Monday, October 5, 2009

Dr. William Cobb Montessori

Many of you encouraged me to look into the newish Montessori program at Cobb elementary. After reading more about the Montessori method Mathias and I were still very unsure if Montessori would be right for Maddie, however we decided it would do no harm to take a look. However upon calling to arrange a tour I was informed that this was only open to incoming kindergartners who were already in a Montessori program, and since Maddie is in a standard preschool and not a Montessori preschool this school is not even an option for us.

Another school crossed from the list.

37 comments:

  1. I thought the school was supposed to serve disadvantaged kids, not kids who went to Montessori preschools.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That seems to be a ridiculous prerequisite since the district is trying to promotoe Cobb as a viable alternative for those in the neighborhood.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Did they really say that? That seems discriminatory.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's just not true. Call EPC and clarify.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Is this even allowed? They can't exclude some kids from attending the school. That makes no sense.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It would be nice if we could assume that the person answering phones at the school would know, but this is a new program and SFUSD is a bureaucracy, so there might be some misinformation floating around, even at the school itself.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I called the Montessori program directly last week and left a message for the person in charge of the program, not Cobb's main office. She called me back today and told me this, if you find someone else to tell you otherwise let me know and how to reach them. I guess it serves disadvantaged youth, but you need to start as part of the preschool not as a kindergartner??

    ReplyDelete
  8. What makes this requirement even more onerous is that many preschool Montessori programs require that your child start by age 2, four months -- in other words, this isn't even like someone interested in the program for two years from now could switch their 3 year old to a Montessori program -- they'd be too late for many Montessori preschool program's admissions requirements. This requirement needs to go. Definitely discriminatory. Also really silly.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I know a family who started their kid in a (private) Montessori school for K. The child had been in a more traditional preschool before that. He's in 2nd grade and thriving. I think this requirement is silly.

    ReplyDelete
  10. And how would the district even know if a child went to a montessori preschool. I'm not advocating lying, but does the standard form even ask this question? I know it asks if the child attended preschool and maybe even for the name of the school, but who checks whether the preschool uses a montessori program.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can't believe this would be a requirement. I thought there were no prerequisites for PUBLIC school...
    Very puzzling.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yeah, it strikes me as odd that kids can go into an immersion program in K not knowing a word of the target language, yet you wouldn't be able to enroll in a Montessori program w/out prior Montessori experience? I checked the SFUSD website, though, and I couldn't find anything on the Montessori strand at Cobb. There was info on the onsite preschool, but I couldn't find anything on entering the K Montessori program. A puzzler, for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Seems exclusionary to me without justification. Do they only allow kids who have been through their program or other Montessori programs for pre-K? I thought not attending preschool added to the diversity factor and this seems to be opposite. If it is accurate than it should be clearly spelled out in the literature so that folks know they have to go through the pre-K program.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sort of opens a question - what about natural attrition? Does that mean Cobb Montessori (as well as language schools) get smaller class sizes because kids are not allowed in after in this case pre-k or in 1st grade for language?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Actually as the program is growing there are some possibilities of children entering at kindergarten. But generally, children in a Montessori program begin in the primary- 2.9 years to 4 years of age. This is because many of the skills utilized later are learned at this early age.
    The SFUSD Montessori is inclusive and strives for diversity. During this time of transition, it is a good time to "switch over" if you believe that your child is independent and would thrive in this child-centered environment.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Another thing . . . if this is true, the district better make sure to let people know in huge bold letters so no one wastes a choice on Cobb only to find out they would never qualify.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I thought there was someone who posted here last year. As I recall, she was desperate, going into R2 0/7 etc, and stumbled on Cobb Montessori and signed her kid up on the spot. She didn't mention having a Montessori background. I do believe the program is expanding and I'd bet there is leeway....much as there is with the Mandarin programs in R2 for English speakers.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I posted a little about this situation in August. I do think it is confusing, and (as you can read below (in "Part 2"), even Rachel Norton thinks kids can be admitted in KG (and she didn't mention they need to have Montessori experience), though kids who start the program at Cobb in preschool have priority. (So maybe it is a moot point, since I don't know how many "openings" there might be at that age.)

    Part 1
    ""M said...
    I just wanted to mention that I did some programs at Cobb (for the first time) this summer, and was very impressed with the students and teachers… and the spacious classrooms, too. There were three (if I am remembering correctly) Montessori classes with the ages of the kids in each multi-age classroom spanning from three to six years. (The classic Montessori set-up.) 

Cobb is in the process of adding Montessori for upper grade classes, too. (I know that has been mentioned here before.)

    However, there seems to be some controversy about the situation, since there is a contingent of parents and other community members who think too many GE programs have been converted to immersion or to other special programs (in this case, Montessori), and that while these new programs are popular with many middle and upper middle class families, they may not be as desirable to the families of the kids already attending the schools. (Anyone else hear of this perspective?) So, there are parents and other community members who think the Cobb GE program was already doing a good job, and who feel the Montessori program is also valuable, but shouldn’t lead to the demise (or shrinkage) of the GE program. 

As a result of the district's response to these concerns, it seems there may soon be two schools, with the new (Montessori only?) school on Jackson while the GE program remains on California. This is just from a quick reading after a Google search, so maybe someone else has more info to share. At any rate, for anyone interested in a Montessori education, it might be worth checking out the (apparently evolving) plans for this program. 



    One thing I am not sure about... in my Google search, I read a letter from a Cobb GE parent which seemed to indicate a student would have to start the Montessori program while still three? But that didn’t seem to jibe with what one of the teachers told me, and also seemed at odds with what I thought I had read at this site…. though I know it can sometimes be a requirement of Montessori programs that kids have to start by age three
    August 3, 2009 1:44 PM

    rpnorton said...
    Your lurking BOE member chiming in - I haven't been to the site for a while but once I read this thread I thought I should wade in:

1)There are NO plans to open a Montessori on Jackson St, at least as of a month or so ago. 

2)The Montessori and GE programs will continue to operate as strands within Cobb Elementary. Originally the plan was to have the entire school become Montessori but that has been rethought -- partly because members of the community pushed back and wanted to keep a GE strand at Cobb. 

3)When looking for a K for my oldest I did my touring over two years as well. I looked particularly at schools I considered marginal, so that I could go back after a year and see what trajectory the school was on. (I am someone who really likes certainty so I focused more on schools I thought we could get rather than "reach" schools). We did not consider private schools.
    August 5, 2009 2:37 PM

    ReplyDelete
  19. Part 2

    M said...
    Thanks for the Cobb info, Rachel! 

My information came from a response to an entry (5/31/09) at San Francisco Arts and Lit, titled: 
"SFUSD plans to close yet another general education program in the Western Addition" 
http://tinyurl.com/lhnsnt



    Here is the response:

“Wednesday Reynolds-Wilcox Says: 
June 3rd, 2009 at 23:21

SFUSD representative Kevin Truitt (whose job title includes the phrase “Leadership and Equity), surprised and delighted both the traditional education and Montessori education communities in the Western Addition by coming to the June 1, 2009 meeting at Dr. William L. Cobb elementary school with a proposal to please all.

The current plan is that BOTH programs will remain options in the Western Addition. In mid-June letters will be sent to families of both programs confirming that the Montessori will indeed get its proposed future home on Jackson Street and that general education will continue on at the Dr. William L. Cobb site.”

(I guess that was just a hoax.… or some kind of misunderstanding.)



    The other question I have, Rachel (if you are still reading), is do students have to enroll in the Montessori program while they are still three (for the multi-age classes spanning ages 3-6)... or can they come in for KG without that background? And if it is true that students have to already be enrolled at a younger age to qualify for KG participation, will that be true for the older grades, too, as they are added? (That it will sort of like immersion, in that you have to get in from the beginning?)

Thanks for any insight!
    August 5, 2009 3:30 PM

    rpnorton said...
    Thanks for the cite - that rumor was circulating in May/June and being spread by some in the Cobb community. But when I asked Superintendent Garcia about this rumor back in late June he clearly and definitively told me there were no plans to relocate Cobb's Montessori program at Jackson St. 

I don't think the Montessori is like an immersion program in that children cannot transfer in if they didn't start in the program. I believe that children enrolled in the preschool Montessori at the Cobb site -- which includes mostly children from the surrounding Western Addition neighborhood -- are getting priority to continue in K spots at Cobb but I might be wrong about that.
    August 5, 2009 8:52 PM

    ReplyDelete
  20. Why can Cobb give priority to their CDC (Child Development Center) preschoolers when the other schools can't, for ex. Grattan, Argonne, Jefferson, all have CDC preschools, but these kids go in the lotto with everybody else. They get no priority for K. Seems seriously discriminatory. We tried to get into the Cobb CDC preschool but only a few spots are reserved for non-low income people, and we did not qualify low income. So we are at a private Montessori but I had hoped we'd at least have the same chance as everybody else at the Cobb K program. How is this fair? Grrrrr. And you know, those of us looking for K 2010 are getting screwed the most b/c SFUSD and EPC don't care b/c the whole system is changing next year. Totally sux!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Did you waitlist for the Cobb CDC? I was on the waitlist for Grattan's CDC as a non-low income family and we were offered a spot in August. Prior to that they were very vague and a bit discouraging about whether there would be any openings. You never know and if this rumor is true (which I'm not convinced it is), being at the Cobb CDC might improve your odds.

    ReplyDelete
  22. 9:50 pm said: Why can Cobb give priority to their CDC (Child Development Center) preschoolers when the other schools can't, for ex. Grattan, Argonne, Jefferson, all have CDC preschools, but these kids go in the lotto with everybody else. They get no priority for K. Seems seriously discriminatory.

    Oh, please. Discriminatory to WHOM? People who want an edge to get into a highly-requested school. The CDC-K-5 connection for Cobb Montessori is a strategic pilot program: seeking to attract more parents to an underenrolled school AND make a great eucational option available to low-income families. The other schools you mentioned: Jefferson, Argonne, Grattan -- they don't exactly need to attract more families, and the CDC programs are not offering something unique. A child who is thriving in the Jefferson CDC will likely thrive in any elementary school; a child who is thriving in a Montessori preschool should have the option of continuing in Montessori in elementary school, since that's originally how Montessori was conceived: as an educational model, not a preschool model.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'd keep checking back with Cobb through the process, especially if your child is in a Montessori program already, but even if not. It's a program in transition. As they expand the program, more spaces may open up. Sort of like the Mandarin programs that open up to English speakers later in the process. It would be a savvy move to keep this on the table.

    ReplyDelete
  24. How is this program "to attract more parents to an underenrolled school AND make a great eucational option available to low-income families." The school is already full of low-income kids. The new program is only open to low-income kids (who qualify for the pre-K) program. If the goal is to attract more people, I don't think this is going to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I don't think all the information is out there about how it is going to work. They're trying to build a whole school for heaven's sake. Keep your eyes open for more information.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Well, if diversity is one of the goals of the district, this program is not in line with that goal by excluding all families who were unaware of the prerequisites to attending. It would be nice if we could get a clear answer. It appears not event the SFUSD Board members are knowledgeable about the prerequisites and are in conflict with the program head about whether or not the school is moving. How is the average joe or jill supposed to figure it out?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Perhaps PPS can help clarify? Sometimes their staff can get information where the ordinary parent gets the runaround or vague answers. It would be nice to know if Cobb Montessori will be a potential option in any round.

    It's also possible that decisions are still being made, for example re whether the school is moving to the Jackson site and if it is expanding.

    ReplyDelete
  28. 2:27, the Pre-K program has a number of tuition spots and a number of low-income spots. There is a long waiting list for the tuition spots now that the Pre-K is Montessori. The Montessori program is definitely attracting more families to Cobb, so I disagree, the strategy IS workinng.

    ReplyDelete
  29. But if those kids remain on the long pre-K wait list and don't get in, then they are not getting in the K either. So really no change in the school (other than the long wait list for preK)

    ReplyDelete
  30. 40% of the spots are tuition spots, and they do get filled. As I understand it, they and the 60% non-tuition kids get first dibs on continuing to K.

    Assuming not all of these kids go onto K, there very well may be spots that open up for others. What is unclear to me is when they would open these up and on what basis (striving for the same 60/40 mix that they currently have, or for the diversity index's 50/50 ideal mix of poor to not-poor, or what?).

    What's cool is seeing more middle class families striving to get into a school that was previously scorned.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The difference with Grattan and other CDCs is that those kids are not integrated with the elementary school classrooms.

    At Cobb, the kindergarteners are in teh same classroom as the 3-year olds. It is a single, mixed-age classroom, which is typical Montessori. Part of what makes it work is that the 3-year olds are mentored/coached by the older kids, and later get to have the experience of being the ones mentoring the younger ones. That is part of the magic and the reason why you want those preschool-aged kids already enrolled to stay.

    My guess is they'll have few K spots since most of the preschool-aged kids will stick around and they'll be taking in new 3 year olds. Maybe the person who answered the phone meant that most of the K spots would go to those already a part of a mixed age Montessori class at Cobb?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Yes, it will be interesting to see how they deal with attrition and how much attrition there is.

    In the Spanish immersion programs, they add fairly newly arrived kids with limited English in the upper grades (2-8), because they cannot add kids who have no Spanish at all. You might say they shouldn't add kids with limited English either, but they are also seeking spots for those kids. This system has advantages and disadvantages. The teachers do well with it, considering, and the kids are skilled at helping the new kids out. They learn English quickly because it is half the classroom time in the upper grades plus the dominant (though not only) language on the playground.

    Not sure how it works in Montessori to add new kids. Maybe a few would work okay.

    ReplyDelete
  33. My son goes to the Montessori program at Cobb. He's four and he started this year. He's considered Pre-K. I applied when he was three, and we did get a call around Oct/2008, but he wasn't completely potty-trained, which was a requirement. So, we stayed on the list and got in this year.

    This is what the parents have been told regarding both enrollment and the move to Jackson. We have been told that we have to fill out the lottery form the same as everyone else, but that our children who are already in the program will have priority for the kindergarten slots for next year. I agree with another poster who explained that the reason they do this is that in a true Montessori classroom the age range is 3-6, to allow the older students to assume leadership roles. The age groups in the classroom have to be balanced, so there aren't going to be that many slots open to children not already in the program. The children who start at 3 or 4 then have the opportunity to stay with most of the same classmates and the same teacher before moving on to another mixed age classroom of 1-3 graders.

    As to the move to Jackson, I am actually quite alarmed that the school board member who posted is denying that the Montessori program has been offered the Jackson location when my husband and I attended a parent's meeting where the same Kevin Truitt mentioned above, basically said we would be moving to Jackson after the board adopted the school assignment system and assuming they decided the Montessori program was in alignment with the new system.

    I don't know if I agree with statements that the process is discriminatory. The program is 60% subsidized and 40% tuition-paying. I realize that I am biased because if it is discriminatory then clearly my family is benefitting from it. But I do agree that the enrollment procedure should be more transperant. So that people know in advance if they want the Montessori strand, they need to apply for preschool in order to get into kindergarten.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Montessori Cobb parent, thanks for posting, and congrats for getting your kid in on the second try.

    I don't think the admissions process is discriminatory with the 60/40 split and preference to kids in the preschool program. What I am wondering is does the school leadership have a plan for attittion--that is, is there room to add kids when (inevitably, everywhere) attrition occurs? And will there be expansion in the upper grades at all? Or is it really limited to kids who have AMI-accredited Montessori experience? I realize there is a logic to keeping the integrity of the program intact (as with language fluency in the immersion programs), but maybe there is room to add some kids. Do you have any idea, as one of the parents onsite?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Those are really good questions. Unfortunately, I am so new to the site, that I don't have the answers for you. I would imagine that there is some sort of plan for attrition but I don't what it is. And the elementary program is either new this year or only a year-old, so I'm not sure if they even know what their plans are. This is why the move to the Jackson site (or some other dedicated site) is so important, otherwise expansion won't be possible. Sorry, I can't be more helpful. I'll try find out.

    Montessori Cobb Parent

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thanks, Montessori Cobb Parent. It would be great to have more info.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Wow! We noticed this public montessori at the enrollment fair and signed up for a tour. Today we went to see it. A few of the current parents spoke to us and one of them told how his first grader has no assigned homework but actually comes home and starts writing, reading and researching things he has learned in school that day. An amazing spirit there--tons of diversity--in fact it reflects the nearby Western Addition neighborhood, children with bright eyes and warm smiles busy, busy, busy with individual activities. This is pure joy in the classrooms. And it's public!!

    ReplyDelete