Wednesday, March 19, 2008

K Files Council: Paul Revere vs. Miraloma?

Question: What is the difference between a "Paul Revere" and a "Miraloma"?

The Miraloma-type schools seem great when I walk around them. They have nice facilities and people, lots of happy faces, plenty of enrichment activities, parent involvement, et cetera, But are they really better than the "Paul Reveres"? I wonder if it is simply that at schools like Paul Revere, I (an upper middle class Anglo) feel out of place. The kids and adults look different than me and speak a different language. Is Miraloma a "good school" merely because it is a familiar place? Is Paul Revere equally good?


  1. Simply stated, you hit the nail right on the head. Thanks for having the courage to self-diagnose what others will never admit to.

    People "feel" comfortable at schools like Rooftop, Clarendon, and Lilienthal, Towns, Hamlin, etc. when they perceive comfort.

  2. Paul Revere 'looks' like Miraloma did just a few short years ago. The only thing that changed for Miraloma was that word got on that school and the underenrolled school of 245 kids now has 360 kids - with the additional 115 of whom come from closer to the neighborhood (and are still very diverse.)

    Like Miraloma, Paul Revere has a stellar principal, a dynamic - and rather new and invigorated- teaching staff and interest from families in the area.

  3. I didn't tour Paul Revere, and we weren't assigned there, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about it as I toured Sheridan (our assigned school) and a few other underenrolled schools we looked at for Round II. Sheridan, for example, is an amazing school in many ways: high academic achievement, high standards for its students, dynamic principal, a belief in integrating subjects and depth learning etc.... but I was still left with a feeling that my son would be really out of place. Why? Is it just the student population (not the ethnic mix, which was similar to other schools we looked at, but level of poverty)?

    I've thought long and hard about this. Sheridan has uniforms and the students have to walk down the halls with the "Sheridan Walk" (hands behind back, no jostling, walking in a line). I can clearly see that these policies make sense for Sheridan and have resulted in virtually no bullying, more safety on campus etc. etc. but it still feels rigid to me. The writing work in the halls (but not the accompanying art) was very cookie cutter. The emphasis is on writing at the school and they teach it well, but when I toured schools I really liked to see creativity and depth in the writing. They also teach to the test (they test each student every 6 weeks to see how everyone is doing and make sure no kids are falling through the cracks). Again, this has resulted in there being no achievement gap --a remarkable achievement!-- but I still don't feel it fits with what we want for our son. The kids really seemed to be learning, but they didn't look happy --there wasn't a lot of joy I saw in the classrooms. Now this may have been the day I went and not indicative of the school at all... and I should also say that at not a few of the very high demand schools I looked at (West Portal, for example) the kids also seemed tired and stressed out... but I really can't imagine our child there.

    I'm curious --when you looked at Paul Revere, did the kids seem relaxed and happy? Did the work on display in the classrooms and the hall seem creative, individual, and up-to-date (no Halloween displays in March, for example)? Did the teachers seem organized and not burnt out, the rooms colorful with student work at eye level? Did the kids seem squirmy or were they focused and interested?

    Those were my main criteria for evaluating any school and I've been happy with the somewhat surprising list we ended up with (Though we did get 0/7 in the first round, I believe our waitpool choice will not be a high demand school!)

    By the way, Miraloma was our #2 choice, I felt it had a lot of those happy/sunny/creative factors!

  4. I think the biggest difference in public schools is the test scores. Miraloma's are higher than Revere.

    At George Moscone in the Mission, you won't see a white face there. Mainly latin and asian. Yet they have some of the HIGHEST test scores in the city. A terrific school. Yet you never hear about it, and it is not over popular.

    By the way, I for one felt totally uncomfortable at a virtually all-white top private during the tour and interviews. While the kids were doing their playdate, I looked around at all those women with their size 0 jeans and just couldn't believe it.

    And each classroom we toured had all these blonde pink skin blue eyed kids. And the tour director kept talking about diversity. Made me cringe.

    And I have blonde hair pink skin and blue eyes.

    I want diversity and color, and most parents do too.

  5. Lorraine here--
    I recently shared with someone that the year we started giving tours of Miraloma that visiting parents noted that there was absolutely nothing on the hallway walls of the school. Those long tile halls and the shiny floor looked clean and squeaky - sort of like a hospital -- but not the best feeling for a school. It was a turnoff for many parents. It's not that the great work wasn't happening, it just wasn't part of the conciousness of the school to feature it at the time. Parents offered to help the teachers by putting out the work on display boards, not only to show it off to visitors but also to show it off to each other! And parents were glad to help- I would rather have our teachers spending their precious time on other educational and student specific areas and offer to help with administrative tasks like this.

    Soon the culture of the school changed - teachers did, too - and now you see art, poetry and learning proudly displayed on every available surface (I know that our new principal also makes a point of this encouraging teachers now.)

    For some schools, it just takes some help, support and assistance by parents. It's a new idea in public education to have to 'market' your public school. And unlike privates, there is no one but volunteers to do it!

    (Read 'Bowling Alone' by Robert Pullman. and how Americans now see ourselves as 'consumers' more and less as 'citizens'. We expect to be served - but it's had a detrimental impact on community, voting, etc. Of course it's more complicated than that but it's an interesting read!)

    Anyway, someday, some of you will be remembering what people thought/felt/perceived about the 'old' Paul Revere and others will not believe that such a popular school could ever have been anything but!

  6. (they test each student every 6 weeks to see how everyone is doing and make sure no kids are falling through the cracks)
    All public elementary schools assess kids every six weeks for the grading period - and to make sure no one is falling through the cracks! Assessments are not the same as standardized tests, though. How they do it varies by grade and subject.

  7. Imagine this -- You, as a parent, walk into a kindergarten classroom, seeing students moving freely to and fro, working independently yet freely on whatever that is occupying their young bright mind at that point. As you listen, there's plenty of laughter and conversation amongst the children in the room. Student A and Student B are talking about subject XYZ. Student C and Student D are talking about subject LMN. And so on and so forth...

    Now imagine this, again, you, as a parent -- In this kindergarten classroom, students are sitting on the classroom rug, with the teacher facilitating an activity. Naturally, being that the students, at this point at least, isn't allowed to do what some of them would rather do, aren't all focused. Most of them are focused and interested in the group activity, but a few aren't.

    If you all you want is a happy child and nothing else, choose classroom A. If you want a child who is learning, choose classroom B.

    Ask yourself, were you always bright eyed and bushy tailed every single day when you were an elementary school student?

    Or try this, ask yourself, are you happier not having to go to work and being able to do anything and everything you want, whenever you want; or are you happier at your work place?

  8. I think the biggest difference in public schools is the test scores. Miraloma's are higher than Revere.
    But Miraloma's average test scores were among the lowest until recently. Some groups have gone up, but others haven't kept up (basically, the same challenge the entire SFUSD is facing.) The overall test score average can be very misleading and generally reflects the overall socioeconomic levels of a school.

    Look at test trends and especially trends in subgroups that are reflected in the achievement gap - not absolute averages at only one point in time. Is everyone's score going up?

    My point is: there is so much more than test scores and you have to use them with discretion!

  9. Ever hear yourself saying, "I want diversity in the classroom, but I don't want my child to be THE diversity in the classroom?" Pray tell, without starting out with a token number of (you fill in the blank) children in the classroom/at the school, how can the classroom/school ever become truly diverse? So if you don't want your child to be the token guinea pig, guess it's better that someone else's child be that token guinea pig?

    Somewhat relatedly, a few weeks ago, I went through this interview process where 7 European Americans grilled me (not European American) about how, as the head of HR, I would bring more diversity to their organization. Thinking that my answer would be truthful and a bit humorous, I started of by stating, "Well, you would need to start by hiring one or two qualified minority to begin with."

    To cut to the chase, the person they hired was, yes, you guessed it, European American.

    And how important was diversity to these people?

  10. My husband and I were discussing just this evening the impact of seeing art in the halls of schools we toured. We noted that West Portal, Rosa Parks (Japanese bilingual) and Alice Fong Yu were not as overflowing on the walls as others schools. It occurred to me that since, generally speaking, in Asian cultures one should not boast about one's accomplishments, this may explain the lack of "boasting" on the walls. Just a thought.

  11. Does it really have to do with how people look physically? If most of the students in one of the schools being compared come from underprivileged homes, they might be more stressed out. If you don't have enough resources, your caretakers or others in your community are stressed out by poverty, you might need more structure as kids from underprivileged homes often do. The students from a Miraloma type of school might mostly come from homes where there are more resources. Think about those differences. A school like Paul Revere needs activist parents who can get involved in the school community and educate themselves about what's happening in the lives of others that might be different from their own. Think about it: the kids at the underprivileged schools might like to have some of that "perceived comfort" stated above.

  12. good topic.

    we toured both miraloma and paul revere. liked them both a lot. in fact, equally, but for different reasons.

    it is true that throughout the touring process, a sort of code seems to have developed to express middle class people's discomfort with the presence of too many poor kids: "there wasn't much diversity there, if you know what i mean." i can't deny that i could -- did? -- have this feeling in a couple of places around town. i didn't like the feeling, but there it is. i also heard this so many times: "my son is just this little tow-headed, blue-eyed cherub. how's going to feel, being the only one of his kind...." blah blah blah...this one, i don't care for so much. truly, as a jewish person, it tweaks my there's-a-whiteness-scale alarm. it bugs. it's like, you think kids of color don't feel that way in the larger world of white people? there's this weird implication that white kids are more fragile...blah, blah,, i doubt the kids have been as saturated with racial awareness as we have.

    that said, i just didn't have that feeling at revere. i would send my daughter to school there tomorrow, regardless of whether she'd be the only white kid (and, yes, she's my blond-haired, blue-eyed cherub). the reason? revere is a great school. it is a safe school. the teachers are vibrant, the kids alert and enthusiastic (i felt their enthusiasm was matched by the students' at only one other school i visited -- flynn), the principal fabulous, the administrators involved and warm, the parents -- and grandparents! -- goes on. because we went 0/7 and desire immersion, i was thrilled to see how great it was. it will be top of our amended list (or thereabouts). of course, because it's a dream school and "in recovery," there are concerns. but we think they're all manageable; it has the bones of a great school.

  13. I was concerned that 21 of Revere's teachers got pink slipped (since the ave years teaching is 6 at PR shoudl explain why).

    Hopefully that won't happen.

  14. Also concerned that the extra hour of enrichment will be taken away with any budget cuts. The PTA currently isn't raising the money to make up for that hour.

    Otherwise, we would put it on top.

  15. it's my understanding that the extra hour -- part of the dream school mandate -- is there to augment three Rs instruction, not "enrichment" in the common sense of the word (arts, music, etc.). but principal tagamori explained that within that mandate they are trying to make it interesting and not dry or rote or anything like that. and they use the time for other things too: he explained that, when faced with the choice of whether to offer advanced math or some sort of typical course for the middle-school students, they chose the advanced option even though they were lagging already. they used that extra time to ensure that all the students were able to keep up. i like that ambition!

    i don't know what the results of the pink slipping will be, except that everyone seems to think that they simply find a source of cash and hire those teachers back as needed, year after year. it is true that most of revere's teachers are young and don't have seniority. i kind of thought that was a good thing for revere -- they have a few veterans and lots of new blood + energy.

  16. What does PR have for before/after school options? I missed that on my tour.

  17. re: afterschool. i seem to recall that there is aftercare and it is free (because so many students qualify for free lunch). there is a pre-school breakfast option that starts at 7-something, but i don't know if you have to qualify for that.

  18. Some points about pink slipping, though I don't have a FULL grasp of this:

    School districts are required to notify, by a certain date, everyone who might remotely possibly be laid off if there's a chance their budget will make that necessary. The budget needs to be done by the start of the fiscal year. They answer to the state Dept. of Ed on this. School districts are required to have their budgets done by a certain date, and you know all those times the state budget is late? When that happens, school districts have to have their budgets done before they know how much money they'll have (their money mainly comes from the state). So if there's any doubt, the pink slips have to go out, by seniority.

    This year, it's certain that there will be budget disaster in districts throughout the state. But we are very lucky in SFUSD that the city put aside the Rainy Day Fund, including money to bail out the school district when it meets certain criteria indicating disaster. (Thank you Tom Ammiano for that whole concept!) That money will make up most (not all) of the shortfall. Anyway, one of the criteria for that to kick in is that the school district has to have pink-slipped X amount of teachers.

    So, all those pink slips don't actually mean disaster, though the situation isn't pretty.

    This is hellishly complicated and just plain hellish. It's time for all of us to speak up loudly and declare: We are willing to pay enough taxes to maintain our public services so that we can be a civilized society instead of a Third World country. The generation that pushed through Prop. 13 and the notion that "no taxes, no services" is a great design for a society is no longer running the show.

  19. Some points about pink slipping, though I don't have a FULL grasp of this:

    School districts are required to notify, by a certain date, everyone who might remotely possibly be laid off if there's a chance their budget will make that necessary. The budget needs to be done by the start of the fiscal year. They answer to the state Dept. of Ed on this. School districts are required to have their budgets done by a certain date, and you know all those times the state budget is late? When that happens, school districts have to have their budgets done before they know how much money they'll have (their money mainly comes from the state). So if there's any doubt, the pink slips have to go out, by seniority.

    This year, it's certain that there will be budget disaster in districts throughout the state. But we are very lucky in SFUSD that the city put aside the Rainy Day Fund, including money to bail out the school district when it meets certain criteria indicating disaster. (Thank you Tom Ammiano for that whole concept!) That money will make up most (not all) of the shortfall. Anyway, one of the criteria for that to kick in is that the school district has to have pink-slipped X amount of teachers.

    So, all those pink slips don't actually mean disaster, though the situation isn't pretty.

    This is hellishly complicated and just plain hellish. It's time for all of us to speak up loudly and declare: We are willing to pay enough taxes to maintain our public services so that we can be a civilized society instead of a Third World country. The generation that pushed through Prop. 13 and the notion that "no taxes, no services" is a great design for a society is no longer running the show.

  20. Does anyone know if SF's Rainy Day Fund is sufficiently large to get our schools through more than the 2008-09 year? I'm very glad it exists, but how soon will those funds run out? And then what?

  21. I recently asked someone on the school board about the rainy day fund. My impression is that they would stretch it over at LEAST two years (given that it took 4 years to accrue) and that --if the Governor's funding cuts are passed as is --this would mean that the rainy day fund would close about half of the gap in funding for 2007-8. I think everyone is hoping that there will be a combination of the cuts not being as big as feared, and the Rainy Day Fund closing some of the gaps.

    While I can't imagine that all of the pink-slipped teachers will be fired, I don't think it's a given at all that they will all remain either. It's criminal!

  22. the rainy day funds are a one time option of about 30 million - that 30 million will be stretched over two years (about 15 million next year and 15 million the year after as it is expected the budget situation will remain grim). It is NOT enough to cover all the cuts and there will undoubtedly be some cuts - no one knows at this point how deep as the state budget will not be finalized until summer, but a better idea will be had in May.

  23. I agree that seeing kids happy, relaxed, and engaged, and seeing an attractive setting, where the teachers/parents obviously care about showing the kids' work are key factors to comfort. In that case, a place like Paul Revere makes a lot of sense.

    I also believe that the ethnic/racial diversity is not problematic for us.

    But the question always comes up in my mind about the poverty issue. What happens when a teacher has a classroom full of students who are not getting basic supports at home (because their parents are over-worked, over-stressed, etc.)? Wouldn't that take precedence over providing creative, expansive lessons and activities? Wouldn't the teacher need to orient the curriculum toward basic skills? Wouldn't this limit the attention the teacher could give toward stretching minds?

    Difficult questions for me to resolve. Glad everyone is chiming in.

  24. On the budget cuts and SFUSD:
    We are lucky not only for the Rainy Day Fund, but also a portion of Prop H which this year is being recommended to cover the basics. This means between 1/2 of the Rainy Day Fund (about $15 million) and the 1/3 third of Prop H ($15 million) the City of San Francisco (in other words YOUR money) may help cover $30 million of the $40 million projected gap. There will be $15 million left over next year from the Rainy Day Fund (which after that will be depleted for SFUSD, I believe) and again at least another $15 million (actually more) next year if we find ourselves in a similar situation.

    In any event, we need to keep up the pressure with our local State reps (Leland Yee, Fiona Ma, Carol Migden and Mark Leno) and, of course, the Governator to find additional revenue solutions at the state level and not just slash expenditures. We need creative solutions.

    Lucky for SFUSD, our voters have been quite supportive of public schools and we have some resources to fall back on right now. Thank heavens for Tom Ammiano (who, BTW, is running for Assembly and might provide the educational leadership we need from San Francisco in Sacramento for public education.)

  25. Poster at 4:24 -

    I spoke with the principal at PR and he was talking about this. The school is pretty strict in many ways (children are supposed to eat the school lunch and not bring from home, for example) because he was saying school is a place where some of the neighborhood kids are just learning the rules and having limits placed on them for the first time.

    It made me worry the same thing. I carefully chose our preschool and feel my son is ready to jump in and start learning. I hate to see him have to be bored by K teachers focusing on classroom behavior and socialization.

  26. one comment, as i am struggling to figure out the poverty/socialization/lack of pre-k factor, mostly bc we were 0/7 and assigned to a school that has mostly these kids, but also a great program. i am trying to convince myself it's ok, and one thing i came up with is that a successful model in many preschools and elementary schools is to mix ages and grades. kids are learners and teachers in this model. i would like to think that mixing kids of various knowledge and skill levels would be ok too. my son has learned plenty in his very mixed age pre-k, even though many kids this year started at age 2 and knew very little. also, it is true that kids from poverty/no pre-k etc may not know some things middle class kids do, but they may know more about some other good things, for example taking care of themselves and younger siblings...

    lots to think about. too much for me!!!!!

  27. I am a teacher at SFUSD and I've been reading your blog. I teach at a failing school so my school has not been mentioned.

    An insider's point of view: I suggest you pay attention to the teachers and the culture of the school, and base your decision upon this. For example, if the teachers and playground aides are yelling at the kids and not attending to bullying, it's probably not a good school. If the teacher has difficulties controlling the classroom or seems to be "burned-out," it's probably not a good choice. However, if the staff is caring, attentive, innovative in their teaching (ask about positive behavior supports in the classroom, sample lesson plans, ways in which a teacher addresses bullying) it's probably a good choice regardless of whether the school has a good reputation.

    When you start with a good teacher, anything is possible. One of the main reasons "bad" schools remain bad is because they don't have enough resources. Considering sending your kid to private school? What if you sent your kid to public school and committed to supporting the classroom teacher by spending that tuition money on materials they might need, or volunteering every once in awhile?

    Every single one of my parents is happy. The reason this has been a successful year for my classroom is because I have tremendous parent support!

  28. To the SFUSD teacher that wrote in:

    You said that we should look for a school with committed, caring teachers and a good culture. I agree that a good school starts with the teachers, but what if there are not enough resources for the school? What if the majority of the students come from homes without many resources and are unprepared for school? What if the school faces pressure to raise test scores and has to narrow its curriculum to test prep and basic skills?

    Don't these things count as well? There are probably lots of good teachers in poorly performing schools, but teachers alone can't make it a good school. It is a place to start, but not enough in the end.

  29. Good point-but read what I wrote at the bottom of my comment, because I do address this issue. If you have the resources to donate or volunteer, consider volunteering. THIS is what makes the difference between a school that has resources and a school that doesn't. Every school receives the same amount of federal and state funding-the reason some schools have resources and others don't is because of parent involvement.

    I started the year out with low income students. I now have middle and upper-class students in my class-what a difference a parent with a couple hundred dollars to donate and some time to pester the district to get things done does!

  30. In regards to a previously posted comment about lunches at Paul Revere; many students bring their lunch from home and no one is required to eat the school provided lunches.

  31. Also, my understanding is that schools with higher numbers of low-income students receive more funding than schools with fewer. SFUSD uses a "weighted-student formula" to take the higher cost of educating these students. Also, the federal government gives money to high-poverty schools as well (Title I funds.)

    I don't understand all the ins and outs of this, but do know that not all schools are funded equally.

  32. Anonymous at 7:05 a.m. is correct. There are many reasons why schools serving a lot of low-income students receive additional funding, and justifiably so due to their much higher needs.

    Sandra Tsing Loh has written amusingly and accurately about the benefit of being a middle-class family in a Title 1 school, benefiting from the extra programs aimed at the low-income students. I see this in various ways in some SFUSD schools -- for example, Balboa High School has much more comprehensive college counseling programs than Lowell and School of the Arts, including one run by the S.F. Bar Assn. that takes 11th-graders, free, on an East Coast college tour over spring break. Middle-class kids benefit from those programs too.

  33. To Silent K and the anon SFUSD teacher - I'm also an SFUSD teacher, and while I'm not in a "failing" school, my school still has many difficulties that are not being addressed.

    The biggest difference between schools is often the principal! Principals have a great deal of power, especially if they have been in the district for a while and are well-connected. They set the priorities, period. Sure, an involved parent population can force change, the operative word being force. My current principal does nothing to encourage parent involvement, and few parents seem to want to fight for it.

    As far as the difference between Miraloma and Paul Revere, just look at the statistics (from

    Miraloma - 36% White, 19% Asian, 15% multiple or no response, 13% Hispanic, 11% African American

    Paul Revere - 2% White, 4% Asian, 8% multiple or no response, 49% Hispanic, 24% African American

    and the socioeconomic differences:

    Miraloma - 30% free lunch

    Paul Revere - 66% free lunch

    With populations that divergent there will always be differences between the schools.

  34. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  35. oh boy... I was wondering how long we could go with anonymous posting. The trolls have arrived....

  36. To the teacher posting at 11:32:
    I agree that it's really the principal that sets the stage for change -- Paul Revere has that type of principal. Marcia Parrot, the Miraloma principal prior to Ron Machado, went there to make changes at that school when it looked demographically like Paul Revere. She set a new bar for the teaching staff -some stayed, some moved on. Same has already started at Paul Revere and Sunnyside, I hear.

    I recall Marcia Parrott at the first enrollment fair (originally initated by PPS and later taken over by SFUSD)and she was out pumping hands and saying "Come see our school! We want you at Miraloma!" I remembered that and when we were 0/5 in kindergarten choices, went to Miraloma and became part of an exciting, growing and loving school community.

    Sunnyside, Ortega, Junipero Serra and Paul Revere all have similar principal leaders with wonderful can-do attitudes. In short, they are strong community and academic leaders. With the addition of some enthusiastic parents in the mix, there's no stopping them.

  37. Remember, don't feed the trolls

  38. Kate, Delete 12:19 -too offensive!!

  39. Appalling! I deleted the comment.

  40. The advice on how the "assess the school" beyond scores and statistics ( eg, principal, teachers, lesson plans) sounds great, yet I found that it is not that easy or realistic. First, obtaining that info is difficult during brief group tours. Secondly, following up outside of the tours requires time investment above and beyond what has alraedy been spent. Layer on time off work, and more time looking into after care, and the "cost" of the lottery to individual families continues to grow.

    Then,...after all is still a lottery so all that hard work could (and did, in our case) go for nothing. I remain hopeful that our situation will resolve itself postively and that we might serve as resources to those who come behind us.

    So, along those lines, how does one, in a realistic, practical way, assess the items that are suggested on this thread? Individual appointments with the principal? Interview one teacher per grade? And how do they do it in a focused way so they don't feel "burnt" by the time investment required? Suggestions anyone?

  41. To 9:36AM - I don't think there is an easy way to do this, but (in addition to the school day tours) one suggestion I have is to attend a community meeting at each of the schools in which you are interested. There will be teachers, parents, and administrators present and you'll get a chance to see how they all interact.

    At my school (I'm a relatively new SFUSD teacher, posted previously at March 22, 2008 11:32 AM) these meetings are only held two times, both in the spring, as part of the process of writing the academic plan for the coming school year - that means that at least where I am the community meetings are done for this school year, other schools may hold them more frequently, I don't know.

    Also, the SSC (School Site Council) at each school offers another opportunity to meet parents, teachers, and administrators at the same time. Every school is required to have one, and they should hold meetings monthly.

    I don't know how much access to individuals you can expect through the SSC, and certainly you'll be getting a snapshot of the most involved members of the community, not the community-at-large, but I can't think of a more efficient way to get a feel for a school.

    To March 22, 2008 3:37 PM - I'm a little confused. You agree that the principal is a deciding factor, but you also note that the demographics of Miraloma have changed. Do schools like Revere have to follow the same demographic trends to become "successful"? Do you have to get rid of half of your free-lunch students? Miraloma was 8.9% white in 2001 and 35.96% white in 2006. Over the same period, Asians went from 46.1% down to 19.24%, and the African American population went down from 19.8% to 11%. The Latino population remained about the same, 13-14%. Enrollment increased, but only from 293 to 317 in 2006, or about 8%. Would Miraloma be so well-regarded without the population shift?

    Is Miraloma a "better" school than Revere? I honestly don't know. But I'd encourage anyone who has the time and, yes, money to donate to their child's school to look hard at a place like Revere. If the principal is as strong, welcoming, and smart as portrayed you'll have a great opportunity to help make a great school!

  42. This whole conversation makes me worried about what really makes a "good" school.

    If you can assume that both Revere and Miraloma have good teachers, good principals, and good facilities, then what is the difference? It seems like it comes down to who the students are -- i.e. what socioeconomic class they are from. Schools with a majority upper middle class population are well-resourced, have interesting and creative curriculum and enrichment activities, and have a strong community promoting education. Schools whose students predominantly come from lower socioeconomic class homes have curricula aimed at basic skills, have few enrichment activities, and have little active parental support or much of an educational community beyond the on-site professionals (teachers, admin, paras).

    Given this situation, it seems like a lower class school cannot be a "good" school. Without the resources of parental involvement and fundraising, the school cannot offer enrichment activities. Without the development of basic skills in the homes of the children (which parents with 2-3 jobs cannot realistically do), the school cannot implement creative curricula.

    It also seems like a lower class school cannot "turn into" a good school. We talk about "up and coming" schools as if they have had an infusion of quality teachers and a principal who knows what she is doing. The reality is that the only way a school moves up in quality is that the socioeconomic class of their student population changes. They don't really improve the educational experience of the lower class students at their school; those students are replaced by higher class students. The higher class students inherently perform better on the tests; the higher class families can afford to support more enrichment activities; the higher class students are more prepared to take on creative curricula.

    This happens because the school gets noticed, known, and popular (i.e. Miraloma, and now Flynn); higher class families apply for the spots, which pushes out the local poorer families who do not have the time to participate in the lottery process properly; these higher class families bring funds and time and commitment to the school; the school improves.

    Why must a "good" school be tied to socioeconomic class? Why can't a good school have socioeconomic diversity? Ultimately, to what extent are we willing to sacrifice the benefits of a well-resourced school for our child for the benefits of a diverse socioeconomic experience?

    If there's anything good to be said about this lottery process, it's that it prompts some serious thinking about one's social and political values.

  43. Public education is not means tested -- every child is entitled to it, even middle class children!

    It's true that middle class parents are willing to consider a wider range of schools than they were in previous years. This does not seem like a bad thing to me. Middle class parents like us, despite our tendency towards navel gazing, tend to bring energy and commitment to any school our child attends. Maybe we're not needed, bu teachers that I have encountered are certainly happy to have extra hands to photocopy, sort papers, correct homework, read with kids, etc. Not every family can do that, nor do teachers expect it. But it's nice.

  44. Why must a "good" school be tied to socioeconomic class? Why can't a good school have socioeconomic diversity?

    This is a somewhat of a perceptual problem in my view. In the Sunset and Richmond, there are some schools with > 50% free/reduced lunch that are excellent but simply don't appeal to most readers of this blog because the ethnic balance is tilted sharply asian (recent immigrants). I think for most people, "good school" would mean there is at least a critical mass of folks coming from the same background (culture, ethnicity, socio-economic status). Most people are afraid of "going it alone," myself included. That said, there is no doubt increased enrollment by middle class families only works to strengthen good schools.

  45. I might also add that for some low socio-economic groups, larger issues surrounding poverty create an unstable home environment where education is not valued or emphasized. Since family support is absolutely a necessary criteria to create a "good" school, schools that educate significant numbers of this population group really have the cards stacked against them, even if they might have excellent teachers and staff. But if the school population shifts just a bit more towards the middle class, the strong family support criteria will be satisfied and the school will "turn around."

    Public schools simply cannot succeed without a buy-in from the middle class. This is why public schools are important for democracy.

  46. To March 25, 2008 12:10 PM - I can only speak for myself as a teacher, but yes, you are needed! Thank you!

    Parent involvement can make a huge difference, even just an hour or two a month volunteering to correct homework, read with students, etc. frees that teacher to plan and prep better lessons, interventions and enrichment, work with individuals and small groups, etc. And if five or six parents spend an hour or two+ each month in the classroom it starts to add up quickly!

    Silent K - Flynn still has 70% free/reduced lunch participation, it's demographics have not shifted the way Miraloma's have, not yet, anyway. I substituted at Flynn a few years ago and can tell you firsthand that they have really wonderful teachers and the Kindergarten program is outstanding, both the immersion and ELD classes. They also have a lot of parent involvement. I think the attention to both academics and community at Flynn has really paid off.

  47. I don't think Flynn is a very good example. Even though it has gained in popularity, it is just the Spanish Immersion program that has risen, not the General Ed. They still don't have many applicants for the General Ed, which indicates that the school, in general, does not offer the kind of curriculum and program enrichment that I would want for my child.

  48. Given the larger issues, it seems like schooling in America cannot be the "great equalizer" that some believe it is supposed to be. It cannot lift poor children en masse out of poverty.

  49. which up and comers would you list?

    paul revere?
    rosa parks?
    starr king?
    jose ortega?

    which and why?

  50. Those are all theoretical "up and comers"... people talk about how they have a good staff in place and how, if enough middle/upper class families joined the school, it could be a "great" school.

    Unfortunately, it seems that "great" means "mostly middle/upper class." It does not mean that the school actually becomes better at what they do; it means that the population that joins their school is better prepared and better supported at home. When the better prepared students come, the curriculum becomes more creative and interesting, more enrichment occurs, teachers get more support, and more funds are available for school improvements.

    Being part of an "up and coming" school means being part of a gentrification process at a school -- nothing more.

  51. Silent K,
    I tend to agree with you. And I feel uncomfortable with the 'good/bad' labeling as this is all in the mind of the beholder. Moscone, for example, is a school that I would venture for most on this list would not be a school considered, yet it is an excellent school - doing well with kids that historically have not performed as well. They are a school that is doing something right and are being looked at to see how to replicated it across the district. They have made great gains in academic performance across different subgroups.

    And, many of the supposedly 'good' schools (i.e. high API test scores) have not made progress with their lower performing kids.

    It's important to remember what research proves out time and time again: how well a kid does in school is mostly decided by the socioeconomic and educational level of the parents - regardless of where that kid goes to school. For most on this list, your kids will do as well in any school you put them in because they are YOUR kids (assuming involved, education-is-a-priority parents who pay attention and make learning a 24/7 proposition.

    Even I, a public school advocate, sometimes have a hard time getting past this at times. But in my heart, I know that my kids would pretty much be doing as well as they are no matter where they were in school. It's what we pay attention to at home that is making the difference. At least I'm not paying $20K+ grand a year to figure this out!

  52. It's all well and good that schools like Moscone are improving performance on standardized tests, but what if you don't value education for test performance? What if you want a curriculum that encourages independent thinking and conceptual development without being restricted to the narrow writing/math expression of ideas that occurs in a "test performance school"?

    IMO, schools that improve test scores are not necessarily good schools.

  53. Silent K-
    Generally I agree that test scores are not the be all end all. But, believe me, when you have a kid that comes back with basic or below it scares the heck out of you. Is it your kid? Is it the school?

    I have two kids - one is 99th percentile on everything, the other is all over the map and it varies year by year. The latter is extremely musically and artistically talented - but in things that don't get measured by standardized tests. We support his artistic efforts and work with him on his academic needs. Both my kids will do fine in life in the end - they're lucky they have middle class parents who have resources to support them and also who have fundamental expectations regarding educational outcomes.

    Yours will too.

    But I'd venture that your kids will probably get the additional stuff AND do great on standardized tests because you're paying attention and supporting their educational needs at home.

    But there is no one size fits all. I'm glad that schools like Moscone are helping kids that do not start out in kindergarten with the advantages that my, and I suspect, your, kids have.

    Again, I bet that your kids already will come to kindergarten a step or two (or three) ahead of kids who don't speak English at home or come from extreme poverty and disadvantage. My kids clearly did.

    But to get back to your point above, I agree that test scores don't tell all - but they are a directional measure. The key is seeing how schools trend over time and how well they are making gains with kids that have historically not done as well.

    Moscone is one of those schools that have figured something out and should be replicated. A school like Alice Fong Yu, on the other hand, is known for basically kicking out kids with special needs or learning differences of any kind. Good school? You be the judge.

  54. For most on this list, your kids will do as well in any school you put them in

    But what do you do about play dates -- in the projects...?

  55. For most on this list, your kids will do as well in any school you put them in

    But what do you do about play dates -- in the projects...?


    Uhhh, my kids have had playdates with kids from the projects. And had kids over whose parents don't speak English. And also with kids whose parents are PhDs, lawyers and business owners in public schools.

    And they clearly understand the advantages they have and how many others are less fortunate than they.

    And yet, they continue to make good grades and are part of the GATE program at our school.

  56. I find the comment from 11:15 am about playdates in the projects offensive. As though those kids are somehow lesser or not as good - when they were born into a situation they have no control over. Take a minute and understand someone different than you - especially a child --- before popping off a snide remark.

  57. my daughter plays with the the neighbors - children of immigrants. The parents don't speak english so we nod and smile at one another. It's no big deal.

  58. Have you been in any SF projects? I'm not sure which ones you are referring to but I walk through several housing projects every week with my kids, on the way to do chores, the park, the rec center, the swimming pool. Shock horror, there are mums and kids living there doing all the same things we do, some don't speak English, many, many do. The mom's I smile or chat with are raising their kids the best they know how (just like me) and they love and want their kids to have the best they can (sound familiar). They perhaps feel nervous about their kids coming to YOUR house for a playdate. Come to think of it, I think I would be a little wary too.

  59. Wow, don't know what projects you live near, but the ones I live near offer up nightly gunfire. No joke. No way in hell would I let my kid play there.

  60. I don't let my kids play anywhere at night! But during the day with people I know and trust (the only sort of people I let my kids have play dates with), I have no problem where they live.
    While having lunch in the Marina two weeks ago I witnessed police tackling an armed man to the ground, turned out he was trying to hijack an SUV. As you seem to have an inside track, PLEASE do tell me where in the city is safe from gun crime? I thought bad things happened in all sorts of places?

  61. Either you are quite naive, or you have never been anywhere near "bad" projects. Take a drive through some time!

  62. I don't drive. I walk, its a great way to really see what is going on. Lots of places look quite different and much more intimidating when you drive through them. I don't think I'm naive, I'm a realistic person with kids in public school. I just think to rule out everyone who lives in housing projects as potential playmates because of where they live is sad, especially if you live near them. These people are neighbors. Once you know and trust them it would seem shortsighted to not allow children to play together. That said we all go with out instinct and our comfort zone, we let our kids play where we believe them to be safe and of course we avoid anywhere we know or feel is not. And, relax, it's only an opinion. That's all we are swapping here, right?

  63. this is what the teachers and principals say. in a school with children who live in homes that are barely surviving, the school is struggling to keep those kids on track. The focus of the school is the basic fundamentals.

    with a school full of kids who come from families with more resources, who have time, money, and energy to put into extracurricular activities and support, the teachers have the room to be much more creative in teaching style without risking low test scores, etc.

    there is a difference, and it's unfair to all the kids.