Friday, May 30, 2008

Kate makes up her mind

After torturing ourselves for weeks with indecision, my husband and I finally made up our minds. We're sending our daughter to the Mandarin immersion program at Jose Ortega. (Note: We are in a wait pool for another immersion school that's closer to our home.)


This school search has been incredibly difficult and emotional for me--and I'm sure many of you can relate. I hope to eventually share the process that we went through to make our decision, but for now I just need to relax and enjoy the fact that I don't need to stress about where I'm going to send my daughter to school this fall.

143 comments:

  1. Congrats! Glad you're sticking with SFUSD, we need families to stay here! I'm sure your family will be happy and your kids will get a great education!

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  2. Wow - Congrats. Good for you!

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  3. Another SFUSD ParentMay 30, 2008 at 12:38 PM

    Congratulations! I've heard great things about Ortega. A friend who teaches in SFUSD did her student teaching at Ortega and was so impressed that she sent her own daughter there, rather than to the more popular school where she, herself, teaches. And the opportunity to become fluent in Mandarin is an amazing one. Have a great week-end.

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  4. Good for you, Kate! You have chosen a terrific school for your child, and it sounds like it must have been an incredibly hard choice to turn down a private school you loved, too. The SFUSD will be better for having a thoughtful parent like you as a member of the community.

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  5. Congratulations! It's so hard to decide, particularly when you have two good options to choose from. No matter which you choose, you have a sense of loss. But now you can move on and enjoy your summer!

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  6. Adding my congrats, and best wishes for enjoying the peace that comes from having decided.

    Either route would have had its joys and pains-in-the-butt, but immersion is a wonderful gift for your child. (Even if she doesn't think so all the time.)

    Speaking from the other end of elementary school, I am glad we chose Spanish Immersion for our girl. I'm also glad she learned the life lessons about diversity and change that came with her public school education.

    And...I am glad that our district will have you and others like you to continue improvements for all our kids.. SFUSD is much better system than many urban school districts, but there's plenty of work to be done. And there's so much energy among the parents in your blog community!

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  7. Kate, you rule!! I agree with everyone else's comments here (prior to this one, anyway).

    I'm sorry you suffered some negative comments while making your decision (funny, I seem to have experienced some of those myself).

    I wish you and your whole family the very, very best in your school years.

    We are at the other end of all this, and I wrote a tribute to my children's K-8 schools; I'll just post the link rather than the whole item:

    http://tinyurl.com/4jl2j3

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  8. Congratulations! This could not have been an easy decision especially given some of the negative commentary here. The school is lucky to have you!

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  9. Congratulations! Like you, we had the tough choice between an excellent private and an excellent public school. We ended up going for private but either way, its a hard decision which involves so many variables. I join the other parents in looking forward to hearing about your thinking process.

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  10. Congratulations Kate. Seems like a wonderful decision.

    Wow, Lost last night and now this. Two great season finales.

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  11. Kudos to Kate for maintaining her composure throughout this crazy process and coming out with a great decision in the end!

    We hope for similarly happy resolution eventually but are now happy to let things rest for a bit and enjoy summer.

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  12. Congrats on reaching a decision. We had a similar choice and went the other way (private), so I, too, look forward to hearing more about your decision process.

    I can't help but wonder if this community would have been as supportive had you stuck with MCDS. I hope so. Someone must have felt VERY lucky when they got the call from MCDS offering them Alice's spot!

    Brava, Kate! for reaching a tough decision through semi-public performance in this complicated arena. Let the summer relax-fest begin.

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  13. 2:28 - I wondered the same thing - If Kate had gone private, would the thread be so overwhelmingly positive? Glad to hear the this chapter has closed with a happy ending.

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  14. I think Kate would have been raked over the coals if she had gone private. Choosing a non-Clarendon type school over MCDS must have been difficult indeed -- I do not envy Jake the past few weeks and hopes she goes on a nice long vacation to celebrate (now that she's not paying for private school she can afford it!)

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  15. Jake? Where did that come from? I am the worse typist. I meant Kate of course.

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  16. wow! i am TEARY EYED!

    JO mandarin would have been my first choice but i have twins and need them in different classes. they have a great (small and growing) parent group and will really benefit from your family's participation.

    summers abroad every year with your saved private tuition - taiwan, shanghai... i think you will be very happy with your choice. congratulations!

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  17. When my friends have gone the other way in a decision like this, I have always said congratulations on making a choice they are happy with, and wished them the best. But that doesn't mean I am not joyful to hear that we are getting another thoughtful, participatory family staying in SFUSD! I don't see why we shouldn't celebrate that. No need to assume ill will toward others that isn't there. Seriously, I don't put anyone else down in saying this, I'm just glad to have Kate join forces with the rest of us public school parents.

    Mandarin--that is great. With how the world looks now, it is hard to imagine Kate regretting the choice to give her kid a head start on a major language like that one.

    Truly, congrats Kate (and Alice!). And thanks for this forum, too, which has helped so many.

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  18. Good for you, Kate! You have put in their place those who doubted the sincerity of your public versus private decision-making process (including myself, I must admit, though I never posted anything saying so). And more importantly, I think you've made the right choice for your children. Jose Ortega is a GREAT program and a GREAT school and I think you will be very happy there.

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  19. Congratulations Kate and thank you so much for sharing your process and your decision. I am happy for the SFUSD that your will be part of the community. I am happy for you and your family that you have come to a decision and are at peace at the end of a traumatic experience. Have a nice bottle of champagne tonight--or fly to the south of France to drink it with the money you'll save:). I think the SFUSD will be gaining many committed families who might otherwise have gone or stayed private if not for the perspectives and experiences shared on this blog. Now if only we can get the same level of commitment out of our state legislators on the public school budget!!!!! The budget is my single biggest fear as we continue to fret over the private to public switch. That plus (a) I don't know if my son can do without his art every day, (b) I have not heard back from any of the aftercare programs I have requested, and (c) I want my son to dance like the 8th graders in his private.

    I hope you will continue to provide this forum for us to share our experiences, and that we can be open-minded and brave enough to see and share both the positive and the negative. Assuming we have a choice, and I realize many of us do not, the instinct will want to be to defend that choice. I never saw a perfect school yet. I also hope some of the public school zealots will not deter private families from participating. (I am thinking of one parent in particular I keep running into, I won't say which public, but the PSS button is on every outfit--this person would probably wear it to a funeral and lecture the corpse--and the eyes practically spin as all statements are twisted into "private sucks and steals your money" and "public is heaven on earth"--I swear I exaggerate only slightly for effect.) I find most of the thoughtful participation in this conversation helpful, enlightening, cathartic and fun. I could do without anonymous personal attacks and am impressed with the ability of people like you and Caroline to endure them.

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  20. Congratulations Kate and thank you so much for sharing your process and your decision. I am happy for the SFUSD that your will be part of the community. I am happy for you and your family that you have come to a decision and are at peace at the end of a traumatic experience. Have a nice bottle of champagne tonight--or fly to the south of France to drink it with the money you'll save:). I think the SFUSD will be gaining many committed families who might otherwise have gone or stayed private if not for the perspectives and experiences shared on this blog. Now if only we can get the same level of commitment out of our state legislators on the public school budget!!!!! The budget is my single biggest fear as we continue to fret over the private to public switch. That plus (a) I don't know if my son can do without his art every day, (b) I have not heard back from any of the aftercare programs I have requested, and (c) I want my son to dance like the 8th graders in his private.

    I hope you will continue to provide this forum for us to share our experiences, and that we can be open-minded and brave enough to see and share both the positive and the negative. Assuming we have a choice, and I realize many of us do not, the instinct will want to be to defend that choice. I never saw a perfect school yet. I also hope some of the public school zealots will not deter private families from participating. (I am thinking of one parent in particular I keep running into, I won't say which public, but the PSS button is on every outfit--this person would probably wear it to a funeral and lecture the corpse--and the eyes practically spin as all statements are twisted into "private sucks and steals your money" and "public is heaven on earth"--I swear I exaggerate only slightly for effect.) I find most of the thoughtful participation in this conversation helpful, enlightening, cathartic and fun. I could do without anonymous personal attacks and am impressed with the ability of people like you and Caroline to endure them.

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  21. For my share, thank you, Marlowe's mom. I hope you'll affirm that I'm not the individual you're referring to (we have never met in person, as far as I know, plus honest, I don't act like that).

    And Adda C. does get full marks for those dance lessons. You should see the exhibition dances those kids have done at bat mitzvahs I've attended.

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  22. WOW!
    Big Congrats to your family!! Of course I would also congratulate you if you had decided on MCDS-since that's also an excellent choice. (actually I thought you had already made the decision...)
    I also want to tell you how brave I think you are for putting all this out there in such a public forum.
    I admire you for putting up with all the mean comments, too. Thank you for giving so much back to the rest of us. You rock!
    -Susie

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  23. That spinny-eyed zealot I was describing is definitely not Caroline. Caroline has a sense of humor. And Caroline has not met me in person, she's know if we had by the name I use on this blog.

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  24. Congrats! I am shocked-I thought you would chose MCDS 100 percent. How awesome to learn Mandarin!

    When I toured Jose Ortega I loved the principal. She is a very commited and caring woman. I also was very touched by the woman who ran the PTA. Pretty amazing all she was doing by herself. It broke my heart to think of all the excessive resources the privates have, the major fundraisers etc. Here was one devoted, hardworking mom without the resources and it just seems so inequitable. Sounds like there will be more great families to get behind the program this fall.

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  25. The suprise outcome makes this blog exciting again.

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  26. This is big news indeed.

    (Hey what are we all doign online on a Friday night?)

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  27. We're parents ...

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  28. Kate! Congratulations!

    I love that you are going public (though private, of course, would have been fine, too), and I love the fact that you're thrilled with a school that was not on your Round I list. We, too, found a school not on our Round I list (or our amended list, either, for that matter!) that we're excited about (Rosa Parks JBBP) and I love hearing about all of the folks who are making choices to send their kids to schools that are the true hidden gems (Jose Ortega, Rosa Parks, Sunnyside) that didn't even fill up in Round I.

    Congratulations and good luck at Jose Ortega or at your closer-to-home waitpool school if you get it in a future round!

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  29. Whew!

    A nice twist in the plot, leaving many of us feeling satisfied (the positive groove in this thread is SO refreshing!) and hopeful.

    It is almost summertime and the kids are restless for the lazy, hazy days to be here at last...

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  30. Okay, someone needs to say it. I'm sure many people are thinking it and are afraid to be the one to utter these words: I think you're nuts to give up a spot at MCDS. Absolutely nuts. That is an amazing school. Don't get me wrong, I wish you and Alice the very best. In fact, that's probably why I think you're nuts. I honestly think you just passed on what is probably the best educational opportunity in the Bay Area.

    Just one person's opinion. Maybe.

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  31. Kate, I also congratulate you for your decision to go public. It is through the actions of committed, caring, involved parents in San Francisco, like yourself, that we can make all the schools "top tier" and allow our kids to interact with all walks of society. Geez...I don't even work for PPS! I have an incoming K, and we went 0/7 in R1, we enrolled at our assigned school and are wait-listed for our fave, but we are going to make a go of it.

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  32. Yeah! Now Amy, Anthony, Paris and Dante will have more $$$ for Bi-Rite ice cream, haircuts and going to aquariums!!! Yippee!!!!

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/author?blogid=46&auth=254

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  33. Liberals rejoice!

    The prodigal daughter has returned to the fold!

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  34. FYI:
    MCDS OFFERS MANDARIN. IT IS ONE OF THE ONLY PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN THE BAY AREA TO DO SO.

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  35. Oh my gosh those sfgate blog postings are painful to see. I am embarrassed for Kate. I think MCDS is probably breathing a sign of relief she is going elsewhere.

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  36. Wow, some of those last posts were so mean, especially after the tone of thread earlier. There will always be someone, I guess. I wonder what bothers that person (or maybe persons) so much about Kate's decision and this thread that he or she just has to write that stuff.

    9:56, there are lots of reasons to make one choice or another. Even to turn down all-wonderful MCDS. If we are not clear by now that there are lots of reasons to go one way or another when faced with this choice, then you are just not listening (er, reading). The different reasons and points of view have been discussed endlessly here--finances, logistics, values of various kinds including community benefits and social diversity; then there are the academics, the arts, foreign languages, and on and on. Different folks come down differently on these issues. One thing I've learned is that it is possible for others to choose differently, and for very good reasons even! from me, with my really good and persuasive reasons. This is one of those issues that is not cut and dried.

    Kate surely has looked at all these arguments, this being her blog and all. Now that she's made her choice, for reasons that we do not fully know, let's give her that much benefit of the doubt and not tell that she is nuts. You do not know the factors at play here, and it possibly and likely that your situation is quite different.

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  37. MCDS doesn't offer Mandarin until third grade, and then only for three hours a week.

    No one is going to become fluent in Mandarin (let alone literate) if they are only exposed three hours a week. Promise.

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  38. Come on folks -- she had such a hard decision to make. It's a great school, but it is so far away from home, it is across a bridge in earthquake country, and probably what really affected the decision was COST.

    Even if you can get a second mortgage, if the grandparents said they'd help out, if you got some financial aid from the school, it puts such an economic strain on the family ... and they have more than one child.

    I was one of the posters who was sure it would all end with the kid going to private school; I'm glad that she is joining SFUSD families, but if she had chosen MCDS, who could blame her?

    People do what they feel is best for their families and anything any of us says should not even matter to a stable, sensible person.

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  39. Congrats on ending this process with a bang. I'm sure you'll be very happy with your new school as long as you dont look back. Yes MCDS is one of the best private options in the bay area (and the country) but I trust you made the right decision for you and your family. I hope your desire to please others in this blog community wasnt the deciding factor...

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  40. After 6 years of being a public school parent, this is the first place I've been/seen where private school parents felt that they were being beat up by public school parents - it's sort of strange as I've endured so much person to person put downs and humiliation by our private school 'friends', workplace colleagues and acquaintances (and even strangers in the grocery store!)

    It's unfortunate that parents can't be more understanding about the choices each of us makes.

    The fact is: parents make the best choices they can with the information and resources they have. All of us - public or private - make sacrifices. I sacrificed career to create the time to make myself more available for my kids' school and to help create a school community for my family. I don't regret it. Others sacrifice the $ for private for their own reasons.

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  41. "It's unfortunate that parents can't be more understanding about the choices each of us makes."

    Well said.

    I, too, get fed-up by the snide comments from parents who choose private schools. It works for them, great, but why try to make us feel bad about the choices we make? To make themselves feel smarter or like better parents? Sad.

    But I also don't like militant public school advocates who perpetuate the "war" between us all by accusing private school parents of somehow "harming our children or society" because of the choice they made. Again, it is the same mentality, in reverse, trying to make other parents feel bad because of the choices they made, to maybe make themselves feel smarter or like better parents. Again, it is sad.

    There is room for all of us; instead of arguing all the time, let's unite and stop fighting. Let's make this a better world for our kids, public or private, charter or non-charter, we all want safe, inspiring places for our kids to go to school, and we are all different people and our kids have different needs so what we choose will not always be the same.

    This Tuesday,PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION A!

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  42. 9:23 here again ... adding:

    Please everyone, send e-mails to everyone you know asking them to

    VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION A!

    It will be a tight race, every vote will count...

    >^..^<

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  43. Oh, I'm sure Ortega is great, but I also want to say that I hope Kate gets her SFUSD waitpool choice.

    My kid goes to a school 4 blocks away from our house, and it is wonderful to be able to walk to school. It instills such a sense of neighborhood and community in our family.

    >^..^<

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  44. Those who post snide comments aimed at someone who has provided a great service and source of enjoyment to those of us engaged in the K search process simply demonstrate insecurity about their own choices. And meanness. They should be embarrassed.

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  45. Very cool, Kate. I know it couldn't have been an easy decision weighing the obvious pros and cons of two such different schools and life scenarios. Like anything else, choosing between two houses or jobs (or men!) comes down to your OWN sense of what works for you and your family.

    On the subject of judging each other here, and elsewhere: There does seem to be something about motherhood (parenthood) that causes us to be judgmental and superior sometimes or often. Have you ever felt smug about your own way of doing things as you watched what another mother fed her child or heard that someone let her child watch something you thought was inappropriate, etc etc. Even among our own friends and siblings (and often spouses too) we witness so many parenting decisions that we would never do! We are all constantly making decisions and feeling some level of insecurity or regret in the process. And we can't help but see our own decisions as they compare with, and are reflected back to us by, someone elses.

    It's a tough line, but we do need to remember we're all in the same boat. Motherhood is hard! And in the end, whether your child eats fruit loops or eggs or granola or whatever for breakfast; whether your child watches TV at age 3 or 4 or 5 or doesn't; whether your child is given leeway at the playground or kept closer under wraps, what we do only goes so far in who they become.

    Let's assume we're all doing our best and remind ourselves not to be too hard on the other moms around us (and benefit from the same compassion from them), regardless of what choices they or we are making. Also remember you might be seeing that Mom at the grocery store really losing her temper for the first time all month! We all have our moments and thank goodness our bad Mommy moments are not held up to constant scrutiny. Except to ourselves.

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  46. Congratulations. I now you've made a great and right decision.I' m a private school parent and I want to tell you that I think you've made a great choice. My older child has almost finished his time at a K-8 private, and while we've loved it, I do know now, from living in the city all these years and meeting many families from all types of schools, that he and we would have found community, excellent education, and an overall great school experience in a good public wschool too, like you will. When all is said and done, I don't know that the private price tag is really worth it.If this discussion/blog had been around when we made our K choice so many years ago, we would have gone public. (Though I don't think there were as many excellent choices 7 years ago). And while some may consider MCDS the "best" private around, those people probably either attend there or want to, and don't mind being immersed in its wealth-based value system, with all the pressures that brings. Congratulations again, Kate.

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  47. Kate,

    I want to congratulate you on your decision. I hope that the past weeks of agonizing are now behind you and that you can move forward with the confidence of one who has made a thoughtful and caring choice. I am so happy for you and everyone else who now has found their “place”. I also look forward to hearing more as the continuing story unfolds.

    It has been very interesting to observe your journey (along with others) as I wandered down some of the same paths. As a public school teacher, I am delighted that you chose the public route, but I always felt that you were very wise to examine and consider every option both public and private. As a parent, I did the same and did not shy away from considering private school as a viable option for my child. In the end I knew that public was the right place for my family.

    I am surprised at the level of hostility and cruelty of some of the posts that I have read on this blog. We all want to do the best for our children. I believe that what ever choice that we make we are doing the best that we can and deserve support rather than judgement.

    Perhaps one answer is to build more bridges between private and public schools. I taught at a public school in Chinatown many years ago and at that time MCDS had a strong relationship with the school. Students from both schools wrote pen pal letters to each other and the exchange culminated in fieldtrips to both schools. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience for the students at both schools.

    Kate, you should feel very proud of yourself for going the extra mile to make the right decision for you (and I said the same when you were admitted to MCDS, but understand that circumstances can change). Go out and celebrate!!!

    …..Oh yeah, and don’t forget to get out and vote for Prop. A!!!!

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  48. I don't know whom I am happier for, Kate or the public school community. Kate, I PROMISE you: a year from now, you will not regret your decision. You have done a great thing for your family and for the City as a whole. What a Cinderella ending to this story!

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  49. Kate, Congratulations! And thank you. You have truly helped change our world and our children's world for the better by: 1) creating this blog, which opened the eyes of many SF parents to the variety of strong schools here (both public & private), and 2) walking the walk, by choosing a public school over a very good private school. It must have been a hard decision. But I hope you feel great satisfaction knowing that you have made a decision for Paris that you feel good about and knowing that your example is inspiring courage in the heart of another mother (or father), somewhere, to turn down that prestigious private school, in favor of a very good public school.

    Our child is finishing his/her K year in two weeks at an SFUSD school and s/he had a great experience. Some people seem perplexed or quizzical when I tell them where our child goes to school, because our family might fit the profile of families whom one might expect at a private school. Yet I continue to hope that our little choice has helped others to open their eyes to consider going public too. In the next five years, perhaps more affluent, educated SF families will continue to choose and invest in SF public schools. That would help increase the number of "hidden gem" public schools (so we are not all competing for the same schools), keep families with children in the City, and ultimately make the City a more vibrant and child-friendly place and create more equity in an increasingly have/have not world. Bravo to you. The very best of luck and sunshine on your daughter's adventure in Kindergarten.

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  50. While the public school net we cast was limited (luckily we got into Alvarado SN), there weren't that many private schools we thought were that great either (but MCDS was one). By making the brave choice, Kate is teaching her children invaluable life lessons.

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  51. Can you imagine that in addition to all this agony in applying to Kindergarten, you also had the eyes of thousands of San Franciscans watching you with some people making snide remarks about the decision they thought you might make. Lordly, Kate, how did you manage to be so polite and poised in your posts?

    I think Kate's search for a kindergarten was exemplary. She explored public schools, she applied to private schools and she is giving an under-subscribed public school a chance. She created choice. If we focus solely on one trophy school (public or private) then feel exasperated when not admitted, the lack of choice actually is our own doing. I speak from experience.

    In the end we are leaving SF, at least for a year. We did adjust our high and mighty attitude about which public school in SF we would find acceptable and after round II we got and were very happy about Marshall. However, a big factor in our decision to go to Mountain View is that there is a German school and they have a class for just 5-6 year olds in which they explicitly do not teach reading and writing. I am not sold on the idea of an academic setting for 5 year olds (nor are many countries in the world) and since mine is boy who turns five in late summer, it just seemed the right place (my husband is German). Plus Grandma is in Mountain View. The deal was sweetened for me when I discovered that Mountain View has a Spanish immersion public school too. We're not selling our flat in SF so if the burbs don't suit us, we figure, we can come back next Fall and do this lovely process all over, kind of a risk free trial year.

    I can't blame the lottery system for our move but I can say that the uncertainty encouraged us to stir the pot of "where to live" and we discovered other possibilities. Naturally, I go back and forth with regrets about "giving up" on the city but so far the decision to move feels right.

    As Kathy B. said above, it comes down to our own sense of what works for ourselves and our families. I also want to praise Kathy B.'s comment about how we all as parents have sat in judgment of other parents at one time or another. We feel like we are in the center of the spectrum of parenting styles and everyone else is at least one seat closer to an extreme. Yet, we are all so imperfect and yet still our kids turn out all right.

    Thank you, Kate, for a wonderful blog and having the courage to share your process with all of us. And thank you to everyone who commented, especially the heartfelt comments which ignited the most discussion. I was enlightened on so many subjects reading the threads here.

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  52. Pretty amazing.

    First Kate picks MCDS and is vilified for abandoning SFUSD. She is crucified on her own blog for going private and for willing to put her daughter on a bus across the bridge.

    Now Kate announces that she is going public after all. She has now become a saint. This single post has turned her from traitor into an exemplary hero of the people.

    I sure hope she hasn't buckled under he pressure of the "fans" of this blog.

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  53. Hey, congratulations!

    I'm so pleased that you are joining the growing movement of middle-class and upper-middle-class people returning to the public schools.

    Together, we are making it happen.

    Now, I suggest that you take some of that $25,000 you shall be saving each year by going to public school instead of private school and take your family on a nice vacation this summer in Hawaii or the Caribbean.

    (By the way, I have no qualms whatsoever against people sending their children to private school. Everybody makes his own choices. All are worthy.)

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  54. re. Now, I suggest that you take some of that $25,000 you shall be saving each year by going to public school instead of private school and take your family on a nice vacation this summer in Hawaii or the Caribbean.


    um.....an alternate recommendation.......how about saving it instead.

    A good public middle school, high school, college, grad school are not sure things.

    we've only just begun to climb this hill of choices, touring, applications, lotteries and tuition.

    Oh yeah and you might want some savings for retirement.

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  55. Hmm...

    Save $25,000 by attending public instead of private school.

    Multiply that by 13 years through high school.

    Total savings: $325,000.

    I'd say you can afford a trip this summer.

    (Hope to see you at annual Parents for Public Schools gatering. It's a great place to meet like-minded community volunteers and good community builders.)

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  56. Caroline,

    Do you have an opinion on SF Community?

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  57. i'm not caroline but have heard great things about sf community and it was one of our top choices (which we didn't get).

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  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  59. Anon 12:25
    If you're willing to elaborate, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I didn't tour it. Was is warm? Did it have a coziness in the rooms? Art on the walls? Your impression of the Head Teacher?

    Thanks for your time.

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  60. Hi Kate,
    Wow, there were a few negative comments about choosing public school over private. Well, last year we had to make a similar decision. We got into CAIS (Chinese American International School) and it was utterly gut-wrenching to give up the spot for our public school spot. But a wise friend (who is currently raising his second family) said that if we took all the money we saved, and put it back into our family by way of classes, travel, tutors, cultural events, we'd still be ahead. I agree.

    It's almost the end of our first year in public school and we loved it. Our son has friends of all races and social/economic backgrounds. He is learning about his friends' different family situations, different religious beliefs, he has a classmate who has a learning issue, so my son is learning tolerance, compassion, charity, and what the bigger world looks like. I personally think this is as important as any thing a child can learn at a private school.

    Good luck to you. Our friends go to Jose Ortega (in the Chinese immersion program) and LOVE it.

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  61. To the posters above who have called Kate crazy, really: She is not the first person on earth to have turned down MCDS. I'm sure it is a great school, but not everyone finds it to be the "best school" in the area, state or country. Different schools offer different things to different families. I personally know families who have turned down MCDS in favor of: Burke's, Stuart Hall, Friends, Brandeis, SF Day, and public school in Marin. Perhaps Kate is the first to turn it down for Jose Ortega, but she certainly is not the first to turn it down for SFUSD.

    BTW, of the 3 families I know headed there next year, 2 have already moved closer to the school (one to Marin, and one closer to the bridge in SF), and the 3rd is pondering a move closer. It's a long journey from Noe Valley!

    Kate, good for you. The Noe Valley Rec Center will be opening in a couple months, and think how much easier it will be to take advantage of all of your local resources without that trip across the bridge.

    Marin and MCDS will always be there for you if you change your mind later. I can't imagine that any school wouldn't be thrilled to have you aboard.

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  62. Kortney wrote:
    "If you're willing to elaborate, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I didn't tour it [SF community]. Was is warm? Did it have a coziness in the rooms? Art on the walls? Your impression of the Head Teacher?"

    Kortney, I'll answer the question. I toured SF Community, and although it isn't for me (we're looking at immersion or schools close to our house), it is a good school I think, if quirky.

    Firstly: there's no principal. They rotate the position of "head teacher" between the staff every 3-4 years. Disadvantage: If you want a school that's going to change rapidly under strong leadership, this isn't it: it's more consensus-based. Advantage: it's not going to suddenly tank or change culture because of a change in principal, which is a consideration for a K-8.

    Learning is project-based. I don't particularly care for this method, but it may appeal to some. They were learning the human body, and it was impressive how much they'd absorbed, though.

    Teacher's aides were in the K classes we visited, which was nice. (The aide may be for the special-ed students, as it's integrated teaching a SF Community. I don't know.) One Kindergarten teacher in particular seemed stellar. Control of kids was not as rigorous as in other public schools - there were maybe 2-3 kids in each class obviously spacing out. Anyway, any disadvantage of the project-based curriculum doesn't show in the API scores, which are good, especially given the demographics of the school.

    Seemed to have a good vibe - as I was passing by on the way to my car, after the tour, I heard the kids playing - no obvious aggro on the playground, and when they lined up, one the teachers/aides sang: "I don't know but I've been told/these kids are made of gold/this child is no fool/she follows all the rules.." It was really charming.

    Disadvantages: The PTA-equivalent doesn't raise much funds. Library is not open that much, which to me cuts against the aim of student-centered learning.

    Anyway, I'm not intending to list it as one of our seven choices, but if it was closer to us I probably would. It's a solid little school.

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  63. There is no doubt in my mind that MCDS is by far a better school than Joe Ortega immersion.

    I just had to say what I feel is the truth.

    However, I think it's brilliant that Kate decided to stay local, and go public. Some things are more important: staking a claim in the community, exposure to other cultures, and not buying into the $20,000 per year boondoggle.

    I wish I had been given the choice of a public school I could live with (I'm 0/15, still on a waitlist, and registered for a super duper dream private).

    I honestly have to wonder if little Alice will stay in the public system. I hope she does. Let's all remember that it's far easier to get a slot in your choice public, come 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade than it was for this insane kindergarten lottery.

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  64. There is no doubt in my mind that MCDS is by far a better school than Joe Ortega immersion.

    I just had to say what I feel is the truth.

    However, I think it's brilliant that Kate decided to stay local, and go public. Some things are more important: staking a claim in the community, exposure to other cultures, and not buying into the $20,000 per year boondoggle.

    I wish I had been given the choice of a public school I could live with (I'm 0/15, still on a waitlist, and registered for a super duper dream private).

    I honestly have to wonder if little Alice will stay in the public system. I hope she does. Let's all remember that it's far easier to get a slot in your choice public, come 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade than it was for this insane kindergarten lottery.

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  65. MCDS is incredible, but if only for the fact that Kate won't have to schlepp her daughter over the bridge every day, she made the wise decision.

    Well done, Kate.

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  66. Kate - I recall that when you accepted the MCDS spot you drove with Alice to the school to drop off the paper work in person. How did you explain the decision to change schools to Alice? Was she upset? Do you have any suggestions to others who might go through the process on how to proceed in a situation like this?
    Thanks

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  67. Anon at 2:29

    I think it's comparing apples and oranges to try to figure out whether MCDS is "better" than Jose Ortega. It certainly is more prestigous, but that's not everything. Jose Ortega is Mandarin Immersion. It seems difficult to compare immersion v. non-immersion even withhin the public system.

    A better comparison might be CAIS vs. Jose Ortega, but I don't think CAIS was on Kate's list at all.

    The most important thing is not which school is better, but what is the better fit for Kate's family, balancing the needs of her child, her love of immersion, geographical proximity, financial consideration, etc.

    And, sometimes the needs of your child or family changes over time. Or a school that was great for your child in the early years, isn't such a good fit later on. You just have to make the best decision with the information you have available about your current situation.

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  68. 4:02pm, I'm sorry to disagree. I wish people on this list would be more honest and realistic. Certainly, some schools are a better fit for your kid or family than other schools. But that's so missing the point, when you are comparing a middling public school with a stellar private school. Or a stellar public school with a middling private.

    Some schools are better than others.

    Private isn't always worth the money.

    Not all public schools are faboo.

    Money prevents lots of us from giving our kids the best available education.

    The lottery prevents lots of us from giving our kids the best available education.

    A few schools (and I would count MCDS among them) are just so off the charts excellent, it's hard to compare them honestly with most any public school, unless there are other factors (money, desire for immersion, desire for diversity, etc.).

    I mean, I'm all for the "rah rah" for Kate's decision, and god only knows, there is no shortage of "rah rah" public school fans on this list, but aren't voices allowed on this blog who think SFUSD is a mess? and that it's only a fluke of dedicated teachers and parents that we have as many choices as we do? and not everybody wins a ticket to the nice choice? and there are a handful of private schools that no public school can touch? and a handful of public schools that most privates can't touch?

    I'm just trying to be realistic. Fine for you to disagree, but I'm the minority here. Let me have my say.

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  69. I'm the poster from 4:02 and I don't disagree that MCDS is better than a lot of schools, public or private. I'm not dissing private schools in general either. That would be pretty hyprocritcal since my child attends one.

    I just thought comparing MCDS to Jose Ortega was not a fair comparison because they are just way too different. MCDS is "better" in many of the obvious ways, but then again, Jose Ortega is "better" in others. Kate made her choice, and obviously it was a tough one. I sure don't envy her.

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  70. I don't think my son or my family needs the "best" school out there. I am guessing MCDS is pretty awesome (I never visited it as I would never have considered a school in Marin from my home in Bernal).

    For me, proximity (and the lack of stress, and gas that accompanies it) was a biggie. Walking my son to school 3 blocks has been the best scenario for us, which made LR Flynn the "best" school for us, expecially as it's an up and comer. I figure we can always go private later if need be, for middle school, or high school, or go abroad or whatever.

    It's all down to the priority thing again. There are so many little factors that go into a school choice, and because it's so personal the factors cannot be weighed for another. Imagine if we were talking about each other's husbands! "Oh come on - he makes 200 k a year and still looks like he's 25, why would anyone go with that shlub over there?"

    Or how about dessert preference? "I can't BELIEVE she ordered vanilla ice cream when creme brulee is clearly better!!" Hey, a person might LOVE vanilla ice cream (although truth be known, I do not. I would go with the gingerbread.)

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  71. I love this blog, and I think it's been tremendously valuable. One thing I do want to point out however is that since it was Kate's #1 private choice - and because she understandably refrains from negative comments - MCDS is portrayed here as the be-all, end-all for everybody. Many of our friends toured the privates/publics and there was none of the unanimity witnessed here. Many families didn't think it was right for them at all. I bring this up only because I fear this blog has built up in many applicant's minds this "MCDS or death" mentality that will result in a lot of unecessary anxiety and disillusionment.

    For example, the school is reputedly great for kids who love sports. Does that describe all kids?

    Private or public, there is no such thing as a "best" school for all kids -- or all parents for that matter.

    Private school parent

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  72. If MCDS were located smack in the middle of SF, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be the most coveted school, bar none.

    But while all of its graduates will receive an excellent education, none of them will emerge bilingual and biliterate as a result. They'll place into advanced high school level language courses, but they certainly would not be able to handle regular high school courses *in* that language and will not have the full cognitive benefits of bilingualism.

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  73. Schools go up and down in popularity. If MCDS were in SF it would be the "hot" school some years and other years it wouldn't be the coveted one. That's just the way it goes.

    While I have to agree that by a lot of measures it doesn't seem logical to give up a spot at a great private school for an off-the-radar public, I can see how the combination of a free education and the mandarin immersion (to say nothing of the lack of a bridge commute) would be alluring to Kate and her family.

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  74. "It's all down to the priority thing again. There are so many little factors that go into a school choice, and because it's so personal the factors cannot be weighed for another."

    Yes this is so so true - it is impossible to put yourself in another person's shoes on this issue. We are a public school family who is leaving public for private and while I am very happy about the decision in many ways, and feel that it is the right choice for our child and our family, I have a lot of regret about what we're giving up. I really do agree that no school is perfect.

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  75. Actually 10:04, after reading this blog, it sounds like MCDS is pretty much as perfect as it gets. The only knock on it is that there are rich people there and none of us can get in. What a deal breaker. If we could get in we'd be so torn for about a millisecond. I think that our fears of all those evil rich people infecting our kids with disgusting, vile ideas like success would be allayed by the assurance of a gun free 2nd grade year! Oh well, we're 0 for 15 and moving out of San Francisco after 18 years for Piedmont. Adios Senores, as in Carlos Garcia y Jose Ortega! It's been real.

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  76. Why does everyone here comment on how great it is that Kate doesn't have to "schlepg" her daughter over the bridge? MCDS has 7 bus lines that run through the entire city. She would probably spend less time getting her there than Ortega. Oh, and the school has 35 acres in sunny Marin.

    Alas, it's a moot point. Paris is going to Ortega.

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  77. Kate, thanks so much for sharing your decision, and best of luck to Alice at Jose Ortega! I know you're still on the waitlist for a school closer to home (AFY?) -- good luck with that as well -- you never know!

    I'm happy you opted for public, but if you'd have chosen MCDS I think the majority of blog readers would've understood.

    10:18pm: good riddance! I'm sorry you went 0/15 but the "guns in 2nd grade" slap towards publics is a cheapshot and the kind of crap that publics have to deal with from uninformed folks. If you had gotten one of your choices, would you have said that?!

    I'm not anti-private; I just don't like the snarky comments that are anti-public (or anti-private) based on misinformation. Too bad we can't have a blog without the pettiness.

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  78. Well done Kate. Alice will do great and I really believe this is the right decision for you family.

    Just some observations now. Is it really just about money? I've read all these "privates not worth the money", "save 300k" and "go on vacation with the money" comments. My kids are at privates but I'm regreting not going public for the diversity and the incredible involved caring parents evident on this blog.

    MCDS is a fine school but it's only one of handful of top notch privates in the area. We toured MCDS and were impressed by the facilities but ended up not even applying. There is no clear ranking among the privates that I can see. If anything Town is probably the best known on the east coast.

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  79. 10:34 - even if your kid rides the bus to MCDS, it still means that the child is spending a lot of time in transit each day to go to MCDS. Also, parents still go to the school pretty frequently for things other than pickup and dropoff. If your child is at MCDS and you live in SF, every time you want or need to go to the school it's either a trip across the bridge, or a decision not to make the visit. So the MCDS distance is a big factor for many. It was definitely a deal-breaker for us (we didn't even consider it for that reason).

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  80. "I'm not anti-private; I just don't like the snarky comments that are anti-public (or anti-private) based on misinformation. Too bad we can't have a blog without the pettiness."

    Even though some of the comments are completely over the top I find the pettiness fascinating! It's amazing what people will say when they can be anonymous. A real sociological experiment if you ask me!

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  81. Hi Kortney -- I am not personally familiar with SF Community (well, I once spoke to a middle-school class there about SFUSD's Wellness Policy and found them engaged and interesting). I know families who are happy there, and also one family who moved their daughter to Aptos for middle school because they felt math at SF Community wasn't strong enough. This is a resounding complaint at my own kid's high school too, so obviously I don't consider that a deal-breaker.

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  82. SF Community made some dramatic changes to their math program a few years ago in response to concerns about the program -- if I'm remembering right, they no longer combine grades for math, and the class size for math is now really small (I think around 15 kids) -- they may have done other things as well. And I think the rise in their test scores has reflected the change. That was one of the things that impressed me about the school: they identified a problem and figured out an effective way to modify their approach to address it.

    Personally, I didn't think the school "showed" well -- didn't make as much of an effort to put up art on the walls etc. But the people I know who have kids there are very happy. The school is diverse and small, and the kids play together across racial lines. The teachers have all chosen to be at a school where they are expected to put in additional time training, collaborating, etc. Differential learning seems to go pretty well there; friends of mine whose kids started with an advantage over most have been challenged and learned quite a bit. It seemed like a great place to me. I'm sure PPS could put you in touch with current parents to give you more information.

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  83. At San Francisco Community all the 8th graders take Algebra. This is considered the gold standard in middle school, and it's certainly not the case at the mainstream middle schools in the district.

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  84. And do they all score at proficient or advanced level on the STAR test for algebra?

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  85. The 8th graders at James Lick Middle School are now taking algebra. James Lick does not have a separate honors program, but rather differentiated instruction, and while there is a growing number of advantaged kids from Noe Valley and the various elementary Spanish immersion programs, the majority of kids are disadvantaged (free lunch, etc.), and many are newly arrived immigrants, often with sub-standard educational backgrounds. Lick is on a mission to close the achievement gap for this population. I hope they figure it out! All power to them. They have awesome teachers, too.

    Algebra is of course taught in the honors classes at high-performing middle schools such as Aptos, Hoover, Giannini, Presidio, and Roosevelt. These are feeder schools for Lowell.

    I'm not sure what a previous poster meant by "mainstream," as our middle schools run quite the gamut.

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  86. General ed, honors and special ed students take algebra at Aptos, but they have to test into it. I'm not sure what the process is if they don't make the grade on the test -- that is, whether they can move into algebra throughout the year.

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  87. Kate I am so happy for you and your family that you have chosen Jose Ortega. I just know that you will be happy there because SFUSD is totally awesome! We're thinking of taking a vacation to celebrate your choice--can ya believe that? Any chance you can fund it with all of the money you're saving by not attending that school that is so out of our league? Ha just kiddin! But seriously Kate, you can't have thought you'd fit in there at that elite private school--you and Alice are too cool for that school! Or too poor--ha ha again! Whoo hoo, welcome back from the dark side!! I'm your father!!

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  88. hey 10:17 - Are you drunk?

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  89. Drunk or disturbed, eh?

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  90. "And do they all score at proficient or advanced level on the STAR test for algebra?"

    Probably not, but there's little chance that they will score Proficient or Advanced if they've never taken algebra.

    My "mainstream middle schools" I mean 6-8 schools, as opposed to K-8 schools. I'm pretty sure no 6-8 schools are teaching algebra to all 8th graders.

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  91. Oops, I misspoke. I had forgotten that all the 8th graders at Lick take algebra.

    My son's 7th grade math teacher at a K-8 school specifically told his class that passing the algebra readiness test was not enough--the teacher was the gatekeeper who decided which students would take it.

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  92. Just like pushing reading down to kindergarten, even though not all kindergartners are developmentally ready to read, pushing algebra down to the 8th grade curriculum seems like a bad idea.

    I think it's great for those who are ready to take it. But clearly, it would be better for some kids to really master mathematics first. Does it really do any good to teach algebra to 8th graders who haven't mastered mixed fractions or decimals yet? It sounds like you're just setting them up for yet another failure.

    But maybe I am missing something, and the majority of eighth graders really are able to handle algebra successfully.

    I would love to hear more.

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  93. I'm pretty sure that Algebra in 8th grade is the district standard. The 8th grade math books are algebra books, and I think if schools aren't offering it they must be using old books, or found other books. I thought it was based on the statewide standard.

    This being said I think that many many kids repeat Algebra in 9th grade.

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  94. Algebra is taught in 8th grade (or should be)

    Here is a link to the California Department of Education's CONTENT STANDARDS:

    If you want to know what the State thinks your kid should be learning, grade-by-grade, look it up

    http://tinyurl.com/3jbhoq

    >^..^<

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  95. Main page, for content standards:

    http://tinyurl.com/y9me28


    >^..^<

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  96. My daughter took Algebra in 8th grade, she had tested into it, but she REALLY struggled. She scores very well on standardized test scores in math, well into advanced, but her struggles in math made her lose confidence in her math abilities. She was getting a C even though she was really trying hard.

    If I were given a do over, I would not have her in the algebra class in 8th grade. She has a late Fall birthday, so she is on the younger side of the grade. I would let her take the class when she is developmentally ready for it.

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  97. There is a ton of algebra in the state standards for elementary grades starting as early as 3rd grade. But I don't believe the California standards include an algebra course for all students in 8th grade.

    Traditional middle school math has been considered a waste of time for years. In the past, students covered almost the same material in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. How many times can you go over decimals, fractions, and ratios? (The amount of time spent on fractions really bugs me. Who in the world would ever want to add 17-3/16 and 9-3/7?

    With my own kids, I've often stressed the difference between "arithmetic" and "math." Just because you have a hard time mastering the alogrithm for long division doesn't mean that you aren't "good at math."

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  98. Yes, there are many algebraic and also geometric concepts taught in upper elementary. It's quite cool really, seeing the lightbulbs go off regarding the underlying concepts. This is along with the usual fractions, decimals, ratios, measurements like length, area, volume; and ugh, the dreaded long division and times tables. Though you do need this last bit, I think. Although the times tables certainly qualify as rote learning of the kind I usually hate, there is something to be said for just memorizing a certain amount of material, and just knowing that 9x7=63 without having to count it out. As long as the conceptual work is there too--which for my kids, it has been.

    My daughter loves math, so I hope that continues in middle school.

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  99. I read a NYT article recently that discussed the disagreements within the math teaching community on the best approaches to math instruction. It acknowledged the high failure rate of middle school kids in algebra. I thought it was interesting, especially in laying out benchmarks for elementary school kids.

    http://tinyurl.com/35kx8b

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  100. I've come around to thinking that having every kid memorize multiplication facts is really important. For one thing, it's to key to really getting a lot of algebraic concepts. It's pretty hard to factor an equation unless you recognize that 6 x 8 = 48 and 6 + 8 = 14.

    It would make it a lot less painful if every teacher played something like the Schoolhouse Rock multiplication song every morning--from Kindergarten on!

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  101. As someone who wasn't good at rote memorization of the multiplication tables and was a math-phobe (until much later when I entered the business world and realized I really WAS good at math!) I can attest that not everyone can learn their math facts the same way.

    We did flash cards, drills, etc. all last year with my then 4th grader. It simply wasn't sinking in (but his 2nd grade sister sure got it down!) He'd read a word problem and understand the concept that you were supposed to, say multiply 7x5. But he'd then get the math fact wrong.

    For kids that need a different approach (in my son's case he needed a visual reference/guide/approach), check out MakingMathReal.org. We found a tutor in the East Bay trained in the program. My son who really was struggling in 4th grade got it down in 5th and made huge strides.

    The math curriculum standards are challenging in that they are a mile wide and an inch deep. Teachers are expected to cover a great deal of ground.

    My son's tutor noted at that he was being introduced to math concepts in 5th grade that we didn't get till 7th or 8th (back in the dark ages - yet considered public school's 'golden age')

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  102. This is for Caroline.
    Since I know that you read this thread, I was wondering if you could respond to a previous poster requesting specific information: What is your source for stating that our local SF charter schools are funded by right wing groups? (Specific evidence please.)
    thanks

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  103. That seems a little off-topic, 8:53. If you want to introduce a back-and-forth discussion you might consider the sfschools listserve,
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sfschools/ -- I'm happy to discuss it.

    However, to respond to the direct question: I've never said that local SF charter schools were directly funded by right-wing groups.

    However: The entire charter movement -- its advocacy/lobbying/support network -- is supported by and closely linked to all kinds of right-wing money and power. Those far-right, anti-public-education, pro-privatization lobbying/advocacy groups provide support, PR, outreach etc. for ALL charters, no matter how progressive those individual school communities believe themselves to be.

    The big right-wing, pro-privatization, free-market think tanks such as the Hoover Institution are major supporters. Huge money comes from the Walton Family Foundation (the famously far-right Wal-Mart folks), along with Eli Broad (right-wing) and Bill Gates and Don Fisher (not strictly right-wing, but not viewed as exactly progressive either). Media such as the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the intetnational high temple of the free-market, pro-privatization right, are huge supporters of the charter movement and bashers of public education.

    The nation's best-known advocacy group for charters -- the go-to for media, for example -- is the Center for Education Reform, www.edreform.com -- openly anti-public-education and anti-union, and very closely linked with the Bush administration.

    The moment when I realized that self-described progressive charter folks were NOT in a separate universe from all that was when I saw a CACS family with a Center for Education Reform bumper sticker on their car. I know this family to be left/liberal and anti-Bush, and of course they didn't know anything about the organization whose vivid logo was emblazoned across their bumper -- but to me the fact that they didn't ask and didn't know is telling too. How different is that from the famous "incuriosity" that is so widely criticized in President Bush? (And he is also criticized for being unwilling to hear any views that challenge his deeply held beliefs.)

    If I were a charter advocate, as a liberal/progressive, I would be working to show that charters can distance themselves from those elements rather than denying the obvious and shooting the messenger.

    Here's an interesting Q&A interview in the Socialist Worker (not my usual milieu, but...). It's with Steven Miller, a veteran Oakland teacher and education commentator. He, and the interview, are not strictly anti-charter, but still bear out my observations:

    Miller: "...in Oakland, we find that condemning all charter schools is not the way to go.

    We do want to point out that they are being used against public schools in a myriad of ways to destroy the system. That's not necessarily the fault of those who are involved with charter schools. We feel that we have to make that distinction.

    But most charter schools are run by corporations. They're run for a profit, and not just because they're a plucky startup. ...

    Non-profits are allowed a certain percent of profit, like 3 or 4 percent. Then they can fiddle with how much they're reinvesting, so that's not "profit"--but it's excess money that they generated.

    Their bigger goal is to use these things to undercut and destroy a system of public control over the schools."

    http://tinyurl.com/45xlx6

    And in case you haven't already seen it, here's my overall commentary on charter schools:

    http://tinyurl.com/2z8c5z

    Hope to see you on the sfschools listserve if you are interested in exploring this topic further!

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  104. God, don't even encourage her. She tells that same bumper sticker story hundreds of times a month, and spouts the same rhetoric.

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  105. This is not a new viewpoint; it's just drowned out by the pro-charter PR.

    Here's Francis X. Clines in the New York Times five years ago -- June 3, 2003 -- on charter schools as part of the so-called "Texas miracle" that helped Bush win the presidency. Clines overstates the degree to which charter schools are evidently "wilted," but again, that's thanks to all that mightily funded pro-charter PR and lobbying.

    "...of all the products of the education hothouse that lent such bloom to the Bush candidacy, none is looking more wilted than that beloved conservative stratagem called charter schools. These are independent schools run at public expense as a nonpublic alternative to public schools.

    In the closing legislative hours, the latest sorry wrinkle in the charter agenda was struck down -- a siphoning of public funds for computers to create ''virtual'' schools for students working in their homes. But the charter school movement lives on, six years old and costing taxpayers $5,000 per pupil, with limited state oversight on how the money is spent.

    The movement, with its ballyhooing of entrepreneurial alternatives to public schools, helped Governor Bush polish his image as an education innovator. But the schools' shortcomings have become clearer since he left town, and the state's budget crunch clearly points to the unfairness of diverting shrinking public funds to private experimentation.

    Unsurprisingly, considering the deliberate reining in of state controls, some of the schools have become standouts not for academic excellence but for the sort of greed and gamesmanship more familiar to patronage politics: nepotistic staffing, inflated attendance, false academic records, exorbitant salaries and employees with unchecked criminal backgrounds, according to investigators."

    http://tinyurl.com/6xp5ma

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  106. "ome of the schools have become standouts not for academic excellence but for the sort of greed and gamesmanship more familiar to patronage politics: nepotistic staffing, inflated attendance, false academic records, exorbitant salaries and employees with unchecked criminal backgrounds, according to investigators.""


    Sounds like you are describing SFUSD in a nutshell, except for the bit about unchecked criminal backgrouds.

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  107. 12:58

    Where is this coming from? I have seen none of the above in my experience with 3 kids at SFUSD schools.

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  108. Sigh. We had a nice little discussion going about math curriculum. I was finding it interesting. I wish the thread had not been hijacked by someone trying to re-open the charter debate with Caroline. I wish Caroline had simply pointed to the sfschools list and refused to respond on this thread. I wish we did not have to deal with yet one more post trying to trash the sfusd schools with wrong, out-dated stereotypes. It was nice for awhile to think about math curriculum, something we can all relate to whether public or private, charter or non-charter.

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  109. 1:42 asked: "Where is this coming from? I have seen none of the above in my experience with 3 kids at SFUSD schools."

    You haven't seen it because maybe you haven't looked.

    nepotistic staffing:
    Annette Lim, Executive Director of the SFUSD Educational Placement Center retires and her job is given to her relative, Darlene Lim.

    exorbitant salaries:
    Ackerman gets 250K a year, 375K severance pay, puts 45K on a credit card for one years' dinners (45 K is more than a first year teacher gets in a year!)
    $1223.44 for a two-night stay at a
    Marriott Hotel in San Diego,
    six meals at Jardiniere, totaling more than $1,000.
    ( so much for putting kids first, she put her mouth first!)

    $12,140 for food for school board members during school board meetings

    12K for Jill Wynns travel expenses in one year

    I'm all for paying School Board members a real salary, but why should we pay for their meals and travel?

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  110. I'm all for paying School Board members a real salary, but why should we pay for their meals and travel?,

    Precisely because the stipend they get is a pittance, and because work-related travel should be reimbursed (or only rich people will be able to serve). Jill Wynns is an effective BOE member who actually understands educational finance, partly because of her national connections. I don't begrudge travel reimbursement in the low five figures that builds up a base of knowledge that she can use for the district. (Obviously, I hope the stuff is audited and conforms to policy, as all public expenditures should.) We need decision-makers with the expertise and tools to run an urban school district of significant size.

    $12,000? Geez. What do you think most private schools spend, averaged out per child, on travel to conferences on related to the running of independent schools? This is 20 cents per SFUSD child or thereabouts. What is that, $100 bucks a year for a school of only 500 kids? I would actually HOPE that our leaders are out there looking for solutions to our complex challenges (achievement gap, school funding, etc.).

    Ackerman had large tastes. That is partly why the school board did not like her much on a personal level and pretty much forced her out (plus the unions also had problems with her emphasis on school reconstitution and with her top-down way of working). I don't know that Garcia has been spending on meals and cars the same way--I hope not. He does have a large salary, but have you tried lately to hire a competent school superintendent lately, one with the skills and know-how to run a big district with a diverse and challenging population and unstable revenue? This is the market. He seems good so far. I hope he works out.

    The teachers, obviously, do not have exorbitant salaries. We had to pass a parcel tax just to bring them closer to the Bay Area market.

    BOTH Garcia and Ackerman are/were certainly a big improvement on the Rojas years. I have heard no allegations of major corruption as we used to hear in the bad old days. Ackerman is widely understood to have overseen some major corruption cleanups. This is one reason among several why SFUSD is so much better these days than it was fifteen years ago.

    You can point to this or that but it is small potatoes. It's a large district and overall pretty clean, though not perfectly so.

    If you want to talk serious nepotism, I would point you to my Ivy League alma mater with its numerous "legacy" admits, many of whom were stone-cold dumb, and plenty of paternalistic, and yes, nepotistic hiring too, but no one talks about it because that sort of private institution does not not have to be publicly accountable. This is the nature of human institutions. The public ones generally have the problems of being bigger and more bureaucratic, but they also get more public scrutiny.

    In any case, it is way out of line to trash our schools for having "greed and gamesmanship more familiar to patronage politics: nepotistic staffing, inflated attendance, false academic records, exorbitant salaries...." There is nothing on that scale going on. Enough. Can we get back to a more contructive conversation, please?

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  111. Sorry -- I just feel compelled to respond when I'm asked a direct question. In the future I'll point the questioner to sfschools (you can still be pseudonymous if you want) and say let's discuss it there.

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  112. "In any case, it is way out of line to trash our schools for having "greed and gamesmanship more familiar to patronage politics: nepotistic staffing, inflated attendance, false academic records, exorbitant salaries...." There is nothing on that scale going on. Enough. Can we get back to a more contructive (sic) conversation, please?"

    I agree, it is out of line for
    Caroline to trash Charter Schools, she first used that quote and she was out of line and over the top, as usual. So 12:58 bounces the quote back in reaction to her constant trashing of Charter Schools, which are public schools too, and OUR schools too.
    An earlier poster was right though, that responding in any way to Caroline just encourages her dogmatic tirades.

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  113. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sfschools/

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  114. no thanks. too biased.

    Let's get back to math, shall we?

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  115. That URL is not for the sfschools blog, where I co-blog, but for the sfschools discussion listserve. Though I originally co-founded it in 2000, the listserve has long since taken on a life of its own and DEFINITELY doesn't reflect just my views. All views are represented. CACS folks post there regularly. It's a much more appropriate forum for discussing hot issues.

    Again, that number is:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sfschools/

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  116. What Caroline perhaps cannot seem to comprehend is that most of us have no desire to "discuss" this issue with her; we are already far too familiar with her opinions, we read them over and over and over again.
    The only reason any of us bother to respond to her at all on this blog is to refute her totally unsubstantiated claims that, in sending our kids to charters, we are "attempting to put an end to public education."
    We are defending our schools against her constant trashing, and believe me, none of us really enjoy doing that.
    To the person who asked Caroline to respond and offer up actual proof, she can't do that, because their isn't any proof. Posting excerpts from an article written several years ago by a NY Times reporter about Charters in Texas is proof that charters are all evil???? WTF??? There are no facts involved in any of her arguments, it is all speculation and conjecture. It is like saying: "I heard about a republican who beats his kid" and then saying: SEE! ALL REPUBLICANS BEAT THEIR KIDS.
    There really is no point "discussing" this stuff with someone whose arguments are so ridiculous and inflammatory and biased, and based upon nothing but anecdotal nonsense.
    I promise to not bring it up again on this blog unless it is a direct response to more charter trashing.

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  117. Yeah, let's talk about algebra :)

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  118. My arguments are based on whom the major funders and supporters of charter schools are. That's quite irrefutable and has nothing to do with anecdote.

    I'm sorry, but it's just not fair to make misstatements and expect me to leave them hanging.

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  119. Enough, already!!!!!!

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  120. There's a reason she is nicknamed "Constant Comment", and it isn't because she drinks the tea.

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  121. OMG! no kidding...

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  122. Why do so many discussions here turn into random Caroline-bashing? If you don't like her opinions, why do you keep reading them - and arguing with her about them?

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  123. Because we need to take out our anger and frustration at someone who is extremely annoying.

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  124. Let's see, the people she claims are major supporters of Charter Schools, like Warren Buffet, also give tons of money to Glide Memorial Church. Using the same limp silly logic, she probably thinks Glide Memorial Church is also a seething hotbed of Bush supporters, conspiring to undermine Public Education as we know it!

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  125. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5512893

    Sounds to me like the Gates Foundation is on the right track.

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  126. That npr link is broken. What is the title of the article? Thanks.

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  127. "Buffett Gift Sends $31 Billion to Gates Foundation"

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  128. Thank you to the Anonymous who posted the NYT article on math.

    http://tinyurl.com/35kx8b

    It was thought-provoking.

    Our school is getting new math books next year -- Everyday Math. I've heard mixed things about the curriculum from friends with kids with certain learning disabilities. But, leafing through it briefly in the hall it looked pretty interesting. I hope it will be an improvement on the current elementary math curriculum, which I find a little long on graphics and short on content.

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  129. Here's a real topic...i finally got a school assignment, went to the open house, and hated it. This school, with it's extremely limited resources (as they all do) has to focus on a precious group of kids. In this case, it's the right thing for the school to do, given the make up of the student body/neighborhood. However, it is the wrong focus for my daughter (read...it could be an all white, very academic school, and my ESL son needs bi-lingual help.)

    Don't assume anything, except that I didn't feel any connection with the curriculum at all.

    I respect the teachers/ principal a ton. Really liked the conflict resolution and big brother/sister thing they put into place. But I really really really don't want to send my kid there.

    Now what? 3 weeks until school, no public school openings I can get to.

    Charter? Public? Religious?
    I get no help from Caroline when I ask her directly.

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  130. It sounds like you really want a public school, and yet the system is failing you miserably.

    Do you have options for private or charter?

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  131. Are you still in a wait pool for a school you like better? Some people do get their wait pool school over the summer, or even after the start of school.

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  132. correction...3 weeks until preschool is out...is what i meant to say.

    I am on a waitlist for a school that is both perfectly located for us, and not on so many people's radar. BUT there are 25 people on the waitlist still. The wait list has just gotten larger thru the process. not smaller.

    i think this year is much different than the past. not feeling hopeful.

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  133. Hi Anon 6:42 AM-

    I don't know your situation, but have you looked at some of the less popular privates or the parochial schools? Most don't require you to be of their religion and are considerably more affordable than most private schools.
    I know families living near Glen Park that have applied to less known privates in S. San Francisco or Daly City. Perhaps you could get a spot for K with the intention of transferring to public you want for 1st grade if it doesn't work out...
    We LOVE our charter (Creative Arts). The K class is full for this year and the wait list is long, but I'd urge you to take a look. As with all wait lists, things shuffle around at the last minute so you never know.
    I don't know what you're looking for, but we love the project based curriculum and the K teacher is fabulous this year. (kids get the same teacher for 2 years)
    Best of luck to you!

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  134. Also consider switching your waitpool school. 25 people is a large number, in the top 10-15 kindergarten programs. There are lots of high quality schools with much smaller wait pools. Unfortunately, it's those who are comfortable with their backup (assigned public, private, or whatever) who can afford to gamble by staying in the large waitpools. Someone like you may want to be more conservative and switch. I don't know where you live or which schools you liked, but schools I would consider if I were in your boat (after checking to see if they are overenrolled - this is just based on wait pool numbers) would include Harvey Milk, McKinley, New Traditions, Jose Ortega (Mandarin and Gen Ed), Paul Reverse (Spanish), SF Community, Sunnyside, and Starr King (Mandarin and Gen Ed). They all seem to have small or nonexistent wait pools.

    (By the way, I'm an incoming K parent, so I have no experience with or knowledge of which waitpools actually tend to move -- obviously PPS or EPC would be better sources of information on this kind of strategy).

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  135. Thanks for the advice. We live in the excelsior, but work near Lakeshore--so it's our waitpool school. I appreciate the thoughts.

    Any privates you can name in Daly City/So SF?

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  136. I'll ask my friends who live in Glen Park. Meanwhile, I assume you looked at SF Community?

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  137. Hi Anon at 642.

    I will just say that if you are considering Creative Arts Charter, we were on the wait list there and got offered a spot on the FIRST DAY of school! So it does happen. Of course that may not be what you're after.

    I'm curious, if your situation is as you say - son with ESL and needing a bilingual program, couldn't you theoretically put in for a hardship appeal? I mean, it sounds as though you are in a somewhat unique situation - have you used a counselor at EPC?

    I will also say that we switched our daughter this year out of her school after one year in K - she's not in her new school yet, but we had much better luck this year and the anticipated transition seems to be going OK.

    Good luck.

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  138. 6:43 AM

    So it sounds like you got a school that, while high demand, doesn't work for your child. I'm not sure if it's possible, but maybe you could check with EPC to find out if someone registered at Lakeshore is in the waitpool for the school you have but are unhappy with. Could they just switch you? Then EPC has two happy customers.

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  139. Hey Big and Tiny Girl--just out of curiousity, which school are you putting your daughter into for 1st?

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  140. She was not saying her child is really an ESL student in a highly academic school -- as I understand it, she was using that as an example of a school and child that would not be a good fit.

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  141. Re. Daly City and South City privates:

    Hilldale in Daly City - non-sectarian. This is the lowest-priced independent private I've seen. They were underenrolled a couple of years ago when we were in a panic and looking for a new school for our kid. We had missed the deadlines so only looked at places with more flexible admissions procedures. We ended up choosing a different school, but you might want to check it out.

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  142. Anon 12:23

    thanks for the DC school. we'll check it out.

    to clarify, i was using the ESL example as just an example of why the school does't fit us.

    thanks all, for your help.

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  143. Kate: congrats! we've enrolled in Starr King Mandarin Immersion and have already met many awesome, committed, involved parents from both programs. The pioneer families are particularly impressive. There do seem to be many, many attorney parents at least in our class, and I'm not sure what that's about but can't complain since I'm one too. I think we are unbelievably fortunate to have these fantastic programs in the public school system. See you this summer at the playdates! --Bernal single mom

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