Thursday, August 14, 2008

Steady growth shown on California Standards Test

According to an article in today's Chronicle, "The state's public school students improved yet again in reading, writing and mathematics, marking five years of near-steady growth on the tough California Standards Test, according to results released Thursday by the Department of Education."

"But the good news came paired with bad, as state Superintendent Jack O'Connell declared that the education of black students has reached a crisis stage: Overall scores remain well below those of white students, and English skills generally match those of students just learning the language."

"'I am acutely concerned about our African American st'dents,' O'Connell said, noting that low academic proficiency and a high dropout rate "indicate a crisis in the education of black students.'"

For the full story, click here.

Also, The Chronicle has a feature that allows you to check schools' scores. Click here.

164 comments:

  1. The numbers for these Test are so bad! it is a crisis and a major one at that. The standard of English and Math in this state compared to same grades in Europe is appalling and we should be very afraid for our children. Recently i have gone through test score for some of the "better" schools and although they are slightly higher than your local school, there scores too are no where near where they should be. In our world today with all the advancements that we have made education going backwards both public and private. I am very disappointed and cannot take any chances with my kids education.
    Also its not just 'black kids' whose education thats slipping its ALL.

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  2. Check out Daniel Webster's scores:

    percentage at proficient or above

    in English 18%
    in Math 27%

    yuck

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  3. I would challenge you to actually TAKE one of these standardized tests and then say that:

    <<< In our world today with all the advancements that we have made education going backwards both public and private. >>>

    It's a cliche, though it seems to be rapidly forgotten each time, that the press will publicize some of the actual test questions for, say, 8th grade -- and the adults who are howling about how today's kids are all illiterate will discover they actually can't answer the questions. My kids' schooling has been more rigorous than mine was.

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  4. Caroline, I don't know what you learned but i know that both my husband and i (educated in europe) were both doing algebra at 11 and 12 years of age and there was never a mention of dropping out because we couldn't cope or didn't like it, we were doing calculus aged 15. The teachers here in California are afraid that if the Governor makes algebra a requirement in earlier grades that students will start dropping out of school earlier. Start them earlier, teach it to them better (and that can be done)and get some outside help if thats what they need.

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  5. I know lots of big brains, professors, think tanks, people from lots of walks of life ponder and research these discrepancies every time these test scores are published, and esp when the int'l test scores are published.

    So I wonder what some of the real reasons are. Of course, I don't take the time to read all the studies these big brains come out with because a) I don't have time, but b) often the reports are skewed based on the political persuasion of agenda of the think tank, researcher etc.

    But as a layman looking at the picture, couple of quick things come to mind that may influence these types of outcomes -

    a) size of US population
    b) influx of low skilled/low income earning immigrant population
    c) lack of rigorous educational expectation of parents
    d) sports/other non-academic interests -- are US kids better at this than in other countries (recall the theory of multiple intelligences)
    e) high number of children born to parents on welfare/teenagers
    f) resources spent on Special Ed. A school district can spend up to hundreds of thousands of dollars on one or two special ed students and that comes at the expense of all the other children. Nothing against special ed children but some of these children are so severely handicapped they have no chance of ever leading a productive life and it does not seem right that the education of these children should come at the expense of the other school children in the district. If anything, perhaps their education costs should be shifted to being under the health care costs and funded separately -- all comes from the same place eventually, taxpayers, but at least it is not a direct hit on the school district budget.
    g) litigious society - how many millions spent on ridiculous lawsuits because we seem to have lost the concept of common sense in this country, and seem to have developed hypersensitivity to everything and think every thing is a "right" - and think of enriching the attorneys in our country (now that's a profession that has no fear of becoming extinct)

    I have no comparison as I have not lived in another country and do not know what their socio-economic make up is like, etc.

    It does seem that the countries that have school on Sat tend to do better academically but there is a cost to that also.

    Offhand, some of the more academically successful countries such as Singapore and Finland come to mind. Singapore, which is very structured is not surprising in their success-- the children even learn 2 languages if not 3.(of course, they have more opportunity to speak each language and multilingualism beget multilingualism). Finland appears to be quite homogenous ethnically/racially, and socio-economically (not sure) --that is they do not have a large "poor" underclass. So does that make a difference?

    In any case, these are not excuses, we should be expecting better of everyone - teachers, parents, citizens, children, neighbors! even to help develop a culture that values education and learnedness -- does not have to just be academics -- could be music, art, sports to some extent -- the point is that one has to apply oneself to learn to be successful -- that is, valuing the effort and also the outcome to an extent.

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  6. To 8:43
    It's not that the teachers don't want to teach algebra, but that it takes resources to do so. Especially with the wide disparity of skill and knowledge levels. Calif. State Superintendent just noted that schools need an additional $3 billion over the next several years to make the goal set out.

    High goals are fine and admirable (and California is noted by conservative education think tanks as having among the highest curriculum standards in the country.) But standards are meaningless unless you have a plan in place to make your goal.

    My son will be in the first 2010 8th grade class that will be mandated to take it. Not being a math whiz, I'm concerned that he will be successful. But we'll work together on it over the next couple of years.

    I seriously doubt that in Europe you faced that range of skill levels/abilities. For example, how many immigrant kids with impovershed backgrounds went to your school? Far fewer that in California, I'll bet.

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  7. Someone or someones on these blogs seem to really be fixated with Daniel Webster!
    That is exactly why PREFUND has such a big task cut out for them and why you can bet your bottom dollar that the BOE will be right there to support them to turn that school around because there is simply TOO MUCH at stake for it to be a failure. Or too much ego at stake. And too much determined good hearted people that will try their best to make it a better place, and will give up only if something disastrous happens. And it makes for an excellent laboratory -- large large minority population with way underperforming test scores -- so is it possible to get these students to improve? Is it racial? Is it socio-economic? Is it bad parenting? Is it bad teaching? Bad home environment? Bad genes? you get the drift.

    So if anyone ever wanted to take a chance on a school, now's the time to jump in on Daniel Webster. I'm not sure you will find as much energy and well-connected, well-heeled individuals putting so much into one school.

    Of course, it could turn out in 5 years to be an experiment that well, didn't quite turn out, so as in most endeavors, some risk involved.

    But if you were a betting individual...

    (and I am in no way associated with PREfund or own a home in the Potrero Hill district and have no stake in their success)

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  8. In Europe, do the SpEd kids even take the standardized tests? They really lower the average scores at some of the district's schools.

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  9. to 9.29
    that is just it, everyone went to school, kids didn't stay at home, education was free (although it was paid for with taxes) it was a very serious education with zero tolerence, and a lot of pressure, it created who we are today, but the majority of kids finished high school. (it wasn't always the way but certainly since the mid 80's)
    By the way i had a tough time with Math and had a lot of outside help.
    I understand that it takes millions i just wish that Education here could take a higher priority than it does, it's very sad.

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  10. Don't put too much into these scores. I can only speak for my own child, who went to public schools K-8, scoring at 98-99 percentile in English every year. When he went to independent private high school, we were in for a big surprise. Vocabulary, writing, reading comprehension... He is a very bright kid, but it took him a full year to catch up.

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  11. Which public schools? Which independent high school, Hermione?

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  12. Disabled kids are invisible in Europe, according to my European friends -- warehoused somewhere, I guess. SO there is no special ed.

    I love Europe and admire many of the social programs and attitudes in European countries, but I think the differences in systems make these into apples-n-oranges comparisons. Tracking is rigorous. The social equivalents of the low-income African-American children who are on the wrong side of the achievement gap here are NOT taking calculus at 15 in Europe, I guarantee.

    I've heard of situations like Hermione's kid, but I've heard and seen the reverse too -- kids coming from private to public and having to catch up.

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  13. SF public schools, Presidio Middle, The Bay School of SF. Math, BTW, wasn't an issue, but he had some tutoring and still ... I (math major :-) wasn't happy with his level of understanding of math concepts. At 99%... I was sad that my friends kids from Europe and Israel were way ahead.
    These tests are just tests, that's what I am trying to say.

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  14. I understand alot of private school parents pay for tutoring so there kids can keep up. Is this true?

    Well, guess I need to define alot. Is it the norm or not unusual, so to say.

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  15. oops can't seem to spell, I mean "their kids", not there kids. Guess I'd bring down the scores of the pub school tests too.

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  16. He had tutoring while he was in Presidio Middle (public), not to keep up, but because I didn't feel comfortable with the level of the CA/SFUSD math curriculum. I did the tutoring myself (wouldn't recommend it :) No tutoring while in high school, except for a couple of weekends of SAT prep.

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  17. I have friends at Lick-Wilmerding and at Adda Clevenger who have paid for tutoring.

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  18. I can't believe that hateful and ignorant crap on this blog about special education students.

    My son, who has autism, did great on his tests and RAISES his school's test scores.

    If you substitute "black kid" for "special ed kid" you'll see how truly repugnant what you are saying sounds. Next you'll be saying they shouldn't have black kids in schools because they bring the school's scores down.

    Discrimination is so ugly, glad there's a certain place in hell for those ugly thinkers.

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  19. The comments about kids with special needs really make me cringe, are the posters really that ignorant, biased or just uninformed. Spending money on supporting kids with special learning needs, language issues, or mobility issues (can you say wheelchair ramps?) is NOT what is making California schools fail. The standards are low, the teachers are often (please note the OFTEN) not properly trained for the subject or age they are teaching and there is simply not enough money put into education. I went to school in British Columbia, with as high - or higher a percentage of immigrant and ESL kids, FULL inclusion of kids with special needs starting in the 70's, and everyone learned French (whether you wanted to or not). Its not the kids with spceial needs, its not the background of the kids, its the broken, underfunded system - so how about time and energy on fixing it instead of whining about which kids make it harder. Some of the best things I learned in elementary school where from my friends who had hearing impairments (so the whole school learned to sign) and from a friend who had a bike accident and came back to school in a wheelchair. For the poster who was so specifically horrid about kids with special needs draining the system, lets hope that isn't your kid - let's hope your life has no surprises, as it seems you wouldn't cope well.

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  20. Thanks, MCL ...

    I just get so mad when people blame special education students for "draining resources".

    Don't blame the kids, blame the federal government for not fully funding I.D.E.A. as they promised.

    In SFUSD, with so many English language learners, economically disadvantage students, GATE students, 70% of all education in this district requires some sort of "special education".

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  21. Hey hey folks!
    Whoa! How quick we like to throw around racism, bigotry, etc -- thats why in this country we can't have a conversation about anything.
    Racism/bigotry- those words are very powerful and refers to someone's intent -- I had no intent to be bigoted and if I am, I apologize.
    Someone can make the same statement - one is just stating a fact and one is making a "racist" comment - the difference is their intent -- so, here's a fact - the average API score for children of African American descent is 530 (I'm just making up a number). It can be interpreted in two ways, but only the speaker knows what their true intent is.

    Anyway - re Special Ed -- hey, I'm not talking about autistic kids, or kids with learning disabilities such as reading/speech (my son).

    I am talking about the kid in NYC who costs $80,000(approx) because she is a quadripeligic or something like that NYC is on the hook for it because they could not mainstream her and had to pay for her private school. Her father is CEO or something at Cable company and brought the lawsuit to make a point - he donated the proceeds to charity or something. But for the next 10 years the city is on the hook for her education.

    All I'm saying is these kids should be educated but don't take it out of the regular school budget - why not lump it in with the Social Services that the person gets.

    And by the way - I do think special ed kids should be broken out for test scores. I do not think test scores should be broken out by race, but maybe accord to socio economic factors. Race makes it way to easy for "racists" to make their claims of who the "troublemakers" are. And unless there is a genetic reason why blacks score lower than Asians or why Pacific Islanders score lower than whites, than don't use race. A child can't change their race. And changing their race won't make their score go up magically or go down. Look at the real factors - maybe poverty, parent's educational level, parent/cultural value on education, living conditions, single parent/adult supervision/availability etc.

    So please do not call me a racist. That is a cop out.

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  22. A child cannot change their disability either.

    What you are writing is so offensive and you don't even realize it.

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  23. And as to some other comments -- ok, then, take the special ed (for kids with severe disabilities) out of education budget but the Fed/State reimburse for actual cost.

    And I apologize if I were being insensitive to children in wheelchairs. I absolutely think that they can contribute as much to society as others and it helps no one to have them shunted aside somewhere as in some countries.
    I'm just talking about the severely disabled -- where the cost is so astronomical and yet the school district doesn't get reimbursed for the full amount and yet are required to ensure the child gets an education equal to all other children.

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  24. In SFUSD, in 2007-2008,

    24.9% of special education students scored at proficient or above in Math,

    and 22.3% of African Americans scored at proficient or above in Math.

    Using your absurd logic, you probably think African American's children's educations should also be paid for by Social Services.

    Whether you like it or not, (and apparently you do not like it) public schools are required to give all children an appropriate education, even children who do not fit into your idea of who 'deserves" it or is "worth it".

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  25. Well what your saying shuts down all conversation.
    That's right -- a child cannot change their disability. What you are writing does not make sense --
    Fine then lump all the special ed kids together with regular kids. However, if you are going to test, than you are not comparing apples to apples and your results may not provide you good data to make decisions. But go ahead,lump it all together. Betcha the researcher will break it out at some point to get to the information they need.

    Someone who is not mentally disabled should not be broken out on academic test scores because I would expect that a physical disability, such as not being able to walk doesn't affect your mental acumen (not necessarily). However, someone who has Down's Syndrome - say severe DS. Why would you lump their test scores in with the rest - does that give you a fair picture of how well the average child is being educated. And if you do lump it all together, than just make sure everyone knows.

    Anyway, the bottom line is we want our children to be educated to the best of their ability and its how we get there with limited resources.

    (We do have Special Olympics for kids with disabilities because we do not hold kids to the same standards for physical performance. So why break them out. Just lump them all together to compete).

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  26. Ignorant hate-spewing people make me sick.

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  27. "What you are writing does not make sense -- "

    Nothing much makes sense to her, I'll bet. Don't even bother arguing with her, it's a waste of energy.

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  28. 9:45 -- you are so confused.
    Why do you use test scores as a reflection of whether someone is Special Ed?
    I've never thought of AA as Special Ed. Thank you for information, I had no idea that they tested the same.

    You are mixing apples and oranges - do you know anything about statistics? You are using the data very dangerously. '

    You've got it all backwards though I can see how my post has been misconstrued because the topic is test scores.

    My comment about draining resources is on a more macro level - if you read my original post I was looking for reasons why the system here is not as successful as other countries. And one of the reasons could be financial resources -- for instance, I am very curious how Singapore or Finland funds the education for "SEVERELY DISABLED" students that cannot be mainstreamed and so attend private school at the expense of the public school budget in this country.

    Geez. I never ever thought to equate Spec Ed test scores with Blacks, Latinos, Pacific Islanders. To me, special ed could be someone with down syndrome and I would not want to lump their score together with your average kid because than the data is meaningless if I am trying to see how well the majority/average students do in response to teaching methodology or curriculum.

    But you brought up a good point - test scores can be used this way to get additional funding. There's an idea.

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  29. What the ignorant person does not realize is that kids with Downs Syndrome, and those who are severely mentally handicapped take another test, the CAPA. So their test scores do not "bring a school down".

    But as the previous poster said, it isn't really worth arguing with that person, they obviously know nothing about what they are groping to write about, and yeah, it is so offensive it is creepy.

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  30. Singapore doesn't bother trying to educate the disabled, they lock them away. They also believe in corporal punishment. Sounds like you'd be happy to send your kids to school there.

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  31. Hey, ignore the troll.

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  32. 9:55

    You are the one who is confused.

    You mutter on about how bad the special ed kids test scores are and I merely point out that African American kids test scores are just about as "bad", and they are NOT in Special Ed. You completely miss the point, but that does not surprise me.

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  33. Yes so following your logic, if it cost $1.0M to educate one child, because the law says everyone is entitled to an appropriate education (which is true), the school district which only has a budget of $2,0 is on the hook, right. Just because that child lives in their district.
    What is too bad is the way you shut down all conversation --

    Don't you think the Fed gov't or a larger State funded pot should cover the costs of this one child to educate?

    I'd like to hear more about how these costs are reimubursed, funded. And maybe you guys are correct -these costs are not a drain on the system.

    What someone said earlier may be the case == the problem may have nothing to do with resources. Throwing more money at a screwed up system/fundamentally flawed system does not make it better. Standards, teaching system, parental input, etc. So energy should be to fix the system.

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  34. In response to the question about tutoring in private schools - some schools have a reputation for encouraging extra tutoring for kids. Other private schools are more comfortable teaching to a wider range of kids' abilities. It really depends on the school and the kids. I wouldn't say that most private school kids get extra tutoring though - not by a long shot.

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  35. I think I understand what the European educated person is saying. We don't, as a culture, value education the same way as other countries.

    The 2000 Presidential Election is a good example. Gore is very smart, Bush has different talents. The media painted Gore as an elitist,the smartest kid in the class, while Bush was an everyman, the guy you hung out with.

    'Who wants to spend time with the dull nerd?', the media asked.

    And it worked (well, Gore won, but by slim enough of a margin that Bush was able to steal the election). They did the same with Kerry (along with the swiftboating) and now they're trying with Obama. It's not working as well because Obama has a combination of charisma and brains.

    All talents are not created equal in this country. And that's sad. All be celebrated.

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  36. oops, should read :

    all should be celebrated...

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  37. How do European Americans perfom on standardized tests of math and English relative to their European counterparts? We're comparing apples to apples + oranges here.

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  38. I don't think we can compare european standardized tests to ours at all. Every child needs to take the same test before we can begin to compare....

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  39. 11:53 wrote: "I don't think we can compare european standardized tests to ours at all."

    Did you mean to be sarcastic? Funny? European standardized tests would be almost unintelligible to American (public) schoolchildren of the same age.

    The standards are so much higher there, despite what caroline the blowhard says about "her friends."

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  40. 1:51

    Golly, you really should move to Europe if that is how you feel.

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  41. I don't know the exact figures to detail exactly how much $ is spent per european child versus US child in education, but there are so many disadvantages to the us tax and government structure that play out on th shoulders of our children. Notably:
    1) Our education systems are based and paid for locally; therefore children in lower economic communities suffer lack of resources, reduced incentive for competent teachers, etc.
    2) We pay much much less in taxes in general, so the whole pool of monies going towards education is significantly less.
    There are lots of disadvantages to european systems, as well as others, in comparison to US education. However, these 2 factors significantly impact the system we're all taking about and make a comparison a bit fruitless.

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  42. I was browsing at sample tests for 7-11 year olds in England ...

    my kid would do great because it is all about memorizing everything.

    "what date was the 100 years war?"

    "King George the 1st was married to ----".

    The roman god of war was:


    I've no doubt the tests are harder in some ways, but Americans lead the way in inventiveness, business, creativity, science, and medicine.

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  43. I've been combing this blog for the last couple weeks trying to gleen support, info and help through many of you as I figure out how to handle my son's placement in SFUSD and make our best choices.
    I'm sorry to say that I've found far less actual information than I thought I would, and have become more and more frustrated and frankly saddened with many of your rants and responses to each other.
    They say the true test of character is how one behaves when no one is looking.
    A bit of kindness and respect goes a long way and I'm afraid too many of you have thrown that out with the anonymity available in blogging.
    So, I'm signing off - I get too little information and too much of a bummer each time I visit.
    And yes, I'm staying anonymous - too many of you feel dangerously angry!

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  44. Regarding tutoring in private schools: you have a population that believes in sparing no expense when it comes to providing some semblance of an ideal education to its children.

    If it's your kid coming in last place in math or whatever, and that's not working for you, you GET HELP, fast. That's part of the culture. Sometimes the school can provide the help; other times the problem is outside the scope of its expertise.

    Then again, maybe it's not actually a problem if your kid sucks at math.

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  45. I think the reason it's a topic of discussion is that one might perceive that private schools are equipped to deal with students' extra problems as part of the tuition.

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  46. Yeah, but there are private schools that will require specific parents to pay for tutoring.

    A friend of mine whose daughter attended Hamlin spent close to $1,000 on tutoring for her daughter, at the school's insistence. That's on top of tuition. And she wasn't alone: One third of the class was told to hire tutors.

    Now, if two or three kids in a classroom are falling behind in a private school and need tutors, that's fine. But if one-third of the class needs outside help, well, I think it is the teacher or school that is dropping the ball and that parents shouldn't be pressured to pay extra for tutoring.

    It is a sign that the teacher is failing to teach properly in that case.

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  47. There are very few CEOs with reputations for being kind people.

    So, go ahead and push your kids hard to develop cognitive/academic skills at the expense of emotional intelligence and people skills. You may well succeed at creating a miserable but very rich workaholic, high-achieving asshole ;-)

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  48. FAIS and the Lycee follow a very rigid, French government curriculum starting at age 4.

    Finland doesn't even start to teach academics -- including reading -- until kids are seven.

    Which kids score higher in math?

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  49. 1:51. No not trying to be funny. But if you understood quantitative comparison, you would realize, the only way you can compare scores is if everyone is tested under the same conditions & controls.

    But you obviously don't understand basic stats...

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  50. "Which kids score higher in math?"

    The FINS!

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  51. The FINS are also much nicer people.
    Not snotty and arrogant.

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  52. Gee, must be the Olympics making people all patriotic ... and pissed at the French :)

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  53. one might perceive that private schools are equipped to deal with students' extra problems as part of the tuition

    Extra problems are extra problems, whether in public or private school. I don't think you can say that private school parents are expecting the school to handle "extra" problems. If they are, they won't be there long.

    Tuition does not cover extra problems.

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  54. They get to screen adn pick those kids who would be easiest to teach, hire whoever they want to teach, charge up the wazoo and then shrug their shoulders if things don't go absolutely smoothly?

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  55. Plus kick out students who have problems at will. No wonder they get such great results.

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  56. In private schools, they teach a certain curriculum and don't modify it for kids who can't keep up. If a kid is having trouble staying w/ the rest of the class they get tutoring, or if there is a deeper issue then they switch schools. Some schools do seem to go overboard with the tutoring, but actually telling the parents that their child should go to another school is done on the basis of several years' worth of problems.

    My kids have gone to both public and private schools. Private spends a lot less time on drilling the basics. If kids aren't picking that up easily they're going to have trouble with the rest of the work and trouble down the road when it's really assumed that they have the basics down. I think that's why the public school curriculum seems more academically rigorous - they spend a lot more time on basic reading/writing/math skills - and also why there are kids in private who end up needing tutoring for those issues.

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  57. one might perceive that private schools are equipped to deal with students' extra problems as part of the tuition.

    Caroline, you are aware that both public and private schools require money to operate, aren't you?

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  58. Yes, of course I am. But the widespread perception would be that private schools give you the extra help you need as part of the deal. In general I find the average person is startled, as I was, to find out that private-school families pay for extra tutoring. In some cases, the private school REQUIRES them to do so.

    Re comparing standardized test scores for FAIS and other private schools -- in general, it's not possible to compare standardized test scores for private schools. Most don't reveal the information and some don't give standardized tests at all.

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  59. If they want to be accredited by the CAIS (Calif Assoc of Independent Schools) they have to give standardized tests.

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  60. The private schools may test, but they don't have to make the results of the tests available to the whole world, as public schools do. Some private schools don't even share an individual child's test scores wih the parents. They just release a composite "the fifth graders scored here this year compared to here last year."

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  61. Yeah, some are unaccredited (the much-discussed Adda Clevenger, for ex.) and as i understand it, many/ most others don't reveal standardized test scores.

    Interestingly, no one seems to pay much attention to whether the school is accredited, at least in the case of Adda C. -- not a blip of interest or concern among families I know there. i don't have an opinion on the accreditation process, so I'm just pointing that out. (Actually maybe I do have an opinion -- I was on the board of a co-op preschool that considered, researched and decided against accreditation -- the process was pretty clearly major bean-counting, dotting of I's and crossing of T's, more bureaucratic hassle than meaningful assessment.Different organization/process for preschools, though.)

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  62. There's a difference between preschool accreditation and CAIS accreditation. I'm sure the Adda C parents don't care, otherwise they wouldn't send their kids there. Personally, I care if my kids' private school is accredited since it's a way to keep the school on track academically and means something when it comes to high school admissions in that the schools have a sense of what standards are being met.

    My daughter took standardized tests in private school this year and they reported all her scores, and how she compared to others nationwide. The school uses the scores as a "check" on their teaching and curriculum.

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  63. The supposed difference between European and American school results is largely mythical. The systems are more similar than dissimilar. The real difference on both sides of the Atlantic is between the top and the bottom of the ladder, where outcomes are highly unequal. American kids who ace their AP tests and get into Ivy or other elite colleges don’t need to worry about how they stand compared to the top kids in the UK, France, Germany or even Finland. All of these kids are the “winners” in the scholastic race and will do well in their respective job markets. Likewise, the kids at the bottom have a lot in common with their peers in other countries – poverty, broken families, histories of racial and ethnic discrimination, self-destructive ghetto cultures. Yes, the Europeans have all of these things just like we do – check out those French “rodeos” where the French-born kids of Muslim North African immigrants spend their Saturday evenings torching every car in sight in the housing projects.

    Sure, there are differences between the social systems. In France your future is pretty much set by what school you go to when you’re 18 or 20. In America you get lots of second chances, if you are lucky enough to be born into the top or the middle of the social spectrum. Tragically, there are few second chances anywhere for those born at the bottom.

    So what’s my point? Simple. We educated middle-class types who frequent this blog should take a little time out from obsessing about our own kids (and I do it as much as anyone) to worry about the kids whose parents aren’t lurking here. Poor, African-American, Hispanic, immigrant, whatever. Improving the outcomes for these kids is one of the most important things our society can do. The Republicans in their exurbs and suburbs don’t care, they have their socially homogeneous public schools (the kind a lot of liberal San Francisco families secretly dream of). The elite Pelosi-Obama-Clinton class Dems send their kids to private schools and only pretend to care. I mean, seriously, if they were forced to send their own kids to urban public schools don’t you think things would be improving faster than they are?

    My own view is that we white and Asian middle classes are going to have to accept that more taxpayer money needs to be spent on the underprivileged kids than on our own. Is it fair for SFUSD to spend the same amount on a white kid whose middle-class professional parents can make the payments on a condo in Noe Valley as it does on the kid whose parents are undocumented manual laborers from Mexico, or the one whose single African-American mom is barely out of her teens? We accept that the special ed kids need more dollars. We ought to accept that the kids at the bottom of the social ladder deserve the same extra effort.

    I realize this idea may be a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of the anxious parents reading this blog who legitimately worry about SFUSD’s ability to place their kids in a decent school. But what else can we do?

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  64. 11:54 Are you aware that in SFUSD the weighted student formula (WSF) provides money to schools in proportion to the neediness of their school populations? For example, a school will get more money for each student who is an ELL, qualifies for free-lunch or is in SpEd. This makes sense as such students are typically more expensive to educate.

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  65. Hear, hear, 11:54.

    12:06 - Yeah, they get extra funds... but the Clarendons and Rooftops et al get a few extra hundreds of thousands from the fundraising prowess of their upper middle class constituents, too...

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  66. I used to live in Palo Alto and the fundraising there was district-wide, not school-by-school. Not sure if it could work in SF but it might help reduce the inequities (although certainly the well-funded schools wouldn't be too happy switching over to that).

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  67. I like cupcakes. No one can be opposed to cupcakes.

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  68. My British friends' kids began reading instruction at age 4. One friends' daughter was behind because she didn't have her multiplication tables fully memorized by age 7. I think an American child would definitely be behind, at least in the early grades. Her Mom, who was raised in the US, was pretty stressed out about how much they expected of very small children. Her child is obviously a very bright girl, and it seems sad that she's already being labelled behind.

    My experience in college was a little different though. European students seem to specialize in their paricular subject much earlier to the detriment of their general education. They definitely had the "mile deep and an inch wide" education, where we Americans had the opposite! Somewhere in the middle would be good.

    Anne

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  69. There is scientific research to back the notion that the part of the brain responsible for reading develops as early as 3 and 4 for some children and 6 or 7 for others. It is sad that a 4 or 5 year old should be labeled as behind when it is the British school system and teachers that are behind on their understanding of brain development.

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  70. "Is it fair for SFUSD to spend the same amount on a white kid whose middle-class professional parents can make the payments on a condo in Noe Valley as it does on the kid whose parents are undocumented manual laborers from Mexico, or the one whose single African-American mom is barely out of her teens?"

    YES IT DOES. WHO THE F do you think is paying the taxes???? If you want to give YOUR money to others, go ahead. YOU RACIST.

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  71. WHY SHOULD WHITE AMERICAN CHILDREN WHOSE FAMILIES HAVE BEEN PAYING TAXES FOR GENERATIONS BE TREATED LIKE 2ND CLASS CITIZENS BY THE SFUSD?

    IF SOMEONE IS ILLEGALLY HERE, THEN MAYBE THEY SHOULDN'T BREAK THE LAW.

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  72. "- Yeah, they get extra funds... but the Clarendons and Rooftops et al get a few extra hundreds of thousands from the fundraising prowess of their upper middle class constituents, too..."

    7:44 AM - So our kids should be penalized for being white, and their parents should be mocked & chided for contributing to our own kid's schools?

    You people wonder why white families go private or to Marin?

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  73. Wow.

    So many of you want us to sacrifice our children to your concept of "social justice" - (white kids go to school in the ghetto & get beaten up) and pay high taxes to spend on "diversity" programs, AND now you have your greedy palms itching at our PTA fundraising money?

    I think I am going to take my sweet kids, taxes & fundraising abilities to another county.

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  74. I think everyone needs a cupcake.

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  75. Sorry, no cupcakes. SFUSD's facist "wellness policy" does not allow cupcakes on campuses. How about a whole-grain cracker or mini carrot?

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  76. I love the district's wellness policy. I think you may be midunderstanding it though. It primarily limits food sales. This doesn't come up too much in elementary school, but in middle and high school groups were selling junk food round-the-clock.

    Of course kids can and do still bring cupcakes in for their birthdays though!

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  77. I thought you weren't even allowed to bring cupcakes for your child's birthday, under the guise of "there are 20 children in the class and that would mean they might have cupcakes 20 times a year."

    gasp!

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  78. That may be the case at some schools, but as far as I know, cupcakes for birthdays are not forbidden by the Wellness Policy.

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  79. I agree that vending machines with sodas and other crap should be kept out of schools, but having policies that dictate what snacks parents bring in for kids in the class is over-the-top. Teachers and parents can work that out amongst themselves.

    If SFUSD spent half the time focusing on the achievement gap that they spend on food issues, bike racks, JROTC, and other barely educational subjects -- maybe we'd get some progress.

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  80. Guess what?

    If there is an earthquake or fire, the medics will focus on the people in most grave danger. If all you have is a small wound requiring a handful of stitches, you may have to wait your turn.

    Is that unfair? Nope.

    Also: It is NOT in the interest of upper middle class whites to have an uneducated underclass. Bridging the achievement gap will reduce crime rates, will help keep jobs stateside, and boost the US economy.

    It is NOT in our interest to NOT do everything we can to educate disadvantaged children. They need more help. Perios.

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  81. my twins attended one of the child development programs run by the SFUSD. the amount of candy, cheap fatty snack food, high fructose corn syrup filled capri sun drinks, fruit loops type cereals, oreo cookies, and other garbage that parents brought in, and teachers encouraged, every single day, was disgusting! parents should have more say in what kind of food is served to their children at school. we don't allow this kind of garbage into our home, and i would like my children to grow up without feeling like they need to eat food which isn't really food, more like chemicals and fat and sugar in a bright red or yellow box, or a shiny foil package. leaving it to parents and teachers to decide means that every parent makes their own decision on what is appropriate for the whole class to eat. frankly, i don't want some other parent deciding to feed my child cheetos and sunny delight behind my back every day, and the teachers do nothing to stop it.

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  82. Yikes. Well, the parents at the preschools my son went to never brought in stuff like that.
    Maybe there is a need for a universal policy.

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  83. But, 8:55

    are you anti-cupcake?

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  84. why do the trolls think only white people comprise the middle class?

    Non white middle class people have the same concerns about the public schools and many end up sending their children to private.

    Race isn't factored in to the SFUSD diversity index. Stop making this about color, when it's the haves vs the have nots. Be it black, white, brown.

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  85. 8:55 responding....i love cupcakes! so do my children, and we bake them together for their birthday, and for some special times. we make frosting too (what is a cupcake without frosting?) but we make it with real butter, not that partially hydrogenated fat stuff that is in the 4 inch high frosting on safeway cupcakes. and we have them after dinner, or as part of a birthday party lunch that also includes cut up fruit salad and little sandwiches and what my children call "baby tomatoes" and milk. call me crazy but i don't think having meals of nothing but junk food is a smart way to raise healthy children. at the preschool they were often given the safeway cupcakes of death (sometimes with sprinkles on top) along with a "balanced" snack of cheezit crackers, packages of "fruit flavored" chewy fruit snacks containing no fruit, just HFCS, and a capri sun to drink. i believe really strongly in a parent's right to decide what their young children will be offered, and if you want to offer your children cupcakes more frequently than i do, that is your right and i would defend it. all i ask is that you not also offer my children all of the things i try to keep out of their diets, on a daily basis. if my kids go to your house for your child's birthday party, they (and i) will expect to see cupcakes, maybe even the safeway cupcakes of death, but it is a party for pete's sake. you expect cupcakes and junky food at a party. it just seemed like every day at preschool was a party. i hope kindergarten isn't going to be like that.

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  86. 10:33

    ok, we seem to have similar attitudes ... those things at safeway are NOT cupcakes ... they are crap.

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  87. Um, IMO the connection between sugary treats and test scores is tenuous at best. Shall we move on?

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  88. What is a cupcake without frosting?

    Easy.

    A muffin.

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  89. Off subject --
    More letters going out this week to those still with no school??

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  90. I like muffins, but find that sometimes I just need a cupcake. Neither muffins nor cupcakes are substitutes for vegetables or fruit.

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  91. On another thread here, there were some who said that letters about waitpools went out yesterday, and some that said that people recieved phone calls on Friday about waitpool openings. Maybe both are true. I'd love to hear from anyone who got in off of the waitpool in this last run...

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  92. http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/08/19/sandra_tsing_loh/index1.html

    Check out the latest interview with (public school advocate, comedian, writer, and public radio commentator) Sandra Tsing Loh with Salon.com

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  93. Per the EPC, if any openings were available and you were one of the lucky few in a waitpool list- you may receive a letter by Thursday...yeah righto....

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  94. Yeah, they get extra funds... but the Clarendons and Rooftops et al get a few extra hundreds of thousands from the fundraising prowess of their upper middle class constituents, too...

    Just want to chime in here to point out that often the fundraising at the "wealthier" schools just goes to pay for the things that the WSF money is paying for at the "poorer" schools.

    Many schools have found that as their demographics get more middle-class, they suddenly have to raise more money just to keep pace with everything they used to get for "free" with district funds.

    The heroic Trail of Broken Pencils trek undertaken by Harvey Milk principal Sande Leigh is a case in point. HMCRA is getting more middle class, so their budget has gotten cut back --they had just $32 left after they paid their teachers and staff for the year.

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  95. The Harvey Milk story is a budget story: sites have control over what they spend their money on. Since Milk chose to cut no staff positions and so on, they had to cut elsewhere. Schools that receive Title One money had to go through exactly the same process to make their decisions.

    I am very leery of the idea that Title One schools receive so much federal benevolence and such an incredible financial gain from the weighted student formula. Some of the ways SFUSD funds schools arguably works against schools serving poorer populations. For instance, the way teachers' salaries and benefits are calculated is the same for all schools - teachers "cost" the same, whether or not teachers have many years on the pay scale or lots of credits (well, some credits, since SFUSD only pays to 60 above a BA). Schools serving historically underserved populations tend to have newer teachers. So their teachers are cheaper, but the formula means they receive no "discount" for that.

    Also, I dislike the idea that equity is the same as equality - and I think the first value is critical.

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  96. A school like ours (~65-35 mix of low-income and middle-class families) seems ideal. We get extra funds from title one and WSF, but the smaller group of middle-class parents can write grants (likely to get funded because of schools's Title One status), volunteer and fundraise. It's also great for the kids to have friends from such a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

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  97. now that school is right around the corner, would it be possible to have a 1st day post, or perhaps a place for people to post if they got off the wait list?

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  98. letters have been sent out to those on the waitpool at schools with openings. They have through tomorrow to accept the spot.

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  99. Guess we didn't get one, then.

    I sure could use a cupcake.

    Do you think Caroline and Kim eat cupcakes?

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  100. "Do you think Caroline and Kim eat cupcakes?"

    Does anybody care?

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  101. I just looked at the SARC for our neighborhood school, and under Mission Statement I see this disaster:

    Alamo Elementary School is truly an extraordinary place of learning. Our talented staff provides each
    student with a quality education aligned to rigorous standards,high academic and behavioral
    expectations, equity and a solid foundation and preparation for successful lives as productive citizens.
    The tradition to uphold excellence is a prevailing driver of the Alamo culture. Alamo School's vision is
    to bring our culturally diverse students a life-long love of learning and promote the whole child. Parents,
    staff and students, working in concert, have made Alamo a twice-recognized CA Distinguished as well
    as a NATIONAL BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL. Through equity, integrity and vision, Alamo continues to
    demonstrate its proud tradition of solid results, high achievement and academic excellence.


    At the high school I went to, this would have been handed back with no grade! How can I even think of sending my child into the SF public schools!!!!! Am I the only one who is shocked by this?

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  102. I'm shocked too! Nowhere does it mention social justice, or joyful learners!

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  103. If Alamo is an ESL school, why don't they just say that that is their focus?

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  104. It was probably written by someone who is not a native English Speaker.

    Yes, it is annoying, but it is sort of petty to base everything you think about a school on their stupid enrollment guide/mission statement blurbs.

    Alamo has one African American child attending, the classrooms That was more important to consider than the poorly written blurb.

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  105. ops , I mean to say:

    Alamo has one African American child attending, has tiny ugly windows in the classrooms and the place is totally cluttered and messy. That was more important to consider than the poorly written blurb.

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  106. That blurb was clearly written by committee... never a good idea.

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  107. 5:27 is almost certainly correct that it was written by committee.

    Of all the things to freak out about with regard to the schools, this is not it. Your kid will be taught by teachers (and yourself of course), not said committee.

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  108. I know you're right - all much calmer than me. I have just heard so many horror stories about the SFUSD & how dumbed down much of the curriculum is. My BFF's kids go to Lillienthal, and she has been "homeschool-tutoring" (her term) them since 1st grade. And her son got a black eye in the 2nd grade for "being stuck up" (shy & afraid, actually), but that was many years ago, maybe things are better... I hope!!!

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  109. About the committee writing sample - have any of you seen this sort of botched grammar & wrong sub-verb agreement, etc., just in the administration, or does it carry over into the day-to-day workings of sf public schools? I am the sort of person who corrects the mistakes on menus, so I know I am touchy on the subject. I'd lose my mind if that was The Standard of writing my child was taught. If any of you have read the Caitlin Flanagan article in the latest _Atlantic_, you will get an idea of what I am afraid of. I just hope that the school district has higher standards than that! Don't they have access to English teachers?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200809/patty-hearst

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  110. It was definitely written by committee and had to accomodate all the catch phrases.

    Ok, so I find it long winded and all but which sub verb doesn't quite agree etc. Do you mean that the paragraph jumps all over?

    What I am more concerned with is the mission statement to create joyful learners? I understand trying to make learning interesting, challenging, exciting... to get children to want to learn more or just ask questions (life long learners). But joyful? How many of those Olympians we see today can say there experience in getting to the Olympics was really joyful. How about hard work, grit, resolve, and every now and then just plain sucking it up and bearing it?
    I too am worried about the SFUSD dumbing down the curriculum so that the test scores of the bottom 1/3 makes great leaps at the expense of everyone else (who by the way will still continue to make some progress only because their parents value education and because they have extraordinary teachers who may be able to see through the nonsense).

    Of course, I may be too skeptical so I'll go along with this for a year or two and see what happens. I would love my children to be joyful learners, such as I wish I had a teacher that could have made multiplication joyful. Maybe stomp our feet to the beat or something to get it memorized? (but then again with calculator, wikipedia, why memorize anything. I'm the dinosaur indeed!)

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  111. Um, the concept of dumbing down the curriculum to improve the test scores of the bottom third doesn't even make sense! The "test scores" that everyone talks about are standardized tests, they are not made up by the school district. Dumbing down the curriculum would result in test scores going down, not up.

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  112. Hmm. I'm still not convinced that the curriculum will become more vigorous.
    Will be interesting to see what happens in the next several years. I'll keep an open mind. I'm all for joyful learning, and I do not mean that sarcastically. I really want to see it work. Are they joyful learners in Finland? I think I read an article somewhere that the kids there are very much encouraged to ask questions, test out theories etc but of course the socio demographics there are quite different, etc.

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  113. Oops, I meant rigorous, not vigorous. I fully expect the curriculum to be more vigorous and fun.

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  114. 11:03 PM - I am curious, you wrote:
    Are they joyful learners in Finland? I think I read an article somewhere that the kids there are very much encouraged to ask questions, test out theories etc but of course the socio demographics there are quite different, etc.

    Shouldn't students everywhere ask questions? Why would the diversity police have a problem with that? Would some students asking questions "inhibit non-academic-minded students of color?" or some lunacy like that?

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  115. No no, I meant that a comparison of the US education system and Finland's may be difficult because their country is a lot smaller and I believe a lot less diverse so it is easier for the school system to implement strategies and thus achieve their much vaunted success.

    In any case, there are probably many reasons why they are more successful academically than we are here,not just because of population size, economics.

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  116. You mean because they all speak the same language? And probably the don't have a diversity police dept. telling working class white parents that they have a duty to send their kid into a school across town where 70% of the kids are speaking another language... Wish I could move to Finland.

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  117. I am going to be trying to enroll my child for Kindergarten 09... I looked at the application and am wondering if anyone did what I am considering, leaving the parent's education section unmarked. Would the application be considered incomplete? The form does read, in part, "This is used for state & federal reporting purposes; it will not affect placement decisions."

    Hmmm. What if A LOT of parents just left this blank? Or what if I lied, and put "some high school?" Is anyone going to check? Technically, it is not a lie, just an incomplete statement, I did complete "some" high school. And all of HS, and all of my BA, & MA, but are they going to check?

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  118. It would interfere with research and analysis that shows how kids are doing from different socio-economic groups. Your kid is likely to do well in school compared to the kid from a family whose parent did not complete high school (other factors being equal). If everyone did what you suggest, it would be hard to measure how the schools are doing at educating kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Not sure why you would want to mess with that research as it points to what is working well and what is not.

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  119. I want to mess with it because all of the other college - educated white families I know this year are 0/7 or 0/15 and were offered a spot in either Daniel Webster, Sheridan, or John Muir.

    I think my child should have an equal shot at a good school, regardless of her parent's background.

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  120. 12:01 the problem with that is that if most parents put down some high school, then you would not be adding anything to the diversity mix, and voila, there goes your chances out the door.

    But of course, we know most people would put down what they really are, so you probably would have a good chance to get in if you put down some high school, low income, etc.

    Believe me, I thought about putting down my child not speaking English as first language, because technically it was true, but well... I didn't do it.

    You think the SFUSD would catch on if suddenly say, 90% of applicants to Alvarado, Rooftop, Clarendon, Alamo were suddenly of some HS background, single working parent of low to middle low income...

    Naah. Go for it if you conscience allows...

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  121. But hasn't the school district been told to stop the diversity index? The consent decree expired, and last year's supreme ct. ruling seems to be ignored entirely. Last yrs Supreme's ruling said that "diversity is NOT a compelling factor" in elementary school assignments. Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. ___ (2007)

    My conscience tells me my child has equal rights, and should have an equal shot at a safe, decent school.

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  122. I think the Supreme Court meant race and the district does not include race specifically.

    Ah, but we know that the district is using all these other factors to get to the race issue, so their intent is the same right.

    Philosophically, I think it is good for kids to go to a racially and economically mixed school. In practice though, who wants to be part of some grand social experiment, esp when it goes awry and your kid gets beaten up or learns that education is not cool or worst yet, joins up with some kid from a gangbanger family.

    Those are society's issues (getting cultures who do not value education to value education, putting the criminals behind jail or deporting them). The correction of these social ills should not be forced on families with school age children. Again, the operative word is forced. And that's what I think most "middle" class families are feeling and well, frankly, they choose with their feet and pocketbooks and go private.

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  123. LAWSUIT WAITING TO HAPPENAugust 24, 2008 at 12:56 AM

    Well, if the don't use race, what happens if I decline to state that, too?

    You're quite right about being forced. I've seen a great deal of PC posters on this blog make snarky mocking comments about how we don't want to be forced & how we don't want our small children to be used as guinea pigs for their "social justice" BS.

    Well, to all the PC nazis, keep up the good work - the schools are in great shape, parents couldn't be happier, and all the million$ spent on this diversity BS had given us schools which are 70% everything but white. Money well spent!

    LAWSUIT WAITING TO HAPPEN

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  124. What is up with those who make fun/sneer at us who don't want our 5 year olds used as guinea pigs?

    BTW, I am so sick of limousine liberals - Nancy Pelosi's kids went to University High School (so close to the mansion, you know) & Art Agnos' kids *somehow* got into Rooftop.

    I never thought I'd want to move!

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  125. I didn't know that about Pelosi's kids.
    At least the Republicans don't pretend to be for "public schools" and then send their kids to private.
    Speaking of which, I think Clinton sent his daughter to private school rather than the racially, socially diverse Wash DC schools. Hey, now wouldn't his daughther have added greatly to the diversity index... parents Pres of US (both the Mrs and Mr), white, upper middle class girl, attended preschool, etc. And his daughter at least would have had the SS at her back. I wonder if Chelsea went to public school back in Arkansas.

    (I was being a bit facetious with the Rep/Dem comment - I know it doesn't break down along those lines).

    I believe Amy Carter did attend public school, but not in Wash DC.

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  126. The Washington DC public schools aren't diverse. Actually, segregated would be a far better term. Diversity is not the same as "non-white".

    The Supreme Court decision - which, it it should be mentioned, was roundly criticized by the vast majority of Seattle and Louisville parents whose children participated in their desegregation program - has no impact on the Diversity Index in SFUSD. The Diversity Index does not use race.

    In fact, the decision does not necessarily bar race-based school assignment. Justice Kennedy noted that in situations where other remedies (housing programs, etc) had not led to desegegated schools, such an assignment system might be appropriate. San Francisco probably meets this standard.

    I also think this gets toward the deep need in the United States for a conversation about race. There are a lot of stereotypes being thrown around here.

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  127. It would be interesting to see school ranking statistics based on parental education level. From this blog, at least, it appeared that 100% of the mostly middle class families applied to the same 20 schools. I believe there are well over 50 elementary schools in the district. If all the parents (that you know) are applying for the same few seats, not everyone will get one.

    A lot of other parents in the district, maybe the less well off, are the ones choosing to go to their closest school -- John Muir, Daniel Webster, Hillcrest -- that you find completely unacceptable. If you put one of those schools as your first choice, you would get it too!

    The EPC has shown itself too inept for complicated social engineering. I really thinking that the college educated crowd that lurks around here just choose different, more impacted, schools.

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  128. Mother's educational level has not been used in the diversity index for a few years. So you can decline to state that and your race, but it won't affect your chances of getting into the school you want. These factors are used for tracking purposes once your child is in school. If you look at racial statistics of the individual schools, you will see that each has a certain percentage of "decline to state."

    Amy Carter did go to a D.C. public school.

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  129. I read the article about Patty Hearst. It was a fascinating look back at a time that I can remember only vaguely. But, what does this article have to do with your fears about public schools not teaching writing well?

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  130. I dropped out of school when I was 14 and took the GED so I could get a job because my family was poor.

    Then later on, I went to college for a bit.

    So instead of clicking "some college" I should have put SCHOOL DROP OUT?

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  131. 8:02 Thank you. I always thought Jimmy Carter is a very decent and honest man, too good for politics and thus a terrible politician.

    You are right about the mother's educ level -- so then maybe it is best to put down No preschool for the child.

    6:59am -- I thought the neighborhood around the White House isn't all that great. So did Amy Carter cruise across town to the "white" school or did she go to her assigned school? Or was the neighborhood school around the White House really an ok school at that time -- typical middle class demographics.

    If so, then what was the Clintons' problem with sending Chelsea to such public school? What, the academics not rigorous enough? Start time and after school care shouldn't have been an issue since she had her own limo to drop her off and pick her up. Unless the neighborhood population changed since Amy Carter's time, which I doubt. Naah, probably like the earlier poster said, typical liberal Democrat spewing one thing about schools but when it comes to choosing a school for their own child, they will not go to public school. What's good enough for you isn't for them.

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  132. DC public schools are extremely segregated and pretty much of a mess. A lot of DC is just flat-out segregated ghetto. If you're driving through it, it's startling to suddenly come into the area of shiny government buildings.

    I'm not sure what I'd do. But Sidwell Friends seems to be the private school of choice -- that's where Chelsea Clinton went (not sure about Amy Carter, but that was a different era, too). Sidwell Friends is an island of privilege in a sea of need. Also, when D.C. was discussing a voucher system, part of the discussion was whether to require private schools to accept by lottery rather than screening. The privates put up a huge (and successful) fight, led by Sidwell Friends. It's a Quaker school. Dunno what to make of that.

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  133. "DC public schools are extremely segregated and pretty much of a mess."

    Ackerman messed them up, then waltzed over to mess up our district and, with help from her buddy Jill Wynns, bled us dry.

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  134. That entire comment is unfair and unfounded, 11:32.

    But just to address one point, the D.C. schools were a major mess long before Ackerman ran them (which was for a relatively short time) and continued to be a major mess through three superintendents since. Now there's a big mayoral takeover of the schools going on in D.C. and an "it's a miracle!" fresh-faced young superintendent with about 10 minutes' total education experience before she took over running D.C. schools -- this reflects the pervasive attitude among the "education reform" right that experience and hard-won knowhow are something to be scorned and disdained and that eager-beaver amateurs can show them how it's done. The jury is still out on her efforts.

    Just to correct the inaccurate implication that Ackerman is to blame for the state of D.C. schools.

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  135. "Ackerman messed them up, then waltzed over to mess up our district and, with help from her buddy Jill Wynns, bled us dry."

    What an incredibly uninformed comment. DC school have been a disaster for far longer than the time Ackerman was there. She dug the SFUSD out of a major culture of corruption and was in charge here during most of the past 7 years when test scores improved. The financial problems of this school district are 100% due to the Governor taking money from public education, not due to any Superintendent (not Ackerman, not Gwen Chan, and not Carlos Garcia either). Many parents still believe she was the best thing to happen to this district. You may disagree, but at least get your facts straight.

    And by the way, since leaving here, she has been both a highly regarded professor at Columbia and also is now Superintendent of Philadelphia public schools, where no one is screaming at her about "social justice" or "joyful learners" or demanding that she yank high school students out of class to protest the war. She beat out a dozen very well qualified candidates to get that job; clearly it is only in San Francisco that a professional of her caliber would get slammed for doing her job instead of kissing the butts of school board members.

    The same shrill voices who drove her out of town want to make sure that everyone who supported her is gone too. That's why the attack on Jill Wynns. Obviously you must be one of them.

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  136. Hey 11:32, which school board wannabes do you like?

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  137. I agree that Jill Wynns should not be on the Board anymore, and that she and Ackerman were the worst when it came to listening to parents or respecting them.

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  138. I disagree; Mark Sanchez did nothing to help special education parents when the school district censored them. He and his progressive buddies like Sandra Lee Fewer and Barbara Lopez should be banished forver.

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  139. A Sanchez-leaning poster on the sfschools listserve was just observing that Wynns was TOO accommodating to parents.

    At a time when the board and school staff unanimously agreed on the need to close some schools, Wynns supported targeting low-achieving, underenrolled schools. That viewpoint draws criticism from the faction that calls for eliminating bungalows from popular, high-achieving westside schools and transferring the displaced students to underenrolled schools. So how one feels about that depends on one's philosophy; make your own decision.

    Wynns also drew comment over a situation at Rooftop a couple of years ago in which existing vintage bungalows were found to be dangerous and unfit for use. Wynns voted to replace the bungalows, while the countervailing philosophy called for transferring the displaced students to underenrolled schools. There was also an effort to bring Rooftop's early start time in line with other, later schools (I think this was to streamline bus schedules). The Rooftop community strongly opposed the change, and Wynns backed them and fought successfully to keep the early start that the Rooftop parents wanted.

    As noted, that history was presented by a Sanchez/Mar-leaning parent to demonstrate that Wynns has been TOO willing to support vocal parents. It was intended as criticism, but clearly illustrates that Wynns has a history of listening to and supporting parents. Only someone unfamiliar with SFUSD history would say otherwise.

    I first became familiar with Wynns when former Sup. Bill Rojas proposed an enrollment change that would have given neighbors preference for seats at alternative schools, which would have meant fewer spots available to non-neighbors at a time when applicants' only options were our school of assignment or an alternative school. Parents at alternative schools and parents of future kindergartners spoke up strongly against that change (because, again, it would have reduced the options available to parents who didn't want their otherwise-mandatory school of assignment). Wynns was the primary spokesperson against that proposal by Rojas and his then-loyalist board majority. So my first view of her was as THE board member listening to parents.

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  140. What's wrong with Ackerman spending $200,000 of SFUSD money on steak dinners for her and Jill Wynns? I mean, that would only pay for about 3 teachers for a year. People are so petty. ( sic )

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  141. Yeah, Mark Sanchez didn't help those parents at all. Luckily, he is not running for Board of Education again, but Jill Wynns is, and she's really got to go.

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  142. Sanchez was a proponent of the other point of view, removing the bungalows from popular, high-achieving westside schools to force many students to transfer to other schools -- meaning the underenrolled, low-achieving schools. That plan makes perfect sense if you simply remove parent preference from the equation.

    That was the case with both the Rooftop hazardous-bungalow crisis and the question of which schools to close. So in those cases Sanchez was a strong proponent of ignoring parent sentiment in favor of efficiency (and, yes, he would surely say social justice), while Wynns was the leading advocate for the parents' viewpoint.

    Sanchez is not running for BOE again (he is running for BOS in D9), so his viewpoint is a moot point here.

    Regarding the issue of Ackerman's expense account, the actual amount was $45,000, and while that can be debated endlessly (were the millions that Ackerman recovered or protected by rooting out fraud in the district worth it?), there's no justification for linking Wynns to it except that she was one of many people who dined with Ackerman. Serving on the Board of Ed is a volunteer job -- unpaid except for a token $500/month stipend -- and Wynns has served on that basis for many years.

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  143. I think there's something missing from a black-and-white "listens to parents" argument here. Sanchez and Wynns both listen to parents, and both support viewpoints generally in line with their position on social justice and what's best for the schools.

    Let's be honest: Wynns' "listening" here was popular with a certain (generally white, middle class and better, very able to get their voices heard) constituency. I think Wynns would favor the typical argument here: that the key to success for the schools is to "equalize" everything. By such means, all schools will become better-integrated.

    The problem with this viewpoint is that it leaves some schools high and dry and that it suggests that the key to a high-performing school is a certain student population.

    Sanchez's viewpoint on this and other issues has been hugely supported by other parents - generally less wealthy parents, and often parents of color. He seems to support the view that none of our schools are good enough until they all are. Such a view might be too utopian.

    In long, I think the frame in use here is too simplistic - they're neither of them conniving or horrible people who refuse to listen to students and parents. But their views on educational equity are very different.

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  144. So does Sanchez feel that black community should also contribute to make the schools in their area better or are they waiting for the district to do it for them.

    I understand that financially there is only so much one can do, but attitude, reading to kids at night, etc etc etc ad nauseam, those are things the family or extended family must take care of themselves.

    Human nature is what it is - when you see someone struggling but trying, you are much more likely to help, then when you see someone justifiably complaining but not doing much constructively to help out their own situation.

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  145. I agree fully with this:

    <<< [Sanchez and Wynns are] neither of them conniving or horrible people who refuse to listen to students and parents. >>>

    But I don't think this is accurate:

    <<< But their views on educational equity are very different. >>>

    I think their goals for educational equity are very similar. I think their views on how to work to get there differ. Wynns' views are deeply colored by the fact that she has had three children (now grown) go through SFUSD schools. Sanchez knows (and certainly cares about) the schools, as a teacher, but it's not the same perspective.

    I'm not even sure if Wynns would see it that way, but there is something of a divide (mentioned here in various contexts) between the view that encouraging the middle class to return to SFUSD schools benefits the entire school district -- she would also emphasize providing many extra supports for disadvantaged children -- and the view that the middle class has the resources to take care of itself and the whole focus should be on the disadvantaged. I would say Sanchez represents the latter view.

    FYI I campaigned for Sanchez when he first ran, in 2000, and first campaigned for and supported Wynns that year too.

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  146. --------
    The same shrill voices who drove her out of town want to make sure that everyone who supported her is gone too. That's why the attack on Jill Wynns.
    ----------

    Hmmm. Not so fast. I was a fan of Ackerman when she started and to date voted for Jill Wynns every year she ever ran --- until this year.

    Ackerman did some great things and I believe was treated unjustly harshly. However, even given that, she simply refused to work with her 'bosses' on the BOE and really never worked to create a sense of partnership and respect for teachers or principals. In the end, she lost even me. The 'golden handshake' deal during a budget crisis really angered me. She lost a former fan (and I was indeed a BIG early fan.)

    Similarly, Jill Wynns has been a tireless advocate for public schools and has given a great deal. However, she is no longer listened to. Her time is up and she is no longer effective, no longer is able lead and bring others along, and, most importantly to me, has made absolutely no effort to connect with parents or those CURRENTLY in the schools. She has been disrespectful and dismissive of parents issues (a lot of rolling of eyes, pshaws, and waving of the hands) and the real challenges they face (i.e. the school assignment system, merging and closing schools, special education - just for starters.)

    I've seen that at times she does more damage than good for public schools. When she speaks up (even for things that I agree with her on) it seems that people don't want to listen. Like Dan Kelley before her, she stayed a bit too long. When her biggest point for running for BOE is her long-term experience (anyone sitting on their duff could say that - she's better than that) she should come up with something stronger. Importantly to me, who has she helped grow and bring along in her leadership efforts? Anyone in a leadership position - especially for schools - should be helping reach and grow others. We could use more moderates and parents. She has helped grow neither.

    Sorry for the rant - but many of us now opposed to Wynns aren't just doing it because of simple uninformed reasons.

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  147. To Caroline,

    I don't agree that Jill Wynns is a current advocate for the middle class and, in fact, have seen her be exactly the opposite: dismissive and patronizing. Apparently the grand jury did, too, as they noted the prevailing attitude of longtime BOE members - which one can only assume to be Wynns.

    She displays little empathy for parents (of any socioeconomic group) or the very real challenges they face. I've overheard her roll her eyes over 'those parents' more than I care to recount.

    She seems frustrated and bitter. Time to go.

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  148. 7:14 - I'm loathe to bring it up but please don't target a certain racial group in your distain. There are parents of all racial groups who support - and don't support - their kids.

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  149. It's odd, but these criticisms of Jill Wynns seem to be based on comments that have supposedly been overheard, or and gestures reportedly perceived.

    But Wynns' official actions as a board member unquestionably demonstrate a long and solid record of advocacy, concern and support for parents, children and schools.
    I would think most voters would choose to judge an incumbent based on her actual record.

    When I mentioned Wynns' record of advocacy for parents, I was quoting a Wynns critic who disapproves of what the critic viewed as Wynns' EXCESSIVE support for middle-class parents' concerns. Yet the actions the critic cited -- citing Wynns' actual record -- were actually impressive examples of successful advocacy. Based on what that critic said -- and, again, that was a detractor -- Wynns has been an extremely effective advocate for parents' concerns. And these were recent situations, not memories from the dim past.

    Wynns' record of board service is long, solid, active and impressive. She served for 10 years on the BOE's Budget Committee; can anyone knowledgeable cite another board member or candidate who can claim more than minimal familiarity with school finance, budgeting and funding?

    It seems evident to me -- and I would think to most sensible voters -- that experience, knowhow ,and thorough understanding of the intricacies involved in running a school district are extremely valuable assets. So is a documented record of effective advocacy for parents.

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  150. -----
    It's odd, but these criticisms of Jill Wynns seem to be based on comments that have supposedly been overheard, or and gestures reportedly perceived.
    ------

    Well, actually, no. I experienced them with her firsthand and face to face. And have not shared them publicly until now.

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  151. 11:25, my point is that you are objecting to mannerisms and, apparently, to private speech -- "overheard" was your word.

    I'm saying it's her record on the board -- her actions -- that count. And her record and actions are solidly in support of parents, children and schools, and demonstrate that she listens to parents.

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  152. I agree that it is time for Jill Wynns to leave the Board.

    I am what you'd call a "middle-class parent" and that didn't stop her from doing her usual eye-rolling, waving her hand, interrupting, and a slew of other both verbal and non-verbal disrespectful stuff to me and others at BOE meetings over the last several years.

    She is also the only one on the Board left who voted to close Presidio CDC, the only preK CDC that fully includes children with disabilities in their program, the only CDC that offers infant care, and the only foothold SFUSD has left in the Presidio.

    BOE meetings will be a lot less contentious when she is gone, her haughtiness causes a lot of anger and bad feeling amongst parents.

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  153. Behavior which might be viewed as being rude to parents is not limited to any one board member. Many of them sit at board meetings with their laptop open in front of them, and their eyes on the screen half the time. Maybe they are taking notes, or maybe they are answering their e-mail, or doing some online shopping, or even playing solitaire; who would know?

    I have seen board members leave the room, or chat with each other, while parents are giving their 2 minute speeches, and this after parents must sit through a tedious meeting which often starts late because they are waiting for a quorum and several members are not yet in the room.

    I have seen the BOE president or a committee chair give more than the allotted 2 minutes to their friends when it is their turn to speak, but cut parents off.

    I heard a "preogressive" BOE member repeatedly saying "B**ls**t" while a parent was speaking; I guess he disagreed with her; nice way to show it. Another "progressive" one told a student who had just spoken that her facts were wrong, bringing the girl to tears; the truth is, the BOE member was the one who didn't have the facts straight.

    If this group wants to have a discussion about what constitutes appropriate behavior by BOE members, that's fine, but let's not limit it just to one person. The fact that she is running for re-election does not mean that her behavior should be singled out for criticism; they all have rude mannerisms, and campaigning to rid the board of one of them is not going to improve the etiquette of the other six. If rude behavior to parents is grounds for tossing someone off the board, then let's have a recall and toss the whole lot of them; there have been times when they have all been guilty of it.

    I am also concerned about this idea that we must have a "harmonious" board. No one wants open warfare, but the idea that everyone has to agree on everything all the time is just not realistic; it would mean that essentially only one viewpoint is being represented on the board, and that means that many other viewpoints are being excluded.

    There are many contentious issues which are going to have to be addressed in the next year - JROTC is not going to go away, the student assignment system has only gotten worse since the progressives took over the board, and the so-called "strategic plan", which reads more like "a plan for a plan", has yet to be fleshed out, let alone implemented, and all the while, some students are falling even farther behind. Looming over all is the spectre of a budget deficit that will make this year's deficit look like a teenager's allowance. I heard one BOE candidate talk about this, and her ideas included not closing schools and not cutting any staff; that's fine, but she had no ideas at all about where any cuts to the budget SHOULD come from, only what she felt was sacred and should not be touched.

    The rainy day fund is not going to bail the district out a second time, and based on the state legislature's inability to even pass a budget for this year, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the state to come to our rescue either. A bump of a couple hundred new kids in kindergarten is a start, but that won't close the budget gap, and no new major funding is headed our way. The thought of a board with no one on it having any significant experience with the district budget is truly frightening. We need more ideas than just "don't cut this, don't cut that."

    I am all for new blood, and the fact that 2 of the 4 seats open this time around are not being sought by incumbents means that we are guaranteed to get new blood no matter what. Combined with the fact that 3 of our sitting members were only elected in 2006, means that come January, we are guaranteed a BOE on which at least 5 members (of the 7 total) have only 2 years of experience or less. Being a current parent in the schools is a really significant qualification, in my opinion, but so is having experience as a board member.

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  154. "Many of them sit at board meetings with their laptop open in front of them, and their eyes on the screen half the time."

    Yeah, that would be Jane Kim and KimShree Maufaus, reading emails during public speaking.

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  155. speaking of maufas and kim, something 8:29 forgot to mention is that those two have "short timer" written all over them. look for them both to seek higher office in two years when their school board term is up. and who knows what will happen with Mendoza, who works for 'da mayor'. If he becomes 'da gov', will she go with him to sacramento? so she may be another short timer. two years down the road, we could be looking at the same situation, a school board full of newbies, with 3 seats open so that even more newbies can come on board. how does this help our students? oh, right, the newbies are "polite". but can they make the hard decisions when they have to? or are they too worried that someone might call them rude?

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  156. I wouldn't call Maufas "polite", not at all. But Wynns is much ruder, Wynns goes out of her way to show her contempt for parents.

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  157. Just FYI, based on writing style and content I believe that at least half of the anti-Wynns rants in this thread are being written by a frequent SF K Files poster who was incensed when the Presidio CDC was being considered for closure and is upset that Wynns feels there has to be a balance between the desires of outspoken SpEd parents and fiscal solvency of the SFUSD general fund (30% of which goes to fund SpEd).

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  158. Maufas is living proof that voting for someone just because they have a child in the public schools doesn't mean that you are getting someone who will listen to parents, or care about their issues. Sandra Lee Fewer is another one from that same far left progressive mold. She makes the same claim Maufas did of being a district parent, but her last child is about to leave (just like Maufas' kid when she was elected), so any decision she might make as a future board member wouldn't touch her own children at all. Like Maufas, Fewer really only cares about the unions.

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  159. I think GenEd parent that is a Jill Wynns fan is from that awful elementary school that didn't let the kindergartners in the special day special ed classes graduate from kindergarten along with all the regular ed kindergartners, because, as the principal put it "THOSE children wouldn't understand what was happening and besides -- they might disrupt the ceremony".
    (SHUDDER)
    Amazing how hateful people can be, isn't it?

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  160. I know which school you mean; the school isn't awful, what they did was awful, though.

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  161. 4:08 - which school is that?
    at my kid's K graduation in June, the special ed kids got to go up to the stage too, just like everyone else.

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  162. 9:57pm - 7:14pm here -- yes, I agree with you that every group has kids that don't do well academically because their parents/adults in their lives don't value education or help/support them (amongst other reasons).
    I only mention blacks, because the Chronicle and District took it upon themselves to say that specific group scored 24% in proficiency, about the same as special ed group, whereas every other demographic/whatever way sliced groups made progress and scored higher.
    Since the District (and fed and state gov't) chooses to differentiate people along race lines rather than getting maybe more to the causes, I only follow along in their methodology in making my point.
    I've posted this before - the District/researchers should break groups along maybe socio-economic lines, maybe housing conditions, et -- whatever are root causes that we know create negative environments for learning, rather than focusing on race. Cultural issues is the closest area that seems can be tied to race, but even that is dicey.

    Because race implies genetic issues which we know IS NOT the reason why black kids' don't score well on tests.

    I mentioned this one of the Board meetings and Pres Sanchez actually allowed me to rattle on more than my 2:00 allotted time.

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  163. It would be really helpful to have racial data broken down by socioeconomics. My impression is that the African American population in SF is significantly more disadvantaged than the African American population as a whole in this country. My understanding is that the city lost a large percentage of African Americans in the last decade, because many middle income blacks left for greener housing pastures, among other reasons.

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  164. 5:13
    It happened to my friend's kid at Sherman. Appalling.

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