Saturday, January 31, 2009

Protest budget cuts

The below letter is from the United Educators of San Francisco:

Hi all,

We'd very much appreciate it if you can help promote our rally against the
proposed state education budget cuts, which will take place next Tuesday,
February 3rd at 4:00 p.m. at SF City Hall.

The Governor is trying to force $10.8 billion in additional education cuts
over the next 18 months, and is attempting to gut Proposition 98, the
state's minimum education funding law. If such a cut were to go through it
could lead to tens-of-thousands of layoffs throughout the state, and
dramatic increases in class size. The rally is intended to send a message
that these cuts are not only unacceptable, but immoral.

I've attached a PDF of a quarter-sheet flyer that we have been using at our
schools and have been giving to parents. Feel free to use or modify it.

We're also running a petition campaign addressed to the 'Big 5' in
Sacramento, the Governor and the leaders of both political parties in the
Senate and Assembly. The petitions are out in every SF school, and we've
gotten a great response. You can check out the petition here:

If anyone from your organizations would like to speak at the rally, we would
gladly carve out some time for you at the podium. We're asking speakers to
arrive promptly at 4:00 p.m. If you or one of your representatives would
like to speak please let me know as soon as possible.

Also, please let me know of any activities that your organizations have
undertaken. We'd be happy to promote them as well.

Thanks for your time,

Matthew Hardy
Communications Director
United Educators of San Francisco
415 956-8373

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hot topic: Do immersion students lag behind in English?

An SF K Files visitor has a few questions for parents with children in language immersion programs:

"I'd love to hear from parents of kids in immersion programs (and it would be great to hear from ones in less talked about ones, like KIP, too) about any concerns/lack of concerns they may have had about their kids' English learning skills. That is, did they feel any need to provide their kids supplemental English reading and writing skills in the early years (when in immersion programs the bulk of the teaching in in the immersion language)?"


I'm hearing about lice outbreaks at schools--both public and private--from a lot of parents. And I have read that this is actually a problem across the country. Researchers have actually found that common head lice has become more resistant to antibiotics and the most commonly purchased, over-the-counter shampoos, Nix and Rid. As a result, parents are turning to alternative remedies such as tea tree oil. I'm working on a story about lice for SFGate and I'd love to hear from parents. You can email I'm interested in knowing if your school has had a problem and whether or not it has been ongoing. Also, if anyone feels comfortable being interviewed and featured in a story, please let me know. Thanks! Best, Kate

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SFGate: Learning to celebrate Chinese New Year

I recently wrote something for SFGate about sending my daughter to the Jose Ortega Mandarin program. The story is about celebrating Chinese New Year for the first time. Click here to read it. Thanks!
Best, Kate

Hot topic: French immersion

An SF K Files visitor asked me to pass on the following message:

"Following up on the thread announcing the expanded SFUSD language program initiative, I just put up a web site,, with the hope of bringing together parents who are interested in working to lobby SFUSD to establish a public French Immersion or bilingual-bicultural program. I’m particularly hoping to find someone who knows how to work with the district and is interested in participating. I hope this can be a thread."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Interesting data

Below is a list of elementary and K-8 schools in ascending order of percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, which is a marker of poverty. It's an interesting list--and amazing to see Miraloma at No. 2 when I'm sure it was much lower years ago. Another striking thing (and I guess I should not be surprised by this) is that if you look at the schools in the top half, you see the wish list for many parents.

Elementary and K-8 schools by ascending free lunch eligibility 2008-09:
1. Clarendon ES
2. Miraloma ES
3. Lilienthal K-8
4. Grattan ES
5. Feinstein ES
6. Alice Fong Yu K-8
7. Creative Arts K-8
8. Lafayette ES
9. Rooftop K-8
10. Sunset ES
11. Alamo ES
12. West Portal ES
13. Sloat ES
14. Alvarado ES
15. Jefferson ES
16. Argonne ES
17. Peabody ES
18. Lawton K-8
19. Milk ES
20. McKinley ES
21. New Traditions ES
22. Lakeshore ES
23. Sherman ES
24. Sunnyside ES
25. Stevenson ES
26. Ulloa ES
27. Fairmount ES
28. Buena Vista ES
29. Key ES
30. King ES
31. Parks ES
32. Ortega ES
33. Yick Wo ES
34. Longfellow ES
35. Flynn ES
36. Monroe ES
37. McCoppin ES
38. SF Community K-8
39. Sutro ES
40. El Dorado ES
41. Revere K-8
42. Garfield ES
43. Cleveland ES
44. Cobb ES
45. Bessie Carmichael K-8
46. Guadalupe ES
47. Taylor ES
48. Sheridan ES
49. Hillcrest ES
50. Glen Park ES
51. Chavez ES
52. Drew CP Acdy
53. Sanchez ES
54. Webster ES
55. Serra ES
56. Spring Valley ES
57. Parker ES
58. Marshall ES
59. Redding ES
60. Tenderloin ES
61. Vis Valley ES
62. Carver ES
63. Moscone ES
64. Lau ES
65. Muir ES
66. Chin ES
67. Bryant ES
68. Harte ES
69. Malcolm X Acdy ES
70. Chinese Ed Ctr ES
71. Mission Ed Ctr ES

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Multilingual Master Plan by San Francisco Public Schools

Reported by Elizabeth Weise
Mandarin Immersion Parents Council
Jan. 23, 2009

Imagine San Francisco with a public French immersion school. A public Russian immersion school. Spanish and Chinese immersion schools in each quadrant of the City, with enough seats for all comers.
Imagine every elementary school in the district offering at least 30 minutes per day of a second language to every student whose family chooses it.
Imagine strong middle and high school language programs feeding from those immersion elementary schools, so that San Francisco students will routinely pass AP literature and language tests in other languages with a minimum score of 4. Imagine kids coming out of general ed programs with a solid grounding in a second language, even if they weren’t in immersion.
When today’s 2-and 3-year-olds are ready to enter school, it may not be a dream but reality. Those goals, and more, are part of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Multilingual Master Plan, a draft of which was presented to the Blue Ribbon Task Force last month.
It comes in part from the School Board’s resolution that “preparing students for our world of multilingualism and multiculturism has become an integral and indispensable part of the educational process,” passed on Dec. 12, 2006.
In breathtaking boldness, the plan, already endorsed by school Superintendent Carlos Garcia, envisions a San Francisco school system that builds on the City’s century-old history as a cosmopolitan, polyglot culture and international gateway.
“We’re trying to prepare all San Francisco Unified School District students to become global citizens,” says Laurie Olsen, a well-known educational consultant who is working closely with SFUSD staff to craft the Master Plan.

Already popular
The idea of focusing on language comes from two facts about the San Francisco Public Schools:
- Half of the districts students enter school already speaking another language, generally Spanish or Chinese.
- Immersion programs are hugely popular.
This gives San Francisco a head start in the language game, and a base of students who by middle school will move smoothly between two languages. Those existing language abilities, in 49% of students, will allow the District to merge heritage learners and those from the bilingual programs with students coming from immersion.
“The pathways are going to merge in middle school, because we believe they’ll have the same levels of language proficiency. Out of a middle school program they’ll be doing high-level academic work in that target language,” said Margaret Peterson
the new program administrator for the District’s World Language / Multilingual Education department.
And there’s already a huge hunger for such programs. Parents crowd the district’s eight public Spanish immersion elementary schools, two Cantonese immersion, two Mandarin immersion and one Korean immersion. All told, 13 of the City’s 72 elementary schools offer language immersion, and still there are waiting lists.
“If everybody knew they could get a slot in immersion, that would be huge for enrollment and for people being excited about the district,” says Tammy Radmer, founder of San Francisco Advocates for Multilingual Excellent, a group of parents with children in immersion programs in the public schools.
“I don’t know how many parents I’ve talked to who are stressed out because they know they probably won’t get into immersion. So people are pessimistic even enrolling,” she says.
When parents can’t get languages in the city’s schools, they leave the system. San Francisco is home to numerous private language immersion schools, including two French, one Mandarin, at least one Russian as well as Chinese, Scandinavian, Italian and German immersion preschools.
When they can, they stay. A full quarter of parents in the city’s two Mandarin immersion schools say they would have gone private or left the district entirely had they not had an immersion alternative. With it, they stayed and are contributing to the growing vibrancy and excitement of one of the nation’s most forward-thinking school districts.
But however popular languages are, currently 27 elementary schools have no language program outside of English. So the District plans to build on this vast base of parental interest to create a school system that prepares all students “to become global citizens in a multilingual world,” in the words of the original Blue Ribbon Task Force report presented to the School Board in April of 2008.
This would put San Francisco schools on par with many in Europe, where competency and fluency in second and even third languages isn’t considered surprising but merely expected in a world where speaking more than one language is presumed.

Not Just Immersion
The plan isn’t all about immersion. While a choice of immersion programs would be available in every quadrant of the city, every school in the district would have at least one language program available in addition to standard academic English.
That would mean daily 30 minute classes in the target language, allowing all students in the system who follow the program through until 12th grade to attain a basic level of proficiency by graduation, something rarely attained in most schools nationwide.
“The programs won’t be mandatory,” says Peterson.
“It’s about access, it’s not about a mandate or a requirement.”
“The district will work closely with administrators and teachers to make sure they can contribute their know-how and experience to building powerful programs,” says Francisca Sanchez, the Associate Superintendent.

German, anyone? Arabic?
And the languages don’t have to be Spanish, Mandarin or Cantonese, says Peterson. “The district is very open to additional languages. We’re going to start where there’s some demand, where parents are saying they want it, or teachers and principals are interested.”
For parents whose kids aren’t in those programs, especially parents whose children aren’t yet in school, the possibilities are tantalizing. Already, the director of an Italian immersion preschool in San Francisco has contacted the district about beginning an Italian program. Given the numerous, well-organized language groups in the city, the possibilities seem endless for parents who begin organizing now.
It’s been done before, recently. The District’s two now over-subscribed Mandarin immersion schools, which currently have 140 students and will fill up at 360 students in 2011, were created by committed parents approaching the district just six years ago, in 2003.
Parents or groups that are interested in a specific language should contact Maria Martinez at

But how?
In a time of budgetary constraints, implementing such an ambitious plan seems difficult in the extreme. Peterson says the idea is to being implementing it in already existing language programs with the aid of the committed parent populations already in place, “building from the bottom up to strengthen existing programs.”
That will include working on the Middle and High School portion of immersion programs, creating them in Mandarin and Cantonese as well as broadening the programs in place for Spanish.
It will also mean bringing together bilingual, heritage speakers and immersion program students at Middle School, when their language abilities should be nearly equal. This will create a broader pool of students (especially in Cantonese and Mandarin) at designated schools making class creation easier.
The plan is ambitious and the District realizes that it can’t create such a broad plan out of thin air. One thing it has going for it is that it’s teacher population is already linguistically rich, something not every school district can say. But even so, the District plans to begin working with university teaching programs across the state to begin a pipeline that will create the teachers it will need.
The students will feed back into those same universities. In middle school and high school they will take actual courses in the language they learned in elementary school, so social studies taught in Spanish or math taught in Chinese, plus an additional language arts class in that language.
That’s crucial to raising students’ abilities in the language through increasingly sophisticated course material. It pays off. In the University of Oregon and at UC Berkeley, Chinese programs have had to add two grade levels to their Chinese course work, because students coming out of immersion schools were so advanced they ran out of courses to take.
But how to pay for it? Clearly, there’s going to be a lot less money going to California public schools in the coming years. The District hopes that community and civic partnerships can be formed around languages, schools and programs. That could mean money from the federal government, which pays to support languages it considers crucial (Chinese, Arabic, Russian, etc), money from China, which supports Mandarin studies worldwide, and money from community groups, parents and foundations.
To frustrated Spanish immersion parents whose children often find no suitable classes when they get to middle school, such ambitious planning might seem premature. But the District sees plans to focus first on those existing programs, to strengthen them and build them up as showcases that can be used to spin off new programs as the plan is implemented.

Next steps
Over the next two months the District plans to present its plan to interested parent groups, including Parents for Public Schools (PPS), San Francisco Advocates for Multilingual Excellent (SF AME), District English Learners Advisory Council (DELAC), Chinese for Affirmative Action, Bilingual Community Council (BCC), the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council and the San Francisco chapter of the California Association of Bilingual Educators (SF-ABE) to name a few.
The student assignment redesign team is working closely with Multilingual Education /World Language and English Learners Support Services to create a system that takes into account language pathways.
One goal is to ensure that once a student begins in a given language, they will have the opportunity to continue in it through high school. For example, “A kid who started in Japanese gets priority placement to a middle school with Japanese,” said Olsen.
This is all meant to happen quickly. The District hopes to have gotten input from parent and other groups by April, so that during the 2009-2010 school year schools can plan and by 2010-2011 “we’ll begin to see implementation,” said Peterson.
The goal is that by 2023 “all schools will have this continuous pathway in place,” she says. That would mean that two- and three-year olds in San Francisco today would graduate from a school system that presumes languages are crucial to a 21st century life.
But some things will happen more quickly. For example, Peterson wants to emphasize the importance of students who already speak two languages, and will present a plan to the Board of Education to award Seals of Biliteracy for students graduating with those skills as early as the end of this year.
There’s certainly buy-in at the top. When the plan was presented to school superintendent Carlos Garcia, his reaction was “This is a dream come true,” said Peterson.

Rosa Parks Wins "Green My School" Prize

Gavin Newsom announced at a press event yesterday that Rosa Parks was named winner of the Ecozone/CBS "Green My School" Contest.
Other SF public school finalists included Grattan, Sunnyside, McKinley and Commodore Sloat elementary schools.
Congratulations everyone!!!
Check out the CBS5 news story at this link:
Chronicle story here (note: the kermit image is unrelated to the kids video entry):
Examiner story here:
You can view all the video entries at the Ecozone site here:
Press release:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Top Things You Need to Know to Navigate the Special Education System

Presented by members of The SFUSD Community Advisory Committee for
Special Education (CAC) and Support for Families of Children With

John O'Connell High School
2355 Folsom Street, (@20th Street) in San Francisco.
Parking is available in the schoolyard --
Enter from Harrison Street (between 19th and 20th Streets).

Saturday, February 14, 2008 -- 8:30 am -12:30 pm


are larger group
trainings that provide an opportunity for parents & professionals to
network, share concerns, ideas, and learn about valuable information &

In response to the changing needs of families, SFCD recently began
offering monthly half-day Saturday workshops. These extended workshops
give participants an opportunity to receive more in-depth information
on a range of topics.

In addition to providing childcare and interpretation services, food
is provided to all those who pre-register.

RSVP required. Call 415-920-5040 to sign up, for more information, and
to reserve childcare or interpretation services.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guest blogger: Plan C San Francisco

I'm the chair of Plan C San Francisco ( - we are a 1000+ member civic group in San Francisco, and we are very interested in trying to push San Francisco in the direction of more weighting to neighborhood schools (note: we're not advocating for a guarantee to attend your neighborhood school - we think choice is still important for lots of reasons - families who want immersion programs, particular curriculums, etc.) I realize not all SF K Files readers want neighborhood schools, but we think moving in that direction makes a lot of sense. Mostly because we think it will bring families back into the public school system who have opted out - and that will start a "virtuous cycle": more families opting into the public schools will make the public schools better, which will cause more families to opt for public schools, which will make the schools better, and so on. Neighborhood schools also promote a sense of community - there are probably 10 kids near the age of my five year old on my block of Cole Valley, but we don't know any of them very well, and the kids don't play with one another - in part because we all attend different schools! And for anyone who cares about global warming, walking to school sure beats driving cross-town 5X per week.
Plan C was established about 5 years ago to promote quality of life issues in San Francisco, and we think more weighting to neighborhood schools will make for better schools, better neighborhoods, and a better environment. If SF K Files readers agree, we'd love to have them join our group (at no charge) by clicking here. And if readers want to help with the leadership of our neighborhood schools efforts, even better!
By the way, we're sensitive to the diversity and "achievement gap" concerns that lead to the current assignment system. It's just that we don't think the current system has been successful in addressing those issues - it really hasn't resulted in any greater diversity in the schools, and we haven't seen any closing of the achievement gap in San Francisco. If the current system is failing at these goals, why not give neighborhood schools a try (like Oakland does), and see if we can achieve some of the progressive goals described above (greater public school participation, neighborhood cohesiveness, and a greener city!)
Mike Sullivan, Chair, Plan C San Francisco

Hot topic: Share Round I lists

An SF K Files visitor suggested that parents share their Round I lists. "I know that many regular posters didn't participate in the first thread because they worried that it might make their top choices more popular," the SF K File visitor says. So let's share them now because what's done is done...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hot topic: Is SFUSD prepared for an influx of kids?

A parent brings up the following topic:

"I know that the district was taken by surprise last year on the number of people that applied and enrolled. They had 200+ more people in kindergarten over the previous year at the start of school ( Does anyone know if they preparing for another year with more applicants/enrollees? I guess that I hope that this year's process isn't like the mess of last year and that perhaps they've learned something.

The preschool hunt was a mess for quite a few friends of mine (several people I know didn't get accepted anywhere and wait lists turned out as a bust) for two years in a row. And in a "probably not for public consumption note," one of the principals I chatted with recently said that they were surprised by the numbers of incoming siblings (more than 60% of the seats available will be gobbled up by sibs). So it seems like there's a quite a baby boom in town."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hot topic: Public to private

An SF K Files visitor asked me to post the following:

"Our youngish (fall birthday) girl is currently in kindergarten at a public school. She was not eligible for private school last year, due to the Sept. 1 cutoff at most private schools. We went ahead and sent her to public kindergarten, because she really did seem ready, and it seemed artificial to wait a year -- for the opportunity to just apply to independent schools. Although we are mostly happy with our public school, we do feel we missed out on the opportunity to fully explore all our options last year. This year we are applying to just two private schools which we feel are truly exceptional, and if she were accepted, we would be thrilled to move our daughter from her current school. However, if she is so lucky as to get in, she would have to repeat kindergarten again at the new school. We don't really have a problem with this -- and in many ways we feel it would be a good thing. We know of two private schools (Synergy and Presidio Hill) that actually have two-year kindergartens for fall birthday kids, so it doesn't seem too out of the ordinary.

Has anyone out there done this (their child moved from public to private and repeated kindergarten) or know someone who has? How did it work out? Also, do SFK Files readers feel that our daughter is at a disadvantage in the application process, since she is already currently in kindergarten?

Mom Exploring Options..."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Round I forms due

Forms for SFUSD Round I are due Friday, January 9. If you have any last-minute questions, contact Parents for Public Schools: Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Were teachers and principals given enough credit?

I received a thoughtful letter from a SFUSD parent. I asked him if I could run the letter on the SF K Files because I think he brings up some interesting issues about the recent San Francisco magazine article on public schools and I think his thoughts will spark some discussions.

Hi Kate,

I think your blog has helped, enlighten and informed many parents. I would have liked to read someone else's trials and tribulations when my daughter was entering kindergarten. Your top schools list is heavily weighted towards schools that have a lot of parental support or are under a special program due to their previous poor scores. I feel you have over looked many other schools.

I give you one prime example in Ulloa elementary. Ulloa is very close to Sunset elementary. Both schools draw from the sunset area.

Ulloa earned an 10-10 API score! Over the last 6 years Ulloa has steadily raised it's scores to the level of consistently reaching the upper 800's even over 900.

This was done through hard work by the teachers and support staff. The PTA has always been actively involved with helping the school. But, not focused on trying to make money for the school. Because of this, it is the staff that deserves the credit for turning around the school. As it should be. When reading your article it seems to imply that the parents are responsible for theses schools turn around and not the teachers.

What makes Ulloa such a great school? Well if you had done better research, you would have the facts.

If any parent wants to see a great elementary school doing the best they can with so little, then visit Ulloa.



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Inauguration Ceremony for SFUSD's Board of Education

Sandra Fewer, Rachel Norton, Jill Wynns and Norman Yee will be sworn into office Wednesday, January 7, at 6 p.m. in an hour-long ceremony held at the Tenderloin Community School, 927 Turk St. (between Van Ness and Polk); Multipurpose room (2nd floor). The public is welcome.

Fewer will be sworn in by Senator Mark Leno, Norton by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Wynns by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and Yee by S.F. County Sheriff Michael Hennessey.

Sandra Fewer
Fewer is an educational policy expert who has worked for over 20 years with San Francisco's public schools. For the past seven years, Fewer has worked as the Director of Education Policy and Parent Organizing at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth analyzing the practices of public school systems throughout the nation to gain a better understanding of the policies that need to be brought forth to the S.F. Board of Education.

Fewer also trained hundreds of parents to be active participants in San Francisco’s public schools and helped to lead the creation and implementation of the Parent Advisory Council to the Board of Education (PAC). She and other parents were influential in passing the Board resolution, "Closing the Achievement Gap in the San Francisco School District."

Fewer was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown and has two children. She lives in the Richmond District with her family.

Rachel Norton
Norton has served on the SFUSD Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education since 2005, and has been an active member of Parents for Public Schools - San Francisco (PPS-SF) since 2001. She has also volunteered for the Autism Speaks Bay Area Advocacy Committee, which works to secure health insurance coverage for kids with autism. Norton currently serves as co-chair of the Site Council at her daughter’s public elementary school.

Norton has worked at The New York Times, Reuters, and CNET: The Computer Network. She created the Visual Journalism course at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, which she co-taught. She currently works as the part-time Editorial Director for in San Francisco and provides writing, editing and consulting for PPS-SF.

Norton was born and raised in Berkeley, California where she attended public schools. She has a degree in English from Barnard College. She has two daughters and lives with her family in the Richmond District.

Jill Wynns
Wynns was first elected to the S.F. Board of Education in 1992 and has been re-elected for four terms. She served as Board President in 2001 and 2002, and as chair of the Budget Committee for five years. She has become nationally recognized for her opposition to the commercialization and privatization of public schools, and for her advocacy to increase resources for public education. Wynns authored the district's healthy foods policy.

She served on the board of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) for nine years. Wynns is a director of the California School Boards Association and a member of their Charter Schools Task Force. She has also been president of the Association of California Urban School Districts, served as a working group member for the California Education Master Plan, and currently serves on the California Title I Committee of Practitioners and the State Attendance Review Board.

Wynns lives in the Bernal Heights neighborhood.

Norman Yee
Yee has been an SF Board of Education Commissioner since 2005, during which time he also served as its president and as vice president. He has worked as a San Francisco K-12 and community college teacher and served as Executive Director of Wu Yee Children's Services for over 15 years. Yee holds a graduate degree in education.

During his 35-year career working on behalf of San Francisco children, youth and families, Yee formed the San Francisco Early Head Start Program, created the Asian Parent Education Network, established the San Francisco Child Care Providers Association, created a preschool in the Sunnydale Housing Projects, and formed the Chinatown Beacon Center.

Yee’s two children were educated from Kindergarten through 12th grade in San Francisco’s public schools. He is a native San Franciscan and lives in the Ingleside District.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hot topic: Round I tactics

An SF K Files visitor brings up the following questions:

"Could you put a topic up about ranking for soon-to-be-turned-in Round I forms? Especially in the light of the new news about having a better chance of getting into a school the higher you rank it, we're really deliberating now for the 1st grade lottery (and I imagine the kindergarten lottery participants are, too). We also learned last week that applicants from private schools have the same diversity factor as families trying to transfer from another SFUSD school where the API is lower than 4 (so technically are considered diverse for many schools, giving them an advantage over families applying from an SFUSD school with an API of 4 or over), and I'm wondering how this is affecting folks' ranking their school choices, too."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Last chance: January tours

Round I forms are due January 9. That means the week of January 5 is your last chance to see a school--though I imagine most people have finalized their lists by now. Jose Ortega is leading its final tour on Tuesday, January 6 at 9:30 a.m.: call 469-4726. Please feel free to advertise your schools' final tours in the comments.