Reviewed by Wendy
You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with: an emphasis on arts education, including music, dance, visual arts and theater; you like the idea of a small public school with a nurturing, intimate environment; you are flexible on location; you value diversity in the student body; you are interested in an alternative to the SFUSD curriculum; you need an after-school program until 6:00 p.m. (for a fee); and an 8:30 a.m. start time will work for you.
Web site: www.creativeartscharter.org
School tours: Open Houses can be scheduled through the Web site.
Location: 1601 Turk St., between Scott St. and Pierce, Western Addition
Start time: 8:30 a.m.
Kindergarten size: 20 students, one class; they are considering whether to add another kindergarten class for next year.
Playground: The school is moving, so the current playground isn’t pertinent.
Library: We did not get to go in, but we looked at the library through the window. It looks like fairly spacious library, with a respectable collection of books. There is a librarian there 2 full days per week.
Before- and after-school program: After-school care (fee-based) available until 6:00 p.m.; after-school clubs are available as well (language clubs, yoga, chess, arts & crafts, and play (theater)).
Language: The school offers clubs after school, including Mandarin and Spanish.
Highlights: The teachers seem truly great, and interact with the kids in a positive, upbeat way. The teachers are making space for a very diverse array of abilities by making the most of their open-ended, project-based curriculum. The kindergarten teacher is truly inspired. Two four-year-old girls on our tour became completely engaged in what he was doing with his class, and their parents had to pull them away when the time came. The arts emphasis brings the school to life. Three hours per week for every child are dedicated to arts instruction, in visual arts, dance, music or theater. There is a very charismatic full-time music teacher and a well-stocked music room full of high-quality instruments.
School community: This is a beautifully diverse school. The school uses the responsive classroom approach to creating community and fostering positive interactions between students. Parents are expected to volunteer 40 hours per year.
Facility: The school will be moving before the next school year begins, and the school does not know where the new building will be. So, an evaluation of the current building would not be relevant. However, the teachers have made tremendous efforts in the current facility to set up and decorate their rooms well. The kindergarten teacher had set up a painting area, a dress-up area, a reading area with books, an area for studying plants (a current theme of study), and a “loft” in the center of the room, where kids can climb up and read on a platform covered with blankets and pillows. The third grade teacher had also done a nice job with her room, decorating it with the kids work and instructional posters. It was a cheerful and tidy room, with a couch for reading (I presume). She also had some grapes and carrots in the room for snacks. All of the teachers had clearly made efforts to decorate their rooms.
Academics: The school emphasizes arts education, and studies subjects using a project-based, “integrated” approach. Arts are integrated into the classroom as an additional way for students to access and learn the material. The curriculum is open-ended enough that the teachers can extend class subjects for more sophisticated work with talented students. The director of the school stated that if a child does not know how to read by the 2nd grade, the school has failed that child. Further, if a child does not know his or her times tables by the 3rd or 4th grade, the school has failed that child, and the child will struggle with tasks waiting for him or her in the upper grades.
Teaching: From what I saw, the teachers are talented, upbeat, energetic and committed to their work. For example, we entered the kindergarten during circle time. Each child had a chance to say something to the group. While the teacher was explaining the schedule for the day, one student began to be disruptive, while all of the other kids were eagerly answering questions. The teacher simply put an arm around the child’s shoulders and kept the child near him. This was positive, not punitive, and it completely resolved the problem without disrupting the flow of circle time. It allowed the child to regroup and focus on the discussion as well. Another example I saw on my tour was the third grade teacher, who had a fully engaged and participatory class. They discussed colors, multiplication and counting by 5’s. She was upbeat and fully in tune with her kids. Overall, I think the quality of teaching here is very good, and the parents I’ve spoken to are very happy with their school and the education their kids get here.