Thursday, July 24, 2008

San Francisco magazine wants to hear from you

K Files Community:

My name is Diana Kapp and I'm writing a piece for San Francisco Magazine on the city's public schools. Some of you may have read the story I did last year on private schools "Schools Gone Wild."

I'm now turning my attention to the public schools, and a new level of openness I sense about families considering public schools that may not have 5 years ago.
One of the areas I'm focusing on is the role The K Files played in this year's admissions process.

I know this was a supportive community for many to air their concerns and grievances, get information, and find support. I'd love to get your thoughts on what role The K Files played in your school admission/decision process this year? Was it a major factor in your decision making? Did anyone go public that wouldn't have otherwise? How did the blog change your view, for better or worse, of a particular school, the process, the option of public education? I think the blog is a really interesting example of the momentum that seems to be building for going public. It also revealed quite starkly some of the frustrations. If you'd be willing to share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you. I'm at


  1. While this blog is very informative, PPSSF did more to make me feel better about public schools in general. Their school ambassadors are truly terrific at conveying that individual schools you might not have considered could be a wonderful place for your child.
    This blog did make me feel very lucky that I got my neighborhood public school assignment in the Sunset.

  2. While this blog is very informative, PPSSF did more to make me feel better about public schools in general. Their school ambassadors are truly terrific at conveying that individual schools you might not have considered could be a wonderful place for your child.
    This blog did make me feel very lucky that I got my neighborhood public school assignment in the Sunset.

  3. To be honest, this blog really heightened my anxiety - between the mean snippy comments, and just all the general angst.

    However, I did find the site useful for trying to learn about trends after the round 1 and 2 letters went out. It helped me to figure out how to proceed. I do agree however the PPSSF was really the go to place, besides the EPC.

  4. I loved the blog and still do. I thought Kate's reviews were well written, descriptive and insightful. I visited some schools that I read about on the blog that I would not have otherwise visited. I thought much of the discussion was informed, relevant and helpful, even though I had to weed through some negative and obnoxious posts. I was obsessed with the process regardless of the blog, but the blog made an otherwise high-anxiety time interesting. Following the ups and downs of the process for Kate's family was (and still is) enjoyable. Thanks Kate for this entertaining outlet.

  5. Although I learned a great deal from this blog about public schools in one particular area of the city, I think some of the other areas and schools seem like they were not visited or even mentioned. It would have been nice if somehow there were twice as many reviews. (maybe Kate's husband could have reviewed another 5-10 lesser known schools). I felt that most of the schools that were reviewed were already on my radar and thus, already too popular!

    I also found that some of the opinions expressed in this blog made me feel anxious and at times angry. Some of the posters at times made me laugh, too, though.

    I'm interested in seeing where this blog is going and how the comments will change once Kindergarten actually starts.

  6. If the blog made people feel "anxious" why continue to visit it? People need to take responsibility for their actions, and not blame a blog for their anxiety. (And, interestingly, those "anxious" people are still her reading the blog!)

    Additionally, Kate was looking for a school for her family and not trying to serve the public by visiting and reviewing schools. It is silly to suggest that her husband should have visited additional schools that were not in their neighborhood or of interest to them just to provide reviews to the blog readers. That wasn't what this was about.

  7. Just a perception, no need to get snippy.

  8. "I'd love to get your thoughts on what role The K Files played in your school admission/decision process this year? "

    The people who were commenting about increased anxiety were simply answering the question. Yes, Kate created the blog as an outlet for her search, but it grew in to something bigger, otherwise why would the SF Magazine be asking this question?

    I happen to agree with those who felt the blog, while providing a place to share thoughts, magnified the anxiety. Mostly because, as the the old saying goes, "Misery loves company"

    I feel Parents for Public Schools provided the essential information needed to navigate the process. While SF K Files provided a forum to share personal thoughts (including fears) about individual schools and the process in general.

    I also feel this forum did a good job in disseminating the history of current over subscribed schools.

    How some of them transformed from the 'hidden gems' to their current status. I thought this was an important message because it showed how a strong parent/teacher/principal alliance can turn a school around.

  9. Honestly, I have to suggest that it wasn't just that some turned from "hidden gems." Some schools have turned from "it's a shame, but I just could never send my child to a school like that" to popular schools!

  10. I will add that this blog provided information to parents without a school choice about under-subscribed schools that were just not on the radar of most people. So I think it had a big impact on round 2 enrollment for a number of schools.

  11. I also think it may have comforted some of us to know that "we're all in this together". For better or for worse, as parents in San Francisco, this is our shared experience.

    -Another Anon

  12. How about: "District Gone Wild" (cf latest thread)

  13. Nobody reads SF mag.

  14. Everyone reading this blog has now heard of Caroline Grannan.

  15. When my husband and I first applied to kindergartens in 1998, we were told by many people (not just private school parents, but public school parents as well) that there were only five or six good public elementary schools in San Francisco. We applied to most of them, and did not gain admission. We ultimately enrolled our son in a school that was under the radar at the time and has since become very popular (Sherman).

    I believe there are now 15-20 very good public elementary schools in San Francisco, and the number is growing. I attribute this to strong principal leadership, growing involvement among parents, and superb leadership by Ms. Ackerman. Also, we should remember that many of the schools always had teaching staff with a strong work ethic. Administrative excellence and strong parental involvement were icing on the cake for these schools.

    Now, I see that some middle schools and high schools that were formerly considered poor are improving their test scores, and conditions there are much improved for students. Examples: Roosevelt and Aptos middle schools and Galileo High.

  16. Hi Diana -- The remarks about me stem from these two commentaries of mine and ensuing discussions, just to clarify. You may have read the private school post, which quotes you.

    On private schools:

    On charter schools:

  17. Besides hearing about the latest SFUSD snafu, I also learned that there are a few people who call themselves public school advocates who are not even searching for a kindergarten for their own child but who are using this blog as a platform for their own political agenda.

  18. Though not as active as some of the public school advocates, more than a handful of private school parents have been participating on this blog, and probably many more than that reading it.

    Absent another source for sharing information about the private school application process, and due to the fact that Kate herself was applying to and ultimately accepted at one of the area's sought-after private schools, families pursuing both public and private or private alone also found community, information, and entertainment on this blog. Not to mention sometimes stimulating debate about the "choices" we have in SF.

    An article about how false these choices are would be interesting to many and educational for those who have yet to go through the hell that is the kindergarten application year.

    I would hope that any article touting the rise of public school popularity would also alert readers to the myriad problems at SFUSD, the financial woes that will plague the district and the state for many years to come, and that it would underscore that sending your kids to public school here requires a lot of effort, time, and money on the part of the families.

  19. ^ I agree.
    A balanced perspective on SFUSD would be really refreshing.

    I also think that many of the people left on this blog are angry (rightly so) and frustrated and perhaps did not get any choices in the lottery-so the perspective on this blog right now is skewed.
    Many families DO have success stories (both private and public) and it might be encouraging for next year's families to hear these as well. Kate?

  20. This is the one place where I can find some if very limited information on the parochial schools. Most threads are private - high end as features in your May article or public. There are occaassional discussions regarding parochial schools which are about all you can find out there. There is very little information sharing by the parochial schools or forums for parochial school parents across schools. The exception on this blog has been the high end in tuition schools such as Convent and Stuart Hall . It's the more affordable catholic schools that interest me and there is no parent forum for them that I have found. In fact the school we attend in this category won't even allow distribution of a family contact list and will actively work against it if found out, so sharing information here and being able to do so anonymously is very helpful.

  21. Marlowe's MomAugust 5, 2008 at 2:08 PM

    The SF K Files blog strongly influenced our our kindergarten decision-making process. As a result of comments on this blog, our range of "acceptable" public schools expanded enormously. Although I found the SFUSD Round I counseling session useless as an event (they said nothing that was not in the Enrollment Guide), the wonderful Rosa Parks JBBP parents I met there were very helpful and as a result we chose that under-enrolled school.

    The public versus private debate was extremely stimulating. I found particularly compelling the view that privatization of education drives our society to a more third-world-like place with wider gaps between the haves and have-nots. Unfortunately, although the education-privatization movement is supported by many right-wing anti-government types and religious zealots, it's also driven by the communities public schools should be serving and the public schools themselves. Specifically, for 30 years, as a nation and a state, we have voted against funding public schools time and again, by Prop 13 and by electing legislators who pass budgets that favor prisons over schools. San Francisco voters, to their credit, have bucked that trend and repeatedly voted for public school funding. The SFUSD's byzantine enrollment procedures and inability to establish an adequate number of high-performing schools with decent after-school programs (I think at least to some extent due to a costly and seldom effective effort to achieve the "diversity" that makes for popular political rhetoric) drive many families out of the district.

    I truly believe that most people in San Francisco are over being scared of sending their kids to a school in which most of the other kids look different. Those who aren't over it will probably go private or move to the 'burbs anyway. I also believe that, especially with so many parents working and unable to provide a lot of oversight, they are scared to send their kids to an under-performing school. Finally, I believe that it's reasonable and environmentally responsible to want your kids to attend a school close to home.

    I think SFUSD's limited resources would be better spent on quality first. Busing showed us, and the SFUSD's "diversity index" system shows us, that attempts to force diversity don't work very well. If a politically-driven "diversity" program assigns a family to an under-performing school or extremely inconvenient school, and that family knows they have other options, they will pursue those options. On the other hand, if a school has desirable academic programs and enough quality aftercare, a more diverse pool of families will enroll their children. The move of an already successful JBBP program to Rosa Parks, a school whose prior population was mostly the high-need, impoverished kids that "overwhelm" a school, has resulted in a school whose demographic make-up is now closer to San Francisco's profile than most and whose academic performance is improving.

    I have no doubt Rosa Parks JBBP would have provided our son an excellent education. Unfortunately, we could not get into acceptable aftercare. Our son will remain in his private school, Adda Clevenger, where we are delighted with the love and attention he receives from his teachers and he loves the variety of teachers and activities.

  22. ^^Thanks!!