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?


  1. We went to an Open House and were appalled to hear the kindergarten teacher compare Spanish "infusion" to Dora the Explorer.

    Certainly not the way to get a kid to learn to speak Spanish...

  2. I am currently sending my son to Marin Prep. My son was wait-listed at all the private schools we applied to in SF. Even though this was a big leap of faith, I did not want to send him to public school in SF and we did not want to move to the the burbs, so Marin Prep was our answer. I was concerned at first b/c classes were to start in early september and the building was not done and the teachers were not hired until August. However, everything has really come together better than I expected or dreamed. The Head of School, Ed Walters, has a lot of experience and is wonderful with the students. He is a calm man, but still waters run deep. He has a real sense of the mission of the school and how he wants to educate its students. The teachers are amazing, and they did a wonderful job remodeling the building (117 Diamond - where Friends used to be)
    My son is doing so so well!!! And I feel so lucky we found this school and are a part of it's beginning.
    Another great aspect are the other founding families. Everyone is so dedicated with time and money in making Marin Prep a success.
    Now to address the Spanish infusion: This is not a spanish immersion school. I would say spanish is used about 50% of the time. My son has had some spanish speakers in his life, so I was happy to find a place that could reinforce his spanish. At this point he does not speak spanish, but does understand it. I find it's a good balance. I did not want to send my son to a immersion program.
    If you are interested in Marin Prep there are 4 tours per month for the next several months, and if you cannot make a tour, I'm sure Ed would meet with you at a different time. the website should be up and running next week, but if you want to book a tour call the school 415-865-0899.
    It's going to take committed families to make this school work, but if you are worried about getting into a private school in SF, I highly recommend taking a look at Marin Prep. Good luck to everyone applying this year!

    One more point - the class size at Marin Prep is 18 with 2 teachers in the classroom. One of the lowest ratios in the city!

  3. We chose Marin Prep for our child fully aware that it is not the same thing as Spanish immersion. You can get that at public school. What we are getting is lots of attention for our child, due to the small teacher/student ratio, lots of enrichment, a beautiful facility, and a curriculum that is experiential and project-approach based. We are very impressed with the headmaster, the kindergarten teacher, and the two teaching assistants.

    Our child is getting much more Spanish than she would get at Friends, SFDS, or any of the other privates. Before and after-care is completely in immersion.

    Given how immersion basically drops away in middle school (and high school, for that matter), I am optimistic that my child will be fully conversant in Spanish by grades 6,7, and 8. And I hope to be welcoming former public elementary Spanish immersion students before long. The plan is to start a sixth grade very soon and then have enrollment continue year by year so that upper and lower schools meet in the middle.

    For those who can afford private, are worried about public school budget cuts, and are unsure about public middle school-- Marin Prep may be the place for you. Come check us out. You may be pleasantly surprised. It wouldn't hurt to apply, given
    how brutal private school admissions are and how unreliable the public school lottery is.

  4. I just need to respond that Spanish immersion does not just "drop away" at the middle school level in SFUSD! James Lick is a beautiful, caring school community that offers two academic core classes in Spanish and three in English, plus an elective in the unified arts program--studio art, dance, Blue Bear rock band, etc. The school has a wonderful emphasis on Latino art and culture, for example Dia de los Muertos. Hoover also offers Spanish immersion, although without quite so many amenities in terms of an elective due to less funding than at JL.

    Our middle school SI kids regularly test well in AP Spanish at Lowell--yes, more and more kids are going on to Lowell, as well as SOTA. Some of them choose to continue with upper level Spanish classes, and conversational Spanish classes; others choose to take a third language in preparation for college.

    Perhaps the writer was referring to an impending issue which is that there will be more kids graduating from K-5 and so the need for SI middle school seats is growing. There is a group that is working on pushing the district to expand seats at the middle school level. The push is on.

    Seriously, no need to talk up Marin Prep by talking down the public schools offerings--especially when you are misinformed. This is not a dis on your school, either, just that I am so tired of countering the misinformation that keeps people from even considering our public schools.

  5. 2 classes in the target language doesn't sound like immersion to me. How can the elective be in the target language as you'd have to have art and PE teachers certified in Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and Cantonese? Maybe in a perfect world with no budget constraints.

    Also in middle school they lump the immersion kids with kids from the bilingual programs --two very different programs.

    According to the San Francisco Advocates for Multi-Lingual Excellence, only 2 of 11 kids who went through Immersion placed out of Spanish 1 at Lowell High. I think their written grammar is what trips them up.

    I'm just commenting on the current state of immersion programs and not referring to an impending issue.

  6. If you think you send your child to Marin Prep thinking he/she will be fluent in Spanish by 6th grade, you are either
    a) fooling yourself, or
    b) have a very bare bones definition of fluency.

    There is plenty of research on second language acquisition and what it takes for a child to master a language. And I don't think the teachers at Marin Prep have read any of it.

  7. Are they *really* teaching Spanish "a la Dora"?


    Don't any of the teachers have experience teaching in a bilingual setting? Best practice is NOT to mix languages. You do NOT want to be peppering one language with expressions in the other. No, no, no.

    (I have taught languages to children and adults and also have experience teaching in an immersion program.)

  8. Who mentioned fluency?
    I said "conversant."

    Besides being conversant is just one plus in a string of positives I think my child will get from Marin Prep.

    I think they've got a lot more to offer. Spanish is just the icing on the cake.

    I'm really excited about the school year. As someone else mentioned, the parent group is terrific. I look forward to spending 9 years with this community and meeting children and parents from subsequent years.

  9. I am sending my daughter to Marin Prep and she loves it. She comes home teaching me new Spanish words everyday! But I'd rather not dwell on infusion vs immersion. My child is happy learning and looks forward to school and loves her teachers and the principal. The facility is beautiful and the parents, children and teachers are creating a warm environment that already feels like a family. I think Marin Prep is doing a great job and I'm grateful that my child is going there. She is learning to love learning. Can you get better than that?

  10. "According to the San Francisco Advocates for Multi-Lingual Excellence, only 2 of 11 kids who went through Immersion placed out of Spanish 1 at Lowell High. I think their written grammar is what trips them up."

    If this is true - this is dismal. 6 years of immersion and they can't test out of Spanish I? Can someone please help me? I am loosing my mind....

  11. Our son goes to Marin Prep and we signed him up because we really resonated with the goals of the school; we feel lucky that it opened near our neighborhood. We had a somewhat disappointing experience at his preschool and put a lot of effort into finding a kindergarten we thought would be a nurturing place for him. We pick him up from the afterschool program and he asks if he can stay longer! Ed, the head of school, greets him at the door every morning before school.

    We weren’t looking for immersion at all, but liked the idea that he would be learning more Spanish than he would at other private schools, and that the class size would be kept small. His teacher, Jess, is awesome—energetic, creative, and caring, as are the teachers in the afterschool program. The school building is beautiful and is in a sunny part of town. It can feel a bit like a work in progress at times, but we find it exciting that we will be playing a role in shaping the future of the school. We feel like we took a risk and things have turned out even better than we hoped. We encourage everyone to go have a look for themselves!

  12. 7:28 (and fyi 11:09)

    "San Francisco Advocates for Multi-Lingual Excellence" is a wonderful group of parent advocates with lots of great folks, but let's be clear that it is a yahoo/parent group that is this week having this discussion about placements at Lowell. They are *speculating* much as parents do here on this blog. Somehow you make it sound like a formal study or something. It's a yahoo group.

    Not that it's not an important discussion....the Spanish learned in SI programs tends to be fluent/natural than high schools are used to in their foreign language programs, which lead off with conjugation and grammar and don't tend to lead to fluency. In fact, a huge point of them is to learn grammatical structure per se, in order to understand language structure and improve knowledge of English! The real question is what is the best way to teach high school grammar to SI-fluent and native-speaking students....do you put them in a class with non-fluent speakers, or cluster them in their own class. Either way they need high-school level grammar, but the second option would be much, much better for conversational purposes. This is a VERY different point than the one you are implying. Still, yes, indeed, there is much work to be done in articulating SI (and Chinese, etc.) programs at the high school level.

    At the MIDDLE school level, which is what I was talking about, 2 out of 5 core academic classes in Spanish is indeed standard and appropriate. What would you suggest is the right amount? 4/5 in Spanish and one in English (?!). Most of our SI schools use the method of starting with 90% Spanish in kinder and gradually increasing the amount of English until middle school, and then they teach the two core classes. Remember this is dual immersion. Very different from whatever this infusion thing is, and also different from teaching Spanish-as-a-foreign-language as most schools do that offer foreign language.

    You are right that there has been concern at our SI middle schools about the number of newly-arrived Spanish speaking ELLs being placed in SI middle school classes by EPC. In many cases it is not appropriate. Yet EPC is working in an imperfect world.

  13. I question this: "According to the San Francisco Advocates for Multi-Lingual Excellence, only 2 of 11 kids who went through Immersion placed out of Spanish 1 at Lowell High. I think their written grammar is what trips them up."

    This doesn't jibe with any of the numerous Spanish-immersion students (coming from SI K-8, I mean) I know at Lowell or my kids' school, SOTA. I've never heard of a single one who wasn't advanced in Spanish -- either far ahead of grade or taking up a second foreign language. Who made that claim?

  14. Join the Yahoo group. I can't remember the name of the poster. But in none of the subsequent posts did anyone call into question the veracity of the comment. The responses were more, "How can we address this issue?"

    P.S. SF-AME is more than a Yahoo group. They do studies and compile information which they then present to the district. The district takes them very seriously.

  15. I'm interested in Marin Prep but was under the impression that you needed to be in a Marin Day Schools preschool to be considered for admission. Could anyone confirm or deny this? Thanks.

  16. I thought this was a conversation about Marin Prep. Does anyone have anything more to add about the school?

  17. No you don't have to have gone to Marin Day preschool.

    The headmaster explicitly said Marin Day is not a feeder school for Marin Prep. Of course those that go to Marin Day will probably be encouraged to apply.

    But I know they are going to consider applicants from all preschools.

  18. Marin Prep is open open to all. They have the same Board of Trustees as Marin Day, otherwise they are independent.

  19. 9:36, you are misrepresenting the discussion of the last days on the SF_AME yahoo listserve. There is no formal study being cited. One person cited some informal numbers, and others are questioning them. They are also questioning why Chinese and Korean immersion kids are not tested in the same way as Spanish immersion kids for advanced classes. They are also discussing the issue of how best to teach formal, high-school level grammatical structure to kids who already speak the language--whether as native speakers or as immersion students, or both.

    The idea is that yes, they need more formal grammar structure at that level (for example, understanding the definition and use of the imperfect tense in Spanish....the kids speak and write it all the time, but do they understand it as such). But the point is, you don't teach it the same way to kids who already speak the language fluently as you do to those who don't speak it at all. Just as we don't teach grammar in English to kids as if it is ESL. The kids would feel like they are back in kindergarten, learning basic vocabulary! Some of our high schools, such as Gateway, deal with this by providing "heritage language" classes that take into account fluency and add in more formal study of grammar. Apparently Lowell does not. It's a question of understanding the skills that kids bring with them as native speakers and as immersion students, which tends to lean more towards fluency than formal grammar. My SI kids are both fluent in Spanish, and this is evident when they are in all-Spanish environments.

    There absolutely needs to be more articulation between the middle and high school levels--no disagreement there. That is the core of the discussion on the SF_AME list--especially as more and more James Lick kids are heading to Lowell each year.

    It is still wrong to say that the SI programs drop away in middle school! That is just not true. Your child will be more fluent in Spanish via one of our public school immersion programs than through any private school program currently offered, period. If someone develops a private school like French American, but for Spanish, then I will change my opinion about that. Marin Prep is not that school.

    Look, there may be many reasons to go to Marin Prep. I don't have feeling one way or another about its educational offerings, other than to point out that if your goal is fluency in Spanish, I would be wary. I also take issue with this notion that the public school SI program drops away in middle school. It doesn't. It does need more seats in the future, however.

  20. 10:25 I think we all know where you stand. The horse is dead, let it go.

  21. I love Dora. What's the problem?

  22. anyone know what the tuition is? can't find that online.

  23. Kindergarten is $18,000.
    With before and after care, $24,900.

  24. Holy crap, that's a lot of money!

  25. But less than the long-established privates.

  26. Believe it or not, many private schools cost a great deal more and if your child went to school in Manhattan, the average tuition is closer to $30K. $18K is actually a bargain.

  27. Yes, I know, but I think the $24,900 figure jumped out at me for such a new school. That is $25K for kindergarten. More than UC Berkeley with room and board included. With 2 kids, without tuition increases or more money for the upper grades, that is $450,000 for a K-8 education for 2 kids. Per child, that total amount is equivalent even to the cost of a private college degreee. Not for high school, not for college, but for kindergarten through middle school, where the focus is on socialization and reading, writing, 'rithmatic and (in middle school) organization of work.

    Somehow that $25K figure just hit me more than the $18K. How on earth does anyone afford this? Is Marin Prep offering scholarships? Seems like you would need a LOT of value added to justify that kind of money (or maybe that is just my middle class ass talking, lol). I mean, my kids read voraciously and write poems and solve plenty math problems, and they have lots of friends and are involved in activities and they polite kids who can carry on conversations with grown-ups. I sort of understand the cachet of Cathedral and Hamlin and Town in terms of going the prep school route to the Ivy League and all that, but Marin Prep is so new it can't be in that league, so what is being bought at that price that Harvey Milk across the street doesn't provide--especially in conjunction with a strong family life that is really the basis of education anyway? And is whatever that is being bought really worth a total of $225,000 per child? Who has that kind of dough to toss around these days? I'm pouring all my extra money into college and retirement, and would consider using it for high school if needed, but K-8?

  28. Who has that kind of money to throw around? In this town, lots of people. I wonder the same thing about people who have bought homes here (I'm a renter) but ultimately it is better to make peace with it and just live your life.

  29. While I don't agree with $24,000 for a kindergarten education, I do believe that people underestimate the importance of K-5 instruction. K-5 is the foundation of a child's education and should be treated as such.

  30. True, 1:43, but most of what is taught in K-5 is about providing a structure and social network and then backing up those lessons at home. Most kids with a strong foundation at home will do fine in most schools (not all kids and not all schools, but they are exceptions). They will learn to read and write and play nicely with others.

    In high school and college, the content matters a lot more. Middle school is transitional and you want to look for how well they help the kids transition to high school work both in terms of content and organization....while navigating the transition to adolescence.

  31. From Elena Yang, Coordinator of the Marin Preparatory School Parent Group:

    On behalf of MPS’ Parent Group, I extend a warm invitation for families to check out our school. Having been on many preschool and elementary (both private and public) tours in SF, I personally believe that choosing a school for your child often comes down to how you feel about the place, staff and other families once you see it for yourself. Therefore, please come down and see us – we welcome you!

    The highlights of MPS for our family have been:

    Head of School Ed Walters – Open-minded, yet solid, in his educational professional experience and approach to how children learn best. With the help of outstanding staff, he has really pulled the school together in just a few months’ time.

    Wonderful teachers – My child comes home everyday saying he loves kindergarten. He also started saying he wants to be a school teacher when he grows up. The day is packed with interactive, project and experience based activities and learning opportunities. The children leave the school happy and talking about the day’s events.

    Dedicated parent group – To my delight, the parents have been kind, generous with their time and funds, have a great sense of humor and are committed to creating a community of support so that the children can have an excellent education and school experience. Let’s face it – you end up spending a lot of time with the families in your child’s school. I am looking forward to working (and socializing) with the Parent Group at MPS.

    Exposure to Spanish – So I’ve learned by now that the topic of Spanish fluency is highly charged, which is fine. MPS will not be for every family when it comes to how Spanish is taught. However, if you have questions or want to check out how the school is handling the Spanish component, please come visit us and ask your questions. We welcome them!

    I could go on and on about the facilities, location, after school enrichment program. Please come see us if any of this interests you! The parent tour dates are:

    Thursday, Sept 17, 2009 at 10:00 am
    Thursday, Sept 24, 2009 at 4:00 pm
    Tuesday, Sept 29 at 4:00 pm

    Thursday, Oct 1, 2009 at 10:00 am
    Thursday, Oct 8, 2009 at 4:00 pm
    Tuesday, Oct 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Tuesday, Nov 3, 2009 at 10:00 am
    Thursday, Nov 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm
    Tuesday, Nov 17, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Thank you for considering Marin Preparatory School!

  32. "Now to address the Spanish infusion: This is not a spanish immersion school. I would say spanish is used about 50% of the time"

    Based on my experience with my son's preschool, which shifted from 90% in the first two years to 50% in the pre-K year, you are not going to get close to fluency with less than 50% exposure to the target language. I saw a real drop in my kids proficiency in and readiness to use Spanish after the shift to 50% in pre-K.

  33. "Believe it or not, many private schools cost a great deal more and if your child went to school in Manhattan, the average tuition is closer to $30K. $18K is actually a bargain."

    Sorry, I am skeptical of I have colleagues who send their kids to a private middle school in Pleasanton for $13K/year, with a 1:15 teacher ratio. And Pleasanton ain't a cheap place, neither.

    Even in expensive Northern California, independent SF private schools are overpriced. Which is fair enough from a business point of view. There are a lot of folks in SF who are affluent, and because of peer pressure, need for networking with other parents, or lack of information about other options, are price-insensitive with regards to their kid's education, and the independents can exploit this by ramping up the price curve (hence the increase in Principal's salaries, as documented by SF Magazine's article on SF private schools). But I don't think said parents are being smart consumers, any more than someone plonking down $1,000 for a Loius Vuitton bag is being a smart consumer when a $50 bag does the same job and looks as good.

    The fact SF independent schools are not as expensive as Manhattan schools does not make them good value, any more than an LVMH bag is good value 'cos Chanel or Burberrys are pricier.

  34. 11:50 AM here.

    I guess my point was that wherever the cost of living is higher, the private schools will follow. If you compare housing prices in Pleasanton to housing prices in SF, it would follow that privates would cost more in SF. I do agree, anon 4:06, that higher cost doesn't necessarily translate to a better value.
    I was actually kind of joking about $18K being a bargain. $18K (or $24K if you count aftercare) is still quite a boatload of money. (especially for those of us with more than one child) SF Friends, btw, starts at $23K per child not including before/aftercare.

  35. Lets face it 24k/yr is all the money in the world to some and chump change to others esp in SF. It is what it is and beyond the scope of this discussion.
    Just because a school is brand new doesnt mean it's expenses are any less than the old privates. In fact the expenses initially are probably greater. I dont know how good it is but I'm interested for my little one and will follow.

  36. "It is what it is"

    Not exactly. "It" got that way with the adoption of federal and state policies that shifted the tax burden downward and shredded the the social safety net, while encouraging good jobs to be sent overseas. "It" was fed by a new era of financial deregulation. "It" is not a natural phenomenon, but a planned exercise in supporting the plutocratic class at the expense of the majority of Americans. "It" has created a gaping gap between those who see funding private school as "chump change"--and well, the rest of us.

    But yes, that's a different question (and deeper) question than whether Marin Prep is a good school, or worth the money from the perspective of the few who can imagine affording it.

  37. Kids at Children's Day School, who start Spanish at age 4, only place in Spanish 2 when they go to high school. And the kids are barely conversant.

    I think you can expect a similar result from Marin Prep.

    I think the founders of Marin Prep wanted a bilingual school, with kids graduating as both bilingual and bicultural.

    But the corporate overseers at Bright Horizons are too xenophobic to see the merit in that.

  38. Harvey Milk is a block away and completely FREE.

    The kindergarten teacher at Harvey Milk has more than 25 years of experience and is a rock star when it comes to teaching kids. He is also a musician and jazz DJ on the side. GREAT guy. And, did I mention, FREE?

  39. That's true.

    Marin Prep was supposed to be a Spanish-immersion school, but private, to take advantage of the popularity of Spanish-immersion public schools and French American.

    But the folks at Bright Horizons didn't think San Francisco parents would want their kids to get that much Spanish, so they watered it down.

    The problem is that at least *some* of the families at Marin Prep think their kids will emerge "conversant" in Spanish with this new, untested, contrary-to-all-the-research-on-language-acquisition" model that the marketing department at Bright Horizons Corporate HQ have dubbed "infusion."

    The marketing folks who came up with the term and model have NO (nill, nada) experience in second language acquisition or bilingual program models. They did not consult any of the experts on the topic. They just made it up.

    If you are satisfied with your kid being able to name body parts, colors and animals... and being able to count to 30 and sing a handful of songs in Spanish, cool. But if you were actually hoping your child would be able to hold a conversation in Spanish by 8th grade (about anything more complex than the weather or a food order at a restaurant) you will be sorely disappointed.

  40. "If you compare housing prices in Pleasanton to housing prices in SF, it would follow that privates would cost more in SF."

    The median house price in Pleasanton was $710K. The median list price is SF was $880K. That's not that great of a difference to explain the difference in private school fees.

  41. I'm betting there's a lot more house for the money overall in Pleasanton -- if you added "per square foot" int that calculation, that would give a whole different picture.

    "... The median house price in Pleasanton was $710K. The median list price is SF was $880K. That's not that great of a difference ..."

    I'm basing that just on eyeing the housing stock when I visit my aunt and uncle in Pleasanton, and also on what former neighbors on my block of 1300-square-foot San Francisco houses have gotten for equal money when they've moved to the East Bay.

  42. "Harvey Milk is a block away and completely FREE."

    That's great, but there are some people who would not even consider public school, no matter how great you tell them it is.

  43. ^ not that you shouldn't keep trying, of course. :)

  44. OK. I studied 2nd language acquisition as part of my doctorate and have taught language programs at all levels, from university to elementary school, and here are my 2 cents: Marin Prep is doing itself a disservice by calling it "Spanish infusion". I know they are trying to create a brand around it, but it is confusing and is, in my mind, a foolish approach that is turning off potential families. However, this is not an untested approach. In the language acquisition world it is called partial immersion and the goal is L2 (second language) proficiency and cultural awareness. This model has been used for decades in hundreds of schools, especially in the French Canadian school system. That being said, I don't have first hand knowledge of how this is structured at Marin Prep. I also think they would gain huge credibility if they actually had an L2 professional on staff to help set the curriculum, advise on the acquisition model they are attempting, and talk to parents who are considering Marin Prep as an option so they understand the validity of the approach. Regardless, language is not the only reason for choosing a private school -- obviously is this is your primary motivator there are plenty of public immersion options. I would guess that there are other things about Marin Prep that parents find attractive.

  45. "I'm betting there's a lot more house for the money overall in Pleasanton -- if you added "per square foot" int that calculation, that would give a whole different picture."

    So? The point is that the mortgage payments of folks in Pleasanton isn't that different from those in SF, which implies their incomes are similar. So why's the big difference in private school fees?

  46. how to spark an online brushfire

    1. discuss styles/pros/cons of language immersion

    2. saturate with private school tuition comments

    3. light with anger about income / class / choice differences.

    4. make comments anonymous

    woosh! up she goes!

  47. 9:10 -- My understanding of partial immersion programs is that children are immersed in the language, but just not as much of the time.

    That is NOT what Marin Prep is doing.

    They are peppering conversations with Spanish "a la Dora" as the kindergarten teacher explained in an Open House.

    I don't have a PhD, but it is my understanding that in teaching an L2 at the elementary school level, it is best for the L2 teacher to actually use the target language exclusively (if possible), not just insert a few words or phrases throughout.

    Marin Prep would greatly benefit from having someone with your expertise advising, but Bright Horizons is too cheap so they are making it up as they go along.

  48. We have our child enrolled at another private SF school - we didn't consider public school - but have heard wonderful things about Marin Prep. from the four parents we know who send their children there. Good luck with your decision.

  49. When Lynn Kanter-Levy, the founder of Marin Day Schools and of Marin Prep, first started working on the school, her vision was to create a Spanish-immersion private school with a progressive curriculum.

    Bright Horizons just wanted a private elementary school in San Francisco.

    THat's why there is confusion. There are people who heard the original vision and got very excited, and were later disappointed to learn that there are no experts on language acquisition or bilingual education involved in creating the curriculum and language model and that, in face, "infusion" is something they are making up as they go along.

    But despite the founder's excitement about a private, Spanish-immersion elementary school, I don't think Bright Horizons corporate was ever interested. I mean, they are the ones who came up with the name "Marin Prep". I think their plan was to just make it another SF private school.

    There *is* a Spanish-immersion private school in the Bay Area, but it is in Oakland. It is called Escuela Bilingue Internacional. You can even tell from the name that it is a bilingual school! It is clearly their mission.

    But Bright Horizons never really wanted to be part of a Spanish-immersion school, so they never bothered investing in the experts who might help them get it right.

    But yes, that *was* the original vision for Marin Prep.

  50. At least they are getting more Spanish than kids at non-immersion public schools. Many people who want a public immersion program can't get in.

  51. What I learned from this thread is that many kids, after 9 years of Spanish immersion, are not bilingual and bi-literate.

    This is an issue for me. I hope that Kate starts a new thread. Parents - give me the real scoop (the scoop you ONLY get through anon comments). Are the kids, when entering HS, bilingual and bi-literate or not? If they are - why can't they pass the Spanish I exam (Call me crazy - I thought they would be able to pass the advanced Spanish exams)?

    I am looking for the real information before making a huge investment in an immersion program.

    Honestly - I like the language portion of the immersion schools but some of the "cultural" aspects seem inaccurate and ridiculous (i.e., what is “latin culture”? Celebrate carnaval but not Christmas?)

    I need to know – What language outcome should I expect after 9 years in SFUSD Spanish immersion?

  52. I know many high-schoolers and high-school graduates who have gone through SFUSD Spanish immersion, mostly at Buena Vista but also at Alvarado. I've never met or heard of one who wasn't bilingual and biliterate. If there are any, these would undoubtedly be kids who had severe academic challenges no matter what. (I have a Class of '09 graduate and a high school sophomore.)

  53. Then why didn't so many of them pass the written grammar test at Lowell this year?

    They may be able to speak it, but the written grammar is a different matter. Lowell shouldn't have to tailor the test for kids out of immersion programs.

    They should know their "pluscuamperfecto" tense and be able to conjugate it.

  54. I went to see the documentary "Speaking in Tongues," which looks at immersion education in SFUSD and features a middle school student at Alice Fong Yu. The film makers said after the showing that the student went on to Lowell and took an AP language course (I recall it as Mandarin, but I realize AFY is Cantonese, so I may have misremembered) his sophomore year. I realize that the original question is about Spanish and not Chinese, but I thought I would offer that. I know these Lowell stats are floating around the AME Yahoo group, but I had the same reaction as Caroline. I.e., the figures just don't sound right.

  55. What are the (alleged) stats about Lowell?

  56. The mother of a current Lowell, former Spanish immersion student wrote on the SF_AME site that out of 11 kids who took the exam, only 2 tested out of Spanish 1. Nobody else on the listserve questioned her stats.

  57. 11:25 -
    One factor to consider is the student's proficiency in English after a few years in the program.

    A close friend of mine teaches in here in SF. She knows many families who left the top immersion programs because they were not satisfied with their child's performance in English.

    So much time and effort is put into the 2nd language that children are often behind in English writing, spelling and comprehension

    I can already hear the naysayers clicking away on their keyboards. Consider this is straight from a teacher's mouth who has 15+ years of experience. Just take it as one person's experience to consider.

  58. "The mother of a current Lowell, former Spanish immersion student wrote on the SF_AME site that out of 11 kids who took the exam, only 2 tested out of Spanish 1. Nobody else on the listserve questioned her stats."


    Do you know if all the students taking the exam had remained in immersion through 8th grade?

  59. I would question those stats because they are so completely at odds with the situation at my kids' high school, SOTA. And Lowell (not to put down my own kids' school) obviously tends to attract students MORE focused on academic achievement. Perhaps Lowell has a particularly challenging test loaded with obscure technical grammatical details?

  60. Well, it's not like it's knee-jerk naysaying, 1:03 (actually, wouldn't the naysayers be the ones claiming that most immersion students are unsuccessful)?

    But my point is based on the real-life flesh-and-blood kids I know who have gone through immersion programs, so many of whom are successful in both languages. When you're actually envisioning the kids you know, and often love, it's a little more likely that you'll react by challenging the doom-and-gloom claims.

  61. 9:32 am - loved your comment. The blog is back!

  62. "The film makers said after the showing that the student went on to Lowell and took an AP language course (I recall it as Mandarin, but I realize AFY is Cantonese, so I may have misremembered) his sophomore year."

    AFY students do Mandarin and Cantonese in Grades 6-8.

    "What I learned from this thread is that many kids, after 9 years of Spanish immersion, are not bilingual and bi-literate. "

    Don't known where you're getting that from. At AFY, the elementary level kids after first grade have to exclusively use Cantonese when asking questions to their Cantonese teacher. I don't know if that's the practice at other schools.

  63. Okay… now I have read some of the posts at the SF Advocates for Multilingual Excellence Yahoo group, and I can answer my own question. According to one poster, the students taking the exam ARE kids who were in immersion K-8, and include four native Spanish speakers. But….the situation is a little more complicated than that they all failed to learn Spanish grammar. Apparently, SFUSD’s Immersion model (K- 8) and the classic Foreign Language model (high school) of language acquisition are not very compatible. So, even though many of the students couldn’t pass the exam, the less advanced classes are still way too easy in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, etc…. and are also conducted mainly in English. (That’s how I remember being taught the high school French that I didn’t learn.) So, some immersion parents are suggesting that since the immersion model is much more successful at producing fluency, high school language courses should recognize/accommodate that reality in order to help further (and fully) develop the language skills of the immersion students. (Two different approaches to language acquisition... with not enough communication/coordination between K-8 immersion and high school language programs…) That is not the same as saying the immersion programs have been unsuccessful. (Apparently, there is also an option for immersion parents to sign some kind of waiver in order to have their kids admitted to the advanced classes at Lowell if they don’t pass the exam.)

    Another issue…. A poster also writes that the Korean immersion kids from CL can be placed right into an advanced Korean class at Lowell without any exam. (Even though Korean immersion ends by middle school at CL.) The same poster writes Chinese immersion kids are also placed into advanced classes without an exam. It is easier for me to understand the former (if true) than the latter (if true). I doubt that there are many students (other than alums of the programs at CL) who speak much Korean, so it is probably likely that the Korean immersion kids will be more advanced in Korean than just about anyone else at Lowell. On the other hand, there are many students at Lowell with “some” Chinese (whether Mandarin or Cantonese, whether learned at home and/or at after-school classes, Saturday class, etc.)... and I would assume the same could be said of Spanish. So, some kind of testing would seem appropriate to sort out where all these language learners belong… but with some accommodation for the different paths they have taken to arrive at their current levels of proficiency, and some tailoring of the language programs/placements to meet their current needs.

  64. September 17th, 9:10am made some comments about partial immersion and full immersion and also about how these programs worked out in Quebec.

    I am actually an adult product of both partial immersion and full immersion French in Canada.

    The partial immersion that I took in high school resulted in me being able to UNDERSTAND French, and even write French, but few words ever came out of my mouth.

    I ended up taking full immersion, one hour per day, five days a week, when I was in college. I started when I was 19 and finished when I was 23. It was because of the full immersion program that I can actually make words come out of my mouth. I am not fluent, probably because I started so late, but I can speak and French speakers do respond to me in French. My grammar is often not correct, but my pronunciation is good. I haven't really spoken it in years, but what I learned has really stuck.

    If someone is wondering what full immersion is, it is when the teacher never switches into English and the learner has to try to ask their questions in the target language, not English. It is very painful at first, but it is how we all learn a language when we are babies. You language experts out there, correct me if I am wrong!

    My daughter has just started at a full immersion kindergarten in French. Altough she has had very limited exposure to the language, she is already babel talking in French. She's been there just over a week. She doesn't seem to be that stressed out by not understanding.

    I highly suggest full immersion when it comes to learning a language, especially for a native English speaker, where there always seems to be someone willing to switch to English.

    I really question the rational of partial immersion. It is not an efficient way to teach a language, especially for a child.

  65. Hi 2:55 -- two-way immersion is a whole different concept, because it's being used to teach native English speakers the target language AND teach English to native speakers of the target language. It's supposed to have 50 percent of each.

    I don't know that much about the thinking, but I do know that -- it seems to be the preferred model in San Francisco. That's why, except for Korean, all our immersion schools are in languages that are spoken by a lot of recent immigrants to SF.

  66. Hi 4:41,

    Your comments on two way immersion are really helpful.

    Two way immersion is probably feasible and likely the only model that would work where you have half and half native speakers of two different languages. I think it could work, except that it would take longer for each group.

    As a comparison, the French system immersion model teaches English for about one hour a day. The rest of the day is in French (except that the kids are often yaking between themselves in English, which draws down the hours spoken in French.)

    With that model, kids who are native speakers of English seem to become proficient in French in one to two years, from what I hear. . . At the end of the first grade.

    I've often heard the parents of immersion kids say that they are behind in other subjects ie. math, even in grade four and five, because they are in an immersion program. I think it is important that kids fully acquire a functional command of the target language by the second grade so that they can then move on with other subjects. Here, I stress functional.

    Other previous speakers also mentioned a discontinuity between the language taught in immersion programs and what is tested at Lawton. Functional command of a language is different from full grammatical command. Most of us are still acquiring English even when we are twelve or thirteen years old. My five year old daughter often argues with me about the irregular past tense: ie. took, bought, threw, etc. I can remember learning grammatical contructs in English well into tenth grade. So if Lawton is testing for Spanish grammar in eighth or ninth grade?, I wouldn't be surprised if the tests show that kids who are functionally bilingual are still struggling with grammar. It would be nice if some accomodation was made for that.

    Anyway, I am so grateful for my exposure to French. I also had the opportunity to learn a bit of Greek more recently. And a little bit of Japanese. Learning another language opens up the world. It teaches something about how another culture thinks. Strangely enough, I think it can also give one a greater appreciation of English.

    Go for the full immersion or the dual immersion, but be prepared for some extra work. It is so worth it!

  67. The afterschool program at Marin Prep is supposed to be the immersion model; this seems like it could be a good compromise for those parents who desire for their children to learn Spanish more intensively than they will in the regular curriculum.

  68. The Spanish dual-immersion model in San Francisco public schools starts at 90/10 in kindergarten--that is, 90% of the class is taught in Spanish and 10% in English. The percentage of English is gradually increased to reach 50% by 5th grade. By middle school, two core classes are taught in Spanish (example, social studies and Spanish) and three in English (example, English, math, and science).

    The previous poster is correct that this model is designed for two-language acquisition for primary English and Spanish speakers both. There are many studies out there....I'd be shocked if all-day full immersion were not more effective at teaching the target language, but the dual-immersion model is supposed to be effective if applied through 8th grade and it does meet several goals at once.

    Success in language acquisition, like much else in terms of academic success in elementary school, in part depends on the child and another part on the family--the rest depends on the teachers, the program, and the other kids (they are teaching each other to some degree).

    Just for one example, it sure helps if the family goes to the library to take out books in the target language for the child to read during the weeks when the reading-at-home log asks for that language. If you sometimes play DVDs for your kid, it helps if you play certain movies at home only in the target language (we used to play Toy Story and other Pixar films in Spanish only). There are lots of things you can do to support the child even if you don't speak the language.

    In my experience with two children who went through two-way immersion, both are verbally fluent. One has more written ability than the other, but that is true in English as well and probably has to do with a combination of aptitude and amount of time spent reading and writing. The more proficient one also has more friends who are native speakers (and in middle school life is all about friends in terms of amount of time spent....). I do believe most kids at least attain verbal proficiency; at least that is true for my somewhat-slacker other child.

    The points that M makes are good one. It is not fair to reduce the discussion on the SF_AME list to a verdict of failure; that is not what they are saying, the sample size is tiny, and the information incomplete. The point they definitely making is the need for improved articulation between middle school immersion programs and high school language programs. Immersion kids are much more like native speakers than anything else and their needs--and those of native speakers--are different than those who have had only formal instruction but who really don't speak the target language.

  69. There are millions of fluent English speakers who conjugate the subjunctive perfectly well when they speak and write English, but who would fail an exam that asked them to identify or define "subjunctive".

    THAT is what is happening with Spanish-immersion students who take Spanish-language tests in high school.

  70. Very informed and helpful comments from the recent posts.

    I am the poster that learned French through immersion.

    I would say that I am quite hesitant about immersion in an after school program. It is just not enough hours per day. Kids are also kind of fatigued by then and it not the best time of the day to be learning a language. It would be pretty tough to become even functionally bilingual with that approach, unless at some point the student is fully immersed in the language for say, a year, at some point.
    Marin Prep should really go for the dual immersion or full immersion approach. I am puzzled as to why they are not.

    Some of the public schools do seem to be doing a great job teaching Spanish. Alvarado and Buena Vista come to mind. I could not agree more with the posts that suggest that more needs to be done to align highschool testing toward kids who have learned a language through immersion.

    It is very odd and backward that they do not test for verbal comprehension and spoken proficiency, as well as grammar. Most language testing includes comprehension, spoken proficiency, and written proficiency.

    Really, what is the point of learning a language if you can't speak it?

    Anyway, immersion is now the defacto standard in Canada for teaching French. No serious language school would even suggest any other approach.

    That is not to pooh-pooh the formal learning of grammar constructs such as the subjuctive. That is a more important tense in Spanish or French than in English. But even for native speakers of Spanish (and French) full command of the subjuctive and other grammar contructs such as the passive voice continues well into the highschool and college years.

    Good for the parents who are pushing for better articulation between middle school immersion program and high school language programs! I hope the high schools are smart enough to be receptive.

  71. I may be mistaken, but I was under the impression that the spanish language exposure was just an add-on to the curriculum rather than the school aiming for the kids to all emerge bilingual.

    I know a few families who are considering the school but none have mentioned language as the main reason why.

  72. Marin Prep was supposed to be a Spanish-immersion program. But the corporate types at Brighth Horizon headquarters thought "full immersion" would scare away parents.

    Now Marin Prep is sought out as a "safety" school for families who didn't get in to an established private school or one of the public schools of their choice.

    The language emphasis -- which was central to the founder's vision -- got watered down by Bright Horizons corporate and will likely be dropped. I don't think Bright Horizons was ever committed to it. They would have chosen a different name, for starters, and would have hired an expert as a consultant to help them design the curriculum. They are not serious about the Spanish.

  73. 1:22/Canadian poster: Exactly. Formal grammar is important, but that is a high school subject (with some basics from 5th-8th grade). Anyway, I would challenge the college-educated, native English speakers here to identify, right off the tops of their heads, the (rare) proper use of the subjunctive mood in English! I'd bet many cannot.

    I remember my French classes in high school. We spent a lot of time on grammar, and it was explained to me that part of the value of this was to understand the structure of a language--any language that was foreign to us--as a way of understanding the underlying structure of our own native tongue. Some high schools insist that multilingual students study a language they don't know at all, for that very reason. In other words, the goal there is somewhat different than actually being able to speak it.

    That's where I think the mis-articulation is. It may be that the SI/native speaker kids at Lowell should be offered a heritage language class to improve their written/formal Spanish at a high school level, and also to explore Spanish-language literature (comparable to taking an English language arts class). Then, they should also be encouraged to take a truly foreign language at some point during those four years.

  74. Before I ever followed school issues or heard of immersion, I remember an American friend who had spent some childhood years in Germany telling me she had flunked the equivalent of testing out of English 1A in high school there. She didn't have the formal grammar instruction, and also, the test was focused on British English, so she even got dinged on word usage, ilke "smart" used to mean "fashionable" instead of "intelligent."

  75. Friends was probably viewed by some as a "safety school" when it first started. The lucky ones took a chance on an untested school early on.

    Try getting in to Friends today.

    Marin Prep sounds like an up-and-comer to me.

  76. Any school whose population can afford that tuition will likely do just fine; the demographics are not challenging as the kids likely come from well-off homes that are stocked with books, three squares a day, and so forth. So in that sense, sure, it's an up-and-comer and not a risky bet. That's why you pay the big bucks, right? You lower the perceived risk that way by buying an easy demographic.

    I would make a distinction between Marin Prep and Friends on a few levels, however. Friends was clear about curriculum; it was modeled on other Quaker/Friends schools. Friends is also non-profit. Marin Prep is controlled by the for-profit company Bright Horizons. As pointed out by others with regard to the Spanish curriculum, that may have created some confusion and contradictions with the Spanish curriculum. The school founders had one vision but the company didn't want to invest in the intensive model, so they invented and marketed this Spanish infusion idea. Not a good sign.

    The best schools that I know of, whether public, parochial, or private, are based on a clear approach or educational philosphy, a driving vision. I'm not clear what that is for Marin Prep, other than (ultimately--and I know there are good people involved, but this is the bottom line) making a buck off parents who want the perceived security of private school.

    The irony is that many public schools around there are better schools because of their established curricula, experienced teachers, and clear sense of educational mission. Harvey Milk does, and so does Alvarado up the hill, and McKinley around the corner. They know who they are and who they serve. As educational institutions--separating out for a moment the perceived risk of attending school with a more challenged population--they are less risky than this for-profit start-up, because of that clarity of purpose. Oh, and they are free. I say this realizing that surface perception will trump all for many, that you can buy security....

  77. Friends.

    Although I think it is a good school, I think it is over priced for what you get.

    I met a mom there who said she was not impressed with the math program and could not figure out why so many of the kids had to take an afterschool program in math to learn what they were not learning in class.

  78. One mom's comment -- that's enough for me!

  79. "There are millions of fluent English speakers who conjugate the subjunctive perfectly well when they speak and write English, but who would fail an exam that asked them to identify or define 'subjunctive'.

    "THAT is what is happening with Spanish-immersion students who take Spanish-language tests in high school."

    Exactly. I met a Syrian guy while I was traveling in Europe years ago who was proud of his knowledge of English. He asked me how many tenses there are in English. "I don't know--five?" I responded. He proceeded to diagram all 25 English tenses for me. I pointed out to him that it didn't matter that I couldn't do the same--I could use every one of them perfectly every time.

  80. To the Marin prep Hater
    What is your real agenda here?

  81. Believe me, for as many people who are turned off by the infusion aspect, there are just as many expressing interest in touring

    Some attest that their is no clear curricula at Marin Prep. The headmaster, Ed Walters, has years of experience as an educator. He has the freedom to implement a curriculum that will engage students. He doesn't have his hands tied with the idiotic No Child Left Behind law. Teachers won't have to waste time "teaching to the test" at Marin Prep. That's what you get when you pay for private.

  82. I'm not a Marin Prep hater, but I think you are confusing NCLB and curriculum; they are not the same thing at all. I believe the questions were about the curriculum, and in particular the Spanish portion.

    California actually has very good curricular standards across many academic areas and the arts as well as physical education, and these have been adopted by many parochial and private schools too.

    But having curricular standards is different from any need, based on NCLB's punitive approach, to teach to the test; and agreed that NCLB is a mess. Also, the degree of teaching to the test varies from school to school, as those schools that benefit from more advantageous demographics can get away with doing it a lot less under NCLB. Remember that test results tell you mostly who is in the school (API = Affluent Parent Index and so forth). It's the schools that beat their demographics that are most interesting, imo.

    The point is, you are correct that private schools are not bound by NCLB and therefore to the tests that are part of the accountability of NCLB (for better and also, yes, for worse). They also have more curricular freedom and also more licensing freedom with regard to teacher hiring. I can see how this could be liberating.

    I guess I would just say that it also means that prospective parents should be asking questions about the curriculum and the teachers and in general about educational vision. Just because a school is private and therefore has that freedom doesn't mean the curriculum is well-thought out and of good quality. Many private schools are very good, of course, but don't take it for granted, especially with a newer school.

    This is not a specific comment about Marin Prep, about which I don't know much, but I would be asking those questions. A good question would be how the curriculum compares to California's K-12 standards, which, again, are very good and thorough (though unevenly taught based on how challenged is the school population and so forth).

  83. I'm always a bit suspicious of for-profits running schools.

    The reality is that while the leadership at Marin Prep is not beholden to SFUSD, they are beholden to the corporate overseers at Bright Horizons.

    The local founders of Marin Prep WANTED the school to be Spanish Immersion.

    THe corporate overseers said NO WAY.

    How much freedom does the school really have?

  84. Right. You've said that how many times now?

  85. We have our child at Marin Prep and I do not expect her to be fluent in native spanish when she gets out of the 6th grade
    We also have her in swim lessons and I do not expect her to be an olympic swimmer when she gets out of the 6th grade
    She also has horse riding lessons and I...well I think you see where I am headed with this
    We could not be happier with Marin Prep and I invite any open minded people looking for a school to come check us out
    And once again what is the agenda with the redundant poster here?

  86. I have a child in a free public school immersion program and after seven years she is fluent in Spanish. I don't expect her to be Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I do expect her to speak and understand Spanish and also to be able to read and write in the language with some proficiency.

    This is not a slam on any other school, but it is an issue of curricular standards and expectations. Parents should be aware of the goals and expectations of any school's curriculum. I don't know if it is true from what this one parent says that Marin Prep is not aiming for fluency in Spanish after seven years (6th grade), but prospective parents should know that if it is true.

  87. You have a child in swim lessons.

    But how bummed would you be if after 8 years she could not swim the length of a pool?

    THAT is the correct analogy.

  88. I think the problem is that they *are* aiming at basic fluency, but have not engaged any experts in language acquisition to ensure that their curricular approach will deliver that.

    If they *had* hired experts in second language acquisition or bilingual education, and, after much study, developed their so-called "infusion" model, that would be something else.

    They are making it up as they go along and *hoping* the kids will be somewhat fluent in the end, or at least more fluent than the kids who start taking a language in later elementary years.

    Unfortunately, there is lots of research on this topic and it does not support their approach.

  89. I don't really care if my kid speaks Spanish by the end of his time at Marin Prep. He will get more exposure to Spanish than SFDS, Town, Friends, Stuart Hall, etc. If that means he tests into Spanish 2 or 1 in high school--doesn't matter to me. I'm looking at it as a nice perk.

    Just like he'll be getting music, art, and PE on a regular basis. He'll be benefiting from the smallest teacher/student ratio in the city.

    Oh yeah, he's not bringing home any useless worksheets that my friend's kid brings home from his tony Contra Costa County public kindergarten.

    So I'm pretty satisfied with Marin Prep.

  90. That's fine if you don't care, 10:54. Not everyone wants 2nd language proficiency for their kids. I think it is the marketing of this Spanish infusion thing that is riling people. Maybe they should call it Spanish enrichment so prospective parents don't get confused, and be clear it is designed to expand cultural horizons, not teach the kids to speak or read or write in it.

    My kids have always had dedicated art and music in their public schools here in SF, through a combination of the district music program, Prop H, and local PTA funds. They also got PE but that has been more up and down. I loved the movement program that was offered to K-1 kids and several of our teachers have done a good job with PE since then; others, less so. We backed it up with sports and gymnastics and such but that area needs to be shored up imo.

    Now in middle school, my kids get a daily class of PE taught by certified teachers, and also a daily art elective taught by a certified arts or music teachers. In PE they work on physical fitness (endurance and strength) and also specific sports skills. Art class in 6th grade is either a rotation through various subjects like studio art and chorus, or full-year band or orchestra. 7th-8th graders get to focus on an art discipline, and build a portfolio for SOTA if they are interested in going there.

    In terms of kindergarten, I don't love worksheets either, but they were a small part of the experience and largely disappeared after a while as the kids got older. I certainly wouldn't pay for private school just to avoid them, as the rest of the experience has been so positive.

    To wit, $25K buys you no worksheets in kindergarten. Well, that's nice. There are probably some other aspects that I would like to have (I take it Marin Prep has a dedicated and certified PE teacher for K-5? Yes, that would be nice too.) However, my kids have a solid academic education under their belts (including a second language and a variety of arts disciplines), and the whole thing has been free. A good public school, and we have many of them here, is good value. There are many excellent private schools here, obviously. I just think parents should know what they are buying, and be clear that the differences are worth the price. So much of the decision-making seems to be based on assumptions and fears rather than real understanding of what is actually offered from school to school. I don't have a problem with a parent making an informed choice, but I hate the ignorance that floats around the playgrounds.

  91. It appears the real issue with a number of people on this site is the choice parents make to put their child in private school.
    It does not matter the private school that is chosen, it is all the elitist white rich people who have the gall to spend their hard earned money in some way that others do not see fit
    We are not all elitist, white or rich
    If you have found a public school that you are thrilled with I am sincerely happy for you
    Maybe you should lighten up on other peoples choices to do what they want

  92. My specific issue with Marin Prep is the misleading marketing about the Spanish. That's not an anti-private school thing. I wouldn't say that FAIS doesn't teach French or that CAIS doesn't teach Chinese. This is a site for prospective K parents, and they should know that they may have to do some legwork to distinguish between language programs. In some cases, the public schools have better offerings in this area. That's a direct response the original question posed for this thread. I think I would also be uncomfortable with a school that is owned by a for-profit company, for various reasons, but that's another issue.

    My issue with anyone who says "I chose private for my kid so he/she can have regular art" (or PE, or science, or field trips, etc.) is that the implication is that you can describe all public schools in one brush as not offering these things. It's an implied negative comparison, and a false one. In fact, many public schools do offer these things. So it's perpetuating a playground myth to allow that implication to slide on by.

    Again, the intended audience for this response is not the happy parent at the private school, who obviously feels fine about this choice and investment of cash, but the prospective K parents who may read this, see it go unchallenged, and pass right on by Harvey Milk, McKinley, or Alvarado on their way to visit Marin Prep, even if they might (I say might) be just as happy at one of these fine public schools, or at least happy enough given the price differential....you can buy a lot of gymnastics classes with an extra $25,000/year.

    Yes, I KNOW it is hard to get the popular schools in the lottery. I know parents who are unlucky in the lottery are faced with a different set of choices. I know there are other good reasons for choosing private school. I just don't want prospective parents to avoid even looking at public schools because they believe there's no art, and the kids sit all day and do drill and kill. Maybe in some schools they do, I don't know, but not in my kids' school. They got a lively education at their elementary school, and I have been happily surprised at the offerings at middle school too. Prospective parents should know that there are options out there beyond the myths.

  93. I would surmise that most people posting on this site are employed by for profit companies. So with the for profit reasoning this would mean they are bad companies?
    There is nothing wrong with making money in a company.
    Welcome to America

  94. Geez, and all the straw men come out. Why don't you just call me a socialist already? At least I'm in good company with our president.

    I'm fine with (regulated) free enterprise, although I myself work in the non-profit sector. However, as a means of delivering on a core function of society, such as, oh for example, health care or education, I do have issues with the private sector being allowed to participate in those. The profit motive, especially a short-term profit motive as driven by the stock market, seems to warp the mission of delivering health care and education in ways that are not helpful to our people, and we need our people to be educated and as healthy as possible. Educating our kids and staying healthy as society is not the same as choosing a brand of car. I'll leave it at that. There is a larger philosophical argument here, but I'm not sure it makes sense to have it here. Obviously many do not agree with me, or we wouldn't have those giant health care and insurance companies that make their money off of denying our claims when we get sick, nor would we have Edison Inc. nor Bright Horizons. Btw, I'm sure there are many nice people who work at all these places. My critique is institutional, not personal.

    Beyond all that, and returning to perspective of being a prospective parent with the option of Marin Prep in front on me, I'd be concerned about how decisions get made, especially in tough times, and how educational vision may be formed by the profit motive even when it is not the best decision for the children or educationally. The description of how the Spanish element of the program at Marin Prep has evolved may be a case in point.

  95. We couldn't find any private schools that taught children how to pay a musical instrument without incurring extra fees.

    And yet, all SF public schools provide lessons for free starting in fourth grade.

  96. The people I know who are sending their kids to Marin Prep struck out in the SFUSD lottery and didn't get into (or couldn't afford) any of the top tier privates.

    Of course they LOVE the school, it was their only option.

  97. Here's why it matters that it is a FOR profit:

    HQ didn't think it could make money on a Spanish-immersion program, even though that is what the individual who spearheaded the school really wanted. So they refused to even invest in hiring consultants to help them build the right curriculum to achieve bilingualism.

  98. Wow! I've never seen a thread so badly hijacked. At least we know the lone bandit is not Dora. My guess is that most of the parents sending their kids to Marin Prep really do not care about infusion vs. immersion and public vs. private. Let's get back to the topic: "How's Marin Prep?" It would be a lot more useful to hear from people with actual experience sending their kids there.

  99. Our child is thrilled with Marin prep,we did not strike out on any lotteries and Marin prep was always our first choice.
    I guess our biggest problem is our child is thrilled and she does not read this site

  100. 6:31 -- What school were you assigned in the SFUSD lottery and what made you discard it as a possibility for your family?

    WHat other private schools offered you a spot but seemed "lesser" to you?

  101. I think there is VERY REAL demand for a private, Spanish-immersion school in San Francisco.

    I think that is absolutely true.

    But once they watered down their model to "infusion", Marin Prep was "stuck with what they could get" in terms of parents. Families looking for immersion wouldn't consider it.

    So now Bright Horizons has a self-fulfilling prophecy: "Look -- our current parents couldn't care less about immersion! See? We were right all along. SF parents aren't interested in a private, Spanish-immersion elementary school!"

    That is the tragedy here.

  102. Just to set the matter straight, Marin Prep is an independent, non-profit school. Bright Horizons provides administrative support like accounting functions, but does not dictate the curriculum. Creation of the curriculum is in the able hands of Ed Walters and his team

  103. To a number of the posters/posers on this site,may we just agree that you are right about whatever it is you want to be right about?

    Find something productive to be so passionate about and do it in a positive manner

    I am inclined to think a number of posters here were not hired by Bright Horizons or Marin Prep or maybe let go by Bright Horizons
    So much intimate knowledge of how they operate
    Time to move on.......

  104. Do your homework:
    - Bright Horizons staff came up with the name.

    - Bright Horizons staff rejected "immersion" because they thought SF parents wouldn't want that much Spanish.

    - Bright Horizons staff decided NOT to invest in hiring a consultant with expertise in second language acquisition

    - Bright Horizons created all the marketing materials.

    Need I go on?

  105. Ed Walters happens to be bilingual.

    But that is not the same as having expertise in second language acquisition.

    It *is* true that Lynn Kanter-Levy's original idea for Marin Prep was that it would be a Spanish-immersion school with a progressive, hands-on curriculum.

    It is still the latter, but Bright Horizons would not let her pursue her original vision of a true immersion program where kids would graduate bilingual and biliterate.

  106. I would think that people would be excited about a new school with a "progressive, hands-on curriculum." I certainly am.

  107. I got it,you are the consultant they would not hire
    Stop spending so much time on this site and go get a job

  108. No, I am not a consultant. I am just a parent who had her sights set on a Spanish-immersion public school but did not score a spot in the lottery. When I first heard of Marin Prep, Lynn Kanter-Levy was very clear that her goal was to establish a private, Spanish-immersion program but with a more progressive curriculum than is found in other private immersion programs like FAIS and CAIS. Many in my peer group got very excited about the possibility because we really wanted immersion but knew, as English speakers, that our chances in the SFUSD lottery were slim to none.

    But we were not willing to pay $$$ for Spanish "infusion", given that there was no thought or research put into the model. We are all in ENglish-only public schools instead and saving the money we would have spent on tuition.

    BTW: I do marketing and branding for a living and have to say that the name and logo they chose, "MARIN PREP," connotes NEITHER hands-on/progressive NOR Spanish-immersion/infusion.
    It is just another sign of lack of cohesive vision.

  109. How much longer are you going to keep spreading disinformation about a kindergarten?

    There should be a different thread for your own political and educational theories. They are unrelated to why most families would consider the school.

    To set the record straight, the school has 3 1/2 hours of Spanish immersion a day during its before and after care program. It also has spanish instruction during the school day. The school is a nonprofit that is responsible for its own curriculum.

    The main focus is on having the kids learn problem solving, English, math, athletic and social skills in a nurturing environment. Spanish is just a small part of why the parents and kids are so excited about the school.

  110. "Bright Horizons staff rejected "immersion" because they thought SF parents wouldn't want that much Spanish."

    Marketing FAIL.

    Can someone wave the waitlists for Alvarado, Monroe, Flynn, Buena Vista, etc. under their noses and tell them to get a frickin' clue?

    I don't know about them as educationalists, but as marketers they're seriously out of touch with their prospective market.

  111. Parents are excited about the school because they didn't get in anywhere else.

    The before/after care is a bit irrelevant: Are you saying all kids are in school for those extra hours? Are you sure the teachers aren't speaking in English to the kids? I bet you hear a lot more English than Spanish during those hours as most of the communication during those times is BETWEEN the kids (none of whom speak Spanish).

    So what they have is Spanish speaking caregivers who supervise ENglish speaking kids as they talk to and play with other ENGLISH speaking kids. The percentage of total communication in Spanish is probably pretty low per kid in that environment.

  112. It's only been two weeks at MP, but my son is enjoying himself there and is already spontaneously speaking Spanish in short sentences to describe things like the weather and the days of the week. This is a kid who told me before school started that he did NOT want to learn another language; he didn't want to feel forced into it. Now he's proud about the things he's learned. Perhaps he's inherited his father's skill with languages (he taught himself several) but we are delighted by his progress. You can throw around all the marketing buzzwords that you want but the only way to truly judge a school is to visit it and talk to parents who have kids there. Period.

  113. The focus at Marin Prep is on English as a primary language, just as it is at Friends and San Francisco Day.

    All three schools teach Spanish as a secondary language. Marin Prep just has a greater focus on Spanish.

    The right balance between Spanish and English is a personal preference.

    We checked out all there schools and were really impressed with Marin Prep.

  114. The difference is that the founders of Friends and SF Day never claimed they were out to create a Spanish-immersion program and they certainly do not promise that kids will be fluent by the time they graduate.

    When Marin Prep first started recruiting families, that was how the founder promoted the school: As a Spanish IMMERSION school that happened to be private and have a hands-on, progressive curriculum.

    They eventually switched gears,but I do NOT believe it was because there weren't enough families interested in that approach.

    I think they got fewer takers precisely because they walked away from that approach. There are 8 grossly over-subscribed Spanish-immersion public schools that middle class parents all clamor to attend. And NONE on the private side. There is certainly enough demand to sustain a Spanish-immersion private school.

    BTW, I know 3 WONDERFUL, AMAZING families who are at Marin Prep. All are happy and love the school. But one was (and is) holding out for a public, Spanish immersion school for first grade and the other two families applied but did NOT get into any other private school and did not do well with the SFUSD lottery, either.

  115. We get it,Bright Horizons may have told people it was going to be spanish immersion.
    It is not,we all agree on that
    Having said that they are teaching spanish,it may not be the way you or the "experts" say it should be taught but it is being learned there
    Maybe all these immersion gurus should get together and start your own Non Profit Immersion School
    Time to move on,really

  116. this spanish immersion stuff is such yuppie nonsense. your kid can learn it doing an exchange program for a year in high school or college. now THAT'S cool.

  117. I met some of those kids in college, the ones who thought they were fluent in Spanish because they spent a single year abroad.

    Yeah, they spoke better Spanish than the guys who could only recite the canned dialogue they memorized in their Spanish III class, but I wouldn't exactly call them "bilingual".

    And they certainly didn't get the cognitive benefits of being bilingual from an early age. Learning more than one language from a young age wires your brain differently. Bilingual kids outscore monolingual kids on a number of measures, including abstract thinking and creativity.

    Why *wouldn't* you want to give your child that, in *addition* to a year abroad?

  118. I think it is nice that families who didn't get into private school this year or were assigned a school they didn't like by SFUSD were able to land at a new, reasonably-priced private. What a relief for them!

  119. "reasonably-priced" ????

    not for most.

    but, sure, good for them.

  120. Here is the 2009 tuition without before and after care at a few comparable schools:

    Marin Prep - $ 18,000
    San Francisco Friends - $ 22,665
    San Francisco Day School - $ 23,540

    You have probably posted four times more than anyone on this page and spread lots of disinformation.

    How much longer are you going to keep bashing Marin Prep?

    Hopefully, everyone will see right through your disingenuous comments and check out Marin Prep for themselves.

  121. The school has a new website:


  122. 8:48

    Why do you assume it is one person posting? I posted a couple of times, but I didn't write a lot of other stuff, so I know that is not true. Actually, I see some very different sets of concerns posted here:

    * Certain parents who were excited about the Spanish and looked at MP for that last year but were put off by the change of plans, or marketing anyway, of the Spanish program;

    * Those who took issue with some implied put-downs of elementary schools for not having stuff like art and PE (although they actually do), i.e., public school boosters;

    * Those who think $18,000 or $25,000 with before/after care is unaffordable to most families (which, objectively, it is);

    * And those who are turned off by the for-profit connections and direction from Bright Horizons.

    Some of these issues are specific to MP and some are generic public-private discussions. Have any of the arguments presented here really presented disinformation or facts? Granted that reasonable people can disagree as to these factors being important or good points or irrelevant or whatever.

    This whole blog is a free-for-all on several of these issues. Hopefully prospective parents are bright enough to sift through the various opinions to find the information they need and make their own decisions. I don't think you need to waste time trying to change the minds of parents who disagree with you as to the relevance of factors like how the Spanish is taught, or the importance of it, or how the school is run, or the fact that it is private, etc. Rather, highlight your own reasons for loving the place. I'm sure there will be people who will attracted to it for similar reasons.

  123. Our daughter loves Marin Prep, the teachers and the principal, and that's the most important thing but in my opinion she is learning Spanish at an appropriate level for a kindergartner.

  124. What is "Spanish at the appropriate level for a kindergartener" anyway?

    Do you want a child who can speak the language or one who can sing a few songs, name a few body parts and animals and list her colors?

  125. I can not believe the petty,pathetic comments left on this blog.
    This is a site that people are supposed to look to when searching for schools?
    Are you kidding me?

  126. I think all children should be speaking spanish and fluent by the time they are out of kindergarten.
    Makes perfect sense to me
    Go find some other site to troll,

  127. Most private schools treat foreign languages as "enrichment"... A nice extra, just like singing songs or doing a little art. They don't actually expect the kids to be able to read music, play an instrument or draw a decent still life or nude. It is just for fun.
    And they certainly don't expect kids to be able to speak Spanish.

    Can you imagine if we thought about math or reading that way? As a nice, enriching activity, without the expectation of being able to multiply and divide or of being able to actually read whole books?

    The U.S. is the only country on the planet where you can considered well educated if you are monolingual. In other countries, being well educated includes being able to speak and read at *least* one other language.

    Certainly you've heard the joke: "What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. Someone who speaks two? Bilingual. Someone who speaks one? AMERICAN!"

  128. We could not afford a nanny, struck out on Spanish immersion preschools, and will likely strike out on Spanish immersion public schools. I grew up monolingual even though I took years and years of Spanish, French, German, and Latin. But my brain didn't implode; in fact, I'm a college professor. So am I a complete dork if I just let the immersion thing go? It seems like such an impossible thing to achieve if you are not already a bilingual household and can't afford the fancy options.

    As to Marin Prep, well. For-profit schools are the wave of the future, which in my opinion is not a good thing. But if it's keeping more families in SF, it seems like a good thing.

  129. "The right balance between Spanish and English is a personal preference."

    YES! It is a personal preference. But don't expect the same results.

    There are reams and reams of research papers on which approaches work and which ones don't, how many hours of instruction result in fluency for various languages (depending on degree of difficulty) and which modes of instruction work best at different ages.

    So depending on whether or not you actually want your kids to get the cognitive benefits of early bilingualism, you can head the research or just do what feels good, like, say, "infusion".

  130. Everyone needs to check their facts. Someone mentioned above that they couldn't find any private schools that taught kids an instrument for free. As a Friends parent, I know for a fact that Friends does starting in 4th grade, and they provide the instruments at no extra cost. Maybe other privates do too?

    I agree with the poster above, you want to find out about Marin Prep? Tour it and talk to other Marin Prep parents, not people on here who are making suppositions and passing on things they've heard third hand.

  131. We're a new kindergarten family at SF Friends and were told instrumental lessons are only available after school, for an additional fee. We know several families who have their kids playing the violin after school. But yes, they pay extra for the priviledge.

  132. Our daughter is enrolled in Marin Prep. She loves the school, she loves her teachers, and she loves learning spanish. So far, her spanish vocabulary is limited to colors, numbers, weather and some common nouns - but school has only been open for 19 days!
    A language curriculum expert would be a great asset to Marin Prep, so would experts in a variety of disciplines (art, science, music, technolgy, PE). But this is only year one of a brand new school, and there are only ten kindergarteners enrolled right now.
    While my husband and I were considering K-8 schools, we were told over and over again that the head of a school sets the tone and direction for the entire school. Please come and meet our head of school, Ed Walters, and speak with him directly about your questions and concerns. I think you will be impressed by Ed's experience, his commitment, and his vision for Marin Prep.

  133. Did Marin Prep begin this year with only kindergarten? If not, what is the enrollment like in other grades?

  134. Has Ed taught in a bilingual school (immersion or otherwise)?

    Is that even part of his vision?

  135. He happens to be bilingual, but no, he has never taught in a bilingual setting. So language acquisition isn't an area of strength or focus. But he's a *great* guy.

  136. I am happy that Marin prep did not hire you.Your negativity is not good for students.
    Go get a job

  137. Thank you to the bloggers with opinions on the school - not soap box philosophies.

    I have 2 children in Marin Day Schools "day care" program. I attended an Open House at Marin Prep and was highly impressed. Personally, I do not want an "immersion" school for my children - I want a place where they get an amazing education, individual attention, develop respect for others and think of themselves as global citizens.

    I find that the fact that there's no language exposure at an early age lacking in other private school (non-immersion) options - so Marin Prep is a perfect solution for our families' goals.

    I was pretty skeptical of a "new school" but really am impressed by what they've done already in so little time and Ed is as dynamic, committed and results focused head of school as I've seen.

    Please do take the tour and meet others, this is a serious school that should get serious consideration.

  138. SF School and Children's Day both start exposing kids to Spanish during their preschool years. But when the 8th graders graduate and go off to high school, they place in Spanish 2, alongside the Burke's girls who didn't start Spanish until Middle School. Not sure what the advantage is of exposing kids at a young age if the program isn't strong enough to produce a better result.

  139. Toured Alvarado today and the principal cited research indicating that it takes about 7 years of immersion to make a child completely fluent and literate in academic Spanish. They'd be able to conduct basic conversations much earlier than that, but would not be completely bilingual and biliterate until much later.

    And that's *immersion*.

  140. Elena Yang, Coordinator of MPS Parent GroupOctober 24, 2009 at 2:56 PM

    On behalf of the Marin Preparatory School Parent Group, please join us for an Open House (Adult Only) on Wednesday evening, November 18, 2009 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. We are located at 117 Diamond St. (near 18th St.) and light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to Head of School Ed Walters at (415) 865-0899. We look forward to meeting you!

  141. To clarify the 2009 enrollment at Marin Prep - There is only one pre-K / kindergarten class at present, with a grand total of 10 students. That's ten kids - only ten - in the entire school. The founding families (those whose children are already enrolled and those enrolling their children over the next couple of years) have a unique opportunity to participate in the shaping and development of a wonderful new school in San Francisco.