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!

41 comments:

  1. Welcome Debbie! I look forward to reading about your experiences and best of luck. We're all cheering for you!

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  2. Yay! It'll be refreshing to hear a new perspective. Welcome aboard.

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  3. Welcome, Debbie, and good luck!

    One thing, there are some interesting stats on the SFUSD website regarding which neighborhoods send kids to public vs. private. It is as you would expect, but there they are. They are on the "Student Assignment Redesign" page under Enrollment. Actually, there are lots and lots of stats in the most recent presentation posted. (Maybe Kate will put up a post on this latest news, which sounds like it will change the landscape a LOT for parents in the year after next....e.g., there may even be assigned schools within very large zones....so, security that doesn't exist the current lottery, but I'm guessing lots of parents will be wishing to have the crazy lottery back when they see their assigned school, but I digress....).

    2) You probably already know that the schools in your 'hood are a bit difficult to get into via the lottery. RLS maybe less than WP, but still...not easy. I would urge you consider a few schools that are less oversubscribed and a little further afield, but still not crazy far, such as Jose Ortega (Mandarin immersion or GE)...the MI program at Ortega is where Kate's daughter is going. Or maybe Sunnyside or Glen Park if one of you is commuting to the South Bay or downtown. These are all up-and-coming but much less crazy oversubbed than West Portal. Look on the map, look for good travel routes, and compare to the spreadsheets on the SFUSD site showing Round 1 requests. Filling up your list of 7 with all schools that have much more than a 1:1 ratio of requests to spots is asking for going 0/7 in Round 1.

    3) Congrats on being open to public even while your neighbors are mostly going private. You are right that your child will most likely be fine! And will also learn from being with kids of multiple cultures, and you can feel good too about contributing to education that is open to all our kids.

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  4. Hi Debbie -- please don't pass up the chance to attend all possible informational events held by Parents for Public Schools, as well as of course the SFUSD school fair on Nov. 7. (www.ppssf.org) You'll find that actually the public-school community is thriving and vibrant in this city, and we're raising smart, well-educated kids (and without spending $20,000 per year per kid to do it, too!).

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  5. Hi Debbie,

    You are a brave soul.

    I have met many moms who live in Ingleside or Bernal, as you do, who have done the school tour thing, expended many hours on the process with the best of intention and come up 0/7 in the lottery. In fact, I know of only a handful of moms that got one of their seven choices this year, and they entered that their child was a not a native english speaker on the form.

    The number that the school board gives out, that nearly eighty percent of families get one of their seven choices, is extremely misleading because it contains the sibling preference. The real number is something more like forty percent. If your child has attended preschool, and their native language is English, the chance of getting one of your seven choices is definitely less than 40%.

    Check out the spreadsheet on the Parents for Public Schools website. It may be out of date, but it will give you an idea of what your chances of success on the lottery are, based on your seven choices.

    Right away, I would take Sunset, and West Portal off your list. These schools have very high numbers of children applying that have entered that their native language is not English. They will be ahead of you in the line.

    I agree with the previous post about Jose Ortega. It seems to have very promising academic scores in the last year or so, and an invested parent community.

    You probably know, but the greatschools website has very useful statistics on the schools. That can cut down on a lot of leg work.

    Have a back-up plan. The lottery process seems to get tougher every year.

    I really like St. Philips, the Catholic school in Noe Valley. It has a great community, academic and sports program. No, I'm not Catholic.

    All the best in your search, but conserve your energy.

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  6. My kids are older, but when we were first considering K, we thought this way too:

    "Will we consider any private/parochial schools? Depends on our mood the day we consider that question."

    Basically, we didn't think through the impact on our lives of the choice between $20K/year per kid vs. free. We did choose public, so we never did have to think about it, but looking back, I'm a little amused at the fact that the money issue wasn't more clear to me.

    Except for the seriously wealthy, it's an issue most people can't afford to forget. It's really sad to hear about families taking out second mortgages to pay private school tuition, or winding up without college savings, because that implies they believed private school was so essential they were willing to risk their financial future. The truth is, it's the same product -- a K-12 education -- just with more bells and whistles.

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  7. We are in the same boat - our just-turned-4 year old will be headed to public next year.
    Our family will be reading the K files often! Good luck!

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  8. It sounded like the reopening of DeAvila saved some of those 0/7 families this year, so maybe the district will reopen another school next year too.

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  9. Re 10:51's post about non-sibling applicant success rates being more like 40%. That is a commonly cited number, but it is wrong. It is based on bad math (you need to subtract the % of applicants that have sibling preference, and then divide by the *new total* once the sibs are out of the equation). The real number is closer to 68 or 70%. That is, more than 2/3 of non-sibling applicants to kinder get one of their seven choices. Not saying that is wonderful, but it is signicantly better than 41%!

    You can significantly improve even those odds by adding a few savvy choices. There is still no guarantee, but including at least two schools that had around a 1:1 or better ratio last year of applicants to spots is a good idea. This is not the time to be engaging in wishful thinking--look hard at those application numbers. They even have 5-year trend spreadsheets so you can see which ones are rising. The trick is to find the schools that are on the move but havn't gone over the top yet. Like Jose Ortega, but there are others. And then put several on the list, because the schools that are on the move can top out fast.

    Another strategy is to put down only the popular schools with 20:1 odds and then wait through the summer for the waitpools to clear in the 10-day count. It works for many people, but the odds are dicey and it takes a lot of nerve, plus a back-up plan. My only request is that if you do this, you don't complain about not getting something in Round 1. Eyes wide open, people! You pick the longshots, you got to play it out. Of course we would all love to waltz into our preferred school, but we are competing with our neigbhors and friends for the same spots; that is reality. The better news is that the number of popular spots has grown in the last 10 years.

    Regarding the stats on greatschools.net and the SARC reports on SFUSD: remember to look at sub-group scores.

    Do attend the school fair (without your kid, who will probably melt down at the stimulation of the huge room). It is your one-stop chance to meet real people from a bunch of schools wtihout actually having to tour. It might inspire you to add a school you hadn't thought of, or drop another from the list.

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  10. Non-native English speakers are not "ahead of you in line" at a school where there is a significant population of students speaking that other language. It's not like they get to waltz in and take all the spots. Yes, we all know the wacky stories about people claiming German as a native language, but the numbers are small in comparison to everyone else. WP gets thousands of requests and many, many, many families who speak Chinese at home don't get in.

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  11. The district has said that this year they will be testing every child who claims a non-English language as primary. This is important (even beyond lottery fairness issues) because children who are ELL need different kinds of services, and also because immersion programs are seeking a particular balance of language skills.

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  12. "My kids are older, but when we were first considering K, we thought this way too:

    "Will we consider any private/parochial schools? Depends on our mood the day we consider that question."

    I am not sure to whom you are referring. I did not suggest a private school, if you are referring to my post, in which I suggested St. Philips, a Catholic school.

    As you may not know, the school options for families now are quite a bit different that they were even two years ago.

    I am hearing from many parents who now have their children in private because the public school they were assigned to was unsafe, very distant from their home, with deplorable academic scores. They saw severe discipline problems and teachers who are fed up and unable to teach, when they toured their assigned school. I have also heard from many teachers that the discipline problems in many schools are severe.

    Many families struggle with the reduced afterschool programs now available in public school. Without good afterschool programs, it would make it virtually impossible for both parents to work a professional job.

    Many women long to return to their careers at some point, so it is not just a simple calculation of whether one can affort private or not. In fact, it may be a choice of whether one can afford to send a child to public, because of the reduced day, and increased requirement for parent tutoring, volunteering, etc.

    It is not my objective here to critisize parents who have been lucky enough to get their child or children into an acceptable public school. But I think it needs to be acknowledged that there are many, many parents who would have sent their children to public, had an acceptable school been available.

    Other parents send their kids to private because of the lack of immersion programs in the languages spoken by the parents.
    There are sizable Armenian, German, French, Italian, Russian, Greek and even Mayan communities in the city, but no public school immersion for these languages, as far as I know.

    I think it is high time that parents with their kids in SF public schools came clean on how lucky they were in the lottery and stop talking down to parents who adjusted their lifestyle to send their kids to private.

    The current system does descriminate, unfairly, I believe, against the middle class. I am not confident that the revised system will be any better.

    The SFUSD has an agenda, which is to close the achievement gap. Unfortunately, they have a very limited budget on which to do this. Half of me thinks this is great and that something should finally be done to bring these kids up. But the other half doesn't think that hardworking professional parents should be pushed out of the public school system to make it happen.

    And let's be honest. Many parents put their kids in an asian language immersion programs because those programs are undersubscibed by African Americans and Latinos. If you are not interested in asian language immersion, then you are out of luck.

    I always hear that this might be the year when professional parents find "hidden gem" X. But at this point, it would take Joan of Arc to find and improve "hidden gem" X. I ain't her.

    Also, my child is not an experimental test subject.

    Please avail yourself of the current state of the lottery and schools before you hand out "advice" to prospective K parents.

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  13. I understand the need to vent, because this process is very frustrating and it feels like being put through the wringer. We all love our kids and want the best for them. That's part of the problem, because we all want the best.

    That said, this year's prospective parents need practical advice on how to navigate the system. It is a true statement that most parents in this town cannot afford private school tuition. Yes, parochial is more affordable (though still expensive for most people), but not everyone can or will go that route. Even if they can afford private, or are willing to look at parochial, many parents also want to give public a try and want advice on how to maximize their chances of being among the lucky 2/3 of first-time applicants who get one of their choices in Round 1.

    There is good advice being given on this thread on how to do that.

    My own 2 cents of advice is to try to stay dispassionate about the lottery. There is a lot of information out there about how it works and about past years' results. In my family, I am the emotional one and tend to get wound up about processes like this. Fortunately I am married to a great guy who is more analytical both about numbers and about the schools themselves. I would say, if you have two of you, make sure at least one of you is being analytical about your chances and your backup plans. This doesn't solve the lottery's problems, but it may make your journey smoother.

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  14. Dear 12:32,

    what is your advice to those who cannot afford private school? As you would say: "let's be honest", you don't care a bit because you are OK.

    To change a few more of your words: I think it is high time that parents with their kids in SF private schools came clean on how their lives of privilege allow them to ignore and discount those who have not been as lucky in life.

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  15. Our son is entering K in 2010. I have been reading this blog since 2008. We are casting a wide net: public, private, parochial (in the same order of preference).

    As we both work, convenience is high on our list. Just as we are not considering public schools that are more than 2 miles away from our house, nor are we considering privates/parochials that fall into the same boat.

    On our application we are going to list the public schools that make the most sense for us, and if we are left empty-handed we will fall back on a private/parochial school.

    I have found a great deal of valuable information on this blog. I have found even more vitriol though, which is both surprising and disappointing.

    Just as I would not criticize someone for sending their child to a public school, nor would I criticize them for sending their child to a private school. Parents do what they feel is best for their children, and they should not be attacked nor abused for doing so.

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  16. Welcome, Debbie. You are a brave soul. Good luck with the process and I hope you have a thick skin. Especially if you even *consider* private school as an alternative. Like Obama among NJ conservatives, 30% of the readers of this blog consider private school parents to be the equivalent of educational Anti-Christs.

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  17. 12:32, I am very sad that you think I do not care about parents who cannot afford to send their kids to private school.

    One of the reasons I am being so honest in these posts is that I think that all parents need more complete information about the lottery process and the state of our schools.

    As I've said in other posts, I have had a lot of friends leave the city because of the school situation, as well as the housing situation. I miss them.

    In the long run, many people have the option to move to areas with better, more affordable public schools and cheaper housing. It has been happening for a long time, so I am hardly suggesting anything new. It is better that parents think about that now, rather than the day they find out they are 0/7 on kindergarten.

    The school problem is very complex. As I read the posts on the site, so many parents are say "jump through this hoop, then jump through that hoop, etc, etc" as if it is all OK.

    The situation in the city for parents, whether public or private, isn't good. We really need better leadership at the school board level, in the Mayor's office (where ever he is), as well as in Arnie's office.

    And we need to get rid of the us and them mentality.

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  18. Agree about the vitriol, 1:45, and everyone has a story. You can't judge an individual story from the outside.

    Still, there is a wider story to be told about public vs. private. There is a lot of justified passion about building up public schools that are accessible to all our kids and are the backbone of our democracy. When better-off families leave that system, they take away money (literally, as each child enrolled means state cash) and probably more importantly, networking and political influence and passion and care. The last 30 years have seen a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is tearing at the fabric of our nation and our future. There are big stakes in reversing the trend that started in the desegregation years toward private schooling in many cities.

    Yet it can be challenging, especially in a district with lots of diversity and wide gaps, to balance the needs of one's own child against responsibility to the wider community and to all the kids. If it were easy, forums like this wouldn't need to exist--nor would they be so addicting.

    Again, I agree with you about tone and vitriol. Yet I do hope that parents of prospective K-ers will give some thought to the wider issues. I can also say that as a parent of kids who have attended the public schools so far through middle school that they have thrived academically and socially and also have a lot of understanding about difference and how to function within diversity. Good skills to have in our ever-smaller world. It's really been a great experience. And this starting at an elementary school that did not feel so "lucky" when we started, btw.

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  19. "The SFUSD has an agenda, which is to close the achievement gap."

    I wish that were the agenda of SFUSD.

    According to the SFUSD website, the priorities of the redesign are as follows:

    Priorities

    1. Provide equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students.

    2. Reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school.

    3. Provide transparency at every stage of the assignment process.

    I wish the objective was to "close the achievement gap"

    Based on the recent API results, 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.

    So - Wouldn't it make sense for the district to focus on ways to provide additional support programs to underperforming students and schools to help close the gap? I don't understand why "racial integration" is a priority at all. The courts have already told SFUSD that they can't assign students based on race but they still want to do exactly that.
    They still list racially balanced schools as 1 of 3 priorities. I don't get it.

    What I DO understand is that poor children often need more support in school to help with the support that they may not be getting at home. What I DO know is that english language learners need more support in school to help them learn english. Why not apply proven strategies to provide the needed support (a la Star programs) and raise achievement and learning?

    Rachel - Who set the priorities listed above? Was there/is there parent involvement in setting those priorities?

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  20. Kate, any chance of posting a separate thread for discussion of the redesign? I don't want to confuse the parents on this thread, who will be using the same choice-with-lottery system for 2010that has been in place for awhile....but things are going to change a LOT for 2011. Thanks.

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  21. 2:11, I'm totally with you about public schools being the backbone of our nation.

    It is 10:51 and 2:11.

    I am very pro public school. I campaigned for prop A and I volunteered with an environmental organization who wanted to work on environmental justice issues in the schools.

    But after going 0/7 on the lottery, and going to the school board multiple times to no avail, I decided that the whole thing was a big waste of my time.

    I did visit our assigned school, which was in the Bayview. We live in Bernal. I could see that the teachers were doing an amazing job. I think that kids could learn there. But the tests scores were very low, and I would have had to send my daughter to Kumon or something to keep her on top math. My husband felt that as the only caucasian child in the school, she might be a little vulnerable. (I did check the stats and the school is 3% caucasian.)

    We would have had no opportunity to pass on to our daughter the two other languages that our family speaks, French and Greek, at this school.

    I would add that I am not fearful of African Americans. Quite the contrary, as I lived in africa as a child. I had actually been the only Caucasian kid in a school in Africa. No one was ever mean to me, but as we all know, kids do single out difference and I was often very lonely. Anyway, I didn't think that my daughter had to have this experience just so the SFUSD could polish up their diversity index.

    We probably would have gone for it if there was about 20% caucasian kids at the school.

    One additional concern we had with the school was how freely anyone could walk into the school. I don't like the idea of a security guard, but an administrator who monitors the comings and goings of people in the school would have helped our confidence level.

    I am a little fed up with the whole diversity index thing. I believe that we are actually losing a lot of cultural and linguistic diversity in the city at the expense of focusing so single mindedly on racial diversity.

    We may get the chance to try the public schools in Boston at some point, but for now, we are going private.

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  22. 3:01, thanks for the response. It's the (other) 2:11 again.

    Like I said, I hope that parents will *consider* the larger issues of the importance of public education. That doesn't mean that their path will lead them there. There are many reasons for ending up in private or parochial. I just hope that parents will give public schools a chance in the process of looking, and consider the wider implications of committing to the public schools. But I do understand that everyone has a different story.

    One thing, the diversity index does not actually consider race. I think it is obvious that the socio-economic factors in play are being used as a proxy for race, at least in part, but it is more accurate to state that they are using S/E factors.

    The issues are just not easy. You say you would feel comfortable with 20% caucasian kids, yet there are what, 11% caucasian (aka non-Hispanic whites) in SFUSD as a whole. My kid attends a school with about that % of white kids, actually--11 or 12%, and it is fine. One thing that makes it easier is that there is not one dominant group. I think that makes a difference in terms of the issue you raise, that sense of isolation.

    Beyond that, there is an underlying question of how do we serve such a diverse group of kids in this city, and what is the best way to serve the kids who have the least advantage? Race and class integration may or may not be the way. But there is a concern, especially in this era of government cutbacks and reliance on PTA funds, that schools with an overwhelming population of poorer kids may lose out on resources. Also that they may become, well, overwhelmed. There are good models for success in places like Louisville, KY in finding success in integration. But it also took strong community support to get to that place.

    That is all just to say that the issues and frustrations you raise about the lottery are understandable, and yet there is no simple, magic solution. I'm sorry you were in some sense a victim of those conundrums. I think you may find in Boston many of the same debates and issues, actually, as this is par for the course in any large, urban, diverse school system; but I wish you the best in navigating that system and having better luck in it, if you do end up going there.

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  23. Certainly it's important to explore all options in terms of the best fit for your child and your family as well as the larger implications of your choice -- public, private or parochial. Ultimately everyone's choice is valid, and while many people on this blog like to associate private schools families with privilege, wealth and disregard for the real fabric of our society, the lines between public and private aren't necessarily ethnic or socioeconomic. I am a single mother and my child attends one of the single sex schools which gives out $1.25 million per year in financial aid. I think many people would be surprised by the diversity and by the fact that community service is a cornerstone of the curriculum. Certainly not a bunch of rich detached snobs.

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  24. As a former private-school scholarship student myself, I don't doubt you, 5:48. I'm sure there are scholarship kids and lots of community service opportunities as there were in my school. And people are people--good and bad in any class of folks.

    Still, I remember that the majority of students were well-off by any objective standard, and privileged enough not be aware in many ways of what life might be like for me and the people in my neighborhood. A lot of assumptions. A lot of homogeneity. And the community service?--directed at projects in my neighborhood....that felt odd, to say the least, to be in some sense the target of what felt like noblesse oblige and a "diversity learning opportunity" for my fellow classmates. At my public school, and my children's schools, the community outside the walls looks like the community within and community service feels more like a mutual thing.

    Hope I'm making this clear--I'm not trying to trash the folks who populate private schools. Many fine folks (I know many!). I'm trying to say something a little more subtle, that the waters you swim in do form you and make you who you are, and shape your worldview, and I am glad to have had the chance myself and for my children to swim in waters that are more diverse and varied than I remember from private school, or that I have observed at my friends' kids' private schools here (not talking about parochial, but the private ones that cost $20-30,000/year).

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  25. 2;11 wrote "move to areas with better, more affordable public schools "

    public schools are free, so how can more be "affordable"?

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  26. Thanks 3:40 and 5:48 for your thoughtful comments. Well put. I have some thoughts on how things could be better, but it takes a whole society to make these things happen, not just a few overburdened moms.

    Again, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

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  27. There were a few guest bloggers last year who had some very nice reviews of West Portal, Dianne Feinstein, Rosa Parks, and a few others. Did I miss a post where we found out where those parents ended up? It could be that they didn't want to share, but it would have been interesting to hear how they did in the lottery/private school app. process.

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  28. I'm still here (obviously a blog addict!) - I reviewed Argonne, Commodore Sloat, Jefferson, DiFi, Clarendon and maybe a few others) under the name Meredith but post here mostly as Hana's mom.

    We went 0/7 in the first round with this list:
    Alvarado SN
    Starr King MN
    Miraloma GE
    Sunset GE
    McKinley GE
    Commodore Sloat GE
    Jefferson GE

    If we had to do it again I would not have put Alvarado in the #1 slot because it was such a longshot and we burned a chance to boost our odds at a middle-popular school. Not sure what I would drop from the list, though probably a waste to put Jefferson #7 (not because we didn't like it but because it's in demand, kind of pointless to put a hot school at #7 and our strategy was NOT to intentionally go 0/7).

    After R1 we felt pretty bitter, esp because we knew a lot of families who had gotten a choice. We were assigned to Jose Ortega GE but decided not to enroll because the school did not work for our family. Too early, wrong direction and for whatever reason, it didn't click for us.

    In R2 we submitted this list:
    Starr King MN
    New Traditions
    McKinley GE
    DeAvila
    Stevenson, RL
    Dianne Feinstein
    Commodore Sloat GE
    Jefferson GE

    Our R2 list did not expand our horizons as much as some folks did, we were banking on SK coming through because they hold so many slots open in R1 for fluent mandarin speakers. (Our daughter tested non-fluent in Mandarin but has had exposure since birth.) And, we did get SKMI in R2. So, we ended up with our #2 choice in the first round, it just took a little longer (and added correspondingly more stress).

    I really give it to families that stick it out through the summer, we just were not prepared to handle that kind of stress and distress.

    Good luck everyone.

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  29. 12:32--Word. At this point, after all the work done for us by those who have been through the process, it seems that the hidden gems are, well, still in the rough. I must say I enter this process savvier for having read this blog, but not with any joy.

    Ironically, for the record, I work at a private school and *cannot afford* to send my child there because employees don't get a tuition break (a little-known fact among the parents). And, actually and unfortunately for me, 10:52, it's really not the same product with more bells and whistles. Not all private schools are the same, and there are some parochials that offer independent-quality education for less than half the cost, but there are many things in addition to curriculum that people might not think about--because they don't become obvious until after K--that a private school just does better. And I say that knowing that I won't be applying to the school I work at.

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  30. Whatever attitude or feelings one has (of joy, not-joy, envy of those who can afford to look at private, passion for the public experience, or, you know, just free-floating anxiety), can we focus on practical advice for a minute?

    The practical advice I would offer is that not all "diamonds in the rough" actually are the same. If you put down only wildly popular schools, you run a good chance of going 0/7 and being assigned a very rough diamond indeed. That is why parents who have gone through this process before you are urging you to check out not-wildly-popular schools to figure out which ones are which.

    There are some great ideas on the "hidden gems" list. They do not include all the schools in the city. No one is suggesting that all schools would work for any child. There are differences. It is very worth while to figure these out. Probably much more worthwhile than going on the herd tour at Clarendon.

    Along these lines, Kim Green offers great perspective over on Debbie's latest thread.

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  31. "Still, I remember that the majority of students were well-off by any objective standard, and privileged enough not be aware in many ways of what life might be like for me and the people in my neighborhood. A lot of assumptions. A lot of homogeneity. And the community service?--directed at projects in my neighborhood....that felt odd, to say the least, to be in some sense the target of what felt like noblesse oblige and a "diversity learning opportunity" for my fellow classmates. At my public school, and my children's schools, the community outside the walls looks like the community within and community service feels more like a mutual thing."

    Thanks for these comments.

    I do have my child in private, but my reason for selecting it was academic excellent and language immersion. I am not into the noblesse oblige thing either.

    I am just writing to say that I agree with you that the "diversity learning opportunities" in most private schools in this city are rather synthetic. A lot of private school parents really seem to fret about whether their private school is sufficiently diverse or sufficiently green, etc. The "diversity" programs usually involve not even a skinned knee. I think they would do better to volunteer their family at Glide Memorial Church or other institution that works with the sick and poor or take a working/volunteer family vacation in an underdeveloped country.

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  32. I agree with the advice to have a balanced list, and to pay attention to the numbers (and remember siblings and the diversity index) so you don't think that schools like Flynn SI are "hidden gems."

    Last year we were friends with five other families going through the process; all got something on their list the first round, except for one family that knowingly listed high demand schools and planned to do the 0/7 waitpool strategy from the beginning. Year before, we knew three families, all got something from their lists. Of the six families we're friends with who went through the process this year, all four got something from their lists. Schools included Buena Vista, Alvarado SI, Alvarado Gen, Starr King MI, SF Community, Sunnyside, Flynn SI, Monroe SI, Flynn Gen Ed, and a couple of others on the west side. None of the families except perhaps one qualified for free/reduced lunch or spoke a different language at home.

    I'm not saying odds are great, but with a balanced list, they're actually not that bad. I do feel for the people who put in balanced lists and get nothing (and I know a couple of those, from previous years), and I don't claim the lottery system is perfect, but don't believe that only the people who lie get something off of their lists.

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  33. Nothing new about this perspective, Debbie. It was done a little while back on this blog called, wait...that was this blog. Yeah, the person that started this had few minutes of local fame, got people to obsess about the kindergarten process...pretty interesting situation...caught on for a while.

    She got lots of attention so maybe you will too. I hope it helps you focus on your child during all of this.

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  34. All you people that complain about negative comments and "vitriol," where do you live? Last time I checked, we were not all special, were not all gifted with tact, were not all rich/poor, did not all agree. I find it funny that people are afraid of opinions that are different from theirs - I says a lot about values and how people really think about this process.

    I did like this:Please avail yourself of the current state of the lottery and schools before you hand out "advice" to prospective K parents.

    There are lots of "experts" out there... Be careful.

    Kim Greene seems to have a fairly firm grasp on the obvious and an even larger sense that people should listen to her. I now understand why so many people get hooked on blogs.

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  35. One more year to obsess about the process. After that families will likely all be assigned schools (via option #2 before the BoE). No more uncertainty, no more taking time off work to tour, just what people have been asking for .... Let's just hope people like their assigned schools!

    I (admittedly selfishly) hope my block gets assigned a good school so my property values hold. This will definitely be a winners/losers thing for property owners. Fortunately, and also admittedly selfishly, I am glad my kids will be grandfathered in their current school so I don't have to worry about this issue. I am one who actually loved choice, but our original assignment school in the past system would have been the suxx and I was savvy about playing the lottery--toured the up-and-coming schools and submitted a truly balanced list and got a R1 pick. I actually think there is more parental power with choice than with school assignment, if folks don't get all driven by anxiety and put down only Clarendon and Rooftop. In the new system, if it is option #2, likely the only remedy will be to move into an assignment area ($$$) or play a more limited lottery with fewer citywide schools. I think the losers will be people in the SE--Bernal, St. Mary's, Potrero, Mission, SOMA, Vis Valley, Portola, and BVHP (which loses in any system, it seems).

    Btw, option #3 would be even worse, with mandatory assignments all the way across town. Then we are all losers as we trek back and forth daily, because even if they came up the money for busing, they won't provide it for afterschool programs. So much for working parents, sigh.

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  36. "They still list racially balanced schools as 1 of 3 priorities. I don't get it."

    Because, if I recall from a presentation on the when the %age of AA and Latino students goes below 40%, the scores of AA and Latino students also go up. Probably given the higher %age of lower SES families in those demographics, it's a socioeconomic issue really.

    Also, there's the consent decree from the 1980s that SF has to comply with, despite not being able to use race as a factor in enrollment. The district is pretty damn constrained, all told.

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  37. "I think the losers will be people in the SE--Bernal, St. Mary's, Potrero, Mission, SOMA, Vis Valley, Portola, and BVHP (which loses in any system, it seems)."

    Not to mention Excelsior, which has more kids than Noe or Glen Park. However, as only 50% of the AA population applying for SFUSD do so before the R1 deadline, the current system doesn't work that well for BVHP now, 'cos there's slim pickings in R2. (Similarly, only 2/3 of Latino families get their applications in before the R1 deadline, lower than Caucasian or Asian families.)

    But yep, getting rid of the lottery would screw over families in the SE.

    However, from a purely revenue perspective, it might be in the districts interest. %ages attending privates in the K-12 age range are low in the SE of the city (~20%) but high in the north and west of the city (over 50% in some neighbourhoods). So, with neighbourhood placement, more students in the north and west may opt for their publics. But I actually think the lottery indirectly does a lot of marketing for SFUSD - certainly I blew off the idea of sending my kid to a public school until I visited several of them and was converted.

    However, I'll expect a large amount of WTF?? when the lottery goes in the SE of the city. In two years time, most of the commenters here will be nostalgically remembering the lottery and how much fun it was and wasn't visiting all those schools great.

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