Sunday, July 6, 2008

Open forum

I'm out of town through mid-July. Feel free to use this post as an open forum area. I hope everyone is enjoying summer--and taking a break from the school frenzy. Best, Kate


  1. Just wanted to say how thrilled I am that you are going public. Helped validate my own choice of Monroe over French American :)

  2. have a great vacation kate.

    i'm interested in hearing from those who drop their schools or switch waitpools. i am trying to predict where we will be (0/15) and strategize our next move. will it be black or navy uniforms?!!

  3. i'd like to get inputs on the challenge that is apparently facing many immersion programs around town: the district did not assign optimal numbers of english-speaking vs. bilingual vs. target-language kids to the classes (they're always aiming for 33/33/33 or 50/50). my daughter is slated to attend flynn IMMS, so we have a vested interest, but i am of course generally concerned and want to know how to direct my energies toward fixing this problem and helping the teachers, if that is even possible.

    my understanding is that both flynn and alvarado were assigned too many english speakers. (so they think -- who can really know for sure given the district's ridiculous home language survey and testing? i know of at least three families whose kids are genuinely bilingual who either failed the target language test or were labeled as "english" in the system.) marshall seems to have been assigned too few english speakers. i know starr king mandarin has struggled with -- and triumphed over? -- this challenge all along. the flynn teachers on the listserv were certainly concerned about this situation. rumors of draconian measures were flying, but i suppose that's what rumors are, right?

    inputs? thoughts? scuttlebutt? are we over all the spoiled bobo immersion-seeking parents already?


  4. Thanks Kim for raising this issue. My children are going to Marshall, where they will be 2 of a VERY small handful of English speakers. Another school where the district has failed to achieve the proper ratio for immersion, but in reverse (not enough Eng speakers, year after year). To me this speaks to the need for the Span Imm programs to be in a separate lottery. Perhaps then the SFUSD can manage the task of proper "mix" in these programs (er... or maybe not). Also, the SFUSD might look at these issues and make efforts to make a school like Marshall more attractive to the English speaking families (Cauc, middle class) who want SPan Imm but also need aftercare. How can we have a school with such limited aftercare options?????? (Marshall has a program that is ONLY for very low-income kids and ONLY for those who can commit to 5d week). Lots of things could be done to make all the Span Imm programs more comparable, thereby increasing the number of schools attractive to all seeking Span Imm. Just some thoughts. Please post any info you receive re: how to address this issue at the SFUSD level.

  5. Whooo! We got into our favorite private!! At least someone wants us--SFUSD, you had your chance at a dedicated, involved family who was committed to improving public education...but you blew it. So we're going to do what we said we'd never do. But honestly, John Muir? These are our children we're playing games with here! Have a great vacation Kate. We're so happy for you and your family, to have made it into a public school where you will make such a wonderful difference.

  6. Well, do tell us where! Boy or girl? Congrats!

  7. "inputs" ?

    Wouldn't the correct word to use be "input"?

  8. I like the idea of a separate immersion lottery. People who want immersion usually really want immersion. Also, it would be helpful for the district to publicize the immersion programs separately from general ed. This might increase participation among native speakers, or help them understand the benefits and pitfalls of these programs better.

  9. why is it that the district is dropping spanish bilingual programs for immersion ones, but the cantonese side isn't? doesn't seem right that there are only two CN programs available.

  10. Dual immersion programs have limited popularity with immigrants. As you might imagine, a lot of immigrant families view the dual-immersion model (starting in the target language and gradually moving to English) as a slower route to mastering English. Reportedly, this sentiment is more prevalent among Chinese families than Latino families.

    (Bilingual education is just aimed at getting the English-learner proficient in English.)

  11. While we still don't have a school, I am sort of getting used to that state of being, and find myself looking beyond admissions toward the reality of our little one starting school, wherever that may be.

    With that in mind, what does a kinder actually need in the way of supplies? pencils, a notebook of some sort and a backpack is what I came up with so far. Is there much more to it?

  12. Okay. I'll start a fire here.

    In my opinion, any family who doesn't have a school at this point, and is gambling on miraculously landing somewhere in the next month and a half... I think they're a bit irresponsible. How can you not know where your kid is going to school?

    I went 0/15, but lucked out with a private. I really wanted public. But to have nothing right now? I don't know how you do it. Had I not gotten a slot at a private, I would be long gone by now. I love this city, but I would gamble with something so important.

    I don't get it.

    Many of the people who post with they have a plan b for moving out of the city? staying an extra year in a k program? what??

  13. Your child needs a backpack and a lunch box. That's about it. We put the lunch box in the backpack most days. About once a week a homework book was sent home and the weekly PTA folder. The backpack should be big enough to hold these 8x11 books. I'd recommend a fairly heavy duty backpack (like kelty or north face canvas type) because your child will likely drag it on the ground repeatedly despite your constant reminders not to. We found the cute vinyl one we bought didn't hold up well. Also, it might be nice to have a side holder for a water bottle. Although your child can purchase milk at lunchtime, so you don't need to pack a drink if you don't want to.

  14. To the 7/7 6:09 poster, I switched my waitpool from Clarendon to another school in the top dozen test score range, in a different neighborhood to which I would gladly relocate.

    Sometimes there are more open slots come the ten day count at the Clarendons and Rooftops. But I figured, why even bother being 1 of 30 when I can be 1 of 5?

    Unlike some families in the district who are okay with it, there is no way I will drive a half hour or 45 minutes each way for school. That's a deal breaker. For that commute, I'll swallow it and move.

    I'm looking at rentals outside the city, so I'm ready once the ten day count comes and goes.

    I have not faith that somehow I'll end up at a perfectly fine school September 5th or whenever. That's more PR junk from the public school cultists. I believe in the SFUSD, just not for our family this year.

    I agree with the last poster that I'm sorta irresponsible. But it's more ignorance. I mean, there is always the lottery next year, right? At least, now I know not to put Clarendon or Rooftop on the list. ;-)

    I would do things very differently had I to do them over. For example, I would have tried to get a fall back plan at a parochial, as much as that isn't what I want.

    I can't believe it's the middle of July and we have no place to go.

  15. 3:56 brings up a great point. Lots of people wait till they get their school assignment, then move closer to that school. Which begs the question, why can't the schools be neighborhood based?

    It's so frustrating.

    I heard one mother state that the lottery system is awful, but in the end, it's the system that makes the most people happy. Choice and diversity are important.

    But again, neighborhood schools would create tons of diversity. Only a few areas would be all of one thing or another, like mostly Asian in the Sunset or mostly AA in the Bayview or whatever. But aren't they already? since the Court got rid of the rule where no school could have more than 45% of one group? and couldn't those 'non-diverse' neighborhoods be the places you put the popular arts and immersion classes?

    Just an idea.

    Most other neighborhoods seem pretty diverse to me (Mission, Noe, Bernal, North Beach, Russian Hill, SOMA, etc.)

    The goal should be great schools that are easy to access for the most people.

  16. To 4:02, I agree. Easy access!! That should be as important as anything.

  17. Question -- so if a school isn't on the district's wait-pool list, does that mean they potentially have openings? Is there some really obvious place on the SFUSD website that lists openings, and I'm just missing it? I ask b/c we're screwed at the moment. My company was supposed to transfer me, so I gave up -- yes, GAVE UP, even wrote up the letter for the school -- our spot at a fairly popular elemenary school. Now the transfer has been canceled, and my daughter doesnt' have a school for the fall.

    Also, she's on the young side, so I'm thinking of putting her in pre-K or transitional K, since we'll need full-time care, and I don't know what the after-care situation will be like at most schools at this point. Anyone heard of any places with openings? (I called Lakeside, St. Paul's, Phoebe Hearts, Treehouse -- no dice).I work down in Foster City, so I would even be open to sending her to a TK on the peninsula somewhere ... Or heck we may be moving to the peninsula in the next month if I can't work something out. Thanks much.

  18. 8:17 PM

    I am so sorry. You tried to do the right thing, and look what happens?

    I would definitely take a trip down to EPC with all your documentation. I am sure they will try to help you out as much as they can.

  19. To 8:17, if you don't luck out in the 10-day count, you might consider doing an interdistrict transfer and enrolling your child in Foster City, which has 3 excellent elementary schools. We also looked into this as DH works in FC. The only drawback is that afterschool care fills up quickly and would not be available on-site if you had to enroll after the FC families (as is required for interdistrict transfers).

  20. 8:17 -- thank you everyone. i appreciate the advice. i'm trying to keep a "something will work out" perspective about all of this. because it will, and because our family could be going through much worse things like this.

    but thank you again.

  21. To the mom without an assignment -

    If you are going to go PreK, I would definitely try Marin Day/Bright Horizons. They have several campuses around the city, and I believe that they also have one on the Peninsula. Just a thought. Good luck!

  22. To firestarter @ 3:46

    While you may be risk adverse and want to live your child's life with the illusion of control, don't judge those who must allow for a little more serendipity in their lives.

    In a year's time nearly everyone on this list, even the "irresponsible ones", will likely be content at the school that their child ends up at. You might not get it, but sometimes if you let go of the wheel and allow things to fall into place you find that it really can work out in many different ways than what you have imagined. Don't limit your choices out of fear.

    Poster 8:17 @ 9;14 was right when s/he said that his/her family could be going through much worse things than waiting for a Kinder assignment. It is only Kindergarten. Your child's academic success is not going to be derailed by missing 10 days of Kindergarten.

    Your slip of the tongue (fingertip) speaks the real truth:

    "Had I not gotten a slot at a private, I would be long gone by now. I love this city, but I would gamble with something so important."

    Maybe you should then...

  23. rosa parks jbbp mom here...

    for those interested in knowing more about the district's world langugages and immersion programs, there is a group (that grew out of PPS' immersion task force) called "san francisco advocates for multilingual excellence" -- or sf ame -- made up of parents, teachers and community members advocating for multilingual acquisition for district kids. they have an active listserve

    sf ame members (most of whom are immersion program families) can answer all your questions and more about immersion programs and issues. much of the group's work over the past year has been in conjunction with the district's appointed blue ribbon task force (which was convened to outreach and make recommendations to advance the boe's multilingual resolution -- which commits the district to providing access to a second language for all students) and more recently, the district' multilingual master plan being developed by a core group of renown experts in language education. if the funding elephant can be addresssed (and that's a monumental if considering the budget forecast for the future) there may be a strategic flourishing of language and fles programs in the district.

    at the annual district school fair in the fall, there is a separate workshop given in several languages, geared towards EL families, about the various language program options, including immersion. but the array of program offerings can be very confusing to anyone. even the nomenclature is baffling and inconsistently used (bilingual education, early exit, late exit, one and two way immersion, bilingua/bicultural, and enrichment to name a few). outreaching to and educating EL families about the long term benefits of immersion programs and recruiting more EL families is one of the sf ame group.

  24. What a child needs for Kindergarten: it helps if students have a backpack and a folder (for keeping homework/take home schoolwork). I ask that students have pencils, crayons, a glue stick, and scissors available at home for homework and will provide them if necessary. I'd rather that these supplies stay at home - especially special pencils and whatnot. Most teachers will send a list of suggested supplies/donations for the classroom.

    4:02 - I'm suspicious that neighborhood schools would ensure diversity. Even diverse neighborhoods (the Mission, Bernal Heights, etc.) have fairly noticeable block-by-block segregation. Overall they're diverse, but they're not diverse within themselves. Unless the hypothetical neighborhood assignment system had several schools to which families in the neighborhood were assigned, I don't think it would work.

    Also, San Francisco's economic segregation is strong by neighborhood, and I would argue that the city itself has many racially-segregated neighborhoods: Noe Valley, Twin Peaks, Pacific Heights, and so on (there are even nicknames for some of these - "Snowy Valley" and "Pacific Whites" - so it's not just me!).

    This isn't to say that the current plan is working: San Francisco's schools are more segregated than ever, and its opportunity gap in test scores is appalling (particularly considering the lack of a gap in readiness when students enter). I just don't think neighborhood school assignment is a panacea.

  25. Poppy, do you really see the lack of a gap in readiness when students enter school? Specific to San Francisco? That doesn't jibe with what teacher friends tell me.

    One frequent explanation for the achievement gap -- at least for the low African-American scores on one end of it -- in SFUSD is that because of our ridiculous housing prices, African-American families who are upwardly mobile enough to reach the homeownership market have to leave to buy (outlying spots like Vallejo and Pinole seem to be popular destinations). That leaves the very poor in San Francisco, largely in public housing. And the children of the very poor are likely to be significantly underprepared for school -- on a national basis (based on material I've been reading, such as Elijah Anderson's book "Code of the Street") and on a local basis, from what teacher friends relate to me.

  26. I have heard and observed a big "readiness gap" between richer and poorer kids. Not necessarily in self-care skills (putting on jackets, etc.) but in vocabulary. The average middle class kid comes to school with literally thousands of more words than poorer children. Lack of vocabulary makes everything more difficult later on -- decoding unfamiliar words, comprehending text when school becomes more content based in third grade, etc.

  27. Receptive vocabulary is a huge factor in school success. That's why preschool programs for language enrichment are so important. The vocabulary and content gap grows each summer, as kids with resources get enrichment and kids without do not. So summer enrichment programs for kids with little resources are a huge deal too. The achievement gap tends to grow over time partly because of the summertime issue. Lots of things to work on, but not all in the schools...

  28. Caroline: In SFUSD and across the United States, Brigance scores show no difference in Kindergarten readiness. There is a lot of talk, and a lot of badly-designed studies, purporting to show gaps. These tend to be designed around vocabulary and claim that the differences are socioeconomic. (Hart and Risely is the best known of these, although Louisa Cook Moats does work in this area.) Unfortunately, the studies do not hold up to any linguistic analysis whatsoever (their design is too flawed to come to any conclusions). Which was the case when the same study designs were used in the 50s to diagnose language deficit disorders in African American children - William Labov ripped these studies to shreds in 1957. Some linguists are doing the same now.

    The study flaws aren't necessarily that complicated. Moats uses picture cards and asks students to name them. One test looked for children to come up with words to distinguish pigs and hogs. I was an urban kid and frankly - two advanced degrees later - I still couldn't do this. Hart and Risely's counting method (they came up with a million-word gap) has some serious problems and no control for dialect variance. (Not to mention their study design, which was horrible before they began the count.) I could go on in this vein forever, but it would both raise my blood pressure and be terribly pendantic.

    Short version: take the vocabulary deficit theory with a deer's lick worth of salt.

  29. That's a pretty unique view, as far as I can tell, and I've been doing a fair amount of research on this issue? Do you know if there's information available about Brigance scores broken out by demographics? That would really surprise me, especially because it conflicts so glaringly with what my teacher friends consistently report.

    I understand about tests with cultural bias, though I would speculate that there has been a fairly concerted effort to remove that since awareness started growing in the late '60s or so. (I would also bet that the pigs vs. hogs test is an urban legend and no one can be found who's actually seen it. The more likely example is expecting a child to know that a cup and saucer go together.)

    The idea that kids of different social classes DON'T start school with a gap also conflicts with studies reported in sociology books such as Annette Lareau's "Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life" and Richard Rothstein's "Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap."

  30. I wanted to give an example of vocabulary the urban child might have that would not appear on a standard testing instrument. This is from my own childhood vocabulary - growing up lower middle class/working class in an urban area.

    I could distinguish between the following types of places to buy food: corner store, candy store (which doesn't just sell candy), supermarket, and grocery store. (Some others too, but these are the big ones.) Suburban and rural children probably couldn't - they'd see the difference (as I do between pig and hog), but they wouldn't have lexical items for each one (the way I'd have pig and...bigger pig, I guess).

    Anyway, part of the issue is what kind of vocabulary you're counting and what lexical items you, the counter, have.

    Caroline, I think I recommended this to you before, but have you ever read Ventakesh? I think there are some obvious criticisms of Anderson's work (I mean, "decent" and "street" are loaded terms, and I don't think it's that easy to draw hard distinctions) and Ventakesh offers some insight that you might find interesting (even if you don't agree with it).

  31. I have an appointment or I'd research some of these names; will do it later. I believe Labov is the inspiration behind the notion of teaching "Ebonics" -- respecting African-American vernacular (and other dialects of the low-income, such as presumably the Appalachian speech of my West Virginia hillbilly kin). Not that that's an invalid idea, but it doesn't inherently address a demographic gap in school readiness either.

  32. And I'll look up Ventakesh when I'm done too. I eagerly read stuff I don't agree with (not that I necessarily expect to disagree). That's why my criticism of charter schools is based largely on reading PRO-charter school materials, for example.

  33. I'm going offline for the forseeable future so I wanted to answer any comments (rather than saying something loaded and then disappearing into the ether), but sorry for the repeated posting.

    Actually, the language/vocabulary deficit perspective that I have is not unique. The problem is it's coming out of linguistics and not education. So the people sharing my position are arguably better able to make the case, but are less likely to have the case spread in educational journals.

    I've seen the Brigance data so I know it's available, but I don't know how to get it. There was a conference last year at Stanford and a speaker cast doubt on readiness gaps (and argued that African American children tended to be more ready for Kindergarten) - I emailed a colleague to see if he can provide me with a citation for you because I can't.

    I also need to point out that teacher ancedata is that. I have certain opinions that I can bear out with my ancedotes from teaching. Unfortunately, some of them are falsifiable when quantitative data are collected. For myself, reflecting on why I think I see something has led to enormous improvements in my teaching.


    Labov's done some work on Ebonics and has argued in favor of using contrastive analysis (use what kids know to teach what they don't - in this case, "Standard" English). Contrastive analysis models in use are few, but they are to a one enormously successful. (In fact, California's been paying "SEP" money for years to research the model.) He also runs a Reading Institute at UPenn, but more broadly he's known as the "father of sociolinguistics". (Recently he's argued in favor of using a different model, not contrastive analysis.)

    A well-known contrastive analysis-using school is CLAS in Los Angeles: they have some videos on if you're interested.

  35. I lied:

    No one has ever argued in favor of teaching Ebonics. Why do that? Students who speak it already know it. What they need to know to survive in this society is Northern Dialect - the current standard. This is an enormous misconception of the issue. John Rickford's website and Lisa Delpit's articles at Rethinking Schools offer more information on this issue.

  36. To 8:17 pm-

    Have you looked into St. Thomas Moore-they are starting a preschool this year and it is right off of 280 (near Brotehrhood Way)-

  37. There was a thread a while ago that discussed math education. According to Nanette Asimov, writing for the Chronicle, the state recently decided to require all 8th graders take Algebra I as of 2011. I thought it might be of interest to those of us who have concerns about math education and curriculum.

    In glancing through some of the SFGate comments, some people educated in Asia and Europe claim they took Algebra in 5th grade, and were studying Calculus by 9th. I have no idea if that was the standard curriculum or an advanced track.

    Are all 13 year olds cognitively ready for the abstract thinking required to succeed at Algebra? Even if they are, will all of our 13 year olds be adequately prepared by this date? Any middle school teachers out there with some insight?

  38. Regarding math education. I'm a parent of a two kids, one in middle and one in upper elementary. My older child will be taking algebra in 8th grade as part of an honors curriculum at Aptos. It is taught in all the honors programs, e.g., at Hoover, Presidio, AP Giannini, Roosevelt. James Lick also teaches algebra to all their 8th graders as part of a (genrally differentiated, i.e., no honors tracking) curriculum in which the kids are tracked only in math but can jump those tracks (up or down) every six weeks. I'm one of those who has mixed feelings about tracking in general, but math is one of the areas that pretty much demands it.

    I don't know about Europe and Asia, which certainly could be more "advanced"--especially for their upper levels since they do a lot of tracking from an early age. I do know that various pre-algebra ideas actually start to appear very early in the elementary curriculum. 4 + [] = 6, what is []; simple word problems, and simple graphing. By 5th grade math they are lapping at the edges of algebra. The kids get a taste of graphing, e.g., 2x + y = 12 on an x-y axis or whatever the problem was that was shown in the Chron today. Also geometry, learning about angles, degrees, raddii, how to calculate area and volume. She had a great math teacher in 5th grade and is looking forward to more of all this.

    The issue raised by CA Superintendent of Education Jack O'Connell, who is hardly a proponent of debased standards, is that the new rule is being pushed upon the state and therefore the districts without any additional resources to help kids become ready for algebra, and that it will set them up for failure. We need more money for credentialed teachers in math (Prop A will help SFUSD here, with its extra pay for teachers in math and science); and more resources for remedial instruction and tutoring. How many kids who are newly arrived in this country are prepared for algebra, taught in English? What about the kids who are profoundly behind when they enter middle school? Any acknowledgement of the real world here?

    I believe the vast majority of kids CAN do learn algebra in the 8th grade, and should, but ONLY if resources are invested for it. Not to mention at the pre-K, K, and elementary levels to prepare them. I have no problems with my children's levels of preparation, and I say that as someone who cannot offer huge amounts of support in this subject from home (unlike in social studies or language arts), but their elementary school was/is solid and there was a critical mass of kids doing the same level of math to support that level of pre-algebra teaching. Plus excellent teachers. As I mentioned, James Lick is doing it for all their kids, not by tracked honors program, but James Lick has lots of extra resources right now, not only for Title I stuff but also extramural grants they've been getting. That money, translated into afterschool tutoring (by credentialed teachers) and other supports, does make a difference.

    Bottom line, this kind unfunded mandate is terrible public policy. I would support a baseline standard of algebra in 8th grade, but good grief, show us the money if you're going to impose a rule like that.

  39. Arguing in favor of the view that low-income children DO tend to -- on average -- enter school with a significant gap in readiness:

    Agreed that anecdotes aren't scientific evidence, but that doesn't mean they have no value. My teacher friends with experience in diverse early-grade classrooms (also my 90yo mother-in-law, a retired LAUSD teacher) unanimously report a clear gap, on average, between higher- and lower-SES kids when they start school. I'm not willing to disdain their extensive experience (which also jibes with my own observations as a parent volunteer).

    This much-discussed 2006 New York Times Sunday Mag article addresses some of the sources both Poppy and I have cited.

    I like the bombastic Daily Howler blog's description of that article, too:

    Paul Tough’s detailed report in the Times is 100 percent worth reading. Why do low-income/minority kids do so poorly in school? Why do they lag behind middle-class peers? For forty years, know-nothing journalists—and educational experts—have loved their simplistic, feel-good answers, angrily blaming teachers and schools for undesirable outcomes. (Official Answer from the 1960s: They do poorly because their teachers are racists. As we ourselves learned, this “answer” wasn’t especially true. But it sure felt good to say it.) But Tough describes a more complex story—a story which begins at birth.
    This is the "whereas" in the controversial 1996 Oakland Unified resolution on Ebonics that appears to propose incorporating it in the curriculum:

    Be it further resolved that the Superintendent in conjunction with her staff shall immediately devise and implement the best possible academic program for imparting instruction to African American students in their primary language for the combined purposes of maintaining the legitimacy and richness of such language whether it is known as ``Ebonics,'' ``African Language Systems,'' ``Pan African Communication Behaviors'' or other description, and to facilitate their acquisition and mastery of English language skills;

    Oh, re Elijah Anderson -- he is clear in "Code of the Street" that he used the terms "street" and "decent" as those terms themselves are used in the African-American inner city.

  40. In re TK openings:

    I just heard that someone just gave up a boy spot in the TK program at The Little School. Although it won't help the person working in Foster City, anyone else looking for a GREAT TK option might want to give the school a call. I hear it's an amazing program.

  41. A good Pre-K option is Little Bear School and they almost always have openings. And it's on the south side of town so getting to the freeway is easy. It's on Ocean near Mission, but a super quick trip from the San Jose Ave entrance to 280, at Randall. (Once on the freeway, continue to the San Jose Ave exit on the left side which sends you through a chute down into the Balboa Park neighborhood. Then up a couple streets, left and you're there. It took us 8 minutes from our house in North Bernal when Miles went there.)

    Anyway, it has it's downsides (it will likely strike the average adult as a very loosy-goosy place) - but my son really thrived there (he just did his Pre-K year there after 2 years at another preschool). They have "theme months" and the kids learn SO much. They also have a lot of free play, as well as weekly dance, yoga, tumbling, and pre-math stuff: peg boards etc. They also foster a lot of independence -the kids have to fold up their own nap/quiet time stuff each day and are encouraged to help each other with costumes before asking an adult.

    There are lots of 3-4 year olds in the pre-school (which alwasy seemed very chaotic to me), but the Pre-K kids are a separate group and as such are a little tribe.

    The number is 239-2220.

    Where did you give up your assignment?

  42. thank you, kathy b. i will check out Little Bear. It's not too far from our house (we're in Parkside). I gave up a spot at Sunset.

  43. our daughter attended little bear for two years. i can't speak to the pre-k, since she was in the brown bear 3-4 class. although the school is not for everyone, it seems -- it has a certain warm, yet anarchic, quality, and can be a bit disorganized administratively -- we really liked it. great families. compassionate teachers. lots of friends. fosters independence and socialization. nothing fancy (thank god). an old-school antidote to the preschools that promise the world and deliver a coddled little tyrant instead ;- ) .

    if it had a slogan, it would probably be, "keeping it real on the cayuga heights/excelsior border" or "recycling is the path to heaven."

  44. You gave up a spot at Sunset? I was in their waitpool for ages... and they always said they were fully enrolled, no spaces opened up at all. You should check to make sure your open space actually got recorded (maybe you'll be lucky and it didn't).

  45. 12:33pm. that's weird. we pulled out a while ago. i'll definitely check then.

  46. kim green -- thanks too for the feedback on Little Bear. Might be a good fit for our daughter. her preschool was great, but really small. I think a little anarchy and independence (with compassionate teachers too of course) might serve her well ...

  47. All this talk about TKs has me feeling somewhat guilty. our daughter is on the young side too -- november -- and i'm not honestly sure she's ready for kindergarten (frankly, i'm not sure any 5-year-old is ready for a day with a 30 minute recess and just a couple of 15-minute breaks).

    but we can't afford to keep her out another year, especially given that we're paying a baby-sitter for her little sister. every month is a struggle to cover preschool, nanny costs and mortgage. so we're sending her, and hoping for the best.

  48. i realized i might have sounded like i was guilt-tripping the TK parents in the last post. sorry if i came across that way; i didn't mean to. i think it's great option, if you can afford it. which you can't, unfortunately.

    on a somewhat unrelated note, does anyone know what the latest development is at Flynn (and Alvarado, maybe too?) about whether they got any of the English-language parents to trade their spot (seems highly unlikely) ... or are going to add on another class? we're on the waitlist for Flynn, but i'm wondering if we should just give up the ghost at this point. our family is bilingual, but our daughter doesn't speak much Spanish so she'd probably flunk the test, at least the spoken part. she understands it very well, though, so i'm sure if she were in an immersion program, she'd blossom.

  49. oops. that should have been "which we can't, unfortunately"

  50. as the 10-day count approaches, and while it's going on, what's the best strategy for getting a school you like off the waitlist? can you change your waitlist school several times? should you call the different schools to see what kind of movement is happening, or still deal with the district? there are several schools I would prefer over our assigned one, so i wouldn't be picky where we got a new spot. just trying to figure out the best way to find out where things might open up.

  51. Another plug for Little Bear School: We've been there 2 years too and my daughter has been in the TK for the past year. The younger classrooms at LBS have added many kids since last year when we were in Panda but still seem very happy and fun. The school added teachers, too, so the ratio is the same.

    Most of the teachers have been there a very, very long time and at least one went there herself as a kid. A (male!) teacher from Panda who was also with us this year in the Pre K classroom, Justus, is just awesome. His mother is the director, founder and tumbling teacher so he was pretty much raised at the school. He and his former-social-worker wife Betsy who also teaches there seem to genuinely LOVE the kids and love their work and the kids get that.

    Also, I've loved that my daughter had tumbling, art, and dance as part of the regular school curriculum so I could choose other things (Chinese and swimming) as outside-of-school activities. LBS also has yoga on Fridays but we didn't sign up for Fridays.

    The TK has been good and the kids did pegboards and pattern blocks which were meant to teach math skills (who knows but my daughter thought they were fun), upper and lower case letters, and lots and lots of fun messy (oobleck anyone?) stuff.

    Like one poster said, each month had a theme and one was dinasaurs. Recently my daughter was talking about how dinasaurs lived on earth before people but they all died a long time ago. I asked her why they died. She said, "no one really knows but some people think a giant mediator hit the earth and killed them all." The poor kid obviously has too many lawyers in her life.
    ---Bernal Single Mom

  52. Too bad her mom can't spell dinosaurs. Lordy. Sorry about that.
    --Bernal Single Mom

  53. To July 11 9:11 pm

    Your best bet is to either call or go to EPC alot to find out about movement on waitlists for the schools you are interested in. School admin staff won't come back to school until the week of August 11th at the earliest - probably more like the week of August 18th, so there won't be anyone to answer your call anyway.

  54. re: the school lottery and enrollment process. Someone named Henri (or Henry) posted the best recommendation that I have seen to date. It was posted quite awhile ago, after Round 1 I think. Henri, if you are still active on this list (or if anyone knows how to search previous threads for his comment), can you please repost the suggestion? Thank you, Joyce

  55. Yes, 11:48 am, I'm still here. Here is what I posted:

    Sibling Assignment:
    Siblings apply two months before Round I lottery, and results posted on SFUSD’s web site. This starts a running tally of each school showing total number of slots and the number available after sibling preference given assuming all of them register. If a sibling does not apply now then s/he loses sibling preference and must participate in the Round I lottery.

    Round I Lottery:
    Applicants submit seven choices, in order of preference. Diversity index used. Assignments given to only those applicants who received one of their seven choices (this allows slots that very well might not be taken by unhappy applicants to be available in Round II Lottery). Applicants who did not receive one of their seven choices must participate in Round II Lottery. Results posted on the running tally started with the Sibling Assignment, showing number of applicants per school (this allows you to assess a school’s popularity, which will be useful in putting together your list of schools for Round II if you didn’t get one in Round I. It will also be useful for next year’s applicants when applying during Round I).

    Registration I:
    Register at assigned school, and results posted on running tally, showing number of applicants per school (broken down into sibling and non-sibling) and number of available slots left.

    Round II Lottery:
    Applicants submit seven choices, in order of preference. Diversity index used? Unlike Round I Lottery, even applicants who did not receive one of their choices is assigned a school. Results posted on the running tally.

    Regisration II:
    Register at assigned school. Results posted on the running tally.

    Only those who did not get one of their choices in Round II may participate in the waitlist? An applicant’s entire list of seven choices is used, although the order of preference is disregarded?


  56. I feel like a professional cold-water thrower. But my point is just that it's never as easy as it sounds.

    There have been years when families who didn't get one of their choices officially got "no assignment." The letter basically said, "sorry, we haven't been able to assign you to a school yet, and we'll keep working with you."

    Well -- you have not SEEN such mass hysteria. This year was nothing by comparison.

    I was serving on the PPS Recruitment and Enrollment Task Force at the time, and actually was a proponent of such a system. I figured those parents would understand that they'd get higher priority as soon as Round 1 was done, since the district HAD to find them a spot. But overwhelmingly, they didn't. It was a stampede for the privates and the 'burbs.

    Also, in the past the official word had been that applicants couldn't appeal or waitlist if they had gotten one of their choices. In reality, they basically could if they pushed it. But that too was viewed as extremely oppressive and un-parent-friendly.

    I know some of this may sound more sensible in concept, but obviously we can't ignore what has worked and not worked in the past.

  57. Oh, and also, I'm not 100% sure how this works now, but in past years, there WAS an earlier deadline to apply for sibs -- that was the case in the year my younger started K (1999).

    The families that screwed up and missed the earlier deadline tended to be the lower-income and limited-English families. I recall Buena Vista having to scramble to fit in a bunch of K sibs whose families had missed the sibling deadline. So then the question is do we make life harder for, and possibly penalize the younger sibs in, families who are already facing extra challenges (income, language etc.).

  58. Yeah, Caroline, I was wondering what would cause 0/7 people the most angst: being assigned a school they are unhappy with and having to wait throughout the summer until the September scramble or having more free seats during Round II at the price of not having an assignment from Round I. Perhaps the Round I Lottery could be called Early Assignment and Round II could be called Presummer Assigment--anything to keep us parents from thinking the first assignment is do-or-die. Keep the cold water coming; it’s always good to check ideas against experience (I’ll just wear my poncho).


  59. EPC used to call round one the "optional enrollment round" (anyway OER -- actually not sure what the "r" stood for) probably for that very reason. But this favored more together families who would take that option. Since the OER system was abandoned EPC and others have been working to make sure everyone participates in round one.

    Every system has its advantages and disadvantages. And no matter how you divvy them up, there are only so many seats at the most coveted schools. I feel at least somewhat optimistic that the number of coveted/acceptable schools has grown almost exponentially over the last few years. Are people just more open-minded, and better informed? The internet, with the ability to connect with a wider community of parents and access actual information instead of rumors.

  60. Optional Enrollment Request. The default was your assignment-area school, so requesting an alternative school was the "option" -- though I think all families were requested to file the application anyway.

    I'm confident that there are many, many more schools viewed as "acceptable" than in the past. I think people are definitely better informed, and the Internet and PPS get most of the credit. Also, SFUSD did start to focus much more on marketing, taking its cue from PPS. For example, PPS sponsored the first enrollment fair, and then SFUSD picked up that task in subsequent years. (I know it was 2000 when PPS sponsored it, because I was handing out political flyers outside, against that year's voucher initiative, Prop. 38.)

  61. A question for Clarendon parents:

    It seems like both JBBP and Second Community are popular, impacted programs, either one of which could fill a school on its own.

    Why are these programs still at the same site? Wouldn't it make sense to move one or the other to another site?

    I don't mean to stir up a hornet's nest, but it seems worth considering. I'm sure it has been, but I just haven't heard the pro and con arguments.

  62. To 4:42, former BOE member Kelly suggested at a BOE meeting ~a year ago that one of the Clarendon programs (I believe JBBP) could be moved to an underenrolled Eastside school. This seemed like a good idea to me (a resident of Potrero Hill, which at the time had several underenrolled schools). I never heard anything further about this idea though. I imagine it wouldn't be too popular with the active, influential Clarendon families.

  63. I thought there was a strong rumor (confirmed on this blog) that the Clarendon JBBP program was moving next year, and that this was the reason they added another classroom this year (in preparation for the move).

  64. No, Clarendon JBBP is not moving. The reason to add the 3rd K was to in the long term stabilize the number of students in the upper grades.
    This is a strategy that the school site council (which includes both JBBP and 2nd Community) decided to take so that both programs can stay and thrive at the current campus.
    A Clarendon mom

  65. Have you (or anyone you know who you can point in the direction of this blog) sent a child to public elementary school in SF and then private middle school in SF or elsewhere?

    How was the transition? Is there an optimum time to do this -- academically, socially or otherwise? Do all private schools add spots at the middle school level?

    Pros and cons? (on this scenario, please; we are well-versed in the arguments on public v. private education)

    We are considering (far in advance) this path for our daughter and are very interested in an all girls school for her for middle school.


    SF mom of 1

  66. I know quite a number of people who have sent their kids private for grades 6-8, but offhand I can't think of anyone who went for an all-girls' school for middle school. Some privates must add spaces at 6th grade -- I know a number of kids who have gone to San Francisco School, Live Oak and Brandeis at that point, but can't think of any who've gone to some others (including Hamlin and Burke's, the obvious all-girls').

    Of course you know I'm going to say it's a fine decision if you feel it's best for your child, but it's not necessary, and save your money if you're on the fence. SFUSD middle schools have many good things to offer, and I'm totally unconvinced that unless there's some special need or situation, there's any benefit beyond bells and whistles to spending that $15,000-$20,000/year on tuition.

    BTW, at various times I've pointed out that my son's (and daughter's future) high school, SOTA, mingles a lot of kids who come from private K-8s with kids from SFUSD K-8 and some suburbanites as well -- and there's no visible pattern of the private school kids' being more academically accomplished, better prepared, etc.

    When the 11th-graders took the PSAT last year, the top scores were publicly discussed. Three students tied for top score -- a strong indication of their solid academic background. I've previously said that two of them were alumni of SFUSD schools K-8 (Clarendon/Aptos and Lakeshore/Aptos), and I didn't know the background of the third. Now I've learned that the third top scorer attended Pacifica public schools K-8.

  67. In case there is anyone here interested in learning more about school food, please visit
    to read the latest news.

  68. It might be worth asking when "middle school" begins at the privates you're interested in. A neighbor moved her kids from public to Convent in 5th grade because that's when their middle school begins.

  69. That was also the case with a classmate of my son's who moved to Cathedral (boys' school) for the "upper school" -- it starts at 5th grade, so that's when he moved.

    The elementary school kids get really into their last year and their graduation, though -- it's a joyous time for them. So it's a shame to miss 5th grade unless there's a really, really good reason.

    Here's why my son's classmate did it: He was the youngest of three, with a wide age spread. Back when their oldest was ready for middle school, in the early '90s, SFUSD had an even worse (yes!) assignment system -- this was the system under which the area school of assignment had to specifically "release" the student before the family could apply to another school. The assigned school didn't have a GATE program and refused to release the student to apply for another school. The family felt strongly about wanting a GATE program for their child, so they went private. Then they got kind of locked into the idea that that was the thing to do -- so with their youngest, even though the situation had changed and his classmates went on to excellent SFUSD middle schools with high-quality GATE programs, they pulled him out for 5th grade and sent him private too.

  70. Caroline's last post brings up an issue I have with the current assignment system for MS: GATE-identified students are not guaranteed assignment at a school with a functioning GATE program. IMO, GATE students should be able to apply for MS at the earlier time when special ed students seeking inclusion apply to assure an appropriate placement. Of course this would never with the current Green-dominated BOE (and Mark Sanchez as BOE president): we're lucky to even have a GATE program at all.

  71. I totally agree that middle school GATE, and GATE in general needs more attention. I'm not sure that I agree they need priority registration. First of all, you're talking about a large number of kids. Second, and this is just my own take, but I have a GATE student and an LD student. My LD students needs are exponentially more complex than my GATE student's.

    Anecdotally the district seems responsive to opening new GATE classes in middle schools that have GATE programs. I think Aptos added 2 more classes last year. Applying to middle schools last year I didn't feel at all concerned that there wouldn't be enough space for my daughter.

  72. 11:56
    Both Hamlin and Burke's are structured with Lower School running Grades K-4 and Upper School Grades 5-8. The schools' websites do not make it clear whether they add additional students at Grade 5, 6 or not at all. (There are some schools that make it clear on their website they expand at one of those grades.)

    I do know of a family that had their 3 girls at public through 5th, then Burke's for 6-8. They seemed quite satisfied with their daughters' experiences.

  73. I feel pretty open and hopeful about public middle school at his point, and am optimistic that the immersion kids will have plenty of options when the time comes (due to the work of those grand immersion parents who have preceded us all along the way - Bless you!)

    That said, our dream is to go abroad for a couple years, say 6th and 7th grades mostly because I think of American teenage culture is a wasteland, and would like to give my son a completely different life experience (maybe in a Spanish speaking country, maybe not.) I lived in Iran when I was a teenager and even though I was mostly obsessed with boys while I was there (and could have been anywhere U.S.A.) the overall experience informed so much of my life afterwards.

    Anyway, that's our plan for now. 5 more years to figure out where we can go, and hopefullly work as well.

  74. I will try and answer SF mom of 1's question rather than presume to know if public or private school will be a better choice for her child several years from now:

    Most of the private schools start their middle/upper school in 5th grade but they have different strategies for when they add kids. I would suggest looking at private schools when your child is in 4th grade, partially to give yourself the flexibility to move them in 5th grade and partially to see if you want to keep your options open to stay in public instead.

  75. One girl from my daughter's ES enterred Hamlin in 6th grade after graduating from ES. She was student council president and and overall a very active, high-achieving student. I hear from her mother that although she was struck by the affluence of the other girls she (a scholarship student) seemed to be adjusting fine.

  76. "Dana said...In case there is anyone here interested in learning more about school food, please visit
    to read the latest news."

    I don't think anyone here would want their children to eat cafeteria food. Apart from those schools lucky enough to have salad bars, the food is revolting.

  77. My older child (an adventurous eater headed into 3rd grade) prefers the hot lunch and eats it most days so I wanted to offer that up as a counter to the previous post. My younger child prefers bag lunches.

    It's also very nice to be able to buy real milk in the cafeteria instead of sending a water bottle, juice box, or those non-refridgerated milks that taste nasty.

    My 2 cents.

  78. 7:58, have you tried the cafeteria food? Some dishes are better than others -- and the entire operation is hamstrung by an extreme funding shortage -- but it's not fair or accurate to characterize the cuisine as "revolting," and many children eat the hot lunches happily.

    The link Dana provided gives full information on the current situation and what advocates can do to improve the funding, thus improving the quality of the food.

  79. 7:58 Anonymous-
    Before you decide for everyone here whether or not their children should try the cafeteria food, I would strongly suggest that parents read up on what school food is like in the SFUSD at and make that call for themselves. Just as some people make a sport of bashing the public schools in favor of private, so too there are people who never pass up an opportunity to bash school meals, because conventional wisdom is that "school food sucks."

    However, school lunch participation was up 2.1% last year, despite a decline in district enrollment of .7%. More students are eating in the cafeteria and liking it. The food served is the best possible quality that the Student Nutrition Services department can afford, including whole grain bread and rolls, fresh fruit with lunch even in schools without a salad bar, and starting this year, brown rice and whole wheat pasta, and a wider variety of fresh vegetables (not just baby carrots) in schools lacking a salad bar.

    Does it compare favorably with a homemade lunch from all organic ingredients purchased from Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's, and lovingly crafted by Mommy's (or Daddy's) own hands? Well, what do you think? But how much did you spend on those ingredients, and not just in $$$ but also in your time to shop and make the lunch? I bet it was more than the $2 that an elementary school lunch would cost you (including milk with no bovine growth hormone.)

    I too made my kids' lunches from scratch for many years, but as a parent of 3 with the youngest about to graduate next year, I can tell you, it does get old. At a certain point, the option of having your kids get lunch in the cafeteria, safe in the knowledge that it is wholesome, nutritious food being served, becomes pretty attractive. My kids tried packing their own lunches after I burned out, but for them, the choice was clear - school food was good enough, and a whole lot easier than bringing something from home.

    And of course, I don't know the demographics of who visits this site, but there are families who cannot afford the Whole Foods, lovingly-made-at-home route (lack of time, or money, or both), or who qualify for free meals for their children, and who may well choose to take advantage of that option.

    I am sure there are folks here who, with only young children in the house, and sufficient time and money to spend, will happily pack the organic peanut butter/whole wheat bread/baby carrots/apple lunch which was a staple in my house for years. When I first got involved with making school food better back in 2002, the cafeterias featured NOTHING but corn dogs, fried potatoes, "chopped and formed" chicken nuggets, canned fruit in heavy syrup, greasy apple turnovers - really the MOST revolting carnival food you can imagine. In addition, at middle and high school, they sold soda, chips, ice cream, snack cakes, "fruit" juices with 5% juice and the rest HFCS and water, Slim Jims, and all manner of disgusting junk food. There was no way I would let my kids buy that crap. Those days are long gone, and even in the middle and high schools, there is not much left that a child can choose to buy which would give a concerned parent heart failure. A new choice menu in the upper grades will feature wraps, rice bowls, daily soup, and other teen favorites – all meeting USDA and SFUSD limits for fat content, too.

    Those who might want to dismiss school food as “crap” will always do so no matter what is served. Even in Berkeley, home of Alice Waters’ “Delicious Revolution” in school food, kids complain that school food sucks, and lunch participation is down from the days when that district served corn dogs and French fries. Here in the SFUSD, we have made changes and improvements to the program over the course of 6 years, with the result that the food is FAR better, tastier, and healthier than it was in the past, and meal participation is up. Before you dismiss the program outright, I really urge parents to check out the monthly menu which will come home with your child, and find just one or two days a month when the cafeteria is offering something your child thinks might be good to try. If it doesn’t work out, so be it, but please don’t dismiss the whole program without even trying it, just because someone named Anonymous says that “school food sucks.”

  80. Dana,

    Thank you for the response and for all your hard work on the food program. Our elementary school had the hot breakfast pilot program at the end of this school year. I went with my kid and ate the food along with her. There was one thing we did not like at all, but the rest was pretty good (though more meat than she likes and I think the manner in which the meat was served was an issue for the vegetarians parents/students). There was always fresh fruit was available besides the main dish.

  81. The food tastes awful. It may be better than it used to be and it may be as good as it can be given the ridiculously small amount of money allotted per kid, but it still tastes awful.

    Because it is a matter of taste (or taste buds) arguing the point is pointless and subjective; you may think it is yummy, many do not. The parents here just do not seem the type who will want their children eating gray rubbery things with a gluey type mud colored sauce that they call "Salisbury steak".

    I have only witnessed lunches at Elementary School level, and most of the kids thrown away most of the food that they are given. They eat the bread and maybe the apple. I hear that at the middle and high school level, most kids don't even pick up the lunches, even if they are free.

  82. Thanks for the feedback. I agree about the meat - I was resistant to some of the menu items served last year for this very reason - and there will be some modifications made to the choices for the coming year. There is always cold cereal available on days when a student might not like the hot meal offered.

    Do bear in mind that while the meal program is available to all students, and all are encouraged to eat school meals, the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program were begun by the federal governemnt to make sure that children from low income families were receiving enough nourishment. The NSLP got started after too many recruits were found to be malnourished during World War II. This is why the breakfasts tend to include meat, even though many of us might not choose to serve meat at breakfast to our kids - the families who qualify for free meals often do rely on school breakfast and lunch for almost all of their kids' nourishment for the day. These students are NOT getting meat at home with their dinner, and often they are not getting much dinner at all, or perhaps just a bowl of cereal. So serving them just cereal again at breakfast seems a little harsh, even though those of us lucky enough to be able to make a nice roast chicken, or bean and corn chili for dinner might be just fine with Cheerios and a banana for our kids' breakfast.

  83. Yes, the amount of waste I witness at schools during lunchtime is horrific. I grew up very poor and wasting food is like a sin.
    Too bad they can't collect all the unopened, untouched food that gets immediately tossed into the garbage and give it to the homeless or to food banks. Whole oranges, apple, packs of carrots, whole unopened pieces of microwaved stuff they call pizza ... all quite edible if you are really hungry and can't afford food.

  84. 11:26 Anonymous-
    I agree, taste is a subjective thing. For every meal served, there are some students who will tell you it is the best ever, and others who say it is gross and they won't eat it.

    I have even seen adults on complain about the food at fabulous restaurants like Gary Danko, and their complaints sound just like people blasting school food - calling it garbage, or saying it sucks, or it is revolting. There is no pleasing everyone, whether you run a high end joint like Gary Danko, or a school cafeteria.

    I have tasted every single meal served in the SFUSD meal program; I have my favorites, and some that I care for less, but I can assure you that every meal I don't much like is someone else's favorite.

    Those of us working to improve school meals will continue to do what we can. It would be helpful if there were more money available to pay for even more high quality food, and we are working on that too. If you (or anyone out there) would like to help, rather than just snipe, please feel free to contact me directly at nestwife at owlbaby dot com. We can always use more worker bees.

  85. 11:36 Anonymous-
    It is against federal meal program regulations for any leftover food from the school meal programs to be given away for consumption by anyone, even whole fruit still in the peel (like oranges.) However, many schools compost their remains.

  86. "It is against federal meal program regulations for any leftover food from the school meal programs to be given away for consumption by anyone, even whole fruit still in the peel (like oranges.) "

    What an appalling waste. And how many years would it take to get the Feds to change their regulations?

  87. dana, thank you for your work on the school lunch program. i appreciate so much what you and your colleagues have done. the quality of the lunch affects all kids, even the ones who don't eat it (who hasn't witnessed the nutty behavior of starving or poorly fed kids?).

    those of us with entering kinders may not have been in a cafeteria environment in YEARS. during the tours, i found the stench of institutional food cooked in massive quantities to be a little off-putting, but i figure that's just the way it smells. god knows there are even bigger fish to fry in this district (er, pardon the lame pun).

    a funny anecdote: i worked briefly in the dining commons at UC Berkeley's Unit 1 back in college in the mid-80s. one of the meat boxes was actually stamped with the following: "lowest grade acceptable for human consumption."

    it says a lot about me, i suppose, that even after that experience my college-mandated flirtation with vegetarianism lasted only a week before i caved in and hit togo's for a massive pastrami on rye.

  88. I am also appalled with the amount of food that I throw away from my child’s hand packed lunch (home made soup, whole grain bread, organic fruit with one or two bites from it, wilted salad). Kids sometimes have other priorities – such as yick yakking instead of eating.

  89. It was a common complaint last year among fellow K parents that our kids were not eating much of their lunch. When I picked my son up from aftercare he'd often be very hungry and would then admit he didn't eat his sandwich. Usually he'd eat at least some of it on the way home -- just in time for dinner, but what are you gonna do? This was especially a problem in the beginning of the year when the kids are still getting used to the excitement of the cafeteria. Over time he learned that if he didn't eat lunch he'd be very hungry later and he started eating more of it. Now I even sometimes find only empty containers at the end of the day : )

  90. Although the school lunches sound awful to my adult taste, my 8 y.o. son loves them. He insists on eating school lunches rather than the ones I previously lovingly and laboriously prepared for him, so I gave in and let him get school lunches now. BTW, it's definitely true that not all parents would prepare a similarly healthy lunch for their kids: I was appalled at some of the "homemade lunches" my son's classmates brought on field trips. (i.e. one boy's parents packed 2 bags of chips and a Capri Sun.)

  91. Yeah, or those really crappy "lunchables" (shudder)

  92. I learned in packing my son's lunches last year to put only two items in: a sandwich and fruit or veggie (read: carrots). Because they have so little time - and are talking and watching the antics of other ruffians at the table, they can't realistically eat a lot of stuff. So I only put in the things that are healthiest so he'll eat them.

    At Silver Tree camp the last couple of weeks I have thrown in a 3rd or 4th item as I assumed they had more time, but then the lunchbox comes back with plenty un-eaten, and I'll see he ate fruit and crackers and left the protein. Back to packing two items...

    BTW - I encouraged my son to eat some school lunches in my attempt to move him slowly in that direction. My hope is to not have to pack lunches every day, and actually if he eats the school lunches he will be broadening his picky horizons and perhaps find that he likes enchiladas, or chicken chow mein or anything with tomato sauce - and that would be a good thing for both of us.

  93. 12:18 Anonymous-
    To answer your question
    ("And how many years would it take to get the Feds to change their regulations?") to help reduce waste and maybe recycle some of the uneaten/untouched food to a food bank or whatever, the answer could be - right away! Please visit to see how you can let Congress know about changes you would like to see in the federal school meal programs. They only listen every 5 years, and that time is right now, through October 15th.

  94. Just so everyone knows, this site,
    was founded by Caroline Grannan and pushes her agenda.

  95. Just so everyone knows, the website was co-founded by Caroline and myself, and addresses issues of interest to both of us. I have been a parent in this district since 1991, and Caroline since 1996; with a combined total of 5 children between us, that is a lot of "kid years" in the SFUSD, and yes, we have developed some strong opinions on things in that time. We have taken action on some of these issues, and the website has been incredibly useful for that.

    For example, last year, when BOE President Mark Sanchez quietly proposed giving away $2.5 million a year in Prop H money to which our children were entitled, the website organized a mass protest by parents. Members of the Board of Supervisors were swamped with letters from outraged parents protesting this giveaway of our children's education funds, and the Sanchez resolution was abandoned. You can read about this at:
    I especially recommend clicking on the link to read some of the angry letters parents sent to the BOS.

    That $2.5 million giveback to the City would have meant that every year going forward, our children would have had $2.5 million less in Prop H-funded services. For the current year, it would have meant an additional $2.5 million added to the district's already enormous deficit. Over the life of Prop H, the total lost to our students would have been $20 million ($2.5 million over 8 years), but that was prevented because we had the website in place and so were able to mobilize parents quickly to protest and prevent the resolution from passing.

    My youngest child will graduate in June, along with Caroline's oldest, and her youngest will follow in just a few more years. It is not our children, but yours, who will benefit from having this extra money in place to pay for some of the many things which federal and state funding do not cover. Please keep that in mind before you try to bash a website which has been useful in preserving such an enormous amount of money for your children's education.

  96. Dana,

    My daughter will be starting SFUSD in K this fall, and I'd like to work more deeply on school food issues. I understand that the SFUSD Nutrition and Physical Committee is a good avenue through which to engage. Could you please let me know how one gets involved?

  97. Lena-
    You (or anyone else interested in getting involved with making school food better) can contact me directly at nestwife at owlbaby dot com.

  98. Anybody else read the grand jury report? An interesting read... flawed, but definitely points out some of the major issues that make the current system unworkable, and explains why so many opt for private.

  99. Just in case you missed it elsewhere, here's the link to my item-by-item critique of the Grand Jury report:

  100. Hi there - I am an SFUSD parent with several years in too, and friends with their children at other public schools. It is not uncommon for the elementary schools to run out of lunches before the upper grade children get to cafeteria - or if there are lunches left, for the selection to be limited. Generally my daughter took her lunch every day.

    Another issue is that the food provided on a particular day deviated from the school lunch menu.

    Don't spend alot of money on some lovely lunch box for your kid. They will end up losing it on the playground! Paper bags are just fine!

  101. I read it, Caroline. You raise some interesting points. On the whole, though, I think the current system is irreparably flawed. $5 million a year for busing? There has to be a better way to spend that money.

  102. As I said, I agree with the Grand Jury's overall conclusion about the Diversity Index.

    But speaking of a waste of money, the fact that they did all that research, failed to grasp even the basics of much of what they were looking at in many areas, and while in a total fog of confusion still made concrete recommendations is not just baffling but scary.

  103. I just found this amazing blog last week. And think have read almost everything on it already.

    Here's a new question for this "open forum." Our son will be eligible to start kindergarten Sept 2009, but we may "redshirt" him (a term I learned on this blog) because he has a September birthday. But I do not know if we will. It's hard to know so early on, so we'll be thinking about it - observing his development, talking to his pre-school teachers, etc over the coming months.

    But with that said, if we decide that he can go to kindergarten in 2009, we would need to both start the private school admissions process this Fall and the public school enrollment process early next year.

    I have learned a lot about the public school enrollment process from this blog and attending some great public school information sessions put on by the PPS (the best one I attended was at Paul Revere several months ago).

    My question is on the private school admissions part of it - do families (should families, have families) undergone the rigors of the admissions process if they are uncertain about whether or not they will be sending their kids to kindergarten the following year? Would anyone care to share their experience on this one?

  104. Just to clarify one point -- with the public school process, it's ENTIRELY your decision whether to redshirt. It's possible you might consult with some school staff who would make a suggestion, but legally it's totally up to you.
    The cutoff birthdate is absolute.

    But private schools set their own cutoff dates, and in some cases I understand a September boy would have to wait a year. And I know quite a number of parents who were told by private schools that their child wasn't ready and they should try again next year. SO with private schools it may not be your decision at all.

  105. 12:33 Anonymous-
    The two problems you have identified (some schools running out of lunches, or lunch served being different from what was listed on the menu) do indeed happen now and then. Here are some more details as to why, and what can be done to address this.

    First, schools run out of lunches if for any reason more students decide to eat in the caf on that day than were expected to. In the absence of the Point of Sale swipe card system (which I have written about extensively on the yahoo sfschools board, and so will not repeat here), there is no way for the central student nutrition office to easily track how many students chose to eat on, for example, pizza day at each of the 100 or so schools. It is up to each individual school cafeteria worker to order the number of meals she believes she will need for the day. They usually figure this by keeping track on index cards of how many students ate, for example, pizza when it was served earlier in the year. So if at your school, normally 150 kids eat in the caf on pizza day, then she will likely order about 155-160 pizza lunches. But if, for some reason, 170 students then choose to come to the caf, obviously they are going to run out. Everyone hates waste, and it is very expensive to toss extra meals (and as I explained yesterday, they MUST by federal regulation be tossed; schools are not supposed to provide "seconds", or feed staff for free, or give the meals to hungry people in the neighborhood, or let anyone take the extra meals home), so the solution is not for caf ladies to just order way more than they might need. Getting a districtwide POS system in place will help enormously, because it will allow centralized ordering of meals and do away with the keeping of records on index cards, which really is not efficient. This index card system tends to break down completely when the regular caf worker is out for any reason, and a temp worker is running the caf. Again, a POS system, which enables centralized ordering, is the solution.

    Another problem arises when schools run out of the vegetarian entree. The reason why this happens is because the vegetarian entree, while available to any student who wants it, is ONLY supposed to be available by pre-order. That is, if your child wants the veg entree, you need to make that request in advance of the day - usually the morning of the day before your child wants it is early enough, but you should check with your school to find out what their procedure is. Cafeterias receive only enough of the vegetarian entree to serve those who have preordered, and the caf staff who are experienced know who the usual veg customers are, and pull out the veg entree when those students come through the line. The trouble arises when a less savvy employee (often a temp filling in) just puts the few veg entrees out on the counter for anyone to take - then a 2nd grader might decide to take a veg entree which she did NOT preorder, and which was supposed to go to a 5th grader who did preorder, but who comes to lunch on a later shift. Caf staff are not supposed to let students who did not preorder, just take a veg entree, because for sure someone will come in later expecting it to be there for them, and then there is trouble; however, as I said, sometimes a new worker slips up, and then the result is the child who preordered misses out. It is really annoying for students and parents when this happens. If it happens more than once at your school once school starts again in August (or you know someone who is experiencing this repeatedly at their school), please contact me directly at nestwife at, and give me the name of the school, and I will try to get the problem fixed immediately (please don't write to tell me about how many times this happened at your school LAST year - there is nothing I can do unless/until you know for sure it is happening again this year.) That's the best I can offer on that.

    Why does the lunch served sometimes differ from what was listed on the menu? Usually this is a delivery problem. The meals are delivered to the district frozen solid a few days before they will be served. Some of them take longer to partially thaw than others, so the lead time for some entrees is longer than others. If the menu (which is set months in advance) says, for example, spaghetti on a Tuesday, but for some reason the spaghetti did not get delivered to the district until Monday, then for sure it is not going to be pre-thawed enough in just the 24 hours to be ready to heat and serve on Tuesday. Instead, something else, which has already been delivered (maybe Wednesday's intended meal, not so dense and so more likely to be of servable consistency by Tuesday) will be substituted. Student Nutrition Services always issues a bulletin whenever there is going to be a substitution; these go to all the schools, but the schools don't always convey the info to parents, or not in enough time for parents to know about it before sending their child off to school.

    What could be worse than coming to school expecting it to be your favorite lunch, and instead it turns out to be some sucky thing you hate? I remember that from my school days, and it always felt like an incredible betrayal (and it always seemed to happen on the day when everything else in my life was going wrong too, and looking forward to my favorite lunch was all that was getting me through my miderable 8-year-old day....) So, midway through last year, I started asking SNS to send me the menu change bulletin at the same time it was sent to schools. I started posting the changes on the yahoo sfschools board, and also on the yahoo parents for public schools board. Both of those groups are set up in such a way that I know people will get the message even if they miss it at school, but this group isn't structured that way, what with topics having their own threads, so it wouldn't be practical for me to post that time-sensitive information here. If this is an issue for anyone in this group, I really strongly suggest that you join either sfschools or PPS and watch for menu bulletins there. I always encourage people to repost my bulletins to their own school groups, so word does tend to get out quicker that way.

    I hope this helps.

  106. to July 17, 2:07

    You may have to wait a year if you want to apply to privates. We looked at privates, and many have August birthday cut-offs. Check out the web sites of the privates you are interested in. Most have enrollment info with their policy on birthdays.

  107. To 2:07, I would recommend that you apply to the SFUSD lottery but not bother applying to private schools this year. A boy born in Sept has little or no chance of being accepted at private school, so why waste so much of your time and energy? If you are happy with your SFUSD assignment and feel your son will be ready for kindergarten, go for it. If not, you can apply to both publics and privates next year with a better understanding of what the process involves. Good luck!

  108. Wow Dana - Thanks for all your first hand knowledge of the school lunch process. It seems we will be losing a great resource in you when your child graduates.

  109. Who could ever forget chipped beef on a bun or sloppy joes? (school lunch from my childhood) Sounds like much has improved since then. I'll still be packing lunch for my DD, tho.

  110. Kid Chow delivers healthy, tasty $5 bag lunches to schools. Many private schools use this service. I don't know if public schools can or do, but it appears they will deliver anywhere there is critical mass.

  111. mmm.... let's not forget creamed chicken over mashed potatoes -

  112. I just wish my kids would eat the hot lunch! I get sick and tired of packing their lunch every day. They complain bitterly about my lunches, but refuse to get hot lunch. They like the salad bar a la carte though, so at least that reduces it a bit! Next step -- they can make their own lunches! That'll teach 'em.

  113. 2:07

    My advice would be somewhat different. If you have time on your hands, I would go on tours of privates this fall (as well as publics, of course). Even now, as a parent happy with my kid's private school, I go on one or two tours each fall. Information is your friend. Word of mouth is pretty unreliable and often not very relevant to your particular kid. Also, some privates have a PreK or Transitional K which might be perfect for your kid.

    Good luck!

  114. I agree with the poster at 4:08. Your son will not be eligible to attend many of the private schools with a September birthday, but it's worth a look for a few reasons. For one, if you see what private schools offer, you can go into the SFUSD lottery and then make an informed choice about whether or not you would rather wait and try for private school. Also, as 4:08 says, there are a few private schools that have programs that would accommodate a "young 5" - for example, Presidio Hill takes a few kids in your son's situation as 2-year kindergarteners each year. Finally, if you do decide you're interested in private or want to wait a year to send your son to K you can get a jump on the process by seeing schools and getting a sense of what you do and don't like.

    I would also suggest that you look at some of the transitional K programs such as those at Little School. Your son could go from one of those programs into either K at private school or K or first grade at public school.

  115. 3:44 Anonymous-
    Regarding the $5 bag lunches, if SFUSD had $5 to spend on each lunch served in the meal program, we could do a whole lot better than a bagged lunch (although I am sure what kidchow offers is very nice.) The problem is, the federal government will only provide $2.59 per lunch this coming year, and the state reimbursement, which used to be 22 cents, will drop to 19 cents. So, with a total of $2.78 to spend for a lunch, paying $5 apiece is out of the question.

    A few people have asked about Revolution Foods, which is another local company providing a daily cooked lunch to some private and charter schools in the Bay Area. Last year, they charged $3 apiece, although I am sure they are being impacting by the devastating food and fuel price increases which have hit everyone else this year, and are likely to charge a higher rate in 08-09. But, last year, when the price was $3, some people thought that since the combined reimbursement was only about 25 cents less than the total for a Revolution lunch, couldn't the district just pick up the extra 25 cents per meal? After all, it is just 25 cents.......

    The answer is that the reimbursement from the state and the feds has to pay not only for the cost of the food, but also for labor, including benefits and retirement benefits, and utilities, pest control, garbage, delivery costs, and a host of other expenses incurred in running the department. There would be no reduction in labor just because the meal came from a meal provider - the meals ALREADY come from a meal provider - because federal regs require that there be someone in the caf to "qualify" the kids. That is, someone has to check the meal cards to keep track of how many meals are served to students qualifed for free, how many to those qualified for reduced, and how many to those who are on paying status. Those caf ladies you see in the elementary schools are not doing any cooking - they just heat up the meals, set them out, check the kids' meal cards on the way through the line, and clean up after, then place their orders for the next day. They would still have to do all of those things no matter where the meal came from - kidchow, or Revolution, or the company we use now. So after labor, and utilities and other expenses, there is really only about a dollar left to pay for the food.

    This is why a $5 kidchow bag lunch, or a $3+ Revolution lunch, is out of the question, unless someone (hello, Board of Supervisors? Mr. Mayor?) would like to create a separate funding stream of City or private money to augment what is clearly insufficient government funding for the school meal program, which provides what is often the ONLY food of the day for many of our poorest and most vulnerable children.

    I did pitch this idea at the Board of Supervisors budget committee meeting yesterday, but I knew it was futile this late in the budget process. It is being pitched to the Mayor as well. Maybe in 09-10....

    I am angry that the National School Lunch program is rapidly becoming just another unfunded mandate from the federal government, one which may end up costing our school district $2.5-$3 million dollars next year, money which will have to come out of the general fund and will therefore NOT be available for our children's schools to spend on supplies, textbooks, teachers, or anything else they might need. Why should school districts have to choose between funding children's academic needs and funding their nutritional needs? If this makes you angry too, please let Congress know how you feel. They are listening right now; visit

    to see a quick and easy way to make your voice heard. And please share this website with everyone you know. It really does help when a lot of people all say the same thing.

  116. The website Caroline is trying to push onto you is full of anti-charter propaganda like:

    "We have come to view charter schools as a weapon in the arsenal aimed at weakening and destroying public education."

    No, do not support pasasf.

  117. I agree, 6:47.

    Such sad divisive hyperbole.

    That "weapon", my son's charter school, is the only school in SFUSD where my son, who has autism, can attend a summer program with children who are not disabled.
    All the other SFUSD schools would isolate him and segregate him in classrooms "with his own kind".

    So if offering that choice to my son is part of some vast conspiracy to "destroy public education"


  118. i am confused. maybe parents with kids already in the system can clarify this for me.

    on the 20-22 public school tours i attended, i saw many schools that offered inclusion in regular classes to kids with special needs, at least for the regular school year. so which is it?

    i am also confused about the earlier poster's allusion to summertime offerings: do public schools offer summer programs to ANY kids?

    on another topic...i do not have to agree with caroline and dana about everything to appreciate the work they have put into SFUSD. how many of us have or will put in the hours they have? not many. the fact that that means nothing to some people here astounds me, so, caroline and dana: thank you for the rest of us. i hope many of us will take up the mantle for the next generation of families coming through.

    that's what this is about, right? society? hanging together? funding common institutions properly? i have to say, as a public school supporter, i find the anti-charter arguments very compelling. i'm sure there are families who could make a strong case that their chosen charter was the only reasonable option for their kid, but in the larger scheme of things, they do seem to divide (and therefore conquer).

  119. Thanks, Kim, right on.

    My kids' elementary school has inclusion and special day classes. We have known kids who went from one to the other based on their Individual Education Plan (IEP). All these kids were also fully included in our school's paid and free afterschool program, and in the summer and vacation offerings of our school's afterschool program. I'm talking about a range of kids here, some with autism and some with various physical and developmental disabilities, often in combination.

    In my time in the district, I believe that official summer school has been offered to only a limited number of students needing the support. In at least one case that I know of because she is a friend of my child's, that included a child with developmental disabilities.

    All this said, I understand there are massive unfilled needs in communication and support for parents of SPED and inclusion kids. Parents have to advocate like crazy to make sure their kids get what they need. And the school search process is hell for these families due to lack of adequate info and communication.

    Kim, I join you in thanking Caroline and Dana for their amazing work. How can anyone here be reading Dana's commentary on this thread on school lunches and not be incredibly grateful to her expert work as an unpaid volunteer? We have seen a great improvement in school food since starting at the K level some years ago, and a lot is due to Dana's work, and Caroline's, and others too. I sincerely hope that some volunteers of similar caliber and dedication emerge from the cohort on this blog!

    Also, you don't have to agree with Caroline and Dana vis a vis charters (full disclosure: I am a little more flexible in my thinking about it in certain circumstances, but tend to think their overall critique has of merit) to take advantage of their website to do food/nutrition advocacy. Our food systems in this country are outright nutty (subsidies to Big Ag) and it is shameful that we allow our kids to fed so poorly. We can do better. Dana knows more than almost anyone on this subject, so take advantage of her work, for heaven's sake. It's not all or nothing here. Aside from the small chorus of Caroline-bashers on this blog, for whom anything she does is dross, hopefully others will go to that website before October and raise their voices on food and nutrition issues.

    I trust most readers here are smart enough to take what is good and leave the stuff they don't agree with. I also believe that most here are smart enough to engage the critique and advance the discussion without engaging in ad hominem attacks that bring the conversation, for example on school food, up short.

  120. Kim-
    I think you might possibly have a different perspective if the school your child got into, Leonard Flynn, happened to be a charter and you were accused of being part of some right wing conspiracy for having your child attend.

    Sometimes it's hard to see things from an insider's perspective. When generalizations are made and folks are lumped into a category (ex: "All private school families are rich" "all charters schools advance a right wing agenda" etc) , that's when people become defensive and rightly so.

    I don't think anyone's dismissing the positive work that Dana and Caroline have done. But language such as some that is found on pasasf website serves to divide and anger many that have found charter schools to be a viable alternative that meets the needs of their child. I really wish you could look at each school as in individual, unique place and try to keep an open mind.

  121. Regarding the September-birthday boy and kindergarten options, I third the idea of touring privates a year early (he will likely not be eligible) while going through the public school process and tours so that you have that option should you choose it (or really should it choose you).

    Doing it all in one year is extremely stressful, particularly if you are also working or caring for other children (don't know if that's the case for you).

    I wish I'd started touring both public and private a year ahead of applying so that the year I did apply (this one) I could have focused on the schools I knew I was really interested in -- touring again, talking to more people from the various school communities, etc.

    As it was my entire family was a wreck all through the fall. My husband and I spent MANY hours away from work touring schools. We quickly narrowed our private school list down because we were too exhausted to contemplate applying to more than four (tours, coffees, application essays, interviews, "play dates" for our child - ugh!). We also didn't make it to several public schools on our list because we just couldn't find the time to do MORE.

    Take two years to do it at a more relaxed place. You might just discover that your son is ready for kindergarten and you might also get a spot at a public school you love!

  122. Thanks Kim, and Anonymous 10:17. Anyone whose sensibilities are ruffled by what they read on other sections of the website, but who would still like to take part in the national discussion about the need for higher government funding for school food programs, can go directly to the USDA site for giving public comment, at:
    That way you won't have to click onto the website at all, and can still help call for better food for our poorest children.

    However, those who need more background on the issue, or suggestions for what to say in their remarks to the USDA (which will be shared with Congress) will not find that at the link above. The website provides these additional resources, as well as an archive of news stories from around the country about how rising food and fuel prices are impacting district everywhere; plus links to see what reimbursement rates are for the meal programs, and how much a family can earn and still qualify for free meals; plus a comparison of the cost of living in San Francisco with that of many other cities.

    Did you know that the cost of living in SF is 62.6% higher than in Reno? A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,000 in Reno has the buying power of a similar family earning $63,411 in San Francisco. A family of 4 earning $39,000 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $23,986 in Reno. This is relevant because $39,000 is approximately the cutoff for qualifying for free/reduced meals for this family of 4, in all 48 contiguous states (higher rates apply in Alaska and Hawaii.) You can see that if they live in Reno, they are going to be far better off in terms of their buying power, so maybe that is a reasonable cutoff for Reno residents, but the family of 4 earning $39,000 in SF is not at all comparable to that Reno family - they are more comparable to a family in Reno earning just under $24,000 a year, which probably does not stretch far enough to cover the cost of nourishing food for the kids every day, even in Reno.

    If your family is lucky enough to not have to rely on government feeding programs, you should thank your lucky stars, because all those programs are taking a very heavy hit in the current economy. I feel very strongly that it is the least - the very least - that those of us who have the luxury of choosing which market to patronize, or whether or not to buy organic apples, can do to stand up for those who have less, in many cases far less. Your own children may be lucky enough to never have to eat in the school cafeteria, but more than 50% of SFUSD students do qualify for school meals. Their families are trying to scrape by on what is clearly not enough money to feed their kids at all sometimes, let alone feed them the kind of top quality food many in this group insist upon for their own children.

    If you have time for just one political act this summer, I hope you will make it writing to the USDA to let them know that the currently underfunded school meal programs are a travesty, and are drawing scarce resources away from the academic needs of our kids. Our school children deserve the best food this country has to offer, not the cheapest.

  123. Improving school food is just one part of pasasf's political agenda.
    Its main focus is to trash charter schools and give parents fewer school choices. They are the ones who try to "divide and conquer". And Kim, you say you are a public school advocate, but guess what -- most charter schools ARE public schools.

    Pasasf is comprised of maybe two people, but they try to pass pasasf off as a major organization.

    I agree that people should go to the USDA website to comment about food in public schools.

  124. Kim,

    "Inclusion" is "offered" at only 40% of SFUSD schools. That means, when looking for a kindergarten for my son, 2 out of 5 schools basically slammed the door in my son's face saying "we don't take his kind here." Maybe you think that is OK, for that to happen, you may think, as those in the deep south thought in the 1950's, "there's perfectly fine schools THOSE KIDS may go to" but it ain't right, it's discrimination, it's repugnant and it is shocking that this could happen in a supposedly progressive city.

    People here write on and on about how awful the enrollment system is, well, for people with children with disabilities, who want their children educated "in the school they would enroll them in if they did not have a disability label" <---- actual quote from the FEDERAL LAW that says our kids have a right to not be segregated, well, for us, finding a school is about 100 times worse than for you guys.

    SFUSD has always had summer school. This year, for the first time, it is available only grades 5 and up, and only for kids who a very behind in their schoolwork.
    The district assigned my son, who has NEVER been segregated, to a segregated special day class with really severely impaired children. Totally inappropriate.
    Luckily, my son's PUBLIC charter school has a summer program. For those who know anything about autism, they know that kids need to be in a mostly year-round program in order to not regress or lose social and communicative skills.
    I totally respect the work Dana has done regarding food in schools, but I find much of the content on the website offensive, divisive, and just plain WRONG.

  125. oops, I meant 3 out of 5 schools slammed the door in my son's face

  126. Could someone explain what the inclusion program means? i'm not from here so don't fully get it....

  127. PASA doesn't try to pass itself off as a major organization. It's a research and information project that Dana and I started (before blogs existed, or at least before I'd ever heard of them). Different participants have contributed to PASA projects depending on the topic.

    Just to correct the implications, I have never said that all private school families are rich. And I don't think that all charter schools or all charter school families are knowingly or willingly advancing the Bush administration's right-wing, anti-public-education agenda. I do wish the charter schools and charter parents who do not agree with that agenda would distance themselves from the mainstream charter movement and speak out against that agenda rather than angrily denying the entire situation and shooting messengers who point out that the situation exists.

    Here's PASA's commentary on charter schools, written by moi some time ago:

    Also, by the way, charters OVERALL famously underserve special-education students. It's a huge embarrassment to charter school advocates (those who are of goodwill, as opposed to the Bushies and free-marketers who would just let the market decide whether disabled students got an education at all). I'm glad to hear that CACS is an exception, but it's very much an exception, an outlier among charter schools.

  128. One more thought. It seems odd and counterproductive that there are people who would actively oppose something as obviously beneficial as working to improve school food -- entirely because others involved disagree with them on separate issues.

    First, is it realistic or productive to refuse to support a cause unless everyone involved in it agrees with you on every single issue of any kind?

    Second, for those here who are liberal/left/progressive charter school advocates, you must know that on most political issues, I'm pretty much aligned with you, since my political views overall also fall into the liberal/left/progressive category. Whereas if you look at the greater charter movement overall, it's dominated by close allies of the Bush administration, the big right-wing think tanks, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, etc. -- the forces, as I say, who believe that free markets should reign supreme. If you took my political views and theirs and looked for areas of agreement, believe me, you and I are soulmates compared to you and those folks. So what is the deal where you're fine with them as allies but revile anything I do or touch? Can you clarify your thinking here?

  129. I have to say that I thought Caroline was exaggerating about charter schools and their place in a vast right-wing conspiracy. I'm really not much of a conspiracy theorist. But after looking at her back-up and doing some searches myself, I have come to agree with her.

    I think it would be helpful if the parenst at good charter schools like CACS and Gateway, who are clearly doing good work and serving students of many abilities, would call some of their fellow charter schools on their exclusionary practices.

    I also agree that the inclusion program for SFUSD is a disaster. Can parents of students designated "inclusion" just apply to the school of their choice, SFUSD "policy" be damned? Let the school kick them out and then TRY to defend themselves! If only the lottery were that predictable.

  130. "there are people who would actively oppose something as obviously beneficial as working to improve school food -- entirely because others involved disagree with them on separate issues."

    OH PLEAZZZE. There you go again. No one is doing that, we're saying, yeah, write the USDA but the pasasf website is overflowing with bullshit.

  131. My son has an IEP (autism) with inclusion. Children with IEPs get priority in the enrollment lottery (first choice). While not every school in the district offers inclusion, most of the popular (read "perceived best") schools offer very good programs. I don't think that it is appropriate (even if only as an economic argument) to expect EVERY school in the district to offer identical services. Many professionals are needed to provide a quality education for these lovely children. It is hard to recruit and retain professionals of the highest caliber to serve our underfunded SFUSD schools. It makes sense to cluster special needs at certain campuses, and accusations of discrimination or segregation are unwarranted. If we tried to spread out the inclusion children randomly at any school their parent desired, it would significantly impact the quality of the services that each child received by diluting the scarce resources. Yes, I agree, this area needs more funding (as do food programs, general ed, arts, etc). Realistically, we all need to lobby for better in each area, but given the circumstances, inclusion programs at specific schools is not a bad thing.

    I believe that Argonne has a year-round program, and kids with IEPs can go there for free summer school. My son qualified for this program, but we chose instead to send him to the JCC summer camp, which is 100% inclusion (by default). The staff are aware of his special needs, and they are as proud of his achievements as we are. He is currently enrolled in a 3-week Musical Theater camp, and we eagerly await his debut next Friday at 2 PM on the JCC stage.

    Proud mom of a special boy, who appreciates the wonderful inclusion program offered by SFUSD.

  132. "accusations of discrimination or segregation are unwarranted"

    When an institution that receives federal funds refuses to admit my son because of a disability label, that is discrimination.

    The only "inclusion" services you are talking about is a special ed teacher. They have RSP teachers already at every school. You are implying that these inclusion teachers at each inclusion school are highly trained in inclusive methods, they aren't. Every school already gets RSP teachers, Speech therapists, and OT's, so the "special inclusion program" you believe exists is a myth. There's maybe 3 schools in SFUSD that really do inclusion well, the others grope along and do their best, which sadly, isn't that great.

    Much of your post is deceptive ... you say we get 1st choice in the lottery, but many inclusion programs are already over-enrolled, so we could put down 7 choices and none of them would have any openings. EPC will not tell us which schools have openings. At most, during any school year, a school will have perhaps 2 inclusion openings in kindergarten. Two spots for 100 applying. But they don't tell us any of the odds or any of the schools with spaces. They also say we must apply, if we get busing, to a school on an existing bus route, but again, they won't tell us which schools are on bus routes from our houses. So putting down 7 schools is next to meaningless.

    But I'm glad your happy with how everything is going with your kid.

  133. opps, typo

    you're nor your

    before someone accuses me of being ignorant for incorrect word usage

  134. "Just to correct the implications, I have never said that all private school families are rich."

    I believe I was merely using this as one example of a way in which many people make generalizations about private school families. Another generalization inferred by Kim Green in an older thread was something to the effect that all Catholic school nuns hit children's knuckles.

  135. thanks for the counterpoint perspective from another inclusion parent, 9:22. i also appreciate 9:40's admonition that however hard parents of non-inclusion students think enrollment is, it is that much harder for them. point taken.

    i'm not suggesting the resources SFUSD offers inclusion candidates are sufficient -- but with funding what it is, nothing is sufficient for any kids in this district, city, state even...surely we all agree on that? i don't know much about inclusion programs beyond what i've seen and discussed with one friend whose kid has some special needs/sensory integration issues and is attending public K next year (without an "inclusion" designation, mind you, which makes it that much harder for them), but i was just researching inclusion of kids with down's syndrome for a book project, and it gave me a little peek into the world of advocating for your kid. very brutal. but the laws protecting the kids' right to an equal education are clear. that said, how, realistically, can an impoverished system offer every kid with a "special" need everything everywhere? how? i mean, you could make the same argument for non-native english speakers who attend newcomer programs...that they should have access to those programs at any school in the district. how can the district possibly fund identical resources at every school?

    i don't know where to go on the charter issue. what bothers me is the diversion of funding and facilities (which, of course, is funding) into a different system with different accountability rules, plain and simple. i am troubled by the personal stories of why certain families must choose charter schools, and feel quite ambivalent about my position. but ultimately i am not comfortable placing the parental choice of a relative few over the needs of the masses, in terms of where the money goes (per capita). i do think that charter parents from programs that are not like KIPP or the fascistic right-wing types could do more to inform prospective parents about how they are different, and why they have made peace with being aligned, policywise, with such unpleasant bedfellows. because even after nearly a year of discussing it here, i'm still not clear on that. i would like to hear from charter parents on those points...

  136. From 2:07 Anonymous re: Pre-K / K transition

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful input. I like both the thought of the Pre-K programs and still throwing our lot into the public school lottery for regular K and trying that for a year, if we find a good fit. To make matters even more complicated for us, we met with my son's pre-school teachers yesterday afternoon and all felt like he would be ready to move onto kindergarten next year and even encouraged us to NOT keep him back. sigh.

    I think my gut tells me he would be bored staying two more years where he is. But he is small for his age and top that with a borderline birthday AND being boy, I would rather err on the side of waiting than pushing. So maybe a good "in-between" is finding a pre-K program. It would provide him a change of scenery that would be challenging but not plop him into a classroom with other boys who would be turning 6 during the year.

  137. jokes are still allowed, aren't they? even tacky ones? or have they been outlawed too?

    i'm pretty sure i already apologized to the knuckle-slapping nuns, non-knuckle-slapping nuns, altar boys, the pope, the pope's dog and people whose best friends are catholic. christ, my husband is catholic. (okay, that's a stretch, but he is italian-american. and i do see him gazing yearningly at my knuckles from time to time when i act up.)

    now, on to crime #2: i'm not apologizing for using the word "inputs" instead of "input," though. no way, man! leave me that scrap of pride and get out that dictionary -- in the technology age, it ain't wrong! it ain't wroooooooooog (as they drag me away from this blog).

  138. Hi Kim:

    This is a start: a bit of background education as to the history of the Charter school movement and the founding ideas behind it:

    Also helpful is to google Ray Budde, one of the founders of the charter movement.

    Please read.

  139. 9:16 Anonymous-
    If you feel there is any bulls**t on the pages of the website to which I have referred people, which deal with the need for more government funding for school meal programs, please point it out so that I can correct it. So far as I know, everything on those pages is 100% accurate.

    The website is divided into sections, and it is possible to go directly to one section (as, for example, with the links I have provided) without ever visiting the other sections. I fail to understand why anyone would suggest that people should not visit the pages which deal with school meals. There is nothing on those pages about charter schools. There is no advertising, either, so it is not like Caroline or I benefit in any financial way from the number of hits our site receives. The only beneficiaries will be the students whose school meals could improve dramatically if enough people in this country stand up and demand that the government fund this program better.

    As the period for public comment, which comes only once every 5 years, is open now and running only through October 15th, it is vital that as many people as possible learn about this issue and take action. Getting into petty squabbles about whether or not one agrees with other opinions expressed elsewhere on the website is really beside the point. This is not about charter schools, it is about the food served to the poorest children in the country. I hope the few shrill charter school voices can see that this is not about them, or their kids, or their school, and maybe tone it down a little bit.


  140. being called "shrill" by Dana and Caroline is like being called "ignorant" by George Bush

  141. "I fail to understand why anyone would suggest that people should not visit the pages which deal with school meals."

    Nobody is suggesting this.

  142. From the PASASF main page:

    "We have come to view charter schools as a weapon in the arsenal aimed at weakening and destroying public education. While some individual charter schools are functioning effectively, the charter movement overall is creating unaccountable schools that answer to no authority and that do harm to school districts -- and children -- in myriad ways."

    If my kid was at a charter, I'd be appalled by that website as well, and try to discourage people from visiting it.

  143. Thanks, 11:30 anon.

    We haven't even started at our new school yet and already feel like we are expending a lot of energy trying to defend it from attacks from public school "advocates". It is exhausting.

  144. Well, don't worry, 11:30 -- you have the mighty and powerful on your side, with tiny little voices like mine raising the questions. SO you needn't feel too oppressed and put upon.

    Charter supporters:
    The Bush administration
    The Schwarzenegger administration
    The Bloomberg administration in NYC
    The Villaraigosa administration in LA
    (I mention those two cities because the mayors are very, very involved in pushing for more charter schools, and those are the largest and second-largest school districts in the U.S.)
    All the huge, wealthy right-wing think tanks (Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, Cato Institute etc.)
    The big private funders -- the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation (homebuilder Eli Broad), the Walton Family Foundation (Wal-mart), Don Fisher, the Irvine Foundation, the New Schools Venture Fund and many, many, many more

    Charter critics:
    Most (but not all) teachers' unions, representing some of the most underpaid, blamed and bashed professionals in the country
    Some researchers such as Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute
    A few scattered little voices like mine

  145. New Rule
    If you're going to ouright dismiss, bash or shit on someone else's opinions just because you disagree - thinking again of how Caroline continually gets trounced in here which frustratingly distracts from the other conversations going on - you have to publish your own name.

    Hiding behind 'anonymous' just allows you to be bullies on the blog playground. Unacceptable.

    Then go work out your obviously misplaced hostility playing squash or something.

  146. Wow. Glad I am not HER kid.

  147. Yikes Jessica, that was brave. Quick, take cover.

    I get so sick of the lack of civility here and everywhere. I think of this as the same as Bill O'Reilly and others now who just talk over or insult those they disagree with. I don't think we will succeeed in teaching our children to be critical thinkers, or civil members of the world at large if we play into the "I don't agree with you, so you're wrong" mentality.

    You know we live in an age where like minded people can cloister together, rarely rubbing shoulders with anyone of a different race or language or means; and watch and listen to and view only TV and radio and websites that reinforce what we already believe. This is precisely what perpetuates an Us vs. Them mindset which is the root of every single war (with some struggles about territory and resources thrown in.)

    It's all disheartening and exhausting.

    On a lighter subject (and can I say how happy I am that Kim Green is coming to Flynn where we can maybe be the polly anna cloister), I laughed hard at your comment about being dragged away "it's ain't wroooooong!" Oh, I feel better now.

  148. 11:30 here

    Sorry if my post seemed to be bullying. I was simply trying to explain why some Charter folks would be threatened by the website that links keep getting posted to.

    Don't worry Caroline, I'm neither oppressed nor put-upon. The notion of Charters as incubators for trying new educational paradigms appeals to me, but I really don't have a horse in this race. I went to the website to figure out why the Charter parents were so unhappy. It was easily clear, and I thought I'd bring over a relevant quote, that's all.

  149. Looking at this objectively, I would suggest that if Caroline and Dana toned down the verbiage of that line about charter schools "being a weapon in the arsenal...", it wouldn't be so offputting. Any time inflammatory or exaggerated language is used it can be dismissed outright. If the goal is to persuade, it could be less aggressive. If the goal is to openly express their views to provoke a discussion, then it serves well, no? (And indeed, revolutions need and use provacative language.)

  150. The only bullying and name calling "shrill parent voices" is coming from Caroline and Dana.
    Others have said they appreciate the work on improving school food but think the anti-charter hyperbole at the website they keep trying to direct us to is horrible and untrue, and yeah, bulls**t. Telling someone that the crap they write about charter schools is wrong is not bullying. Harping on over and over and over again about how the schools we send our kids to are part of some great 'axis of evil", now THAT is bullying and it is obnoxious.

  151. It was worse than "shrill parents voices" -- what she wrote was "shrill charter school voices"

    divisive and unnecessary

    rude and haughty

    completely unpleasant

  152. I am reminded of a joke.

    An old woman calls the police and says "that man across the way is indecent! He has been exposing himself to me" The police officer looks across the street and sees a man with a bare chest standing in his living room. He says to the old woman "Lady, he doesn't have his shirt on, but that's not indecent." And the old lady climbs up on a chair and says "well you have to look from up here."

  153. 11:30--
    I didn't think your post came off as bullying at all.

    Caroline is a "tiny little voice"?
    Now I'm having a laugh.

    Can't we all get along? I guess that's a lot to ask.
    And I wish Kim Green was coming to OUR school.
    I think we could go out for drinks and maybe I could convince her that our school is not evil.
    If I am unsuccessful, she is more than welcome to rap my knuckles. :)

    -anon 10:29 AM

  154. Or maybe it is evil ...

    but in a very cool GOOD way :)

  155. Too funny!
    Can you also join us for a drink? :)

  156. Glad you're open to discussion, Anon at 11:30.

    At an informational session on charter schools a couple years ago at the Commonwealth Club, I asked the state's top charter spokeswoman, Caprice Young of the California Charter Schools Association, to describe some innovations that have been pioneered at charter schools.

    She couldn't name any. She stammered around a bit and came up with "foreign language programs" -- well, I don't think that's a concept that was pioneered at charter schools. I've asked other charter supporters to name any, with no luck. (Yes, some are doing alternative programs, but nothing that was new before the charter school tried it. A parent at that renowned charter school in San Carlos, for example, cited mixed-grade classes -- why, just like the ones that were used throughout Lakeshore when my kids started there.)

    In other words, even though charter schools have been around for 15 years now, the idea that they are "incubators for trying new educational paradigms" has never panned out; it's a PR line pure and simple and there's no validity to it at all. (The reason one might think there's still some credibility to it is, again, the might and firepower behind their PR, due to the aforementioned powerful and moneyed forces behind the charter movement.)

    Granted, charter schools are burdened by fewer rules and restrictions than traditional public schools. But again, if those rules and restrictions are a bad idea -- if they're impairing the ability to educate children effectively -- shouldn't they be lifted for all schools?

    And one example is that the lack of rules and restrictions frees up charter schools to overwhelmingly, willfully exclude disabled students. Creative Arts Charter is a notable exception and I commend that, but any savvy parents of disabled children here are well aware of the charter movement's overall shamefully discriminatory record. (You know about KIPP Bayview Academy's throwing a mom and her autistic son off the property, for example.)

    I'm sorry if some people think my language is overly strong, but I think most of you would feel it was fine -- even commendable -- to use strong language if you felt passionately about an issue. Being fearful of stepping on toes is not really an effective attitude for an advocate, is it?

  157. I didn't think 11:30's post was bullying, myself.

    I assume this implies that I'm -- yes -- shrill...

    "Caroline is a "tiny little voice"?
    Now I'm having a laugh."

    However, compared to the list of forces I mentioned, I'd say I qualify as powerless and tiny.

  158. "Granted, charter schools are burdened by fewer rules and restrictions than traditional public schools. But again, if those rules and restrictions are a bad idea -- if they're impairing the ability to educate children effectively -- shouldn't they be lifted for all schools? "

    Maybe they should.

    Maybe we also need to toss out NCLB as it is hurting our children.

    There's a lot wrong with public schools that perhaps more funding, positive publicity and parent involvement might help fix. I don't think that bashing other parents is going to help fix things though. We ALL want to see public schools succeed. Some of us would also like some alternative options, which are what some charters can provide for us. It would be so much more effective if we could align for common causes which we all feel passionate about rather than attack one another.

  159. PS:
    C'mon, Caroline! You KNOW you are not a tiny voice. Especially here in San Francisco.

  160. anonymous 12:28 - the Principal would like to see you in her office.

  161. It's a good question about whether some rules and regulations should be lifted for all schools. But which rules and regulations? The Big Kahuna in the charter world is the question of teachers with job protections provided by a union contract vs. teachers under an at-will rule.

    I agree about NCLB, and one set of charter schools (the type that includes CACS, Gateway etc.) de-emphasizes testing and rules. Yet the same powerful forces that are giving the charter movement their might and impetus (and all that great PR) are also the ones supporting the imposition of NCLB's onerous requirements on traditional public schools -- a one-two punch for traditional public schools.

    Regarding language -- Kathy, what revision would you suggest that conveys the same information as "weapon in the arsenal" but was less strongly worded? I guess my feeling is that it's just a search for euphemisms, though.

  162. Wait! Are you saying that NCLB doesn't apply to charter schools? I think I must be misunderstanding something because I just can't imagine that is true.

  163. NCLB does apply to charter schools, but somehow those that choose to manage to have an anti-testing-frenzy focus and escape the official reign of terror that traditional public schools suffer over it. CACS parents have told me their school downplays the testing frenzy. Of course other schools would like to downplay it (if not eliminate it too), but they can't get away with it.

  164. A response to the comment about bus service for special education students. Children with special needs are provided bus service. I know that there was an article several months ago claiming that students would not be placed at schools where there were no existing bus routes. This is incorrect. As a teacher at a SFUSD school, I saw the bus routes changed multiple times throughout the year, as my students moved and transfered in or out of my classroom. Yes-a student was assigned to a school where there had previously been no route-they made one!

  165. Can you explain what you mean by "downplay it"?

  166. Re "downplay" -- I think some teachers would prefer to eliminate the mandatory standardized testing entirely; others are OK with it but don't want the high stakes, the strong focus on it etc.

  167. Caroline
    I will think of a suggested rewrite to that line. Anyone else want to give it a try?

  168. quick non-caroline related question -- does Starr King not have a waitlist for its Mandarin immersion program? I didn't see it listed on the SFUSD site. Also, if you put down 7 choices in Round 1 and Round 2 and didn't get anything either time, do you have any priority in the waitpool? thanks.

  169. So... Anybody have any summer Kindergarten meets to report on? Things you liked? Constructive criticisms?

    After going to the meets are you happy with your choice?

  170. To 5:31 PM

    Some children in special education receive bus service, not all.

    When APPLYING for a school, EPC takes into account if your child's IEP includes busing, and if it does, they use that to decide where to place your child. That may sound reasonable, but it isn't when they will not tell you which schools are on existing bus routes from your house, so you have no idea which schools they will "decide" to place your child at.

    So "school choice", for us, is even more of a lie than it is for parents of kids who are not disabled. At least parents of typical kids have some idea of the "odds" , of how many openings there are at schools, at how many applied last year, etc. ...parents of kids in special education are given NONE of that sort of information.

    Yes, there have been a few cases of children switching schools mid-year to other programs, and they still must provide busing so sometimes they have to create a whole new route.

    I mentioned busing as being a factor in the enrollment process, which you seem to not have understood.

  171. "Schools transferred more than 30 percent of regular-education dollars to special education this year, up from 4 percent in 2000, Kubinec said. She gave three reasons: inflation, higher demand for services - and autism."
    This seems like a major expense that the SFUSD can little afford. Assertive parents like the one whose autistic son attends CACS with a one-on-one aide are seeing to it that their kids' needs are being met. What about the rest of the kids?

  172. Anon at 6:11 -
    What would you suggest parents do? Are you saying that a parent should accept less than what her child needs out of some utterly misguided and altruistic belief that if one child gets less than what he needs, another child will get more? Sorry to burst your bubble, but if one child gets less than what he needs, all that happens is that one child gets less, because of the way that special education is funded.

    Referring to the "assertive parent at CACS" is a disturbingly personal comment, btw. Why single her out unless your intent is to imply that somehow her child doesn't deserve the help he's getting? Believe me, getting a one-to-one aide is no easy feat: you've got to make quite a case for it and you've got to make that case every year to keep that kind of help. Kids who don't need one-to-one aides are not allowed to keep them, so I'd have a hard time believe that a parent would be able to keep an unnecessary aide out of sheer cussedness. You also fail to understand that usually the presence of a 1:1 is seen as a benefit to ALL the kids in the class, not just the target child.

    Finally, I think it's sad that you've fallen into the common trap of fighting over crumbs rather than acknowledging that the size of the pie is ludicrously small for all the needs it is supposed to meet.

  173. anon at 6:11:

    If it was your child who needed the help, wouldn't you also be assertive? Or would you just give up on your kid?

  174. Special ed advocacy is like the tragedy of the commons. The budget is a sum-zero game, and if every parent fights to get the most for his/her child, that leaves inadequate resources for most schools. Of course the long-term solution is to push the federal government to fully fund IDEA. In the absence of this, few districts can afford to fully comply.

  175. Caroline and others, please explain why NCLB affects charter schools differently than it does regular public schools. Are charter schools exempt from the punitive aspects of NCLB if they don't meet its standards?

  176. Charter schools are subject to the AYP or "Adequate Yearly Progress" and accountability of NCLB just as any other public school.
    This is from the US Department of Education:

  177. It's not really clear to me, though i speculate that's because it's really, really, really hard for a school district or other authorizer to yank a school's charter IF the school chooses to fight and gets the California Charter Schools Assn. (or presumably equivalent in other states) on its side.

    But a number of CACS parents have told me that the school makes a point of de-emphasizing the annual standardized tests and is pretty unconcerned about the results. I don't know of any non-charter schools that feel they can afford to take that view.

    Two examples of how hard it is to yank a charter:

    SFUSD had a charter school run by for-profit Edison Schools Inc. The school board wanted to cancel its charter, citing a number of ways Edison Inc. was not abiding by its agreements. Edison mounted a huge legal and media battle and got (literally) the national and international press to go to bat for it, blasting SFUSD on the old "land of fruits and nuts" theme. That included a Page 1 story in the New York Times picked up on Page 1 of the International Herald Tribune, an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and much, much more. The battle eventually resulted in a compromise (the school still exists, as a state charter rather than an SFUSD school, a rent-paying tenant in an SFUSD property), but demonstrated how little power SFUSD had over its own charter school.

    Example No. 2 is Urban Pioneer, a former charter high school. Urban Pioneer had two students die by falling into a ravine on an unsupervised school wilderness outing, due to clear negligence by the school. UP was also rock-bottom in test scores, was in financial shambles with teachers' paychecks bouncing, and was openly committing academic fraud, graduating students with far fewer than the required number of credits. Yet there was a huge, divisive controversy when SFUSD moved to revoke Urban Pioneer's charter, though eventually that did happen. To this day, many people in the community believe that brutal SFUSD committed an outrage against an innocent charter school (someone posted to that effect on this blog recently). You be the judge.

  178. If you are an English-speaking family interested in Spanish-immersion, being in a classroom with "too many" Spanish speakers will only benefit your child.

    On the other hand, Spanish-speaking kids in classrooms with too many English-speakers will *really* suffer. They'll be ready to expand their vocabulary and prepare for reading while their peers are learning their colors and parts of the body.

  179. 12:08 am said: “Special ed advocacy is like the tragedy of the commons.”

    I disagree with the use of that metaphor, although that is the main point Asimov gropes to make in each and every sensationalist article she writes about autism.

    “The tragedy of the commons” points to UNRESTRICTED demand … school district administrators are gatekeepers whose jobs mostly consist of preventing parents from accessing services. This is especially true for uneducated parents who believe what district administrators tell them. The “demand” is very restricted.

    In using that metaphor, you imply that there is widespread abuse and exploitation of the system and its resources, and even though the tabloid-esque media would like you to think that we all get dolphin therapy, surf therapy, and horseback riding therapy for our kids, that is so far from the real reality it is repugnant to even mention it in articles about special education in America.

    In using that metaphor, you imply that parents of children in special education who advocate for their children are selfish, and care nothing about the problems of other children. As Anon at 8:00 pm so aptly pointed out “if one child gets less than what he needs, all that happens is that one child gets less, because of the way that special education is funded.”

    6:11pm and 12:08am must not have children, because what decent parents would not always do all they could to help their kids? It’s odd to criticize parents for being great advocates for their kids. Parents of children with disabilities must be “assertive”, we don’t really want to be, we want to make cupcakes, hang out in classrooms and organize fundraisers; instead we go bleary-eyed reading law books and writing out complicated educational plans for our children. It is a crime that the quality of a child’s special education program directly correlates with the advocacy skills of that child’s parents, but that is the sad reality. Perhaps the district’s new mantra about “social justice” will change all that. But probably not.

  180. For every child receiving any services from SFUSD, there are at least that many who needed them who were denied.

    SFUSD's gatekeeping is very tough. I would bet that every single one of those children in the article who has a one-on-one aide really needs it. And, I would bet that there are three times that number of kids out there that need one but aren't getting one. We should not be blaming the kids who are by some miracle of God actually getting the services they need, but asking why the other kids who need services aren't getting them. That is the bigger story.


  181. Sorry- my earlier link was broken. This should work:

  182. I think there are various different kinds of charter schools. Lumping them all together is like lumping all private schools together, no matter how different the demographics, philosophy, etc. Edison is completely different than CACS and has a different type of charter.

    12:36: Why are you asking Caroline? She is clearly anti-charter and will be coming from that negative perspective. (I'm restraining myself here, because her posts really tick me off)

  183. PS: I also can't imagine that anyone would NOT see the incident at Urban Pioneer as being irresponsible and tragic. That still has nothing to do with CACS and Gateway. They are all different schools!

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

  185. 9:27, people blast SFUSD all the time for closing Urban Pioneer -- especially folks from the charter world. As noted, a poster did that on this very blog within the past two or three weeks.

    I was talking to a Metro (Metropolitan Arts & Tech Charter) mom who was forcefully advocating the "brutal SFUSD oppressed innocent charter school" position. She insisted stubbornly that only ONE kid had died in the Urban Pioneer tragedy and flatly refused to accept that there had been two. A -- she was wrong. B -- so what's the quota for an acceptable number of dead kids? OK, that was just one person's view. But.

    In any case, my point is that it is really hard for a district to close a charter. But that's a side issue. Since a poster here is questioning whether it's true that CACS downplays emphasis on standardized testing and how that's possible -- and this is something that CACS parents clearly see as an advantage (and in fact I'd agree with them) -- yet my credibility in answering the question is limited, maybe a CACS parent can answer it.

    I agree that Urban Pioneer was a completely different school from CACS and Gateway. But with the forces of the charter world going to bat for Urban Pioneer, it was extremely difficult, controversial, divisive and damaging for SFUSD to close UP, even in a situation where honestly I don't see how a reasonable person could advocate NOT closing it. So that -- and the Edison controversy illustrate how little power a school district has over a charter. An upside may be that a charter that's not showing bad enough test scores to raise serious alarms can afford to put less emphasis on standardized testing than non-charter schools.

  186. "9:27, people blast SFUSD all the time for closing Urban Pioneer -- especially folks from the charter world. As noted, a poster did that on this very blog within the past two or three weeks."

    Really? Welp, I'm a charter parent and I think they were irresponsible. Period. But I would say the same for any school where something like that happened. I honestly don't know enough about the incident to make any further judgements about the school itself, though. I guess I have some reading to do. :)

    As far as test scores and CACS go, they are comparable with many of the other public school in the district and have consistently gone up over the last few years. ( Currently 770 which is a 22 point API growth from 2006-2007).

  187. Right, I didn't say CACS had poor test scores.It's ranked No. 42 in SFUSD by API, so somewhere in the middle. I said that CACS parents have told me over the years that CACS makes a point of not focusing on tests and de-emphasizing standardized testing.

    Re Urban Pioneer, it wasn't just the two deaths but also, as noted, the fact that it was mismanaging finances (bouncing teachers' paychecks), had rock-bottom test scores and was graduating students with far fewer than the required credits, which is academic fraud. In fact, the BOE, under intense angry pressure both from the San Francisco community and from the state charter school lobbying organization, didn't close it after the two kids' deaths until the other situations were revealed.

  188. The reason children may not get the resources they need in special education (e.g., "one-to-one aides") is because SFUSD simply does not have the funds. Ask your child's teacher how much money they get per year (or how much they spend out of pocket simply to make their classroom function!)-you will be appalled. SFUSD administrators are not heartless "gatekeepers", nor do they deny special education students access to resources as an act of institutional discrimination. Public schools in the United States simply aren't funded at a level that allows them to provide all the resources their students need.

    The federal government set out a list of requirements for special education in 1975 when IDEA was enacted, but has failed to fund it at the promised level.

    This doesn't make it right, or fair. Any parent with the resources should fight for their children's right to access a free and appropriate education. But instead of blaming the school district or administrators ("gatekeepers") parents should look to the federal government, the entity truly responsible for the gross underfunding of special education programs.

    For more info:

  189. The reason children may not get the resources they need in special education (e.g., "one-to-one aides") is because SFUSD simply does not have the funds. Ask your child's teacher how much money they get per year (or how much they spend out of pocket simply to make their classroom function!)-you will be appalled. SFUSD administrators are not heartless "gatekeepers", nor do they deny special education students access to resources as an act of institutional discrimination. Public schools in the United States simply aren't funded at a level that allows them to provide all the resources their students need.

    The federal government set out a list of requirements for special education in 1975 when IDEA was enacted, but has failed to fund it at the promised level.

    This doesn't make it right, or fair. Any parent with the resources should fight for their children's right to access a free and appropriate education. But instead of blaming the school district or administrators ("gatekeepers") parents should look to the federal government, the entity truly responsible for the gross underfunding of special education programs.

    For more info:

  190. 2:55 -- You've hit the nail on the head. It is all (or mostly) about money.

    The problem is that the district is not allowed to admit that its all about money. So they instead push back on parents -- telling them that they are greedy, or their child doesn't qualify for services. If they admit that its about money, they get sued. But making parents feel guilty if their child gets the services they need, or crazy/stupid if they don't, isn't the answer.

    This situation creates a culture of denial though that goes far beyond money. Unless forced, SFUSD refuses to offer accomodations that cost nothing, or virtually nothing, and would help individual students. There is a lot of room between nothing and a one-to-one aide!

  191. I asked a very involved special ed parent/activist why the district people in that area seem to be so awful. (I was actually wondering why the community of activists couldn't drive out the awful people and make the districts find some good ones -- that's basically what happened with the head of Student Nutrition.) But the activist I asked thinks that having to do what they do with such a shortage of resources makes them that way, almost inescapably.

  192. CACS test scores, while perhaps average for the district, are mediocre considering the school's demographics (high percentage of middle-class white kids fluent in English). I know a number of CACS parents who feel their kids are not learning enough in school and essentially home-school their kids to make up for these perceived gaps. OTOH, the kids do seem happy to go to school and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere there.

  193. I'm 2:55. I'm actually a special ed. teacher with SFUSD. I have experience with other (large urban) districts in a couple of different ways. I used to work for another large urban district. I also have a family member with autism so I've seen my family deal with special ed. administrators as well.

    The special ed. administrators in this district are actually extremely good. They are not burnt out (as they were in my previous district) or oblivious (as they are in my family's city). They work all hours of the day, on vacations, etc. They take abuse from angry parents and just nod and smile. They really care about kids (even when parents think they don't).

    This year I had two students who needed resources but have parents who couldn't advocate for them. An administrator stepped in and made these things happen, because they truly care about doing what's right. And ethical.

    Just like the school lunches-there's simply not enough money.

  194. "I know a number of CACS parents who feel their kids are not learning enough in school and essentially home-school their kids to make up for these perceived gaps."

    That's exactly what our neighbors say about Buena Vista which actually has pretty low test scores (API 656), yet is still a very sought-after school. Granted, the demographics might be different, but perhaps there's more to a school than just test scores.

  195. "The special ed. administrators in this district are actually extremely good. "

    They are good at keeping kids from receiving services, at delaying evaluations, at tricking parents into signing IEPS that are worthless and at keeping parents from knowing what their children's rights are.

  196. "CACS test scores, while perhaps average for the district, are mediocre considering the school's demographics "

    The same can be said with many other schools in the district ...

    Lakeshore 2
    Miraloma 1
    Fairmount 1
    Buena Vista 1

    The numbers are their "Similar Schools Ranking" which compares them to other schools with similar demographics ... 10 is best, 1 is lowest.

    but I guess all you wanted to do was trash CACS again, eh?

  197. ^That seems to be a big part of what this blog has turned into unfortunately.