Monday, October 13, 2008

Hot topic: enrichment

A topic suggestion from an SF K Files visitor:

"What bells & whistles does your school offer? How often? How are they funded?

I'm trying to get at any real or perceived differences between the big PTA-funded trophies, the government-funded programs offered to struggling schools get, and anything else out there. I suspect there's a lot of myth. it took me months to figure out that some stuff some schools brag about is offered at every school, or most." —Kim

25 comments:

  1. Exact amount varies from year to year and among grades due to space and scheduling constraints. Our son gets PE/Gymnastics five days a week, twice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Studio art 3 days a week. (For some reason we have more PE and less studio art than we did last year.) Choral music 5 days a week. Dance 2 days a week. The children put on 3 musical theater performances and two choral performances per year with all kids, K-8, participating. Academics include 45 minutes each of math, phonics + spelling + handwriting, and reading 5 days a week, and 45 minutes of science and social studies-civility alternating and I can't remember which of those is 3 days a week and which is 2 days a week. Class size appears to have increased slightly over last year with 14 to 18 kids per class (my best count at line-up), and a teacher and an assistant in each class. Both academics and performing arts are included in tuition. Parents are encouraged but not required to buy DVDs of the children's performances to help defray production costs. A small volunteer parent committee does some very low-key fundraising, proceeds of which are generally spent on upgrading equipment. The school does not have foreign language or computer instruction and the younger kids don't get out on field trips. This thread is about enrichment offered so I'll stick to that and not get into critiques of the school, which have been discussed extensively elsewhere.

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  2. my daughter is attending clarendon jbbp as a kinder this year. her weekly enrichment looks something like this:

    monday - motion arts (indoors)
    tuesday - PE (outdoors)
    weds - computer lab
    weds - visual arts
    thurs - library
    other day - a usensai (sp?) who reads to them weekly in japanese
    + daily japanese in the form of songs, writing and cultural exposure.

    all of the above have a "special" person who teaches them. i am not 100% sure of funding, but i think most come from PTA funds with a little prop H thrown in.

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  3. Kim, How much science instruction do the Clarendon JBBP kids get?

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  4. hmm. er...never thought to ask. isn't that weird? (am projecting my own complete disinterest in all things mathematical and scientific here.) how about this: i'll ask her teacher and some parents of older children i know this week and post the answer.

    it is also possible that i am so scientifically challenged that i haven't recognized actual science when i've seen it taught.

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  5. Heh. No problem. Thanks, Kim.

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  6. following up on science at clarendon jbbp (i'm impressed with the initiative these teachers have shown in using the materials available to them):

    from a parent of older children there:

    "Science is still definitely in the curriculum - and in fact the teachers seemed excited that we have better text books / support materials now. In K the kids do things about nature as I recall - label parts of plants and visit botanical garden etc. In 1st grade my son has already learned about cloud types and weather and they have their science journal that they have started and they documented the weather on a couple of their field trips. In the first couple of "centers" they have had a science station (I got to make parachutes with them! air pushing up...) and that was definitely from the new curriculum - I could tell from the hand out. I know there is a huge study of oceans and ocean animals in 1st grade too culminating in a field trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium (as well as Academy of Sciences and Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 field trips) and an "oceans day" where they share some of what they learned with the parents. Ms Hirose in 2nd grade does a ton of professional development - much of it science related and brings back all she learns to the kids - she got a kit from Academy of Science that had owl pellets and all needed for dissection - in 2nd grade they did a big unit on birds. She checked out a ton of library books for them to use in their bird report research. She also did some great science related field trips including an overnight at Fort Funston that included walks and exploration of the natural environment with their naturalists (I learned what hemlock looked like, what miner's lettuce tastes like, how to identify Australian tea trees and use their leaves to make high in vitamin "c" "tea"). 3rd grade so far is including weekly science experiments "is it alive" has been their first unit - my son was pretty convinced they were dealing with "yeast" - they fed it all sorts of things and compared how big the balloons got on the tops of the bottles. I believe they have four major science units and they are going to rotate between teachers - each teachers specializes in one area/unit that they are most passionate about. So the earlier years get them understanding investigative processes and bigger "natural" science fields and in later elementary they get a bit more specific about different things (I think magnetism, electricity etc although my kids aren't there yet!). I think sometimes parents don't even realize their kids are doing "science" since they don't see anything they think of as the science they knew in high school and college - but elementary school science isn't like that!. My sons are both excited about what they learn and it is one of the few things they come home and share. I got a full (excited) 15 minute monologue about the yeast exeriments one day. Science is alive and well in JBBP!"

    and this from a kinder teacher:

    "San Francisco Unified School District has adopted, but I don't believe has mandated, FOSS curriculum for science. Each grade level has 3 themes to cover. The school district has only used this curriculum for a year, and teachers are still trying to regain the consumables from last year.
    As for our class, I have not had a chance to look at the curriculum material, only because there are only 2 sets that need to be shared among the 5 K teachers. It has been difficult to fit science in lately, however, many science experiences have come through the other curriculum. Like the apple projects, and farm projects."

    my takeaway? these industrious and creative teachers are doing A LOT with the resources they have -- and it even sounds interesting to a sciencephobe like me!

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  7. To add to the discussion which I thought was about enrichment, at my kid's not-quite-first tier elementary school, they get PE once a week (paid by PTA funds), a combo computer/library class once a week (also PTA), and then there is a Prop H class that usually runs for a good chunk of the year (but not the entire year) where the kids do dance. The dance component usually leads to a performance at the end of the year. Finally, in 4th and 5th grades, there is a once a week music class. Regarding afterschool enrichment: the state-funded Excel program has "clubs" where the kids do art and cooking and stuff like that. The paid afterschool program does nothing. There is an afterschool "academic chess" and piano program that you can pay extra for that is usually offered. Not to be mean, but these final two are of somewhat questionable quality (in the piano class, there is ONE piano and the kids literally line up to get turns banging out keys on it!) So that's it for a not-quite-first-tier elementary public school!

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  8. That sounds pretty bleak. What school is it?

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  9. My child's elementary is a "hidden gem" that is growing in enrollment(and PTA money).

    My kinder kid gets:

    another language (immersion)
    library once a week
    acrosports once a week
    music class once a week
    visual arts once a week (but he seems to make an art project daily)
    4th and 5th get instrumental music

    We are working on a gardening program.

    These activities are very important to my son, and I wish there were more of them...but by far his favorite enrichment activity is his time with the third grade "buddy class."

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  10. Our daughters are at one of the less popular Spanish Immersion schools. We are utterly shocked and bereft at the virtual total absence of enrichment (other than the very true and total "immersion" in Spanish. Since school began they have not done ONE art or creative project, not ONE. They have "PE" for 20" once a week and it is NOT vigorous; computer once a week for 30"; library once a week for 30" w/no check out privileges AND THAT IS IT FOLKS. No music, dance, no ART (none whatsoever). NO field trips! NONE! So our question is: is Immersion worth the cost of everything else?

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  11. To Marlowe's Mom: will you tell us what school this is - private? I sure hope so!

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  12. 11:10 - i think everybody here understands and appreciates people's desire to be discreet when they offer critique of a school's performance or qualities. that said, we're applying again to spanish immersion programs as 1st grade applicants, and i would greatly appreciate knowing what school you're talking about (i.e., which school you're at which you find lacking in enrichment). more important, i'd like to know your theories WHY (lack of parent fundraising, state funding, misspent monies, etc.). maybe it's fixable, with enough involvement?

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  13. Discreet doesn't help anyone make decisions. If people really want parents to choose public over private they need to use school names.

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  14. Anon at 11:10, which school? Every SFUSD school is supposed to have Prop. H money for arts programs. And every school has a district-provided music program in grades 4-5, as discussed on other threads.

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  15. There are reasons people who are critical of the schools where their children attend don't want to name the school -- I would think in part they are concerned that other parents, teachers, etc. will know they are not happy and are "bad-mouthing" the school. So let's give them a break for not naming names. Especially in this case -- unlike some other issues (e.g. bullying), it should be pretty obvious from a tour whether a school has PE, art, after school care, outside time, etc., if you ask the right questions. And PPS can connect you with "parent ambassadors" at most schools who can also fill you in on this kind of information.

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  16. How does one find out about what "bells & whistles" are supposed to be standard across all the schools? Someone mentioned Prop H money....how is that being used in the schools, at what grades? what about regulations re: quantity of outdoor/recess time, or existense of separate/protected play area for kinders?

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  17. PLEASE name your schools!! You are posting anon for crying out loud.

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  18. Question for Kim Green: I was not sure if you have already told in the different thread, but can you tell me why you are seeking to change from Clarendon to SI school? I guess Clarendon was not your first choice then? I am torn between Clarendon vs. SI schools--one reason is because of the lack of enrichment programs at some schools.

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  19. Our school is Adda Clevenger, a private K-8 school; I did mention tuition in my earlier post. The school day is 8 hours long. According to my count, which recognizes Adda's extended Thanksgiving, winter, and spring breaks and 4-day holiday weekends, it offers five to seven more weeks of instruction per year than most other schools. The extended schedule allows them to offer a lot of extras and get the academics in. It's a specialty school. The kids don't dabble, they really learn to sing and dance. Not every family wants that type of curriculum, and the demanding schedule is not a good fit for every child.

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  20. 2:40: clarendon jbbp is a great program at a great school with lots of likeminded san franciscans, and it is tempting to stay -- but we never applied to the school (either program) through normal channels. we were part of a group of 23 families at flynn (8 of us) and alvarado who were kicked out by SFUSD a few weeks before school started because EPC made a data entry error and overenrolled english speakers in all the spanish dual immersion programs except for revere and marshall. they had to try to place us in a handful of schools at the 11th hour (that included overenrolling popular schools by a kid or two to try to take the edge of our parental rage ;- ) .)

    since both immersion and accessibility/neighborhood were (are) very important to us, we'll likely try again for them next year.

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  21. To those posters who want us to name the schools we are having problems with. OK, I'll admit it. I'm not mentioning the name because I still hold out the hope that somehow enough of you totally together parents will show up at the school and somehow get the school to improve. If I name it, you'll cross it off your list and there will be absolutely no hope of ever getting this place to turn around. Of course, I've had this hope for four years running now and am getting a little tired waiting. And I know that turning the school around will require more than just a few new people showing up -- it would require the school to become more diverse and also, ahem, the principal to leave. You all will no doubt condemn me, but at least I don't mislead and/or fail to disclose things when I'm talking about the school to prospective parents -- and there are some who do that.

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  22. To 9:47pm, THANK YOU! Everyone please read his/her post. This is WHY I post anonymously as well. The school year is young and things may change (I hope they do). Meanwhile, I want to be able to use and participate in this forum w/out outing my kids' school. And to 10:27am yesterday, No! it is not so easy to simply get info on a tour even if you ask the "right" questions. For one thing, misinformation is rampant. And you tour in the year before your child attends. MUCH can change. The principal for example -which can have a huge impact. Or maybe the nice enrichment programs you saw on tour are no longer there b/c the only parent supporting them has left. Or the money dries up, or the only motivated teacher transfers. All of these things and more can result in your child entering a different school than you saw on tour.

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  23. You're right. That does pretty much suck. Really says a whole lot for a school that you have to sucker people into it.

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  24. I am Anon poster re: less-popular Span Imm school. As I dig deeper trying to find out about enrichment, I am learning that there MAY be some (vague rumors of a dance thing), but I can't seem to get anyone to be explicit or concrete about "what" this means. Why is it so mysterious, nebulous? Why can't I easily find out where our school's Prop H arts fund have gone? Who should I address such inquiries to, anyway?

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  25. Your principal will definitely know, and if your principal isn't approachable, the site council president.

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