Tuesday, September 22, 2009

June's story - an introduction

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

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

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

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

73 comments:

  1. Welcome, June! And good luck.

    As you already know, the westside schools are fairly popular (some more, some less). I won't suggest you look as far afield as Rosa Parks JBBP since you say you don't want another language in the mix, but what about William Cobb, the one with the new Montessori program? It is out of your neighborhood, but perhaps not too far along the California or Geary corridors.

    Good luck!

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  2. Hi June! Welcome! I look forward to following your story!

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  3. June: Welcome! I entirely understand why you wouldn't be attracted to the immersion programs because your child already has a second language. This makes perfect sense. But I thought I'd just add that many kids in the immersion programs are trilingual. My child is in immersion and many of the kids already have two or three other languages. My child doesn't but I'm so envious of these families who speak several languages. It's truly amazing. In fact, it might be easier for your child to be in an immersion because she already has the experience with picking up a second language. These kids pick up languages so easily.

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  4. Kate - I think this post is a really bad idea.

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  5. William Cobb!!! Are you insane?

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  6. I agree. Many families moved to Marin last year after being assigned Cobb. I would think of it more as a last resort. Perhaps try Sutro.

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  7. Glad to have some 'west side' representation on this blog. I'm looking for K this year too. Also live in the NW corner of the city. My child is in Montessori preschool and we are going to tour Cobb b/c of their Montessori program. It's new, so the school will probably see some changes b/c of it. Might be nice to get in there now b/f it gets popular.

    Also, interested in your thoughts on McCoppin. I did a drive by and the place looks pretty grim. Maybe the inside is better.

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  8. Re: Sutro -- since there isn't much info there I wanted to say that we were unhappy there and switched in the second week of Kindergarten. The K teacher is hardcore -- an 'uh oh list' of kids who mess up (and at the end of the day when 'good job' slips are passed out, the 'uh oh list' kids don't get them), daily homework, a vibe that parents aren't welcome, and a lot of emphasis on pleasing the teacher rather than learning to love learning. We went in without a waitlist school, totally thinking this was 'our school'. For us, it was not a nurturing K atmosphere -- our kid was stressed out by it. Our kid is thriving elsewhere.

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  9. I toured McCoppin last spring as a possible Round 2 choice (we went 0/7 in Round 1). We loved the location (easy access from our home in the Inner Sunset) but the oppressive concrete building is pretty depressing. There is very little natural light.

    In the end, we didn't list the school because I got a weird vibe during the tour, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Had I had more time, I would have investigated further but I was on a time crunch to get my Round 2 application in.

    I did love Sutro, though. It has the same concrete building as McCoppin (Peabody, McCoppin, and Sutro were built at the same time and all look almost identical) but it didn't seem as cramped as McCoppin's campus so it was a bit brighter and airer. Sutro test scores are solid, I really liked the principal, and the kids seemed happy.

    We put Sutro #2 on our Round 2 application (below New Traditions) and were thrilled when we got it! My son started the school year at Sutro but transferred to our waitlisted school much closer to home at the tail end of the first week.

    We fell in love with Sutro, especially the personable tight-knit community and the sweet kids, so it was tough emotionally to uproot ourselves even though we knew we wouldn't be able to sustain the commute. My son loved the K teacher.. and I loved her because she maintains a blog so that all the K parents could stay informed. I really miss that (my son rarely gives me any details about his day).

    There is no doubt we would have stayed at Sutro had it been closer to our home. As it was, getting through the park twice a day on 19th Avenue was hell.

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  10. My daughter started kindergarten at Sutro this year and while the first two weeks were hard for her (going from a 3-hr play based preschool to 6-hr kindergarten), she now loves going to school. Granted, the K teacher does not have the warmest personality but by all accounts, my child and the other children in her class love her (I interrogated other parents at length about this). My daughter says her teacher is her favorite person at school. Also, she keeps a blog to update parents on what the children are doing in the classroom. This is really helpful, especially if all you can get out of your kid at the end of the day is that he had fun at recess.

    Homework was another difficult transition for my daughter, but now she looks forward to doing it when she gets home. In the short time, she's been at school, she's really eager to show me what she has learned and is really proud of herself. It is wonderful to see this in her.

    Also, the uh-oh list is really a way to remind the children what the school rules are. For example, if one child hits another, their name goes on the uh-oh list. Personally, I feel its a good way to teach children the consequences of bad behavior. Also, if they correct the behavior, their name is erased. My child loves to show me the "happy" notes she gets, when I pick her up after school.

    Sutro is a small (260 kids), safe school, with kind, nurturing teachers and support staff. The principal is great and my personal observation is that the kids look very secure and happy. If I could wish for one thing, it would be more parent involvement. But, that is also changing and the PTA is looking to be more active and better organized this year.

    If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to go on the school tours and try to picture your child at the school. Is her shy personality more suited to a small, nurturing school? Does she have a big imagination and love art and music? Is she high energy and would do well in a less structured environment? As evidenced by the comments of the previous poster, every child is different and it is important that you find the right fit for your child and your family. Welcome June, and good luck!

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  11. Re "Are you insane" --people called me that a decade ago when I sent my older child to Alvarado. I was told I was sending my child to a "ghetto school." I'm not going to bother unpacking that phrase here, but let's just say that now people tell me how connected or lucky I must have been to get my child into such a popular school. We've all heard the same stories about Miraloma and others.

    Cobb has traditionally served African American kids of the Western Addition. Its test scores have never been good. To be frank about it, I do think these two elements are frightening to some parents. That's too bad, because I think it could be an amazing opportunity for a family that is willing to see what it has to offer.

    For those families who are attracted to the Montessori method, or whose kids particularly thrive in that environment, it is the only Montessori elementary program in our public schools. Because the teaching method is so intentional, and the teachers have to be trained it and committed to it, I don't think that Cobb is suffering from the teacher burnout or turnover that is the bane of many low-income schools. So your kid would really benefit from this intentionality and enthusiasm--and from the diversity experience too. I would expect that the program will attract more middle class kids, too, so it will become more and more a mixed school--which could be beneficial for all.

    Here is a link to a Beyond Chron article that paints a picture better than I can of what is actually happening there:

    http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=6972

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  12. I'm the Sutro-Switcher parent and I'm glad that happy Sutro parents have joined the conversation. I would hate to give Sutro a black eye by cavalierly posting how it wasn't a good fit for us. I should have thought through the impact my comments could have.

    Sutro has great scores and the staff seems sincere and committed. For us it was a bad match in a sort of one-two punch -- the temperament of the the child and the educational philosophy of the parents. However, Sutro was an underenrolled school this year and it does not deserve to be.

    We now recommend that parents attend tours and ask the following questions when they tour:

    1. Do you give Kindergarten homework?
    2. What is your philosophy of correcting behavior problems? How do you implement this philosophy?
    3. What are your expectations for parental involvement?

    ...ask these questions of yourself too and see how well you and the school match.

    Finally, I am grateful that SFUSD offers enough variety and flexibility that we were able to painlessly transfer to a different school that suits our family better and where we are all very, very happy.

    I am confident you will find a great school for your family, just as so many posters on this thread have. Good luck!

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  13. Here is a taste of the article on the Montessori program at Cobb:


    School Beat: Beyond the Talk -- Public Montessori, A SFUSD Test Case for Innovation and Access
    by Emily Green‚ May. 28‚ 2009

    "The spreading puddle of water slid across the floor. A small child stood watching it. The small pitcher he had been carrying lay to the side, completely upside down. The moment before, the tiny three year old had been happily making his way across the crowded Montessori Primary classroom, carefully balancing the too full pitcher in both hands. A slight misstep and now he had a problem.

    A determined look spread across his face and he raced over to grab a tissue. Tossed into the puddle, it was quickly swallowed up by the water. Casting his eyes around the room, Terrell lit upon a pile of cloths, folded and stacked by a small sink. As he began patting gently at the moving water, an adult observer seated across the room began to stir uncomfortably ...

    It was obvious that the water was only a few moments away from wetting another child’s mathematical work laid out on an adjacent rug. Unperturbed, the Montessori teacher surveyed the scene and calmed the observer’s anxiety by whispering, “Just watch.”

    No sooner had she spoken than the child charged across the room and seized a miniature but functional mop. He raced back to his puddle and began pushing the mop across it. Just as quickly, a slight child of five appeared at his elbow carrying a bucket and proceeded to gently explain and demonstrate the intricacies of mopping up water. “Squeeze it out,” she instructed Terrell as they worked together to prevent imminent disaster. The adult observer, already sitting on her hands, heaved a sigh of relief. The Montessori teacher, used to such scenes, continued on her rounds, gently guiding the children in her classroom through their morning work period.


    Imagine a method of education, previously found only in the private sector in the Bay area, capable of actively leveling the playing field for every child it serves, regardless of socio-economic or ethnic background. An alternative type of education flourishing for over 100 years on six continents is finally accessible for ALL San Francisco families.

    Sounds ideal, pie in the sky, but here in San Francisco, such a program has taken root and begun to grow in the Western Addition."

    ****

    read it all at:


    http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=6972

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  14. Sutro-switcher, I really appreciate your follow-up comments, and openness to the idea that different styles serve different kids/families. Would you mind saying where you ended up in the end, especially since it turned out well for you? Thanks.

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  15. William Cobb Montessori is an accredited Montessori-method program that is expanding from preschool to elementary. It is accredited through Association Montessori Internationale (www.montessori-ami.org). It is the real deal. They have grant monies and district funds to do this, and Emily Green is amazing.

    For all those parents who rue the kindergarten worksheets and any amount of teacher-directed regimentation, you should be checking this out. It is one of the true hidden gems of the district because of the demographics and test scores, and because most families in Pacific Heights never even consider public school anyway. This would have been discovered by Noe or Bernal families a few years ago.

    Seriously, this is one tour worth taking, one of those "I wouldn't have thought of this but" kind of schools.

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  16. Welcome, June! and thanks for blogging.

    I want to echo what the other person said about exposure to a third language. We've had many kids in our immersion program who spoke two languages at home that were not Spanish--Portugese, Italian, French, German, and Mandarin. The kids seem to do fine. It's all about context for them, and their little brains soak it all up.

    For that reason, I would encourage you to consider Rosa Parks JBBP, which is off of Geary Blvd in Japantown/Fillmore. It's an amazing program. Although it is not immersion, the kids get daily exposure to Japanese culture and language. They also get exposed to the Fillmore Jazz District and African American culture. The school has a big greening grant this year. And the parents are energized.

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  17. Sutro-Switcher, as I found when touring schools last year, ALL Kindergarten teachers at the 15 schools I toured give homework.

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  18. Did you ask that question at Cobb? I don't think the emphasis is on homework in the Montessori program.

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  19. My daughter has homework twice a week, which is quite different than every day.

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  20. 12:36 here. I didn't tour Cobb so I don't know what their K homework policy is. My son is at Commodore Sloat and has homework once/week. He just received his first homework assignment (4th week of school) because the school was re-thinking their K homework policy. In the end, they decided to keep it for various reasons.

    I think once/week is reasonable.

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  21. As I understand it Cobb has GE and Montessori? How do you know if you are applying to the Montessori program? Is it like immersion, you get to denote it on the application?

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  22. The forms are not out yet, but my understanding is they have two separate strands, GE and Montessori (a significant portion of the existing community wanted to keep a GE strand). Therefore you should be able to denote one or the other strands on the application--or apply twice if you like, once to each program.

    I also remember a mom posting something about last spring in Round 2--she toured in some desperation after going 0/7 and was shocked to find this amazing hidden program, and she loved the teachers and the head of the program. So she signed up--and was able to designate Montessori.

    If you have specific questions, I do believe they will answer them fairly quickly if you just call over there and ask about tours, or just ask your questions. Unlike Clarendon and other super-popular schools, they are not overrun with prospective parents and are therefore quite responsive. This same dynamic would make the tour itself more worthwhile than most, I'm guessing.

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  23. Also, my understanding is that the Montessori program is expanding into the lower elementary grades just this year. The thing about the GE program and Montessori program being two distinct strands was just worked out this past spring, which is why it didn't show up on the forms last year.

    Hopefully PPS will find a parent ambassador from there, and hopefully someone will also post about it here, so that prospective parents can hear real-world stories about it. I hope they have a booth at the school fair in November, too! (PPS, can you work on this?!).

    It hasn't gotten much buzz because it is just launching, but they have several years of teaching the preschool, and the staff and director are highly trained and stellar. A great example of a school to check out before it becomes popular--get in on the ground floor--the elements are in place with a strong educational vision and motivated, trained staff.

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  24. Hi 12:12 -- we Sutro Switchers are now at Creative Arts.

    There the answer to my 3 questions were:

    1. No homework until 2nd grade.
    2. Logical consequences to behavior following 'Responsive Classroom' approach.
    3. Lots of parental involvement, including reading a daily message board with the child in the classroom.

    For us that was a perfect fit.

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  25. Thanks for responding! Glad it worked out for you.

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  26. People are pushing Cobb. Hard to believe but evidently true. This just goes to show what lengths people go to to rationalize staying in the City at the expense of their children's welfare. I'd consider myself a poor/intensely selfish parent if I sent my child to Cobb. Cobb clocks in as the 4550th "best" elementary school out of 5119 (http://www.schooldigger.com/go/CA/schools/3441005681/school.aspx). An AP rating of 3 out of 10. Atrocious CST results. The Montessori program is quite new and speaking with the principal didn't make me feel incredibly optimistic about the school's prospects. Hidden gem ... yeah right.

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  27. This is *exactly* what was said about Miraloma about seven years ago. Seriously, almost word for word. Parents were called selfish for sacrificing their children to such a terrible school. Good thing they didn't listen to the bitter naysayers.

    No is insisting that anyone send your kids to Cobb if you check it out and don't like it. The point being made is, it's worth at least checking out because of:

    1) new vision, building on preschool success.

    2) stellar leadership.

    3) because it is a new program, you simply cannot judge it by the test scores of the kids who were in Grades 2-5 last year; you can only see for yourself what is happening.

    4) there are not so many "hidden" schools on the north side of town, so any new program that might be gem in that neighborhood is worth looking at.

    5) if you are interested in alternative approaches to education such as Montessori, this is chance to get it in a free, public school setting.

    I say: Talk to Emily Green if you can. Find one of the pioneer parents in the new program and talk to her/him. Go on tour and see for yourself. It won't hurt to look.

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  28. June, I look forward to your posts on schools on the NW part of town. We are looking as well and live in the NW part of town. I am curious as to what is on your list and if you are considering schools on the Southside of town. I do not find my list of schools that I am interested in touring to be that long and I am wondering how I will ever come up with 7 schools. Perhaps others thoughts will help. Last year we toured 4 schools, Peabody, Cobb, Rosa Parks and Alamo. I am going to revisit Peabody and Alamo (though I think this is too big for our family) but am not considering Cobb or Rosa Parks. I am also sad there does not appear to be any spanish immersion schools anywhere near by as if I lived on the southside that would be my first choice. We also plan at this point to visit Sutro, New Traditions and Argonne and figure will put CL on the list even if we don't get a chance to tour. Best wishes to you!

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  29. Check out Lafayette in the NW end too.

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  30. Ditto what 3:53 says - I lived that experience at Miraloma.

    'm a current Miraloma parent with a kid (currently in 7th grade) who was in kindergarten at Miraloma 8 years ago.

    It was a 3 out of 10 on the API index and same school index was even lower. It was underenrolled (260 kids) with kids that came in on buses from all over the city and had virtually no kids from the nearby area. Only 15 people, all siblings, listed it as a K choice that year (we were not one of them) and later it only filled up to 45 kids for 60 spots.

    An enthusiastic and welcoming principal, Marcia Parent, was making changes there. A handful of us relaunched the PTA that year, started giving tours and being available for LONG conversations as PPS Parent Ambassadors (I had dozens of 1.5-3 hour conversations with parents - all at Miraloma now - while unloading my dishwasher or folding laundry to market the school.

    Year after year, more and more families requested it and now people find it hard to believe that it was ever considered a 'scary' school. The Miraloma story has played out repeatedly at schools all over SFUSD.

    Hopefully, the parent with the bigger perspective can get past others sneery comments about Cobb and see that there are good things happening there. I honestly could say that I'd have no problems enrolling my elementary kid in almost any SFUSD school (same for middle school!)

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  31. The families that moved to Marin to avoid Cobb were secretly looking for an excuse to move, anyway.

    Just like a lot of families who opted for private.

    The kindergarten is GREAT at Cobb and it is a school on the rise.

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  32. Families touring schools also look at the upper grades, not just K.

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  33. "I honestly could say that I'd have no problems enrolling my elementary kid in almost any SFUSD school (same for middle school!)"

    Given the state of SFUSD schools that's a shocking statement. No chance would I mindlessly send my child to any school in this district.

    "The families that moved to Marin to avoid Cobb were secretly looking for an excuse to move, anyway.

    Just like a lot of families who opted for private."

    Everyone who goes private or moves out of the City to avoid an extremely poor school like Cobb is a racist? Child, please.

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  34. 6:47:
    Where does your child go to school?

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  35. "Child, please"? Really?

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  36. "Given the state of SFUSD schools"

    Most schools here are very good and some are excellent. A few are very bad. There is little in the middle. I too would send my kid to almost any. Not all, but most. Have you seen how the kids fare who belong to the demographic that I assume predominates on this blog (white, middle class, upper middle class)? They do very, very well in this district by all objective measures.

    I do call racism re Rosa Parks and Cobb. Studies have shown over and over that white parents avoid schools with a certain significant % of African American kids. This is well-documented. Schools that are far less advanced in turn-around and vision and leadership than Rosa Parks and Cobb are getting buzz and applications. I'm not saying that you, anonymous blogger, are a racist, because I don't know you, but I'm saying the trend overall has to do with race. I hope open-minded and open-hearted parents will continue to look beyond that to see what is actually going on in those school communities. Your kids will be absolutely fine in a school with that much focus, leadership, and community.

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  37. "Families touring schools also look at the upper grades, not just K."

    Yes, but in schools with changing demographics, the upper grades change as the incoming K's move up.

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  38. I'm a parent at Rosa Parks with a kid in JBBP. After several years here and attending a few tours and recruitment events, I have to agree that I can come to no other conclusion than racism as a major component in choosing to overlook schools with significant AA populations.

    Its shocking some of the questions I've heard from touring parents, like "Is it safe here?" (Do they ask this question at other schools?); "What is the ratio of African American kids to others in JBBP?" (Really?); "I heard that the JBBP kids get bullied by GE kids on the play yard" (Actually, the only incident of bullying i've seen was some mean girl drama from upper class JBBP kids which was promptly addressed by our amazing support staff of counselors, student liason, and teacher - not GE); "We think JBBP is amazing. I'd send my son here, but my husband refuses to consider Rosa Parks".

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  39. Curious...why do folks tend to give kudos to Rosa Parks JBBP and not Rosa Parks GE. Everytime I read about the school its the JBBP program. Can anyone speak to the GE program. Same with Cobb...keep hearing about the Montessori program but not the GE. Don't these schools have some overlap btwn GE and the other programs? Aren't they the same PTAs? Don't the schools share the same general code of conduct, principal philosophies, etc? Is there a sense that these special programs are helping the school as a whole. I really don't like the idea of an isolated program within a school.

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  40. To September 24, 2009 8:16 AM

    "I honestly could say that I'd have no problems enrolling my elementary kid in almost any SFUSD school (same for middle school!)"

    Given the state of SFUSD schools that's a shocking statement. No chance would I mindlessly send my child to any school in this district.
    -------

    I do not say this mindlessly, I say this having personally been to most of the SFUSD schools through my work.

    What about you?

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  41. Well said, 10:33 from Rosa Parks. Thank you for sharing the specific examples.

    I'm not 6:47 who wrote about parents secretly wanting to move to Marin anyway, but I do send my child to a school where the white kids are outnumbered by African American kids. In fact, the number of African American and Latino kids together constitute about 4X the number of white kids. And guess what? My palefaced kid is doing great both academically and socially. And actually, so is the school, which met all its sub-group targets this past year.

    I do believe that people are afraid of Rosa Parks and Cobb because of the % of African American kids. I believe that Harvey Milk would be way more popular than it is if not for the % of African American kids. And that Paul Revere has had a tougher time attracting apps than other immersion programs due to the % of African American kids combined with Latino kids. Overall trends don't lie, even if individuals have lots of reasons to offer why they don't consider these schools.

    In every one of these cases, there is excellent principal leadership and teaching, a strong vision, a magnet program of some kind, and an active parent community--all the elements of a turnaround. In several of these cases, they are better schools than some of the trophy schools, where your kid may very well get lost because they are so overcrowded. What they don't offer is favorable demographics that lead to top test scores whether or not the school is doing a great job. Nor the security of lots of white faces.

    I'm not trying to reach the families that want a close approximation of a private school, demographically, and therefore will only consider five or six school acceptable. But I would urge those families who might be willing to look past the gut assumptions about all this stuff to look at what these schools are actually doing in the classroom and as a community. Talk to parents at these schools, at length if you need to. You will be amazed to hear how great it is to be a part of one of these communities.

    That's not to say it's all roses and no thorns, but just that the benefits to you and your child of being part of a diverse community that is on the move can really be priceless--and your kid will still learn to read and write and do sums and be tagged for GATE and score advanced on all the tests and have a bright future. But he or she will do all this with a broader and more open view of the world than he/she might otherwise have access to.

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  42. "What about you?"

    Yes, I am directly familiar with many schools and no I wouldn't "mindlessly" send my child anywhere (your word, not mine). I certainly know of some schools that I absolutely would not consider at this time. However, there are at least 55 elementary schools that I would be okay with. That's most. Some I like more and some I like less, and some would be better for me logistically or that I would prefer programmatically. And I'm leaving out the bilingual programs for ELLs that we wouldn't need or qualify for. But yeah, I wouldn't panic or throw a hissy fit over my child going to any of almost five dozen schools. There is a lot that gets overblown in these discussions.

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  43. Very good question, 3:11, and a complex one.

    I believe the GE programs don't get mentioned because there is an assumption that families that haunt this blog would only consider a low-income school, especially one with a significant percentage of African American or Latino children, if there is a magnet program to draw them. I don't know if that assumption is correct, but I think it is the assumption.

    The GE programs remain in place because current parents and the wider community often want them. They want a traditional education and not a new language or new method like Montessori. This is the case at Cobb. Sometimes the community that is in place is cohesive and is concerned about yet one more change that could threaten that--example there has been a lot of change imposed from the top on the Black community of the Fillmore/Western Addition through urban redevelopment--there is a bad history there. But others are willing to try something new. So they offer the two programs.

    It can be tricky but rewarding in the long run to have multiple program strands at one school. Long ago at Alvarado, the two strands (SI and GE) were run very separately. That is much less the case now; all the kids have access to many of the same programming (art, music etc.) and the teachers arrange for many rotations, especially in the upper grades, for math and science and other subjects that mix the kids up. The PTA and SSC and principal address both.

    Rosa Parks and Cobb (and Flynn, and Paul Revere and Daniel Webster) are in more nascent stages. The possibility for miscommunication is there. You have to work at it, and the leadership has to be there. I would also say that if there is a middle class influx that is important for the middle class families to have some humility in working with the community that is there. Everyone has something to offer has to be the mantra. I've heard great things about the greening project at Rosa Parks--which is both strands--and also shared experiences with Japanese and Black cultures (Fillmore Jazz District and so forth)--that are appropriate to a school at that location.

    Really great question....something I would be asking parent reps at any of these schools.

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  44. Interesting discussion on Cobb and Rosa Parks. I wonder if the resistance from the existing parents in GE should not be considered more carefully as to whether the existing community even wants these special prorams and what is the percentage of the existing stuent body which has a demand for these programs. Flynn, Paul Revere and Daniel Webster - Webster is close to 50% hispanic, Flynn 55%, Revere closer to 60%. Rosa Parks and Cobb are over 40% and 55% african american. Flynn and Webster (don't know about Revere) have spanish immersion programs which make sense given the schools student body. Is there a great interest from the african american community in Montessori (originally from Italy) or JBBP? It would seem ot me that the african american community might be more interested in french which is the language of several african countries? I wonder if SFUSD has even bothered asking. Isn't it the goal to achieve diversity at the schools, programs which are isolating and not considered enticing by the existing school base really do not seem to be the ticket. Does anyone have stats on the number of african americans in the montessori or JBBP program? If they reflect the overall student body I would be interested in these schools.

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  45. I think that is a very good question, 8:50. I'd love to hear more about this dynamic from current parents at Rosa Parks and Cobb (of whatever program strand).

    I think some of these programs have been placed in lieu of closing schools with declining enrollments and failing test scores. There is no quick fix, but some hope that a new vision, more parental energy, and strong leadership can lead the whole school to more success--yet they are trying to do it without tearing down the existing community that remains important to a neighborhood that has often felt under siege. Over time, the community dynamic changes. Trust is built by working together. Over time, you can integrate best practices and build a community across several strands that works.

    Anyway, I think this is some of the thinking. There really is no magic pill that solves it all. Working together over time and building trust probably has the best chance. I do believe we have lot to learn from each other across these gulfs of culture and race and language and class.

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  46. OK, here's the big question, at the risk of being labeled a racist (BTW, before you accuse me, please know that I did marry into a race other than mine): what is wrong with not wanting to send your child to a school where a large percentage of the student population is basically made up of project kids? It doesn't have to do with race directly, it does have A LOT to do with socio-economic level if you will, in that project kids are generally much more likely to come from broken backgrounds and unfortunately they also happen to be predominantly black. That drives academics way down at the detriment of other kids who have the good fortune of having a caring family behind them. The correlation is undeniable, despite a few happy counter-anecdotes.

    Is this selfish? racist?

    Background: I am European-born and raised and did not grow up with the racial sensitivities and taboos that exist here, and rank lower in the scale of political correctness that afflicts social discourse here in the US. But I am genuinely interested in hearing others' opinions in regards.

    Thank you!

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  47. Don't forget to look at Creative Arts Charter school. Think of it as a free private school.

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  48. The racial things gets pretty boring pretty quickly to talk about. Some people are more comfortable with people who look like them, some people prefer true diversity. Some people feel quite strongly about whichever side they are on, and some on both sides call the other side names, and no one's mind ever changes. Do whatever works best for you and your child.

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  49. "what is wrong with not wanting to send your child to a school where a large percentage of the student population is basically made up of project kids? "

    Well, maybe some folks living in the projects might feel the same way you do. Maybe they'd like to send their kids to a better skill.

    Maybe they'd like to send their kids to say, Rooftop or Bessie Carmichael or Alvarado or Longfellow instead.

    That's why some of us like the lottery system, where there's an element of choice mitigated-with-luck, over a neighbourhood system.

    Also, not everybody feels the same as you. Both Starr King and Daniel Webster have a large %age of project kids, but there's plenty of middle-class parents willing to send their kids there in return for getting language immersion.

    Choice. It means what suits me doesn't have to suit you. It's great, isn't it?

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  50. 11:26

    What I would urge is for families to open their eyes/ears/hearts/minds in approaching a school like Rosa Parks. The operative prejudice, i.e., pre-judgment, or put it another way set of assumptions is that:

    * the school is "basically made up of project kids." [Do you know that is true?]

    * "project kids are generally much more likely to come from broken backgrounds" and

    * "unfortunately they also happen to be predominantly black"

    [I'm trying to figure out if this means that because the school has more black kids than others that they are probably "project kids" or if through your assumption that the school has mostly "project kids" that you assume they are predominantly black....I'm also not sure what is meant by "unfortunately."]

    * "that drives academics way down"

    * "at the detriment of other kids"

    A lot to unpack here. Yes, there is a correlation with SES factors and also race in terms of academic achievement. The degree to which that relates to factors like poverty in the home or to educational resources is a source of debate. What you don't mention is how high-scoring SES kids do when they attend a school that is SES-mixed. Are you so sure that academics are driven down, to the detriment of other kids? Really? Or are you expressing assumptions that you haven't really explored?

    You mention "happy counter-anecdotes." Well, guess what, some of these schools are trying very hard to show the way! They are offering strong leadership, vision, magnet programs, and SES integration to avoid the situation of being overwhelmed with the challenges of low-SES kids--but still being culturally appropriate for those kids.

    What I am urging prospective parents is to actually check these schools out--not the surface stats, but actually talk to parents at the school and find out how it is working out. What really is the population? How do the groups work together, and do their visions mesh? How are the academic standards really and how do high-SES children fare within such an integrated school. I'm not presupposing the answers, but I think you might be surprised.

    All I'm suggesting is that you get past your assumptions--your pre-judging before you've even really asked those questions.

    I also have ties to Europe. There is a LOT of racism in Europe; it is my experience that many those countries haven't dealt with it very well or directly with the reality of their imimigrant populations and the lack of conversation will become (already is a real problem). There is an assumption of cultural homogeneity that is not the case nor will it be the case, despite that fact that the sense of nation is in some sense built on that culture. We in the U.S., for all our problems, do not necessarily have a sense of one national culture--that is not our foundation--and we have done a lot more in recent generations to address racial tensions directly (despite our sorry history with slavery, Chinese exclusion, Japanese internment camps, and Native American genocide)--and so we are further ahead than even lovely Sweden, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain. Just sayin'. I hear Europeans talk about the American sensitivity with race and I say: check out the log in your own eye.

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  51. Thank you for your comments about Rosa Parks. It is a good school. It would be nice if they augmented the science program to match the great math program.

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  52. I think it is interesting how MOST people don't feel comfortable saying they are ruling out Rosa Parks because there are too many African American kids there. But this is the first time I've heard anyone object to the school based on the possibility that those kids live in projects.

    Most of the time, I hear people object to the school based on its LOCATION near projects.

    I've always found that ironic as these are often families who would quite happily enroll their kids in Phoebe Hearst preschool, which is nearby.

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  53. I just stopped by Cobb out of curiosity about the Montessori preschool program (now also in K.) By luck, I happened to talk to Emily Green. She is really, really, sharp. She is also highly informed and educated, and uses words like pedagogical in general conversation (for heaven's sake she might even be Ivy League educated...)She made me excited to have kids in the public schools (I do now) and excited about the current thrust of the district.

    What may interest the readers here is that she said, knock on wood, the Montessori program would likely be moving (actually she said it would certainly be moving) to the former Newcomer school building on Webster and Jackson, quite near Alta Plaza park. The plan is to build an entire Montessori school.

    Oh, and it was not at all scary or strange being in Cobb. It would have been fine to stay there too. I watched the GE kids on the playground and they were a very sweet bunch. I saw black kids, asian kids, and white kids. The adults I ran into were extremely helpful, well spoken and friendly. There were photos on the walls of kids playing trumpets, clarinets, flutes, drums, and guitar.

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  54. 2:10,

    I have read your comments and the others in this thread with great empathy. There is prejudice in the world, that is true.

    I would simply ask that you pounder the idea that there is a lot of prejudice in all peoples of the world, on every continent, not just Europeans. Europe is not really a homogeneous place. The history of Europe is replete with struggles between different peoples, even though there is no obvious way to different "race". The history of Africa and every continent of the world is no different.

    Having lived in Europe, Canada and the United States, I believe that the attempts to redress injustice know no one country. You can look at the struggles in Canada to address the historical repression of the Quebecois or indigenous peoples just to get an idea. Or the struggles between the Irish, Scots and English in the British Isles. There are many examples.

    I am not trying to minimize the tremendous struggle and endurance of African Americans.

    Suffering, it turns out, isn't confined to a single race. Broken marriages, poverty and injustice know every race and ethnicity, although, admittedly, not slavery.
    This is a difficult topic and I cannot fully convey my thoughts about it here.

    Suffice it to say that many people of many backgrounds will respond to the great academic program that is developing at Rosa Parks. Keep going.

    We are all born of a single common mother and father, somewhere in Africa, sometime between 200 and 400 years ago. Not long at all in the grand scheme of things.

    (Yes, I'm 'white' if it matters.)

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  55. I meant to say:

    We are all born of a single common mother and single common father sometime between 200 thousand and 400 thousand years ago, somewhere in Africa.

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  56. I am a public school teacher who sent her kid to private schools. Reason being is that I love the curriculum offered at my child's school. People choose schools for many reasons other than test scores or racial composition; and that is why I think the conversation on this blog should move towards pedagogy and curriculum. I've toured "awesome public schools", those on the "hot lists" of most parents and absolutely hated the curriculum or what I observed in the classroom. I've toured private schools that were lackluster as well. I think parents should look at the skills taught, pedagogy, emphasis on gross motor skills, creative expression and recess as the marker of a great school. This could be public or private, diverse or homogenous. Also, I sent my child to a Montessori preschool program in a neighborhood of mostly brown children and he learned how to write, phonetically pronounce the alphabet, colors, shapes, numbers, read and gross motor skills (cutting, holding the pencil correctly, eating properly at the table, etc.)

    I find it deeply disturbing to refer to children as "project kids" and that parents would allow that to determine whether they send their child to a school. I've been to the Cobb Elementary school and was very impressed with what I saw. I would also like to add that a strict Montessori curriculum will alleviate any doubts parents have because it does properly educate children of all backgrounds.

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  57. Thank you, 3:46! I love that our public schools--I believe in part driven by the lottery and parental preference being expressed loud in clear--are bringing in more magnet programs and innovative curricula. Montessori is a great program to offer a mixed-SES student body. Language immersion offers a different, but also helpful, approach. But if parents won't look past the book cover (for example, the population they think is at the school and about which they have doubts/fears) to ask questions about the curriculum and teachers and vision, they won't see they are being offered a chance for something great and in diverse, free, public school setting too.

    There are so many more good options now in this district than there were 10 years ago.

    I second that Emily Green at Cobb Montessori is amazing. If you are looking for a school with good odds on the north side of town, talk to her! You will be impressed, and amazed that you have a decent shot at landing a spot in a school that she is building--and that it is public, and free. This program will grow in popularity, but this year's cohort has a chance to grab it.

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  58. Cobb?

    Cobb Elementary ranks 4550th of 5119 California public elementary schools.

    (schooldigger.com)

    Bottom of the barrel.

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  59. Really. Do any of you send your kids to Cobb? Or are you just promoting it?

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  60. YEah, "a chance to grab it"?

    Are people insane?

    4550th of 5119?

    By all means, "grab it".

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  61. Wow, a three-fer, 8:52/8:28/8:16. Busy morning. So what's the specific bug up your you-know-what about Cobb that you are spluttering your coffee all over us about it? Did you get assigned there by default or something? If that's what it is, then I'm sorry you had such a difficult experience.

    I've been through the process with my kids, but I am helping my best friend find a place for her daughter (my beloved goddaughter). I'm helping scout schools and even tour a few as she works outside of San Francisco and has limited weekday hours. So yeah, I got skin in this game.

    This is the third time on this thread that you have cited these figures from schooldigger. I don't see anyone disputing Cobb's low test scores. There's a good community spirit there actually--but it's true, most of us middle class folks avoid schools with test scores like that.

    What your "4550th" mantra is not reflecting is the new Montessori program. It has been operating at the preschool level but just moved up into kinder. It is led by accredited teachers in the Montessori method and by a smart and visionary leader. None of the kids in that program are reflected in the test scores you cite, since the statewide tests are not administered until 2nd grade.

    This program is the kind of input that can turn a school around. It will attract middle/upper-middle class families who want access to a (free!) Montessori program, so that demographic shift in itself will increase the test scores, without a doubt. The Montessori method itself, with its patient, disciplined approach, has been demonstrated to work effectively with all classes of kids, including ones who are disadvantaged. So hopefully that will also contribute to better academic performance and help close the achievement gap.

    The thing is, the success of this program won't be visible for a few years, or at least not along the metrics that a ratings site like schooldigger uses. Surely Emily Green and her teachers will have some idea before then how it is going.

    The other thing is that the Montessori program may very well be moving offsite from Cobb itself, possibly even further into Pacific Heights. I personally hope this move does not discourage low-income families from attending, but we'll see. Pac Heights itself has a record of sending almost no children to public school, so it will be wide open for parents outside the 'hood, most likely. Or maybe they will make it a citywide school under the new enrollment plan (again, I hope so). Even it the program stayed at Cobb, I would consider sending my kids (or goddaughter) there if given the chance.

    My friend is looking at a variety of places, all with their pluses and minuses for her--it's all apples and oranges right now--so I don't know yet if this program will be on her list. I am recommending however that she find a way to speak with Emily Green and see it in action. Precisely because it's not one of the well-known schools you might throw on your list for padding if you need that, it is worth looking at more deeply.

    One thing I do know, these guys are the real deal in terms of Montessori. I believe it very well may be one of those ground-floor opportunities, like Miraloma or Alvarado of the recent past, or for that matter, West Portal of 25 years ago. Being one of the ground-floor families is not for everyone, but it's worth scouting. The biggest thing in its favor is a powerful vision/method in place already, with trained teachers and excellent leadership to carry it out. The heavy lifting is already underway. The other thing is you have a good shot in the lottery (oh, that).

    8:52/8:28/8:16, I wonder if you have actually seen the Montessori Kinder program in action, or talked with any of the teachers or Emily Green? Or have you only been sitting at home noodling around on the interwebs? Like I said, I'm sure it's not for everyone, but I think if you actually talked with these folks you could not be so disdainful.

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  62. I agree that if you put Cobb on your list, you are almost sure to get it in the lottery.

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  63. Let's be more precise:

    If you put Cobb on the list, and you are not poor, you are fairly likely to get it as at least one of your offers. If you also are lucky enough to get another school on your list, and that school is ranked higher on your list of seven, than you will be offered that other school instead.

    Playing out the scenarios:

    If put Cobb at or near the top of your list, you'll probably be offered it. If you put it at or near the bottom and the rest of your schools are super-popular, then you'll probably be offered Cobb, because the chances of getting the others are not so good. If you put it at or near the bottom and the rest of your list isn't super-popular, or only moderately popular, then chances are good to even that you'll be offered a different school. E.g., a list with Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk, Marshall, Glen Park, Cobb Montessori, Webster.....who knows what you would get?

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  64. The poster who complained about Cobb's test scores probably isn't smart enough to understand the analysis explaining why those scores are irrelevant in evaluating the new Montessori program.

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  65. For more information on the Montessori approach, check out this website of the organization founded by Maria Montessori, the Association Montessori Internationale:

    http://www.montessori-ami.org/

    The teachers at Cobb are trained and credentialed through this organization. I believe the intent is to build an all-Montessori school--perhaps at the school building @ Webster & Jackson--and get accreditation for the program as well. Again, if you actually check it out, I'm sure you can get much more specific information about training, accreditation, and future plans from Emily Green.

    The Montessori approach started in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Rome, but is has been shown to be effective with all kinds of kids. It focuses on the natural development of the individual child. There are all kinds of imitators of the "method" but I think it is important that this effort is seeking to link itself via training and accreditation with one of the venerable international organizations of the movement. It is not a "Montessori-lite" or "in the tradition of" or "using the methods of." It is Montessori.

    People pay a lot of money for Montessori schools all over the world. It is tremendous that this one is being offered for free, and to a mix of kids, considering where the original movement began, in the slums of a city.

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  66. Milwaukee Public Schools has offered Montessori, with popular programs assigned by lottery. Longitudinal research (on outcomes five years after finishing and moving to more traditional schools) has been promising, especially in math and science achievement:

    http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-173372867/high-school-outcomes-students.html

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  67. Hey 8:28am,

    I looked at Cobb, and no my older kids don't go there. But I have a younger child, and I was curious. My older kids also went public for preschool - the Presidio CDC -- which lots of middle class parents don't even consider. It was great! Not perfect, not as glossy looking as privates (particularly the version you see on tours...and yes, we did tour privates, and yes, I went to both public and private schools myself) but PCDC served my kids and our family. I'm curious about Cobb because my older two now go to school in the opposite direction from the Presidio, and I've already been pleasantly surprised by public options.

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  68. Seems naïve to me. Someone asks a legitimate question surounding concerns about sending their child to school with children that live in the projects. It turns out that drugs, crime, gang culture, violence and aggressive behavior do have a higher incidence in housing projects. There is also that problem of some families that don't value education. Instead of addressing these concerns, the replies on this blog pretend like they do not exist.

    I too could care less about the color of someone's skin, but I do have a problem with sending my children to school with children that glorify gang culture and violence.

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  69. The bottom line is that you should tour the school and observe the students/teachers before you jump to conclusions. Cobb draws students from all over the city as do other schools and is surrounded by houses worth well over $1 million. I would not exactly call the border of Pacific Heights the projects. I looked on Zillow, you can buy a house for $3.3 million today, a block from the school. Would you refuse to send your child to a private school because someone from the "projects" attended? I think not. While I don't advocate Cobb as a school that may or may not be a good fit,if you are going to rule out schools based on their proximity to the "projects" then your list is going to be extremely narrow as they are many throughout the city and I, for one, will not be surprised when you move to the suburbs. There is no evidence to indicate that students at this school or any other specific school in SF glorify the drug culture or violence or that their parents do not value education.

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  70. Without addressing head-on these broad-brush descriptive statements about whole groups of children based on where they live and how poor they are, I simply urge parents:

    Take a little time to see with your own eyes who is really at Rosa Parks and Cobb Montessori, what they are really like, and talk to parents and teachers who are actually part of the community and leadership about your concerns. I think you will be surprised, but even if not, at least your judgment will be based on real understanding.

    I swear, all the time that people spend reading and writing on this blog could be directed to checking out one or both of these schools in real life. Whatever decision you ultimately make about fit or not for your child, it will not hurt you to check these schools out in person, whereas frankly it is hurtful to talk in these terms about people whom you do not know. This is prejudice, plain and simple.

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  71. Phoebe Hearst, The Little School and Pacific Primary are all within a few blocks of housing projects, and yet, some of the city's wealthiest and snobbiest families all clamor for admission.

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  72. If Phoebe Hearst, the Little School, and Pacific Primary had the exact same stellar programs, experienced teachers, and beautiful facilities but by some miracle also happened to have a critical mass of kids who happened to lay down their heads every night in an apartment that happened to be located in publicly supported housing, those same families would be backing away so fast they would be tripping over their strappy-sandaled manolos. From kids who are 3, 4, and 5 years old. Because I heard they are supposed to be violent, drug-addled gang-bangers by that age.

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  73. I'd consider myself a poor/intensely selfish parent if I sent my child to Cobb

    While I don’t consider myself poor or intensely selfish, my daughter goes to Dr. William Cobb Montessori. I highly recommend it. She started when she was 2 yrs, 9 months. We needed a full-time pre-school for her to attend, as I work 50+ hours a week and my husband is in grad school. We both have graduate degrees already. I can not say enough good things about Dr. William Cobb’s Montessori program.

    My daughter has developed extremely strong relationships with her teachers, assistant teachers, and her peers. We have seen her sense of self, and independence fostered and nourished. She has learned to write all her letters, read small words, count to 100 by the time she turned four years old. She regularly sings us the ’50 states’ song, in order and without help. I could go on and on, as she loves it and we love it.

    Yes, I understand, there is some hesitation with the sociological make-up of the school, but I would not let that keep you from checking it out. The program is new, and the school has done an amazing job so far. We find that the backgrounds (race, age, etc) of each individual child in her classroom have contributed in a positive manner to her education. I would never try to choose a school for anyone, but I highly recommend this one for anyone that is interested in a strong education, and willing to look into a new program and/or pedagogy.

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