Saturday, December 22, 2007

Are the schools in the suburbs really better?

Tonight, I had dinner with an old friend in Rockridge. Tanya lives in San Ramon, so we picked a half-way point.

Tanya and I met in seventh grade French class. We instantly bonded because she had a crush on my younger brother's best friend's older brother (I know it's complicated). Over the years our lives have been parallel in many ways: We were roommates our freshman year in college, married our husbands within two weeks of each other, and gave birth to our first children within two weeks of each other—which means we're now both starting to get ready for kindergarten. But enrolling for kindergarten in San Ramon is quite different than in San Francisco—and so as we chowed down on burritos, it was interesting to compare notes.

In January, Tanya will be picking up her kindergarten packet at the school where her son will be attending—yes, she already knows where Tyson is going to school and she has known ever since they moved into their house about one year ago. Like in most suburbs, kids in San Ramon go to their neighborhood school. I have to admit that I was feeling envious when she told me they'll soon even know which teacher Tyson will have next fall. I feel so far away from that!

But what really surprised me was when Tanya started to tell me about all the bells and whistles at her son's school. "There's a full-time P.E. teacher," she told me. "The kids get P.E. twice a week. At most public elementary schools, the classroom teacher does P.E. with their own students." Okay, wait a minute: Nearly every school I toured in San Francisco had a full-time P.E. teacher offering class once or twice a week. Or there's a Sports 4 Kids program. As my friend went on and on, I began to realize that the public schools in San Francisco have most of the same special extras as the schools in San Ramon. I was surprised. And when I told Tanya that the schools in SF also have P.E. programs, she seemed surprised.

Why do many people assume the urban public schools have less to offer than suburban ones?

Yes, in the suburbs you can typically walk to school, which seems nice, though I wonder how many people actually do that. And the test scores are higher, though we all know why that's the case.

You hear that many people leave the city for the suburbs because of the schools—but I'm beginning to wonder why. If you want a big house, that might be a reason to move to the suburbs. Or maybe you're seeking ample street parking. Or maybe you're hoping to settle in one of those beautiful suburbs nestled against a verdant mountain or perched above the sea. But leaving SF just because of the schools? I'm not sure that's a strong reason. (Though who knows how I'll feel when I don't get one of the seven schools I select.)

54 comments:

  1. I'm not so sure I agree with you there, Kate. There is something incredibly appealing about being able to walk to school, and going to the same school as your neighbors - it creates community. Predictable, good, consistent public schools are a real benefit to a city.

    There are many, many, many great reasons to live in San Francisco, but -- despite the fact that there are many fine public schools here -- I just don't think that the public schools are one of them. Of course, it all really does come down to whether you lottery into your school of choice (be that Flynn, Fairmount, AFY or Lawton or otherwise) ... or not.

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  2. I do agree with you, Kate. My sisters both live in wealthy Boston suburbs where the schools have (deservedly) fine reputations. I am consistently surprised how my kids' (SF public) schools are comparable too and in some instances better than their kids in terms of curriculum and "extras." Second language is certainly better as we did go the immersion route, but music, dance, field trips all match or exceed. Not to say my nieces are not getting a good education back there, because they are, but all the kids' educations match up just fine. And we have the added benefit of more diversity (they have something called the METCO program that buses kids out to the burbs from the city, K-12--but nothing like we have, living here).

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  3. kate, we have visited some of the same schools and my experience is kids get PE only once a week -- where are kids getting PE 2, 3 or 4 times a week?

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  4. Kate: While I agree w/ the first poster about the appeal of walking to school and having most of your classmates living in your neighborhood, I agree with you that the elementary schools in the 'burbs are not any better than the increasingly large list of good schools here. I think the issue might be that people make knee-jerk decisions about the SF public schools without realizing the amazing improvements dedicated parents, such as SFPPS, have made over the last several years. Had i not attended many school panels and other events, I would have never thought that SF public schools were an option (unless we hit the lottery jackpot big). Thank goodness I know better now (and thanks to all of you who have been part of my education in this area) because I really want to raise my child in the City. City life offers so much in the way of culture, events, and diversity. Are the public schools a reason to move to SF? Probably not. But they are certainly not a reason to flee the City either.

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  5. I had a great "love raising my kids in San Francisco" day yesterday. We took the streetcar downtown and went to "A Christmas Carol." We had a quick snack at Pizza by the Slice across the street, and then took the F Market up to Castro Street on an old Cincinnatti streetcar. Jumped on the 24-Divisadero and went to a wonderful caroling party. There were a mixture of public and private school kids there, many of whom we've known for years. They all fell in together happily and even the 13 year olds weren't too cool to sing. Can't beat a day like that.

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  6. My kids' public school in Marin is good, but it's nothing fancy or special. The schools Kate describes sound wonderful and they have the added benefit of immersion options, which I really envy.
    One thing: This recurring image of people "fleeing" the City. The people I know, and I include myself in this group, didn't "flee" San Francisco in terror of the schools. I think the decision to "leave" the City for suburbs is usually about a whole lot of other factors, in addition to the good (and, yes, hassle-free) public school systems. If people say it's just about the schools, they're lying!

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  7. A Mill Valley parent posted here some time ago that they moved from the Sunset largely in search of SUNSHINE. If I ever left San Francisco, that might be the reason.

    My friends' kids' schools in Marin generally do have more "stuff," and their teachers get paid a whole lot more (I don't know the figures, but that's what my teacher friends tell me).

    But we have those "pleased urban parent" moments too. My daughter currently has the same 8th-grade language arts/social studies teacher her big brother had three years ago in their SFUSD middle school. A feature of this class is that the teacher loves theater and bases much of his class around it. They get cheap ($10-$12) tickets to ACT weekday matinees for five shows during the school year. Beforehand, the class studies the play. The day of, two classes (about 65 kids) walk half a block to the K car, take it downtown, eat at a cheap fast food (OK, it's not so healthy), see the play, take the K back to school. Later, they discuss and write about the play. I'm sure suburban kids can do something like this too, though not with the full Muni experience, half a block from school.

    Oh, and my son is an 11th-grade trumpet student at SOTA. He also plays in a couple of ensembles through the SF Community Music Center (www.sfcmc.org). Once a month the CMC has a student-faculty jazz jam at the Savanna Jazz Club on Mission, which is technically a restaurant (so kids can get in) but feels like a bar. My friends' kids in Mill Valley are not playing music in dim jazz clubs on Mission.

    It might make some parents nervous if I talked about the times my son and huge numbers of his classmates have left school when there's a big peace or protest march downtown (once or twice a year, but no more, I OK this). A big group of SOTA kids took Muni Metro downtown to rally for immigrants' rights last May 1. Another time a large group walked from SOTA to Dolores Park for a rally and joined up there with a huge march to Civic Center Plaza in protest of the Iraq war. Better than P.E., and not happening in the burbs!

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  8. Kate,
    I'm so glad you started this topic. I've found that my kids are getting the same things my friend's kids in the burbs are - minus the diversity and easy access to museums, arts, etc. Additionally, I believe that the diversity within the student body results in teachers that are more facile and willing to see and address each kid as an individual (recognizing that in a diverse city like SF, there isn't a one size fits all.) The teachers my kids have had are truly 'educators' in the best sense of the word (and much more innovative, passionate and talented than what I had in an affluent suburb way back when!)

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  9. i can't speak to the current state of urban public education - yet - since we're only applying to school for next year, but i have noticed one thing about teachers here in SF: they are the cream of the global economic crop. these people are teaching by choice; they could be doing anything. i know at least four SFUSD teachers personally -- all brilliant, passionate, talented -- who gave up lucrative careers in other professions because they were driven to teach. the handful of other, lifelong public schoolteachers i know are also outstanding individuals. i was educated in california public schools, mostly in middle-class suburbs. i can tell you that teachers who equaled these folks in talent, compassion, drive, awareness and commitment were extremely rare. there is also a sense that the educators here are "in it" with us; don't most or many of them have kids in the system themselves (my friends do, mostly)? these people are smart cookies. they could be doing anything, but they choose to be teaching in san francisco. that means a lot.

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  10. As I said in an earlier post, I agree that the schools in the suburbs -- at least Mill Valley, which is all I know about -- do not appear to be stunningly "better" than what I have been hearing about a lot of public schools in SF.
    But I can't get onboard with the notion that an urban childhood is richer or deeper than what you get in the suburbs. Do I think I had a richer, more soulful childhood than those of you who grew up in affluent suburbs because I grew up in San Francisco? Because I went to protest marches in high school (which I did)? Because bao from the defunct Dor Lim off Clement was my favorite afternoon snack? Because I rode Muni to school?
    I do not! It was a cool childhood. But for all the interesting cultural markers, it was still just a childhood and what really mattered were the friends, the anxieties, the homework, what was happening with my parents. I guess what I'm saying is, your kids aren't going to thank you later for staying in the City; they're going to grow up and make their own decisions about everything and probably end up very much like the people they'd be if they grew up in, say, Mill Valley. Or Milpitas. Or wherever. Stay for yourselves. Stay because it's a life you like and a city you love, and you're happier for being there -- not because it's better for your kids. They'll just grow up like me and move to Mill Valley for the sunshine.

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  11. Funny, because I'm the opposite of Jennifer -- grew up in Mill Valley, raising my kids in the city.

    I strongly feel my kids have a MUCH richer range of experiences here than I did growing up in Mill Valley. And I'd say Jennifer's description bears that out.

    Tam High has some diversity because low-income Marin City feeds into it. (And yes, this is why a number of parents sent their kids to private high school in my day -- they were not subtle about it -- and this does influence my view about private school.)

    But my K-8 schools were all but all-white. Even the Jewish kids kept quiet about their cultural identity. So it's perennially interesting to me that when my kids learned about world religions in 7th grade, there were Muslim kids (girls in hijabs) in their classes -- little things like that. Kids like that would have been like Martians in my 7th grade at Edna Maguire Jr. High (this was before M.V. Middle School was built).

    The diversity is only part of it, but it's a big part.

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  12. Hm. Proposition 13 did deprive all California schools of important funding, whether the schools are in the cities or in the suburbs. Affluent suburbs have been able to make up for it a bit via high property taxes and fundraising. But California public schools still remain about the 2nd or 3rd lowest performing in the country.

    Are there great public schools in California? Sure. But any public school in California is statistically likely to be lower-performing and less enriched than most others schools out of state. Not that you see me packing for Maryland or anything. There are other nice reasons to live here. (And YES Maryland schools are often nicely diverse, being so close to Washington, D.C..).

    I dream of the day when lawmakers and voters can be brave enough to repeal or at least pull back the horribly misguided and harmful Prop 13.

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  13. I went to school in the burbs and I want my kids to go to school in the city. I won't be surprised if my kids will want to send their kids (my grandkids) to school in the burbs. Although, I think this is deeper than a simplistic rebellion against my parents and their choices.

    For me, it doesn't really matter if the schools are "better" in the city or the burbs. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and I don't see one as clearly superior to the other. Over the past few months I have learned that the SF public schools are better than I thought, and that the schools in the burbs aren’t as amazing as I previously thought.

    I fall into the typical trap of wanting the best for my kids. I want them to have access to all the things I missed growing up in the burbs. I’m sure that my kids will most likely want the benefits of the burbs for their children, especially after swimming and running on the grass at my parents suburban homes. I'm waiting for the eventual Thanksgiving dinner when they both let me have it for forcing them to go to school in the city.

    I also think that many people are unlike me and feel more comfortable raising their kids in the environment that they grew up in. Often people have family in the burbs and they move back to the burbs to be closer to their family.

    I do think that SF public schools have an image problem, but if you take the time to look at them and talk to existing parents, there are some amazing schools, teachers, and principals. Although, I’ll withhold final judgment until my kid is actually assigned a school on my list, which is heavy on the “hidden gems” discussed in this blog and only includes two or three of the established “good” schools.

    Lastly, thanks to Kate for a great blog and forum for these issues.

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  14. My kids, at 17 and 13, are old enough now to let me know (forcefully) if they don't like one or another choices their parents have imposed on them. And for now, they are very, VERY onboard with being raised in the city.

    For one thing, they are the "An Inconvenient Truth" generation, and they can see how much less green our friends' lives in the 'burbs are (which of course is ironic) -- the big houses, the lawns, the need to drive everywhere at all times. My son turned 17 in October and doesn't drive yet, and says that's a green decision.

    They are also very aware of the diversity around them compared to suburban homogeneity. One of my daughter's best friends moved to Mill Valley over the summer -- before the start of her 8th-grade year -- thus, as my daughter says sardonically, doubling the Latino population of Mill Valley Middle School. And the amenities I previously mentioned as benefits of growing up in the city (taking Muni Metro to ACT as a class outing, playing in a dark jazz club on Mission) are very, very evident to my kids. I point them out, but they'd get it in any case.

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  15. Oh, and both my kids play Latin music -- and both play in bands designed to attract Latino youth and teach them the music of their heritage. (The bandleaders and most other band members are Latino.)

    Neither of my kids is Latino -- and no, they are not occupying spots that would otherwise be taken by Latino kids; they're filling a need for their particular instruments, trumpet and trombone. It may actually be that there are more such bands than there's a market for among Latino youth. But that aside, this is another great cultural enrichment not available in the 'burbs.

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  16. Mmm. The wonderful broad-mindedness of San Franciscans. . . I miss it! It was so much fun to feel superior to schlubs who chose the suburbs. Morally superior, environmentally superior, parentally superior, superior superior superior!
    What I do know, raising my children in Marin, is that they are growing up in a bubble -- a liberal, gay-friendly, Prius-driving, secular bubble. We have plenty of contact with Hispanics, primarily within our own family. What is going to really shock my kids is when they grow up and meet fundamentalist Christians, Republicans, and people who really WOULDN'T be okay with a girl wearing a hijab in a classroom -- or a boy who has two mommies. I think that whether there are four Hispanic kids in your grade, or forty, the similarities between a SF childhood and a Mill Valley childhood are greater than the differences, when you put them in context.

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  17. That last comment is undoubtedly true -- all our Bay Area kids would be on an alien planet anywhere outside our environment.

    But the greater issue is that everywhere -- absolutely everywhere -- we're surrounded by the message that responsible parents must flee the city for the suburbs, and/or flee urban public school, for the safety and well-being of their kids. This is a pervasive, ubiquitous message, and those of us speaking up to rebut it (and being branded smug and "morally superior" for our efforts) are tiny, little, barely heard voices trying to counter it.

    The Chron imparts the other view every day, since most of its staff (including Matier, Ross, Nevius and most top editors) live in wealthy white suburbs. This blog has caught fire and become a rare forum where we urban public school advocates can share our experience with parents poised to make important life choices.

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  18. I think the public schools in the city and suburbs both have their advantages and disadvantages. Riding the muni downtown to catch a play sounds great but so does having an organic garden and natural wetland on campus with a naturalist on staff as you get in Marin. Its too bad there is not more diversity in Marin/suburban schools and its dissapointing SF schools don't have PE daily and well funded art and music programs in every school.
    I can understand Caroline's frustration with parents fear of SF public schools. However, I would not want my kids, if I send them to SF schools, to come out with a "I'm better than you" attitude. What is one of the benefits of diversity? Too be more accepting? Not to feel you are a better person because you experienced it.
    Can you be pro SF public and still tolerate that something else might be as good or even better?

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  19. For Caroline and public school parents like her, please recognize that until very recently being middle-class, educated and making the choice to send your children to public schools branded you as practically committing child abuse.

    My husband's boss actually sat him down one day (when we decided to send our son to public kinder) and said that we were making a terrible mistake by doing so and that maybe we should consider looking for other ways to pay for private (like, giving my husband a raise?) Seriously.

    Another time someone I didn't know in the grocery line told me that they couldn't believe anyone would send their child to 'that school' (looking at my school spirit sweatshirt.) Now, parents on this list and elsewhere clamor to get into this former 'hidden gem.'

    Forgive us for being a bit defensive! I must admit, it's sometimes hard not to be! Especially against the vocal views of peers and colleagues who have made different choices (and, I might add in the case of my husband's boss - never stepped into a SF public school in her life!)

    Many have worked very hard as advocates of public schools to counter the prevailing and much louder communication that U.S., California and SF public schools don't provide a quality education.

    I'm THRILLED to see so many people on this blog share their positive views on SF public schools and that, when they actually went and checked out public schools for themselves, their minds were changed. (It's what happened to our family - we were going to leave town, too, until we found SF public schools to be a wonderful education for our 2 kids.)

    Little by little, more and more families are seeing that you CAN stay in SF, send your kids to public school, not go into hock, and enjoy living here for whatever reasons brought you here in the first place.

    As to the last comment, I always looked at it as a 'cost/benefit' analysis. What's 'better' for your family/kids might not be better for my family/kids. With many friends who chose private, I didn't see that they were getting more than we was for the significant investment required. And the hit to our family's bottom line would be significant - I'd have to go get a three figure salary just to pay for private school for two kids! As it is, we have much more flexibility and can use that $ for afterschool music, dance lessons, etc. that we wouldn't be able to afford if our kids were in private.

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  20. I think the image of SF public schools is slowly changing. My son started K in a public school this past August. Friends of mine (from outside the city, who went private or parochial) were impressed that we chose public -- "good for you!" Not sure how to take that. Good for you for supporting public schools -- someone has to do it and better you than me? Anyway, I suppose I should consider the comments supportive and I'll wait to truly impress them in years to come when my children prove to have had a great public education.

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  21. I used to live in suburbs and have several friends who send their children to public chools in places like Palo Alto. Hearing their stories leaves no doubt in my mind that public schools in the suburbs are not "better" than those in San Francisco. Many of the most frustrating aspects of public school, such as the curriculum limitations wrought by No Child Left Behind, are just as much if not more a factor in the suburbs. For example, in first grade in some districts the kids start taking weekly timed tests to prepare them for their standardized tests starting in second grade. Is that a good use of their school day? I don't think so... But test scores translate into real estate values, and there is a lot community interest in keeping them high.

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  22. Sock Puppet of the Great SatanDecember 27, 2007 at 12:27 PM

    "A Mill Valley parent posted here some time ago that they moved from the Sunset largely in search of SUNSHINE. If I ever left San Francisco, that might be the reason."

    Bernal, Mission, Potero, South Park, or get in on Dogpatch as it's coming up. Why leave the City for sunshine?

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  23. "My husband's boss actually sat him down one day (when we decided to send our son to public kinder) and said that we were making a terrible mistake by doing so and that maybe we should consider looking for other ways to pay for private (like, giving my husband a raise?) Seriously. "

    Hope your husband took the raise anyway.

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  24. To Sockpuppet: Not to belabor the issue, but having lived in Palo Alto for 4 years, before (years later) moving to the Mission (5 years), Bernal (5 years) and now Noe Valley (4 years), I can tell you from personal experience that no neighborhood in San Francisco is as warm and sunny as certain suburbs outside of the City such as Palo Alto.

    That said, I do agree that certain parts of Marin, e.g. Tiburon & Sausalito, are not warmer enough than SF to justify a move for weather, but if you get out to San Rafael to the north, Oakland to the East, and Menlo Park to the south, you can hit some sunny fog-free weather that is on average about 30 degrees warmer than most parts of SF.

    Of course, the Bay Area is filled with microclimates. It is true that on a typical day, the Mission will be in the sunny 70's when the Richmond is in the foggy 50's, but across the Bay in Walnut Creek they will be sweating it up in the 100's!

    I always find it odd that some people actually like the chilly fog here. I sure don't. But nonetheless, 13 years of complaining about the weather and I can't seem to get myself to leave!

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  25. We decided to stay in the city and send our kids to private school instead of "fleeing to the suburbs." We are so happy with the philosophy, focus, community, and resources provided by their school that if we ever DID decide to flee to the suburbs we would seek similar private school educations for them there. It's not about NOT supporting public schools; it's about supporting our idea of an ideal education. The cost is worth it to us.

    Here's an analogy: I buy organic, vegetarian, fair trade food for my family -- for both health and political reasons. I don't buy stuff like Skippy and Diet Coke in solidarity with the so many other people who can afford only stuff like Skippy and Diet Coke (or who like stuff like Skippy and Diet Coke!). Supporting agribusiness does not further the aim of access to good, healthy food for all. My money goes where my values and ideals (not to mention my taste buds) are being supported.

    Values and ideals, be they around education or food or whatever, do eventually permeate the culture. It's one reason why San Francisco public school curricula are improving and why Safeway now carries organic produce for the masses. Now, before everyone goes off about my implying that private school is a good role model for public school and Rainbow Market rocks, can we all stop and take a moment to FEEL THE LOVE?

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  26. I appreciate the private school poster's comments... question - What private schools do your children attend?

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  27. Social Engineer,

    What is it about your values and ideals that would stop you from sending your kids to public school? I am not sure I get the analogy. Public schools are like processed food? Less wholesome and don't provide the nutrients that private do? Low end? Just curious if you could clarify?

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  28. I would strongly dispute the notion that private school is organic fair trade and public is Skippy and Diet Coke.

    The previously made analogy comparing private school to buying a Hummer is more apt.

    Private schools have negative impact on the community, especially upon the most vulnerable members of the community (low-income, at-risk children). This is almost universally agreed; only someone in George-Bush-like resolute denial would dispute that.

    Buying a Hummer similarly has negative impact on the community, and a conscientious consumer considers that in making the choice. Claiming that buying a Hummer is actually good for the environment does not make it so, and really insults the intelligence of the participants in the discussion.

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  29. Sorry; the George Bush mention was overly inflammatory.

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  30. Blogger Tom said...
    "Hope your husband took the raise anyway."

    Ha! As if we was offered one at the time! Lot's of (bad and unsolicited) advice, but no more $$!

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  31. I realized not too long ago that I had been idealizing suburban schools and was thinking of them, and the possibility of moving to the burbs (for proximity to my husband's job), as if they would be exactly like they had been for me growing up in Walnut Creek in the 70's. That is, I had an assumption/ideal in my mind that kids were still riding their bikes to school, going through 12 years of school with the same kids, maybe women in hair nets serving food cooked onsite, kids playing kick the can in the streets at night. (Do you hear the tinkling of my misty fantasy sound track?)

    Turns out those days are largely gone, suburbs or not. But the biggest eye opener for me was this: One of my reasons for not even considering the "best" private schools in the City has been my disinterest in my son being around too many entitled/rich kids (generalization here noted and acknowledged.) As upper middle class white folks ourselves, I already feel like I need to impose manifactured hardship on the little guy some how or another to build some character. I just don't want him in a situation with kids who will all have, and expect, expensive stuff, elaborate vacations, etc.

    So here I had this fantasy that if we had to move to the burbs, that the schools would have a home spun, everykid kind of feel to them.

    I was talking to a friend in Menlo Park and she said they had been to a fundrasing auction at her daughter's school. She said she couldn't believe the extravagant items for bid, the most impressive one having been a PRIVATE VIEWING OF THE MONA LISA (for godssake) with airfare and accomodations. I said to her "I thought Holly went to a public school." and she said (you guessed it) "She does!"

    Shattered my whole illusion - which was a good thing.

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  32. oh goodness YES. I have good friends who pulled their children from Palo Alto public schools, into a religious day school, because they couldn't take the materialism and (lack of) values.

    That said, like with all things, YMMV. The "lower" income Palo Alto and Menlo Park neighborhoods (South Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, the Willows) often have more down-to-earth and diverse student populations.

    We spent several years shopping for real estate in MP and PA, and ultimately decided that our children would have a more diverse and interesting school experience in San Francisco whether they attended public OR private here.

    FWIW, I'm a person looking at both private and public, and I can't relate at all to the organic-food-shopper so-called "social engineer" above. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I think she is saying that it is worth it to her to spend the money on the BEST education possible, and in her opinion, the BEST education is at a private school. She compares BEST school with organic food in that it is the most nutritious for her family. Unfortunately the implication was that she spends the money on the more expensive, better, education, and people who don't spend the money are not getting educations that are as good. What is missing here is the fact that a private school education seems to be best for HER, and maybe a public is best for someone else - regardless of the cost!

    So that is why it is hard to "feel the love," that she instructs us to feel, I guess. The implication is that she loves her family a lot more than public school parents do! Or something.

    Anyway, I just want to make it clear that not all people considering private schools agree with her!

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  33. Also agree suburban publics are overrated and idealized by SF parents. The school search last year in SF made us realize that high test scores in Piedmont, Orinda etc is in part due to the demographics of the students they serve: largely Caucasian, affluent kids of well-educated parents -- not necessarily because the suburban publics themselves are that much more superior. (Perhaps we should have realized this, but we had seriously considered moving to the East Bay for schools until we figured this out). Re some of the SF publics, if you drill down to account for subgroups' scores (eg, English learner, special needs, etc) and compare students with demographics similar to the suburban kids, one realizes that they compare quite favorably while providing the benefit (in our view) of serving a more diverse demographic.

    The one benefit of suburban publics, though, is the community feel of having your kids and everyone in the hood walk to the same school.

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  34. The implication is that she loves her family a lot more than public school parents do!

    Well, I know for certain that I love my family a lot more than public school parents love my family. At least some of the ones posting here. But that's not what you meant.... Anyway, l repeat: "...it's about supporting our idea of an ideal education. The cost is worth it to us." If private school is not your idea of an ideal education, no problem. If it is your idea of an ideal education but the cost or the financial aid application process is a barrier, you'll do the best you can -- it has nothing to do with love. If public school is your idea of an ideal education, great! Your ideals are yours. For me, Safeway feeds my body; Rainbow feeds my soul. Public school may be your Rainbow. Private school is my Rainbow. Or maybe you're not even looking for a Rainbow. Clearly, I believe that a private school education (urban or suburban) is better for my children than a public school one (and that Rainbow is better than Safeway). It is your right to believe that I am misinformed -- either about what is good for my family or what public school has to offer it. But your beliefs don't make you right (or wrong). If you belief a jolly fat man in a red suit comes down the chimney, you'll probably get presents. If you don't, you'll probably still get presents. A comment like "Private schools have negative impact on the community.... This is almost universally agreed...." is limited both by the assumption that it is the majority belief, and by the assumption that the majority is always right. It's easy to build a house of cards: "private school = Hummer; Hummer = bad; therefore private school = bad. But this is just pretzel logic; your conclusion is already deeply reflected in your first construct.

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  35. Social Engineer shows the private school mentality at its most simplistic. He or she appears to believe that what costs more must be better in every way. This leads to thinking that public schools (cheap) are like Skippy and Diet Coke while private schools (expensive) are like Fair Trade or Organic food. In fact Fair Trade organizations aim to help the community, and are thus much more like public schools. Organic food is about changing things (public schools) not supporting the status quo (private schools).

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  36. To me, so much is represented by the choice, of all things, of RAINBOW GROCERY as an example of the ideal good. Goodness gracious, we have boycotted that store since 2002, when they first took a stand against Israel. Repeated accusations of anti-semitism have kept us out:

    http://bestof.sfweekly.com/2007-07-18/news/no-peace-prize-for-you/

    Also, the cliches - "house of cards," "pretzel logic," "first construct" ... yikes! Maybe private schools teach good writing and reasoning skills ... but perhaps they should offer classes for parents as well ;)

    It's too bad - there is probably a point in there somewhere. Just not visible or well articulated.

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  37. here's the rainbow grocery story from the SF Weekly (more are available via google):

    http://tinyurl.com/292zo6

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  38. Social Engineer,

    You never answered the question, what is it about private schools that are better? Sounds black or white, wheverer you would go , you would go private. That is your ideal but what is ideal about it in comparison to public- please share. Can you leave out references to food or grocery stores. I am interested to hear what you value and idealize about them? Sounds like you would not go public anywhere.

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  39. You never answered the question, what is it about private schools that are better?

    Do you mean better for our family? I'm not trying to sell my values to anyone else here as the above phrasing implies. In a different forum this might be an interesting topic of conversation, but given the climate here, ANY answer I give would likely be countered with: You are a) George Bush, b) Stupid, or c) Satan. So, I decline to state -- for the moment anyway.

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  40. The poster likes the private school - no problem. Which SF private do you like (and send your kids to...) and what do you like about it? Just curious...

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  41. This is the forum and I an interested in hearing from the private school side. It would be helpful if you could elaborate on your views. There are not as many private school supporters on the forum.

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  42. Seriously, I think that the negative responses are just in response to the way that the comments were worded. The skippy/diet coke thing didn't go over well. And neither did the rainbow grocery thing. And writing in all one paragraph makes it hard to follow. But my experience here is that it is okay to like private schools.

    After all, Kate is applying to two privates as well as publics and has made it quite clear that she absolutely adores the private schools. She writes at great length the things she relishes about MCDS -- the beautiful campus, the curriculum, the teachers, the integration with the environment, etc. It seems to be primarily the cost (and possibly the location, lesser so) that she doesn't like. It's all reasonable stuff.

    I'm one of the people looking at both private and public, and for me, some of the privates offer things that many of the publics lack, including, notably, religious practice. That hasn't been discussed here much. Additionally, some private schools have incredibly enriched music and art programs, and the smaller student-to-teacher ratio can be very helpful to many children (some children don't need that as much, it seems to me). Meanwhile, there are some public schools that offer things that you just cannot get at a private school for any price -- AFY and Flynn may be examples of that. (And yes, I know there is CAIS, but AFY just seems special.) (I'm biased.) (And, to each their own!)

    Several Friends school parents have posted here (or maybe it is the same one, who knows) saying that they enjoy the curriculum and the approach. Personally, I would enjoy hearing from other private school parents speaking about what they think they are getting out of the experience. Often, I hear that people chose private because they didn't get one of their top choice public and they didn't want to go through the appeals process (this has changed drastically over the past several years, thankfully). Others do it because, well, they can afford it and they had the time to go through the application process, and they got in, so why not? Many people move back and forth in and out of schools.

    It's funny how we allow so much of this to define ourselves, and our identity. What happens if we do so and then later change our minds?

    At any rate, I'm curious about why social engineer chose that for his/her pseudonym. What is it about being a private school parent that makes one a social engineer? Or is s/he a social engineer in a different way?

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  43. May I just return to the PE question for a moment? It is my understanding that kids are required to get a certain number of instructional minutes of PE every week -- and that it roughly amounts to 30 minutes per day (at least in elementary school). So I don't understand the posters who are saying that kids only get PE once a week in SFUSD. You might have misunderstood the amount of time a certified PE instructor is working with the kids, teaching a PE curriculum -- that would probably be 2x a week in most schools, and maybe less in schools that aren't doing much fundraising. But the fact remains that even if there isn't a dedicated PE instructor at a school, the teacher is taking the kids outside for the equivalent of 30 minutes a day for physical exercise, playing kickball or tag or another game.

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  44. The other thing I noticed on my tours was that a lot of the PE is crunched in to the kids schedule as an organized activity during lunch and then they only have 15 minutes to eat and no time for free play. I find this depressing and also puzzling. For example, the principal at McKinley said that if she didn't do that then she would have nowhere to put it since the required instructional minutes add up to longer than there is in a school day. My question is: How can that happen? From what I know K in the burbs is only a half day, SF has full day kindergarten and they have the kids doing directed activities all day long, even at lunch? When do they get to be kids? The whole thing just doesn't make any sense to me and is also what has me seriously contemplating alternative choices to public school.

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  45. Social engineering is the attempt to affect popular beliefs and social behavior using communications technology. The social engineer moniker fits anyone here posting an opinion that favors either public school or private school, even as most choose to be known as anonymous.

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  46. That was one thing i liked about public schools in the burbs I toured. PE every day on the playground for 30 minutes and 3 outdoor recess times with ample play area, play structure etc. Seems important in childhood. Bummer, I did not find any city school offered that same quality of outdoor/play time. Atleast for k-5 it would be nice.

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  47. It may be true at McKinley that lunch recess is directed activity, but that's not the case at every SFUSD school. It's not the case at my kids' school for sure. Lunch recess is lunch recess.

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  48. From what I understand, there are two recesses at most of the schools, but none of that is activity directed by a PE instructor (ex. the instructor organizes the games, gets the kids to play together, nicely, teaches them new games.) The schools who raise lots of money or get a grant pay for a PE instructor to come once or twice a week during that time to give that instruction.

    I really truly find the whole thing disheartening, that in such a rich country and state and county we cannot send our children to public schools and expect them to receive directed physical education, as well as music, art, theater, foreign language, etc. all paid for by the state. These should not be thought of as extras that the parent council must raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and then choose between the variety of programs. These are an integral part of a well balanced and rich education. This is the main reason that I only see the public schools as an alternative only if my child doesn't get into any of the privates we are applying to. I just find the whole thing very depressing.

    I don't think the publics in the burbs are much better, they just look better in their phycial spaces, but other than that, I think they are about the same.

    Sorry, just had to vent a bit.

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  49. Agree with last poster. Prop 13 makes me resent California and Californians.

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  50. Completely off topic, but regarding resenting Californians because of Prop. 13:

    I'm pretty sure (!) I'm a lot older than most parents reading this blog, plus I've lived in California all my life. Sorry to sound like I'm sniping, but I have to clarify:

    Prop. 13 passed in 1978, when I was 24. It was an "angry old men's" project, devised and supported by white guys then in their 70s. In fact, I wondered if it was my parents' generation's revenge upon my "sex-drugs-and-rock'n'roll" generation.

    If I go into further detail I'll sound like some kind of aging rebellious youth, forever embittered at my parents. But suffice it to say that ALL Californians do not get the blame for Prop. 13.

    It was my generation whose kids faced suddenly starved schools, who had to live with the suddenly unmaintained infrastructure, and who had to pay exponentially more taxes on the exact same house than the elderly guy next door. The generations behind me live with those social ills too.

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  51. Our daughter was in public school in Lafayette through 8th grade. It seemed that once the bigger class sizes hit after 3rd grade, she got lost, neither slow to get extra attention nor brilliant enough to figure it all out for herself. Some of her friends were doing well in Lafayette public school and some were not doing particularly well at all. She seemed to be drifting down the wrong fork of the river. With her assent, she enrolled in a private school in SF (Convent) for high school because we wanted to live in the City and we were concerned that the work she was doing was far below her capacity. We felt she'd have a better chance to catch up for college at a small school with lots of personal attention. The all-girls environment was her choice. We had some issues in our own backgrounds as well that motivated us. My husband's siblings a few generations ago and friends with kids our daughter's generation had bad experiences with kids getting in with non-college oriented crowds at large public high schools and spending years, even decades, off track. Also, I grew up in a well-off Seattle suburb and spent grades K-7 in public school and 8-12 in private school. K-4 were pretty good, but then we moved to a series of not-so-great districts, and the move to private school was like switching from Burger King to Boulevard. A small private school challenged me to work to capacity and insisted I get it right, where I had been allowed to drift in public school after 4th grade. It's not that the kids in private school were perfect or there were no drugs or bad behavior. Some kids in private school were spoiled brats and some did drugs and some had dysfunctional families, just like at any school. But at Convent (and my own private school), the socialization was all college-bound, even the relatively messed-up kids, and our daughter got a lot of great attention and confidence-building. The quality of her actual work improved more than I think it would have had she stayed in a big public high school with less personal attention. She's very proud of having lived and gone to school in San Francisco rather than suburbia during her high school years. I feel it was the right choice for our daughter at that particular time of her life, and I'm happy to say she's doing very well in college.
    Bottom line as to whether suburbs are better than city, or whether private is better than public? It depends on the school and it depends on the kid. I would not judge anyone for sending their kid to private school if they honestly think it's in the best interest of their child, whether the perceived benefit is small classes, access to a sport, access to a foreign language, or whatever is important to you and your child. But assuming there's no special need, I don't think it's possible to say that private is inherently "better" than public, or suburban inherently "better" than urban.

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  52. Our daughter was in public school in Lafayette through 8th grade. It seemed that once the bigger class sizes hit after 3rd grade, she got lost, neither slow to get extra attention nor brilliant enough to figure it all out for herself. Some of her friends were doing well in Lafayette public school and some were not doing particularly well at all. She seemed to be drifting down the wrong fork of the river. With her assent, she enrolled in a private school in SF (Convent) for high school because we wanted to live in the City and we were concerned that the work she was doing was far below her capacity. We felt she'd have a better chance to catch up for college at a small school with lots of personal attention. The all-girls environment was her choice. We had some issues in our own backgrounds as well that motivated us. My husband's siblings a few generations ago and friends with kids our daughter's generation had bad experiences with kids getting in with non-college oriented crowds at large public high schools and spending years, even decades, off track. Also, I grew up in a well-off Seattle suburb and spent grades K-7 in public school and 8-12 in private school. K-4 were pretty good, but then we moved to a series of not-so-great districts, and the move to private school was like switching from Burger King to Boulevard. A small private school challenged me to work to capacity and insisted I get it right, where I had been allowed to drift in public school after 4th grade. It's not that the kids in private school were perfect or there were no drugs or bad behavior. Some kids in private school were spoiled brats and some did drugs and some had dysfunctional families, just like at any school. But at Convent (and my own private school), the socialization was all college-bound, even the relatively messed-up kids, and our daughter got a lot of great attention and confidence-building. The quality of her actual work improved more than I think it would have had she stayed in a big public high school with less personal attention. She's very proud of having lived and gone to school in San Francisco rather than suburbia during her high school years. I feel it was the right choice for our daughter at that particular time of her life, and I'm happy to say she's doing very well in college.
    Bottom line as to whether suburbs are better than city, or whether private is better than public? It depends on the school and it depends on the kid. I would not judge anyone for sending their kid to private school if they honestly think it's in the best interest of their child, whether the perceived benefit is small classes, access to a sport, access to a foreign language, or whatever is important to you and your child. But assuming there's no special need, I don't think it's possible to say that private is inherently "better" than public, or suburban inherently "better" than urban.

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  53. Our daughter was in public school in Lafayette through 8th grade. It seemed that once the bigger class sizes hit after 3rd grade, she got lost, neither slow to get extra attention nor brilliant enough to figure it all out for herself. Some of her friends were doing well in Lafayette public school and some were not doing particularly well at all. She seemed to be drifting down the wrong fork of the river. With her assent, she enrolled in a private school in SF (Convent) for high school because we wanted to live in the City and we were concerned that the work she was doing was far below her capacity. We felt she'd have a better chance to catch up for college at a small school with lots of personal attention. The all-girls environment was her choice. We had some issues in our own backgrounds as well that motivated us. My husband's siblings a few generations ago and friends with kids our daughter's generation had bad experiences with kids getting in with non-college oriented crowds at large public high schools and spending years, even decades, off track. Also, I grew up in a well-off Seattle suburb and spent grades K-7 in public school and 8-12 in private school. K-4 were pretty good, but then we moved to a series of not-so-great districts, and the move to private school was like switching from Burger King to Boulevard. A small private school challenged me to work to capacity and insisted I get it right, where I had been allowed to drift in public school after 4th grade. It's not that the kids in private school were perfect or there were no drugs or bad behavior. Some kids in private school were spoiled brats and some did drugs and some had dysfunctional families, just like at any school. But at Convent (and my own private school), the socialization was all college-bound, even the relatively messed-up kids, and our daughter got a lot of great attention and confidence-building. The quality of her actual work improved more than I think it would have had she stayed in a big public high school with less personal attention. She's very proud of having lived and gone to school in San Francisco rather than suburbia during her high school years. I feel it was the right choice for our daughter at that particular time of her life, and I'm happy to say she's doing very well in college.
    Bottom line as to whether suburbs are better than city, or whether private is better than public? It depends on the school and it depends on the kid. I would not judge anyone for sending their kid to private school if they honestly think it's in the best interest of their child, whether the perceived benefit is small classes, access to a sport, access to a foreign language, or whatever is important to you and your child. But assuming there's no special need, I don't think it's possible to say that private is inherently "better" than public, or suburban inherently "better" than urban.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Our daughter was in public school in Lafayette through 8th grade. It seemed that once the bigger class sizes hit after 3rd grade, she got lost, neither slow to get extra attention nor brilliant enough to figure it all out for herself. Some of her friends were doing well in Lafayette public school and some were not doing particularly well at all. She seemed to be drifting down the wrong fork of the river. With her assent, she enrolled in a private school in SF (Convent) for high school because we wanted to live in the City and we were concerned that the work she was doing was far below her capacity. We felt she'd have a better chance to catch up for college at a small school with lots of personal attention. The all-girls environment was her choice. We had some issues in our own backgrounds as well that motivated us. My husband's siblings a few generations ago and friends with kids our daughter's generation had bad experiences with kids getting in with non-college oriented crowds at large public high schools and spending years, even decades, off track. Also, I grew up in a well-off Seattle suburb and spent grades K-7 in public school and 8-12 in private school. K-4 were pretty good, but then we moved to a series of not-so-great districts, and the move to private school was like switching from Burger King to Boulevard. A small private school challenged me to work to capacity and insisted I get it right, where I had been allowed to drift in public school after 4th grade. It's not that the kids in private school were perfect or there were no drugs or bad behavior. Some kids in private school were spoiled brats and some did drugs and some had dysfunctional families, just like at any school. But at Convent (and my own private school), the socialization was all college-bound, even the relatively messed-up kids, and our daughter got a lot of great attention and confidence-building. The quality of her actual work improved more than I think it would have had she stayed in a big public high school with less personal attention. She's very proud of having lived and gone to school in San Francisco rather than suburbia during her high school years. I feel it was the right choice for our daughter at that particular time of her life, and I'm happy to say she's doing very well in college.
    Bottom line as to whether suburbs are better than city, or whether private is better than public? It depends on the school and it depends on the kid. I would not judge anyone for sending their kid to private school if they honestly think it's in the best interest of their child, whether the perceived benefit is small classes, access to a sport, access to a foreign language, or whatever is important to you and your child. But assuming there's no special need, I don't think it's possible to say that private is inherently "better" than public, or suburban inherently "better" than urban.

    ReplyDelete