Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hot topic: Is immersion worth it?

An SF K Files visitor suggested the following topic:

"I really want to hear from those who chose language immersion like we did. I know it is early in the year, but is IT WORTH IT SO FAR? I was totally committed to immersion and even bullied my spouse into letting me put immersion higher than any other desired feature. While our girls are certainly learning Spanish fast and well, the price is very high. We sacrificed art, music, PE, all enrichment, nice physical space, outdoor time, safety , etc etc. And we have greatly complicated our lives as the school has no before or after care. I want to know if other folks w/kids in Immersion feel it's worth the price?"


  1. It is a lot easier to provide enrichment outside of school -- art, music, dance, sports -- than to provide enough language instruction afterschool to make a child completely bilingual.

  2. Interesting. What school is this?

  3. I guess it depends on the school. We were lucky enough to get a place at our top choice immersion school and I don't feel like we have compromised any of the factors you have listed, so obviously, as we get immersion on top of everything else, it's a no brainer.
    However, would I be so happy if my kid was not getting art, sport, gardening, library time, dancing and a lovely bright, cheerful classroom? It is hard to say. If I'm honest I could have been you. Immersion was a very high priority. Unlike my spouse, I would have sacrificed everything on your list except for safety when I drew up our list of 7.
    Safety was not something I was willing to compromise on which is why I only had 6 immersion schools on my list (I did not find 7 that I felt were safe enough). I don't think anything would be worth worrying about my kids being safe. HOWEVER, now I'm at this side of the process I'm not so sure that my priorities were right. Having my kid happy and excited about school is wonderful and I don't think he would be so content if he was not getting at least some of these "extra's".
    I'm so sorry you are in this position. Some of the things you have listed (art, music, outdoor time etc) would be incredibly easy to introduce into the school day whatever the curriculum. Even a tiny group of volunteers, can bring a great deal of enrichment (if the school is willing).

  4. Why is the school not able to offer Art, PE etc? There are funds available and some of these programs are available at very low cost through grants, etc, esp if school is low income school.

    If school is of middle class and above economically, then doesn't it have a PTA that generally helps fund these type of programs?

    What is the Principal's take on this? The immersion and these other activities are not mutually exclusive.

    Curious - what school? I can't think of any immersion school that does not have at least one of these activities. So, yes, please tell since you have brought up the issue.

  5. Name names,folks. You are anonymous and those of us going through enrollment this year could benefit from your wisdom and experience.

  6. I went to an immersion school in San Francisco (Buena Vista). I'm now in my mid-20s, and I think it was absolutely worth it. My Spanish is a little rusty these days (I was bilingual when I was still using the language daily, which I did through most of high school), but I can still have a conversation with someone who doesn't speak English, I still speak without an American accent, and I'm confident my Spanish would be very strong if I immersed myself in the language again, even for a few weeks (which I'm hoping to do this summer, after I finish grad school).

    While language acquisition is obviously a key outcome of a bilingual program, I benefited from immersion in many other ways. In learning a second language, and particularly in being heavily exposed to Latin American history and cultures, I learned from a very young age that there are many perspectives out there in the world, and that I should consider other people’s vantage points. I actually wrote about this benefit of the immersion experience in both my college and business school application essays, as well as a midterm essay for my leadership class last week in which we were asked to talk about the key experiences that had made us the people we are today – and for me, going to an immersion school was definitely that important to my development. I think it is a big part of what has given me (I hope) the sort of global perspective and flexibility that schools and companies value so much in today’s world.

    The reason I found this blog (I’m 10 years away from having a kindergartener!) was because I googled Buena Vista and found the review on this website. I still feel connected to the school and like to keep up with it. I feel incredibly grateful that it gave me the opportunity to broaden my perspective – both because that’s a wonderful ends for its own sake, and because it’s opened the door to many other opportunities for which the world view I built at Buena Vista is valued.

  7. did you know there were none of these programs when you chose the school? are you sure your child just isn't telling you about the art/p.e./music/library??
    this sounds like less enrichment than any sfusd school.

  8. We are so delighted with immersion and it's working out well for our daughter. Her school does have PE (all SFUSD schools do, don't they), art, and a fabulous after-care program. And our daughter is picking up the language and enjoying it.

    The only time I've seen a downside was during the first few weeks of school. A lot of the kids were struggling socially. Lots of people were saying, "I don't want to play with you" at recess. And in an immersion classroom where the teacher doesn't speak any English it's difficult for the teacher to talk to the kids deeply about social issues. I ended up talking to the woman who teaches the after-care class and she's planning to focus on "friendship" for a week. You just have to get creative.

  9. Use school names. Otherwise, the comments are not helpful.

  10. we are at daniel webster. (i am not the one who posted above). we have immersion at the expense of a very new school with very little parental involvement and very few bells and whistles.

    we have PE twice a week, dance once and computers once. the computer lab and library could use an overhaul. art is only done by the classroom teachers (PTA is just starting and would need to raise funds) as is much (until 4th grade).

    i am torn myself about what i am giving up. my son loves the spanish though and is veryahppy at school. we drove by grattan the other day and he said "is that a school? an elementary school?" and i said yes, just like yours. he said "no, it's not just like ours. it has stuff." he was talking about the garden outside and the art in the windows.

    would i trade spanish for grattan's garden? probably not. but daniel webster will soon add the bells and whistles and it will be the best of both worlds. just takes time and it is a sacrifice to be the forerunners.

  11. is music...

    mistake in my post. sorry.

  12. Anon@6.14am - Thank you so very much for your thoughtful and fascinating perspective. My daughter just started kinder at Monroe, and the experience you describe is very much the one her father and I hope she will gain from Spanish immersion. I'm so glad you dropped by this blog!

  13. 10:03 Am at DW -- offtopic but can you tell us what the classroom balance is for Spanish native/ to Spanish non-native speaker? (both classes) Approximate is ok

    The issue came up at another forum and original poster never responded.


  14. Even at some of the "fancy" private schools, kindergarteners do their artwork within the classroom, with their own teacher.

    That is not unusual at all... You don't really *need* an art specialist to do kinder art...

  15. I am little puzzled as to why people always say "all public school in SF have XXX, don't they"? No, they don't. My kids' school has "PE" for about 20" once a week - does this constitute the std PE? And yes, there is NO art (not even in the classroom), NO dance/movement. NO garden or gardening. Not even a separate yard for kinder (which I thought was required!). (Well, there is a yard but for some reason it is locked and unused). And to Oct 20 at 7:12am, when I chose the school I was told the school DID have all of the usual stuff. I did not think to ask if they use the kinder play-yard (WHY on earth would they not?) or if there are any field trips (there is only one, on foot). These things did not occur to me. I also was not told that the after-care would not be open to my kids until after school started in Aug. To Oct 19th 8:32pm, yes I agree. What I did not realize was how tedious and strenuous a 6 hour day is for a 5 year old when the entire day (minus 30" or so) is spent in a chair doing drills, with no art/music etc to break the monotony. And to 10/19 at 10pm, yes you would think this would be easy, however it does require that teachers and principal be receptive or interested.

  16. I hope it all gets better for you and your kid. *hugs*

  17. It is interesting that the enrichment discussion has switched from the blog about enrichment over to this one. I guess the reason is that the initial commenter is mostly complaining about the lack of enrichment. I've got nothing to say about immersion, but I did want to add my two cents about the lack of enrichment. I have been conflicted about the fact that my kids go to a school that does not offer a lot of enrichment. We've tried, without success, to make the paid afterschool program do more stuff. We go religiously to PTA meetings which just never seem able to get off the ground. And we've tried without success to transfer to something better for three years running now. At this point, we've kind of given up. Our kids have made strong friendships with kids at the school. They love their teachers. Truth be told, they even love the pathetically unstructured paid afterschool program. Prop. H too has made a bit of a difference -- there's always at least one dance class a week for most of the year. But there's no hiding the fact that, for most of the second-tier elementaries, sparse enrichment is what you are looking at. I'd rather that people go into this with their eyes open, than blindly assume that struggling schools can just turn around in the blink of an eye.

  18. 3:25 pm -- So is the school on topic here Marshall? This would be useful information for parents for next year -- in that they know what questions to ask, and to be able to make an informed decision. And actually, not just for your particular school, but for any school -- basically, you make assumptions as you did re the K play area and then find out otherwise. So maybe another blog topic should be the questions to ask and areas to investigate on tour.

    Hope things get better for your son... it does sound very tedious, language or not.

  19. re: webster spanish

    there are two classrooms of 18 kids. one is balanced 50/50, the other is not. i think it is about 6 english speakers to 12 spanish speakers BUT many of those spanish speakers speak both english and spanish.

    that second class was added late and the EPC kept sending spanish speakers until they figured it out. now we are trying to decide what to do to create a balance.

    i am interested to hear which non-immersion schools have little enrichment. i

    i agree that prop H money is not enough and there should be total parent uproar over it. parents at some schools can raise 100k plus and pay for extras but other schools absolutely cannot do that. the parent population works multiple jobs, there are cultural reasons for not being as involved, etc. i, personally, would feel guilty at a school with all the extras knowing that other children really have a stripped down education - no library time, no computer time, 40 minutes a week of PE, and tons and tons of worksheets. seems like there should be a better way.

  20. I have a question. Say a family wanted to donate money to the school, say something reasonably substantial - $5,000-10,000K. Would that have to go through a formal PTA type organization? Through the school? Could the family have any say over where it was spent? So, could I say here's $5000K use it to hire a music teacher once a week, or something like that.

  21. 5:07 -- I believe you would have to go through the Principal and the School Site Council.

    For everyone's protection though, I would think you would want it to go through some "formal" channel.

  22. 4:40 -- thats probably why the School district wants "white/ or middle class families" to go to some of these schools -- they are "useful" for helping to fund raise, start PTAs etc.

    But then these same adults get denigrated for being racist, white, culturally insensitive, steamrolling over the school, etc etc.

    I'm being simplistic but when I step back and look at the big picture sometimes, its frustrating.
    Eventually it may all work out and be a better way, but in the short term...

  23. 4:40 -- The ideal mix for a dual immersion program is actually one-third English dominant, one-third target language dominant and one third bilingual in both languages.

    It is only when the district finds that hard to achieve that they shoot for 50/50... so it seems that second Webster class has a more ideal mix of languages in the classroom.

  24. In our school, a parent can donate to the school's PTO but not designate it for enrichment for a particular class or grade. We have friends whose child attends Marshall ES who donated a substantial amount of money to the PTO to get a science program off the ground. Presumably the same could be done for other areas of enrichment as well.

  25. to 5:07

    I've thought of the same question. We've been in private pre-K for three years (is there any other kind in SF for middle-class families?) and are now in a public kindergarten we LOVE. I think about other families in our position... what if several (many) of us donated $2-5K to the schools general fund without any fanfare? That could be a nice chunk of change. But I'm not sure how to go about it. Or how to encourage other families without being offensive.

  26. My concern is the documentation of what happens to those funds, the input parents would have over how they're used, and the time frame for putting the funds to use.

    I think we'd have to offer something concrete like the science program a poster mentioned above. Spec out the idea, get an idea of cost. Then say, we're launching this program. We have $XXX raised so far, and see where the fund raising takes us. Asking for that much money from public school parents *is* a little ballsy. But you're right. Most of us pay way more in Pre-K fees.

  27. This is the second-tier school parent again. Leaving aside the person who is considering donating $50,000 to 100,000 (I just don't know what to do with that but agree it could really have a major impact on a school), we regularly give our second-tier public school about $1000 a year (we have two kids there). And there are some dozen or so families doing the same. But do the math and that only gets you so far. All told, our school is through fundraising/donating raising approximately $60,000 to 70,000 a year. But all that gets us is the library/computer combo person, a PE person, some money for school trips, various audiovisual upgrades over time, and not a heck lot more. And we are constantly battling to raise just that amount. We might raise that amount in a given year, for example, but not enough parents turn in their free lunch application forms, and, voila, we are losing almost as much in state funds as we can raise in private funds! Correct me if I'm wrong, but the first tier schools are raising substantially more than that -- I've heard upwards of $200,000 to $250,000. When you add the volunteering muscle they can deploy, and second-tier schools fall even farther behind. They've got phone treees of dozens of committed parents ready to volunteer at the drop of a hat. Not the same five families doing everything because someone keeps objecting at meetings to the PTA putting out a phone list of members at the school! Oh, and note to all those who want us to start naming our less-than-stellar schools: the blogmeister here got all angry about school-specific derogatory comments, so I've been trying to respect her wishes and not name my kid's school. I also think, frankly, it kind of doesn't matter. There are a whole bunch of "second-tier schools" out there who fit the general description of my school's enrichment programs.

  28. About the PTA directory issue -- we had this issue at the Catholic school my kids attended. Our solution was to create a form that people could fill out, and give them a clear opt out. Or they could choose to just include a phone or email if that felt more comfortable.

    Because it was new, people were leary the first year, and many people chose to put only minimal contact information. But even that first year people could tell it was useful. The next year they were waiting for the thing to come out. It was just impossible to organize anything without a schoolwide directory.

    Good luck.


  29. But isn't that the truth about life? It isn't all fair or equal? Why begrudge the schools that do have the phone tree and volunteer army of parents?
    We are not a communist country. Equalize everything and you end up with nothing.
    We should not take away the entreprenerial spirit on which this country was built. Some other values that come to mind is also hard work, belief in self, teamwork.

    Taxpayers already passed Prop H and now Prop A.

    The State has shown itself horribly inefficient at administering any funds (did anyone watch John Stossel 20/20 last friday and the whole Louisiana Katrina aftermath fiasco? Its complicated but he brings up some valid points about Government).

    Someone posted a link to the article in Chronicle re the waste of $3.9Million! primarily privately donated funds that were meant to "equalize" opportunity and help underperforming, housing project schools/kids. Money wasted on conferences!! And staff salaries! I love it. I work in Gov't and see it all the time. Anyway, point is, there are private companies, foundations, etc out there with grants money that they want to SPEND. Figure out a way to tap into that money.

    Better yet to contact these schools with these volunteer army of parents and find out how they do it.

    Taking money away from them either via taxation or some other means and redistributing is punishing people for good behavior!

  30. "Second tier" elementary school parent again -- I don't think anyone here is suggesting redistributing money that parents raise to other schools. The issue is rather that parents need to go into these "second-tier" schools with their eyes open and not expect Cadillac enrichment programs (or a sudden upswing). Jeez, I just had a bit of a heart attack a moment ago reading a poster on another thread on this website which talked about the PTA at a first tier elementary funding a school nurse. I had no idea any elementary school has a nurse onsite! And then I saw on another thread that some elementaries have computer classes with kids learning powerpoint? My kids' computer/library combo class just pretty much gets them turning on the computer, opening up some programs and playing math games! A lot of us had this idea that schools could be magically turned around. I'm afraid that a lot of the source for this fiction came from some of the over-simplified stories of how Miraloma changed. (I don't want to set off the Miraloma marketing juggernaut, but I think even they will agree that it didn't happen overnight and without a unique combination of fortuitous events.) There are lots of reasons second-tier elementaries are the way they are -- yes, money matters, but so does parental involvement, principal willingness to utilize parents (don't even get me started on my kids' school's principal, who just seems tone deaf to how to motivate/involve parents), teacher quality, physical plant, andafterschool program, etc.

  31. I believe a certain percentage (5-8 percent) of all PTA monies raised should go into a gen'l pot. Lower performing schools with less effective/active parent organizations could then write grant applications to try to get some of those funds. The percentage would be relatively small so as to not serve as a disincentive to fundraising.

  32. 9:17 here again -- point well taken. Parents need to understand that it takes ALOT of parental involvement in many aspects of the school to turn things around. And like you mentioned, the same 5 sets of parents doing everything results in immediate burnout.

    Its not just money though. Many parents have talents and other skills that would be such an asset to the school but again, that would take the principal and teachers to be open to tapping the pool of parents.

    Our school started a Room Parent program and that is one way to get the parents and teachers more connected. Also to help teachers out with routine chores so that the teachers can focus on the children, which is what we all want. (Not xeroxing and cutting and collating!)

    Daniel Webster has a great resource with their PREfund organization. That school will see much gain in the next few years. But it is still hard work, money, hard work by many to make it happen. And that is with their organization already in place.

    It would be great if parents from different schools had a way to connect with each other on an ongoing basis to communicate best practices, what worked and didn't etc.

  33. 9:40 -- rather than take a percentage of fundraising from schools that have active PTAs, I'd rather see those school PTAs work with other schools on the best practices, and "mentor".

    Many of these "2nd tier schools" as mentioned by earlier poster have enough trouble just raising money to cover their own needs. To take a cut off the top... hmm, that's what our dear gov't is for. The School District certainly has enough waste and inefficiency in their operations that would more than fund some general pot to which schools could apply for funds.

    I say more power to those that raise $200,000. Or even more. And maybe, maybe someone could ask them (via principal? School site Council?) if they would be willing to make a donation to some poor school with no PTA. Or if they would be willing to help by doing a special fundraiser. Whatever they can do. It has to come willingly.

  34. What is stopping them from mentoring other schools or donating money to other schools?


    And I don't know of any that do.

    Shall we wait and see if they suddenly become more generous in the decades to come?

  35. Quick Q: Do immersion programs have attendance area preferences? If so, we're screwed. We don't live near any immersion schools, even though our child is already bilingual/biliterate.

  36. I understand the desire to keep things positive, but some private schools have been trashed by name on this blog, so I say we should name the public ones as well. The idea is to be better informed, or at least to know what questions to ask at specific schools so that we can form our own opinions. Knowledge is power and all that!

  37. 10:15 supposedly not.

  38. 10:25 I agree. I really appreciate the people who are being honest about the shortcomings of their schools, especially since it seems like you *can't* find out a lot of these things before you're already in it.

    I can't think of anything that would make me angrier or more sad than enrolling my kid in a school, believing it to be one way, and then finding out it was misrepresented. I wouldn't stay with that school. I know that much. Not even to finish the year.

  39. 10:14 -- maybe you can convene a District wide PTA meeting or School Site Council/Principal meeting and bring up the issue. Principals can speak to their paltry fundraising, lack of parent involvement, and any other issues. Then ask the rich schools for some of their money.

    At our school, we're just trying to cover our measly needs, I don't think we have even thought about another school and their problems.

    Again, life was never promised to be fair or equal.

    There are many grants targeted at lower income pop schools -- there is money out there available, just waiting to be spent on enrichment etc.

    That same money is not available to middle/upper income pop schools.

  40. Anon@ 10:15: "Quick Q: Do immersion programs have attendance area preferences? If so, we're screwed. We don't live near any immersion schools, even though our child is already bilingual/biliterate."

    Immersion programs, AFAIK, do not have attendance areas: the purpose of them is to get kids from non-disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds into underenrolled schools/schools with more disadvantaged socioeconomic students than is optimal.

    So you're OK. Just be sure to mention your kid's bilingualism in your application. Might be worth taking it directly to EPC or to an enrollment event so you can get advice from EPC staff on how to appropriately flag your kid's application.

  41. 10:15 "Alternative schools" lack attendance areas, and some immersion schools (AFU, BV) are considered alternative schools. OTOH, most immersion programs are in neighborhood schools which DO have attendance areas. For example, Marshall, which is all SI is considered a neighborhood school. Flynn, Webster, Starr King, Fairmont and Monroe are also neighborhood (i.e. attendance area) schools.

  42. 8:36am -- but the attendance area only applies to the GE or non-immersion portions of the school.

    I'm not sure how Marshall could be a neighborhood school if all it has is the SI program. That does not sound right. Are you sure? This is worth pursuing with the EPC - and maybe account for why the balance is so screwed up in the SI program.

    OTOH it makes sense that Flynn, which has a GE program can be a neighborhood school. The immersion program is filled separately by lottery from the GE.

  43. 8:36am -- but the attendance area only applies to the GE or non-immersion portions of the school.

    Not true.

  44. nah, all-immersion schools can have attendance areas. but it's all but moot, because this "preference" only comes into play if you add diversity to the student body at that point in time when your name comes up. since, by and large, people who sent their kid to preschool and speak english at home are applying in droves to many of the same schools, it will hardly ever be a factor in your placement odds.

  45. No, but those English-speaking families who live in teh 'hood will have preference over those who live across the city, no?

    Same with Spanish-speaking kids. If they live in Noe/Mission/Bernal, their odds of getting in are better than if they live in Alamo Square or the Richmond.


  46. 10:53: wrong. sorry. it's one of the things i really can't abide re: the diversity index. attendance area ONLY KICKS IN IF YOU ADD DIVERSITY AT THAT POINT IN TIME. that's why a family i know -- and adore, btw -- who lives in j. serra's attendance area while we live in fairmount's is sitting pretty at fairmount right now after having gotten the school in round I, while we did not. we had identical lists and our kids have identical diversity profiles.

  47. But both of your kids would have added equal diversity, no?

  48. no -- neither added any (in whatever terms SFUSD defines it, which remain mysterious). because of that, when the diversity point candidate well ran dry, they went to straight lottery and attendance area preference did not factor in in that moment in time.

  49. brass tacks: can any attending parents speak to how well visual arts are being integrated into the curriculum, or whether there is extra visual art enrichment of any kind at fairmount, revere imms, marshall imms or webster imms? thanks much!

  50. I'd love to hear more about what's actually going on with kids in immersion. Are they learning the language? How's the homework? The teachers? Do you feel like your kids are missing out on other things?

  51. I too would like to hear about the actual experience in an immersion school, particularly one of those teaching Chinese...seems like a lot of the comments are focused on the spanish immersion programs. I'd love to know how a non-Asian kid does in a primarily Asian immersion program...ok that narrows it down to about two, I realize...

  52. To 3:48pm today: yes, my kids are learning Spanish very fast. Can't complain about that. The homework is boring, & age inappropriate. Mine have 15-30" every night, including weekends & tests every Friday & already have homework & test anxiety. (kinder!) And yes, we feel they are missing out on just about everything else you can imagine.

  53. FYI: Marshall is an all SPan Imm school. Most kids there are from the immediate 'hood. It IS a neighborhood school. At least some non-Latino, non-SPanish speakers who applied from outside the hood did not get in. (should have, as surely they would have added to the diversity index at any point in time, not to mention helping to create the proper mix for Immersion which it does not have). The school is 75% Latino, 4% White, 3 or 4% AA, etc. Go figure.

  54. 11:14 - hmm. So where's the diversity police? I wonder. Ditto for some of the heavily Asian schools. From a personal standpoint, I do not feel schools have to reflect the "city population" or state pop", and if some schools are more attractive to different ethnicities, so be it. Getting the information out, and given all groups equal opportunity to apply -- that I'm all for. But if the city/SFUSD wants to stand on principle that diversity before all else, that the Marshall situation is clearly unacceptable!!! Esp given that there were kids who would add to diversity mix, which seems so important in every other aspect of their education -- and for immersion,even more so to get the mix somewhat right, if 50/50 is the advertised goal.

    As Kim Green, poster, mentioned above, the system is somewhat rotten at the core. How to fix it, can't even begin to imagine.

  55. 11:08 - my child is in immersion, and first grade now. In K, I do not recall many tests, but he did have tests and they felt no anxiety whatsoever. I almost wished he did! I find no problem with testing the kids so that the teacher knows what needs to be re-taught, which children need more help in which topic etc.

    Re the HW - have you spoke to the teacher? My other child went to a suburban school and the K homework was not very traditional academic and I almost found it somewhat annoying, but I guess there was a method to their madness since the school was a Blue Ribbon, distinguished school. (The school was not immersion). The HW consists of very non-traditional activities.

  56. When my daughter was in K, the homework was just too much for her. She was capable of doing it, but just too exhausted after a long day to actually do it. She was learning the material in class just fine, and attaining all the milestones, so I didn't worry about it. I met with the teacher and told her the situation (massive meltdowns at every homework attempt) and told her I didn't think she was ready for homework.

    We continued to read aloud for the reading log every night -- that seemed really important to me.

    But the other stuff just didn't feel critical, and certainly not worth setting up a lifetime of bad feeling towards homework. She is in third grade now, and just does her homework with no fuss. So no long term repercussions.

    We did this in kindergarten and first grade. Not sure that the teachers were thrilled, but they could see that she was progressing fine.

  57. @8:45, I think the situation is that the diversity index kicks in if the applicant pool allows it -- if there are enough applicants and diversity among the applicants.

    But bear in mind that race is not part of the diversity index. The process doesn't allow for denying Asian or Latino applicants after a certain number, which would seem to be the way to enforce diversity.
    The process USED to allow for that until the late-'90s legal ruling called the Ho settlement stipulated that SFUSD couldn't use race in assignments. There was a 40% cap (I think this number varied a bit in some cases) on any one ethnicity at a school.

    Under that system, applicants of other races were simply involuntarily assigned to the school once the maximum percentage of an ethnicity had been reached.

    The Ho lawsuit was filed by Chinese parents because the ethnic caps meant that Chinese students had to score higher than others to get into Lowell (which bases admission on academic criteria).

  58. I think immersion is great for some kids, not so great for others. I say that because both of my kids are in an immersion program. The first one loves school, is totally fluent in both languages, and loves learning languages. My younger one just started and is having a hard time. Basically, he can't communicate and doesn't know what's going on a lot of the time, so he has acted out. I do still think the lightbulb will go off for him, but just a counternote to all the "immersion is heaven" posts. It can be very stressful and challenging for some children -- especially when thrown into a totally foreign environment, such as Mandarin, at the age of 5 or 6. Something to think about.

  59. Yes very true. Immersion is definitely not for everyone. English is a hard enough language as it is, with all its exceptions and inconsistent phonetics.

    That is something that parents really need to consider before enrolling child in immersion, because basically, it is at least a 5 year commitment. (If you are going to switch out, best to do before 1st grade, or 2nd grade at the very latest).

    So sometimes what the parent thinks is ideal, is not really what is ideal for the child. Some kids are more artistic, visual and so maybe Creative Arts or if they are math/science oriented, than Spring Valley or some other schools would be better.

    Very hard to know though what is a 5 yr old's learning style, strengths!

  60. I am trying to decide how I feel about immersion as well. My daughter is in Spanish immersion at a good school with some enrichment, and she is learning Spanish rapidly. But suddenly it occurs to me that by focusing so much on language instruction, she is missing out on the kind of learning that happens when you express yourself. I feel like her intellectual curiosity is not being fostered because she is operating in a language she does not understand and which she cannot speak. The 10 or 20% English is kind of an illusion because supposedly she gets that in computer class, and motor skills rather than instruction in topics that would allow greater critical thinking. I think those classes are a relief, because all Spanish all the time is very hard for a non-Spanish speaker, so I am thankful for those classes, but I don't think they provide much other value.

    Anyway, I was very pro-immersion but am finding myself in major self-questioning mode. I have also noticed the homework assignments are indeed rote and boring as much as I hate to say it. The amount seems about right though. I think it's a great program, but with the benefit of hindsight I am wondering if maybe this is not the ideal form of education for my child, not because it's too hard or stressful (it's both) but because what I want for her pedagogically is different from what is available, at least in the lower grades.

  61. Yes, but maybe she is doing the same critical thinking, but in Spanish?
    I mean, I wonder if her brain is actually beginning to think in Spanish - as opposed to say when I learned a foreign language in the 6th grade and by then, my brain was translating everything back to English (or I'm thinking in English and then translating to French to say it).
    I presume by immersing oneself in a language at a young age, that is what a person does, learn to think and express in that other language.

  62. Bilingual kids tend to be more creative problem solvers and better abstract thinkers, at least according to the research. So your child's critical thinking in both languages will eventually exceed those of monolinguals in either. But it does take time.

    Also: The playground language is English, and, it sounds like the home language is, too. So your child is probably not spending 80 percent of her day in Spanish anyway...

  63. Bilingual kids tend to be more creative problem solvers and better abstract thinkers

    Those may go hand-in-hand, rather than as cause and effect, though.

  64. kim - we have no kinder homework at webster. teachers say we will have a little later in the year.

    most art is being done by parents. we are working on a system for having an art day every week. (we have a few good artsy parents). we are also making kinder music a priority.

    jennifer (still trying to convince you to join us!)

  65. jennifer -- it's great what you are doing over there. it sounds like you've got more going on than some longer-running programs already. can't do the commute to pot hill, i'm afraid! but a lot of readers here can....

  66. I posted the initial thread question. Reading through these posts it is clear that all schools come with pros and cons. Despite the enrichment deficit, my kids are getting a superior immersion experience (school is 100% immersion, no "gen ed"). Their Spanish is better after 2 months of Kg than some 1st grade kids I have met at other "better" SpImm schools. Yesterday my daughter spoke an entire sentence to me in Spanish, with no prompting on my part - and it was correct Spanish! I truly do not yet know whether this will counterbalance the lack of enrichment - but it could. (stay tuned) So for those of you truly committed to Immersion, I would urge you not to omit this school from your list.
    To the poster concerned about safety, I feel my kids are safe. The school is small, sweet intimate and very family-oriented. Lots of very involved parents on the play-yard at all times. The kids are nice kids, well-behaved & respectful. Safety is one thing I really do not worry about here.

  67. Are you at Marshall?

  68. What is the language balance in your child's classroom?

    In my experience, the more native Spanish speakers in the class, the better the Spanish of the English speaking kids.

    It makes an enormous difference.

  69. 12:00 - initial thread question poster -- in your initial thread you indicated Safety was sacrificed but now you say it is not an issue. Was this a typo or change of opinion upon further reflection. It is good to know as Safety is one of the main issues for any parent. (Sounds like it was a typo).
    Also - several of us are now assuming the school is Marshall. Rather than give Marshall a bad name re enrichment, please clarify if this is not correct. The useful information you are providing is useless if the school is not identified.

  70. Also -- if the parents are involved on the playyard, may be good opportunity to get some enrichment programs started!! The parents may have hidden talents they are willing to share, or at least the conversation can be started as to what the parents feel could be enrichment! Good news always when parents are available/around.

  71. jennifer from webster here -

    marshall is safe. it is a small, safe school. i toured marshall twice and requested it but didn't get it (although we are english speakers... but that's another issue!).

    i know a family at marshall and they say they do not deal with discipline issues - the children are ery well-behaved. the streets outside can be grungy in the morning, but i believe SFDPW is aware and does extra street cleaning. i teach esl at city college and have latino several students whose children are at marshall and say they feel very safe and happy with the school.

    daniel webster is very safe. it is a tiny school. we all hold hands in a circle on the playground every morning. sometimes i just crack up that our circle is so small.

    the webster neighborhood is great - i'd even call it fancy. we are on the north side of potrero hill so there is not a lot of street crime present in the immediate area, but it is close enough to public housing that it brings a great diverse group of kids together. best thing is that the children really get to know each other. i am a new kinder parent and know kids from all grades. it is really great.

    webster is having it's growing pains but i think it is going to be great. it has taken me about 8 weeks to become convinced of this. we have two spectacular immersion teachers - both smart and interesting women who are fully dedicated to making the program great.

    another thing, if you drive, the drop off and pick up at webster is cake. no parking issues. waltz in, waltz out. fairmount is NOT like that! something to consider...

  72. whoops. i thought the marshall question was on safety not enrichment.

  73. Ana Lundardi, Fairmount's new principal -- gone on medical leave (or similar) after just a few short months on the job. (She came in after Karling left.) Anyone know what gives? How is Fairmount holding up and who will lead now? Also: Is the school being seismically upgraded next year? Does this mean everyone moves into the portable bungalows they set up for the MEC classes this year?

  74. 7:01 pm -- the original poster actually never confirmed he/she was talking about Marshall.

    Rather silly to make a comment such as "do not consider this school" or "consider this school" and not mention the name.

    Funny that some of us assume it is Marshall (and I only made that assumption because it seemed the other SI only schools, BV, etc all had enrichment based on their website or rumor).

    I think its best to not assume anything... ask I asked this person, to please confirm so that we do not misrepresent Marshall if it is not that school.

    I'm also confused because the orig post made it sound like quite a terrible place, with little parent interest, drab, dry, no art, sort of prison like but for kids. Last post indicates sweet small intimate place. So what is it? Writers' remorse.

    In this situation, I totally understand why one should not mention school name at first pass, if one will have writer remorse. :(

    However, after one has clarified and indicated it is a good place with positives, no reason not to mention the school name. Esp if you post to others to not cross the school off your list.

  75. Marshall DOES have enrichment: weekly PE, weekly computers, weekly library slot. There is an art appreciation program called VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies) that all teachers are trained in. Some art projects happen in conjunction with the many school-wide events: flag-making for the Parade of Nations, Day of the Dead displays, Oceans Month dioramas, etc. Some arts programs kick in later in the year. This year there's a music teacher who will be working with the lower grades, as well as a woodworker. There will also be workshops with the Center for the Book, a bookbinding arts collective. As far as I know, capoeira will still be happening in the spring.
    Marshall is not an arts emphasis school, but the enrichment offered compares favorably with many other schools. It just doesn't all kick in during the first couple of months.

    That said, the kindergarten program is academically very rigorous. Many parents are very pleased with that.

  76. Thank you for update. I'm glad Marshall is no longer being maligned because of the lack of information by orig poster.

    At this point, everyone who reads this post should just consider orig poster comments to be a general hypothetical statement and do not attribute to any school oe program.

    Unless a school is identified, it would best to assume that any school can be lacking in specific enrichment programs, safety, aesthetics and NONE OF IT IS DUE SPECIFICALLY TO A FOCUS ON IMMERSION.

    Kate, I know you are busy but I hope you can update the original posters' question by saying it is not an Immersion VS all this other stuff. Immersion schools do provide alternative enrichment programs!

  77. Academically rigorous or developmentally inappropriate?

    Depends on whether you think 4 and 5 year olds should spend 90 minutes a day sitting still on the carpet while being talked to.. and whether you believe 5 year olds need homework.

    Certainly not something we've seen at the better privates...

  78. The "better privates" cater to kids who will succeed whether or not they master their academics. They can afford to focus on social niceties.

  79. Oh, they don't give homework in kindergarten at the "better" privates? Too bad for those students! No reason not to develop good work study habits from the start. There is homework in most kindergartens in the city. Not too many complaints about it, either.

    Do you mean 90 minutes uninterrupted instructional time in one position on the rug, or 90 minutes throughout the morning? Is this something you've observed yourself, i.e. you were there an entire hour and a half and the children were still on the rug in the same positions? Seems improbable.

  80. My son is a non-native speaker in first grade Mandarin immersion at Jose Ortega. They have 40 minutes of PE 3 times per week, 1 hour of special art (besides the classroom art) per week with Aiko Cuneo, an origami artist, and 1 hour of park / garden time at the adjacent park. From the schedule I have, it doesn't appear that they sit and talk in Mandarin for more than 30 minutes straight. He has about 3 sheets of homework (English, math, and Mandarin) Mon-Thu. My son doesn't seem stressed by the immersion environment, and his teacher is very kind and patient. Sometimes I wonder if he's getting the math/science concepts since they're taught in Chinese, but he's usually able to do the math homework by himself, so it must be getting through. He doesn't like doing homework every day, and I'd rather let him play. However, it was explained to me that extra homework is the trade-off we make for Mandarin immersion since the extra language means they must cover more material in the same time as a general ed class.

  81. I realize this is off the topic of immersion, but I strongly disagree that giving homework in K or 1st grade develops good study habits. It's more likely to develop a dynamic whereby the homeowrk is all parent- or caregivier-driven because the child is too young to do it on their own volition without heavy adult involvement. This encourages dependence on adult assistance and it makes homework a chore rather than a learning experience.

    The rule of thumb for homework is that kids should get no more than 10 min/grade level/night - which means 20 min in 2nd grade, 30 min in 3rd grade, etc. This does not mean HW for kindergarteners or the 30-45 minutes of busywork that my son comes home with every night of 1st grade, from the first day of school onward.

  82. 7:21pm -
    One of the differences with K now is that the bar has definitely been raised. Not sure exactly when this happen. I noticed it with my first child. K used to be like Preschool. But then most parents started sending their child to Preschool and kids came in to school knowing more. Various reasons for why bar raised, but one is definitely that the kids had higher level of ability, in general.
    The expectations are greater now. And maybe rightly so, maybe not, but we sure have a problem in this country when compared to other countries worldwide in terms of academic achievement in a variety of subjects. And not just based on 1 study but various studies with various researchers with different agendas (progressive, conservative, neutral).

    I do think K students should have some form of HW, even something as simple as practicing penmanship, or reinforcing what is learned in class. Nothing wrong either with starting Math concepts earlier. Patterns? That can be done at 3 yrs old.

    I do not think you can compare "better privates" with public school. Not by a longshot. If the student in K doesn't do well in 2nd, 3rd, 6th grade, the private has the option to kick the student out, or the parents will decide for themselves or parents will hire a tutor.

    If the discussion is regarding different philosophies, like Waldorf, Montessori, etc, than that is another topic.

    But general academic private to general academic public... sort of apples to oranges in that public doesn't get to choose the population with whom they need to educate. For sure, the "better privates" can be extrememly selective, and actually use the reverse system if they made a mistake in allowing the child to enter the school to begin with... they just ask the family to disenroll child (in nice way).

  83. There is *no* research showing there is any benefit to homework at such a young age.

    And most of the homework is "busywork" and not meaningful.

    Kids would be better off spending that extra 30 minutes being read to.

  84. Play-based programs are the best preparation for academic success.

    Kids who didn't spend enough time playing with blocks struggle with geometry years later.

    Children who didn't get to engage in elaborate role playing games or small world play in which they got to narrate all the action, have a harder time with self-regulation and, later, with persuasive and creative writing.

  85. On of the kinder classes at Marshall had the class schedule on the wall and, if I recall correctly, they had at least 60-90minutes designated for instructor-led time on the carpet each morning.

    That's just an unrealistic expectation for a 4 year old. All of their energy is consumed trying to sit still, leaving little for learning.

  86. Both Waldorf and MOntessori advocate lots of play for 3 to 6 year olds. You won't see a lot of worksheets and homework in either type of school.

  87. 7:34 - Exactly my point. I'm the earlier poster.

    If we are discussing Montessori, Waldorf, or other educational philospohies, than that is a different thread/topic. Not comparing apples to apples.

  88. 7:32, do you really know exactly how that "carpet time" is being used in that classroom at Marshall? It could have been shorthand for any number of activities that are somewhat academically focused but involve playing, manipulatives, group work, movement. Anyone who actually spends time with 5-year-olds knows they can't sit still for 90 minutes, so it is hard to imagine that an actual teacher would be doing that....I really doubt the reality is what you describe from reading the poster on the wall.

  89. 3:02 - total agreement with you. At our school, the teacher posted schedule, and common sense only dictated that the schedule be broken out by broad topics.

    I was not interested nor would I expect the teacher to detail out what is being done in 10 minute increments.

    The teacher was very open to parents coming to help out and be involved, so its not like one could not find out if indeed a prison like atmosphere was being conducted at the school.

    Also - I think only an idiot teacher would put themselves through that kind of torture -- which is to expect 4,5,6 year olds to be still and sit glued to the carpet for 90 minute straight. In fact, take the opposite end -- I'm not even sure a college professor would expect students to sit 90 minutes with a break.

    Let alone kids who can't speak up for themselves.

    But maybe I'm wrong -- the world has changed and lot more being expected of 4,5,6 year olds.

  90. Yes, the US is behind academically. Who is on top?

    Do they give homework in kinder?


    They don't even teach the kids to read until they are seven years old.

    The idea that you can accelerate kids' learning by piling on the worksheets, is, well, false. THere is no research to back up that notion.

  91. Very true.
    But do the Finns have the Finnish as a Second Language to the extent we have ESL?

    Interestingly, I also read that the Norwegians or maybe Danes do not introduce reading until the kids are 7. I forget which country. Anyway, much higher literacy rate than we have in this country. Again, though are they faced with the socio economic and language barrier issues?

    Don't know.

    Agreed that there are definite different ways to approach HW. In one high performing (3rd best in CA) EB district, the kinder hw consisted of very untraditional hw (physical, crafts etc) mixed with some Math worksheets and English sight word type hw.

    Smarter folks than all of us I am sure have researched why other countries do so much better than the US in school. It would be interesting to hear the reasons why in a non-partisan, non-agendized way.

  92. Our child's SFUSD K teacher assigned homework which was fun and often involved parental interaction. (i.e. they followed the words for children's songs on a CD the teacher made and then drew pictures; for the lesson on shapes they needed to find circles, squares, and rectanges among the items in their homes; for the unit on counting, they needed to count how many of various types of toys they had.) The teacher felt that it was important for the kids to get into the habit of doing homework but tried to make it as fun and interactive as possible.

  93. Sounds like the teacher was training the parents to be engaged in their child's educational experience by telling the parents that they had to help w/homework.

    There is no research indicating that children who start homework in kinder develop better study habits than children who are not assigned homework until the third grade.

    But that clever teacher seems to have succeeded in getting parents involved from Day One ;-)

  94. As a parent of a Marshall Kindergartener, I wanted to add our perspective/response to the initial posting.

    I don’t think we will know if our son’s immersion experience “was worth it” until 4th or 5th grade, but at this point, I don’t think our, and importantly HIS, experience could be much better.

    In choosing a Spanish immersion program, language acquisition was our first priority and at this point, we are amazed and delighted with his progress. He is happy and thriving. He is making friends and is already starting to read and write on his own and most importantly attempting to speak full sentences in Spanish—his only previous exposure to Spanish was over the summer during a 45 min., 1x week Lango class.

    Our second priority was to provide him with a cultural education and he seems to be getting that as well. Specifically with Marshall’s Parade of Nations event and the Day of the Dead celebrations and activities.

    Providing our kids a broad, cultural education is one of the main reasons we have decided to stay in the city, verses moving back to the suburbs where we both were raised.

    I believe that we entered this process with our eyes wide open and had realistic expectations about public schools and what they offer. We have been pleasantly surprised with our experience at Marshall and are learning more about the enrichment (PE, library, computer lab, music) is does indeed offer, its science focus with events such as Oceans Month in May, and a new greening initiative.

    It may not have the established “ enrichment “programs that other schools seem to offer, but it is a small, dedicated and safe school community that we are happy to be a part of.

  95. Do we know if the original poster was talking about Marshall?

    The orig post painted a fairly negative experience, and orig posted updated a bit later on with contradictory information. However, by not identifying the school, it has left a bit up to speculation as to the school, which unfairly maligns Marshall if it is not the school.

    It is good to hear of other's perspectives on Marshall, or any school that is being discussed -- to get a complete picture.

  96. This is an interesting question. My son is doing Mandarin Immersion (now in 1st grade). He yammers on and on in Mandarin, and took to it like a sponge. (We are not Chinese speakers in the family).

    It has been amazing. It was also very easy, until an unexpected hitch. My boy does NOT like learning English, now. Of course, it's evolving continually, but there has been a point at the beginning of first grade where he and his cohort are much farther along in Chinese reading and writing.

    By contrast, English is filled with ridiculously unpredictable phonetics and silent letters. (Ask a learner to sound out a common word like "know," right? Or, "right," for that matter.)

    But despite this issue, it is SO worth it to have a kid who will be bilingual, and also who values and acknowledges multilingualism in others.

    He does not always like having to learn to read two languages, but he may not be one of those brainiacs who teach themselves to be fluent in a language over one semester in college. This may be only way he will really do it.

    So, he doesn't like cleaning his room or eating vegetables, either, but he has to do it.