Friday, July 10, 2009

Wait pools

Please share your stories about getting into your wait pool schools....


  1. Our twins have been in a private school since they were 3 and are entering 2nd grade. We went 0/7 in round 1. In round 2, one twin got into Lakeshore (I think it was our second to last choice) and the other didn't receive a placement. We were able to get twin 2 into Lakeshore in late June.

    All along, we kept them on the wait pool for Clarendon GE. According to the May and June Wait Pool lists, they were the only two in "Round 1 - 7 Requests - No Choice."

    We received letters for both children last week letting us know that they both have spaces at Clarendon.

    My experience with EPC was positive. They were responsive and helped us navigate through the process. The information on this blog was also helpful in determining a strategy and deciding which schools to list, since we didn't have the time to visit many schools.

    Best of luck to everyone else who is still waiting to land somewhere. It was a difficult wait for us, but seems well worth the frustration now that we have a great placement.

  2. 1:16pm

    I'm curious as to if you're concerned that you will have to go through all this over again in only 2 years - looking for a middle school? Staying at a private usually guarantees enrollment until the 8th grade. Or are you more willing to see them go to different middle schools? I'm interested as you seem to have had such a difficult time placing them in the same school. I personally think that SFUSD should place twins and siblings in the same schools and then parents can opt out for another school if they so chose.

  3. Our daughter spent kindergarten in private school. We didn't get a school of choice and honestly, didn't try that hard to fight it. For 1st grade we were assigned the same school that she got in Kindergarten. This time went to EPC, had a counseling session, got on the wait pool for Dianne Feinstein and got a letter last week that it was approved.

  4. 1:16 PM Here.

    We LOVE the private school the twins attended -- great community, strong academics and faculty, a very nurturing environment -- so this was a very difficult decision that was primarily based on finances. The savings will be more than $170K between now and when they finish 5th Grade. Hopefully, the respite in tuition will make paying for private school in middle/high school less difficult, if that's what we decide to do.

    The policy at SFUSD is that if one twin gets in off of the wait pool, the other is automatically bumped up to the sibling cohort, which essentially means the second child will be next on the wait pool list in most cases.

    EPC was very helpful in getting the second twin into the same school when the first twin was assigned to Lakeshore.

    While it's a little more challenging to get into a popular school with twins, we managed to do it. I think the policy on placing twins is fair. The District provdes a big advantage if you're lucky in getting at least one child placed in a school you're comfortable with.

  5. 2:41 the first, the nearly universal experience is that the middle school process is much, much, much easier than the K application process. In 13 years as an SFUSD parent, I've never heard of a family having more than minor difficulty getting a middle school of their choice.

    Many families of younger kids find K-8s more appealing -- I definitely did when my kids were very young. As your kids grow toward middle school age, you're likely to start seeing the benefits of a larger middle school that offers more programs -- and many kids really want to go to middle school. But that view from the parents of younger kids has more to do with why private K-8s have such appeal than does any difficulty dealing with the SFUSD middle school assignment process.

  6. From 2:41

    1:16 - Thank you for sharing your experience. I completely understand your reasoning and congratulate you and your family on finally getting your top school!

  7. 3:13 always says the same thing about "comprehensive middle schools" but some kids do not do well in hugely large schools, and need a smaller school that is not so overwhelming. She tends to think what worked for her kids is what will work for everyone's kids. Not true.

  8. It's true that not all kids do well in large comprehensive middle schools, and I didn't mean to imply that all of them do.

    But overall, I'm one of many parents who will tell you the same thing: back when our kids were in first grade or so, I and everyone around me was near hysteria at the thought of "those huge middle schools." Most of my fellow parents (at K-5 schools) had changed that view by the time our kids approached middle school age. I know some parents who still weren't comfortable and sought out public or private K-8s, and a very few kids who transferred out of comprehensive middle schools after they'd started into public or private K-8s. But then I also know kids who transferred from public and private K-8s into larger middle schools for grades 6-8.

    But in general, overall, what I saw was mass fear about middle school among parents of younger kids, and a mass shift in attitude as middle school grew closer.

  9. Heck, at my son's K-8 -- I remember worrying about "those big middle school kids" being around my little kid, but it is fine; the middle school-aged kids are actually very sweet to the little kids.

  10. I have not heard the nightmare middle school stories that one hears about the K process. To be fair I don't know that many people who've tried for middle school. K-8 is of course easiest on the parents. Kids may find the idea of moving from a smaller school to a big middle school with lots of electives and many potential friends appealing. Based on our experiences with middle school, I think the main things to look for in middle school are high student performance expectations, and teachers who are committed to helping kids like yours meet those expectations. Middle school is where kids start being students rather than schoolchildren. If a kid goes off the rails in middle school, it can be a real challenge to get them back on track.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. congratulations!

    two things: first I'd like to say that when we had Jr. High Schools--kids started in 7th grade. But since middle school starts younger, i prefer the k-8 model. Why did they change from Jr. High to Middle School??

    finally--if you're waiting for a 1st grade spot, we are in the 1st co-hort of 1st grade, 7 choices no school--in Clarendon GE's waitpool. If they call us, we're 95% likely to refuse it. i hope that helps someone.

  13. I think it was one of those faddish things -- the switch starting in the late '60s from 2-year junior high to 3-year middle school. Even though it basically seemed to make no difference in the long run, the resulting system lasted.

    But actually, if you experienced a class of 5th-graders eagerly checking out middle school and anticipating graduation and moving up, you'd see that it was fine -- truly no different than when we did it in 6th grade. From the parent's perspective, even three years in one school seemed to go quickly -- two years would be a flash.

  14. Does anyone know if the Creative Arts Charter waitlist will move before the school office re-opens in August?

    And does anyone know if the waitlist was ever "skimmed" to eliminate those no longer interested in being on the list? The enrollment counselor told me in May that she might eventually do this, but we never got a call.

  15. We got into Dianne Feinstein off of the waitpool, too, for 1st grade!

    We were at another public school last year (went 0/15, chose this one in Open Enrollment) and were actually in the very small waitpool for a different school, when we were counseled by the EPC to change to Feinstein, as the school near us with the best chances of having openings.

    About middle schools: it does not seem like they're hard to get into now, but of course the demographics could totally change by the time our kids are ready to go (as they have now for elementary schools).

  16. 12:48, congrats!

    The interesting thing is that there have always been trophy elementary schools and trophy middle schools -- what we're seeing now is a greatly expanding number of trophy elementary schools (well, really middle schools too). But it was never the impossible feat getting into the most popular middle schools that it was getting into popular K's. Back when ONLY Giannini, Hoover or Presidio were acceptable, it still just wasn't the stressful, odds-stacked-against-you battle that the K process was.

    By the way, I'm the mom of two Aptos MS alumni. I was talking about this with a friend who teaches in a middle school (low-income, outside SF) and whose own kids went through a small, public (suburban) K-8. It seemed to both of us that kids really accept whichever of those settings they're in, and most do fine. There's a little sense of "my kind of school is better than your kind of school," but that's probably not unhealthy.

  17. For those interested in middle schools, you may want to check out the stream a few items below. And, yes, you'll see there are lots of parents worried about SF's big middle schools. Unfortunately, this blog tends to attract the minority of parents with generally smart kids who would do well wherever they went. But for the silent majority of families with average kids -- and kids who need extra help, SFUSD's insistence on maintaining large middle schools and unwillingness to expand the number of K through 8's, is a major drawback. It would be helpful if those posters would stop referring to the lack of middle school horror stories, since that's just not true. Studies show that large public middle schools don't work for most students. SFUSD does it this way because (1) it is cheaper and (2) the vocal parents with the really smart kids like it because it gives their kids more choices.

  18. 3:21, can you cite some specific studies? Our limited anecdotal experience is consistent with the result you suggest--a large public middle school was a disaster for our regular kid, but friends' very brainy kids who didn't need any help sailed happily through large public middle schools.

  19. congrats to those getting notices of wait pool sucess.

    It's strange, the three times I've been to the EPC every single person I talked to acted like I was asking for their money and offered no assistance nor help. The main reason I've decided to not go sfusd this year.

    anyway, any news on when they'll post the July 1st waitpool list?

  20. 3:21, if you can cite a study, I guess I can't dispute it. I haven't heard of any such study. I have six years' experience as a parent at a comprehensive SFUSD middle school. I refer to a lack of SFUSD middle school horror stories because over all that time, there IS a lack of SFUSD middle school horror stories.

    Actually, it's the vocal parents with the really smart kids who tend to be most interested in K-8s along the way, in my experience -- the opposite of 3:21's speculation. Most of the families in my kids' K-5 who opted to move after 5th (or sometimes after 4th) for a K-8, public or private, were the MOST vocal parents with really smart kids. But many parents, vocal or not and with smart kids or average kids, start to mellow about middle school as their kids grow toward that age -- and the kids start wanting to go to middle school themselves.

    It's not just about my kids (who are smart but eccentric -- and my son was the absolute classic nerd in middle school, complete with zits, braces and glasses -- and he wore geeky shorts every single day). Each of my kids' 5th-grade graduating class had 90-95 students. A number of them went on to middle school with my kids; I stayed in touch with many more. And each of my kids' middle school graduating class was 275-300. We had contact, in other words, with a LOT of middle school families.

    In general, middle school was quite successful for most of those kids. I'm not sure why a poster would want to strike terror into parents' hearts about it, but the terror is simply not justified. No, it doesn't work for everybody, but what does?

  21. The New York Times ran a series a year or so ago about how large public middle schools are failing kids in huge numbers. It is not the smart kids with rich parents who are failing -- it is the kids with issues who are failing and the statistics SHOW THE PROBLEMS START IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, not elementary. Districts throughout the US are coming up with creative alternatives -- more K through 8's, "schools within schools," etc. in response. A friend who teaches down in San Mateo said that they are now working through school within school models in middle schools. What is SF doing? Nothing, nada. I've posted about this before, but to no avail. There are one or two vocal parents with smart kids who push the "bigger is better" model and they will brook no opposition, no discussion. Watch -- I've mentioned the NY Times series and now someone will say that the NY Times is full of garbage, etc, etc. It is really sad when a few parents with smart kids become so single-minded in their views that they can't even start discussing an issue.

  22. wow, how quickly the topic seems to shift on this did this become only about MS?

  23. But it's not only "a few" parents who are stubbornly insisting that comprehensive middle schools are working out. Most kids do fine in comprehensive middle schools. Obviously, if kids were having a terrible time in middle school, those same vocal parents would be clamoring to change it. Smart kids who sail through school aren't the only ones with vocal parents. And also, school is not going to be a happy place for those few smart kids having an easy time if they're surrounded by damaged, struggling, troubled kids. That's simply not the way it is.

    Problems start in middle school not because of the design of the school but because of the nature of adolescence. If adolescent issues were all caused by comprehensive middle schools and K-8s were the miracle solution, surely this would be evident by now to anyone with common sense -- and if stupid bureaucrats insisted on blocking that magical reform, enraged parents would be storming the barricades. None of that is the case. That's the reason efforts to raise a clamor over middle school are not getting a response. (Also, 8:58, I and others have posted several lengthy responses to you, so it's self-evidently not the case that we "can't start discussing" the issue. We ARE discussing it (albeit off-topic, as someone else noted).)

    It's true that converting district schools so that all kids attended K-8s, making middle schools a thing of the past, would cost a ****load. Given that most kids do fine overall in middle school and that most parents are OK with middle school, are we all willing to sacrifice our kids' classroom resources (in every school and every grade, not just middle school grades, needless to say) to effect this huge conversion? Is this a wise use of scarce resources? Does anyone honestly think eliminating middle school is such an important project that SFUSD should be taking resources from classrooms to implement it?

  24. Once again, Caroline hijacks the thread.

  25. "The New York Times ran a series a year or so ago about how large public middle schools are failing kids in huge numbers."

    1. Can you give a link?

    2. I'm not really convinced on the quality of the NYT as a source. Firstly, it's going to be NY-biases (and NY has a more screwed up public school system than SF). Secondly, the article is likely to be argument by human interest anecdote, but the plural of anecdote isn't data.

    I'd prefer to see a cohort study in a learned journal on small versus large middle schools, or a review article on the topic. I'm willing to believe, and it makes intuitive sense, that intervention to stop an at-risk kid going down a self-destructive path is more likely and more successful in a small school versus a large school environment, but I'd want to see data.

  26. Here's the New York Times series:

    My interpretation of the overall conclusion of the series is: Yes, middle school is a difficult time, but there are no easy answers.

  27. Yesterday someone asked about movement on the Creative Arts wait list. I am happy to report that there has been movement in the last few weeks or so. Our friends who started at #25 were just offered a spot for K. The whole site is currently being updated by a parent and I'm sure the next wait list posted will reflect this movement. If you are wondering about your current status you can always contact the admissions director directly. They are pretty good about this stuff, but like everywhere, summer is a very slow time.

  28. anyone know when the July updated waitpool list will be published?

  29. Called EPC yesterday and they told me the wait list would be up in A FEW WEEKS. So -- in other words -- when it's time to start school. Great system ...

  30. "My interpretation of the overall conclusion of the series is: Yes, middle school is a difficult time, but there are no easy answers"

    My interpretation of the series also. Thanks for the link.

  31. Is it really a K-8 vs. middle school conversation? Or rather aren't the benefits to both equal? Maybe not--I don't know.

    My question is, what happened to Jr. High? 7-9th grade? High 10-12? Why did that change? Just curious.

  32. Actually the series of NY Times articles did not only identify the statistical anomaly -- middle school is when some students start to slip seriously -- but also included analyses of what school districts around the country are thinking and doing to think through new approaches. And what is going on in SFUSD you ask? -- absolutely nothing. At the end of the day it is indefensible that the district isn't even THINKING about how to improve middle school. No hearings, no studies, no just sitting-around-brainstorming. Yes, some of the changes would be expensive, but frankly the school-within-a-school idea does not necessarily mean a lot more money. And it at least starts to address the problem of poorer kids, kids with learning issues who are now just falling through the cracks. Instead, what happens is that a lot of parents pull their kids out of SFUSD at the middle school stage, while the poor parents can't and their kids get screwed.

  33. My interpretation of the overall conclusion of the series is: Yes, middle school is a difficult time, but there are no easy answers"

    What a cop out!

  34. 4:27
    Actually, we are discussing all the issues you cite at great length at Aptos Middle School. As the school has grown, there is a great deal of discussion about how we can create the 'school within a school' at our own school.

    And Aptos has been working very hard to delve into the progress of all students, and all student groups. As a result, Aptos is doing better at moving all students along academically (it is doing quite well at narrowing the achievement gap along with doing well with very high performers, too.)

    I had great hopes that under the leadership of Carlos Garcia that there would be some serious and publicized discussion on middle schools. I think the best work is happening at individual schools - less (if anything) coming from the district.

    My son's friends (all of differing abilities) dispersed to three different middle schools. Parents are reporting to each other that ALL the kids are doing great in middle school - in fact, many that were struggling in elementary seem to have really hit their stride.

    There is no one size fits all, but like earlier posters, I, too, was a parent that was in a tizzy about wanting a K-8 while my kid was younger, and now know that a comprehensive middle school is what best meets his interests and needs. He loves his teachers and his school (and as a result, I couldn't be happier!)

  35. "Actually the series of NY Times articles did not only identify the statistical anomaly -- middle school is when some students start to slip seriously -- but also included analyses of what school districts around the country are thinking and doing to think through new approaches."

    You're mistaking "certain school districts are doing X,Y,Z" for analysis. There wasn't data on outcomes from different formats.

  36. Aptos and Lick seem to be the only middle school I ever hear anything about. Does anyone have any experience/info about Giannini?

  37. Kortney, in my suburban Bay Area district it was 7-8 junior high and 9-12 high school, and in our district that changed between my time (HS class of '71) and my sister's (HS class of '74). A whole new 6-8 middle school was built and opened probably around '68, so then the elementaries became K-5. It was just one of those shifts in philosophy, but exactly why I'm not sure.

    8:23, I agree that the NYT package did not constitute "analysis"; it just presented information. To me the series reads like some editor fixated on the notion that this was a really big, definitive issue and planned it as a multi-part blockbuster series, and then the reporters couldn't find solid enough information to do more than "cop out."

    8:22, Giannini has a solid reputation and a good academic record. It and Hoover were the top middle schools and were viewed as the only choices in our part of the city until Aptos started to rise. I think the families I know who are most enthusiastic about middle school are Aptos and Lick families, though. And Presidio is basically the city's consistent top middle-school star. It's also the city's largest middle school, by the way.

  38. 8:22 here.
    I'd like to hear from a family with direct rather than anecdotal experience with Giannini since it is in our neighborhood. We have friends who tried Lick but are pulling their daughter out--they are very disappointed with the school.

  39. Call PPS at 861-7077 to talk to a parent ambassador from Giannini. It's not at all a dubious or risky choice -- though in recent years the Giannini family we know best sent their younger child to Aptos.

    (Based on the many involved Lick families I know, it's an unusual situation to have a bad experience there, though realistically that can happen on occasion with any school.)

  40. July 18, 2009 10:03 AM
    We have a friend who pulled their child out of private middle to GO to Lick and have been extremely happy with their choice.

  41. It was K-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12th grade in SF until 1978, when things changed into the present configuration. Then, a bare year later, prop 13 went into effect, and we had school strikes and loads of teacher layoffs.

  42. "We have friends who tried Lick but are pulling their daughter out--they are very disappointed with the school."

    Friends that I know whose kids went to Lick had very good experiences there. (Mind you, the kids were very artistic, into the performing arts, and had excellent social skills, so they would have thrived anywhere.)

    Horses for courses, I guess - different kids will thrive in different environments.

  43. Roosevely is a really good middle school as well.

  44. In elementary school, in spite of parental anxiety, most kids seem to adapt pretty well. I can't tell you how many people I've met who said, "Oh, my kid is so shy and clingy s/he will never manage," but as soon as the parent leaves, the kid is off and running. When the parents hear the reports from the teachers, they wonder if it's the same kid! Unless your kid is in an immersion program for a language you don't speak, you can see for yourself how well they're learning and help them if they seem to be falling behind.

    In middle school it seems more important to try, if you can, to know your child's strengths and weaknesses and find an environment that will be a good fit. Classes get bigger, teachers are stretched thinner, there are more choices (and potentially questionable choices), social life takes on more of an edge, and your own subject mastery may not be enough to evaluate their work or help them when they are struggling.

  45. re. Lick -- does anyone know if uniforms for girls are black pants only? or can it be skirts with leggings?

    unfortunately i missed the orientation earlier this summer. the website has some info that mentions skirts but the more recent literature only mentions pants.

  46. My daughter will be in 7th grade at Lick next year, so I'm familiar with the dress code. It is any black bottom and a white, collared shirt. Given the resourcefulness and imagination of middle-school girls, this can be interpreted in a lot of ways beyond black pants and white polos--black skirts or shorts with or without leggings, turtlenecks, vintage blouses over colorful tank tops or t-shirts, and so on. The other major rule is no red or blue on anything, including shoes and backpacks. They're pretty strict about that. It's less confusing for kids to hear "no blue" than to understand why teal is okay but navy isn't. I haven't heard about problems at the school related to gangs, but many of the students live in or travel through neighborhoods where gang problems occur, and that's the reason for that rule.

  47. is anyone looking for a possible private school spot in 1st-4th?

  48. Aw, are you looking to leave KMS, Kortney?

  49. I think she already left for a different private school, even though she still sings KMS's praises

  50. To recap the posts here about middle schools: large middle schools in San Francisco are perfect for . . . some but not all kids . . . Some middle-school age kids start failing in middle school but that is their own fault (or maybe hormones?) . . . The New York Times does not know what it is talking about when it comes to middle school but Caroline does . . . No one is allowed to discuss possible changes to the wonderful (for some) middle schools . . . except that Aptos Middle School is seriously considering "school-within-a-school" type approaches . . . uh, oh, Aptos, don't let Caroline know what you are doing . . . she'll shut you down!

  51. Aptos already had variations on "school within a school" designs when my kids went there (2002-2008). And I've praised Small Learning Community designs in other schools, such as Balboa High School. I don't get the point, except that someone anonymous is misreading my opinions (and also apparently attributing a number of posts to me that aren't mine). -- Caroline Grannan

  52. Can anyone give feedback on Francisco middle school?

  53. Back to wait lists: We officially gave up our first grade spot at DeAvila Chinese Immersion yesterday. An English speaker on the list should be getting a call or letter soon.

  54. No misattributions. Actually, Caroline, you have repeatedly questioned the New York Times series of articles on the crisis in middle schools in posts on this website in the past. And I'm glad to hear that you are interested in "schools-within-a-school" approaches, because you've never said any such thing in the past when the issue of middle school reform has come up. Rather, we have heard a steady patter of comments from you to the following: 1) yes, the middle schools in SF are big and may seem intimidating, but 2) when your kid comes of middle school age they'll be mature and ready and just take off in one of the large middle schools. And, while you have conceded that some kids don't fair well in large middle schools, you've yet to offer any suggestion on this website about what to do about that (up until now). And whenever someone tries to start discussing this issue and exploring whether SFUSD should finally be getting off its duff and start discussing it -- like the many other districts around the country that are doing so -- you inevitably chime in and restate the positions above. So I don't think anything has been misstated. Does this mean now that you would support SFUSD setting up at least some kind of study of middle school reform alternatives?

  55. Separate topic-

    Chris Daly buys home and moves family to Fairfield. To be closer to family. Uh huh. I am sure the fact that his kids are approaching school age has nothing to do it.
    Given all his work to make the school board progressively correct - thanks a lot, Chris.

  56. I'm not so sure this move by Daly was motivated by a desire to escape the SF schools. Fairfield's schools are not very good, at least by API standards. What Fairfield does offer is much more for your dollar in terms of housing. They are a family of 4 now, perhaps they just needed more room?

  57. If the motivation was better schools, the Dalys would have stayed in San Francisco. By almost any measure, San Francisco Unified has significantly better schools than Fairfield-Suisun Unified, both across the board and especially in terms of his family's sub-groups (race, education, income); not to mention that SFUSD offers many more, and more varied, language programs and also art offerings that are often directly linked to the arts community in San Francisco.

    For those of us conditioned to think that the suburbs are uniformly white and also wealthier than the inner city, I would just suggest googling the stats on that area. FSUSD has just 27% white students and about 5% Asian students, just as a start. It'll be different for them out there, but not in necessarily in the ways assumed by commenters here. There are also a many military families there, some with loved ones still in Iraq or Afghanistan. The whole dynamic will be very different. This is *not* a move to Mill Valley or Ross.

    FWIW, I heard through the grapevine that the real issue behind the move is elder care. As someone who has turned my life inside out in unexpected ways to deal with family care issues, I would suggest (looking at you, Nevius) that we all wait for more information before leaping to conclusions.

    That's all aside from my somewhat mixed feelings about Daly's support of specific policies, or his temperament and manners.

  58. I don't know who you are, anonymous person who is devoted to tracking everything I'm perceived as saying. Why are you doing it, and should I be creeped out?

    I don't see why what I think or say is an issue, but I guess if anyone cares:

    My anonymous follower says:

    "Actually, Caroline, you have repeatedly questioned the New York Times series of articles on the crisis in middle schools in posts on this website in the past..."

    Actually, I paid minimal attention to that NYT series, but I have pointed out in the past what others did on this thread, which is that it highlighted some valid problems, but was all anecdotal and inconclusive. My read, as a newsroom veteran: an editor with a bug up his or her butt and a staff of reporters who did their best but couldn't find enough material to justify their boss's obsession.

    It's simply not valid to claim I've "never" said something (since I post anonymously now, like almost everyone else, you actually don't know what I've said), nor to characterize my opinions in overly simplistic ways. I don't even know if I know you in person or have ever talked to you face to face.

    But since you're making it an issue, I'll sum up my views again.
    Parents tend to be very fearful of middle schools when their kids are small. But most kids who are headed for middle school get pretty excited about it, and most parents calm down about it.

    Middle school actually works out for most kids whether they're in K-8s OR comprehensive middle schools (there's no way to know with most kids where they'd have done better, of course).

    I advocate offering K-8s as an option, as SFUSD does -- there have always been and still are some K-8s that aren't in super-high demand, so this isn't an option that's out of reach.

    Small Learning Communities -- schools within a school -- are mostly in use in high schools, and I haven't heard them discussed much as an option in middle schools, but I think they're a workable and often excellent design for high schools, and I don't see why they wouldn't be in middle schools. The system at Aptos in which the same group of kids went through all the basic academic classes together in 6th and 7th grade (in my kids' time) functioned essentially in the same way.

    Comprehensive middle schools work for most kids, and the district offers a decent number of K-8 options. The middle school system ain't broke, so I don't endorse putting a lot of energy and money into fixing it. I would put that energy and money into other needs -- social workers and better programs for troubled kids, for example.

    Since I have no idea who you are, I'm pretty baffled about your agenda. And why do you care so much about my opinion? -- Caroline

  59. Could someone please start a blog for people with young children and that isn't always discussing this Caroline person?

  60. It sounds like Caroline agrees.

    But parents of young children ask about middle school because of the question of whether to seek out K-8s during their kindergarten search, or if they don't, whether to anticipate a hellish application process for 6th grade, down the road.

  61. The elementary years will be flashing by you, believe me....I remember talking with a parent of older children about middle schools back when my kid was in kindergarten, and thinking, okay, I'll store that set of information away for a lot of years--but when it was suddenly upon us, I was glad for that basic orientation to SF middle schools, even though things had shifted somewhat by the time we got there.

    A few thoughts (and if you really don't want to read reflections that apply to a few years out, then just don't read this):

    1) For our cohort at least in recent years, getting into middle school in SFUSD was far from a hellish process; in fact, everyone I know got a first choice. I understand that may change when you all's baby boomlet hits that grade, but one factor that makes things easier is that sibling preference is limited to a 2-year grade span or less in middle school. Thus, there will always be more spots wide open at a given time. High school is a different issue, though.

    2) You just can't know now what will work for your kid in middle school. Kids grow and change a lot in elementary school. I'm one of those whose kid has thrived, along with her friends, in a big middle school with lots of activities and opportunities to find friends [no, I am not Caroline!]; I also know other kids who are happy in smaller K-8s such as SF Community where every teachers and every parent and every kid knows every kid by name. I also know kids who transferred out of Rooftop and SF Community in order to attend the larger schools (or get out of a social situation that wasn't working). Fortunately, you are not stuck with the choice you made back in K, and fortunately, there are different options, big and small.

    If by the time you are in 4th grade you think the K-8 option is better though, you might consider transferring in 4th or 5th for a number of reasons--acclimation and possibly easier to get in.

    3) We were pleasantly surprised by the number of schools we liked at the middle school level. It's no longer the same big three or bust. We happily listed five schools and would have been okay with a couple of others.

    4) Your child will most likely be involved in the MS search. Ours attended tours and open house nights, and compared notes extensively with her friends. She was very opinionated, and ended up going to her #1 (but our #2) choice. If we had hated her #1 choice, we would have vetoed, but the difference between them was not educationally substantive, so we didn't. She is very happy and feels invested in her choice. I think in retrospect that she did the right thing for her.

    my nickel ;-)

  62. This could be a tough sell to a kid who wanted to stay through 5th grade and the fun of graduation with his/her class, though:

    "If by the time you are in 4th grade you think the K-8 option is better though, you might consider transferring in 4th or 5th for a number of reasons--acclimation and possibly easier to get in."

    I do know one boy whose family had determined all along to send him to a private school for the middle school years, and its upper school was grades 5-8, so he transferred at the beginning of 5th grade. They were clear with him and everyone else throughout elementary school that that was the plan, and luckily for them he went along with it.

  63. ^ I also know kids whose families have done this--transferred to private or K-8 in 4th or 5th grade. It can wcertainly ork as a strategy for getting into those schools, but it's true that it was sad for the kid & friends. Several came back to the 5th grade graduation (and were most welcome to attend that party), but there was a bittersweet sense about it.

    Ah, well....there is NEVER a perfect path in life. One good choice means another path not taken. Gotta make your choices and live with the consequences, and not spend too much time looking back.

  64. C (I won't use your name anymore since you seem so freaked about it): I think the problem is that many of us fundamentally disagree with the premise you state in your response -- namely, that middle schools ain't broke. That is precisely the problem: large comprehensive middle schools are not working and public school districts everywhere in the country are trying to address this issue, except for here. And that is the problem that we have with your comments. C, I'm glad your kids did well in middle school. There are lots of kids like yours who would do well in any school, large or small, public or private. The problem is that it is precisely in the middle school years when poor kids and kids who are struggling academically start to fail big time. That is the problem you are not addressing -- and indeed the problem which up until now you won't even admit exists. And I am concerned because my kids fall into the struggling academically category. And contrary to your comments in here, it is not easy to get into the few K through 8's in the city, certainly not initially and not even by transferring late in elementary. We just went through the process again this year for fourth grade and, while the 10-day count is not over yet, we've so far gotten nowhere. Ditto third grade, ditto second grade. Add that to your list of anecdotes that passes for study about the ease of getting into K through 8's.

  65. 8:07, I'm fine if you want to ADDRESS me. I am a bit weirded out about the fact that you seem to obsess with everything you imagine I've ever said or not said. Why do you care so much?

    I don't think that "many" posters DO fundamentally disagree with my points. I can see YOU'RE personally obsessing with this issue, but I don't see other voices joining in. Most others in this conversation seem to agree with me that middle school isn't such a diabolical pitfall, actually.

    And a rather key point, since you want to continue to make it about me, is that I have six years' experience as a parent at a large comprehensive middle school -- experience that also included ongoing daily contact with a large number of OTHER middle school families with all types of kids, since by definition this was a large school.

    "...large comprehensive middle schools are not working ... "

    That's the opinion of one person who has no experience with them, but that's not the general experience.

    "... public school districts everywhere in the country are trying to address this issue, except for here..."

    SFUSD offers some K-8s, just like some other school districts in the nation. I don't see that many other districts are making rethinking middle school a top priority.

    I'm sorry you're so worried, 8:07. But your view that the design of middle schools is to blame for the problems of adolescence just is not widely shared by families who have actually experienced middle school, nor by educators.

    Two other notions are not based in reality either:

    -- the idea that only smart kids do OK in middle school; and

    -- the idea that highly intelligent kids don't fall off the rails in school.

    Of course I do know some kids who started going haywire in middle school -- I can think of two who were at comprehensive SFUSD middle schools and one who was attending -- yes, one of the city's most sought-after K-8s. All of them are highly intelligent kids from involved, educated, caring families. I also know a few kids who did fine in middle school and started falling apart in high school.

    My view is that highly intelligent kids are at least as likely to go haywire as average kids, and I don't think that's an uncommon observation.

    As to getting into K-8s, of course it's tough getting a spot at Rooftop, Lilienthal, Lawton and Yu. But there are several K-8s that aren't so oversubscribed. You could probably walk into Paul Revere without a sweat, and have you tried Creative Arts Charter or Harvey Milk? Also, until the boom of the last couple of years, SF Community was not oversubscribed. Have you really been shut out of all those schools? You could check out Edison Charter Academy, for that matter.

    I understand and sympathize with your concern about your kids' well-being. I think your insistence that the design of middle school is the trap that's going to do them in is a misplaced concern. That's based on my own experience, the experiences of the many other middle school families in my life, and the general wisdom in the education world, which I follow pretty closely. Outside of that one New York Times series, it's just not generally viewed as that big a problem.

  66. My bad; I mixed up two schools: I typed Harvey Milk while thinking of another alternative school, 21st Century Academy, which was a K-8. Now it's Willie Brown Academy, a 4-8.

  67. APIs for these 2 schools:

    Willie Brown Academy- 566
    Paul Revere- 636

    Do you honestly see these schools as acceptable middle school choices for a parent reading this blog? Oh Yes, but it would probably be no problem getting your child in there.

  68. Families who post on this blog are choosing Daniel Webster, API 616. Most well-informed parents look beyond the number.

    That said, I believe Paul Revere is entirely Spanish immersion, so it wouldn't work to transfer a child with no Spanish at middle school level. But we were referring to available K-8s starting at K level as well.

    Again, SF Community has not been oversubscribed until the past year or possibly two. It would still be surprising if it was difficult to get into higher grades. Can anyone give further information on this?
    Also, I forgot that Bessie Carmichael is now K-8.

  69. "APIs for these 2 schools:

    Willie Brown Academy- 566
    Paul Revere- 636

    Do you honestly see these schools as acceptable middle school choices for a parent reading this blog?"

    Kindergarten applications for Revere went up 84% this year, so evidently many do see Revere as an acceptable choice.

  70. 9:25

    Harvey Milk is not a K-8 school.

    Could you please start your own blog and leave us alone? You do not have young children, your kids are in college, right? Why do you insist on taking over discussions and blogs that have nothing to do with you? What is happening in SFUSD now is so far removed from what was happening when your children were young, your experiences are not useful to us, and you come across as a very pompous bitchy person.

  71. Could people who just want to name-call and be mean please leave this blog and start their own name-calling and meanness blogs? The rest of us are interested in sharing information about education.

  72. 8:20-

    I'm sure you'd have been happy to send your kids to Willie Brown Academy, right? Puleeeze.

  73. What about SF Community?

  74. Most of you are so blatantly racist, it sickens me.

  75. Paul Revere is not entirely immersion. There's an English strand as well.

  76. It would be helpful to a lot of parents if 8:07 would share the details of his or her efforts to get into a K-8.

  77. @12:41

    Race isn't the issue here. Lack of resources + low test scores are.

  78. This is 8:07 again. C, I have to agree with the other poster above, your experiences really don't correlate with the experiences of parents with younger children. Transferring has become much, much harder just in the past couple of years. That's really why I cringe when I see posts like --"don't worry you are not stuck with your K pick" -- because maybe it's dumb luck on my part, but I've been stuck with mine for five years now! For the past three years, I have tried to transfer to Rooftop, SF Community, and to Lawton in second, third and fourth grades without luck. Paul Revere is way too far away for me. And I did look carefully at Edison and Creative Arts, but neither would work out for us. I know you have been a critic of charters in the past, but two is not a heck of a lot of charter alternatives to my mind. And SFUSD has shown every penchant for ascribing to your view and keeping charters out of the city as much as possible. I feel that the school district should be looking at either offering more K through 8's, or letting more K-8 charters open up.

  79. Is anyone holding out for the 10 day count? Do you plan on not enrolling if you do not get a school of your choice? It looks like transferring in district is very difficult so I am wondering if we are better off just holding out without enrolling in what I refer to as a "non-choice" and trying to get in mid-year.

  80. What school are you currently in, 4:33?

  81. 4:33

    Don't forget about the KIPP charter schools, KIPP SF Bay and KIPP Bayview. They're 5-8s not K-8s, but they're small and high-performing.

  82. To 4:51 pm - HOLD OUT It's only kindergarten, and spots open up all the time. If you are "out of district," then you will get a spot (it might take awhile, but reasonable, if not coveted, schools open up during the year). I am at Miraloma, and several kids came in mid-year.

    If you enroll now, and if you do not get your Waitlist choice by the time they dissolve the waitpools, then you are screwed. Just refer to the poster above, who hasn't got an intra-district transfer request in over 4 years.

  83. How does an out of district transfer work? Do you call and they tell your options? If so, sounds way better than the lottery. Do you keep calling? I know that when I toured McKinley last year, there was a family touring based on an out of district transfer in October/November (no idea what grade)

  84. 4:51,

    I didn't register my child at Webster (API of 656 is a little hard to swallow.) If nothing comes up during the 10 day count, he's staying another year at pre-K.

  85. I don't blame you, but out of curiosity, was it Webster GE or SI?

  86. "Paul Revere is not entirely immersion. There's an English strand as well."

    I thought they were phasing the GE program out, to become a wholly immersion school like Fairmont? Or has that not begun yet?

  87. 4:33 again -- I have to agree with 6:20. If I had to do it all over again, I would have done a year of a private school -- or even a charter -- and then tried again. The only folks I've met in the last couple of years who transferred successfully did it from outside SFUSD, not from one to another SFUSD school. Once you are in a public school, transferring now is quite difficult, if not impossible. Yes, you can get lucky, but you can also be like me. Word to the wise.

  88. July 27 8:20:

    I started my kids at Miraloma when it's scores were in the 620s. The scores reflected an 'average' of kids performing way way below basic (500s) and another group that was scoring in the mid 800s.

    My own kids have always been among the high performers - I'll be when/if your kids go to (fill in the blank with Muir, Revere, Webster, etc. etc.) yours will too.

    Now Miraloma scores are above 820 - largely because there are more of the 800 scoring kids and everyone is clamoring to get in.

    People believe us who have older kids who've been through it: if you support your kids' education they'll do great wherever they go to school

  89. Correction:

    I'll BET when/if your kids go to (fill in the blank with Muir, Revere, Webster, etc. etc.) yours will too.

  90. "People believe us who have older kids who've been through it: if you support your kids' education they'll do great wherever they go to school"

    Unless they get beat up.

  91. I have to agree. Kids do not do great at "any school" even if you support their education. Schools, teachers and fellow students make a big difference in a child's education and life. They spend 6 hours or more a day there without their parents. A score on a standardized test tells you very little about what your kid is learning - are they challenged? do they like learning? are they motivated? If your kid can score an 800 with his/her eyes closed seems to me that the school is not teaching him/her anything. I know several kids who were completely bored and unchallenged in their public schools. The schools were not equipped or just chose not to motivate them to learn at their level and their follow classmates did not inspire them to learn more (being smart was not considered very popular). The teachers were too busy worrying about those who were way behind the class or with discipline issues rather than the kid who sat quietly bored to tears. Sure, these kids will raise the test scores - there educations and potential, however, suffer.

  92. 9:30 AM

    Thank you, thank you, for the thoughtful counterpoint to "the children of anyone reading this blog will do fine wherever they go to school."

  93. Public schools have changed in the decades since I was in them, but I was one of those kids who scored in the top 1% on standardized tests while half-asleep. In the 8 years from K-7, I had two good teachers who kept me happy and engaged. A transfer to a prestigious (sorry to use that term but it's accurate) private in 8th grade was what finally pushed me to work to capacity. I am so grateful my parents were able and willing to do that for me. They did it because they WERE involved in my education. They could see that although I was "doing fine" by measurable standards--getting straight A's and scoring three to five years above grade level on standardized tests--I was turning into an intellectual slug because expectations were so low.

    Our recent experience with our older kid was not identical but similar. We could see that her work was poor both by any objective standard and in relation to her ability. The public school attitude seemed to be, "She's not a trouble-maker and she turns in the work. Give her a B and get her out of here." Private gave her the expectations and the support to do her best. This was not about "bells and whistles" like nicer costumes for the play or a Los Angeles museum tour with the art history class--it was about basic reading, writing, math and research skills.

    Sorry, I think there is a difference between "adequate" and "excellent." If you have seen your kid make a habit of working below capacity in ANY school, public or private, either because they are neglected or not challenged or subject to anti-academic peer pressure or whatever, it's your job as a parent to use reasonably available means to do better for them. People reading this blog know that. Maybe that involves supplementing what they're getting at their current school with free or paid outside support, maybe that means a different school.

    If your child is getting an excellent education in public school, congratulations. You are saving a fortune and your kids are being exposed to a far more diverse population than they would in most private schools.

    If not, you're not alone, and you should not be judged harshly, or told, "Oh, you're irrational, you're educated and involved so your kid will do fine in any public school," or "You're just a snob looking for an elite social experience away from poor people and people of color." There are plenty of private school parents who have not been there since kindergarten. They're not irrational people who like to throw away money for nothing--and in fact some are on scholarship and don't have money to throw away. They've had their kids in public school and determined that there had to be something better. They've stayed private because they've found it.

    Similarly, some people are very happy to have moved from public to private--it's working for them financially and it's working for their kids academically.

    What bugs me is the "one size fits all" rhetoric.

  94. Sorry, that last paragraph should have said, "moved from private to public."

  95. I have a question: How much do the afterschool programs - like GLO - cost per month (for someone who does not qualify for a scholarship)?

    Thank you so much!

  96. Here is a link to GLO fees (Sherman example)

  97. I appreciate the comments above about how Miraloma turned around, but I would caution -- and I think most Miraloma parents woud accept -- that the Miraloma improvement was a "perfect confluence" of everyone and everything working together -- parents, teachers and principals working along with demographics at the school changing as well. Knock out one of those factors and the story might have turned out differently. For every Miraloma, there have been two "second-tier" wanna-bes that are floundering and not improving (like my kid's school). Those whose kids are starting K and considering whether to go to a second-tier school or do private should consider that seriously before jumping into an iffy school.

  98. The thing about Miraloma that I still don't get, is why people think it's such a great place when the test scores are so low. I know, I know, test scores don't tell the whole tale. But to me, it seems the more white kids a school has, the more it has "turned around".

    Yes, it's a great space. Yes, it's pretty clean. Yes the parents are involved. But why are the scores so low?

  99. Perfectly reasonable comments.
    Only one thing to note, which is that private school, even Catholic, isn't a financial possibility for everyone. For some yes, but for many not. So it's important to remember that going private isn't an escape valve for everyone. And it's unclear that moving always is, as the cost of moving to a better district is sometimes higher than some families can afford.
    Which isn´t to say that the public school any given family´s kids have gotten in to is the exact right one for them, but it is to say that not everyone is able to switch to private or go to a better district.

  100. When sending *each* child to a private school costs in excess of $20,000 per year, I think we public school parents would suggest that virtually any shortcoming we may have can be subsidized far more easily and cheaper.

    The problem I have long had with private schools is just how much more they cost than a public. When I was a child I went to a top private school which in today's dollars, would cost around $11,000. Show me one non-religious private school that costs that. Hardly any do.

    When you are spending $20k, $25k, $30k, or as in high school, $35k+ per pupil in this town--and we are talking this town, not Exeter or Boston or Upper East Side, so the meaning of "top private" is ahem a little relative--the value is just skewed.

    How much does a tutor cost? How much do ballet lessons? music lessons? trips to Europe? trips to Asia? I can show you a lot of value if you budget my family $10k per kid extra.

    So going back to the original point, I think your children indeed will do well anywhere if you just take the time and care enough to make sure their bright brains are being stimulated. The public schools in this town do a great job, but any school is never a substitute for hands-on parenting.

    Finally, what is the value of a diverse groups of school chums with a teacher who is quite often better paid and better educated? Priceless.

  101. Miraloma's API is 810, which is respectable. 800 is considered the mark of excellence.

  102. I'm a Miraloma parent and I agree with the 2:12 poster, Miraloma has suceeded where others have floundered with two great principals, a caring staff and a lot of energetic and giving parents. The surrounding neighborhood has continued to change from older folks to young families with children. When we started (like the poster above) the API was in the mid 600s (up from even lower scores before Marcia Parrot got there). I do think that test-score conscious parents have avoided the school because the API wasn't particularly impressive. The families there (including us) don't seem to worry all that much about the overall scores. I'm not sure how you tell whether a school will really turn or not. I recall feeling a lot of energy from the parents who led my tour and who were on site when I was deciding where to waitlist (Miraloma was not on my original list). I think trusting your gut feeling from the tour and talking to any parents or staff you can get a hold of is really all you can do and if you feel uneasy (like I did about several schools) then hold out if you have that option.

  103. I know a couple who switched their child from Miraloma to private school. These were two involved parents - it's not that they didn't take the time or care. It just wasn't working for their child.

  104. Miraloma has 31 on its waitlist so for most folks its not an option, regardless of whether you like it or not. It is completely condescending (and unfounded)to tell parents that it will all work out at [insert under perfoming school here] or that SFUSD schools offer diversity when there is little diversity at many schools [e.g. there are more than 15 elementary schools in SFUSD with more than 70% of one ethnicity and another more than 20 with more than 50% of one ethnicity]. It sounds like the same BS spouted that SFUSD's assignment system will give you a school of your choice.

  105. There's also a big question mark on how the schools will be impacted over the next few years with the devastating budget cuts coming down the pipe.

    Just because Miraloma turned around doesn't mean every underperforming public school will and that your child will succeed no matter where you put 'em. It takes a huge amount of dedication as well as a motivated group of parents, a great principal, etc to turn a school around. It also takes time and really positive PR. Also, an influx of money doesn't hurt.

    Miraloma was a special case for that time, IMO.

  106. Note to 4:02: Public schools are free. For many of us, it has to work out or else.

  107. I think the bad economy can help the public schools, in one major much-needed way. If there were no option but public schools, the public schools would be better than they are now. More middle and upper class folks being in the system instead of buying their way out of it--that's a good thing.

    I can't tell you how many people I know who are entering the lottery who wouldn't have dreamt of doing so just last year. I was one of them a few years ago. The economy led me to the public schools, and I'm really grateful. I believe there were 500 more applicants this year than last, and I'd wager they'll be many many more next year.

    The other factor is the people of my generation (parents in their 30s and 40s) just don't want to go to the suburbs anymore. Frankly, I'd rather die. I mean, just shoot me.

    The budget cuts will be offset at many schools with the involvement of the parents. A PTO can spend money in smart ways.

    Finally, this being San Francisco, we'll raise the money to offset some of the cuts somehow. Another Prop A. Also, CA has turned so blue in recent years, I have a hard time imagining a Republican Gov in the next decade. I am hoping a Gov. Newsom for example will have the b**ls to finally raise taxes.

    I'm not testing the limits of optimism; I'm just saying that SF in particular is a squeaky wheel, and we'll always find the grease.

  108. Gifted kids have a hard time at most private schools, too, btw.

  109. @6:12: "The other factor is the people of my generation (parents in their 30s and 40s) just don't want to go to the suburbs anymore. Frankly, I'd rather die. I mean, just shoot me."

    I'm part of your generation. Just because you feel that way, doesn't mean EVERYONE feels that way. Please don't speak for anyone but yourself. The suburbs have much to offer families including fresh air, less crime and more trees and land. Oh, and many times the 'burbs offer great schools that don't require that one go through this type of insane lottery process. We were lucky to get one of our SF school choices last year, but if we hadn't we would have moved out and probably not have looked back. Many folks do, you know. (including a large percentage of our friends who are our age.)

    As far as there being public schools as an only option, It goes back to this thinking that a cookie cutter approach works for everyone. I strongly disagree. I think public schools have borrowed ideas from privates, charter schools, language immersion schools, montessori, etc. If these alternatives did not exist, there would be no options nor diversity of teaching methods. Options and choices are a good thing, IMO.

  110. I don’t understand the argument that if there were no private schools, public education would be great.

    I think 10% of school funding is federal, 60% is state, 30% is local taxes. If the schools are mostly full, then parents who are not putting their kids in public schools are not taking money or space away from schools, but are subsidizing the schools by not using the system. In essence, they are paying twice.

    Is the argument that private school parents would somehow give more money to the public school?

    Or that private school parents are somehow more involved and savvy and would get grants and work the PTA’s?

    Or that parents who send their kids to private schools wouldn’t politically support more funding for schools and are responsible for the lack of funding?

    Or just the progressive notion that if we could *just* all be in this together, all our social problems that are reflected in the schools would disappear?

    All these arguments seem insulting to the parents who are in the public school system and doesn’t seem to have necessarily been borne out by school systems in New York and New Jersey, where the per student funding is highest.

    The problem is not the existence of private and parochial schools, the problem is the same problem that is bedeviling the state budget. People don’t want to pay taxes and don’t consider what this means for society. All schools should be as good as they can be.

    Demonizing private schools are a convenient target that obscures from the solutions.

    FWIW, we just had relatives visit from Sweden. While the ease and equality of their school system seems great, the actual education didn’t seem that different from what we have. And of course, there is the 70% tax rate.

  111. 7:03 asks questions:

    "Is the argument that private school parents would somehow give more money to the public school?"

    Yes, if private school parents moved to public school, that would be a lot of new families with resources, and they would probably give money to the public school. A larger percentage of families with resources means more support for public schools, the way suburban schools have lots of families with resources who support the schools.

    This doesn't mean demonizing families who choose private schools, but the public schools would still be better off if they had those families.

    "Or that private school parents are somehow more involved and savvy and would get grants and work the PTA’s?"

    That would be likely, because those private school families tend to have resources, which tend to go with knowhow and empowerment.

    "Or that parents who send their kids to private schools wouldn’t politically support more funding for schools and are responsible for the lack of funding?"

    Not that they wouldn't support funding or are responsible for the lack of funding -- but if more empowered and connected families were part of public schools they would bring more clout to public schools.

    "Or just the progressive notion that if we could *just* all be in this together, all our social problems that are reflected in the schools would disappear?"

    Not that the problems would disappear, but there would be more hope for improvement if we were all in this together.

    "All these arguments seem insulting to the parents who are in the public school system..."

    No. It's just that a larger number of empowered parents with resources bring those resources to the schools. That's no insult to the parents who are already in the public school system.

    "...[that] doesn’t seem to have necessarily been borne out by school systems in New York and New Jersey, where the per student funding is highest."

    The schools in New York and New Jersey's inner cities are troubled, and middle-class families avoid them. The schools in areas without urban blight are successful. Friends who have experience with schools in California and in both those states say the resources in New York and New Jersey schools are enviable. New Jersey gets singled out for its high-quality special education programs. It sounds like the investment pays off.

  112. Not everyone hates the burbs. Better schools, quality life, more land, less crime, etc...Personally, not such bad option to raise a family.

    If a parent loves SF so much and hates the burbs, STOP complaining about your child getting into schools that aren't "desirable" say, Malcolm X. Enroll your child, fundraise and hope the school is as wonderful to your family as SF is!

    You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?!

  113. @6:33: "Gifted kids have a hard time at most private schools, too, btw."

    How do you know that?

  114. Miraloma was a special case for that time, IMO.

    July 29, 2009 6:01 PM

    Well, other schools that I'd put in that 'special case' category (that were similarly unpopular or underperforming) include:

    and many more. All of these school, like Miraloma, had an excellent principal that reached out to the parent community and made some changes with teachers (by motivating them or moving them on.)

    Miraloma wasn't a fluk- there are plenty of examples all over the City, and more all the time including Sunnyside, Ortega, Paul Revere, etc.

    As for people that left Miraloma for private, I could name an equal, and probably larger, number of families that left private for public Miraloma that are there and very happy about it. These families include most of the local parochial schools, SF Day School, Children's Day School, CAIS, French American and Hillside (?) in Pacifica. There are others that I'm not sure where they came from, but tell me they love the move they made.

    I agree there is no one size fits all for any kid - public OR private.

    LIke the previous poster, for my own kids, I just never saw the cost/benefit of private school. Where needed, we have used tutors (in fact, about as much as our private school friends, but at least the other part of our kids education is free.) We are able to afford terrific dance lessons, music lessons and international vacations with what we save. I might add that both kids are getting access to amazing music and arts programs in our schools that most private schools can't emulate (instrumental music at many of the elementary and middle schools is amazing and my kids take part in this.)

    To each his own. I'm just happy that in the last decade more families are coming into, and supporting, the public schools and believe that is helping to make improvements and create accountability that is good for all kids.

  115. To 7:23, I was not demonizing private schools. I am a product of one, and a good one. I'm just saying that indeed there is a "we are all in this together" element that is sorely lacking in today's American society.

    There are far fewer common experiences these days that people share across all lines. Historically, putting aside race, there were groups like church (rich and poor), the Army/the draft (some rich and poor serving side by side in most wars till lately), or even Boy Scouts had a mix. Also, neighborhoods weren't so ghettoized with rich and poor until the past 40 or 50 years. (In the 1800s until the 1930s, rich folks lived on grand boulevards like Van Ness in SF and Park Avenue in NY, right around the corner from the side street tenements side streets with working class. Today, whole areas of town are redlined as "good" or "bad".

    I do think that private school parents put more effort into their schools overall than *some* not all public schools. (My experience.) It's really difficult to attend a private school and not get frog marched into donating time money and energy. This expectation is a huge component in the school's decision to pick you or not, in the first place. With public schools, my experience is that most parents have the option of involvement, are so many are happy to sit on the sidelines. At our school and many other publics, a small core of families do most of the work. My experience. Yours could be different.

    And even I have to admit that when I'm working long hours and overtime, or recently that I've found myself a single mom, I am grateful to have the option of not doing anything. I find this in public; I didn't experience it private schools. I felt down right harangued.

  116. "The schools in New York and New Jersey's inner cities are troubled, and middle-class families avoid them."

    I disagree. That's a gross generalization, and even though some are troubled, that statement is the same kind of gossipy erroneous perception that gives the SF public schools a bad name, when in fact, at least 25+ elementary schools here in SF are just as good as the 'burbs. For example.

    The good public schools in NYC are better than the good public schools in SF. One big reason is largely because there is no cockeyed lottery system. It's user friendlier; if you live in a certain neighborhood, you just attend the school. Many many public schools in NYC have large percentages of students from families who could easily afford private. We have those families too, but not nearly as many of them.

    SF is getting better and better, but by no means does it have the diverse student populations that the truly diverse NYC system has. Lots and lots of schools in NYC have populations that look like the city. SF, for example, doesn't have one single majority white school. SF doesn't have one single majority African American school that boasts top scores. NYC has gay schools, performing arts schools, music schools, science schools, math schools, tech schools, etc. We barely attempt those, and when we do, they are never on a par with the so-called top schools.

    Does it have something to do with the money they spend, which is a lot more? That's a good place to start.

    I still think it boils down to more middle class and high earning families being in the system.

  117. Yes, you are correct. Some families left Miraloma for private; however, it is equally true that families have left private and enrolled their children at Miraloma. Net net, we are probably zero (within 1 standard deviation). The most interesting story is the family who got Miraloma in the lottery, but longed for Rooftop. Year after year, they applied for an intradistrict transfer (like the poster above). Miraculously, in Second grade, they got the transfer. Praise the Lord, and all that jazz. Well, lo and behold, they didn't like Rooftop, and they transfered back to Miraloma for third grade. One cannot generalize personal choice nor claim to know what is best for anyone (esp. when people don't even know themselves).

    For the poster who is still trying to switch schools, there are 4th and 5th grade openings at Miraloma if that is your kind of school.

  118. Kate needs to return soon.

    There really is no way to respond to the last email. ;)

  119. We are on a waitpool for our top-choice school which has about 20 people on the list. No idea where we rank but I suspect it's near the bottom, as we had gotten into one of our R1 seven. Is there any point in switching to another (shorter) waitpool at this point (for another one of our R1 seven, or a school that was never on our list), or would we just be shooting ourselves in the foot? Also if anyone can point me to an explanation of the process of trying to get into a school in 1st and subsequent grades, I'd be much obliged - ie, will there be another lottery or some other procedure? I can't find the info on the SFUSD site. It's probably already been hashed out somewhere on this blog,
    but my site searches have turned up nothing. Thx.

  120. Regarding the earlier posts about holding out and not enrolling...we went ahead and enrolled at our R1 assignment even tho we didn't get our 1st choice and planned to waitlist it. EPC told us if we dint enroll we would be stick without a school if the waitpool didn't work out. We really don't want to go to the assigned school. Can we disenroll at this point? And would it improve our chances of getting off the waitlist?

  121. I think there is a growing cohort of folks in the city that really want to raise kids in the city. It is not for everyone but for many of us here in SF, it's part of who we are - taking a different road than the norm. The city's investment in greening projects and our new rebuilt parks have made this option much more pleasant. The density of the city provides plenty of people and socialization for parents and kids. For example, when you go to the parks in the suburbs, often there aren't any kids at the park (many have their own swingsets at home). Walking to the park is a social activity for me and my kids here in SF. It gives us an opportunity to connect with others in the community (without setting an appointment ahead of time). I don't have to drive and I can pick-up coffee and snacks on the way.

    I support my friends completely when they decide to move to the burbs. Everyone needs to chart the path that is right for them and their family.

  122. The playground at Washington Park in Burlingame is always packed with kids! It depends where you go, I guess.

    The word "suberb" is really subjective, isn't it? I know people in Menlo Park who refer to Sunnyvale as "the burbs".

  123. Oops - "suburb!"

  124. 11:53, I believe you can disenroll now by going to EPC. But I don't believe it will affect your chances of getting out of the waitpool, so the only reason to do it is if you really do not intend to send your kid there even if you have no other options. And if that's the case, you should disenroll, because even if it's unacceptable to you it may be a spot someone else would want.

  125. "For example, when you go to the parks in the suburbs, often there aren't any kids at the park (many have their own swingsets at home)."

    Sorry, but I haven't actually found this to be true. Visit Central Park in San Mateo sometime---it's always packed. (Even during the week.) I don't know anyone in the suburbs who has a swing set in their own backyard. Our next door neighbors in SF have their own backyard play structure, though.

  126. Yes, "suburb" is a wide-ranging term (just like "middle class"....when the middle quintile of income is around $70,000 in SF and considerably less elsewhere, but everyone likes to say they middle have to specify by quintiles at least, imho, to make any sense in most arguments).

    For example, I think of San Mateo as a small city, and it is really quite diverse. Very different from Atherton, also on the Peninsula. Part of Contra Contra County are very poor, with many ELLs and high poverty kids in their schools just as we have, and other parts of CCC are quite wealthy.

    You really have to cite demographics along a range of vectors so that people know what you mean in assigning a characteristic like how many people go to a public park versus have big fancy sets in their backyards. I'd bet there is a higher incidence of park and public pool attendance in Concord than in Moraga, and in San Mateo versus Atherton. In other words, it's a reasonable statement that the more wealthy one is, the less one is inclined to participate in socially shared & diverse, and especially public, activities, whether parks, pools, or .... schools.

  127. Yes, but most folks we know who flee the city have moved to a "middle class" suburb like San Mateo or Pacifica rather than an upscale one like Atherton. Mostly they cite quality of life as the main reason they leave the city, not just better schools. One can't really blame a family for getting tired of getting their car broken into every week by "bad guys" or of having to explain why there's so many homeless or the stench of urine (and worse) to their children.

  128. In May before school let out, I took my kids to an art opening in North Beach. A parent at our school was having a wine a cheese reception for her latest work. Her husband was restoring the building, right on Columbus. Another parent who is a freelance designer rents an office in the building. There were about a dozen brightly dressed really cool laighing happy urban kids playing on the sidewalk as their parents drank wine and looked at the art. I thought about how lucky they were to have such hip parents.

    We all got hungry, then walked up the street to Cafe Macaroni and had dinner. The owners knew many of the kids by name. All in all, a wonderful night!

    There was a couple with their child at the restaurant who'd driven in from the 'burbs. They looked a bit lonely and isolated, so we invited them to join. They were shocked that we attended a public school (aghast really) and were eager to learn all about us. They said they schedule one day a week to come into the city for family fun. They missed living in the city.

    By the end of the dinner, they'd written down everything we'd told them about the lottery, the names of the schools, and they were determined to try to transfer back into the city for their kids. It was a great moment.

    It made me sad, too. How a bad impression or rumor--the schools are bad! don't go!--can make people move from a city they love and into a place that is so isolated.

    It also made me so grateful that I can give my kids an urban childhood. Where you walk to places, run into people, learn names. I find the City so much more intimate and friendly than the isolated suburbs. I'm so happy my kids go to public schools and we can continue to live an involved, vibrant, and very active life.

  129. This us vs. them thread is really amazing. yes, there are substantial lifestyle differences between living in the 'burbs and in the city. There are definite advantages to both (I grew up on the Peninsula and lived in Palo Alto as a childless adult, now live in the inner sunset). I never thought of folks in SF as city snobs but the attitudes on this blog are really off-putting. What's next? "Some of my best friends live in the 'burbs...."?

  130. Thank you, 8:30. Well said.

    I've lived in SF for almost 20 years (grew up in the suburbs on the East Coast) and now that I have kids I do sometimes find myself conflicted about staying here. I think there's pluses and minuses to both lifestyles but I have to say that none of my friends who have moved out regret their decision or "seem lost" or at all unhappy. Ditto for many friends who have kids and love it here.

  131. "Also, CA has turned so blue in recent years, I have a hard time imagining a Republican Gov in the next decade. I am hoping a Gov. Newsom for example will have the b**ls to finally raise taxes."

    Well, the 2/3 requirement to pass a budget means that the Anti-Tax jihadis will still hold the state hostage.

    Remember Gray Davis? Good times.

  132. "The good public schools in NYC are better than the good public schools in SF." city rating, based on test scores:

    New York, New York: 5
    San Francisco, CA: 6

    Seems your subjective experience doesn't match the test results.

  133. Newsom doesn't have the attention span to work to raise taxes. I wish it weren't so, but except for the righteous move on gay marriage, he's an empty suit.

    Various organizations are working on a constitutional convention at which perhaps the 2/3 requirement could be overturned -- the future of the state is at stake.

  134. To the poster asking about Francisco middle school. I plan to send my daughter there next year and many of the parents from Yick Wo are beginning to send their children there. It is small and close to home. One reason for the low API scores is that they also have a "newcomer" program. The principal and vice principal are great.

  135. To July 31, 2009 12:58 PM

    Having been a student enrolled in public school in NYC I can tell you first hand that the schools there are way more diverse then the schools here. Even the lousy high schools have many AP classes. There is no wonky lottery system, and you attend your neighborhood school (Heaven Forbid!), unless you get into one of he special schools which require testing - 3 schools equal to or greater than Lowell, the Performing Arts High School and many other specialized schools.

  136. I've been reading about NYC schools, and it sounds to me like the enrollment system is at least as crazy as SFUSD's. This is a link to a general source for following NYC schools, not anything specific on enrollment:

  137. "There is no wonky lottery system, and you attend your neighborhood school (Heaven Forbid!)"

    This year was a game changer, though. A good number of people are on waiting lists for their neighborhood schools because there are too many kids and not enough availability.

    Back to the topic at hand, we're enrolled at one of our seven choices and are waitpooled for one of the Chinese immersion programs (we're native English speakers). The light is fading fast. I'm sure we won't be offered a spot even after the ten day count. We aren't in a high priority cohort, for one thing. There are 30 total in the pool, too. So unless a class and a half of people drop out, we will move on.

    We haven't heard word from the two privates where we requested to stay in the waitpool. I do know that there were 90+ girls in the pool in the spring for SF Friends! I have no idea where we stood but again, best to focus on what we have rather than complaining about what could've been.

    I can see the benefits of both city and suburb living. I think that there are extremes of opinion on this blog, just as there are extremes of experience on either experience. You can be living in a terrible, crime-ridden area in a city, and you can be living in a suburb that was poorly planned (many parts of LA, where I lived for a decade, come to mind for both scenarios). No one should have to defend their choices so vigorously, though! It's a little nuts to have to justify to anonymous folks why we make our choices and hearing the resulting judgement of why our choices are so terribly, terribly wrong.

  138. I don't know the precise situation in NYC, but it seems like if certain neighborhood schools are exceptional and some are really lousy, wouldn't there then be competition to buy into a certain desirable address?

    It sounds like it could be an even more competitive system than here.

  139. The only thing more maddening than the private vs. public debate is the city vs. burbs debate! While it's nice to walk around North Beach and have hip friends, we found that our life in SF became untenable after a few years (in a good public school). Our experience was paying $3800 a month for a mortgage on a cramped condo where our neighbors complained constantly about the noise my kids made, driving 25 minutes every morning to a school that started at 7:50 am (brutal early morning wake-ups never really got easier for our kids because it was hard to make bedtime any earlier than 8pm with homework, dinner etc), and a hard time getting kids together with friends because there were so few kids in our hip urban neighborhood that it necessistated planning via email and driving to get them together for playdates only on weekends, because almost all families worked full time at our school and there were few moms/dads at pickup to organize playdates with (the 1:50 pickup was almost impossible for any working parent to deal with). So, now we live in Albany. (Huge suburban sellouts here!!) We walk to school in five minutes every morning, the kids have loads of friends on our street, we walk to eat out at nice restaurants, grocery shopping is much easier becasue we do it on foot, we have a real sense of community on our street that we never had in SF, we have hip and less-hip friends, working and non working parents of all backgrounds, great schools all the way through high school that our kids will always walk to, and a house for the same price as our condo. Are we isolated and sad? Not at all. Our life is just less stressful and I spend more time with my kids.

  140. Great post. The idea that diverse, walkable and vibrant communities don't exist outside of San Francisco is ridiculous. There are so many great neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area.

  141. "So, now we live in Albany. (Huge suburban sellouts here!!)"

    Albany's a great community. Good choice.

  142. Great post, anon 4:18!

    We came really, really close to moving to Albany for many of the exact reasons you mentioned--we even had a real estate agent showing us houses.
    If we hadn't gotten lucky in the lottery for K last year we'd probably be your neighbors. :)

  143. It's definetely a life style adjustment when you consider raising a family in the City. You definetly need money to live here. On another note, SF has the "burbs" right here within the City! Check out communities like Balboa Terrace, West Portal, Miraloma Park , Mt. Davidson...just to name a few...all can resemble any other suburb outside if SF.

  144. Great posts, The Mama and everyone.

    We are City folks who support public (as I"ve said before) but since my daughter was born have considered both burbs and private. We got into a private, and are done with the school search. We tried for 2 years for public, and are at peace with our journey/decision.

    FYI The San Francisco School has 1st grade spots for boys I believe. Maybe girls if no boys apply.

    Best of luck in the coming year everyone. With such a thoughtful group of parents, our kids will do well!