Thursday, April 30, 2009


Spring is here! Let’s celebrate. We hope you can join us for a whale of a good time at our SPLISH SPLASH PEABODY BASH School Carnival on May 16, 2009 from 11-3 pm. We will have several carnival games, a silent auction and a raffle. George Peabody Elementary School is located at 251 6th Avenue in San Francisco. For more information go to

Hot topic: May election

The following from an SF K Files reader:
I was wondering if you might be able to post info on the upcoming May special election and how the propositions will effect funding to our schools. Our son's preschool is urging everyone to vote "NO" on 1D because it will severely cripple early education funding, but what about the others?

Hot topic: underenrolled schools

The following from an SF K Files reader:
I would be interested in finding out where people end up -- i.e., those who went 0/7 in the public school lottery and who didn't get into any of the independent schools they applied to. Specifically, I'd like to know: (1) the name of the school (2) what they like about the school and (3) whether the school still has openings for the Fall (especially for kindergarten).

This could be a way for people to find out about under-enrolled schools and provide some choices for those who are still dissatisfied with their options.

Hot topic: swine flu

SFUSD has posted information about the swine flu on its Web site:

The San Francisco Unified School District and the San Francisco Department of Health (DPH) are working closely together and will keep parents updated as necessary. SFUSD encourages students and staff to continue to take universal precautions to stay well, including: sneeze or cough into a tissue, elbow or sleeve (throw the tissue in the trash after use); wash your hands often with soap and water (especially after you cough or sneeze); use alcohol-based hands cleaners if you have them; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; and if you are sick, stay home. Learn more about the flu investigation and flu prevention.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coming up THIS SATURDAY is the Starr King Car Wash, BBQ and Bake Sale!

Get your car washed! Eat some BBQ! Support Starr King students and teachers!

Saturday, April 25th
11am to 3pm
Starr King Elementary School
1215 Carolina Street
Potrero Hill

$5 Basic wash (exterior)
$15 Deluxe (with interior)

Donations above the charge accepted!
Get free BBQ with every wash!
Bring the whole family and invite your friends!

RAIN OR SHINE: The Bake Sale and BBQ will happen in the lunch room in the unlikely event of rain.

Please enter back schoolyard on Wisconsin between Connecticut and 25th Street.
Proceeds benefit the students and teachers of Starr King Elementary School.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Carnival in the Xcelsior

Hot topic: Everyday Math

This from an SF K Files visitor:
I'd like to see a discussion of "Everyday Math," which was adopted by
the SFUSD under cover of darkness last year and suddenly implemented
in a very short period of time. I'd like to hear parents and
teachers' experiences with it, the perceived advantages of it (if
any), and whether anyone thinks there is anything we can do to
un-adopt it. Avoiding this kind of math instruction was a critical
consideration for us in choosing public school, and now here we are
stuck with it anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hot topic: Why does California ignore its schools?

This from an SF K Files visitor:

According to today's NYT's article

"Currently 6,000 of the nation’s 95,000 schools are labeled as needing corrective action or restructuring because they have fallen short of testing targets under the federal law, which nonetheless provided little financing to help them. Most states have let the targets languish. The stimulus law, in contrast, provides $3 billion for school turnarounds, and requires governors to pledge vigorous action."

Of the 6,000 schools, 2,260 are in California. Being the most populated state is not an excuse (NYC with 19,500,000 as opposed to CA's 36,7000,000 only has 565 schools in this category, and Texas with 24,300,000 people only has 347 of these schools.) As a parent who will soon be entering the CA school system and is ready to get my hands dirty and be involved, I am resentful that I will be doing so much of the work that the state is failing to do. This, more than anything, makes me want to leave CA - the complete disregard for the failing school system. How did it come to this?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hot topic: Catholic schools

An SF K Files visitor asked me to post a thread on Catholic schools. Also, here's a link to a past post on the topic:
I am interested in getting some insight into the catholic school kindergarten process.

The rumor that I heard was you need to have been a parishioner for atleast two years prior to kindergarten process in order to be considered as well as "monthly" offering.

We are catholic but not affiliated with a parish. Our son is 3 in May so I am two years out for kindergarten. I am thinking this is perfect timing to find a parish if we have to.
I would prefer to wait til next year when church won't be so painful with 2 kids.

If waiting a year to find a parish hurts our chances of getting into kindergarten, we will join a parish and get involved on the sooner side.

The closest two are St Brendan's and St Cecilia. Any preference between the two?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hot topic: Marin Prep

An SF K Files visitor requested that I start this thread. Also, here's a link to a former thread on the same topic:
Could we start a thread on Marin Preparatory? I think a lot of people who were left out in the cold from the private process are seriously considering this start-up school. But a lot of us know nothing about it. It would be really useful to have a thread to hash out a lot of unanswered questions about Marin Prep.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hot topic: Wait pool numbers

Several K Files readers have suggested that I start a thread on wait pool numbers. Sorry for the delay. We're traveling for spring break.
Maybe time to put up a waitpool numbers thread? there are some signs that the uploaded stats are either faulty or there's something going on we don't know about (increased class size for grades 1-3?). (that is, where's the approved appeal column, the sibling column -- plus, at least two people i'm aware of are not represented on the spreadsheet at all -- that is, there's no listing for their wp grade/spot).

They posted the waitpool numbers early (shock!)
May I suggest a new thread?
Two things must be said:
1. It is not a list (in order) but rather a pool.
2. There is no information listed for Clarendon's 1st grade. Other mistakes may have been made.
Does anyone know if EPC is open next week (Spring Break?)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Miraloma Welcome Playdates and Events:

Welcome to all new Miraloma kids and families!

Miraloma's Welcome Playdate #1 is coming up this Sunday, April 5, 10 am - 12 pm. We are meeting at the city Miraloma playground right next to the school on Omar Way -- informally called "Sandy Park". (PLEASE NOTE: the date is incorrect on the welcome letter you received when you registered. The letter says it's on April 12, which is Easter. That is a typo. You should have received a postcard in the mail confirming that April 5 is the correct date). The welcome committee will provide bagels and coffee. Come play and meet other Miraloma families!

Other Miraloma welcome playdates and school events as follows:

- Miraloma Spring Festival -- Sunday, April 19, 12 pm -- 3 pm on the schoolyard for fun, games, food and music.

- Miraloma Silent Auction -- Saturday May 16th, 8 pm -- 11 pm at The Harding Park Clubhouse for refreshments, entertainment, mingling and bidding on 100’s of amazing items. (Adults only please.)

- Welcome Playdate #2 -- Sunday, May 17, 1 pm - 3 pm. At Miraloma playground on Omar Way. This is a potluck event -- if you want, bring a snack to share.

- Welcome Playdate #3 -- Sunday, June 14, 1 pm - 3 pm. At Miraloma playground on Omar Way. Potluck -- bring a snack to share.

- Weekly Friday morning singalongs -- join us on any Friday from 8 to 8:30 am in the auditorium.

For more info, please contact Lee Fischer at

Hope to see you at some or all of these events!

Hot topic: Hardship appeals

An SF K Files visitor suggested the following topic:
Can we do a topic to find out if anyone filed a Family Hardship Appeal for K? If so, would they consider sharing their reasons? I went to SFUSD today and was told they received a high number of family hardship appeals this year. Seems location of schools is causing a stir. I was curious as to people's thoughts and reasons for their hardships.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Immersion Works, Expert Tells Parents

The following article was written by Elizabeth Weise, Starr King parent and president of the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council


“There is no greater gift you can give your child than the gift of early bilingualism,” immersion expert Dr. Myriam Met told an audience of almost 200 parents in San Francisco on March 16. Children’s brains are pre-wired to learn language, a skill that has already begun to fade by ninth grade when most students begin studying a second language, she said.

“Immersion also gives your children tools to live in a new world, different from anything we can imagine,” said Dr. Met, a nationally-known expert on immersion programs who has helped create them across the globe. The biggest concern most parents have about immersion is whether it will hinder their children’s overall academic progress and whether they won’t learn English well. It won’t, Dr. Met told them.

Students in language immersion programs do at least as well as their monolingual peers in school, and often better, especially if they stay in immersion until at least the 8th grade, Dr. Met said.

The Evidence
Her evening talk covered what national and international research has shown about language immersion programs. For children who are native speakers of English, the benefits of immersion are clear. Research shows that when they are in one-way and two-way immersion programs, and are tested in English, their math and language arts scores were at or above national average by 5th grade. But they did even better when they stayed in immersion through at least 8th grade. Immersion is just as good for children who are learning English. In fact, the research shows that they do better in immersion than children learning English who aren’t in immersion, Dr. Met said.

The research she cited is based mostly on studies done of students in Spanish and French immersion, with minor studies done looking at Chinese immersion. While some of the studies were conducted within the San Francisco Unified School District, most were not. Dr. Met spoke generally about immersion, not specifically about immersion in San Francisco. She addressed head-on concerns about the well-known statistical achievement gap between native English speakers and students who are learning English in schools.

Nationwide research clearly shows that in general, English language learners who are in one and two-way immersion programs and are tested in English score at or slightly below national average by 5th grade in math and language arts. They, too, had the best outcomes when they continued in immersion through at least 8th grade. Most importantly, nationwide studies indicate that those students do better than their peers who are in not in immersion programs.

The statistical evidence suggests that immersion programs do not cause the achievement gap and in fact reduce it, Dr. Met said. Secondly, however much it might seem that more classroom time in English would help English language learners, there’s no evidence that transferring them from immersion programs to an English-only programs improves test scores. And as they move through school, English language learners in immersion programs drop-out at a lower rate than English language learners in English-only programs. “More time spent learning English doesn’t necessarily improve performance,” she said.

Don’t Panic
This is crucial information for parents either contemplating immersion or who have children in immersion programs, because somewhere between first and third grade, a substantial minority of parents note that other children, in English-only programs, seem to be ahead of their children. And they decide that it must be the immersion that’s the problem. In other words, said Dr. Met, “They panic.”

In extreme cases, the parents pull their children out of immersion and switch them to English-only programs. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do, the research shows. Immersion is a process and families have to trust in the process. All the benefits don’t become apparent in the first one or two or three years. It’s by 5th grade, and especially by 8th grade that the full benefits of the immersion experience become clear.

Pulling children out just as they’re starting but before they’ve had time to reap the benefits of immersion is a mistake that’s all too often made, she said. Of course results do vary, depending on the degree to which the school’s program is faithful to the immersion model, Dr. Met said. But there’s no statistical evidence that she’s seen that would indicate that immersion isn’t working in San Francisco schools.

One way to combat this early elementary slump is to create a buddy system, where families in the lower grades are paired with families in upper grades, so the new families have an example of where they can expect their children to end up. “Nobody is as convincing to a parent as another parent,” said Dr. Met.

Immersion works
“Immersion delivers on promises made,” Dr. Met said. Across the board, no matter what language they speak at home and what language they’re learning in school, students end up fully bilingual and biliterate, able to speak, read and write fluently in both languages.

One reason for that is the number of hours they spend learning in their immersion language, she noted. At the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, where the U.S. military and embassy staff learn languages, it’s assumed that it will take 240 hours of classroom time to reach an intermediate level in Spanish, and 480 hours to reach the same level in Chinese.

A typical high school student who studies a foreign language gets 125 hours of instruction a year, Dr. Met said. Immersion students in Kindergarten get 750 hours of classroom - five hours a day for 150 days. “That’s the power of immersion,” Dr. Met said.

What makes programs work?
For an immersion program to work well, several things have to be present, Dr. Met told the audience.

* It must be carefully planned.
* It must be ‘articulated,’ meaning what students learn flows clearly from year to year, and especially from school to school.
* Teachers must be well-trained.
* The school must have strong leadership from its principal and strong administrative support from its school district.

Getting trained teachers is a problem nationwide because today there are not enough teachers training for immersion in college. That creates a situation where “you’re flying the plane while you’re putting on the wings,” says Dr. Met. But until sufficient numbers of teachers trained in immersion begin to come through the pipeline, most immersion teachers will need on-the-job training and mentoring from more experienced teachers. The good news is that that happens in many San Francisco classrooms today.

Thank an immersion teacher today
Teaching, as anyone who’s spent any time in a classroom knows, is hard work. But it’s harder for immersion teachers. They must be able to function fully in two languages, they must always be ‘on’ in class, using mime, their imaginations and a host of props they often create themselves to get ideas across in a new language.

And they often have to translate or create their own teaching materials — all the while dealing with parent, school district, and state and federal level expectations. Immersion teaching “is the hardest kind of teaching there is,” said Dr. Met. “So thank your child’s teacher.”

Further information about research Dr. Met cited in her talk can be found at:


Dr. Met’s talk was sponsored by The San Francisco Unified School District’s Multilingual Education Dept., San Francisco Advocates for Multilingual Excellence and the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council. Financial support for childcare was provided through the generosity of the San Francisco’s Mayors Office. The talk was held at James Lick Middle School in San Francisco.

For more information on immersion in the San Francisco Public Schools, you can subscribe to an email list for San Francisco Advocates for Multilingual Excellence by sending a message to

The Mandarin Immersion Parents Council can be found at

Elizabeth Weise, who is the president of the Mandarin Immersion Parents Council, can be reached at