Thursday, October 9, 2008

Suggest forum topics

Hi: If you have an idea for a forum topic, you can email me at Thanks! Best, Kate


  1. I'd like to see a breakdown by school of overall teaching style: old fashioned, academically rigorous, project-based, reading first, math/science emphasized, arts emphasis...that sort of thing.

    No use touring somewhere that the philosophy doesn't meet your needs.

  2. I'd like to suggest a topic about how, parents need to look outside their zone for good schools in this city.

    I live in the Mission, and like most Mission/Noe/Bernal/Castro families, I looked at schools on this side of town and the same names went over and over and over. It's like a bee swarm chasing the same sunny spot.

    Flynn, Clarendon, Rooftop, West Portal, Buena Vista, Alvarado, McKinley, Sunnyside, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    And then everybody complains about having to drive an hour each way and how that would be impossible. Yet, how is it possible that they have to drive so far?

    Let's remember that the school bus lines are actually quite good and this is a small town. A thirty minute bus ride is nothing for most suburban kids. Why do SF parents freak out about that?

    We attend Yick Wo, which is indeed clear across town in Russian Hill. I seldom read a word about this divine high score diverse ideallic setting of a school. It's only a half hour away.

    When I was a kid, I rode a bus at least that long, and I was fine. In the morning at 18th and Valencia, there are a half dozen kids getting on with my daughter, and we all wonder why there aren't more.

    Look at the schools in the cool neighborhoods of North Beach, Marina, and even out in the Avenues. There are great schools, and a bus ride is sorta fun.

  3. I cracked up when I read your message. Because I just sent Kate the following email:

    We’re looking at schools all over the city. Some schools would add take an additional hour for me to get to work. So for example, I would have drive from the east side of the city into the Sunset, drop off, and turn around and get back to downtown where I work. And I would have to decide whether I should come home first and take public transportation or pay $260/month for regular parking. Anyone do anything similar? Anyone sign up for a commute and regret it?

    My question isn't the time it takes to get to the school - it's then getting back downtown. Or in my husband's case, back on the freeway to get to work outside of SF.

  4. It really depends on 1) where you live; and 2) what school you're interested in whether it has a bus line or not.

    "Alternative" schools (Rooftop, Clarendon, Claire Lilienthal, Lakeshore) are well-served by busses throughout the city.

    Other schools have satellite zones from racially different parts of the city, originally designed as part of the desegregation consent decree(Yick Wo may be one of them.)

    Many school only have busses from historically disadvantaged neighborhoods (i.e., Bayview, Inner Mission, Oceanview)to schools outside those areas. If you don't live in those neighborhoods you're out of luck. Plus, bus service has been cut back in the last few years.

    So busses may expand your options if you live near 18th and Valencia, but it really doesn't help for a lot of people.

  5. Well, I think it's easier to schlep your kid to a bus stop than it is to drive to the Sunset then downtown then to the Sunset then home.

    The other factoid is that I did the figuring, and for my two darling kids, the admission letter to public is worth about $100,000 in parochial school fees. $100,000 is a lot of dough. I'm already toying with the idea of hiring an afternoon babysitter who speaks French.



    ...and Mama would still have the cashola left over to do the European tour of museums every other year.

  6. Or patch the tent once the Dow falls another 700.




    (Didn't mean to sound smug with my last $100K comments, but I'm still kinda high. The relief is enormous.)

  7. 3:39

    True, it's shorter to drive your kid to a bus stop than to the Sunset. But, for example, our school is a 7:50 start time school. My kid would have to be at the bus stop at 7:10 to take the bus to school. We don't usually leave until 7:30, so it would mean leaving the house half-hour earlier, and losing a half-hour of precious sleep

    Worth it for some maybe, but not many. It's probably a good option for 9:30 start time school though.

  8. I'd like to see someone go visit John Muir/Chavez/Malcolm X etc. and write their impressions.

    I work at one of these schools. While I would not recommend my school to parents, certainly very few of the things I have read here have been truly accurate (and some offensive, such as judgments of the students that attend these schools).

    These schools crop up so often in discussions here, I would love to hear more informed opinions.

  9. So what is your school like? And why would you not recommend it? Genuinely curious.

  10. Additional topic ideas:

    - Q&A with a "top tier" private school admissions director, anonymously if necessary, about what it takes to get in. Does getting current parents to write endorsement letters help? Board members? What are the keys to a memorable essay? How important are preschool recommendations, etc.

    - Interview an expert on gifted kids... what kind of school serves them best.

    - Academic vs. Developmental kindergartens. What approach works best?

  11. Chavez is about a block away from my house. I used to donate tons of time and money a dozen years ago for art. It's a gorgeous building. I would never send my kids there. The kids in the class, from what I've been told, enroll, move, come, go, and there is little stability. My understanding is that it is the default school.

    But if they put in a Mandarin immersion, Spanish immersion, French immersion or something crazy phenomenal like that, it would take off.

    If only all the families with kids in the immediate ten block area sent their kids there, it would be something like 27% white, 20% asian, 38% latino, 15% black, and wouldn't everybody just love that? It could be the next Miraloma or McKinley or Clarendon even.

    But it isn't. It's 86% latino. Its scores are near the bottom. I am one who believes that all black or all latino schools can have the top test scores, can beat out white rich suburban kids, and have the highest achievement rates anywhere. But for some reason, Chavez has been resistant to any improvement. Why? Does anybody know?

    I heard the superstar principal went to Paul Revere (is this right?) because he couldn't do diddly with that darned Chavez school. I have friends who've taught there, and they couldn't wait to get out.

    I am bringing up all this information because I cannot for the life of me figure out what makes some schools shine, and other schools Chavez.

    Whoever wrote that last post, please, PLEASE elaborate on what you meant. It's actually not clear.

  12. Marlowe's mom posted several comments describing her visit to John Muir last spring. She gave a very informative view of what she learned. Can't remember under what topic it was posted though.

  13. I think that Lance Tagamori, the former Cesar Chavez principal, was personally asked by Supt. Garcia to move to Paul Revere when the principal there moved. I had heard good things were happening at Cesar Chavez. It could be that it just takes awhile for a school's reputation to catch up though. But, I don't really know.

  14. For all you parents from last year--how are your kids doing in their immersion programs? What if any concerns do you have that you probably wouldn't have in general ed? What is your experience so far?

    Is anyone out there doubting their choice of immersion for their child??

  15. For families who accepted a school assignment planning to hold out until november for their waitlist choice, i'd be interested in knowing if they would still jump ship asap or if they have been pleasantly surprised with their assignment and would now be torn about moving.

  16. How about a topic on the importance of start times? We are going to play the lottery this year to potentially transfer out of private into 2nd grade. While we looked at schools with 7:50 start times the first time we played the lottery, now I don't think we could handle the stress! It's hard enough getting to our school by 8:30 every day, and my kids are tired, even going to bed at 7:30 every night and waking up at 7:30. It's a mad rush at night to get the homework done in time for an early bedtime, and a mad rush every morning to get them out the door. So, how important is start time? Should it play into your school "choice"?

  17. i am doubting how i believed immersion was NECESSARY and am not wondering if a FLES program JBBP or argonne russian or lakeshore's 5x a day contonese/mandarin might have been better.

    we are in immersion spanish and love it. my son loves the languague. but others don't. and i hear stories of middle school children begging their parents to let them quit. all teh kids speak english on teh playground, and PE and other extras are in english. it is not a 90%/10% day in the least. more like 30-40% spanish i think.

    at this point, i'd like more teacher diversity of a GE program.

    it also takes an absolute ton of time to deal with program division with the wider school ,translating everything, building community in immersion.

  18. I transferred my child from a 7:50 start time to a 9:30 start time, and it's not as cut and dry as you might think.

    You DO adjust to the early start time. It gives you a lot more time in the day. We did fine. Starting later can stress you out because by the time your kid gets to the bus or to school, you are rushing to catch up with others.

    On balance, especially if you can get before child care, I'd vote for the earlier start time.

    After about two or three weeks, you wake up automatically at 6am and it's fine.

    My point: I thought I'd like the later start time more than I do; I could go back to the earlier start time and be happy.

  19. 10:19 - which school?

  20. 8:03 pm - on why some schools seem not to be able to do as well as others (in this case Chavez)...

    If you subtract out poverty, substandard living conditions, then I would say perhaps the biggest factor on why the school may have a hard time is the parental/guardian attitudes. If the adults do not care about education it shows shows shows. No amount of effort on the staff, the few parents who do care, the counselors can do much help. Sure, they can help a few kids, but the tsunami from the other side is too great -- just the day to day interactions between kids (talking slang, iccky profanity, etc), being disruptive in class, etc creates such a negative environment.

    Sometimes it is also not that the parents do not care, but they are working 2,3 jobs and the "caretaker" of their child, could be an older sibling or cousin, is actually the "bad" seed or example. Anyway, I just feel so bad for those much stacked against them.

  21. Here's a topic:

    School Board Member Jane Kim bills SFUSD for her trip to a hip hop convention in Vegas

    Gotta love those progressives!

    It's like a bad movie.

  22. Hey thanks for the link on Jane Kim.

    Talk about lack of judgement.

    So how do we make sure she doesn't get reimbursed? Wouldn't the
    Board just rubberstamp it anyway?

  23. Tell the members of the school board what you think of the idea of paying for Jane Kim's Las Vegas trip out of money that should be going to our children's education. Their e-mail addresses are here

    If no one objects to this, why shouldn't they rubber stamp it? Meanwhile, my kid's school has $0 budget for glad that Ms Kim gets to have a free party weekend in Vegas, tho.

  24. I know people who chose Cesar Chavez Elementary and love it. Different demographic than this blog, but they are caring parents, involved in their kids' education. They like the school and the community. Different strokes for different folks.

  25. 9:40 -- ok, so how do these parents feel about the underperformance by the students of this school as judged by State standards, a generally accepted level of proficiency needed to get to college. I do not know much about C Chavez, but earlier bloggers have led me to believe that the school scores very poorly in terms of academics.

    (I'd like to not get into the bias of the test etc because I know there are many kids of different racial backgrounds that score well on the test.)

  26. I've seen the issue of middle schools raised in various threads over the past six months, but I really think it deserves its own forum topic. And, in tune with this blog being kinder-friendlier, I'd like to suggest that the topic not just be about the pros and cons of specific middle schools in SF. I'd like it to look at the broader picture: does the current SFUSD policy of having very large 6-8 middle schools work? There is a national debate going on about the efficacy of large public middle schools, but SFUSD doesn't seem to be examining the issue. Should we be moving more to having more K-8's? Should we be encouraging more charter or alternative middle schools, perhaps with particular focuses? How should SFUSD be handling the issue of teaching foreign languages in middle school (i.e., should there be more immersion, less immersion, more chance for kids who didn't go to an elem. immersion to try for a more intensive language program at that point)? Is "tracking" or Honors program approaches working now in the large middle schools -- should they be expanded or contracted? These are just some of the ideas that I think could be explored in the forum.