Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wanted: Parents who can write about touring private schools

The SF K Files currently has two parents who are writing about their experiences of touring the public schools. Their posts are thoughtful and they're helping to add to the discussion. Thank you to both of these parents for throwing themselves out there and sharing their experiences.

We would love to have a parent who is touring private and/or parochial schools write for the site. The SF K Files isn't about public or private--rather it's about forming a community of people who are all interested in their children's education. And obviously it's about discussing important--and sometimes not so important--issues. What makes the site so interesting and rich is that people with all different viewpoints frequent it. Hopefully, we're all learning from one another.

If you're interested in blogging, you can email thesfkfiles@gmail.com. Please note that all bloggers use pseudonyms and they're using additional tactics to maintain anonymity. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SFUSD news: Harvey Milk students turn in lunch forms

Principal Christina Velasco has promised her students they can laugh with her when she teases and sprays her hair purple to mark the occasion of every family at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy turning in their application for Free and Reduced- Price Meals. Having accurate information through these forms not only allows eligible students access to free breakfast and lunch at school, but also helps individual schools and the district receive additional funding for everything from technology to teacher support. The form is sent home to families at the beginning of each school year.

Hot topic: What would it take to get the funding for S.F. schools up to at least the national average?

An SF K Files reader asked me to start the following thread:
So many posts on The SF K Files end up being about the bottom line...money. Depressing old news about prop 13 and our screwed up political system. I would like to see a hot topic post asking for the financial and political wizards reading the blog to write in and tell us, What would it take to get the funding for San Francisco schools up to at least the national average? Get creative--how much per resident per year, various tax schemes, fees, rich donors, who knows. I would really love to see the responses. What if it turns out each San francisco Resident could pay .5% of income and save our schools from the financial crisis they are in. We are a creative city...PTA dollars can only go so far.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Public School 101: Learn how to enroll in public school

When: Saturday, October 3, 2009
Time: 10am-12pm
Where: Francis Scott Key Elementary; 1530 43rd Ave @ Kirkham

This year we have more Parents for Public Schools Ambassadors than ever who have volunteered to come to this event to talk with parents about their school. This is a good opportunity to connect with other parents who have been through the process and can give you their perspective of their schools.

You will also get an overview of the assignment process and a chance to ask questions about applying to schools in San Francisco.

No reservation necessary but please sign up for free KidsWatch (ages 3 and up) below or call us at (415) 861-7077.

Obama wants longer school year: Do you?

An excerpt from an AP story on SFGate:
Students beware: The summer vacation you just enjoyed could be sharply curtailed if President Barack Obama gets his way.

Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.

"Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

"Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Fifth-grader Nakany Camara is of two minds. She likes the four-week summer program at her school, Brookhaven Elementary School in Rockville, Md. Nakany enjoys seeing her friends there and thinks summer school helped boost her grades from two Cs to the honor roll.

But she doesn't want a longer school day. "I would walk straight out the door," she said.

To read the full story click here.

SFUSD's GreatSchools ranking jumps up one point

Greatschools.net recalculated its district rankings using the new API scores, and SFUSD went up a notch (from 6 to 7). Not too bad, considering spending per pupil is lower than the state average ($8,350 versus the state average of $10,800).

Take a look below at other districts for comparison. While the rankings of the districts were largely what you'd expect, given the socioeconomics of the various communities, there were a few surprises: SFUSD ranks higher than Sunnyvale, Concord, Berkeley, Santa Clara, and Campbell. And SFUSD has the same ranking as San Mateo, Mountain View, and Alameda.

Examples of districts ranked the same as SFUSD (not a scientific sample, just surfing around greatschools.net)

Mountain View Elementary District (7)
Mountain High School District (7)
San Mateo-Foster City Elementary (7)
San Mateo High School (7)
Pacifica School District (7)
Alameda Unified (7)

Districts ranked higher than SFUSD:
Mill Valley (10)
Palo Alto (10)
Los Altos (10)
Hillsborough (10)
Walnut Creek (10)
Lafayette Elementary (10)
Los Gatos Elementary (10)
Larkspur (10)
Pietmont Unified (10)
Fremont Union (9)
Albany Unified (9)
Burlingame School District (9)
Cupertino (9)
Millbrae Elementary School District (8)
Martinez Unfiied (8)

Districts ranked lower than SFUSD:
Berkeley Unified (6)
Sunnyvale (6)
South San Francisco (6)
San Bruno Park Elementary School District (6)
Santa Clara Unified (6)
Campbell (6)
Mount Diablo Unified [Concord] (6)
Jefferson Elementary School District [Daly City] (5)
San Leandro (5)
Pittsburgh Unified (4)
Oakland Unified (4)
Emery Unified [Emeryville] (4)
San Lorenzo (4)
Ravenswood City (E.Palo Alto) (2)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

June’s Story – The touring list

As I mentioned in my previous post, Mathias and I have made our list of schools we want to tour. I know that touring (as many of you told me) is not always the ideal way to judge a school, and may seem like a big waste of time when we go 0/7; however right now I know nothing about these schools besides the numbers and word of mouth, I want to see them in order to feel I make a good choice of 7 schools that will work for us (even if in the end we get none). This means that I do have quite an ambitious touring list.

We narrowed down the schools by looking at proximity to our home as well as special programs (I want arts, Mathias wants science), diversity statistics and test and API scores (I know this is often more indicative of teaching to the test rather than learning, but it was important to Mathias). I plugged this all into a spreadsheet alongside the historical demand so we could measure our chances at each school. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the west side of SF has mostly popular schools. I hope that I get a good feeling at a few less demanded ones so I can decrease the odds of going 0/7.

So here is the list in no real particular order – as time goes on I may add or take away some.

Schools we will tour together-
  • Alamo
  • Argonne
  • George Peabody
  • Grattan (a bit of a haul and high demand but have heard a lot about the sciences and arts there)
  • Jefferson
  • Lafayette
  • Sherman (slightly out of our way – but this was my elementary school so I have to see it now!)
  • Sunset

Schools I will tour alone-
  • Alice Fong Yu *
  • Creative Arts Charter
  • Sutro

Other schools that I may tour, but I have reservations about
  • New Traditions – (I don’t really like the split K/1st grade class)
  • Claire Lilienthal – (I know this is a great school but the 7:50 start time coupled with the split campus means lots of stress when Noah starts K and Maddie 3rd grade – I don’t think I could do it!)
  • The Montessori program at Cobb (OK, I never even considered this before the responses to my last post. We are currently looking into the Montessori method and trying to decide if it will even work with Maddie, but I may go to just take a look. It will be a hard sell for Mathias.)
  • Dianne Feinstein (may be too far for a 7:50 start time)

I would love to hear from parents who send their kids to these schools, what do you love about your school? Additionally what should I look for when touring? What is not important?

* update - I had initially listed Alice Fong Yu as an option for me to tour alone, assuming wrongly that they had both a GE and an immersion program - thanks to the commenter that pointed this out to me. Since we are not looking for immersion program this is one less school for me to tour. See how new I am to this?!? I did not even know it was a complete immersion school. So since I will not be touring them this week my first review will should come late next week.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SF Chronicle: West Portal immersion program still thriving

Today, a story on West Portal's Cantonese immersion program ran in the Chronicle.

Here's an excerpt:

It was 1984 when a handful of San Francisco parents embarked on a controversial education experiment to open the first Chinese immersion public school program in the nation.

The idea was to immerse the students in Cantonese from the first day of school, teaching them math, science and other subjects in Chinese and gradually increasing English skills along the way. Success would mean that by the time the children finished elementary school, they would be grade-level literate in both languages.

The pioneering venture, which operates at West Portal Elementary's kindergarten through fifth grades, was launched as U.S.-China relations were just warming. Today, it has become one of the school district's shining stars, gaining steady popularity among families and setting an example for similar programs in San Francisco and across the country.

This year, there were 34 spots for incoming kindergarteners and 446 families trying to get one in the first round of applications, according to district officials.

The school also includes general education classrooms, which comprise two-thirds of West Portal's enrollment, and the Chinese immersion students contribute to its test results, which are among the highest in the district as well as the state.

To read the full story by Jill Tucker click here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hot topic: School buses

An SF K Files reader asked me to start this thread:
As I start looking into the 2010 enrollment process, I've started seeing posts about school buses. Where I live I never see a school bus other than one that I know picks up a special needs child in our neighborhood. How does one find out school bus routes? I just assumed it's up to me to get my kid to school and was looking only a schools I could walk to or were on our commute path, but if there were a bus option, I might be willing to look beyond my immediate neighborhood and investigate undersubscribed schools farther from home. Any advice?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Debbie's Story: My Plan

I thought writing here would help me organize my thoughts, and it has, but it has also caused me to obsess about this process….every day. I know, get a life! Well, my obsessing has led to a plan, and here it is:

1) Make a list of what’s important in a school (e.g., close to home, start time, before/after school program, etc.), and rank order the list.

2) Don’t tour a million schools. It won’t be the best use of time/energy. Instead, tour a handful of decent or up-and-coming schools considered 2nd or 3rd tier that meet my top three needs. Tour only one or two big buzz schools just to see what the hub bub is all about. During the tours, ask good questions. There’s a great thread posted last year called "Tips for tour guides" – read it to make the most out of a school tour.

3) Determine comfort level with risk. This is where I really need to be honest with myself and will probably lead to my changing my original list of schools to tour.

If my tolerance for risk is LOW, do NOT put any big buzz schools on the list of seven on my application, but DO put all schools considered 2nd or 3rd tier (ones I’d be willing to live with of course) and/or schools where I would be contributing to the diversity. Hopefully, if I’ve done my research right, and the moon and stars align perfectly, a true low risk plan will yield the highest chances of getting one of my seven (no guarantees of course).

If my tolerance for risk is MEDIUM, do NOT put any big buzz schools at the top of the list of seven, but DO put schools considered 2nd or 3rd tier (again, ones I’d be willing to live with) towards the top (1-3). Then fill the rest of the list (4-7) with big buzz schools that I’ll never get (but if I do, great) so that if I go 0/7 both rounds, I’ll be towards the top of the wait list for a school (or at least not at the bottom).

If my tolerance for risk is HIGH, and I fall in love with only one school, put it #1, fill the rest of the slots with big buzz schools, expect to go 0/7 both rounds, and sweat it out on a wait list.

4) Have a back-up plan. This seems to mean: private/parochial (and that’s not easy or guaranteed either), move (not an option we’re willing to consider), home school (I admire people who can do this, but it’s not for us), or…..geez, what else is there?

5) Try not to complain about the process. This one is difficult because it seems so complicated, and right when I think I understand it, someone says something, and I go back to not understanding it again. It is what it is. DO, however, get the FACTS about the application process by reading the SFUSD Enrollment Guide. I don’t think the 2010-11 one is out yet, but I’ve read last year’s , and my guess is the info about the process will be about the same.

Is this a good plan? Who knows – I’m just a newbie, but it’s the plan I have right now that helps me sleep at night.

June’s Story – Gearing up for School Tours

Thank you everyone for the warm welcome and the suggestions. After going through details about many west side schools Mathias and I narrowed down our list of schools we want to tour. It was difficult; if circumstances were otherwise I would love to tour even more, to get a better feel of what really mattered to us. We have been told that we should tour 12-15 schools, which did not seem like much till I we had to deal with the logistics.

School tours are all around 9am in the morning, on various days of the week, making it impossible to blitz in a day or two. While I work part time from home, and am flexible in that regard, Mathias works in the east bay. Maddie is in preschool only part time, and Noah is home with me full time. This means that for every tour Mathias has to arrange to work from home and I need to find a babysitter for 1-2 kids. Lucky for us Mathias has a very nice employer who will allow him to telecommute and we also have friends and family to help many mornings so we do not have to pay $15-$18 an hour to a sitter. But it does make me wonder, if I already find this frustrating, what about the people the lottery is supposedly supposed to help? How is a single mother with 1-2 low paid inflexible jobs for example supposed to do this? Or parents who have no childcare help, no money for sitters, no employers who will allow them to take time off? I understand it is best to tour while class is in session, but why do they offer it only in the am, why not a few times so parents can squeeze in a few tours a day? Why is there also not an evening or two in the fall where parents can attend and hear a teacher and principal speak and perhaps at least see the facilities if they can not take the time in the day? Why does SFUSD not see this? It seems to me only the moderately well off can seriously tour 12-15 schools, and where does that leave the rest?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

June's story - an introduction

Hi, I am June, and my daughter Maddie will be starting kindergarten somewhere next fall. This means, that after two years of reading this blog and following a few newsgroups about the kindergarten process I am now beginning the journey myself. How do I feel? Anxious! I am not one who does well with uncertainty, does not like feeling out of control, and that is the only thing I can feel in this position. How do I deal with this anxiety? I become hyper organized – I make lists and spreadsheets, absorb every bit of information I can, try to control what little I can control. I am sure you will see bits of this in my posts as I navigate through this process.

A little about me: I am mom to Maddie, 4 and Noah 2. I have lived off and on in San Francisco since I was born – attending Sherman in the early 1980s before my parents moved us to the burbs; my mother and her parents were all born and raised here too. I guess you could say this city is in my blood, and I fully hope to raise my children here. The thought that this school issue may force me to leave the city I love terrifies me. My husband, Mathias, was born and raised in Denmark. I think he is even more terrified then I am, since the schooling system here in general is already foreign to him, and then the lottery?!? I am trying to remain calm for his sake, and to keep him from just moving us all back to Denmark (where I lived for 5 years and Maddie for the first 18 months of her life). We currently live in a rented flat in the Richmond, and while I would say we are comfortably middle class, we certainly do not have an extra $20,000 a year for private schools just lying around.

We are looking at only public schools for Maddie. For a variety of reasons - both economic and ideological - we are not looking at either private or parochial schools. Since we live in the Richmond all the schools on our touring list are on the west side of the city. My children are already bilingual, being raised with English and Danish so we are not interested in any immersion programs. I am looking for a school that feels right, that I can see my children going off to every morning. I want diversity, culturally and socio-economically. I want a nice parent community, and a place where I will also feel like I can contribute. Is that too much? Possibly. Does it even matter in the end due to the lottery? Probably not – but It will factor at least in the schools I choose to list.

So welcome to my journey, I am happy to know at least I will not be on it alone.

Hot topic: Science in elementary school

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
Which public elementary schools do a good job teaching science? And does anyone have any first-hand knowledge re: Spring Valley (supposedly a "Science Magnet" school)? Also, people on this blog have mentioned Grattan as having a good science program. It would be great to hear about other schools as well.

Hot topic: Special education

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
Most of the threads on sf k files address general education. I'd like to hear about parents' experiences with special education. Does anyone have recommendations for a moderate/severe or mild/moderate program? Would anyone like to share about their experiences with inclusion? Would you recommend a TEACCH program or a High-Functioning Autism program?

Hot topic: K-5 vs. K-8

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
My son will be entering Kindergarten next year. As I'm doing research, I keep wondering, what are the pluses and minuses of choosing a K-8 over a K-5?

Hot Topic: Gate vs. no Gate track in middle school

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
I'm trying to figure out what's the norm for homework (both content and extent) in middle school. I have a student who is doing classroom math and 1/2 hour of homework that she learned in the 4th grade while her counterparts at another middle school are spending 2 hours on exponents. I know its just the start of the year and there's probably some initial assessment and review going on, but at what point do i get concerned that my child is not being challenged? One note: my child's school does not have a separate class for gated kids. Perhaps this is the distinction?

Got a hot topic?

Do you have a question about the enrollment process? A school? Language immersion? You can email your questions and topic suggestions to thesfkfiles@gmail.com and we'll start a new thread and readers can jump into the discussion in the comments.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lowell High School students make YouTube video about school lunch

Debbie's Story: 1) Scheduled My First Tour, and 2) Wow

1) I scheduled our first school tour! Commodore Sloat. And truth be told, we really want to like this school. It’s relatively close to our home, the data seems to indicate that this is a solid school, and it doesn’t have buzz around it like some of the others so we think our chances of getting in are decent if we put it as #1. My husband and I will tour it in October so I’ll let you all know how it goes! If anyone has information to share about this school, please do. There's a new principal there this year so I'd be particularly interested in hearing about how that's going.

2) Regarding my "Decisions, Decisions" post and all the comments…wow. As I mentioned in "My First Post", blogging is a very new experience for me. I’m typically a fairly private person (I’m the person at the party who’s kind of quiet and asks you lots of questions about yourself rather than talking about myself), and I knew that I would be putting myself out there as a blogger, but….wow. Okay, I’ll stop saying wow now.


I’m in this for the long haul, and I’ll keep putting myself out there, warts and all. And you keep up the diversity of opinion, experiences, and wealth of knowledge. There’s something for everyone so thanks for sharing. I really think we all do the best we can, at the time, with the information we have and what we have to work with, at the time. Here’s to all the decisions we’ve made so far as parents that we feel good about - may there be many more to come!

Yick Wo Fall Carnival

The Yick Wo Fall Carnival takes place on Sunday, September 27th from noon to 4:00 pm. This is a fun family event that children from pre-school to middle school will really enjoy. Stop by for a great BBQ lunch.
Great opportunity for prospective students to see the school in action and talk to parents. Yick Wo is located at 2245 Jones Street between Lombard and Greenwich.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Friday night dance at Fairmount Elementary

Are you...

- thinking about a Spanish immersion education for your children?
- living in the Mission/Noe/Glen Park/Bernal?
- looking for something to do with your family this Friday?
- interested in Fairmount Elementary School?

Then come to our *Baile Familiar* family dance and get to know our school
and neighbors!

Details:

Friday, 09/25/2009
6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Come Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month dancing under the stars! Join us for
a fun, community event that raises money for arts, PE and other important
programs at Fairmount Elementary School. Dinner, entertainment, dancing and
salsa lessons are included in the ticket price. Roses, raffle tickets and
family portraits will be available for an additional donation.

This is a family event, everyone welcome! Parking can be limited in the
school neighborhood, so please consider taking public transportation.

*Dinner will be served from 6:15-7:15pm.

For more info and to buy advance tickets:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/80246

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Debbie's Story: Decisions, Decisions

First of all, I want to extend a big thank you to all of you who have reached out and offered advice and support. I can already tell that this is going to be an incredible experience. There’s a lot of passion and opinion out there, and I truly enjoy reading it all. I’m reminded of what I tell my four-year-old daughter all the time, so often in fact, that she finishes the sentence for me: I say, "Different people like different things", then she says, "and that’s okay." I haven’t had the opportunity to explain the word "opinion" to her yet, but I’m sure I’ll be able to work that in one day.

So here’s the question that keeps me up at night, as it did last night: Will I make the right decision for my child? (and throw in "and family" at the end, and that’s worth at least a month’s worth of sleepless nights) Up to this point, we’ve already made hundreds of child-related decisions, many relatively minor in impact, but decisions nonetheless: Do I really need that $700+ stroller? (In retrospect, the answer should have been no. So much wasted money on baby/toddler products, but I digress…) Should I let Anna have a second serving of ice-cream? (Yes! Live a little!) But these elementary school decisions in front of me now seem like high-impact decisions that will influence the trajectory of her future, or maybe I’m being too dramatic. Public or private, immersion or no immersion, uniform or no uniform, school close to home or not close, gardening program or high test scores, the decisions go on and on. I don’t know if Mark and I are up for some of the rigorous and time consuming activities in which some parents engage. Maybe we’re just lazy. When we had to choose a contractor for extensive house remodeling, we talked to only one, and we chose him because we liked him, and he seemed trustworthy - he’s been doing stuff for us for about 10 years now. When it came to choosing a pre-school, we toured three, and chose one of them because we really liked the teacher, and it was close to our home. We love the pre-school.

To tell you the truth, what it all boils down to for me is, I want Anna to have a super nice teacher and be around nice people all day. That’s it. Am I aiming too low? To me, I’m not. To me, nice goes a long way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hot topic: Lakeshore

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
What's going on with Lakeshore? This has always been a solid school yet I have heard some families are switching to other schools. What's going on? This has always been a great place.

Hot topic: Tell me about the hidden gems

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
I'm starting to look for schools this fall. Many parents have told me that it's better to go to a smaller up-and-coming school that's not as established. Apparently, these are easier to get into, but also there can be a lot of community around rejuvinating the school. Can anyone point me to these sorts of schools?

Hot topic: How was back-to-school night?

An SF K Files reader asked me to start the following thread:
My daughter just started kindergarten at a public school and tonight was back to school night. It was a great event, and I have to say that I feel as if I can finally relax after attending this event. We had a tough time going through the kindergarten process and we were very uncertain about where to send our daughter to school. After this event I finally feel as if we're settled at our school. I feel as if we made the right choice. It was great to hear the principal speak and to hear my child's teacher go over what happens on a typical school day. And I connected with other parents. It just felt really good. Anyway, I'm wondering how back to school night went for other families?

Going Public: Strong Public Libraries + Great Public Schools = Thriving Communities

Join us this fall in newly renovated and rebuilt neighborhood libraries for lively, informative conversations about the partnerships between public libraries about public schools!

Sponsored by SFPL, Parents for Public Schools and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, these free programs give parents and caregivers opportunities to learn from each other about how to choose a public school—and how to work collectively on behalf of our public schools.

The newly opened library branches serve as important resources, anchoring neighborhoods and providing core resources for lifelong learning. By helping to bring parents into our branch libraries to learn more about choosing and improving a public school for their children, we are taking the next step towards a bright, literate, positive future for San Francisco’s families!

Going Public: Parents Talk about Choosing & Improving Public Schools for their Kids

Tuesday, Oct 6, 7-8 p.m.

Richmond/Senator Milton Marks Branch Library, 351 Ninth Ave.

Saturday, Oct 17, 3-4 p.m.

Glen Park Branch Library, 2825 Diamond St.


Wednesday, Nov. 4th, 6:30-8 p.m.

Portola Branch Library, 2450 San Bruno Ave.

Public school event for preschool directors

PPS is holding a Preschool Director Forum on Monday September 21st from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. hosted by the JCC-SF on California street. For those of you with kids still in preschool please mention this forum to your preschool director. Demand for public schools is changing and preschool directors are increasingly asked for information about this process. The objective of this forum is to give preschool directors the tools they need to advise their parents. Call PPS at 861-7077 or send an email to vicki@ppssf.org so we can get a better accurate count of attendees. However, noone will be turned away at the door.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Debbie's Story: My First Post

Hello – I’m Debbie and welcome to the beginning of my journey through the San Francisco kindergarten search and application process. (This is also the beginning of my blogging experience so I apologize in advance for any violations of blogging etiquette!) How do I feel about this impending and necessary adventure? Nervous, excited, clueless, skeptical, annoyed, and hopeful, just to name a few. However this turns out in the end, I’m happy to have this opportunity to share my experiences with others, and hopefully, what I learn will help you with your journey.

So the source of this journey, the sole reason why this journey is even necessary, is our four-year-old daughter Anna. She recently turned four and is very anxious to turn five so that she can have another birthday party and eat ice-cream. She doesn’t care about the gifts, just the ice-cream. Together with my husband Mark, we live in a neighborhood where I’d say about 90% of the families send their children to private school. I haven’t done any statistical analysis to confirm that percentage, but I’ve only met two families in the area with children in public school, and one of those two families sent their child to public school because they couldn’t get into any private schools. I don’t generally consider Mark and I to be rebels, but we’d rather send Anna to public school. We both went to public schools, and I think we turned out okay. Will we consider any private/parochial schools? Depends on our mood the day we consider that question. And once we start actually touring schools, our thoughts on public vs. private might change.


There are several really solid public elementary schools relatively close to where we live: West Portal, Commodore Sloat, Dianne Feinstein, Sunset, Ulloa, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Lakeshore. We plan on touring all of these, plus a couple private schools, but if we get tired along the way, who knows. The most frustrating part of thinking about the tours is that, because of the lottery system, you could tour ‘til your heart’s content, but in the end it doesn’t really matter which school you fall in love with. You get placed where you get placed. I guess where the touring does help you is with how you rank the schools.

That’s it for now. Thanks for joining me on my journey. Much more to come!

PPS-SF Parent Panel Events

Looking for a school? Let Parents for Public Schools help!

PPS-SF hosts Parent Panel Enrollment Events, which feature a group of parents sharing their enrollment experience and their experience at their public schools. Also learn about the enrollment process from the SFUSD Educational Placement Center.

English:
Saturday, October 3, 10am-12pm
Francis Scott Key Elementary, 1530 43rd Ave @ Kirkham
No reservation necessary, but please register for free KidsWatch at (415) 861-7077.

Spanish:
Saturday, November 14, 10am-12pm
John O’Connell HS, 2355 Folsom St. @20th St.
This presentation includes information from the Multilingual department about language programs.

Chinese:
Saturday, November 14, 10am-12pm
Gordon J. Lau Elementary, 950 Clay St. @ Powell St.
This presentation includes information from the Multilingual department about language programs.

The SF K Files has a new blogger!

The 2010-11 enrollment process is in full swing and The SF K Files has a new blogger. Debbie will be chronicling her experiences with going through the process this year. You can expect a post from her any day.

We're still looking for more guest bloggers who want to share their experiences. Last year, we had a team of three parents who reviewed schools and offered up insight. They all used pseudonyms. Some posted weekly; others once a month. Whatever you have time for is fine. If you're interested, you can email Kate at thesfkfiles@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hot topic: How's Marin Prep?

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
During the last enrollment process there was a lot of talk about the new Spanish-infused private school, Marin Prepartory, that opened in San Francisco this fall. Now that school has started for those parents who enrolled, I'm wondering how things are going? Is this a good option for parents going through the process this year?

Two SFUSD schools awarded national honor

SFUSD released the following in a press release:

E.R. Taylor and Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary schools were named by the U.S. Department of Education as 2009 No Child Left Behind — Blue Ribbon Schools. Only 23 other schools in California received the honor this year.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program (BRSP) recognizes elementary and secondary schools that are both academically superior and have demonstrated dramatic gains in student achievement, while serving an economically disadvantaged population of students.

“Our school community is thrilled,” says E.R. Taylor Principal Virginia Dold. “We’ve worked really hard to reduce the achievement gap at our school, and we’re seeing academic gains for all our students. We’re seeing that the teaching strategies we’re employing to better support our African American and Latino students apply to all our children.”

Robert Louis Stevenson Principal Dr. V. Kanani Choy is also very pleased. “I really believe that it has taken our whole school community—our great teachers, parents and students—to make our school reach this point,” says Choy. “We plan to continue to build on this foundation, and we know we still have a long road ahead of us. These are really challenging times in education.”

In order to be eligible for BRSP consideration, a California public school must have:

• Met all of its state targets under the 2007 Academic Performance Index (API), which is California’s accountability model; and all the targets under Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is the federal accountability model. The targets must be met for the school overall and for each numerically significant subgroup, such as socioeconomically disadvantaged children, English learners, and children of color.

A 2007 Base API rank of 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10. A rank of 10 means the school performs in the top 10 percent of all schools.
• Met all of its 2008 API and AYP targets, including those for the school overall and for each numerically significant subgroup.
• Demonstrated significant growth in the percent of students achieving the proficient/advanced level in English-language arts and mathematics from 2004 to 2008. This growth is based on the performance of the students in the highest grade at the school. For example, in a kindergarten to grade six elementary school, this growth would be measured by comparing the performance of sixth grade students in 2004 to sixth grade students tested in 2008.

For final BRSP certification, a school must also meet all of its 2009 API and AYP targets, including those for the school overall and for each numerically significant subgroup.

Because BRSP is part of the federal NCLB law, schools with a large population of disadvantaged students that have either shown dramatic improvement in student achievement from 2004 to 2008 or schools that have maintained a superior level of achievement from 2004 to 2008 are given priority for selection in this program.

The U.S. Department of Education designates a public school as “disadvantaged” if 40 percent or more of the students: (a) participate in the National School Lunch Program; (b) have parents who did not earn a high school diploma; (c) receive Migrant Education services; or (d) are classified as English learners.

The U.S. Secretary of Education has administered BRSP for more than 25 years to recognize outstanding schools. The nominees will be honored in Washington, D.C. on November 2-4 in a series of events hosted by the Secretary and his staff. For more information on BRSP and to review a list of 2009 winners nationwide, please visit http://www.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/awards.html.

SFUSD API Nears the Top

Almost Half of All Schools Reach or Exceed 800 Mark

Yesterday, the district released the following in a press release:

The district met its Academic Performance Index (API) targets and improved by five API points to reach a district-wide API of 777, a score that exceeds all other large urban districts in California. This year approximately half of all schools (46%) have an API score of 800 or above, up from 40 percent (40%) in 2008.

Over two-thirds of the schools (68% or 71/104 schools) met their school-wide API targets, which is ten more schools than last year. The greatest success was seen at the elementary school level where 77 percent (or 54/70) of the elementary schools met their school-wide API targets.

“We are moving in the right direction. More and more schools are meeting their academic improvement targets and almost half of our schools are at the state standard for academic excellence,” said Superintendent Carlos Garcia.

When analyzing the data for groups targeted for improvement, the district saw positive results for English Learners; two- thirds of the schools that had a statistically significant group met their API and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets.
Over half of all schools (53% or 55/104) met their school-wide and subgroup API targets.

Over half (52%) of the schools met their AYP criteria, which included meeting the increased AYP target proficiency rates in both English Language Arts and Math.

“This is a great success as the federal target for proficiency increased by over 10 percent from 2008,” said Ritu Khanna, Executive Director of Research, Planning and Accountability for SFUSD.

The highest rates of improvement were seen at schools with district intervention and support programs, all STAR schools, which means they receive additional funding for instructional coaches and student support services. Malcolm X Elementary showed the most growth with a gain of 99 API points. The top two improvements in the API at the middle school level were Everett and Horace Mann.

African-American, Latino, Pacific Islander, and Special Education students made notable progress but did not meet the increased proficiency rates set for this year in both content areas. The bar is reset higher every year under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the district did not meet AYP (36/46 criteria were met) which means it continues to be in Program Improvement 3. Further, English Language Learners did not meet the criteria for English Language Arts and American Indian students did not meet the criteria for Math.

Both the API and AYP are based on statewide assessment results, which were released earlier this month. These assessments include the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).

AYP encompasses four areas: participation rate, the percent proficient (also referred to as Annual Measurable Objectives), the school’s API as an additional indicator for AYP, and graduation rate. Each of these four areas includes specific requirements. Participation rate and percent proficient criteria must be met in both English-language arts (ELA)
and in Mathematics.

In AYP, the federal government measures what percentage of students are scoring at proficient and above; and the percentage required goes up each year by about 10 percent.

California schools both improving and failing

A story in yesterday's Chronicle:
This is one of those good news-bad news school stories.

The good news is that more California schools are clearing the state's bar using a measuring stick that includes standardized tests and graduation rates, according to a barrage of data released today.

The bad news is that by federal standards more state schools are failing.

That contradiction stems from looking at the same statistics different ways - in short, the state cares about progress while the feds care about the finish line.

"We learn different things from the state and federal measures; however, the two systems of accountability can often send conflicting messages to educators and parents," said state Superintendent Jack O'Connell in a statement.

The state system, the Academic Performance Index (API), uses a complex formula to calculate academic progress on a scale of 200 to 1,000, with the goal being 800.

This year, 42 percent of the state's 10,000 schools hit 800, up from 36 percent last year. The federal system, called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), cares only about the percent of students who test proficient in math and English - a bar that rises every year. For 2009, about 45 percent of students needed to reach proficiency for a school to pass muster.

This year, 51 percent of the state's school met that federal target, down one point from last year.

Failing to clear the state's bar isn't good for a school. Failing to clear the national bar is worse.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hot topic: School events for prospective new families

An SF K Files visitor suggested we start a thread where you can post listings of upcoming school events that prospective new families might be interested in attending. Feel free to post your events in the comments:
Creative Arts Charter School's fall fair is coming up on Saturday, Oct. 24th (11 - 3:30 p.m. in the school...1601 Turk @ Pierce) and we would love to get the word out to prospective families through the SF K Files. I imagine that other schools would also like to let folks know about their fall events. How about a thread for parents to post their school's fall fairs and other public events that prospective new families would be interested in?

Friday, September 11, 2009

SFUSD news

* Longfellow Elementary students will be going greener as the entire school switches from plastic water bottles to reusable ones. Teen green entrepreneur Riley Hoffer will be bringing 650 stainless steel water bottles for the staff and students at Longfellow, where they currently recycle their water bottles, so the students can take another step toward ecological sustainability. Hoffer will be sharing some startling facts that children may not know, such as how it takes up to 700 years for a typical plastic water bottle to biodegrade.

* Leaders of the city’s green schoolyards will be setting up a complete mini-garden in a car parking space and will invite passersby to enjoy elements you can find at some of San Francisco’s public schools, including trees, vegetable plants, a rain water barrel, a worm bin, and tree stumps to rest on while taking it all in. This inventive garden spot is part of the PARK(ing) Day, a worldwide event of over 500 temporary ‘parks’ installed in car parking spaces in over a hundred countries, to show the need for improvements in urban living such as those found in SFUSD’s green schoolyards. Currently, there are over 80 green schoolyards in the city’s public schools.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hot topic: Homework in kindergarten?!?!?

An SF K Files reader asked me to start the following thread:
My child recently received his first homework packet. He's in kindergarten at a public school. I knew there would be some homework but I have to admit that it's more than I expected. And every week! It's such a hassle to get it done and he's resisting. I tried to get him to do it and he got very frustrated and upset. I feel as if kindergarten has become way too academic. Any thoughts?

Let's help this family out with some suggestions

I received this email from a family moving to San Francisco from the UK. She'd like to receive some tips on best neighborhoods for families as well as suggestions for schools.
I'm moving with my family (husband, two girls aged 7 and 5) from the UK to San Francisco in late October. We will be needing to find a home and a school for the girls and I've been looking at the various elementary schools available. Since we're arriving mid-year I assume that I need to find out which schools have openings for one in Grade 2 (she was 7 in August) and the other in Kindergarten (she'll be 5 in October). Do I approach the schools direct or do I go through the school board? I'm keen to find out about the schools first as it will heavily influence where we choose to live, though I do realize they probably can't guarantee anything until we have an address. Any advice gratefully received!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hot topic: 10-day count recap

An SF K Files visitor asked me to start the following thread:
The 10-day count is now over. Could you please start a thread asking people how it turned out? There's been a lot of speculation over the summer about how this year would be very, very different. Is that the case?

Registration no longer required

I heard from several SF K Files readers who struggled with OpenID registration. I'm removing registration, yet again, and we'll see how long it takes before the spammers find the site. Please feel free to continue to share your feelings about registration on the site. I'm exploring other options that might make registration easier.

Obama to tell students to take responsibility

An AP story on SFGate reports on Obama's speech for school students:
Take responsibility for your education. Go to class and listen. Don't let failures define you.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/09/06/national/w074742D61.DTL

Here's a link to the prepared text:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/09/07/national/w113610D12.DTL

What do you think about the speech?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wanted guest bloggers for 2010-11 enrollment process

Soon the 2010-11 enrollment process will swing into full gear and parents will begin touring schools. The SF K Files is seeking parents going through the process who want to share their experiences. Last year, we had a team of three parents who reviewed schools and offered up insight. They all used pseudonyms. Some posted weekly; others once a month. Whatever you have time for is fine. If you're interested, you can email Kate at thesfkfiles@gmail.com.

Kindergarten transitions: How is it going?

This is a thread for people to share their experiences with the the kindergarten transition. How are your children dealing with the transition? Any tears? How are you working through the tears and meltdowns? Are your kids eating their lunches? Any tricks on getting kids out the door on time in the morning? Are you happy with your school? What has surprised you most about your school. Please share your stories and tips.

Here's a link to a post from last year on the same topic. The comments might help those who are in the midst of the transition.

http://thesfkfiles.blogspot.com/2008/09/kindergarten-transitions.html

SFUSD High School Fairs

High School Ambassadors, Parent Liaisons, Principals, and anyone doing outreach for High School,

This is a reminder that the two High School Fairs are coming up. If you are intending to have a table at this event for your High School but haven't registered yet please contact the coordinators listed below ASAP.

These events are put on by independent schools and not by SFUSD. Every year nearly every Independent, Parochial, and Charter High School has a table at these Fairs and it seems that every potential high schooler attends. Our SFUSD public high schools are noticeably absent.

Both of these events are free but you do need to let them know if you want a table.

For the Sept. 13th Fair 1:00-4:00 at Brandeis Hillel Day School

Neal Biskar
Head of Middle School
Brandeis Hillel Day School
nbiskar@bhds.org

Setup begins at 12:00.
This fair is for kids currently attending independent private middle schools.


For the Sept. 20th Fair 12:00-3:00 at Lick Wilmerding
Nathan Lundy
Associate Director of Admissions and Outreach
nlundygo@lwhs.org
415 337-9990
Setup begins at 11:00
This fair is for kids currently attending public and parochial middle schools

Please pass this info on to other High School parents, administrators, and staff.

Vicki Symonds

Parents for Public Schools
415 861-7077
www.ppssf.org
vicki@ppssf.org

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Slow Food SF Potluck Eat-In

Slow Food SF is hosting a Potluck Eat-In on September 7th to show support for theTime For Lunch Campaign and bring awareness of the situation affecting school and students. Eat Ins will be happening all over the country and we encourage everyone to attend or host their own. We're going to need everybody's support!

Please bring a dish to share + your own plate and utensils. This is a free event, butplease RSVP so we have a head count.

Speakers include Senator Mark Leno, Daphne Miller, MD, author of "The Jungle Effect", and Monica Guerra, recent graduate of Balboa High School. We will have a kids activity table and garden project, Pictures at the Magolia Photobooth, a letter writing and calling campaign and lots of community conversation. We hope to see all of you there.

We've realized that the most important thing we can do as a movement is reframe the way people think about food in school: not just tinkering with the way food is processed but making sure our children eat real food in school. Good food is a right, it tastes good, it's good for children, it's good for families, it's good for the economy, it's good for the planet, and it's good for America. Investing in child nutrition is an investment our future.

Special thanks to- Arrow Table Ware, Choice Lunch, Eat Well Farms, Frog Hollow Farms,Hartmann Studios, Let's Be Frank Hot Dogs, Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant, Magnolia Photo Booth, Oola Restaurant and Bar, Dominic Phillips Event Marketing, Ramblas Tapas Bar, Red Dog Graphics, Inc., Sloat Gardens, SF Conservation Corp, US Pure Water.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do you like the new registration requirement on SF K Files?

I'm hearing from some SF K Files readers who are struggling with registration on the site. Apparently, Open ID can be confusing. I have also noticed that the comments on this site are plummeting. I introduced registration to stop the spam that was popping up in the comments. Also, over the past year many readers have suggested that they would like registration to stop some of the mean-spirited comments. Do you like the registration? The comments are the heart of the SF K Files, so I want to make sure to maintain that part of the site. Please share your thoughts and offer up suggestions. Best, Kate

Hot topic: Strategies for Attacking the Kindergarten Application Year

An SF K Files visitor asked me to post the following:
There are so many public and independent schools throughout the Bay Area. Is it advisable to start touring two years before you would be applying for kindergarten for your child? If so, it seems like all you can do in a year you are not applying is visit Open Houses. Are these worth it? What do you learn on an Open House versus a Tour?