

San Francisco's charter schools have separate enrollment processes from the lottery run by SFUSD. Below you'll find some information we've found on school websites or received from helpful parents. If you have questions, we suggest you contact the schools directly. Good luck!


Creative Arts Charter School
Register here for a tour;
Fridays 8:45-10:15am: Sept.25 [SOLD OUT] Oct. 2 [SOLD OUT] Oct. 23, Nov. 6, Nov. 13, Dec. 4, Dec. 11, Jan. 8, Jan. 15
We begin at our weekly all-school Community Meeting, then you will visit classrooms and tour the facility with a current parent volunteer or staff member. Each tour concludes with a program overview and Q&A.
Thursday evenings 6:00-7:30pm: Oct. 15, Nov. 19, Dec. 17, Jan. 14

The Mission Preparatory School

New School San Francisco
We are overwhelmed by the amount of interest in our school and will be scheduling more tours soon as they have all filled up. Please visit us again in mid-November, and if you'd like to be added to a waitlist for any of the below tours, please email:
November 12th, 8:30a
November 17th, 8:30a
November 19th, 8:30a
December 3rd, 8:30a
December 17th, 8:30a
January 14th, 8:30a
January 21st, 8:30a

Thomas Edison Charter Academy (TECA)
We encourage all families interested in TECA to visit our school. School tours will be offered to prospective families on the following dates:

Tour dates:
October 9th & 20th
November 13th & 19th
December 4th & 15th
January 2016, 8th & 19th
Meet the tour guide inside the auditorium/gym at 8:20am at 3531 22nd Street. No prior signup is necessary. Tours will begin promptly at 8:30am.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Want to Blog for the K Files?

Are you out there looking for a school for your child? Want to contribute to the K Files community? If you are interested in blogging about your school search, we would love to hear from you! Parents that have blogged in the past have found it to be a helpful way to process through what they have learned. In addition, blogging often elicits comments from other parents who have toured a school or had children at the school, or who suggest another school they think might be a good fit.

If you are interested, please send an email email to kfilesblog at gmail dot com.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Focusing your School Search: Practical Tips

Last year I wrote a series of posts that used much discussed books on education and teaching to figure out the best way to approach my family’s search for a kindergarten for my son. You can read the series here:

Now that I’m on the other side of the kindergarten search, I am adding to my list of key practical takeaways to help folks who are now going through the process.

(In case you’re wondering, we ended up enrolling my son in AltSchool. It’s been a great fit for him thus far. We loved most public schools we looked at, and got a good pick in the lottery, at Rosa Parks JBBP, but realized that these schools would be a terrible a fit for our kid. We didn’t look at other private schools.)

  • Know thy child: We all know this, but always bears repeating and constant reflection during this process. 
    • Bottom line: Everyone’s school search should and will be different because our kids are all different.
  • Be clear about your priorities: As I talked about in one of my blog posts last year, take the time to ask yourself “What do I want my kid to get out of school, and which schools can do this well?” If your top priority is a community for you and your family, then you will evaluate schools very differently from a parent whose sole focus is academic education. Embrace your priorities and filter all advice you get (including mine!) through that lens. If you tell yourself -- or others -- that you’re just looking for a “good school” or “the best school,” you’re probably setting yourself up for a lot of anxiety. What does “good” mean? 
    • Bottom line: List out your specific priorities, the sooner, the better.
  • The point of touring: I noticed that many parents spent most of the public school tours trying to figure out what they should be doing (and, perhaps, why they were even there). Is it important to look at the artwork on the walls? Ask about field trips? Connect with the principal? (Private school tour parents knew that their job was to make nice and win over champions for their application.) Heck, how many tours should you even go on? After all, it takes a ton of time! My sense at this point is that there is value in touring a small handful of schools of different kinds mostly to get a sense of context. We toured 10 schools, which was about five too many. After the first two, I was not shy about leaving after 10-20 minutes. I really appreciated the effort that many school parent groups made to organize a robust tour, but if you go into the tours knowing what you want to learn, then you’ll pick up that information quickly (and get back to work in time!). 
    • Bottom line: Figure out your focus and touring strategy before you start signing up.
  • Worksheets and depth: If you’re evaluating schools for academic impact based on test scores, you probably already know that there are many ways for schools to achieve high scores. Of course, not all of those ways will necessarily agree with your child. I found that the best way to quickly understand how a given school would try to educate my child was just to ask to see the worksheets. Almost all of the public schools, and many private schools, have kids doing worksheets for large sections of the day. So look at the quantity and quality of the worksheets and ask yourself if your child will get the education you want from doing them. (And whether you’ll be motivated to ensure that they do the homework worksheets; if you find them pointless or otherwise underwhelming, you’re probably not going to be motivated to cajole a reluctant child to do her homework.) Also watch to see whether kids who finish sheets fast and with little effort are encouraged to go deeper, beyond the basic content of the sheet. Or if the kids who are struggling with the sheet appear to get the help they need to figure out the skill. Most schools didn’t trot worksheets out on the tour, and instead focus on the garden, lunch program, etc. CIS DeAvila was the only one that invited me to look through binders of homework worksheets (thank you!). So spend your time in the classroom tours seeking out the worksheets. Or, probably better yet, ask parents whose kids go to the school to describe their experience. 
    • Bottom line: Look at the worksheets.
  • Discipline revealed: Most San Francisco schools have a relatively progressive approach to discipline, at least on paper. But that may not mean that the reality in the classroom is what you want for your child. When you’re touring, look around for evidence of systems: behavior sticker charts, etc. Or keep your eyes out for adults yelling at kids in the hall (yep, saw that on a couple tours.) Keep in mind that these systems are usually determined teacher by teacher unless the school has a strong training program around a particular philosophy. Not touring? Then ask friends at that school to describe the systems. Do you like what you see? Do you agree with it? If you have an easy child, this may not matter to you (though I have a friend with an easy child who is nonetheless very concerned about the system in her child’s kindergarten for what it teaches her child about other people.) If you have a child with triggers for classroom conflict, then this is going to be very important. We ruled out most schools we otherwise liked based on this one evaluation point because our child is extremely passionate about doing things his own way and on his own timeline. 
    • Bottom line: Pay close attention to physical manifestations of the school’s discipline system.
  • Minimizing anxiety: Many of us have heard horror stories about other parents who have ended up taking drastic measures -- whether it be prescription anti-anxiety medicine or moving out of the district -- to get through this process. While I’m not saying that you can get rid of all stress, I do believe that a) knowing your priorities and b) doing enough research to feel like you have all the information that’s relevant, even if imperfect, will let you make decisions with considerably less stress and second guessing. My husband and I followed this strategy and felt relatively calm throughout the process. I watched the process like a hawk, and hit refresh on my mail and email (and this blog!) way more than usual when we were waiting for results, but we didn’t feel nagging doubt about the decisions we made. I also observed another friend whose son got a mixed bag of results in the first round stay calm and make confident decisions through the next few rounds. She had spent the time to focus on defining what they wanted and doing enough research to make choices that they didn’t second guess. 
    • Bottom line: Minimize the stress of this process by defining your goals and research threshold, to the extent possible.

No doubt many other veterans have loads of other advice. I’ve skipped some of the basic stuff, like ruling out schools whose logistics (start time, location, etc) would make you dread waking up in the morning every day. But I hope this helps!

Best of luck to everyone going through the process!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

SFUSD Enrollment Fair

Sorry for the late notice, but the SFUSD Enrollment Fair is happening this weekend! It can be a bit of a zoo, but also a great place to learn about schools you might not have heard of.

The Enrollment Fair is happening Saturday, October 24, from 9:30 am - 2:30 pm at City College, located at 50 Phelan Ave.

Here's some more information:

A reminder: Enrollment forms for Kindergarten and most grades are due January 15 (charter schools and some SFUSD high schools have different dates).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

¡Si se puede!

Open Kindergarten Spots in English classes at César Chavéz Elementary School

César Chávez Elementary School is situated in the geographic and cultural heart of the Mission District.  Its entire façade is covered with murals representing the history and diversity of this school, and the cultural contributions of César Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the UFW movement.  In addition it has paintings in sign language, celebrating the 25 year history of the deaf and hard of hearing program at the school.   The halls are cheerfully painted, the classrooms organized, the teachers and students engaged in authentic learning.  The school is extremely safe, there are few discipline issues, and we have a wealth of community partnerships to work on enrichment, health and socio-emotional supports.  The teaching at Cesar Chavez is exemplary. For example, the math program is differentiated and aligned with common core and academic language, and far ahead of other schools in the district (two of our teachers helped write the curriculum and are former or current Math coaches). There are 1-1 Chromebooks for every 4th and 5th grader and a dedicated technology person who works with the rest of the school. Every classroom has technology, and iPads are integrated into reading centers.   The reading and writing workshop model began 5 years ago and is year more developed than other schools in the district.  Any child that arrived at César Chávez would thrive.
As the Mission District changes the English classes at Chávez are shrinking.  The more affluent families that are moving into the Mission have not yet begun to choose this school. There is a waiting list for students to enter the Bi-literacy pathway (Spanish and English for native Spanish speakers) yet the English classrooms need more students. Both our English and Spanish classrooms have small class sizes and dedicated, experienced teachers.
So, with all these advantages, what would it take for César Chávez to become a model for the rest of the City?  It would take integration. More English speaking families of all races need to begin to choose our school.  SFUSD needs to desegregate. Many articles have been written about SFUSD and the increasing segregation due to choice.  Other articles have been written about the importance of integration for improving educational outcomes. The articles in the San Francisco Public Press made it clear that parents typically choose schools where there is a majority of their own race.  This is something that we need to change.  In order to create a more equitable system more families who live in the Mission need to start choosing schools in the Mission District for their children, rather than driving across town to be part of a school that has better test scores. Parents who live in or near the Mission who are holding out for the English programs at other more faraway schools should come visit our school and observe in our English program.   Test scores that appear low at César Chávez reflect the racial and economic isolation of the school.  It’s impossible to compare data of other ethnic groups to the control group of our Latino students because the population of students other than Latinos is statistically insignificant. 

Right now at César Chávez we have space for 10-15 students in Kindergarten English classes that we would like to fill before September 4th.  If you are choosing between no school, paying for another year of preschool or moving out of the city, I believe César Chávez is an excellent alternative. I only recently began working here but I can assure you that If my daughter were age eligible for Kindergarten she would be here with me.  Please call or come by for a visit tomorrow morning at 9 AM if you would like to learn more. 
 If you are looking for a school for 2016-2017 I will publish tour dates in October. 

César Chávez PreK Early Ed & Elementary School
Escuela Primaria César Chávez, PreKinder - 5
825 Shotwell Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Tel: 415.695.5765     Fax: 415.695.5843