Saturday, October 17, 2009

Glen Park Elementary

Glen Park Elementary

Reviewed by Marcia Brady

The Facts

Location: 151 Lippard Avenue (Glen Park)

School hours: 8:40-2:40

Tel: 469-4713

Principal: Marion Grady

Web site: none except via SFUSD portal

School tours: 9 AM Tues., call to sign up.

Grades: K-5

Kindergarten size: 40 in 2 classes of 20, capacity is 44. One class is for Spanish ELL, which is not immersion.

Total student body: oops, forgot to ask because I was there before I knew I was doing this. It’s small.

Odds of getting in in Round 1:

12.8% on Adams's spreadsheet, but 5-year comparison of Round 1 demand shows 14 requests for 22 spaces in 2009-10. So I am unclear on the concepts here, obviously.

You should consider this school if you're looking for a place with:

Good organization, emphasis on comportment and traditional R & R skills, intimate atmosphere, solid school with an old-fashioned feel.

Class Structure / Curriculum:

2 K classes of 20 each, desks in rows. Kids did a lot of reciting in unison in one classroom, but the teacher had also combined memorization of calendar information with pattern recognition base-10 and base-5 counting, and other exercises that went beyond memorization. There is a big, big emphasis on discipline and behavior here: all students are charted daily from “green” (good) down to “red” (note or phone call home) for behavior, and they move paper clips on their own chart up or down throughout the day. Teachers use homework folders as “in/out” boxes to communicate with parents about behavior and academics.

Curriculum includes Reading First, standard math, social studies integrated with Language Arts and Technology, science, tech literacy, library media literacy, penmanship. Also has special ed for severely impaired kids.

Campus/Playground:

Extremely clean 1930s building, nicely renovated with old features like wood doors, old hardware incorporated into the renovation. Dedicated lunchroom which serves as home base for afterschool programs. Auditorium with gym floor which serves double duty for PE and Assemblies (no basketball hoops or PE equipment that I could see – kids were running obstacle courses built from refrigerator boxes and chairs). Upper and lower yard are asphalt, with a new play structure in the works.

After School programs:

Free afterschool learning club.

Additional Programs:

None beyond enrichment provided by district, that I could see.

PTA:

New and in growth mode. Parents said there were lots of opportunities. I didn’t yet know to ask about numbers or funds raised, but it’s clear both are small.

Language program(s):

Spanish bilingual for English Language Learners.

Library / Computer Lab:

Small automated library, small media/computer center which had just been equipped with new Mac computers.

Arts:

Instrumental music, chorus, dance, visual and performing arts experiences weekly (includes dance and rhythm, circus skills, chorus, ballet for 2nd and 3rd graders).

PE: 1x/week.

Recess/Lunch:

2 20-minute recess sessions daily. Recess supervised by teachers and parent volunteers who organize games. Close supervision discourages bullying. Lunch in two 20-minute shifts, with kids sorted by age. Snacks in AM and aftercare are provided by school with no snacks from home allowed for reasons of equity.

Tour Impressions:

The tour was low-key with just parents and a handful of visitors, no principal. We spent a few minutes in each K classroom (one was being taught by a sub; the other by the regular teacher described above), and the majority of our time in the lunchroom. The special education kids were there eating with their paraprofessionals, and I was pleased to see that both tour parents knew the names of kids who came up to interact with us.

The parents were very earnest and very happy with the school; one was treasurer of the PTA and emphasized that all skills and contributions were gratefully received but that there was no pressure and no parent cliqueyness. The school clearly does not have the resources of some of the more established “trophy” schools, but they run a tight ship. I could see it as one of those schools that a group of parents decide to enter all at once and transform, but I wonder what would happen to the culture already there. It almost seemed like a world of its own, and I found myself wondering if, when middle-class parents move in and spearhead changes, the people who were there first are always happy. I would like to know more about the principal of this school, how she is serving the existing population there, and what she envisions for the future.

It’s a very sweet little school, and would be perfect for a kid whose home environment was challenging and/or who did well with a lot of structure, routine, and clear expectations. It would also be good for parents who have specific worries about bullying to investigate, since recess is so closely supervised and discipline monitored so tightly. I would not recommend it to parents of children who are offbeat or impulsive, or parents committed to nontraditional education.

I keep hearing people say that tours can give a lot of false impressions, so I hope that parents who are involved with Glen Park will chime in and correct any false impressions I got and have inadvertently reproduced here.

11 comments:

  1. Excuse the line spacing issues. Apparently Blogger has no good way of solving them: things look much different when you preview than when you publish the post. Sorry!

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  2. I think in terms of the management system and structure, you need more than a few minutes in a classroom. Color card charts/clothespin charts are hugely popular, and having one doesn't mean that a classroom is highly structured in a way that controls a child's initiative. And most classrooms have a fairly structured routine for the day.

    Speaking as a Kindergarten teacher, I think that signs of a high-structure management system would be things like assigned seating, line order, raising one's hand before speaking required, and so on.

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  3. Also, I notice that you seem concerned with unison recitation. I can certainly see how some recitations could look and sound regimented. I've seen Kindergartens that look like boot camps. On the other hand:

    1. Some of the skills aligned to state standards in Kindergarten are aural/oral (phonemic awareness skills) and lend themselves well to short bursts of whole-class instruction.

    2. Reciting in unison allows children who are shy/learning the language to participate without necessarily being heard. The longer I teach, the better I get at pulling out one voice from a group, too. So I can get an oral assessment to help differentiate instruction.

    3. There are some things that you might want to cover every day but not spend much time on: recitation is useful here.

    4. Most children LOVE singing, dancing, and reciting together. Apropos of nothing, at least once or twice a week a child in my class will burst out in song or counting (usually while doing desk work or construction or dramatic play) and everyone else will join in. It's fun to see and fun for the students.

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  4. 8:33, yes all that was there too. It is really really helpful to hear from teachers about what accomplishes what, so thanks to you and 8:43. I have no experience with elementary curricular or classroom issues, and knowing about preschool methods (Montessori vs. Reggio Emilio vs. Waldorf, etc.) doesn't really help.

    I wish someone would blog separately about curriculum!

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  5. Sorry that you weren't feeling the love on this one. As a current parent, I have been trying to respond to this post for days but I still can't quite articulate why it bothers me in a constructive way. I will just say that we are happy with our choice and our kindergartener is flourishing.

    Ultimately, I would encourage people to check it out on their own. It is a sweet little school with a lot to offer.

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  6. Hm, wow, I think I said almost all positive things about the school, 12 AM. I hope people do check it out. I'm not convinced it's the best fit for my own kid, but am trying not to blab on and on about My Precious Little Flower because really, who cares?

    Please do respond with what you like and know best about the school, though, even if you don't feel like responding to my particular impressions. Parent comments are actually more useful than tourist comments!

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  7. I toured Glen Park this week, and thought I would leave my two cents. I live not far away (though too far to walk), and since this school has a fairly bad, or rather nonexistent, reputation around here, I was shocked to love it.

    I couldn't get over how big and spacious and clean it felt--no bunglows (unless I missed them), high ceilings, old-world feel. The principal herself led our tour and talked at length about the curriculum and what she believes in. Her very old-school demeanor is a put-off to some, I believe, and I was a bit intimidated by her as well. However, she is clearly firmly in charge of her school.

    Both K classes I saw were adorable. In one the kids were standing with their teacher to sing a song about the letter T, and as soon as the little voices rang out, I couldn't stop the tears (so cute!). Academics are apparently strong here, which, whatever your philosophy, can't be a bad thing. But the school was filled with art, and has the same arts curriculum as other schools (teaming up with the ballet and other professional arts, music in 4th and 5th grades, etc). But what really got me was the library. The blogger called it small, but perhaps we saw a different room, because this was the biggest and most beautiful library I have seen yet in a public school. It was as big as the children's room in most city libraries!

    Overall, I cannot see what there could be to dislike at this school. True, the student body was extremely diverse, so if one is looking for a school with 50% white kids, like Miraloma or Grattan, then this is not the place for you. But as far as the education the school offers (as opposed to your chances of becoming best friends with all the other parents, admittedly a draw), it was pretty fabulous. I'm not sure it's going on our list, but I wouldn't be upset if we were assigned here. And if it were walking distance, it might well be number one for us. There you go--just wanted to give this school some love.

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  8. Marcia, I agree with 12:00 that the review has a vaguely negative feel, even though nothing specifically negative was written. I'm sure it was not your intention.

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  9. Today I toured Glen Park elementary. I had read some mixed-to-negative reviews and had quite low expectations going in. It is our neighborhood school, and within a short walk from home. I have to say with all honesty that I was astonished at how beautiful, clean, and lovely this school was today. The Principal led the tour without any parents present (the parent liaison had an emergency to attend to) and I was impressed with Mrs. Grady's vision for the school and her achievements, which she is quite proud of. I saw art on the walls, a very cute decorated pumpkin display, a spacious, gorgeous library/reading room, an amazing computer lab, well-behaved kids, a lovely auditorium, and spacious, colorful classrooms. I would like to talk with more parents of children who attend there, since there is no PTA in existence, but rather a recently-formed (we were told last year) PTO with the intention of community building. Enrichment programs and the new planned outdoor structure/learning space, has been paid for by grants. I think this school has so much potential and is probably much better than its reputation suggests...

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  10. We are parents to a kindergartner here. So far, we've found it to be a great spot. Our teacher is super dynamic and accommodates a lot of different learning styles in her teaching. They are doing the alphabet march, painting, writing to pen pals in North Carolina, singing, dancing, etc. My kid is thrilled to go to class every day.

    Mrs. Grady, the principal, said that she wants to create joyful learners and she has created a spot where that magic happens. We were drawn to the place by its close proximity to our home, how happy and engaged the kids seemed, and by the high standards that most of the school seemed to have. I've attended lousy public schools as well as fantastic private schools and the place reminded me more of the private schools in philosophy. There are no excuses made. I had heard only negative things about her, but I like her. She has been very welcoming and accommodating to well thought out ideas for community building and our teacher has been open and accommodating to parent involvement in the classroom now that the children have adjusted to school.

    I've been pretty amazed at how much my kid has picked up in her short time there. Our kid has a peer group that is wonderfully advanced. That has laid to rest a few concerns, that we as anxious, over-educated, "middle-class" people had. And we are not the only "middle-class" family there. Mind you - it's not some hidden tony private school, filled with children of privilege. But I wanted my kid to see that there is a broad spectrum of people and experiences out there and I have a pretty immovable faith that our family values can overcome any nefarious influences that may come our way from school.

    We organized a welcome picnic based on the Back to School Night chit-chat that had a decent turnout for our first event. The PTO is having a Pajama Movie Night in two weeks and I am looking forward to seeing how that turns out. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the school turns out in a few years. Hopefully, more parents with resources will take plunge, but if not, at least I know that my kid is getting a great education.

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  11. I just wanted to add my experience points from touring this school

    * Yes, it's old fashioned, the principal has been there 27 years, but it's a comforting school.

    * They are integrating project based learning

    * lunches are mixed up like K 2 4 , then 1, 3, 5 together

    * Gym teacher is a prototypical male gym teacher. not very innovative, but gets the work out of them

    * I was concerned about the open gates to the play yard. Seems you can use front and back of school to drop off (except K)

    * K classes are secluded in an interesting way from the rest. They have own bathrooms in them. Other classrooms have a cubby room for back packs, etc.

    * Everyday math was underway

    * GATE program 4th and 5th graders

    * Totally great library

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