Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BOE Student Assignment System meeting

If you attended the meeting below please share:

Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:33 pm (PDT)
SFUSD is re-evaluating the Student Assignment System for next year, and
tonight's Board of Education meeting is the first step in the process. The
district is presenting their road map / timeline which will include the
following:

1. Fall 2008:

a. Board of Education meeting (10/28/08): Presentation of Re-Design
Process, Principles and Timeline
b. Summarize previous work done and information collected on Student
Assignment
c. Develop and distribute a survey for parent input

2. Spring 2008:

a. Present the Student Assignment Options to Board of Education
b. Hold community focus groups to get feedback on the proposed Student
Assignment options
c. Share results of surveys and focus groups to the community and Board
of Education

The goal is to adopt a new Student Assignment system by end of school year
2009 and implement it for families applying next year for the 2010-2011
school year.

The Board of Education meeting starts at 6:00 PM at 555 Franklin Street. If
you can't attend, I'm pretty sure you can catch it streaming on KALW live.

NOTE: potential changes in the student assignment system will NOT affect
families applying this fall for the 2009-2010 school year.

Ellie Rossiter

Executive Director

Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco

113 comments:

  1. I'm thinking of blogging about your advice to this coming year's parents.

    It seems like I watched a lot of parents microanalyzing statistical probabilities, and I'm wondering if that wound up making any difference -- for those who did it, do you think it paid off?

    There are some schools that didn't fill up on the first round for this fall but then were full when desperate parents started asking for them later in the process. Sunnyside and Leonard Flynn general ed are two that I'm aware of. I wondered if that list might be a good place for parents to start if they're trying to seek out schools that are good but not total longshots.

    Also, I'm trying to find out: Are there any applicants still remaining who didn't eventually get offered an acceptable school somewhere in the process? I know there are issues (location, start time, holding out for a long-shot top choice) that meant it hasn't worked out ideally for every family, but is anyone truly out in the cold?

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  2. We thought a lot about probabilities and definitely did not want to end up without an assignment in Round One. And we genuinely liked (in some cases loved) a lot of low demand schools that we saw on tours. So we did not waste ANY of our seven slots with a hard-to-get, Rooftop-type choice. We included three medium/low demand schools on our list (Starr King Mandarin immersion, SF Community, and Harvey Milk) and one school that had fewer applicants than slots the year before (Jose Ortega Mandarin immersion). (Our other three choices were relatively popular Spanish immersion programs.) We knew we might get unlucky but hoped we wouldn't get unlucky FOUR times, so we wanted our list to be dominated with realistic choices that we would be happy with if we ended up there for kindergarten. We ended up getting our first choice, which was one of the medium/low demand schools. I know this strategy does not work for everyone, and sometimes a school's demand jumps from one year to the next, but if I had to do it over again I would follow the same strategy.

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  3. i know a couple of families who still have no school. very bad situation.

    that said, they are definitely the "this-school-or-no-school" type, and i don't believe they submitted reasonable choices on their round II apps or took advantage of open enrollment to try to get something better than their round I offering (which they did not register for in any case). in their position, i would have surely changed my waitpool choice in late summer when the numbers started looking very bad.

    then again, the system is called choice-based, and i suppose maintaining a hard line is their choice.

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  4. We are not out in the cold, but that is only because we had no alternative (could not afford private school, could not move out of SF, child turns 6 this fall). We chose a school in Open Enrollment after having submitted a reasonable Round I application and a super-reasonable Round II application. We are not unhappy with the kindergarten, but are not pleased with the school as a whole and will try for the 1st grade lottery this year.

    I have to say, I know a lot of families in a similar situation who got nothing in Round I (some are unhappy with their Round II assignment, some did not get anything in Round II). I would certainly not say, as many did to us this year (you included, Caroline) that it "all works out in the end" for everyone. Many people I know are planning on entering the 1st grade lottery, and the thought of having to go through that nightmare again is dispiriting to say the least. The thought of spending this year adjusting to a new school only to have to pull out our child and readjust next year... awful! But we would not choose to stay in our current school, either (logistical nightmare, upper grades problematic).

    When I think of all of the work I did researching and touring, taking days off of work and arranging emergency childcare, only to end up here... it makes me quite angry still.

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  5. I've commented for years that everyone I've ever met who stuck with it through the process wound up getting a school they were happy with. (I mean, not counting the many folks who just listed Rooftop while really intending to go private all along, or gave up and went private after Round 1.)

    I've wondered all along what would have happened if all those people HAD stuck with it through the process. Would some people have been totally left out in the cold? Would a lot of schools have suddenly become more middle-class as those families conceded and accepted them? Now we really are seeing a lot more families sticking with it. I think the latter definitely happened (lots of schools became more middle-class), and I'm still not sure about the former. I can't decide whether holding out for a select school counts as sticking with it through the process.

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  6. I've been very specific, 10:45, about saying what I just said in the previous post -- every family I've met who stuck with it through the process wound up with a school they were happy with. SO that's not quite as pat as saying "it all works out in the end." Although what "in the end" is is another question -- I remember that one family at Lakeshore with my kids was at Ulloa for the first semester of K, waiting for Lakeshore, for example. (Ulloa is a much higher-scoring school than Lakeshore, for what it's worth...)

    If you are at a formerly unpopular, turning-around school that has a new immersion or language (Rosa Parks?) program in just K or one or two lower grades, don't forget that the upper grades are an entirely different ballgame, and your grade WILL be the upper grade then! I've seen that from semi-afar at Miraloma and Balboa for example (as my friends and their kids experienced it), and firsthand at Aptos. That doesn't help with logistics like distance or ungodly early start times, I realize, but the other part -- the school is transforming grade by grade as the lower grade moves up -- I will stake my credibility on, unless something catastrophic happens to reverse the turnaround.

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  7. Caroline, this is the previous poster again.

    What I am trying to say is that I also know many people who stuck with the process until the end this year (the waitpools dissolve at the end of next week, so i guess it's not technically the end yet...). I know at least 7 or 8 families (without asking around) that plan to attempt to change schools next year because they are not happy with their school.

    So please, I hope this lays the idea to rest that everyone is happy in the end. However the system ends up getting changed, it clearly is not working now, for everyone. That is not to say that there aren't many, many wonderful public schools in SF. There are! We loved at least 8 or 9 of them that were close to us! But not everyone gets lucky in the beginning or in the end.

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  8. Also, we are happy with K because we lucked out with a great K teacher and we love the other families in our child's class. But I am not happy with the teaching quality of most of the other teachers, I do not agree with the school's educational philosophy and, yes, it has an early start time and is across town as well. I don't think that any of these things will change over the next couple of years.

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  9. Re the families who aren't happy with their schools -- are those schools they settled for and not the original schools they wanted?

    Of course there's an asterisk even on my original statement, which is that of course not all families are happy over the long haul with their school, including schools they fought to get into, including top publics and top privates. I know one family who has had kids at both Rooftop and Clarendon, one after the other, and transferred out of both in disillusionment and bitterness, for example. Maybe I need more conditional wording on my statement -- "content for the duration," or something.

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  10. It would be interesting to see how many families are happy with their school at a strictly neighborhood assignment district, with a few choice schools (determined by lottery).

    Some high performing districts off the bat - Palo Alto USD, San Ramon Valley, Pleasanton USD, etc. And and lets Oakland in the mix, since they are urban school district.

    The first few I mentioned are not necessarily comparing apples to apples, since demographically, they may be a lot more homogenous (not racial lines, but socio-economic and culturally which I BELIEVE is the greater issue despite what the media, Board, and everyone else wants to shove down our throats - re race. An aside - re race, maybe the real issue is culture.)

    Anyway, I am sure there are a percentage of unhappy parents - do they move? Do they apply for intradistrict transfer? Do they grin and bear it? Do they work to make the school more to their liking (ie advocate for special enrichment programs etc)?

    On the face of it, I am sure the unhappiness factor may not be as high as in SFUSD simply because the way the "lottery" gives one high expectations -- or something along the lines of "you won!". And when you don't get what you put down, you feel like "you lost" (which you did, ok). But when you have no choice because of your address, do you lower your expectations to reflect the reality, which is your school is the one down the street?

    Just some random thoughts.

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  11. My cousin was unhappy with her son's coveted Palo Alto school for social reasons in kindergarten and first grade. She had him on the waiting list for a project-based magnet school in Palo Alto for second grade, but he didn't get in off the waiting list. Things turned around for him in the original school in second grade when he had a teacher who really paid attention to the social piece.

    So they are happy they stuck it out with their neighborhood school. But they definitely would have moved him somewhere if things hadn't turned around.

    There just aren't that many other options in most districts, including Palo Alto, if things aren't working for your child at a particular school. At least in SF if things don't work at a particular school, you can move your child *relatively* easily in an upper grade.

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  12. Does anyone know if we can apply for kinder and first next year, and see which schools we get? Our daughter has a late Nov bday and we kept her in her great preschool this year--but although I didn't think so in the spring, I now think she would have been fine in kinder if we'd been assigned to a school we liked. I know that kinder isn't required, but does anyone know if the computer would kick back the applications? Thanks, MCL

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  13. I'm pretty sure you can only submit one application per child, you have to choose which grade per round.

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  14. The families I was referring to (unhappy with their school) were mostly families unhappy with Round II or Open Enrollment picks (with one more complicated exception not happy with a neighborhood school on the Round I list).

    The thing is: the idea of the lottery and all of the touring and research we do is that we're trying to make an educated guess about what would be a good fit. Of course, you can always be surprised, but you do know that if language is important to you, you'll try to get an immersion program, and if project-based learning is important, you'll look for schools with more hands-on philosophies and less of a rote-learning or teaching to the test approach. If strong teachers are important you'll look for that, if you need to have a principal that's a strong leader you'll look for that, or a stellar after school program, parent involvement, etc. etc. Maybe you're disappointed with other aspects of the school (or your child's particular teacher etc.), but at least you've made an educated guess. And the logistics of time and distance are not an obstacle.

    But when you're simply assigned a school, though you may like aspects of it, they may not be the most important things to you. And the school may be inconvenient to boost. It's the illusion of being able to choose what matters most and then not having that be taken into account in any way that's so frustrating.

    In a system that randomly assigned students to schools, my guess is that many people would be happy as well. But the philosophy behind our assignment system is choice, and the District and PPS in fact advocate getting as involved as possible in making a good choice, doing many tours etc. When you do the legwork and end up liking (but not getting) so many schools, you're more likely, in fact, to end up at one you would not have chosen in the first place...

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  15. Everyone doesn't end up happy in the end. Period. Some people end up happy. Quite a few people end up making do if they don't have other options. That's not the same thing.

    I've seen decent, adequate public schools on my tours so far. I haven't seen anything stellar, and I have visited some of the so-called trophy schools. I don't think any of these schools would thrill me even though I might be able to accept some of them.

    The private schools I've visited do seem to offer more and that's speaking from a whole-child view point--academics, enrichment, social. I'm really hoping to see more on the public school tours I've still to go. They need to take some marketing advice from the privates, I'm telling ya. Show me what you've got that makes you special during the tours. Some have been really lackluster.

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  16. Sandra Tsing Loh has a hilarious take on how many private schools market themselves with the amazing bells and whistles. The leafy canyons, the cottages, the happy happy children living in a world of wonder....Whereas the public schools have their sad grass, fluorescent lighting, and above all, lackluster marketing (if it exists at all). But look beyond, and voila, you have Costco, with its cavernous warehouse and impossible aesthetics, but the amazing good deals on terrific products, and you don't have to pay Whole Foods (whole paycheck) prices.

    www.sandratsingloh.com

    The private schools have great programs, no doubt, but don't judge the book by its cover. A solid public school, and that is at this point a large number of SFUSD elementaries, is a very good deal indeed.

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  17. I don't know 1:17 pm. In a sense, I really don't like it at all that schools need to "market" themselves.

    Instead, I'd rather the focus be on academics, social, enrichment programs. Parents can choose to come and make the world/school a better place or not. I'd rather see a better use of taxpayer monies to give a good solid education to all of our children.
    We're not buying clothes or a car here.. when I see the kids' faces and see how some kids' have so much stacked against them... or when I see how happy the kids are at their school, with the little they have, (and how the parents are the ones poohing poohing the lack of this and that because we know more, but still)... anyway, it sort of makes me very sad.

    For private school, of course, it is different. Some are for profit, some not, but they do need to market to survive. They don't have big ole Uncle Sam or Mr and Mrs taxpayer paying their bills. Plus, many private schools are started based on a specific philosophy or parochial schools for a specific reason so it makes sense that should get the word out.

    I'm not born yesterday so I do know the reality is schools have to "market" themselves because that is how the "choice" system is set up.

    But go to San Ramon or Pleasanton - no one is marketing any school. Maybe they could do better. But they are what they are. The PTAS try to make the place better. Don't get me wrong - there are differences and parents will apply for intra-district or move but in general, nothing like SF.

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  18. I hear you on the marketing thing, but really, they do need to make an effort on the tours. I know they've only got so many resources to work with, but for those who are on line between public and private the tours *do* make a difference. Make me *feel* excited rather than just telling me I should be. For instance, at one private school tour they had the teachers describe their classroom experiences. Man, some of those the projects they do sound incredible and exciting. The history teacher made their curriculum come alive for us in seven minutes. I really believed my kid would develop a lifelong love of learning. So I'm not talking about show me a gorgeous building or garden, I'm saying show me that my kid will have real opportunities to discover what he's into and to be challenged and love school. I'm sure the public schools have things that would excite me, too. They just need to present them properly!

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  19. A critical element in the assignment system that is often overlooked is aftercare. For many families (particularly single parent families but others as well) full-time work is essential for survival. Not everyone has local relatives or friends who can cover in a pinch. Not everyone has an infinitely understanding employer. Kids in those families are going to spend a lot of time in after-care and parents have every right to be picky about the nature and quality of those programs. What a bitter irony to get one of your top choice schools but have no connection to a suitable, affordable-for-you after-care program with space. I don't know any answers, but this concern must not be lost in the shuffle.

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  20. I addressed the child care issue in a blog post that I WISHED some powers that be would read and take to heart. I heartily agree, Marlowe's Mom!

    http://tinyurl.com/54esf3

    Re marketing: It would definitely benefit the schools, but as it is it's done by volunteers to whatever extent they can -- with some limited required involvement by staff -- all principals are required to be at the annual school enrollment fair. Any funds for marketing would come out of classroom needs, so you can see where that leads. Private schools will always win that game, I'm afraid.

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  21. More and more public schools are taking the marketing seriously, and PPS has helped a lot (thus the enrollment fair, which started, what, seven years ago?).

    I was especially appreciative of these efforts last year when we toured middle schools for the after-hours open houses that were attended by current students, parents, principals, and teachers--the latter as volunteers. These events were great because we didn't have to take time off work, and we got to talk to teachers who would normally be ...teaching... during school hours.

    I also appreciated the principals who took time out, week after week during high touring season, to meet with dozens of parents at a time. Their passionate descriptions of their schools, and their huge knowledge of the issues, shone right through. Same with some of the teachers and who gave their "off" periods to talk with parents on tour. And the ones who invited us in to observe their classrooms.

    I also appreciated the PTSA volunteers who took the time to write and photocopy the brochures that explained the programs offered at each school, and who keep up the websites that I checked obsessively during that period of time. And the ones who volunteered for PPS events and answered my questions.

    I also appreciated the teachers, like Mr. Pascual the art teacher at Aptos, who took the time to write up descriptions of what they teach in their classes.

    All that said, there will always be a difference between a public school that could never justify hiring a full-time marketer (aka admissions people) or related support staff, and the private schools that must have those in order to function, plus their full-color brochures, their well-thought out descriptions (in marketing terms) and all the rest. It would be so nice to have that, but I cannot think how to justify it, even to capture those on the fence, compared to funding for an art class, or a wellness program, or lots of other things for the kids.

    I'm not shooting down the idea that schools should market themselves at all. I think they are trying, and getting better at it. And maybe could do better--ideas always welcome, like the nighttime open houses which I think were a bit of recent innovation. But there will always be that disparity. To repeat that analogy, Whole Foods is marketing to the wealthier consumer, who is willing to pay a higher price that includes the cost of marketing (the beautiful displays, etc). The Costco customer is expecting a better deal and understands the, um, populist aesthetic in that light. Hopefully parents will dig a little deeper and talk with current parents about their experiences.

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  22. Well, there's more than a marketing difference between Whole Foods and Costco. It's all food, but it's different food.

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  23. I agree. You can only get what Costco offers, not everything you want. I personally think that the analogy holds up very well.

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  24. It seems this thread has been hijacked by the same old, same old.

    Let’s get back to the topic at hand. Did ANYONE attend the BOE meeting last night? Please share!!!

    Sorry to learn that changes will not be implemented until 2010/2011. How sad, another year of disenfranchised parents….

    Is EPC prepared for an unprecedented number of Kindergarten students seeking reassignment in first grade? The **improved** assignment process need to address this scenario too, hopefully less so in coming years (if they get it right)!

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  25. But....Whole Foods goes way over the top, don't you think? Do you really NEED all those choices of specialty items, so much that you have to take out a second mortgage to afford your grocery bill? Or are we being suckered by the marketing? Most people cannot afford Whole Foods, especially in this economy. I mean, it's beautiful and all, but....

    Many of us manage to feed our families quite well and in good health, thank you, with a combo of Rainbow and Alemaney Farmer's Market for the organic produce, plus picking up some nice fun stuff once a month at Trader Joe's, and definitely the bulk toilet paper at Costco, where I do the big run for certain items 4x/year. I mean, I love the look of Whole Foods, it's a dream to walk through there for a foodie, but every time I have shopped there I have had sticker shock. And you know you are paying for the presentation, the specialty items from exotic places, etc. You CAN do very well at providing good food for your family, a whole lot cheaper, if you shop smart.

    Same with public school--you can do very well, and a whole lot cheaper than private--and you get to be part of something that is affordable and available for all families. Very democratic. And quite a good deal.

    Maybe I'm just the queen of frugality (Chinese American-Jewish family, NEVER pay retail if you can help it!) but this just seems like common sense to me. I would wonder about paying for the hype, really, esp given how well most of my friends' kids are turning out pretty much the same, reading the same books, listen to the same music and so forth, regardless of where they go to school.

    Seems to me that if you combine a quite decent school with strong family values and sense of responsibility for education (something Obama is emphasizing along with government stepping up to its appropriate role in funding schools), then most kids will do very well. You can save that money for college and/or retirement, which certainly seems like the prudent thing to do these days!

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  26. Personally, I like Falletti's.


    Does that mean I should home school? ;)

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  27. What is Falletti's? (sorry for my ignorance)

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  28. It's a small gourmet grocery store that we shop at when we want to splurge. Was just joking around.

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  29. I'm surprised at the scarcity of tours talk. Does anyone have anything to share?

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  30. MCL: At our school, the principal recommended to parents in your shoes to apply for K and, then, if they are developmentally a better fit for 1st grade, to promote them at the beginning of the year. We had two fall birthdays move from K to 1st grade in Sept that way, thus opening up two K spots. I would check with the elem schools you are interested in.

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  31. They need to take some marketing advice from the privates, I'm telling ya. Show me what you've got that makes you special during the tours. Some have been really lackluster.

    October 29, 2008 1:17 PM
    -------

    Well, THAT'S what you pay tuition for - MARKETING! In the face of another $4 billion budget cut from the State, you think public schools can siphon off some for that?

    Public schools are not consumer goods.

    (Signed: a corporate marketing director and proud and active public school parent who spends a lot of volunteer time marketing public schools.)

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  32. Guess what? It doesn't cost much for someone to speak passionately at a tour. Get a grip. There are all kinds of marketing. Very few of the public school teachers seemed excited or enthused or inspiring. A lot of the private teachers did. Show me the passion at public I'm saying.

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  33. I haven't posted on here before, but I agree with this one mom who says she hasn't seen anything stellar. I have twins and they are currently attending a fabulous pre-school. It's expensive and like everybody, a break on that end would be welcome. Really, the reason why we are having all these conversations is because saddly the SF public schools are mediocre at best. I'm still hoping to come across something that will live up to the preschool my kids go to right now - but I'm currently very disillusioned! I'm European and went to public school, I got a good solid education which allowed me to do well in college and get a higher education. I will do anything possible to make this a reality for my kids... it's sad, because I would like to be more committed to public, but I'm not sure in the end I will be happy and not guilt-ridden!

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  34. 10:38 - sorry to see you feel that way. I don't think the public schools in this country will ever live up to your expectations and if you can afford it, go for the best (privates, but no guarantee of acceptance).

    This country prefers to spend money on defense, not just the local borders but apparently for Europe, Asia, etc etc. Yes, yes lots of self interest involved, but nevertheless, paying to be the policeman of the world. And the "diversity" issue in this country and the politics it brings with it, very interesting and all, but doesn't necessarily have "academics" at the top of its priority. The me me me, what can I get, or why does Billy have it and I not, or I'm discriminated against, mentality -- I don't think it exists at that level in most European countries. Or maybe its just more subtle there and everyone still keeps their eye on the prize, which is that education is important.

    So, as a product of public schools (like some other bloggers here) who managed to beat the system and odds and actually attend an Ivy League school, well... it does work for some of us. But for the 25% that drop out... well... you got a point there.

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  35. 10:32 - good observation but couple of points that come to mind right off the top:

    a. public school teachers are just that, public, and so cannot be fired at the whim of the principal. Some are tenured. So with that, can come a bad attitude too. (not all, just a few)

    b. private school teachers are just that - employees. Probably evaluated on how well they perform in all areas, of which "promoting enrollment" may be one. After all, again, students equal tuition, tuition equal paycheck. That sounds crude but well, thats the truth.

    c. private school teachers may actually have a bit more passion for what they do because maybe they are given more leeway in instruction, not bound by so many rules and bureacracy? maybe the best do teach for privates (ok, some bleeding heart ones will go work for public).

    d. Private schools in general, get to pick their students. When they get a bad apple, they can tossed the one out (unless the apple is attached to the founder of the school or family has made a huge endowment). In public school, the teacher is stuck with bad apple until, OMG, June!! Not of 2008, but 2009.

    But parents - we can definitely be more enthusiastic. But maybe some of us are just tired too... we like the school, our kids, the poorer kids, the richer kids. We like the system. And if anyone else out there wants to join us, great. I'm not interested in hustling my school so hard. Really. Again, if I talk to a parent and give them the pros and cons, and if they wish to join great. And if not, its a free country and good thing they will go to the private and keep the economy moving.

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  36. I understand where you're coming from. It's just disappointing. The tours have been disappointing. I wanted my husband to find some he love and was impressed with. That hasn't happened so far, for me either, and I'm the easy one.

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  37. I've NEVER heard a veteran parent who's a private school advocate claim that the teachers at private schools are better overall. For one thing, public-school teachers have to have credentials; private school teachers don't. Public schools offer tougher working conditions, but at K-8 level better pay, benefits and job security, so if you have one shred of belief in the free market, you can see that high-quality teachers would seek out those jobs. One friend who has sent her kids to both public and private says the private school teachers are overall more young and energetic and less experienced and skilled.

    Private school teachers' jobs are easier, however -- because the students are screened, and troublesome or high-need students can be kicked out.

    The mention of dropouts requires some parsing, too. Far fewer students drop out of U.S. schools today than at any time in history. Until not long ago, it was the norm for "underclass" and many/most working-class students to drop out to work. Finishing high school was for the elites. The graduation rate hit 50% only after WWII (source: Nicholas Lemann's book "The Big Test"). Nobody expected poor minority kids to finish high school, and nobody in power gave a crap. Obviously, it's good that the expectations have been raised, but it's also used as a bogus way for the anti-public-education right to beat up on schools.

    And comparisons to international schools? My Dutch friends tell me that in their country, where heavy tracking happens in schools, students on the vocational track are finished with school after the equivalent of our 10th grade, at age 15 or 16. They officially graduate at that point. We have no such mechanism, so how can you compare their "dropout" rate to ours?

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  38. As a parent who has refused to lead tours at our fabulous school this year I now know I made the right decision. I don't want any part of the tours, and am so grateful that we have some parents who are willing to put themselves out for the benefit of prospective parents. I remember how awful many of the parents were on the tours I took, being rude and demanding to the parent leading the tour, being dismissive and condescending and asking inconsiderate questions that only apply to their (always) gifted child. I have no interest in selling my school, or marketing it over other schools. If we have what you are looking for and want to come that's fantastic and if you don't then you shouldn't. Quite rightly "exciting" you is very far down our priority list. Good luck to everyone looking and also to those who are tour leading this year.

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  39. I honestly don't know what this "wow" factor is that some seem to be looking for. In my experience the education happens in the nitty-gritty of daily life in the classroom. In a teacher persisting with a child who frustrated with learning to read. In the same teacher quietly finding interesting books and assigning interesting projects to the child who is advanced in reading. In the field trips. In the ant farms and worm boxes that are lovingly nurtured. In the plans made by all the teachers at a grade level to share lesson plans so that science is taught by the one with the most expertise--but you might not see that in the homeroom--and so that the art project connects with the science project (sculptures of sea animals, for example). Stuff you wouldn't see.

    Teachers do not have time to communicate this to the hundreds of parents coming through. Communicating to high-strung parents is probably not a particular gift of most of them--they are drawn to working with younger children, or pre-teen children, and have a gift for that (thank goodness!--who has the gift for working with 20 rambunctious children all day long!).

    Public schools have made leaps forward in marketing, and this has mostly been led by parent activists with support from PPS. And good on 'em for doing that. But public school just doesn't run the same way as private. Give the schools more money for an outreach coordinator and I'm sure he/she could produce amazing brochures, lead tours with professionalism, and train the teachers to say the right things to the high-strung parents of all these no doubt above-average kids (with apologies to Garrison Keillor).

    In the meantime, I would strongly suggest that, once you have narrowed down your list of schools based on location, special programs offered, after school, and whatever else, then find parents who are already there (PPS has lists of parent ambassadors, and most schools have listserves) and try to have kitchen-table conversations (or on the phone, or meet up at a park) with those parents and ask about your concerns, if you have them, about whether the program or teaching is lackluster. Ask for real stories. What are the kids doing. What are their field trips. What are their special projects. That is real information. Much more interesting than anything you will hear on the tours, private or public.

    Caveat emptor! A tour is a sales job. Knowing this, you should see the tour as a chance to get a glimpse of the physical plant. Maybe meet the principal. Perhaps glean some information that will lead to more questions. The real scoop is to be found in deeper conversations.

    Signed: a very happy public school parent whose kids are thriving

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  40. This is all a bit disingenuous. We've been told on this blog for the past year and half. Tour the public schools and you'll see how much you'll love them, what they have to offer. They do compare favorably to private. And now, when some people are saying that after touring they haven't seen anything special yet you're getting all offended. Personally, I'd love to find some publics that seem more than adequate. I'm not high strung, but among other things I do want my kid challenged and excited about school and learning. So far, the privates have left me with a better impression, and it's not about the grounds or buildings or snooty backgrounds.

    Also, I'm not thrilled to think about joining a community where parents are all "well if you don't like it just go somewhere else". That seems really childish. I just want to find a good place for my kid. If I don't see anything particularly impressive about these schools when I visit, what is wrong with me trying to find out what makes the people there think it is special?

    Your attitude is a major turn off.

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  41. I was very involved with leading tours at my kids' elementary school for several years. When there was the occasional difficult parent, the tour guides would whisper under our breaths to each other, "Please choose a different school."

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  42. Oh, please do let us know which schools.

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  43. to the first 1:05 -- maybe the reason you are not seeing anything "special" at any of the publics that thrill you or your husband, is because, exactly that -- there isn't anything really "SPECIAL" about the publics. Just a bunch of schools with a bunch of parents helping out trying to make it a better place. With some dedicated teachers trying to figure out a way to make equity happen.

    The one that may be special could be Cobb with their Montessori focus. They have lots of money from the HP founders.

    There is really nothing very special about a public school, not in the way a private school may be "special". Private schools need to differentiate themselves, as I have said 3 times now, students = tuition, tuition = paychecks and staying in business.

    Not to say traditional public schools (charters may be more like the privates) should not strive to do their best, and provide education to ALL children -- not just the needy, not just special ed, but also the gifted, also that big middle bunch that just sort of gets lost.

    The one thing I'll give to private schools - they do not have a GOOFY BOARD OF ED, and they do not have a huge inefficient bureaucracy such as the SFUSD (by nature, gov't cannot be very efficient).

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  44. 1:09 - its at all schools! PLEEEASSE! If I have one obnoxious parent, believe me, I'll be thinking, what an a-- and please do not come here. We don't need you nor your demands nor your problems. We have enough children who are needy because they come from underprivileged circumstances!
    There's nothing wrong with asking questions. But its an attitude, and if you've experienced it, you know what I mean.

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  45. I don't think the attitude is meant to be childish as in, "you don't like it, go somewhere else." But as a parent at a school that is only moderately popular, I don't necessarily want my school to become a high demand school. We already have a pretty organized PTA and our fundraising capacity is growing. Those who have chosen the school thus far have been really interested in its programs, its principal and teachers, its philosophy, and its demographic, and considered its positives and negatives (all schools have them, obviously) very carefully -- they weren't responding to hype or a sales job. I would prefer to keep it that way.

    If we try to "sell" the school on the tours, we may end up with parents who chose it based on the sales job but are not all that happy there because it's not a great fit, and with parents who really did want our school and would love it there unable to get in. And the demographics may become less representative of the City, which for me (I know not for all) would be a bummer.

    I look at the tour as a way to give an honest peek at the school and what goes on in a typical day, not as a chance to "sell" the school to potential parents.

    Also I would not want our principal or the PTA or the teachers to put additional time or energy into the touring/marketing process. They all have too much to do already. And I'm someone who went on many, many tours when it was my turn, and am spending what time I can giving tours now.

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  46. I have never said that tours were the best way to learn about a school. Necessary, yes, in order to see the physical plant, but not sufficient. I think this is true for both private and public. Private, because they are definitely in marketing mode. Public, because they are not equipped to market well.

    What I said was--go ahead and tour, but also sit down with families for deeper conversation about the schools you are interested in. I don't see why this is an attitude or a turn-off; it seems like good advice to me. Buyer, beware the advertising.

    Also, I don't know if you are high-strung or not, but certainly there are some on every tour who dominate the questions, talk about their gifted children, and act offended when the volunteer parent tour leader doesn't know the answer. Maybe the word isn't high-strung, but entitled--again, I don't know if you are among these folks, but they show up on every tour. The thing is, the tour leaders are basically trained to give a quick tour of the facilities. They are not professional educators or marketers. The principal, if he/she can meet with prospective parents, obviously does have more information, but those conversations are short.

    No, there is nothing wrong at all with wanting to know what makes a school good, or even special (though I am personally puzzled by the desire for specialness--I just want good). I just don't think tours, with their dozens of parents being herded around, are the place to find out.

    Again, I think this is true for public and private both, though for different reasons. Easy to be taken in by the bells and whistles at private, easy to be turned off by the lack of a sell job at public. Best is to ask current members of the community about the dailyness, the nitty-gritty, of school life. I say that as someone who has been through tours for both elementary and middle schools, and has led a fair share of them too.

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  47. As a private school teacher, I just wanted to clarify a few points that have cropped up on this blog a number of times:

    1. All of the classroom teachers at my independent school are required to have a teaching credential as a minimum, but almost ALL have graduate degrees.

    2. Our salaries and benefits are quite high -- 5 years ago many private schools in the area increased salaries by as much as 30-40% in order to attract teachers by offering a living wage by Bay Area standards...our median salary is $80,000 and is similar to many of our peer schools in the area.

    3. In my experience the only time a child has been "kicked out" of any of the schools I've worked in has been when the parents were not adhering to the philosophy of the school. 2 examples include a parent who was overly aggressive repeatedly at his 4th grader's basketball game, and in another instance a parent had multiple occasions threatening teachers during carpool, conferences, etc. NEVER because of academic "deficiencies." We have MANY supports in place to help kids who are struggling academically or who are discovered to have a learning difference.

    3. Faculty are NEVER asked to market the school, implicitly or explicitly.

    4. Yes, the ability to teach curriculum the way we want to is one of the incredible draws of working at an Independent School, but we still have academic standards and a curriculum that we're expected to follow.

    5. We're certainly never going to be as diverse as a school in SFUSD, and our historical reputations as being not terribly diverse are earned, but come visit our schools and hear about what we're doing not only to attract a diverse array of students, but how we're "walking the walk" in our hiring, building inclusive parent communities, talking about difference in the classrooms, expanding our recruiting efforts for faculty and families, granting MANY dollars in tuition assistance, building thoughtful anti-bias curriculum, and doing soul-searching about the ways in which we can be doing a better job.

    I've taught at several Independent Schools, have many peers at others and I know that I'm speaking not only about my own school but many others as well. Hopefully this clears up some oft-repeated misconceptions.

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  48. To 10:38 and others that feel the same way he/she does...if a school is unimpressive or not up the the standards that you have set for your child, why should it be OK for any child? I am so tired of reading this anonymous rant blog and not point out that it is because of parents like you that are unwilling to put their heart and soul into a school (as well as their tax dollars) that have created the discrepancy between public and private (and parocial for that matter). I salute those parents that have worked tirelessly to fund-raise, volunteer and donate to these schools so that ALL children benefit...not just their own. Everything you put into a public school helps to benefit the entire community at that school. So, I agree with those that say, you don't like it - go somewhere else, continute the cycle that will only be a detrement to the public education in our city and see what type of wonderful community of adults is produced after every last dollar is stripped from public education!

    And lets call a spade a spade - there are 56% caucasian in the city and only 9% in SFUSD...so as equitable as any school feels it is - if all of the players have abandoned the game - it is unfair.

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  49. Some of the discrepancies would not be solved regardless of parental involvement.

    The mind-numbing worksheets, old fashioned round-robin reading, busywork homework starting in kinder -- none of these are considered best practices by education experts but are part of most SFUSD public schools.

    In many schools, teachers do not have the freedom to deviate from these practices to make the material interesting and engaging.

    No amount of PTA fundraising will change that.

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  50. Isn't this supposedly about choice? My choices are not yours. Yeah, I may think your school isn't good enough for my kid. Why didn't you apply to Malcolm X? There are kids there, too, who could benefit from new families willing to pitch in with the families already there and try and improve things for that school.

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  51. Everyone knows that touring schools is difficult and time consuming, esp when you must miss work. To help families through the grueling tour process, Miraloma is offering morning tours, evening tours, Saturday tours, and self-guided tours. If you go to the school website www.miralomasf.com and click on "Tours," you can view over a dozen video podcasts, depicting a day at the school. The podcasts were created by parents (for free, I might add) for the self-guided tours, but they are also a good way for anyone to learn about life in a San Francisco public school.

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  52. This is incredibly helpful. Thank you.

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  53. Just to take a super macro view -- what is really scary is that democracy will not, cannot succeed unless we have an educated population.

    Did any of you try to read through those pamphlets and the ridiculous number of propositions and what not for city and State?

    I'm not even talking about reading the actual text to see what the prop is REALLY about.

    Anyway, I thought if it takes me as long as I did (and I did go to college), imagine if one did not have a HS education? And its not like fun stuff, but as a citizen it is our duty etc etc etc.

    So regardless of how we educate as many kids as possible (without brainwashing!), we need to do it. Private, Independent, Charter, Public, Homeschool ...

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  54. I'm apologizing in advance for asking this question out of the line of thought here, but I have seen that Argonne is going to start a Russian immersion program next Fall. Does anyone know if the immersion program will only let in kindergarteners when it first starts, or will they take applicants for higher grades (like 4th and 2nd)? And if they take higher grades, will the kids have to have Russian under their belt or can they be newbies? Just wondering if anyone knows. I'm imagining parents at new immersion programs might know how SFUSD usually ramps up an immersion program at a school. Again, apologies for interrupting the train of thought here.

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  55. i don't know the minute details of charter schools, but if they are considered "public" schools with pedagogic freedom, why can't all public schools have that freedom? while still meeting baseline academic benchmarks that i'm assuming charters must also meet as a public school?

    wouldn't that eliminate charters from "diverting" public monies from districts (not claiming a fact here, just restating what's been posted before). at the same time, it would allow schools that are able to, to provide some of the bells and whistles that families are turning to private to find?

    just thinking out loud...

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  56. Dear "Russian/Argonne," Please post your question on the Immersion strand or contact EPC for those types of details. Do not hijack this blog with irrelvant questions.

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  57. I hope you're kidding. Never can tell around here.

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  58. 4:23 -- my understanding is that it is a Russian FLES program, similar to the Japanese program at JBBP or Clarendon.

    Generally with immersion- does not get tested for target language in K or 1 (for the non-target language speakers); come 2nd grade and above - if not a native Russian speaker (for example), will need to be tested for that level of competency.

    That would be fantastic if the Distict did open up the paradigm and try a Russian program! (maybe you can post question on the is immersion worth it blog for better response)

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  59. 3:58 PM - Unbelievable! The Miraloma podcasts are better than any piece of "marketing" that I have seen, public or private, bar none! If these videos don't make you fall in love with public education in SF, then nothing will. Really enjoyed the "Day in Kindergarten," "Garden," and "Upper Yard." Felt like I was there. What a wonderful school and engaged community. Thank you for sharing. Emily

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  60. Hi 3:28 (private-school teacher): It sounds like you're at a top-tier school with high standards.

    Private school teachers aren't REQUIRED BY LAW to have credentials, I should clarify. At the higher-tier schools, my understanding is that the school requires (or at least prefers) that they do. And similarly, the higher-tier schools pay competitive salaries. Not all private schools hire credentialed teachers, and not all provide pay/benefit packages that are competitive with public. One private school much discussed here has teachers who are independent contractors, not employees; they get no benefits and don't need credentials.

    With kids I know personally or know of who have been kicked out of private schools, it's almost always either for undeniably sound reasons (lawbreaking or genuine misbehavior -- groping a girl, in the case of one boy) -- or because they had a disability. I do know one 7th-grader who was kicked out of West Portal Lutheran apparently for being a slacker, including academically.

    While parents of special-education children will point out forcefully that public schools don't do everything they're supposed to, public schools can't kick kids out because they have disabilities. In the case of misbehavior and lawbreaking, the public school can kick the perps out, but they're still the school district's problem to cope with and deal with somehow. The public school system doesn't just wash its hands of the kid. So you can see that this all translates to the likelihood of fewer challenged, problem or high-need kids in the private-school classroom, which was my point.

    To the poster who asked about charter schools -- yes, that's what I've always said -- if the burdensome, bureaucratic regulations are so needless, they should be lifted for EVERY school. Two major categories are teacher union contracts (public schools have them, charter schools almost never do) and a set of laws to follow regarding special-education students. Despite the fact that a parent of a special-education student who posts here frequently is a vigorous advocate of charter schools, charter schools overall, nationwide, have an undeniable record of underserving special-education students. So, laws guaranteeing disabled students access and teachers' union contracts are two of the "burdensome bureaucratic regulations" from which charters are blissfully freed. You can see the issues.

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  61. there are 56% caucasian in the city and only 9% in SFUSD

    This is inaccurate; the school-age, white population in SF is 25%. The school-age, white population in the SFUSD is 9%.

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  62. 3:28 please name your school. I'd like to teach there too!

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  63. Thank you, private school teacher, for your observations. I agree that a lot of misinformation about private school practices gets repeated over and over again on this blog. We are a private school family, and at our school every teacher is credentialed at a minimum with most holding advanced degrees. No, we are not "top tier" as I understand it. I remember when the school started working seriously on teacher retention by raising salaries a few years ago (reflected in the tuition!) and my understanding was that most private schools in the area were doing the same at that time. They wanted to hold on to their talented teachers.

    I've always been impressed by how committed and enthusiastic our teachers are. There is a mix of experienced teachers who have been at the school for years, and newer, energetic younger hires. One of the reasons the teachers seem so engaged is that there is more freedom to design curriculum unencumbered by NCLB standards. The standards are set by the school, and curriculum is designed accordingly. But there is no teaching to the test or other mandates originating from outside the school to hamper a teacher's ability to be effective and engaging.

    This whole notion that private schools have uncredentialed teachers and that the career teachers always prefer public schools seems pretty misinformed. Maybe it was once that way, and maybe this still prevails more in parochial schools, but I don't think it reflects the reality today in SF privates. Many of the teachers at our school have taught at public schools, and have made a career choice to teach in privates for the reasons listed above.

    Also, one of my kids is not a high performer, and requires extra intervention and accommodation by the school. I have always found the school and her teachers to be very responsive to her extra needs and as committed to helping her to thrive as they are to my high achieving child. This whole idea that private schools can dump their lower performing or "disabled" students doesn't reflect the culture at our school or at other privates that I'm familiar with.

    Just because a school isn't legally beholden to some of the same standards as the publics (credentialed teachers, accommodating differences, etc.) doesn't mean that the schools don't apply their own similar standards.

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  64. <<< This whole idea that private schools can dump their lower performing or "disabled" students doesn't reflect the culture at our school or at other privates that I'm familiar with. >>>

    But it happens commonly. I know families it's happened to, and I'm sure other posters here do too. Don't forget that families who "leave" private schools don't always blab to the world about why they "left," either.

    That's two-edged -- of course it makes the private schools look less sensitive, but it also means they have fewer problems to cope with.
    It is what it is, but it's not inaccurate.

    I have no idea what percentage of private schools now hire only credentialed teachers and offer compensation packages competitive with public schools. I just know some that don't. It may be that the vast majority do.

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  65. Caroline, they don't "kick out" kids with disabilities. If a kid has a problem that the school does not have the resources to help with, it refers the kid to a school that does.

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  66. --But it happens commonly.--

    What I would object to is dispensing the idea that it "commonly" happens. I know several people who have left private school, too, but it is usually by mutual consent, when there is a mismatch between a school and a kid's learning style, for instance. Or someone gets lucky and lands a spot at a great public.

    I also know people who have pulled their kids from public schools because of disruptive kids whom the schools had to accommodate. Should I repeat these stories about public schools with the assertion that this is "common" or "usual"? I actually believe these are fairly isolated incidents, on both sides.

    Clearly we are weighing one value (accessible education for all) against another (optimizing the learning environment for one's child.) I don't think there is only one solution for balancing social responsibility with personal values. It's a complex equation, and most of us put a great deal of thought into it. So the lazy generalizations about private schools are often really grating.

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  67. I'm sure it depends on the school, 2:46. How do you define "kick out"? "We can't meet your child's needs..."

    In the two cases I am most familiar with, both families had to find their own specialty school. The private schools didn't do that legwork for them.

    I haven't even gone into the situations where the private school doesn't accept the student because of the disability to begin with -- this stands out when it's a younger sib.

    I'm sorry -- it's a perfectly legitimate practice; private schools will say they don't have the resources to meet disabled students' needs and blah-blah-blah -- but you just can't pretend that it doesn't happen.

    And by the way, I strongly disagree with this characterization:

    "The mind-numbing worksheets, old fashioned round-robin reading, busywork homework starting in kinder -- none of these are considered best practices by education experts but are part of most SFUSD public schools."

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  68. What is your actual point Caroline? Should a school not let a parent know that their kid is not flourishing in its environment, even as there are other environments better suited?

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  69. My comments are not lazy generalizations any more than yours are deliberate lies, 2:55. I assume that rather you are in denial about something you're uncomfortable with. It is simply the case that private schools remove -- by whatever euphemisms you want to use, including "mutual consent" because of a "mismatch" -- students who have disabilities they feel they can't or don't want to cope with. It's their prerogative; I don't see why you need to be so uncomfortable with it. Private-school parents and other insiders I've talked to about this are clear-eyed, open and forthright about this. It simply is; it's silly to even argue about it.

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  70. 3:10, I am RESPONDING to a post insisting that private schools don't get rid of/counsel out/remove/whatever-term-you-want kids with disabilities. My point is to correct misinformation that was given.

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  71. Can this silly discussion be over? 3:10 backs me up: Yes, private schools can and do "let a parent know that their kid is not flourishing in its environment, even as there are other environments better suited" -- which is, of course, the same thing as asking the family to find another school. And that's all I'm saying.

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  72. --I assume that rather you are in denial about something you're uncomfortable with.--

    Ooooh, ya got me! Am I really that transparent?

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  73. Caroline, it depends what the disability is, or how severe the disability is, and whether the school has the resources to deal with it. It is uncommon for a family to leave a private school against their will. Of course both they and the school ultimately want what is best for their child.

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  74. Caroline, are you saying that private schools do not have and do not take kids with disabilities? Because you would be wrong about that.

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  75. I'm not saying private schools never take kids with disabilities. And I'm not even the one who brought this up.

    Here's what I said in response to a self-identified private school teacher who said flatly that private schools do NOT kick kids out:

    <<< With kids I know personally or know of who have been kicked out of private schools, it's almost always either for undeniably sound reasons (lawbreaking or genuine misbehavior -- groping a girl, in the case of one boy) -- or because they had a disability. >>>

    I did not say private schools NEVER accept kids with disabilities, or that they ALWAYS kick out kids with disabilities. I said that it happens. That is true; even people who think they're arguing with me are backing me up.

    The term "kick out" sets folks aflame, and everyone would prefer pleasing euphemisms. The meaning is the same.

    NOW can this silly discussion be over?

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  76. "I did not say private schools NEVER accept kids with disabilities, or that they ALWAYS kick out kids with disabilities. I said that it happens."

    You said that it was common. And that is what many of the posters are disputing. It's about as common as parents yanking their kids out of public schools. Which is to say that it happens, but it is not common.

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  77. Between the posts under her name and the posts she makes under anonymous Caroline manages to hi-jack another thread. Moderator would you please block this person or at least limit their postings ? We all know Carolines two children are in high school, she champions public ed., dislikes private schools, despises charter schools and supports Jill Wynns. Oh, and she argues endlessly to the point of turning everyone off. Enough already!

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  78. Anyone here know anything about the proposed Waldorf charter school?

    I had heard it was going to be Spanish-immersion but that they scrapped that.

    Isn't there some rabid anti-Waldorf charter group in SF?

    This should be interesting...

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  79. --It is simply the case that private schools remove -- by whatever euphemisms you want to use, including "mutual consent" because of a "mismatch" -- students who have disabilities they feel they can't or don't want to cope with.--

    At our private, I know of a family who was sat down by the school and given the "perhaps this isn't the optimum environment for your child" talk. The parent responded by saying in effect "hell, no, we're not leaving." They are still at the school, 3 years later. Not sure it is in the best interest of the child, but it's also not true that the school could force them out.

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  80. Getting back on topic - I was at the BOE Forum the other night and nearly all the candidates said they were in agreement re neighborhood schools of some sort.

    So that is where the devil is the in the details.

    They all seem to be in agreement on the Same school Initiative, Omar I believe was the only one who touched on Charter Schools (but that does not mean the others were opposed).

    Most of the people in the room worked for the SFUSD so I'm not sure if they were pandering to the audience.

    I asked a question about the looming budget cuts but I guess because my question was sort of a 2 parter, they conveniently decided not to address the budget cuts.

    In retrospect, I wished I had preface my comment with "My hat goes off to each of you for even volunteering/applying for a position on the BOT at a time when the District will be facing so many problems. It is not a happy few years ahead, but one of tough tough choices.". Because it really is admirable anyone would want to be on board. Sort of like, who wants to be the PResident right now! Terrible headaches ahead.

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  81. I believe that teachers at both public and private schools often counsel parents privately (at student conferences or other meetings) that the school is "not a good fit" for their child. This doesn't mean that the school is kicking the child out in either case. But, the teacher is sharing her opinion that the school isn't working for whatever reason.

    So if a teacher shares that opinion with parents, does that mean the school is "kicking the kid out?" The teacher's opinion certainly carries a lot of weight regardless, and many parents change schools on the basis of such recommendations.

    I don't think the issue is that black-or-white than some posters are making it out (private schools kick kids out, public schools don't.) The unseen force is teachers who in both cases have a lot of freedom to counsel parents privately.

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  82. I'm not posting anonymously -- why would I, once I've been ill-advised enough to choose to post under my name?

    I blogged about the Waldorf charter and got lots of responses, including from the anti-Waldorf folks:

    http://tinyurl.com/5gbmep

    Yes, of course private schools can force students/families out. I'm sure nobody is under the impression that there's some law prohibiting that. How could private schools operate if a problem student/family could flat-out refuse to leave? By that token, they wouldn't be able to select their students either and you could just walk in and refuse to leave. Presumably, in the particular situation described, the school cut the family slack for whatever reason (persuasion, threats of some kind?).

    Yes, there are expulsions at public schools too, but there's a HUGE difference. If a private school expels/counsels out a student, it never has to set eyes on or give a thought to that student again. (This is true of charter schools too.) By contrast, if a public school expels/counsels out a student, the school district is still required by law to cope with the student in whatever way (another school, a continuation school, etc.). And of course if one school dumps problem students on other district schools, the principals are colleagues, the district is overseeing it all and dealing with the mess -- you see the issue. The situations are not comparable.

    In any case, again, this wasn't supposed to be a big debate about whether private schools can expel students, which of course they can and do. I was simply correcting misinformation claiming that they don't do that. If it's down to a quibble about whether it's "common" or not, which is undefinable and unknowable anyway, the point has been clarified. I said it was because I know personally and also know of quite a few kids who have been bounced out of private schools for one reason or another.

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  83. "I was simply correcting misinformation claiming that they don't do that."

    Nobody said they don't do that. Private teacher reported that in *his/her experience* it is very rare to be asked to leave, and never because of academic deficiencies. Others concurred that families rarely leave against their will.

    I think it is more misinformed to report it as though it is normal procedure when it is not.

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  84. The situations are not comparable.

    That's right; public school and private school are incomparable.

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  85. Caroline -- given your hard-line stance against private school, I would imagine your "friends" are not representative of the general population and that your anecdotal radar is skewed.

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  86. To live by the sword is to die by the sword. A school that benefits from governmental laws designed to protect the educational rights of all of its children is the same one that suffers from restrictive policies like NCLB. Caroline seems to believe that schools running without governmental intervention are nefarious and self serving, running without rules, policies, morals, or ethics.

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  87. "Presumably, in the particular situation described, the school cut the family slack for whatever reason (persuasion, threats of some kind?)."

    Uh, no. The mom is a friend of mine. There was no threat or persuasion, she just didn't follow the recommendation to find a different school. She wanted to stay, and so they did. The school didn't exert any additional pressure one way or the other.

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  88. She does seem to have an overactive imagination.

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  89. My stance is not hard-line against private school. Here it is:

    <<< Of course parents should choose private school if they feel that's the best thing for their kids. >>>

    http://tinyurl.com/65whzc

    But I think it's important that accurate information be presented to parents who are eager to learn about schools. Of course some private-school posters here fully agree with me, except that they prefer euphemisms for "kicking kids out."

    If the others don't know people that's happened to, you must associate with a better class of people than I do.

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  90. Well, 12:17, my friends apparently aren't representative of your social set. But as I admitted, you probably do associate with a better class of people.

    <<< I would imagine your "friends" are not representative >>>

    1:37, no, this isn't the case:

    <<< Caroline seems to believe that schools running without governmental intervention are nefarious and self serving, running without rules, policies, morals, or ethics.>>>

    I just know that private schools can and do kick kids out for a variety of reasons, and are well within their rights to do so. Your misinterpretation of my comments makes it look like you're the one with the overactive imagination, not me.

    What a silly, silly waste of time this discussion is. All I'm saying is: Give people the facts.

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  91. Does anyone else just tune out at this point and hear the "wawawawawawawa..." sounds like on the Peanuts cartoons when adults speak?

    Just me?

    I despise when a person can never ever ever concede a point. It really makes me lose all respect for their point of view (the ONLY true and correct POV). Watching this for over a year I've figured out who is really trying to help people gain some new insights and who is just shilling for their own personal ego trip.

    On another note, I went to a family open house at San Francisco Day School today. The crowd was very very diverse, much more so than the evening open house we attended there a couple of weeks ago. I saw pictures of one younger grade class that bore diversity out. It was packed, too.

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  92. Yes,there are a lot of people called anonymous just shilling for their ego and can't concede points.

    By the way, those of you opposed to Caroline, can you just call yourself Anti-Caroline 1, Anti-Caroline 2 (or if you are the same, just Anti Caroline with a big 1), so the rest of us can skip along. Because we know Caroline's views, and we know your views which are basically anti-Caroline, but its a drag to read through the snide comments (overactive imagination, that's a GOOD one! Psychotic would work too, much more concise)

    You know, just use a name so we can all just skip skip skip.

    For the rest of us who are not part of this ongoing saga and hostility...

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  93. 8;43 said:

    "For the rest of us who are not part of this ongoing saga and hostility"

    but you ARE part of this ongoing saga and hostility

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  94. No, though I like the sound of the name is Anonymous too.

    Just seems that on quite a few threads, there is the same dialogue that goes on - when Caroline posts, then someone or someones jumps all over what she says.

    I've learned a bit (pro and against school systems) but the snide remarks are over the top.

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  95. All I'm saying is: Give people the facts.

    That's what everyone is saying. It is not an anti-Caroline thing (though it is like as not to be her propagating falsities). It is about pointing out innuendo, hearsay without journalistic accountability, twisted truths, and paranoiac fantasies. Nothing personal though.

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  96. The term "kick out" sets folks aflame, and everyone would prefer pleasing euphemisms. The meaning is the same.

    "Kick out" is no more a euphemism for being told that your child needs a specialized learning environment than the N-word is for being black. The meaning is NOT the same. You use inflammatory language and seem surprised when people react.

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  97. Just had brunch with a friend whose son is an 8th grader at Rooftop. She told me about a couple of her son's former classmates who were kicked out, er, counseled to find a different school when they were all in 6th grade. It was thought that these 2 kids were going to find it too difficult to keep up with the pace of 7th and 8th grade at Rooftop. The families left for other schools. So apparently this phenomenon is not specific to private school.

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  98. If a school was truly not a good fit for your child academically or otherwise, wouldn't you a) want to know that and b) want to find one that was? I would welcome the opinions of educators if they thought my child was in the wrong school and could give me specific examples about why they thought that and where they thought we might find a better fit.

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  99. Just to second what 2:53 said… It’s true that the district (as a whole) is required to enroll (and attempt to educate) all who apply, but that is not the case for individual public schools. (And I am not talking about the lottery…) When my adult daughter was still in school, most SFUSD schools were not (wheelchair) accessible to her. Even the schools she was allowed to attend were not fully accessible. (She had to be carried up to the third floor at Giannini for student council meetings.) The schools have gradually become more accessible (our family/our daughter, for example, advocated to get the entrance ramp at Lowell, in addition to a couple of other access upgrades)… and great progress has recently been made after a lawsuit (finally) forced the district to comply with long standing state and federal law.

    But still, today… it is not the case that a child with any disability is welcome at every public school. There are different programs and different resources, depending on the school… like a special day class for kids with autism at one school, a program for deaf and hearing impaired students at another, a school with a physical therapy unit onsite… etc.

    When I was doing some programs at a public middle school last fall, I met a sweet 6th grader who was lively and personable, but definitely had some “issues.” Later in the school year, I was surprised to encounter her again, at a different SF middle school, across town from the first one. I subsequently discovered she had been moved (“kicked out”)… and was not at all happy about it(!)… because the first school didn’t have the ED (emotional disabilities) support she needed. So… individual public schools do “kick out” (or don’t enroll) kids they don’t have the resources to serve. Obviously, private schools don’t usually have the ability to send a kid to another school with different resources in their “district” (since they don’t have a district).

    At our private school (attended by my younger kids), we have two learning specialists and a psychologist, and the student body definitely includes kids with mild learning difficulties and ADHD… though probably nothing too much beyond that (I’m just guessing). But this is a language immersion school… and I imagine that the situation is similar to that of AFY, the only school in the district (as far as I know) that has only immersion (no GE) classes. AFY’s school profile (on the SFUSD website) lists only 3.1% of students receiving Special Ed services last year, while the district average was 10.2%. That would lead me to suspect that kids with significant needs probably get “kicked out” (or are not admitted… or are not “steered” there… in the first place). That is not really surprising, since if a kid has (for example) a learning disability that affects reading (in English) in a significant way, then it might not seem the best choice to spend half the school day (or more) in a non-English language.

    And of course, public school parents who find their disabled kids’ needs are not being adequately addressed sometimes turn to the private schools that have been created to address specific special needs.

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  100. Thank you for adding your perspective to the mix!

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  101. I recall a long conversation with several parents at Camp Mather a year or two ago, who had a long list of complaints about Alice Fong Yu. Apparently, it is famous for 'counseling out' children with learning differences. My daughter's friend left there for another GE school while in 3rd grade -they told her she had a learning disability. Turns out, she's fine in her new school. According to several parents I know, AFY really borders on illegal activity!

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  102. 9:58 - how is this any different than a private school counseling out students with difficulty?

    I'm with 3:09pm.

    Anyway, from an overall perspective, it makes sense that the District should pool resources, and for instance, set up a Special Day Autism program at one school and not have onsite programs at every school (just using Autism as an example, substitute with any other name).

    And if kids are having a hard time keeping up, aka the Rooftop example, again, I'm with 3:09. The parents may think the program is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if the child is struggling, wouldn't it make sense to find a better fit. Now if the school is just trying to get rid of the kid because they don't like the nosy, troublesome parents... that's another issue.

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  103. ==how is this any different than a private school counseling out students with difficulty?==

    I think that's the point. Public schools "kick out" students for the same reasons that private schools do.

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  104. I would like to see a separate thread for discussion of whether and how credentials make teachers better and hope teachers will chime in. Also, are there certain subjects and age levels at which it matters more? I had a friend, a capital defense lawyer, who decided it would be more useful if he could reach kids before they entered the criminal justice system and ended up on death row. He had honors degrees in history from Berkeley and law from Stanford, but dutifully went to SF State to get a teaching credential. As he was going through his credential process, I asked if he thought he was learning anything that would help him be a better teacher. He said nobody had ever asked him that, considered it for a few minutes, and answered, "No, I don't think so." I would like to see more perspectives on this.

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  105. Isn't the credentialling (sp?) the whole issue that came up around home schooling?

    I do think for anyone teaching, it would important for them to learn teaching strategies, recognizing learning disabilities, among other areas.

    Being a great teacher I think it is a talent and actually, a quality/ability with which one is born. Like Musical talent, etc. (Patience is a big factor that comes to mind - to some degree you either have it or you don't!).

    At the same time, some type of training is important.

    The flip side of all of this are the college professors/faculty that are basically anointed - because of their smart brains or research and told they have to teach a class. Some of them have ZERO talent for imparting what knowledge they have, and some resent having to teach. Anyway, thats OT.

    Yes, I'd like to hear from teachers and educators what credentialling means to them, the educational system, etc.

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  106. My gut feeling is that credentials are important in the younger grades and when teaching kids with learning issues. In places like Lowell I would think knowing your subject well would be critical. I went to a rural school with science teachers who had gotten business degrees in college and later became credentialed teachers. Needless to say they were pretty much reading the lessons out of the book and ruined subjects that should have been really interesting.

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  107. I wanted to respond to Caroline's first post in this blog about parents who tried to follow the statistical probabilities, aim for a "second-tier" school, and then go to it, with the knowledge that that school was merely minimally acceptable. We did that. I came up with a list of schools ordered by my "true" preferences, then looked at the statistics from the previous year, and only put down in my first three choices minimally acceptable schools. We got our third choice. And that's the school we've been in for four years now, despite going through the waiting lists that first year and trying every year to transfer. Contrary to the experiences of some other second-tier schools, our school has not taken off: our first year a new principal took over who is tone deaf in how to motivate parents; the PTA has been plagued by self-inflicted wounds (still no phone tree!); the afterschool program is an embarassment; and the student body's diversity is not improving. And, contrary to Caroline's views that "kids are moving in and out of schools all the time," we have found it impossible to transfer. So the answer is: no we are not loving it. Rather, we've just learned to cope with it, and hope that somehow more parents come to the school to start turning it around (or, more importantly, that the principal leaves).

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  108. 4:27

    Is your school on the "radar" as a potential up and comer?

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  109. back to BOE meeting topic: did anyone mention the assignment software? It is my understanding that the software is old and prone to glitches. Even though the entire assignment system won't be revamped until 2010/2011, the EPC could have an expert check the code to insure that the software actually does what it claims to do appropriately. Anecdotals tales on this blog suggest major flaws in this old software, which was probably written without the benefit of newer algorithms. Also, if the new enrollment forms are going to have a place to indicate "twins," then the software needs to be updated to accept this coding and then use it appropriately.

    I would love to hear what EPC is considering relative to this outmoded software, if BOE has suggested any quick fixes for 2009, i.e., not changing the process but insuring the the process is occurring correctly with solid software package?

    Anyone out there with expertise or opinions in this area?

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  110. Frankly, claiming it was a programming problem sounded like a smokescreen to me. The problem was probably human error in data entry or something of that nature. And no system of checks and balances.

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  111. In most cities you are assigned to your neighborhood school. Therefore, you choose what school you want to go to, based on where you choose to live. But remember, unless the district is well integrated, your child will very likely be bussed, or other children bussed to his/her school.

    So neighborhood schools can often equated with bussing.

    In San Francisco, the approach to creating integrated schools is to allow for school choice. Unfortunately, this is not working very well because lower income families are not choosing to send their children to the better schools in the district, but instead are choosing their neighborhood school.

    The more successfully integrated schools in the district offer language programs that are located in lower income neighborhoods. Hence, middle class families choose to send their children to these schools for the benefits of language acquisition.

    The BOE has the difficult task of trying to keep families happy, enrolled in public education and keeping schools integrated. They have to achieve all of this without the asking about a family’s finances or race/ethnicity.

    I think that we will see more and more schools with a specialized focus (e.g., language, fine arts, performing arts, leadership, science) being created in lower income neighborhoods. This would be a much better approach than changing to a neighborhood school model.

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