Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Which schools will be this year's hidden gems?

I'd like to come up with a list of hidden gems for the 2009-2010 SFUSD enrollment process. Hidden gems are less popular public schools (i.e., no wait pool or a very short wait pool list) with lots of potential. Maybe the school has a visionary principal but a PTA that raises only $2,000 a year, for example. Your odds of getting into a hidden gem are much higher. Please offer up suggestions in the comments section. I'll visit a few of the schools over the next few weeks and post a final list.

Also, I still need parents who are going through the 2009-2010 process to write up reviews. If you're interested, please email thesfkfiles@gmail.com.

Thanks!

117 comments:

  1. Daniel Webster of course.

    And Cobb, maybe within the next 2 years. Montessori sells.

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  2. Glen Park and Sheridan as Fairmount, Miraloma, Sunnyside, JOSE alternatives.

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  3. Junipero Serra has a welcoming principal and teachers. Would be interesting to do there what was done at Miraloma.

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  4. I think Paul Revere. I toured there this past year and I was VERY impressed with the principal, the new library, and the librarian (coming to them full-time from Lakeshore, I believe). Plus they have Spanish immersion there. Check it out!

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  5. Paul Revere, definitely. It's great. I'm so glad we got in before the onslaught hits.

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  6. Thanks for the list, but how can Glen Park or Sheridan be an alternative to Fairmount, Miraloma, Sunnyside or Jose - they don't offer the same programs? In what way -other than being different schools, are they alternative?

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  7. Maybe not next year, but Bessie Carmichael will get there with the influx of new residents in the Mission Bay/SOMA region. It's a beautiful new school, but underenrolled and having a Tagalog immersion programs (for which there were 2 requests in Round 1). It seems ripe for takeover.

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  8. Also, Redding (Polk Gulch) looks like one worth checking out.

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  9. How about New Traditions? I'm more interested to see if parents in the somewhat gentrifying NOPA area/Divisadero corridor/Pan Handle area get interested in the school.

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  10. Definitely Sunnyside. Has had parental involvement creeping up for several years, plus a ton of young families in the neighborhood. Plus, achievement at this school was already pretty solid compared to some other "up and comers." This year's enrollment debacle brought in a whole crop of involved parents who might not have otherwise considered the school. I predict a big surge of applicants for next year.

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  11. SF Community Alternative-Small k-8, phenomenal teachers and staff, incredibly diverse group of students, and involved parents. Also maybe Webster.

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  12. It seems ripe for takeover.

    It's sad that "hidden gem" means "does not reflect the socio-economic and racial make up of SF"

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  13. "takeover" does seem like unforntunate nomenclature. Even with "hidden gems" you have to like the school and respect the people and staff that are there already. Just because you didn't know about it doesn't need it wasn't good to begin with.

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  14. 10:56 AM - PLEASE. Perhaps some of us value academics & safety more than diversity. Get a clue.

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  15. What, YOU don't think it's sad that a school that reflects the socio-economic and racial make up of SF is not considered to be academic and safe?

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  16. 1:13 PM - OF COURSE it is sad, it is awful. No one disagrees about that.

    The big disagreement is that, as a parent, is my priority my own child's education, safety, and well-being, or should those things be subjugated in favor of "diversity?" For me, I would rather sell a kidney than send my child to Chavez or Muir or Malcolm X.

    This question/issue/arguement has been addressed in so many ways on this blog & elsewhere.

    I just cannot understand people who make fun of us who say we aren't going to use our kids as guinea pigs in someone else "social justice" experiment.

    I don't understand those who want to send a five or six year old into a hostile, unsafe place far from home.

    I do not understand those who would impose their own personal worldview onto a small child, against what the parents want.

    I don't understand so many of you who would put learning, safety, and academics as secondary goals in educating small children.

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  17. Spring Valley (Science Magnet) and John Yehall Chin (API 10/10) are two more top, but under the radar, schools.

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  18. I echo the Sunnyside comments. We are loving this school and it wasn't one of our original 7 choices. It's a solid community with diversity, and a surge of new parents that are bringing additional energy, love and man/woman power into the school. The school has many arts/science/p.e. programs that we weren't even aware of when we enrolled. All 3 K teachers are excellent and the principal seems wise, knowledgeable and open to any and all ideas about improving this school. Would love to see a review of the school on your blog. Thanks Kate!!!!

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  19. "...but how can Glen Park or Sheridan be an alternative to Fairmount, Miraloma, Sunnyside or Jose - they don't offer the same programs? In what way -other than being different schools, are they alternative?"

    Miraloma and Sunnyside don't offer special programs. I meant that they were alternatives in terms of location.

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  20. 1:26 -- I am with you 100%. Please run for the Board. We can use more people like you with common sense.

    10:56 If every culture valued education the same as I do, then true, a hidden gem would reflect the diversity, racial makeup of the city. Because if this were true, all schools would be good, because parents would be involved etc etc. So I'd send my kid to any of these schools. But the truth is, for whatever reason, it is not the case.

    Notice -- I do not mention income, because we all know that poverty is one factor that definitely creates inequity -- in that the child may not have books, the parent have to work 2 jobs, etc etc. But, do not automatically assume poverty leads to poor academics -- just looking at city wide results, without much analysis, not all free lunch kids score the same. The Asians still consistently score higher than other groups. (I'm thinking of John Yehall Chin, lots of Chinatown chinese immigrants, and several other schools).

    By the way, the Malcolm X's, John Muir's should improve their own schools without the help of these "meddling middle class" families with their own ideas of success. Don't depend on the middle class and their PTA ideas to come and save the world. And maybe the schools are just fine for the parents who go there. I do not know. But the District and test scores (which may or may not mean anything) say otherwise.

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  21. 6:54 Geez, Louise!
    Of course I care about my own children, but being a mother only created in me a desire to make sure that all children were provided the fortune of my own healthy, privileged kids that were lucky enough to be born into bodies that came from stable, educated, middle class parents.

    While I'm sure you were being tongue in cheeck, I would hate for someone to get elected to the Board of Ed who only thought about themselves, their own community, their own child (if they indeed were parents - we need more public school parents with skin in the game on our board of education.) Furthermore, one reason we are not getting better results out of our BOE is because they care more about their own ideology, and not really about the children of SF public schools. No thanks to 1:26!

    Let's get more parents on the BOE who have kids in schools - starting with Rachel Norton and Emily Murase.

    My kids are doing great (and one is a blond), thank you, at schools that I helped make better along with others who care about community.

    To 1:26 - I don't think I'd WANT your kidney, thanks! Sounds toxic!

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  22. 7:18 - 6:54 here. Believe me, I am at a school that there are many "underserved" kids and I am know exactly what you mean when you say that it is impossible to go to the school and just care about your little child when you know the kids in the next room have much less. Any money I fundraise is not just for my child's classroom - I am totally for the Principal to allocate as he sees fit. It does make me sad and sick to see how some of these kids really have no parent to help them, and how much the odds are stacked against them.

    But I do agree with 1:26 that ideology should not come first. I am very much for diversity -- thats not my issue -- I just don't want my kids going to school with kids that have parents that do not value education, and so therefore the kid does not, and acts out, disrepects the teacher the principal. That is not a learning enviromment. And most families, regardless of race, would agree.

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  23. oh 6:54 here again to 7:18 -- yes, you are right about the BOE election. It would be extremely helpful for the BOE member to have a child actually attending school in SFUSD so they can experience what other parents experience, and not just see things in theory.

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  24. Sunnyside, Rosa Parks JBBP, Jose Ortega (which you don't need to make a special visit too, of course!) and Daniel Webster all seem to be where people ended up this year without intending to, and most of us seem to be quite pleasantly surprised!

    Hopefully, this will encourage more Round I choices of these schools next year.

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  25. How about having parents of kindergarteners write stories about their schools and what they love about them, what they were surprised by or even (though this would have to somehow be anonymous) what is frustrating or still needs work...?

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  26. I would beware of giving too much credence to stories of new K parents. They tend to be overly optimistic about their child's experiences and the school overall. Not that the reports would not be useful but perhaps taken with a grain of salt.

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  27. Does Starr King count as a hidden gem? It's one of the few language immersion schools with pretty good odds for getting in through the lottery.

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  28. 7:18 PM - Please calm down. I never said I didn't care about other children. I wrote that my _PRIORITY_ is my own child's education, safety, and well-being, and do not want to subjugate those in favor of "diversity." There is a difference.

    Reading is fundamental.

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  29. 1:26 and 9:42
    I suppose I should have asked calm from you as well. Your 1:26 post was rather shrill. You stated:
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    I just cannot understand people who make fun of us who say we aren't going to use our kids as guinea pigs in someone else "social justice" experiment.

    I don't understand so many of you who would put learning, safety, and academics as secondary goals in educating small children.
    ------------

    Do you really think anyone here would advocate for children, your own or otherwise, to be in an unsafe environment? If you believe that, you're fooling yourself.

    Additionally, those of us (experienced) public school parents often laugh at the 'guinea pig' and 'social justice' comments as we certainly don't see our kids as being in that situation. Like you, we want, and feel our kids are getting, a great education in a wonderful environment (safety goes without saying - it's top priority.) It's usually those who don't go into public schools - or aren't there yet -- who have fear of the unknown. I admit having those feelings BEFORE starting public school as well. And honestly, recognizing that I had to confront my own racial stereotypes as well.

    Again, if Chavez, Muir and Malcom X are so horrible for your kids, what do you suggest happen to make sure these schools are OK for the children that attend these schools (other than donating a kidney - OK it's a joke.)

    Again, I just hope as a mom that you'll open your mind and recognize that many kids don't have the advantages of your children. I know kids at the schools you note - they have parents working and trying very hard. And many don't have families to speak of at all.

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  30. My child is in the public school here in SF and I very much feel that the Board uses its power to advance social engineering/ experimentation, and cockamamie ideas.

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  31. "I would beware of giving too much credence to stories of new K parents. They tend to be overly optimistic about their child's experiences and the school overall."

    Yeah, it's the "Honeymoon Period" and it is jolly Kindergarten.

    In first grade and you look around and say OHMYGOD.

    I'd really advise parents to pay attention to the upper grades at the schools, and what the kids are like.

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  32. If you're looking at schools that are undergoing a big demographic change then looking at the upper grades isn't all that helpful.

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  33. Looking at the upper grades, even if the demos are changing in the lower grades helps one understand what the kids are learning.

    3-5 is when things get serious. They're reading to learn opposed to learning to read, they're learning multiplication & division. They're learning history, science (5th graders take a standardized science test), and more.

    It's sound advice to check out the walls of the upper grade classes, their bulletin boards, etc.

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  34. Starr King definitely. When parents wake-up to the value of having their kids learn Mandarin, they'll make the trek to Potrero Hill and overlook the projects across the street, which are admittedly a major eyesore!

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  35. My child attends Creative Arts Charter School a small public K-8 charter school here in S.F. Unlike some charters there is no corporate giant behind this school.The school was started by parents and teachers who wanted children to have accsess to a project based learning education rich in the arts. I've had children complete both the lower and upper grades and both have done/are doing extremely well. The community is warm and accepting, each child and by extention each family, is seen and known as an individual who brings something unique to the mix.
    When my older child was accepted at both Rooftop Middle School and Creative Arts there was no contest.
    I urge anyone interested to check it out, visit the website, go on a tour.

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  36. I never hear much about Spring Valley Charter Magnet (?) school which specializes in Science and Math, but at last school fair, I was in booth next to them, and it seems like a great school too.

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  37. Yick Wo is totally under the radar. Excellent facilities, excellent location. And when the first round is filled, you can forget about getting in on the wait list. People want that school and stick to it.

    Go by the campus on Lombard and have a look at that playground. It's the best racial balance of any school I saw on the tours. The teachers are dedicated, it's a tight community, and a total secret. Their scores are high, considering about half the kids are non English speaking Chinese kids of lower socio economic level. But by the time the kids go on to middle school, they are the sharpest tools in the shed. It's the classic hard working immigrant story. And you mix that with lots of Euro people in North Beach, and lots of Italian kids, and the mix is just fantastic.

    Like I said, look at the playground when you want to see what a school is really made up of. The greatschools.net sight doesn't capture it as well as the playground.

    Too too many schools are segregated in this town for a hundred reasons, and it's great to see a school like Yick Wo, that actually looks like the city I live it.

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  38. Yick Wo is mostly Chinese, some white kids, and very few African American or Latino Students. Is that what you consider "best racial balance"?

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  39. re: Yick Wo, et. al. - Why are so many schools 60-70% Chinese? I thought millions of $$ are being spent to prevent this?

    If a school were 60-70% white, there would be a PC riot!

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  40. We love Creative Arts too (our child just started) and we also feel it's a hidden gem. I also hear great things about SF Community--not on everyone's radar but will be soon. Both schools are hands-on, project based, small K-8 schools.
    Creative Arts is http://www.creativeartscharter.org/
    SF Community is: http://www.my-sfcs.org/

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  41. People are concerned. This is what various reports are talking about when they talk about "resegregation." Latino-dominant schools are becoming more Latino, Chinese schools more Chinese, and African American dominant schools more African American. These are generally the more low-demand schools though. I am surprised Lick Wo is that resegregated.

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  42. What it all boils down to is racial politics cloaked in political correctness. Recent Chinese & Latino immigrants want their kids to be taught with their respective race in their own language, and they get the American taxpayer to pay for it. The native (yes, native) white & black kids get a lecture on diversity if they want a piece of the pie, too.

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  43. Just FYI folks, Sf Community and especially Creative Arts Charter are not hidden gems at all--way more applicants than seats. Same for Yick Wo. Don't do as we did and assume SF Community was a safe bet in the lottery.

    We ended up at Starr King Mandarin and are feeling very happy with the school. If people are willing to make the leap (such as what happened this year at Flynn) I think the general ed program there could be a real hidden gem--the teachers look great.

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  44. While walking my kid home from school on Friday (yes, it's a whole five minute walk for my five year old son), we ran into a family w/ a 4 year old from our old co-op. As soon as he was asked how he was doing he shouted, "I love my school! Paul Revere is the best school!" Mind you, he'd just gotten his 'student of the week' certificate and all the hoopla, but he really, truly is happy at his school.

    A word of warning though, don't consider this school unless you're willing to put in some work. We need new play structures and school greening and book sets and...

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  45. 8:58 pm -- isn't the district wide population around 44% Asian? I'm not surprised then to see a concentration of 60-70 percent at one school.

    But it definitely is not reflective of the city wide population....

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  46. Way off topic, but if you're up and looking for something to do (and haven't done it already), go to the PBS site and vote in the poll asking if Palin is qualified to be president.

    Here's the link: PBS poll

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  47. Anyone have any qualms about Paul Revere given its grueling schedule?

    8 a.m. to 4 p.m. sounds excessive for young children, no?

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  48. The school-age population of this city is only 17 percent...so if you are at a school that is more than 17 percent white you are, to some extent, self-segregating.

    There are schools in the city that are more than twice that... where caucasian kids are way over-represented even if they are nowhere near the majority.

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  49. Good morning...(sleepless in SF here) -- question for 9:03pm Creative Arts - we've been eying this school and are scheduled to tour, though, the number of kids currently wait listed (see pdf on site) is long for 2008. I've recently toured two schools already (Alamo & Argonne) and have scheduled 12 more tours through Nov, mainly in the Richmond but now spanning outward (inner Sunset/Divis/Panhandle) -- CA is definitely a school we want to see. But, with most schools on greatschools.net (or even finding googled articles) there typically is always a mention of a principal, by name...in detail. With CA, I cannot find any such info - is CA (or Charter Schools) run differently - director, board, but no principal? Maybe in this case it just happened that the reviews were more geared around the families' whole experience. Anyways...any insight is appreciated!

    Also, for any families who've looked in the Richmond, would love to hear your feedback on any school experiences (only Alamo and Pedbody are listed as site references) -- one school that is not mentioned much but I'm curious to hear about is McCoppin. Thanks all!

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  50. @ 2:31a.m. Creative Arts does have a principal/director at the moment an intermin director who took over when our former director left. She had been the assistant director and she's doing a fantastic job. Her name is Liz Jaroslow and she's happy to answer questions as are the rest of the staff. We also have a board of directors made up of parents, teachers and community mmbers. The school is on a measured growth plan adding a second kindergarten every other year until it's half again as large as opposed to double in size. In fall 2009 there will be 2 kindergartens so 40 spots.

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  51. McCoppin is another hidden gem. BOE member Eric Mar sends his daughter there, and his wife is a teacher at McCoppin. Totally under the radar, though.

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  52. 12:51 am, the start time at Paul Revere is not ideal for us night-owls, but we're getting used to it. Besides, if you live in Bernal and can walk then it isn't that different from an 8:30ish start time at a school where you have to deal with parking. The school day is eight to three, with the last hour being enrichment (PE/art w/ specialized instructors). My kid doesn't like going late because he doesn't want to miss any of the morning group time (the teacher is extremely engaging and seems to be building a strong sense of community with the kids), but I've picked him up early before when I knew his energy would be low, and there wasn't a problem with it. So far, I've found the staff at this school to be very sensitive to the needs of young children.

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  53. Still, that's a very long school day, whether it is 8 am to 3 or 8 pm or 8 a.m. to 4 pm...

    If you are both working and need after care, I guess it is a plus. But if you have a choice, well, I'm not sure it is great for the youngest kids to be in school that long... It is very stressful for them (research shows young kids' cortisol levels rise dramatically after a few hours in a group setting)...

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  54. Sure, it may seem like a long day, but I'd be willing to bet that a lot of kids in this city (and on this blog) spend just as much time (if not more) in their preschool/daycare situations. At my son's preschool, there were plenty of kids who were there before I dropped him off, and still there when I picked him up. The kids are at preschool longer than their parents are at work.

    I'm just saying.

    Don't let that turn you away from a [potentially] right-fit for your family.

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  55. Thats probably why the some school districts out in East Bay actually only have a half day schedule. Also parents are available to pick up the other half day. But for those working outside the home, hands down, I'd rather my child be in dedicated learning environment than in an aftercare program.

    In SF, normal K is 6 hours so this adds 1 hour more if 3pm end time...they probably have more breaks during the day, since instructional minutes only need to meet a minimum?

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  56. My child is at Dianne Feinstein. The facility is great and there seems to be a lot of parent involvement. The teachers and principal welcome volunteers in the classroom. My problem with the school is the dull, worksheet-centered curriculum. My child has done stacks of worksheets. It's "thinking-inside-the-box, no-child-gets ahead" academics. Is it this way in all the schools?

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  57. ^No, it is NOT this way with all schools.

    Do you know if this is an approach of your kid's teacher, or an approach encouraged by the principal? Perhaps even the parent community who might see this is as academically "rigorous"?

    In my experience, the best teachers blend a variety of approaches to meet different kinds of learners, and draw on the creativity of the kids (while still hammering home some stuff--e.g., I do think the multiplication tables just need to be memorized in third grade, along with "understood" on a conceptual level. Helps so much with math down the road if the kids do this).

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  58. Is the worksheets for homework? The classroom should be lots more hand manipulatives etc. I can see if the hw is worksheets because it is just reinforcing what they have learned.
    (And for those non-crafty types like myself, I just hate taking out glue and making cutouts all over the place :) just rather they did that at school)

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  59. Paul Revere Spanish Immersion. Yes, we are in the "honey moon" stage, but so far feel that both the parent and teacher community are warm and involved. The day is one hour longer at Paul Revere, but from my perspective as a working mother, it allows me to keep my child out of after school care. It also gives the children extra enrichment. We have two full-time librarians and updated library. The best part is that it goes to 8th grade.
    See it for yourself--obviously these decisions are very personal.

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  60. 'My problem with the school is the dull, worksheet-centered curriculum. My child has done stacks of worksheets. It's "thinking-inside-the-box, no-child-gets ahead'

    It is great to hear parents bringing this up as an issue. Teachers have been complaining about this for years. I think the district is getting hip to the lack of success this curricular model has had. I'd say, make your concerns known at the school and push (or give support) for a shift in curriculum.

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  61. It is the government (no child left behind) that has resulted in an over-reliance on worksheets, not the teachers.

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  62. It is the government (no child left behind) that has resulted in an over-reliance on worksheets, not the teachers.
    -------

    I disagree. There are plenty of examples even in SFUSD that are making great strides in addressing the academic needs of all children - and don't do it through worksheets. Moscone Elementary for one.

    I think it is probably inexperienced - and possibly uncreative - school leadership.

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  63. It is the government (no child left behind) that has resulted in an over-reliance on worksheets, not the teachers.
    -------

    I disagree. There are plenty of examples even in SFUSD that are making great strides in addressing the academic needs of all children - and don't do it through worksheets. Moscone Elementary for one.

    I think it is probably inexperienced - and possibly uncreative - school leadership.

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  64. It is the government (no child left behind) that has resulted in an over-reliance on worksheets, not the teachers.
    -------

    I disagree. There are plenty of examples even in SFUSD that are making great strides in addressing the academic needs of all children - and don't do it through worksheets. Moscone Elementary for one.

    I think it is probably inexperienced - and possibly uncreative - school leadership.

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  65. Ooops. Sorry about the multiple posts!

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  66. "My problem with the school is the dull, worksheet-centered curriculum. My child has done stacks of worksheets. It's "thinking-inside-the-box, no-child-gets ahead" academics. Is it this way in all the schools?"

    In my (albeit limited) experience, yes this is true. I would be very interested to hear from parents whose kids do NOT get worksheets for homework. My daughter brought home ONLY worksheets for her entire year at Kindergarten. Many of which were also worked on in the classroom.

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  67. 9/22 @ 2:31a.m. (& anyone else near the Richmond or who's willing to make the trek): I'd check out Sutro too.

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  68. Rather than generalize, I'll do a quick summary of my child's 2nd grade HW for this week:

    Monday: Today is the first day of autumn. Write a short story about Autumn. Tell how it makes you feel and what you think about it. Draw a colorful picture to go with your story.

    Tuesday: Play Even Up with someone in your family (a math game) answer the following questions: What game did you play? What did you learn/ practice by playing? did you or did you not enjoy it? explain why.

    Wed: 10 sentences with spelling words. 2 math worksheets.

    Thurs: Make lists of :five things you can do with your hands that you can also do with your feet; five things you can do with your hands that you cannot do with your feet; five uses for a football that have nothing to do with sports.
    Magic square worksheet - more math, but pretty cool problem.

    We get the packet on Monday and return it on Friday. It's only been a few weeks obviously, but not worksheet driven in my mind. I'd say last year was comparable, but maybe a little more worksheet driven. But really, some things like addition and subtraction just take a lot of repetition to master. Overall, I'm very happy with the balance between workbook use and other instructional methods used both in the class and for HW.

    Oh, we're at Grattan.

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  69. I know this is going to sounds weird, but my daughter says she likes the worksheets. Maybe it's because we have very few at our school (and no homework either)...

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  70. A Grattan parent once told me that one of the kindergarten teachers got complaints from parents about not doing enough worksheets and not assigning enough homework.

    So while the readers of this blog understand that such busy-work does not necessarily enhance learning, there are parents out there who don't think their children are being challenged academically if they don't see piles of worksheets.

    Oy veh!

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  71. Re: Creative Arts Charter School -- I toured last year and was very interested, but they said the school would be moving from its current location, I believe as of Fall 2009. Does anyone know if a move is still planned, and if so, when and to where? Thanks for any info.

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  72. 6:37
    That work sounds interesting and cool but I'd imagine each of those tasks would take at least an hour. That is too much homework and not an age appropriate amount for a 7 year old! As someone whose been through elementary school twice with my kids, sometimes its better to have boring worksheets than to have all your free time robbed and have no time left for family time. Too often teachers' attempts to be openended and creative while mastering the basics just takes a ridiculous amount of hometime. I'll never forget the night my son's one night homework assignment in 1st grade was to make a model of the city like it would be if the dinosaurs lived here. Creative, but both my son and I suffered over it for hours seriously stressing the whole family. (And I've learned the hard way that they price of giving these assignments short shrift can be kids'embarrassment...)

    I agree with the poster who said its better to do worksheets at home (in moderation) and the fun creative stuff in the classroom. Having it all for homework is just too much.

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  73. @7:16 yes, Creative Arts will be moving from it's current location in the Western Addition to an as yet unnamed facility. As I understand it we need more space and the SFUSD would like our current location to use as a temporary home for schools they are updating/ renovating. There is no word yet on where we will go but wherever it is I've no doubt we will make it our home and hopefully be there for at least a decade.

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  74. While I'm not a big worksheet lover, I DO think that practice makes perfect. In the case of learning those math facts (quick recall of multiplication/division and addition/subtraction facts) I know that teachers often use homework math sheets as a way for kids to spend more time practicing and getting them to quickly recall.

    Unlike when we went to school, an hour was cut from the school day in California (yes, it's true!) back in the early 90's and most schools get 1 hour less than in most other states. My nephews in Texas and Virginia, for example, go to school an hour longer.

    1x180 school days/6 hour days equals about 1 month more of school.

    All this to say: a lot of teachers use homework as a way to get through some of the more mundane practicing that needs to happen (handwriting would be included in this, too. Little or no time is spent on this these days, unlike in my childhood.)

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  75. Re. Creative Arts, I read somewhere (maybe on this blog under a earlier Charter topic or via an SF Gate article) that they've only been in their current location for two years - anyone know if this is correct? I'm set to tour but am a bit concerned as we obviously won't be seeing the true facility that our children could be at...

    any insight appreciate!

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  76. 7:16: Re: Creative Arts Move
    I actually heard that the reason for the move was because SFUSD was not willing to spend the money to make the necessary required upgrades to the building to make it up to code...

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  77. @ 9:07 First point, Creative Arts will be completing their 4th year at their current location June 2009. The second point regarding the cost of upgrades is a little more complex. The current site has 2 buildings one from the 60's and one from the 30's give or take a decade on each. Creative Arts would increasingly need both buildings in order to remain at this location. The costs of retro fitting the older building and making both buildings ADA compliant and bringing the upper floors of the older building up to fire code were astronomical. Using portables was one option but that would severely limit needed outdoor play space. So, common sense dictates a move to a more suitable site and a re-purposing of this one. (I'm really going to miss the fabulous mosaic murals our kids did but they'll make new ones at our new home. :-)

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  78. 9:27: I'm going to miss them, too. I believe we may be getting solar panels at the new location--is that correct?

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  79. i'm a child of the late 70s-early 80s. i'm trying to remember when i started getting homework, but i swear i don't think it was until at least fourth or fifth grade. i remember being in second grade and coveting my friend's older sister's homework. i thought it looked fun. back then, in general, when did kids start getting homework? anyone know? (I realize it would vary probably by state, school district, etc.) just wondering in general.

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  80. @9:27 We did win a grant from PG&E for working solar panels that tie in to a science curriculum about solar energy and cut our energy bill ! They are ours to take with us when we move. Beyond that, have no idea what features any new site might offer as no potential sites have been named.

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  81. regarding homework, did anyone else see this post on The Poop by Kelly Mills?

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/parenting/detail?blogid=29&entry_id=29800

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  82. If you are concerned about the homework - playtime balance, You might want to consider an early start school. We're out by 1:50, with hours of time to play and do homework before bed. We don't do homework until after dinner most nights, or as dinner is being prepared. Plenty of time for sports/classes, free play, even a trip to the zoo. If your child is in an afterschool program, you can sign them up for homework time or not depending on where you'd like the free play to take place.

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  83. "If you are concerned about the homework - playtime balance, You might want to consider an early start school. We're out by 1:50, with hours of time to play and do homework before bed. We don't do homework until after dinner most nights, or as dinner is being prepared. Plenty of time for sports/classes, free play, even a trip to the zoo."

    That's nice for those of you who don't work outside the home. When you work all day and don't get home until 530 or 6 it's a different story.

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  84. yup. sure is nice. I understand that it's not an option available to all, but it was only a suggestion.

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  85. I guess I was a geek but I really enjoyed worksheets as a kid. They gave me a sense of accomplishment.
    If used correctly as a practice and reinforcement tool, they help develop skills that improve with practice such as handwriting, spelling and arithmetic. (I am glad our school emphasizes correct spelling and neat handwriting.) I can see where worksheets could become mind-numbing and pointless if used to excess or if used on skills that could be developed and practiced in a more engaging way. For example, matching, rhyming and sorting are probably more exciting if taught using hands-on or class participation techniques.

    As for next year's hidden gems, definitely Rosa Parks if they keep the principal. I predict she will not only continue to support the already-strong JBBP program but also improve the general ed strand. It's going to be a real "have it all" school with one of the most socio-economically diverse populations in town and excellent academics.

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  86. Oh, I also meant to say: If you use test scores as a measure of a school's performance (and that's certainly a measure I can't bring myself to ignore)--look at the 5th grade scores (I found them on the profile, not the SARC). That will give you an indication of how the school's doing on the state-described basics as the kids become less tractable and the work becomes more complex. If the percentage of kids at or above proficiency raises but then drops drops as the grades go up, that could mean that the school is on an upswing or it could mean that the school becomes less successful as the kids get older or it could mean something else: that's where you have to rely more on intuition, word of mouth and other information. If the percentages of kids at or above proficient are going up as the grade levels go up, that's probably a sign the school is doing a pretty good job. Also, if you're wondering how YOUR child is likely to do in a school, look at the score breakdowns on the SARC by gender, ethnicity, ELL status and income. I was surprised to see that even in some schools where the API was questionable, children in some categories were performing at or near so-called "trophy-school" levels. I'm not saying that test scores are the only measure of a school's performance or fit for a child, only that if this is a high-level concern for your family, it's important to go beyond the surface of the API number before you jump to a conclusion about how your child is likely to do in a school.

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  87. Where is the best place to find those scores broken down by gender and ethnicity/race subgroups?

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  88. Marlowe's Mom - does your child attend Rosa Park JBBP? there is a conversation going on over at the "future of sk files" re JBBP and there's this person that seems think that the program is really way basic and parents' expectations are unrealistic.

    I brought up if all the kids are learning is preschool stuff, like singing and rhyming in Japanese, I really can't see how the parents would even consider such program. I think parents going into the program know what the JBBP is about and do not have unrealistic expectations re language acquisition.

    I'm not sure why this person is so down on the FLES. Its not immersion, but not every child or parent would want/handle immersion.

    I gave up.

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  89. I've been following that thread and it makes sense to me. I interpreted teh thrust of the thread to be that you cannot expect the same outcome from FLES and immersion, but many parents do, out of ignorance about language acquisition in children.

    So they send their kids to schools with FLES programs, and then are disappointed when they realize how basic their 5th graders foreign language skills really are.

    Unless you are a native speaker of the target language, you are not really in a position to judge where the 5th graders end up. I certainly wouldn't expect a kindergarten parent who doesn't speak Japanese fluently to be a good judge ;-)

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  90. RE: SARC scores, IMO it's useful to looks at scores for all the grades. If the scores are much higher in the lower grades, it could suggest the school demographics are rapidly shifting. Also, if English scores are low in the early grades but rise by the higher grades, this would be consistent with many ELLs. (Both of these things can also be checked on the school's SFUSD web page.) Consistently high math scores is an excellent sign all around.

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  91. Hi there - off subject....but does anybody have any info on Commodore Sloat. I live right near the school and would love to find that to be a great school for my family....

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  92. 11:43 - I'm surprised parents can be so misinformed to even think that FLES is similar to immersion.

    I would think the JBBP/FLES programs make it pretty clear what their capabilities and goals are.

    That being said, I still can't see how parents would tolerate their children just learning sing song and preschool stuff. I could swear that a parent told me that they use the Japanese in learning other topics (similar to immersion) but since only 1 hr a day, not really that much.

    Well, thanks for info -- I just found the other poster's derisiveness a bit off putting. Immersion is not for every child and FLES is certainly a start - a child with aptitude and interest could certainly pursue more intensive classes outside of school, etc and pick up more of the verbal skills.

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  93. They do make it clear, and it is more than learning to count to ten. No it's not immersion, but it's not just singing songs either. That person's attitude was dismissive.

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  94. To 11:20:

    The SARCs (school accountability report cards) and Profiles with the test scores broken down by grade (in the profile) and by gender, ethnicity, ELL status and income (the SARCs) are both found under "School Information" in the San Francisco Unified School District web site. You have to get the information school by school and make your own comparison chart according to your interests.

    To 11:39: No my child does not attend Rosa Parks JBBP this year but only because we could not work out the aftercare. I felt that the parents and teachers at the Rosa Parks JBBP program were very honest about the nature of the program: it's NOT immersion and you should NOT expect fluency in Japanese. Rather your child will learn some Japanese language and learn a reasonable amount about Japanese culture. I was not looking for Rosa Parks to make my son fluent in Japanese. Rather, my priority was a good school and I thought Rosa Parks JBBP was a good school.

    Some people on this blog seem to think that unless a language program is an immersion program, there's no benefit to studying a language at all. I happen to disagree and would argue that's for individual families to decide. It IS a problem, however, if people misunderstand the nature of the program they are requesting and get either more or less than they bargained for.

    There seem to be significant misunderstandings about the nature and objectives of different types of language programs which I will attempt to get straight with the following definitions. I think it would help calm the debate if everyone understood the terms in the same way. I welcome correction.

    A. An immersion program, offered by numerous SF public schools and a few privates (specifically Lycee Francais, French American and Chinese American come to mind) is just that: total immersion in a language other than English. Immersion programs are probably the only way that most children child who are not from a fully bilingual homes will acquire native-like fluency.

    B. A bilingual education program is a program designed to help transition children who do not speak English at home into an English-speaking school situation. I understand the efficacy of bilingual ed programs is subject to debate but don't think this is the place for that debate. Ironically, though it's called "bilingual education," the function is transition, not developing bilingualism.

    C. A language acquisition program is a systematic study of a foreign language and involves typically 2-3 hours a week of instruction. You learn reading, writing, pronunciation and grammar. If you make a fair amount of progress, you may able to converse and write sufficiently to make yourself understood and understand others but you will not have the same level of communication skills as a native speaker or someone who has been in an immersion program.

    D. A language enrichment program is bits of a language during or after school. I think of what I saw of Clarendon's Italian program as enrichment. They sing some songs, learn numbers and letters and names of objects, maybe do a little cooking or look at some art, but there does not seem to be much systematic study (though I saw kindergarten, not older grades).

    I would say Rosa Parks JBBP falls somewhere on the continuum between enrichment and acquisition. They actually do more than 2-3 hours a week of Japanese study and they do work in other subjects in Japanese as well, but given the age of the children involved and the difficulty of the language, I would not expect an English-speaking fifth grader to know as much as a student who's had a couple of years of high school Japanese. I don't speak from experience though, I'm just stating the expectation I got from visiting the school several times.

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  95. Note that the description above for "bilingual" applies to SFUSD only. Outside of SFUSD the term "bilingual education" encompasses any model that includes instruction in two languages, including dual immersion programs.

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  96. Yes, I believe "bilingual" has some definite political connotations that go with it also.

    In any case, that's probably why people get so confused, because the true meaning of bilingual has nothing to do with the political agendas, etc etc that it currently has. And it probably has totally different connation when mentioned in Canada.

    In any case, thanks for the clarifications -- its helpful for parents.

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  97. Re: Commodore Sloat-

    This is my "neighborhood school," too. My kids attend a private immersion school, but I have provided presentations at CS in all grades. (Last time I was there was Dec., 2006, but I will be there again this fall.) I think it is a great school... with great teachers (including KG), nice facilities, good playground, etc.. Some have mentioned the importance of observing the older classes to get an idea of where the kinder kids may be headed, and I have always been impressed with the older students at Commodore Sloat. They are bright, engaged and attentive during the classroom presentations... and always ready with pertinent questions and interesting comments.

    I think the API is 9, but you can get more of that kind of info at the SFUSD website (portal.sfusd.edu/) by clicking on "school information” (which sends you to a page with a list of all the schools, and lots of info for each school)... or at greatschools.net.

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  98. Thanks M for the info on Commodore Sloat. I appreciate it.

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  99. just an FYI -

    argonne will have a russian program beginning 2009/2010.

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  100. Are there any public kindergartens that are more play-based, less focused on worksheets?

    What about kindergartens that are known for better differentiated instruction?

    I've heard horror stories of early readers in kindergarten being stuck doing the same worksheets as the children just learning to identify each letter -- just being given more of them. That seems so boring to me, even if it does keep them quiet.

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  101. Alot depends on both the teacher and the philosophy of the school. For example if a school has a policy of teachers adhereing very closely to a set printed curriculum, the if it's Tuesday the 10th this must be page Belgium approach, then you will see a lot of work sheets. If the school uses a project based learning model then far fewer if any work sheets will be used. Some subjects do require repetition to memorize and work sheets can be useful. Certainly in kindergarten they should be minimal.
    You really need to do your homework and decide what you want for your child and where your particular child would do best.

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  102. So.. WHICH SF publics rely less on worksheets?

    Can anyone name names?

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  103. Regarding horror stories about schools, please remember if you ask enough people for opinions you are bound to get both raves and pans about virtually every school, public, charter or private. All schools are in a constant state of change, yesterdays rave is todays rant and vice versa. There is no substitution for your own first hand experience added to your own knowledge of your child and what your family values in education. If your's like mine valued an arts rich project based curriculum and had no issues with location and was willing to over look a funky building for first rate inspired teachers and an innovative program then you'd choose differently than my dear friend, a Stanford grad, who values high test scores, walking to school and an early start time so she can get to work. The variables are many and sometimes just slowing down and listening will tell you what you really need to know. Always follow your instincts and make choices from a place of knowledge not fear!
    Re: which schools use too many work sheets, go and see. Ask questions, use your eyes, look at the upper grades. If it's a K-8 school ask for a list of high schools the graduates were accepted at.
    Ask to observe a class, ask to speak to other parents. If they can't produce any parents with children currently at the school run away. Unless you fall in love with the principal and want to be an unpaid cheer leader. Treat the process as if you were viewing private schools because you are entrusting them with something far more valuble than dollars, you are handing over your childs formal education. Once you've found the school you want expect to work your butt off . Send the principal a note and tell them you expect to be an uber parent. Let them know your skills and areas of expertise. There are no free rides, you'll be volunteering in the class, raising and giving money and time, doing out reach you name it. It's a wild ride and it's all worth it because one day you look around and realize all those kids are all our kids. Really.

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  104. Creative Arts Charter seems to be more play-based and less focused on worksheets. OTOH, I've talked to many CACS parents who are not convinced their kids are actually learning the curriculum and feel it necessary to supplement their education by essentially home schooling.

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  105. @10:25 Could we please refrain from taking pot shots at specific schools? This is about hidden gems not a critique. BTW over the years I've known over a dozen families at the school you mention some of whom are there now and not one felt the need for supplemental home school.

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  106. Yes, please. Only praise and positive comments. Let us find out for ourselves when our kids are in third grade if a particular school has any negatives.

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  107. @9:42 All schools however wonderful have negatives, every single one, whether they're public or private. The point of this thread as I understood it was for people to post about schools they feel are great and under the radar. Not to comment negatively about the schools mentioned. Remember one persons minus is another persons plus. That's a given. I can also reassure you it won't take 3 years to notice problems at your childs school if you are an active involved parent. If you are planning on public school intend to be. Parent involvement literally makes or breaks a school.

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  108. But why impinge on people's speech? We're all grown-ups. We understand that one person's negative is just one person's negative and may, in fact, be another's positive. But heaping praise and not allowing any negatives isn't at all helpful and smacks of censorship.

    Candor is best. Readers can decide for their own what to believe or not.

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  109. @5:57p.m. I think that suggesting we keep this thread positive and on topic is a far cry from impinging on peoples free speech but hey, I've said my piece and if you feel doing drive bys on each posters positive suggestion is helpful so be it. I won't be part of that. After 17 years in the trenches I'm guessing I could curl both hair and toes with front line scary and sublime stories but I know this isn't the appropriate thread or even blog.
    So back to the original question , some schools worth checking out, Creative Arts Charter, McCoppin, Clarendon Second Community, McKinley, Alvarado. I know some of these are popular but hey, someone's kids have to go there, why not yours? Also Creative Arts is a Charter so it's like getting an 8th choice as you apply to them directly and not as one of your seven.

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  110. Posting a reality check on hidden gems is off topic, but describing Clarendon as a hidden gem is ON topic?

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  111. This is supposed to be the "next year's hidden gems" thread so it makes sense to focus on the positive here. As threads get started for individual schools, that would be the appropriate place for parents to raise both positives and negatives about those schools. Also on specific schools, I would hope that posters would give enough information so people can take their comments with whatever amount of salt is appropriate: current parent, former parent, current teacher, former teacher, I never had kids in the school but have heard X about it, this situation is currently going on, these things used to happen but I don't know if they still are happening, etc. On some schools there will probably be strong differences of opinion and I see no harm in that. Nobody should choose a school based solely on strangers' comments in a blog anyway. There is no perfect school. Having honest discussion about as many schools as possible can help parents who are trying to match a particular school's strengths and shortcomings to their own priorities.

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  112. If someone disagrees with someone's "next gem" assessment, are they supposed to keep quiet?

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  113. @6:45 In a word, yes. Because someone will always disagree but the basis for their disagreement may very likely be a personal issue which has no bearing on the suggested school for others . Like Marlowes Mom said, wait until the thread for that particular school before airing your issues.
    Are you 5:57, 7:53 and 9:42 ? Because if you are you seem seriously disgruntled or freaked out or maybe just plain crabby. Or contentious.

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  114. I'm not the last poster, but it does seem silly to ask people to hold their insights until a school-specific thread. THat is not how conversations or discussions work. If someone brings up a school as a hidden gem and someone has information about that school that might affect whether others consider it a hidden gem, they should share it, along with the necessary caveats (this happened to *me* vs. I heard from a friend of a friend).

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  115. Hidden gems: Cobb & Garfield (structure, location, potential)

    This thread should be about "suggestions," not arguments and counter arguments about a particular school. That is how trolls hijack a topic and take over a thread. Save all the bashing for the opportunity when school-specific comments/opinions are solicited. This request, which posters have voiced repeatedly, is not infringement on freedom of speech; this is a request for civil (adult) blog manners. Best advice--ignore the trolls!

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