Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hot topic: Immersion?

An SF K Files visitor is asking for your advice:

"My husband and I are trying to finalize our list for next week's kindergarten lottery deadline. We initially were set on sending our daughter to a Spanish immersion school and toured 5 of the 8 possibilities. Now, as we are drawing up our final list, we are getting cold feet about immersion for our daughter. I am fluent in Spanish (though not a native speaker) and our daughter does comprehend a lot of Spanish, but it is her personality that has us waivering. She is bright and has friends at her preschool (aka, doing fine academically and socially for her age), but she is very slow to warm up, can be fragile and hesitant, and is not a confident kid in new situations and in general. We are wondering if dealing with a new school, teacher, classmates, etc., in Spanish might overwhelm her. Thanks so much for your Web site. It has helped us a lot."


  1. Immersion is definitely worth it. You need to commit for five years, to make it work. All the studies say it's a good thing, long term.

    We didn't get immersion, and are still thrilled at our all-american plain ole vanilla Yick Wo Elementary School. No bells and whistles, like immersion. But a good academic school.

    My friends do immersion and they love it. One thing is for sure, anecdotally: if you have any worries about public schools in SF, immersion will make it worth something, and speaking a second language like a native is quite a feather in your cap.

  2. Sounds like her first 6 months of kindergarten will be rough regardless... make that 8 months in an immersion classroom.

    But then she will be fine.. and she will be BILINGUAL.

    Is it worth it?

    Only you can decide.

  3. Have you talked to her preschool teachers? If you have people you trust who can offer candid feedback, that would definitely be helpful.

  4. Of course I don't know your kid at all, but I would argue that she might actually do really well as a kid who speaks fluent English and can understand a good deal of the Spanish used in the classroom. She may be able to tell that she knows what's going on better than some of the other English speakers and this might give her a confidence boost, you know?

  5. I have similar questions - from a different angle - am considering marshall because it's in my neighborhood and I liked it after 1/2 of a tour - but i'm not sure how my bright friendly hesitant, slow-to-warm-up preschooler would do with the new everything plus new language AND I don't want her to be in a new school where she's one of a few speaking english at recess. I want her to feel comfortable.

  6. I agree that immersion might help build your daughter's confidence. Our daughter has taken readily to mandarin in her first year at Starr King and we can see how proud and pleased she is to be learning another language.

  7. Hi there,
    We have our daughter in a spanish immersion preschool at the moment and I am so so happy with the choice.
    None of us really speak it at home (well i have some basic travelers spanish and understand it okay)

    She has only been there a year but has been a total sponge and can easily carry out a conversation with my sister in law (who was raised in Guatemala and is fluent)

    I highly recommend looking into immersion programs.

    Kindergarten brings us at a crossroads however. I grew up in SF and attended parochial school. It was a good experience for me and I would like my daughter to have that same experience. So, i am faced with a tradeoff. Go parochial or immersion (if we get in). I can honestly say that a year ago, I never would have considered public school for my daughter. But...after discussing with several parents, attending PPS events, I am seriously taking a look at it. I will see how we do in the lottery and then make a final choice between parachial (that has spanish classes every day) and our lottery assignment.

    Good Luck to you

  8. So, anecdotally, I have heard from folks who say in immersion programs the first couple of months can be difficult, stressful (for the kid and the parents), confusing. I don't have any data but I think some of the immersion school tours alluded to the fact that for some kids it just doesn't work out. I think they said they usually figure in the first few months if a particular kid is just not going to be able to take the immersion experience. I don't know if the district then allows such children to switch over to the same school's general ed program (assuming there is one).

    As to the playground experience, my impression is that the kids generally speak English on the playground. I don't know the demographics at Marshall so maybe where there is a large contingent of ELL students it's different. But for the programs where there is less than the 50% target of native speakers, the kids will speak to each other in English. In some cases the teachers have given incentives to have the kids speak in the target language (stickers etc if they are witnessed speaking the language during recess).

  9. Originally going into this process we thought we would do all immersion programs for our child, but as we craft our list, it seems only 1 or 2 of the programs are going to make it on our list.

    So, I'm interested in the efficacy and impact of FLES-type programs as well. There are a few in the district: Russian at Argonne (new), Italian at Clarendon GE and Spanish at McKinley. By FLES I mean the programs where there is a set amount of instruction daily in another language, usually 30-45 min.

    It's too late for us '09ers but I would have loved to see a Mandarin program of this type offered, rather than a full immersion program.

    Anyway, do any parents on this blog have any insight into how much language skill this kind of daily but not immersion program actually builds in the child?

  10. For your own sanity, be aware that if your family's first language is English and you list mostly immersion programs in Round 1, your odds of getting a school in Round 1 are not very good since immersion programs are so popular. Their popularity seems to be particularly high with Anglophone families.

    As far as your child is concerned, I can't speak directly to shyness or adaptability issues, but I can say that our six-year-old, who I always perceived to be very resistant to languages other than English, is VERY excited to be learning some German at school and has asked us to teach him French. So I would echo the comment about how proud a child can be to learn a new language.

    Another thing is that my impression is that most kids are different people when they're away from their parents. Kids who cling to their parents when their parents are around run off and get engaged with other kids as soon as their parents leave (though your preschool teacher may have borne out your perception that your child takes a while to warm up in new situations).

    You're lucky that your child already understands quite a bit of Spanish. She'll have an advantage over many Anglophone children in immersion kindergarten. I would expect her to be less likely to be overwhelmed by the language than another shy child put into the same situation. It might even build her confidence to see that she's ahead of the other English-speaking kids in her Spanish.

    Good luck.

  11. To Hana's mom who asked about the efficacy of FLES programs, there has been extensive discussion of that on other threads. I think this is a fairly accurate summary of the consensus: If you want a bilingual child (and true bilingualism offers significant advantages in overall cognitive development), immersion is required. FLES gives some exposure to the language and culture, but fluency will not be attained from the FLES program alone. Most FLES kids place in the first or second year of the language when they go into high school, if the school offers it and they take it.

  12. Thanks, Marlowe's mom. I'll look for some of those other comments on FLES. This is food for thought. We have been weighing the range of language options including afterschool options, though I'm skeptical that an afterschool program will create the same excitement and depth of appreciation for languages. But this may be my own bias, as a 1st generation kid who was sent to "Chinese school". Growing up it was like wearing a big old "dork" sign. Now that I'm an adult, I wish I had been a more enthusiastic student. Anyway, lots to think about before the 9th.

  13. This is a great question, as we have many friends with preschoolers who are asking this same question of us (we are not in an immersion program, so we cannot help them).

    Would love to hear from some kindergarten families who are currently in immersion programs. Did they doubt their child's readiness? How is their child doing half-way through the year? Will they stick it out for 5 years? Can a shy child succeed?

  14. Another point: I'd suggest looking at the whole school, not just the presence of an immersion program. To the extent you can tell, are you comfortable with the teachers and the environment? Some people posting on other threads don't seem to share this concern. They seem to to think that the long-term benefits of true bilingualism trump other shortcomings, and that parents can make up for poor or inaccurate teaching of subjects other than the languages, at least at the elementary level. I'm not personally convinced that language immersion alone is enough to give a child the fundamentals they need to acquire in elementary school. Nor would I necessarily want to put a young child in the position of contradicting the authority-figure teacher in the classroom.

  15. Marlowe's Mom, of course you are right that a parent should be looking at the whole school and not one aspect of it, but are you speaking of any particular shortcomings? In my view the immersion schools have tended, overall, to attract very good teachers as well as strong PTA support, so the wider school issues have really been fine. Not perfect, of course, but really fine. It hasn't been a trade-off (language versus good teaching) for us. Not at all.

    We have been at Alvarado from the days when it was a lot easier to get a spot and have had really terrific teachers; but I also hear great things about newer immersion programs such as Paul Revere in terms of both principal leadership and teaching. Same with Jose Ortega, another recent entry to the immersion community. I guess I'm saying, of course look at this issue of teacher quality, but as far as I know it is a bit of a red herring in this case--I really haven't heard bad things about any particular immersion school in this regard, at least not recently.

    Regarding the original question, and assuming for a moment that all other issues including teacher quality are equal, I would recommend immersion if you are leaning towards it, even if your kid is shy. It is a little harder academically to learn in both languages, though for my kids this was a plus, an academic extension in effect. Immersion may not be right for kids with speech or language delays, but that is different from shyness. The shy ones will cope with the language as well as the not-shy ones. They may even do better, if they are good listeners.

    It's scary at first, but nearly ALL the kids I have known have developed proficiency in the "other" language within a few months. These kindergarten kids are amazing in their ability to swing into the second language very quickly. Their minds are obviously much more elastic than my middle-aged brain! This is being done in Europe and Canada, and it's really not that hard for most kids here, either. I wouldn't stress about it--again, unless you have some learning delays and particularly speech issues.

    Now, getting into an immersion program is another issue, of course. Do consider Marshall, Daniel Webster, Paul Revere, Starr King, and Jose Ortega if you really care about this. You are getting in on the ground floor, and seven or eight years from now folks will ask you, as they ask me at Alvarado, how on earth you got your kids in.

  16. Immersion is the way to go. My daughter is in second grade at Alice Fong Yu and is flourishing despite the fact that we can't understand one thing she is talking about when she does her Chinese homework. In fact, it's become a badge of honor for her: "you can't help me with this..." She is already developing a lot of fluency (a recent cartoon she drew had characters in the little bubbles and not words). Sure, there have been stressful moments, but there are always stressful moments in a new school. Immersion builds confidence, bilingualism, and a healthy respect for world cultures. Kids at AFY speak English on the playground and all school communications are in English.

  17. My son is in K at Starr King. His teacher is outstanding: loving, charasmatic, engaging. I couldn't ask for better. He transitioned beautifully to K, despite the language challenge. I was bracing for a few months of stressfulness, but it just didn't happen. I'd recommend the immersion programs despite your kid's shyness.

  18. In response to the original question, I believe that if Immersion is a path you are interested in, you need to give it a try. If you don’t, you will always be asking the “What if” question.

    For us, it was a complete leap of faith since neither of us speaks Spanish, but I can say now that the first half of Kindergarten is over, we really can’t be happier with our son’s experience at Marshall.

    He’s happy, engaged and already speaking and writing full sentences in Spanish (through we don’t know how correct it is) and we are excited and amazed at his progress. We won’t be sure if Immersion was the right decision until 4th or 5th grade, but so far, so good.

    I also agree with previous posters that an English-speaking child’s confidence will be bolstered if they have some Spanish. And lastly, it has been my observation that English is spoken on the playground and most, if not all of the Spanish-speaking kids will speak English to the English-dominant kids so there is not an issue with communication. They can switch between languages without even thinking about it.

    Best of luck!

  19. To Leanne and others re: Marshall, feel free to contact me off line (hulazoo@earthlink.net). Our daughters attend Kg there (and are also reading/writing full sentences in Spanish). We did not doubt their readiness. They are doing great, but the first few months were rough. I am not sure any rougher than for non-immersion kids in Kg! Going to Kg from pre-school is just a big shock to the kids and they are tired, cranky etc. for the first few months. Their Spanish is excellent (now) and communication with other kids on or off-playground is not an issue at all. Plenty of kids speak English even in Kg so it was never a problem. Shy kids in their class are doing fine. It all depends on the teacher! And IMHO, the FLES programs (non-immersion) are close to worthless. You simply cannot learn a language by doing it 30" twice a week or whatever it is @ McKinley, etc.

  20. my son who is not exactly slow to warm up but anxious and afraid of many new social situations (won't try a soccer team although he loves playing soccer) has surprised us with his level of comfort in his immerison program. i've seen quite a few shy kids in the program who seem to be thriving, and immersion may make it easier in a way. the kids are not expected to talk much in the beginning. i think it has a lot to do with the teacher, and it is the teacher who makes kindergarten, which is a huge transition with or without immersion, okay.

  21. ellen & nicole make a good point, which is that kindergarten is a big transition whether or not your child is in immersion. My non-immersion daughter was exhausted by the end of the day, sometimes cranky, and would often fall apart at home. I know if she had been iin immersion I would have blamed it on that. But the passage of time helped. By second semester things were better, and in first grade totally fine.

    Ironically she was doing great in kindergarten, both socially and academically. I think it was a lot just to hold it together though.

  22. Ellen and Nicole.. "And IMHO, the FLES programs (non-immersion) are close to worthless."

    I think your post is obnoxious. The goals of the FLES programs are not the same as the immersion programs. How is it worthless to teach children a second language and teach the culture surrounding the language?

    There are definitely some positive aspects of the immersion programs. The "all or nothing" tone of some of the immersion families is a little off-putting.

    What we are struggling with is the commitment to focus on Latin culture for the next 6 years. We are already trying to incorporate our various backgrounds in the upbringing of our children (heritage, culture and religion).

  23. @10:50, I am an immersion parent of two (one now in middle school) who does not think the FLES programs are next to worthless. In this ever-shrinking multicultural world, for kids or families who for any number of reasons are not doing immersion, I have trouble thinking of a downside to linguistic and cultural exposure to something beyond American/anglophone, especially if it is reinforced over time. It may not produce bilingualism but there are many, many other benefits. The ability to negotiate a multicultural world is on some level a skill that all kids should be getting, and FLES can be a part of that. In general this is also one of the main advantages of an urban public education, that it gives kids a chance to learn how to cross lines of culture, class, and language--not saying private and suburban schools are devoid of this, but diversity is an area where urban public schools have the advantage, for the most part. My SF kids are highly experienced in this area compared to their suburban cousins back East, and it shows in their confidence and breadth of knowledge, and non-sheltered demeanors.

    As for your other point, it is a commitment to engage with both Spanish language (in our case) and Latin culture. We take that seriously. I wouldn't say it has been a problem to do that and to keep up with the other parts of our cultures, which include European American and Asian American and Pacific Island traditions, and two different religious traditions too. The kids are remarkably flexible and able to move amongst all of the above with ease. They know the differences and they also see the similarities across cultures. Isn't this what we want, for kids to get this from the inside out?

  24. FLES is an entirely different program and if one's goal is to achieve some sort of proficiency in a foreign language then FLES is definitely not the way to go.

    FLES should be a program in every elementary school in this country, regardless of the language, as noted by prior poster, to expose children to cultures beyone just the US. Immersion does not work for all kids or families, esp given the 5 year plus commitment required.

    By the way, in 20 years or so, the US will probably be overtaken as the king of the universe position on this planet, so some exposure to other cultures and languages would probably be helpful for all children.

  25. My daughter was also very slow to warm up, shy and clingy, fragile and sensitive. One of her preschool teachers joked that she didn't speak to him for a full year (of two there). I was a nervous wreck thinking about her starting kindergarten in a new place, with a new teacher, new classmates, new afterschool program. Now in K at Starr King Mandarin immersion, her teacher reports that my little shy flower is outgoing and quick to offer her opinion in class. Her after school caregiver calls her charismatic and a leader. None of this was predictable to me a year ago when I was making my list and worrying about immersion and public school. In fact, my top choice school was a small private school because I was afraid to overwhelm her. Yet here we are a year later and she's loving Starr King and loving learning Chinese. I don't know if it's because of what other posters have said about confidence from learning language, or because her teacher is joyful and charismatic herself, or just because my daughter is now 5 3/4 years old, but I'm so happy that we wound up in immersion at this school. We did a lot to help the transition by having several playdates over the summer, going to PTA meetings last Spring/summer where she was at the bungalow next door with other kids during the meeting, and visiting the school several times. I'd suggest those things no matter where you wind up, immersion or not. Good luck to you, and to everyone else turning in their lists this week!
    --Bernal Single Mom (who has long forgotten her password)

  26. I also do not think FLES is worthless. That is a very American viewpoint. I have many non-American friends who were raised in their home countries and learned English in a non-immersion environment. They are fluent today. Most of them learned French or another language as well, and this was by taking a regular, one hour a day class at school. I only wish that as a child I had the option to study a language from K up. Some people with a knack for languages will always do better than others, but the exposure alone will be valuable to all.

  27. 9:29 here again.

    I've studied Japanese and French and Greek in non-immersion environments. Am I fluent? No. But I could conduct decent conversations in Japan. I could communicate. I could speak French with Egyptians and Italians, etc. that I met while traveling. I could make myself understood, imperfectly at least, but there was communication. Immersion is wonderful if you've the time to dedicate to it. That doesn't always work out.

  28. I have been reading all the posts about immersion with great interest. The "all or nothing" philosophy in language acquisition that many parents seem to espouse is slightly baffling to me. Let me offer up an example illustrating why I think we do our children a disservice by adhering to such narrow ideas and/or ideals of learning.

    I am European i.e. grew up, went to school, university and grad school in Europe, and have been in the United States 6 years now. I grew up bilingual with one northern European and one southern European parent. In high school, I decided to learn French because I loved the sound of the language and Paris. I studied French 6 hours a week for a couple of years, which I considered to be pretty intensive at the time, and then a couple of hours a week while in Engineering school. I wanted to go onto grad school and thought that studying for a Master’s degree and later on a PhD in French versus either of my two native tongues would be a challenge worth taking on since it would mean living in Paris for a while. Knowing full well that Paris for the French learner is a rude crash course in immersion, I packed my bags got myself a plane ticket and that was that. I studied, wrote scientific articles, presented at conferences, did my shopping, went to the doctor, had happy and heart-breaking conversations for 5 years all in French. Was I considered fluent? I think so. Was I considered tri-lingual? Probably. Did I have an accent? Sure.

    Years later while working/studying in French speaking Switzerland I met my husband, an American that had no formal language instruction whatsoever before taking his first French lesson at age 25. He learned the language simply because he wanted the job offered him in Switzerland. He never became as fluent as I, but he managed well enough. Ordering a fondue while having a convivial conversation with the fondue-shack owner (who had never left his canton let alone Switzerland) on some Alpine peak, was never a problem for him.

    Finally, I had a number of friends in grad school that were learning Mandarin and Japanese (at 25) for the purpose of bettering their employability. I can’t vouch for their progress as I don’t speak any of these languages myself, but they seemed to truly enjoy the challenge and their learning had purpose.

    I am aware of the numerous studies touting bilingual education as the next best thing since sliced bread. In my opinion, the academic gains that bilingually educated children appear to enjoy are a product of a more enriched classroom and curriculum, not the acquisition of language itself. Simply put, bored brains don’t learn well whereas stimulated and interested brains learn better. This enrichment I feel can be accessed not only through language but also through music, art, math, poetry, theater, science, chess, paleontology, and on and on. Bilingual education seems to be a cost-effective way to teach English to the children that are learning English as a second language and reduce boredom in the classroom for the English speaking children (in the context of the San Francisco classroom). As far as the target language learned, my experience is that true bilingualism cannot occur without a strong cultural context. My family spent two months every summer in my mother’s home country throughout my childhood and adolescence. This trip was a necessity for my mother, and that is what I mean by strong cultural context. I fail to see how an English speaking non-Asian couple would be able to provide such a context for their Mandarin learning child (this comment is not aimed at Kate and her family, it is simply a rhetorical question).

    Finally, what the brain does not use it loses, as my rusty French can attest to. Conversely, it is never too late to learn anything. Children’s brains are super-plastic in their ability to learn but why teach them that learning is something you can only do when you are young. Learning with a purpose and within context I have found to be the most effective way to learn, and the older you are the more able you become to do so.

    Anyone care to join me in Mandarin classes for the middle-aged?

  29. Some people have a natural facility for languages and can learn them, even reach fluency, as an adult. Others -- including myself -- don't. And I have certainly tried. It seems to me the only hope I would have had for becoming fluent in another language would have been to study language seriously at a young age, as in immersion. That's just my opinion.

    I have a child in an immersion program now, in kindergarten, and I'm on the fence about whether it was the right choice. He does not have the shyness issue others have raised. But it has been hard for him to focus and pay attention when he doesn't understand what's going on, which in the beginning was all the time and still seems to be much of the time. I'm hoping that the situation will get better by the end of the year and that we will make immersion work. (And I would welcome any perspective from immersion parents with older kids who went through something similar.) But I thought I should mention it, in light of the other universally positive kindergarten immersion stories.

    I will also say that there is an added dimension to parental homework help that demands much more time than it would be in a non-immersion program.

  30. A question for those who are currently in an immersion program...don't you fear that all the years spent in a language program could be 'lost' on your child because unless you lose it, you'll lose it? (beyond the elementary years that is).

    Also, for those in Mandarin programs - believe me I think it's amazing to have children learn this language, but then what? I assume it only gets harder (from what I hear at CAIS, tutors are needed beyond the school day) how do you maintain all the time and dedication to learning Chinese and later down the line - your child decides that anything Chinese-related isn't what they want to pursue, socially or professionally? And what if youre not even a household that speaks the target language?

    Are those innocent years lost of just being a kid and learning the same stuff in kindergarten as we did in our generation without all the stress of Johnny or Jill learning the characters of Chinese or the nuances of any other language?

  31. For the use it or lose it discussion: I'm also someone who grew up in Europe and I started learning French and English when I was in 5th grade (not sure anymore but it was something like 4 hours/week maybe a bit more) and Italian when I was in 9th grade. All three foreign languages continued to graduation. After that I went to live in Florence for 8 months where I took and intensive course in Italian and lived with an Italian family. I came to the US for the first time when I was in my early 20s. I probably was near fluent in Italian after that. Nowadays, of course my skills diminished, but I still understand a great deal of French and Italian and, both of which would be hugely useful if I travel to these countries. So, I totally don't think that the efforts of immersion for sure will be lost. In terms of other language classes, I think in depends on how many hours/per week and for how many years one studies, like with everything, if you don't study you don't get anywhere unless you're a natural...

  32. @12:55, it's a fair question, but as an immersion parent I can only say that the amount of time spent in school and on homework seems to be the same as for non-immersion kids, just that the language programs take advantage of the relative plasticity of young children's minds and receptivity to language, and teach the educational content in two languages instead of one. Field trips are largely the same as in other programs (symphony, etc) but maybe some are differently focused, e.g., a visit to a Day of the Dead panaderia; or the kids will learn Mexican dance instead of some other kind of dance. But the academic and art content is much the same in terms of time spent, as well as the total hours spent on schoolwork including homework.

    I think it is up to parents to manage the non-school time, and find the right balance for a particular time in terms of scheduled versus unscheduled, "innocent" as you say, playtime--the sort we had when we were kids but this generation doesn't have so much. For us this is glorious, non-scheduled summertime weeks with cousins and at least one weekend day each week that is totally free of planned activities. It has nothing to do with immersion versus non-immersion though.

    What if the kids do give up the language study down the road? Oh, well. I don't regret the piano lessons my mom made me take, although I no longer play the piano. I do sing, and appreciate music in a different way because of the piano and the music theory I learned. I would bet that most kids who learn Spanish or another language intensively in elementary (and hopefully middle) will at least have the sounds in their brains, and be able to pick it up more easily down the road. The tones in Chinese, for example, or the accent in Spanish. In our case at least, the idea that the kids have a chance at fluency (the kind that comes from learning in childhood) in a second language is a better bet for us than the idea that they don't even get that chance.

    I realize immersion is not a priority for all families, nor appropriate for all kids. However, these are clearly very popular programs, so we are not alone in our thinking.

  33. just to pipe in about mandarin immersion. we ended up there through the quirks of the sfusd lottery, with no "cultural context" to speak of (does a downstairs neighbor count?). we are taking it one year at a time and looking for signs of stress, frustration, etc. so far we have been shocked at our child's interest in learning a new language and his eagerness to go to school. i have my doubts about him becoming truly bilingual, and also wish the language was more practical in our daily lives. we live in the mission and wanted spanish immersion but also a great, close by school that would let us in. what i know so far, though, is that the kinder experience in mandarin immersion has made my kid excited about school and learning, proud of his new skills, and very metalinguistic. as long as he continues to feel this way we will keep him in immersion, and if things become stressful or frustrating we will take him out. i don't believe immersion is the only way to fluency, or that it is right for each child. we went into the lottery wanting a school close by which would make our kid happy, and so far a mandarin immersion program has fit the bill. it is amazing to me. we agonized about spanish immersion on our round 1 list, me worrying that it would be too hard, and that our child would "fall behind" in english and would be fated to struggle through until at least fifth grade. now i see that a year is a year, if it gets too hard we will switch and he will catch up in english and have some great skills under his belt--awareness of metalinguistics, great listening skills, and some ability to speak mandarin. if it does work out, and i'm hoping it will, we will have a confident and happy bilingual kid.

    i say make sure the kinder teachers look good, and then go for it, unless your child seems to have a significant processing or language learning disability.

    sorry for the long post!!
    good luck.

  34. My son has been in a Spanish immersion preschool for the last two years.

    Honestly, he had no trouble socially but just didn't like learning Spanish. And the lack of spanish language at home was not helpful.

    Based on this history, I have not included any immersion programs on my list of schools.

  35. I´ve thought about the issue of how useful the second language we've chosen for our kids will actually be to them. What if they decide to become potters, or cooks, or run a piano factory? Probably not a lot of use for Mandarin in those venues, though of course one never knows.

    That said, it's a good experience and good for the brain. Even if they never use it, they'll never been as mono-centric as many Americans (not on this group, of course) are, and that can only be good.

    And if they do decide that Chinese will be useful to them at some point, it will be hundreds of times easier for them to get it back then starting from square one, as they pronunciation will be inside their heads, much as a child who grew up with Chinese-speaking family members but didn't actually speak it.

    I saw that as someone who learned Swedish at a young enough age that I don't have an accent. I still speak Swedish pretty fluently, and find that even an hour's conversation in Swedish brings back more than I thought I still remembered. It's not the most useful language to me, but there's something wonderful about having this whole part of oneself that can open you into a whole different world when you choose. It's like having a hidden super power.

    So languages are always useful, I think. And in K-5 they learn the same stuff in immersion and general ed, so why not learn it in a different language?

    That said -- the homework is harder, especially in Chinese. Don't let anyone tell you differently. It's a bigger time commitment. No question about it.

  36. To Marlowe's mom,

    Can i ask where your child is at school? We would love for our child to learn German, but there is nothing in the San Francisco school system (or private for that matter, short of the Waldorf school) that has any German!

  37. To Jan 5 at 1:08 p.m, we're at Adda Clevenger, a private non-sectarian K through 8 school. If I created the impression that our son is learning a lot of German, I apologize. German is NOT a formal class, but there are a couple of German-speaking teachers (one teaches PE and math and the other teaches choral music) who throw some words into their instruction. There's no guarantee that German instruction will happen in any given year. The teachers and students are fairly international though more Euro than many schools in San Francisco.

    In case you are interested, outside the typical academic subjects of English, math, science and social studies, the curriculum focuses on choral music, dance, drama, studio art and PE, particularly gymnastics. Our son has chorus 5 days a week, seven 45-minute sessions of PE/gymnastics a week, studio art 3 days a week, and dance twice a week. That schedule varies year to year, last year he had PE 5 days a week and studio art 5 days a week. They also do some acrobatic-type dance as part of PE. The upper grades include a private voice lesson every week. I see students getting private piano lessons after school but I believe those cost extra.

    We like the small classes, personal attention, and emphasis on creative and physical activity. Many kids who have been at the school for a number of years are pretty impressive singers and dancers. All kids are required to participate in the performing arts. The older kids travel most years. This year the upper school chorus will be featured at a Carnegie Hall concert, some years they do a small European tour, and they sang at White House holiday concerts twice during the Clinton administration (which is ironic since the headmistress supported Alan Keyes in the 2000 presidential election per Newsmeat.com.) I'm sure the parents pay for the travel cost.

    It's about $18,000 a year not including travel and is the same for all grades. Occasionally you have to buy some small item like a paperback novel or a field trip fee, but in our experience, "added" charges have been less than $100 per year. The school day is 8:30 to 4:30 and the year runs from August 25 to July 1. Tuition also includes a three-week creative arts day camp in July. Mid-year vacations are longer than the public school schedule: a full week at Thanksgiving, not just 2 days; three weeks at Christmas; a full week on the week in which President's day falls rather than just one day; and two weeks at spring break. Some holiday weekends take both Friday and Monday off. That schedule does not work for some families, though teachers at the school sometimes offer "camps" during the weeks the school is closed.

    Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis: no lottery, no competitive application process. As with all private schools, they can and do occasionally expel students, though I've never heard of it happening without good cause.

    The only parental involvement required is to take your kids to occasional weekend rehearsals (three or four for the lower school, a few more for grades 5 and up), and to come to the kids' weekend performances, typically four or five per year including the 8th grade graduation concert. A few parents volunteer and fund-raise because they like doing it, but no participation is required. (At a very modest fundraiser last year, they had almost 100% parent participation and exceeded their modest goal of about $15K by close to 50%.) Fund-raising is conducted through the non-profit San Francisco Sinfonietta so donations are tax-deductible.

    The school is definitely not for everyone. It's family-run for-profit and has no board, no parent oversight, and no accreditation by the Western Association of Independent Schools or anything like that. You hear a lot of anti-public school rhetoric which is not at all justified in my opinion, though otherwise, the headmistress's personal politics don't come out in the classroom that I've observed. (Our son's class had an election this fall with 11 votes for Obama, 3 for McCain and one for SpongeBob Squarepants.) Teachers are not required to be accredited though a number of them are. The only standardized tests administered are the SSATs, which are the admission tests for private high schools. The school provides prep for those tests and the kids typically score well and get into top public and private high schools, for whatever that's worth.

  38. Marlowe's Mom, I just had to laugh about your headmistress's support for....Alan Keyes?!--SUCH a looney tune, my word--remember his presidential run and then his race against Obama in Illinois, I mean the man is way out there. I have to believe that her support of such a rightwing christianist (not meaning the same thing as christian in this case) politician runs very much against the grain of most Adda Clevenger parents (!).

    Not a big deal, I guess....I get the impression most AC parents put up with a certain amount of wackiness from her and from the school because the program, esp the performing arts stuff, works for your families and for certain kids. It's not my cup of tea....I frankly prefer public for many social and educational reasons, and it seems to me to be almost entirely unreplicable as a a broad educational strategy, esp for low-income kids (guessing the kids test well because they come from a educated demographic that will test well from any type of school). Still, AC just seems like one of those San Francisco quirky anomolies; and if it works for some families such as yourself, then that's okay with me. Viva San Francisco.

    I do wish the headmistress wouldn't bash the public schools to the parent community all the time, but from what I've heard arguing with her wouldn't be very worthwhile :-).

    One other thing, I do appreciate your thoughtful posts here, Marlowe's Mom.

  39. To anonymous on 12/31 at 2:56: At least going by the API rankings on GreatSchools.net, some (but by no means all) of the SF immersion program schools have very low standardized test scores. For example, Buena Vista is ranked 2 out of 10, with 10 being the highest. I realize that (a) test scores are only part of the picture, (b) some immersion schools are up-and-coming and have for many years served a high percentage of under-privileged students and that affects the rankings, (c) the GreatSchools is not totally current, (d) the overall cognitive benefits of bilingualism may not fully kick in by 5th grade and that may affect the rankings; and (e) inclusion of kids with significant learning disabilities in the testing and ranking skews results.

    Nonetheless, a ranking of 2 out of a possible 10 would make me want to take a careful look at what's going on, when I know it's possible for an immersion school to deliver both high test scores and immersion. See West Portal with a score of 9 for example (yes I know it's been top public for a long time and admission is a very long shot). Standardized test scores provide at least one type of measure of skill acquisition for most kids, which is one reason I plan to test my kid even though his current school does not test. I think it's wonderful that education-oriented families are willing to give low-scoring schools a chance because of immersion. Hearing from families who are having great experiences at an immersion school in spite of low test scores will no doubt drum up even more enthusiasm. Still, I would want to see how kids in my demographic are doing at that school and know more about the academic situation and plans before saying, "Sure, I'll take a 1/10 school or 2/10 school as long as he's learning X language." I don't think I'm the only person with that kind of concern.

  40. Marlowe's Mom, the test scores for immersion programs are typically bimodal. Take a look at the scores for Buena Vista for example: the scores for Hispanic kids are quite low, but OTOH those for white kids are quite high.

  41. What 12:47 just said is very true. Barring factors like learning delays, most kids whose parents post here will test well anywhere, whether Adda Clevenger, Buena Vista, Clarendon, Alvarado....because they come from an educated and relatively privileged demographic, and have parents who are focused on education. This is why I give little thought to the test scores (SSATs etc.) of private schools when thinking about educational quality for my kids. My kids get excellent test scores in public and they would in private, too.

    This is why API scores are sometimes called the "Affluent Parent Index" (or sometimes, the "Asian Parent Index" as our Chinese population is a huge confounding factor in the conflation of lower economic status with less achievement). Hence, West Portal--relatively affluent and Asian. Not necessarily because it is better than some other schools with much lower scores. Though I do think it is a good and well-run school. Test scores may be most useful in seeing how individual kids are doing in specific areas.

    That's not to say there are not differences between schools. There are more interesting ways to gauge educational quality and also "fit" for your child. Most are qualitative. In terms of quantitative factors, schools such as George Moscone that primarily teach high-poverty, Latino kids, but beat the demographic odds in terms of test scores also bear looking at--what are they doing well? Again with test scores, has achievement been rising for all groups (though this often means the achievement gaps are still there), or falling? Can you see trends?--but again, you need to map against changing demographics, or all you are learning is the relative affluence or poverty index and how that is changing at that school.

    I just have to say it again. In a creative, up-and-coming school with good leadership (think: Paul Revere), most kids whose parents post here will do very, very well. You will not need to worry about test scores or future academic achievement. Current test scores do not tell you that. But common wisdom and experience do. You can get a fine, well-rounded, socially attuned education for your kids in many, many public schools in SF, and for a great price too.

    --experienced parent from two turnaround schools

  42. White people are not the only people looking for schools or reading this blog. I said I'd want to take a close look at how kids IN MY DEMOGRAPHIC are doing before putting my kid in the school. White kids score at or near the top in most schools where they are statistically significant enough to show up on the SARCs (exceptions being Redding Hillcrest and maybe Tenderloin Community). In schools with both immersion and general ed strands, the SARCs don't break down between strands but it would be interesting to see if it made any difference. Maybe the immersion kids of all ethnic groups score higher, which would be another argument for adding immersion programs to the lowest-performing schools.

  43. Good point, Marlowe's Mom, and thanks for clarifying.

    I don't think it changes my point, however, which is a strong guess that most parents here hail from an educated, relatively privileged background and are focused on educational quality (no matter what their race/ethnic background), and that most kids whose parents post here are likely to do well on tests and lots of other metrics, based on socio-economic factors, in almost any school setting. Which doesn't mean that race doesn't ever factor in when socio-economic issues are controlled for. It may very well be useful for parents to look at how kids in their own demographic (race/ethnic, also free lunch/not free lunch) are testing at a given school.

    To take your case in point, I believe the achievement gap at Buena Vista has been a cause of recent concern in the parent base and esp for Latino families. And as I mentioned before, George Moscone ES has a history of beating the demographic by posting higher test scores than other schools are doing for their largely Latino and poorer base of kids.

    I would further hazard a guess that most parents on this blog actually are white and/or Asian....not all, certainly, but a much higher sampling than in the parental population at large in SF. And I would still say to this cohort that we do not need to focus on overall test scores of a school as the primary make-or-break issue. Quality of teaching, principal leadership, creativity, sure, but. I've just seen so many parents look at Great Schools for test scores and cross some real rising gems (or public schools altogether) off their list, out of hand, just based on test scores. We really need to get past using that as shorthand for quality.

    I don't think our views are far off, in any case: it is useful to do the research and look beneath the skin of aggregated test scores as one way to figure out what is going on at a school.

  44. It's widely discussed in the world of education that nobody has figured out the magic formula for boosting the achievement of low-income students on the wrong side of the achievement gap. Even in outlier schools that show higher achievement for low-income students and/or black/Latino students, there doesn't seem to be any evident method that can be emulated throughout the school system, unfortunately. The quest continues...

    Buena Vista was the immersion school of choice for families in my kids' preschool (my kids are in 9th and 12th grades), and because of the zip code preference that was then part of the enrollment system, all the Bernal families who chose it got in. So consequently, we're still close to quite a number of BV alumni who are now in high school. The overall BV test scores were no higher in their era. But lots of these kids are now at Lowell, and they don't seem to be suffering any academic deficiency! And of course they have the benefit of the second language, too -- and those kids ARE still fluent in Spanish.

    Marlowe's Mom, it occurred to me recently that with the high turnover among Adda C. teachers, Urs and John D-H stood out as such longtime, stable presences there. Then I realized, oh yeah, they're musicians, so they REALLY have to cling to a stable income source. As the mom of a senior applying to college as a jazz major, I guess I need to be aware of that. Maybe he'll be teaching there too someday. (Alan Keyes! Mrs. Harrison never lets us down.)

  45. There are several Adda C. teachers who have been there as long or longer than either of the music instructors. Certainly I'm thrilled Mr. Steiner and Mr. Davey-Hatcher choose to stay on, as I think they are both very gifted teachers, but the implication that there is a general high level of turn-over is not in line witn my observations as a parent with 6 years experience. The lead teachers have been pretty stable over those years, though Ms. Sweeney, a fantastic lead Language Arts teacher, moved to Chicago last summer.

    They do have a set of assistant teachers, who often only stay for a couple of years, but I think they generally come in straight out of college and are just figuring out their life plans. I don't find the turn-over rate in that group worrisome.

  46. I used to live next door to AC and had a great relationship with the highly energetic PE teacher, Dmitri. We got a lot of AC balls in our yard. He has been there at least 10 years now. He keeps those kids moving and they had PE every day! Overall I found the school a bit quirky, but good neighbors. I know I would have clashed with the head, but she didn't seem to be around much.


  47. And I have sung in choruses conducted by the fabulous Urs Leonhardt Steiner, music teacher at AC.

    The comments about teacher turnover are based on moans from my AC-parent friends over the years, but it does seem that the school is edging toward the mainstream a bit.

  48. Several posters have said their kids are in Spanish-immersion preschools.

    Which ones?

    Didn't know there were that many...

  49. RE: the value of FLES programs.

    That depends on your expectations.

    If you are okay with your child studying a language for 3-5 hours a week for 9 years and only placing out of a single year of that language in High School, then FLES is a good choice for you, because that is the average result.

    Lots of parents go into FLES programs thinking their kids will achieve a much higher level of proficiency than that just because they started studying the language sooner. They end up disappointed.

    So it is important for folks to know what to expect in terms of results in advance.

  50. Rosa Parks JBBP says that after k-5 their kids have about the same skills as Japanese kids in third grade. Their program was much better than Clarendon's from what I saw for myself and heard during the tour. You _can_ become fluent from just an hour a day, five days a week. Sorry, but you can. I know several people who have done that. My husband being one of them. Perhaps you need a knack for languages in those cases, but it isn't unusual. People outside of the U.S. and inside even do it all the time. I personally have studied languages non-immersion and became conversational (more than basic).

    It is not an immersion program, no, but it does not go without saying that you cannot achieve fluency that way. I'm also not saying that most kids will become fluent in a FLES program, but it doesn't deserve all the negativity either because it is possible and valuable regardless.

  51. Most Europeans seems to achieve a fairly high level of English fluency with FLES programs. Yes, they have an accent, but definitely understandable. An accent isn't the end of the world that some FLES bashers make it out!

    Probably to become truly fluent they need to live in an English speaking country. But by starting earlier, they seem to much better prepared than your average American who took 4 years of high school Spanish and can only stare blankly when spoken to in Spanish. I speak from unfortunately experience here.

  52. So...explain why private school kids who start Spanish in pre-K and continue through 8th grade only place in Spanish 2?

    Or maybe your definition of fluency is different from mine.

  53. BTW, I would bet good money that Japanese third graders have more extensive vocabularies than Rosa Park's JBBP 5th graders. I doubt there is any truth to the assertion that their Japanese is equivalent and certainly no research to back it up.


  54. When I was a hiring manager, I would often get potential hires who claimed to be fluent in other languages on their resumes.

    I would ask, "Can you run a business meeting in that language? Negotiate a contract? Write a strong business letter or proposal?" Nine times out of ten, the answer was "No" to all of these questions. It made me wonder why they had bothered to list a language skill on a resume if they couldn't actually apply it to the job they were pursuing.

    If you tell an employer you are fluent, you should be able to perform the job in that language. Otherwise, it should be listed under "Hobbies" not "skills" ;-)

  55. I know several people from countries like Egypt, The UAE, Pakistan, Iraq India, Morocco, etc. They all learned English and/or French as a second language from school as a one hour a day class. They are fluent. They speak English better than many Americans. Their vocabularies are great. Occasionally idioms or rarely used words will have escaped their knowledge, but they pick those up when they hear them. It's not inconceivable, people. Many people do it world wide. Americans are embarrassingly backward in this area. It's just an excuse to say you can't learn to speak fluently in this way. You can. People do.

    Just because YOU couldn't hack doesn't mean other people can't.

  56. Yeah, but those people all live HERE, right? Where they are surrounded by English and have to speak it every day to fluent native speakers with differing accents. That's very different from speaking another language for 1 hour per day 5 days a week with mostly other people who are at your level and are all speaking English-accented Spanish or whatever.

    I actualy think FLES has a lot of value, but I do agree it's not going to lead to fluency. At my fancy pants private school I took French starting in third grade and it definitely did not lead to fluency. Great accent and easier time later, yes, but not fluency as an elementary student.

    Re: Spanish immersion preschools, I only know of one that's truly immersion and that's Las Olas. Crayon Box has Spanish but I've heard it's actually not that much. Good Samaritan is truly bilingual as they have a lot of kids who come in speaking only Spanish. However, their main goal, I think, is to make sure those kids learn English and not the other way around. I think a lot of the English speakers pick up a lot of comprehension but many of them don't actually *speak* much Spanish.

  57. Anyone here from Las Olas?

  58. RE: Test scores in immersion programs. REmember that the testing is done in English even though the Spanish-speakers are not expected to be fluent in English until 5th grade. That affects the scores.

  59. We really wanted to love Marshall. It is a lovely little school with a strong sense of community. But the kinder class we saw was all "drill and kill" and the parent tour guide actually bragged that there was no time for playing during class time, only recess.

    Having done a ton of reading on early childhood education and the teaching of reading, I just couldn't justify sending my kid to a school with that kind of pedagogy. I got the sense that the teachers new better, but that they were forced into this academic approach by NCLS type policies.

  60. Two posters mentioned having kids in Spanish-immersion preschools.

    ARe they both at Las Olas?

  61. I had the complete opposite reaction to Marshall. All the immersion schools I toured did at least some of the repetition thing so that didn't really concern me. The kids at Marshall were the only ones on any of the tours I took (I went to something like 15 schools -- I do shift work and could do that) who greeted the tour happily (sometimes without prompting from the teacher)and then were able to turn back around and focus on what they were supposed to be doing -- even the kinders. I was floored by this. And I didn't feel like they had been cowed into doing that or anything -- they were just engaged. My husband toured on a different day and felt the same way.

    Just goes to show you how hard it is to get a sense of a school based on a tour. Who's experience is "right?" It's probably some combination of both of ours. I do know a parent of 2 children (native English speakers) there who absolutely loves it.

    My husband and I both independently decided we wanted to list it first.

  62. One of my closest friends used to teach at Marshall. She says the teachers are *great* but are under tremendous pressure to teach to the test. There is a lot more rote learning there than at Spanish immersion schools with higher test scores and less district pressure.

  63. I was floored by the schedule at Marshall: it was IDENTICAL in both kinder classrooms. It was almost eery. And absolutely no free-choice time (plan, do, review).

  64. Please, more info on assessment tests at SFUSD?

  65. FWIW, there is a new principal at Marshall now who's focus seems less test-oriented.

  66. Just to let everyone know, EPC is testing for Spanish ability this year. We have a Spanish surname, and (truthfully) listed that he was bilingual on the application last year. We didn't bother calling to schedule a test. They placed my son where there was a disproportionate amount of monolingual Spanish speakers, Marshall. We went for round 2, and then the EPC, surprise, surprise, put him in another school that has a disproportionate amount of Spanish speakers, Paul Revere.

    We decided to hold him back because he was so young. This year we again listed him as bilingual, and they called us to schedule a test. So I think they really are going to try to have a 50/50 split, or 33/33/33 this year--at least in the Spanish Immersion classrooms.

  67. Did your kid take the test yet?

    I hear it is super-easy.

  68. What looks like drill-and-kill in many public schools is often Direct Instruction. Although at first glance it seems old-fashioned, this is actually the product of recent research overwhelmingly supporting the use of teacher modeling and guided practice. When observing a DI lesson, make sure you stick around for the independent practice component: that's where the students shine.

  69. Also, some teachers would argue that an identical schedule in both classrooms speaks to the fact that the teachers are working together to design their curriculum. You don't want one class moving into the next grade with significantly different skills than the other.

  70. Yes, similar schedules happen when teachers collaborate. I always come up with better lessons when I work with a partner.
    --First Grade Teacher

  71. Does that mean teachers aren't adapting the way they teach to the specific composition of their class?

    One of the Hamlin kinder teachers told me she varies the curriculum every year depending on the strengths and learning styles of the girls in her classroom. I thought all good teachers did that.

  72. No, of course it doesn't mean teachers aren't adapting to the needs of the class! It means that teachers discuss the needs of their students when they meet, and design their overall program accordingly. Then teachers make adjustments based on their own teaching styles and the personalities in the room, and also differentiate instruction within their own room as needed.

  73. Isn't it a best practice to give kindergarteners *some* "play" time during the day (plan, do review)?

    That only happens in the higher-scoring schools, apparently (and the private schools).

    The Marshalls of this world don't incorporate any of that into the kinder day.

  74. There are many, many happy families at Marshall School. Anyone who doubts that should stop by and talk to any the many involved parents who volunteer there every day, and very much appreciate both the pedagogy and the overall ambience of the school. The previous poster obviously has a particular ax to grind.

  75. Of course there's playtime at "the Marshalls of this world!" Good lord. Why do you feel the need to convince perfect strangers on the internet that a school they liked is a Bad School? Insecure about your own views?

  76. When we toured Marshall, the tour guide boasted that there was no time wasted playing in the classroom.. that playing was for recess only.

    Did she lie?

    Also: Not all parents are trained educators or are up on the research. THey might be happy. They might love the school. They might love the approach to academics. That doesn't mean it is the most sound approach according to those who study these things.

  77. "Those who study these things"? Meaning you, I suppose, 6:44? I'm guessing you've read a few things about the Reggio Emilia approach, or maybe you have a nostalgic fondness for Montessori? Great, but if you think that's the only "sound approach" to kindergarten, you're the one who needs to "study these things".

    Do let your child play extensively at home, 6:44 (you do have toys at home, don't you?). Put them in a play-oriented kindergarten as well if that's what you think will suit your child best, but don't put down others who seek something different for their children: academic kindergartens give children an early start with reading, writing and math. These skills (especially reading) open whole new universes to children, many of whom are very much ready for them.

  78. My kid's preschool definitely has "no playing" during learning time. Activities that are included during this time are drawing, singing, dancing... Sure, there's no *free* play then but they have time set aside for that.

    Also, saying that the tour leader said there's no playing in the classroom and saying those kids don't get any playtime at all are totally different things.

    I dare you to tell us your credentials and how you know so very much about all these schools.

  79. High school students in Finland outscore students in all other developed countries in both language arts and math. And you know what? Their kindergarten is completely play-based. (THey don't start teaching academic subjects until children are seven.) So I question the notion that the more academic the kindergarten, the better the result.

    One of the administrators at Convent told an acquaintance of mine (and Convent Mom) that middle schoolers who attended more academic preschools are having a harder time with geometry. Her theory? They simply didn't spend enough time playing with blocks in preschool and kinder.

  80. Our preschool director, who has a Master's in Education and taught special ed before focusing on early childhood, visited Marshall and counseled us against applying based on her observation of the kinder classroom. I can't remember all of her comments, but do recall her saying something about the kids spending too much time sitting on the rug doing drills for their age.

    BTW: When we toured we found out that the reason English-speakers are under-represented there is because they have such a large sibling pool. They had to turn away siblings to make room for more English speakers.

  81. But see, no one has tried to claim that a "more academic" kindergarten is better. Just that they liked the school, or knew people who were happy there. I still don't get why you feel compelled to convince those people that they're making a Big Mistake.

    And my goal in picking a kindergarten isn't based on making sure my child's scores are good in high school! I'm just looking for somewhere that fits my child's personality and needs and where I believe they'll thrive.


  82. One of the difficulties in choosing a school is that the vast majority of parents have only had experience as parents with a single elementary school.

    Would you trust a car recommendation from someone who had only ever driven a single car?

    How could they compare?

    That's why so many parents get hung up on *anything* they can use to make comparison: expert opinions, test scores, Great Schools ratings, research on pedagogical approaches, etc. It is hard to base decisions on 30 minute snapshots and comparisons with "consumers" who don't have a basis for comparison.

    As for the debate about academic kindergarten, just remember this: Schools don't adopt more "academic" kindergartens because they are focusing on helpling kids thrive socially or artistically. They do it to improve their academic performance, or, more specifically, their short-term test scores. So evidence that there is a better way to improve academic performance -- and one that helps kids thrive more in other areas as well -- is absolutely relevant.

  83. Everything is relevant! I just don't see why anyone else thinks they know what would help MY INDIVIDUAL CHILD thrive based on some studies versus, you know, my actual child.

    I like Marshall no matter what anyone else says. So there.

  84. Currently on display at Marshall Elementary School: books handwritten by every child in the school, designed in conjunction with the SF Center for the Book. Current arts residencies include: woodshop and performing arts. Current science collaborations include: Marine Headlands Institute (including overnight trips for upper grades), Mission Science Workshop.
    Current after school enrichment options include: Mission Graduates Program, Chess Club, Odyssey of the Mind.
    I am sorry that someone's preschool teacher did not enjoy her observation at Marshall. Maybe S/he was having a bad day.

  85. I find this discussion quite fascinating. Just wondering what the demographics of the participants? I have a hunch. And what is their actual professional experience in education, especially with inner city schools, serving a diverse population such as what is at Marshall? Finally, I invite any prospective parent to visit the school and see for themselves what is taking place. There is a lot more to a school than test scores and what you see in a 30 minute visit. By the way, I am the "new principal" here at Marshall so my views may be a tad biased.

  86. While I agree with the sentiments above, I doubt any "new principal" would post anonymously on a blog. Not very professional.

  87. Not only am I new at being a principal, I'm new to the world of blogs.Sorry for being naive, but it was brought to my attention that Marshall was being discussed on this site, so I investigated. I'm encouraged to read the level of interest in public schools generally in the city, and in Two-Way Immersion Programs specifically. I believe in this school, as do many others. All schools in this wonderful city have something positive to offer to their respective communities. Parents just need to find the one that best suits their personal preference and educational needs of the child. If any perspective kindergarten parent would like a visit, please feel free to contact me or the school.

    Peter Avila
    Principal, Marshall Elementary

  88. To the principal of Marshall, congratulations on your new post. But what happened to last year's principal. Monica something? Why the changeover and where did she go?

  89. Does anyone know whether they are going for 33/33/33 or 50/50 this year?

    I'm curious because when my kid did the Spanish-language assessment, they did so well (100 out of 100), the examiner assumed they *only* spoke Spanish, when, in fact, my kid's English is equally strong. So I think they probably are considering her Spanish-dominant and not the balanced bilingual she actually is. They did not test in English at all.

  90. Marshall principal: Do you know what ratio EPC will be aiming for in immersion programs? It is the same ratio across all schools or are principals consulted with what they are looking for at their particular school? (I know Marshall has a lot of Spanish-speaking siblings, which makes it hard to strike the right balance... whereas other schools struggle to attract Spanish speakers.)

  91. Has anyone heard of Marin Prep, the new "Spanish-infused" independent school opening its doors this Fall?

    It will be owned and operated by the same company that owns Marin Day Schools (Bright Horizons).

    Still trying to figure out what "Spanish-infused" means ...