Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How was back-to-school night?

Last week, my husband and I attended Alice's back-to-school night at Jose Ortega. This was the first time that I had stepped into the classroom since the open house over the summer. It was fun to see the paper lanterns the kids had made for the Chinese Moon Festival and the plants they were growing in cups. I sat at Alice's tiny desk and opened her pencil box. I met the parents of the other kids who sit at her table. It felt good to get a glimpse into her kindergarten life.

Alice's teacher went over the curriculum for the year, which was quite overwhelming. The students will be learning 70 Chinese characters; every Wednesday they receive a homework packet. They're supposed to spend 5 to 10 minutes on homework a night. This seems like a lot for a kindergartner but if you're going to learn Mandarin you have to start early. Alice's teacher is bright and focused but more importantly she's funny. She says that she tries to make the kids laugh (she certainly had all the adults giggling) so they'll have fun learning.

I know that many parents attended back-to-school night last week. Please share your experiences.


  1. There is something really funny and really great about a little Caucasian girl attending a school called Jose Ortega and learning Mandarin there. Go Alice!

  2. Pencil box? Art projects? Plants? Wow! We are at the wrong school...

  3. and what school is that?

  4. To 10:28

    It is funny. My Caucasian boy is there too and I get quite the look from people when I explain that he is in Mandarin Immersion at Jose Ortega. Half the time, they think they've misheard me:-)

  5. 10:09

    I don't get your comment?

  6. I think 10:09 is trying to scare - I don't believe anyone is at a school in the city that does not have these things. If you are, please name the school.

  7. Aptos Middle School had Back to School Night just now. It's exciting to see how the kids already navigate the halls, classrooms, and lockers with ease. A big step up. How did they grow up so fast? I remember so many of these kids from the first day of kindergarten.

    I especially liked seeing the kids' writing and other projects posted on the classroom walls (some things don't change from elementary school.) The Jazz Band sounded great, too. And Mr. Pascual, the art teacher, rocks.

  8. I just came back from Aptos' Back to School Night as well and echo your thoughts.
    One thing I have been extremely impressed with so far in middle school is the extra emphasis in helping kids organize themselves and their time. It's a life skill that I know no one ever focused on for me (and in fact, I recall flailing in college over it and not really mastering it until I entered the working world.)

    The entire school uses an 'agenda' - basically, a student version of a daytimer/planner. All teachers use it the format to help students with homework assignments, information. All quizzes and work goes into a binder (and is the place where parents can easily find out what their child is working on or work they have done.) I was surprised today to see that keeping it organized is even part of the grade in his math and science class. I was impressed - and it's already been a great help to my son.

    The other thing that's been cool is that the new math textbooks are online to access at home (I think the science book is, too.) This is great for many reasons, one just being that it lightens the daily load of the 25 pound backpack! (yes, we weighed it. They are really carrying around that much weight in books, etc.)

    Anyway, I'm very impressed with the teaching staff, how well they help students organize and manage themselves, and generally how clear expectations are. It's noticeable how well the kids manage themselves - it sure seems quieter and less crazy than elementary (basically, I think the kids finally learn how to manage their bodies a bit better as they get older!)

    So for all you kinder families - I can say middle school feels great and all in all has been WAY less stressful than starting school 7 years ago (for me that is - I think my son just rides along easily no matter what.)

    I should note, when we started kinder back then, it was not a school I thought I'd consider for my kids. As more people I knew from our preschool and elementary went there, I took another look. It was our first choice school - and now seems to be the neighborhood favorite (About 7 kids on the three blocks of our street are attending - plus many more from surrounding streets.)

  9. 10:04 - which school?

  10. Why do people so rarely say the school they are talking about, even if what they are saying is positive???

  11. It says Aptos at the top of the post!

  12. which school for kinder? (end of post)

  13. I should note, when we started kinder back then, [Aptos] was not a school I thought I'd consider for my kids. As more people I knew from our preschool and elementary went there...

  14. Ok, Aptos pushers, let's get a reality check here. My understanding is that Aptos is heavily tracked. That is, if your kid is in the Honors program, everything is hunky-dory. If they are not, your kid is hanging out with the gang-bangers. So, for the people who posted about how wonderful Aptos is, are any of them NOT in the Honors program?

  15. I'm an Aptos parent, and yes, tracking is one of the issues I thought a lot about. Just as I know people who have weighed similar issues with regard to sending their kids to Lowell for high school. My kid is very, very happy to be among academic peers in the honors program at this point, and while I thought the differentiated instruction was great at the elementary level, I can see these kids taking off now that content is getting more and more rigorous (pre-algebra and so forth).

    I can see the pros and cons of honors tracking vs. differentiated instruction. I see the benefits of keeping classes mixed, for all the kids. I can also see how the GATE kids are spreading their wings and moving quickly and deeply into the curriculum. You can see it by the work on the walls.

    I'll just say it was a hard choice in some ways, but I'm not sure there are *perfect* choices out there, and I've never claimed to be a purist. We're happy, and more to the point my kid is happy (imagine that, at middle school); yet I still feel a little tug to SF Community and/or James Lick with their strong efforts for equity.

    All that said, I have several friends whose kids are at Aptos but not in the honors program for various reasons, and they are happy too (parents and kids). All the kids get access to the arts programs, the library, the Italian club and jazz band, etc., and my friends' kids seem to be doing fine both academically and socially. I'm not seeing "gang-bangers." For those who have been following along, the school has been changing a lot, and has been drawing heavily from Miraloma, Lakeshore, Commodore Sloat, Alvarado GE, and now Clarendon (which used to feed mainly to Hoover). It's probably the most diverse middle school in the district, but it seems pretty calm when I'm there, and I haven't heard differently from the kids this year.

    One other thing: Besides the honors and regular tracks there is a separate deaf program and special day program, so there is a lot going on in terms of different groups.

  16. My kids were in honors classes at Aptos, but not all of their friends (or my friends' kids) were. It's definitely not accurate to say that kids in regular ed are hanging out with the gangbangers. (I would say that the parents and kids in honors were probably more consistently contented with their school experience overall, but that would tend to happen with high achievers in general.) Kids I know in regular ed at Aptos hang out with normal, non-criminal, non-gangbanger friends just like kids in honors do.

  17. Aptos parent here:
    My kid is honors but is in a class with honors, gen ed and special needs kids in one class. They have a new GATE coordinator and I get the sense that they are moving away from the tracked philosophy of the past (which I personally welcome.) There are classes that are all honors, but there seem to be many (and increasing every year) classes with both.

    I am not seeing gang bangers at this school, to be honest. But I love that the school LOOKS like San Francisco. It is not overwhelmingly any one ethnicity by a long shot.

  18. ...continued from above.

    Many of my son's friends from elementary are not in honors programs/classes at Aptos either. Last night all the parents of these kids said their kids love school and their teachers. I think all of us feel somewhat relieved, not really knowing what to expect (and like kindergarten, going into it with similar misconceptions.)

    I am similarly struck at how calm and organized school feels. The Aptos kids/classes are calm. Feels like great learning is happening. And as far as my own son's teacher's go, am very impressed.

  19. 10:04 here,
    The school my 6th grader went to was Miraloma, back in the day when no one noticed it and few wanted to enroll (only 15 people listed it as A CHOICE AT ALL - and there were 60 spots.)

  20. The younger two of my three children went to Aptos, and I am so happy to read so many positive comments about the school. It is disturbing, though, to hear those who clearly are not Aptos parents talk about how if your child isn't in honors, they are "hanging out with the gang bangers."

    Earlier this week, I wrote a tribute to my son's classmate at Aptos (and before that, at Commodore Sloat ES) Caprisha Green, who was murdered last weekend for no other reason than standing with a group of friends in front of her own home on a Saturday evening. What inspired me to write it was when my sorrow over the loss of this bubbly and charming young woman turned to anger, as a result of reading exactly this kind of thoughtless and ignorant slur leveled against Caprisha by those who never even knew her, on the Chronicle's sfgate site. There is just something about the ability to post anonymously that brings out the worst in some people, I guess.

    Really, folks, if you are not a teacher at Aptos, a student at Aptos, or a parent at Aptos, on what basis can you make the determination that any Aptos students are "gang bangers"? Many Aptos students look just like Caprisha, sound like her, behave like her, achieve like her. Read more about her here, and please think about her before you decide to belittle at a group of kids you don't even know.

  21. Kate-How about a separate blog or section for middle school and high school issues?

  22. very well put, dana. thank u

  23. Second the request for separate threads for middle and high school. It's hard to wade through all of the discussion of K to find the nuggets of info for parents of older students, but we have our needs too!:)

  24. Well, it *is* called The SF K Files!

    It isn't that hard to start a new blog.

    Why don't one of you start a separate blog for middle school and high school issues?

    Poor Kate. SHe has a full-time job and two kids to raise. She shouldn't be expected to cater to everyone's needs with what started as a hobby/place-to-vent.

  25. Middle school and high school are relevant to parents looking at kindergartens. Often parents feel that they have to go private because "the middle school situation is impossible." While some children may do better in private school for middle and high school, others are thriving at public. It's important to provide accurate information so that parents don't just go off playground fears.

  26. Yeah, but they have 5 years to think about it. Even if they go private for elementary, they can go public for middle school or vice versa.

    Kinder parents don't have to decide NOW whether they want to go public or private for middle school. They can switch at that point.

    And it is unfair to ask Kate to expand the subject matter of her labor of love without offering to help her in some way.

    Might be worth starting a separate blog for middle school and high school issues. Those soon-to-be kinder parents who are neurotic enough to worry about middle school when their children are 4 can always go *there* for a discussion of the issues... just like middle and high school parents can always come to the "K files" ("K" is for kindergarten) if they want to share their wisdom as more experienced parents.

  27. Yup. It's Kate's blog and she can do whatever she wants, even shut it down if she's sick and tired of it.

  28. We feel, yet again, completely disconnected from the kinder experience. I have to say that KMS is terrific with kids. But communication with parents is still sub par. Our parent night was post-poned (last minute) and changed to next week, when we'll be away. So, we're missing our first opportunity to commune with this mystery school we've stuck our child into because we couldn't get an ok public school.

    The whole thing is comical, really.

  29. Hi Kortney,
    I am sorry you feel so out of the loop at KMS. I really look forward to back-to-school night to find out what's really going on.

    I can't believe you still haven't gotten anything. I can't remember if there was one special school you were holding out for, or just have had bad luck. Are there still waitpools at all the schools that would work for you?

    At least since you're at a private school you can enroll your daughter anytime an opening comes up, even if it's in January or February. Cold comfort right now, I know.


  30. I think Kortney was offered a solid chance at a spot at Flynn but turned it down for a variety of reasons. Is that right, Kortney? It had something to do with your longer-term plans, I think?


    Of course Kate can do what she likes with this blog--it is hers. She has provided a wonderful service already.

    However, if she is willing, it would be great if she started a middle/high school thread. I attended our elementary school's PTA-sponsored "middle school nights" every year because it was an easy way to get a sense of the landscape well before we entered the process. I also kept my ears open on the yard when I saw groups of 5th-grade parents discussing middle school tours. None of this was a huge investment of time and anxiety for me, but it did give me a sense of which schools were on the move--and several have improved a lot in the last few years, including Aptos (as is often mentioned here), but also Roosevelt and James Lick. Whereas Horace Mann, which was much better back in the 1990's--when Carlos Garcia was there, actually--is not in that same league anymore, by far.

    Again, if Kate is willing, it might be helpful for folks who are like me who like to plan ahead and like to gather information over time to have a place to look for middle school and high school reviews and comments. Those K-parents who would find this overwhelming and anxiety-producing could just avoid the thread altogether.

  31. Why not start a blog on middle/high school issues and have Kate link to it?

    IT would take all of 5 minutes to sign up and get it started... a single thread on HS and MS issues won't due...

  32. Anne, and 11:21

    We were offered a chance at Flynn GE, but not a guarantee. We changed our waitpool to a school we loved because KMS is working for Zoe. Even though I feel out of the loop, she is happy, and that is what matters.

    We may move in a year, too, and cannot commit to Flynn, as it may not be our neighborhood school. In fact, SF may not be our home next year.

    If things at KMS don't work out, we'll take advantage of the fact that we haven't registered anywhere, and can therefore transfer into a school (with openings.) I imagine KMS will work for the year, however.

    Our current plan is to either move and put her into public in the new town, or stay here and try again for Synergy, as it was the best fit, in our minds, for her.

    Thanks ya'll.

  33. I'm the person who asked if any of the positive Aptos folks had kids in the non-honors program. So, looking at all the responses, let's see the results: All the positive commenters have their kids in the honors program, except for one whose kid has ONE class that is a mix of honors and non-honors. BUT you all have "friends" who have kids in the non-honor programs and who absolutely love it. Oh, and yes, you are offended at the "gang-bangers" comment. (By the way, the reference to "gang-bangers" comes not from me, but from a friend's kid who had to be pulled out of a non-honors program mid-year last year (yes, six months ago) because of regular beatings at the hands of other kids. I think that kid would fit the restrictions from posters above on who can call students gang-bangers. But I digress.) I'd really love to believe that Aptos is turning around, because I'd like to send my definitely-not-honors kid there in a year. But vague references to friends whose kids like the non-honors programs ain't going to cut it for me. When I look at the choices for middle school for my definitely-not-honors student, I'm seriously thinking I've got to move to the 'burbs. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it looks like my choices are: (1) totally high-powered middle schools on the westside where my kid is going to drown; (2) middle schools on the eastside where my kid is going to be dumped with the wrong crowd and get his butt kicked; or (3) Creative Arts Charter School, which may be moving who-knows-where next Fall. Oh, and, trying to get into one of the impossible-to-get-into K through 8's in teh city. Am I missing something here or am I screwed?

  34. 4:22 I don't know where you live, but you might check out James Lick. It does not track kids into an honors program, so all the kids are mixed together. It is half Spanish Immersion though. I believe SI kids have Language Art/History and one elective in Spanish. Other than that the kids are mixed together for math/science, PE and the other elective. They are going to do some "leveling" for math two days a week, so that the kids can get instruction right at their skill level. I'm not totally sure how this will work, but we'll find out soon.

    One thing I liked about Aptos was the good ethnic mix of kids. James Lick is more segregated, probably because of the Spanish Immersion program.

    My daughter has only been there a month, but so far she likes her classes and teachers. She told me that "the school is too big for bullies." Don't I wish? But it's nice that she feels the school is a safe space. I know enough about that age group to know that bullying can happen anywhere. But the faculty, staff, and after school program managers know her already, so I feel like if there were ever a problem, we could quickly get it addressed.

    I've also heard good things about SF Community.


  35. 4:22, while it is true that most kids I know at Aptos are in honors, I really do know several active, happy families in the 6th and 7th grades whose kids are also definitely-not-honors. But I get it; there is no reason for you to believe me, anonymous poster with "friends" in this situation.

    For more specific and direct conversations, why don't you try contacting parents at Aptos through PPS and/or the PTSA? There is an active parents' listserve, and I know several not-honors families that are on it. I bet if you put the question out there that folks would be willing to talk with you and answer your questions, including the blunt and pointed ones.

    It is my sincere impression that the school is changing pretty fast, but I think you should talk with parents whose kids are in the same situation your kid would be in.

    By the way, from what you say about your kid, I would definitely avoid the pressure cooker of Giannini. But Aptos might be a good fit. And Anne is right: do check out James Lick and SF Community (which will have a few spots as some kids leave to get the benefits of the bigger middle schools, like jazz band and so forth).

  36. @4:22, the suggestions to check out SF Community, James Lick, and Aptos are good--not just on this blog, but talk to actual parents, including the GE program at Lick and the non-honors program at Aptos. I do know of several active, middle-class families in those programs, so I'm sure you can find them through PPS or the PTSA. James Lick and SF Community in particular are committed to not tracking.

    I would also not give up on the so-called high-powered west side middle schools. Well, Giannini does have a strong vibe of rigorous academics. But what about Presidio? When I toured last year, I had an impression of such a nice atmosphere, and I liked the manner of the principal. Yeah, they have lots of kids who are aiming for Lowell, but they also have non-honors classes, and your kid might fit in there, while still getting the advantage of quiet hallways (okay, quiet for middle school kids, anyway--not super-chaos).

    I don't know your kid's interests, but they seem to have an excellent theater class and extra-curricular theater too. Also, beginning Spanish and Japanese. And a salad bar (wish we had that.) Science lab looked great. Not sure if they got their woodworking teacher back; I know they were trying. Something to ask about. We put Presidio on our list, but not at the top due to travel distance, but I would certainly have sent my kid there if offered. A sweet vibe, and it doesn't have to be honors! Why not?

    Another one would be Hoover. Again, not all classes are honors so your kid does not have to compete with that crowd. He can be with kids who are also not honors, but in a school with a strong administration, parent community, and strong arts program. Hoover, like Giannini and Aptos, has a strong music program, so if your kid is not honors but musically inclined, it can be an area to shine. Again, the hallways were (relatively) orderly. And it has a more diverse mix of students than lots of other schools---I think better than any except maybe Aptos and SF Community.

    Please, don't psych yourself out on this. I went into the middle school tours with some trepidation last year, but was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Yes, my kid is GATE/honors, so that is a different situation. But one of my good friends' kid is not GATE or honors--kid has been in inclusion status since K--and while that excludes some options for them--Lowell is not in this kid's future--she found four middle schools she liked, plus put several K-8 schools down to round out the list. I say, check them out, and talk to current middle school parents with non-GATE kids. They are out there.

  37. I was an Aptos parent last year, and I would sharply challenge a claim that a child was getting "regular beatings" at Aptos. (It's also an account from "friends" of the poster.) Aptos is safe, orderly, and runs a tight disciplinary ship when there ARE breaches.

  38. Speaking of GATE/honors, I have some questions, too… but first, a comment.

    Everyone has had good info/suggestions for you, 4:22, but I would also like to add that even though you say your kid is “definitely-not-honors”… you might be surprised. The definitions for “honors” and “GATE” in the SFUSD have been expanded beyond what those terms have traditionally meant. The (2007/08) school profile for Giannini http://orb.sfusd.edu/profile/prfl-404.htm lists a GATE population of 47%. Aptos and Roosevelt are close to 40%... with Presidio and Hoover a little over 40%. In the district’s overall profile, 31.2% of middle school students were listed as GATE students last year (compared to 12.3% Special Ed, not that those two categories are mutually exclusive). Basically, ”gifted” appears to mean “top third” (in achievement) in a district that includes many ELL and economically disadvantaged students. (And there are non-GATE kids in honors classes, too.)

    Now, the questions… Some elementary schools seem to have a greater propensity to identify kids for GATE than others, with quite significant differences in the percentages of students identified. According to its school profile on the SFUSD website, Clarendon had 142 students (26.6% of the student body) GATE identified last year. Since Clarendon had 204 total students in the 4th grade and 5th grade (those are the grades represented by the GATE numbers in the elementary school profiles, according to a very nice SFUSD GATE contact person), does that really mean 70% of 4th and 5th graders at Clarendon were GATE students? In contrast, “only” 18.8% of Alice Fong Yu students were GATE identified last year, even though AFY is K-8 (so includes three extra grades served by GATE, compared to Clarendon), and has similar test scores. Out of a total 4th/5th/6th/7th/8th population of 309, 104 were GATE identified… about 34%. (Half the percentage at Clarendon.) Am I reading this correctly? If so, what explains such a huge difference in identification? Mind you, the disparities in identification are far greater when comparing Clarendon to most other San Francisco elementary schools, but AFY and Clarendon students have similar (high) tests scores… and whatever you think of the tests, they are one major indicator used to identify GATE students. Are these differing rates of identification driven by principals, teachers, site-based GATE coordinators, parents…?

    The identification process does appear to leave a great deal of room for subjectivity (and the screening efforts seem to vary widely from school to school). Also, the test score and report card criteria seem to be screening for the top 15-20% in academic achievement, not 5% (as many might assume, based on their previous experiences with gifted programs):

    GATE Identification Process 2007-2008

    1. Identification for the Gifted and Talented Education Program is based on multiple criteria.
    a. Special Circumstances 1 Point
     Health Impairment  Linguistic Barrier  ELL/Language
     Interrupted Schooling  ADD w/504  Special Education
     Economic Disadvantage (Free/reduced lunch, etc.)
     Physical Disability  No Pre-K or Kinder
    b. Teacher Recommendation 1 Point
    c. Report Cards (Minimum 3 point GPA) 1 Point
    d. Parent Recommendation 1 Point
    e. Screening Test or Achievement Test 1 Point
    41 Intellectual Ability
    NNAT – (90th percentile or above or exceptionally high test scores and GPA)
    42 High Academic Achievement
    California Standards Test (CST) – (Advanced in two subjects in one year – English Language Arts [ELA] and Math)
    SABE/Aprenda – (85th percentile or above in two subjects in one year – language arts and math)
    43 Specific Academic Achievement – Math
    51 Specific Academic Achievement – English Language Arts [ELA]
    80 Specific Academic Achievement – Reading (for use prior to 2006-2007 school year)
    83 Specific Academic Achievement – Language Arts (for use prior to 2006-2007 school year)
    CST – (Advanced in one subject for two consecutive years – English Language Arts [ELA] or Math)
    SABE/Aprenda – (85th percentile or above in one subject for two consecutive years – Language Arts or Math)
    f. Leadership, Creativity, Visual and Performing Arts 1 Point
    Evidence shown regarding longevity and depth of performance
    and outstanding performance over time.
    Four of the six points are needed to identify.
    2. Site Based Team collects data, recommends student to be identified.
    3. GATE Office approves recommendation.

    Earlier (a few months ago), someone mentioned the GATE program as a “school within a school” at Aptos… Was a decision made (at some point) by the SFUSD (or… ?) to try to retain families who might have gone private (or to the suburbs) for middle school by creating (through expansion of the GATE identification parameters) these “schools within schools” (at certain schools, anyway)? Or is there some other reason for the expansion? My adult daughter (I’m a geezer mom to her much younger siblings) was in GATE (not for math!) at Giannini, but things seem to have changed quite a bit since then. If I am recalling the situation correctly (and there is always the possibility that I am not, given my full “memory card”), in those days the requirements for identification included scoring in the 95th percentile (or above) on one or more tests (CTBS back then, I think)… mostly A’s on the report card (I think grades should have played a smaller role in identification)… and teacher recommendation. And there were a certain number of “high potential” students admitted (depending on space?), but I don’t know how they were identified. The earliest SARC report I can find for Giannini (http://orb.sfusd.edu/sarcs/sa89-pdf/sa89-404.pdf) is from 1989 (a year or two after my daughter left), with the combined GATE/high potential population at the school listed as 15.3%. (Compared to a 47% GATE population last year.) When/why did this change? And who changed it? (The demographics have certainly changed at Giannini… but this shift seems more dramatic than the demographic one.) At some schools (as has been mentioned), tracking is obviously taking place (without exactly calling it “tracking”). I mean it is a crude type of tracking, with 40-50% on one track, and the balance on another, but still…

    I’m not saying this is a bad thing… One of the things I hated about my daughter’s comprehensive middle school (besides the overwhelming size) was that so many of her friends who were not in GATE/honors got “off track” in 7th and 8th grade (after leaving their self-contained 6th grade classes)… and (too) many never got back “on track” again in the time I knew them. (A major reason I prefer K-8.) I can see how the expansion of GATE/honors could work to keep families in the system who would otherwise go private or to the suburbs… and how it might help to keep the identified kids “on track.” What does surprise me is that it appears (from the comments of Aptos parents here) to also be working well for the non-GATE/honors kids. That would seem counter intuitive… I mean, you are not just removing the traditional 2- 10% of the highest achieving students from the general ed classrooms at some schools, but 40- 50%. (And even more, when you include the non-GATE kids who qualify for honors programs...) At any rate, if it really works… then great. That would be a huge improvement. But is it really working for the non-honors kids? After 6th grade? Hopefully, it is similar to what we have been hearing about Starr King and Flynn? Posters have said that the success of the immersion classes has also helped the GE classes (rising tide lifts all boats?) at these schools... and perhaps there is a similar positive result for GE classes in schools with expanded honors programs?

    Another question(s)... It’s my understanding that honors classes are the main way GATE students are served in 7th and 8th grade (in the schools that have separate honors classes)… and that non-GATE students are also admitted to honors classes if they meet the prerequisites. Are the prerequisites for honors participation an “Advanced” score on the CST in language arts (for English, social studies… and science?) and an “Advanced” score in math (for math/algebra) … or something else? Also, at Giannini… with its almost 50% GATE student body… once you add in the non-GATE kids who are participating, doesn’t that mean most 7th and 8th core classes are honors classes? (I noticed that 67% of Giannini 8th graders took the CST in algebra, and since algebra was an honors class at Giannini last year, that means almost 70% of the 8th graders took honors math, right?)

    Also… an Aptos parent on this thread mentioned that Aptos is now moving towards less tracking… with more heterogeneous classes? Is that correct? Why now? Who decides that? (The school… the GATE coordinator at the school… the district GATE coordinator… BOE…?) On another thread there has been discussion of some BOE members who find GATE elitist… which seems kind of odd, considering the large percentage of SFUSD kids identified… but maybe their real concern is this dual track thing going on at some middle schools?

    Sorry for the very long post… and all the questions. I know each school district in California has tremendous leeway in deciding how to identify for GATE (or even whether to identify at all, since some districts do not), but I have been surprised to discover how much the GATE program seems to have expanded in San Francisco (without ever hearing anyone mention it). San Francisco, as a county, has the highest percentage of GATE identified students in the state, though some individual districts have higher rates. (The percentage of students identified in a given district does not seem to correlate with its overall achievement scores… ) Thanks in advance for any insight!

  39. Regarding the 'gang-bangers' at Aptos who apparently were hurting a kid - I guess I would just call them what they clearly are: bullies.

    I am the poster with the 'high potential' (i.e. one point missing from fully being classified as GATE) kid at Aptos in a class with honors, gen ed and kids with IEPs. I'm very impressed with the teachers and my son is very happy.

    I recognize, however, that it's foolish to deny that bullying exists simply because one doesn't know about a specific event. I am surprised to hear this, though, as I know many kids and families at this school across the grades and none are experiencing anything like that (and, yes, many are not in honors classes.)

    What I think some (myself included) find offensive in the comment is the idea that all kids not in GATE/honors are in classes with 'gang bangers'. I can attest that this is clearly not the case.

    I'm currently trying to learn more about what happens with 'high potential' kids and GATE kids - they all seem to be doing the same homework right now (as well as the Gen Ed kids, from what I can tell.)

    Also, all the teachers who teach honors classes also teach gen ed - I like this as it doesn't track the teachers as much either.

  40. I'm the poster looking for a middle school for my kid. I really appreciate the helpful postings -- as opposed to posters like Caroline who always say the same thing -- it's "rah-rah" whatever school their kid is at. (Kind of reminds me of friends who talk nonstop about how wonderful their job is and then the minute they quit, are fired, or laid off, I get a download of how horrible the place was and how miserable they were at it for all the time they worked there.) Off the subject of Aptos, I have heard that there is a bigger expansion of GATE going on. I took a stab at it with my kid but got nowhere with my kid's elementary school. (Maybe that's just another bad consequence of going to a second tier school? I found msaid's comments really interesting.) I'm kind of thinking it may be too late to push the GATE issue since he's now starting 5th. I'll definitely check out SF Community, but I'm really thinking that the chances of getting into a K-8 for 6th grade are so slim it is not worth wasting a first choice for. I will try to have an open mind about the westside schools. I don't know about you all but AP Giannini kind of frightened me as a bit rigid when I went on a tour last year. I did also look at Edison, which kind of scared me as a bit prison-like (please don't flame me folks! just an impression); Creative, which I'd really like but it seems the District is keeping Creative up in the air about where it is going to be next year and I have major commute problems. One other place, Kipp, seems to be really focused on helping smart but poor kids get ahead -- my kid is not poor and not smart so I don't think that will work.

  41. To the prospective middle school parent at 10:51 yesterday--did you tour other middle schools besides Giannini yet? Giannini absolutely is high-scoring, high-powered, and also (to my mind and without question, my daughter's) the most "rigid" of the middle schools. Hey, it works for lots of folks, and is very, very popular given its record of academic achievement and low incidence of behavior issues, but it didn't mesh for us. If it seemed too "rigid" for you as well, I would suggest you look at some other high-scoring, well-run schools like Hoover, Presidio, Roosevelt. All of which seemed to me to be more relaxed in culture than Giannini. Then, yes, Aptos, plus tack on James Lick for comparison's sake--it has an active parent base and great teachers, really a lot of heart. And you can round out your list with K-8 schools like SF Community and Lawton. Based on what you have said, it seems to me that one if not more could be a fit for your child.