Monday, October 19, 2009

What you should know about Middle School

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Everett Middle School; 450 Church Street @ 16th St.

Transportation: Muni 22,33, 37, J; 16th St. Bart station; Free parking, enter on 17th Street

In English with Spanish interpretation

Everett Middle Schoolis sponsoring a Middle School Parent Panel event focusing on topics of interest for those applying to public middle schools .

* Get tips and advice on key enrollment dates, information and resources.

* Learn about how various middle schools handle:

o Electives and class scheduling;

o Safety and transportation;

o Language Immersion programs;

o GATE (Gifted and Talented Education)

* Talk with PPS Parent Ambassadors at this event about their middle schools

Co-sponsored by Parents for Public Schools-SF.

Sorry, but KidsWatch will not be available for this event. For more information, please contact PPS-SF at 861-7077 or


  1. I just had one of my best public school parent friends -- one of the most rah-rah public school stalwarts -- tell me she had pulled her kid out of public rather than go into one of the large public middle schools in the city. The kid is going to a private school. This has totally shaken me! She says that the new thinking among many parents is that SFUSD is great for elementary and high school, but, for middle school, you've got to suffer through three years of paying private school tuition. She is not alone -- I've got a bunch of parents doing the same thing. Yet, I see countless postings on some of the threads below with parents talking about how wonderful the public middle schools are in the city -- how it is easy to get into a pretty good one; how their kids are thriving; and how safe and nurturing the schools are. And I just can't figure out the disconnect here. Can someone elighten me on what is happening here? Is it that the middle schools in SF work for only certain kinds of kids (and, if so, who are they?) or is it the schools are really wonderful places and my friend and others who are going private are just overreacting to the admittedly large size of some of these institutions. Anyone have any thoughts?

  2. I'm an SFUSD middle school booster; my kids' 6 years total at Aptos Middle School (2002-2008) were really successful. My kids were happier and got a better education, more direction for the future, and more encouragement to develop their interests and talents than I got at a pre-Prop. 13 suburban California junior high school.

    But of course everyone has unique experiences. I wouldn't discount that. One point, though -- your friend is just dead wrong in saying that this is NEW thinking:

    "She says that the new thinking among many parents is that SFUSD is great for elementary and high school, but, for middle school, you've got to suffer through three years of paying private school tuition."

    The opposite is true. That attitude was MUCH more pervasive 7-8 years ago than it is today. That's anecdotal, but it's so clear-cut that I'm confident in saying it. Among other things, the view used to be that only a tiny number of SFUSD middle schools were acceptable (as with elementaries), and now considerably more are viewed as successful and desirable. (The rising APIs of schools like Aptos, Roosevelt and Marina bear that out, too -- as does the soaring popularity of James Lick.)

    So I would be dubious about your source's familiarity with the overall situation. That doesn't mean her own personal experience isn't valid, but it's her own personal experience. It's not universal and, however often it occurs, is definitely less common than it was in the recent past.

  3. My kid is in public middle school and we are looking for one for kid #2 (not necessarily the same one, not that we haven't liked the kid #1's school, but they are very different kids, and with kid #1 graduating to high school [yes we are looking for high school too] there is no sibling preference anyway nor logistical logic forcing kid #2 to pick kid #1's school).

    So anyway, I've been touring middle schools for the second time, and a more experienced eye. It's interesting to see what has changed and what hasn't. I've been seeing waaaay more parents on the tours than 3 years ago at certain schools, like Roosevelt, James Lick.

    Anyway, my perception is that more parents are considering public middle school. Maybe it's the economy, or seeing friends ahead of them who took the plunge and did fine? I don't know. I certainly always heard, as long as I can remember, that I would have to put my kid in private for middle....common accepted wisdom. If anything, the trend is the other way now although still obviously the idea is out there that you have to suffer three years of tuition during those years.

    My older kid is indeed thriving, btw, with good grades, good friends, and lots of school spirit. She is already saying how much she is going to miss it even though she is looking forward to high school. We're looking at Lowell, Lincoln, Balboa, Galileo, Washington (probably too far though), Wallenberg, and Lick Wilmerding for good measure though we would have to get financial aid which seems unlikely.

  4. To 11:23 -- thanks for your informative post. Since, as you mentioned, you are now more experienced having one already finished with middle school while a second is going into it, can I ask you what are the things that you are looking for in a middle school. In other words, I'm not asking your thoughts about particular schools, but, if you had to give a list of the things that a good middle school would have, what would they be? And what things would make you concerned about a particular middle school?

  5. There is no way we'd send our kids to ANY on the SF middle schools.

  6. Experienced middle school parent here, who is looking now for kid 2:

    In two parts for size:

    * First thing to know is that the core curriculum is the same at every school. In 6th grade your kid will have ancient human cultures in social studies and earth science for science; in 7th grade that will shift to medieval world cultures up to the Enlightenment (European but also the flowering of Islamic culture, Japanese, Chinese and Meso-American cultures of the same period) and they'll get life science (cell structure, genetics etc.). In 8th grade, it's U.S. history and the physical sciences.

    Also, the district is pushing for all 8th graders to get Algebra and the schools are beginning to shift to that--some are farther along in that transition, such as James Lick.

    * All schools offer daily PE and the range of sports teams supported by the district (baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, track etc). These are not points of big difference except perhaps in terms of access to teams that are limited--smaller schools will have more access, and some sports are more popular at some schols than others.

    * Schools differ in the range and content of electives on offer. many are quite similar (studio art) but there are differences, often based on size of school. For example, Aptos offers full orchestra and band, as does Giannini and Hoover; I believe Giannini also offers full-year full chorus. Presidio has a great drama program. James Lick is smaller and offers smaller classes--these rotate throughout the year in 6th grade--for music, James Lick has the fabulous Blue Bear rock band and also chorus, and they also do a musical theater production; plus there is studio art, dance in a brand-new dance studio, gardening in their new garden, and peer leadership training. My point is--this area is a point of difference between the schools where you need to investigate options.

    Also, kids who need remedial work may have their elective period used for that instead. Here's a point of difference--immersion kids in Hoover use their elective period for their immersion language arts class. James Lick is lucky to have an extra academic period in the day and so offers two electives, one of which can be used for remedial help and the other for the extra Spanish class.

    * Size of school. Some are bigger, some are smaller. My older child loved loved loved the bigger school. My younger one is considering a smaller school. Knowing my kids, it makes sense to me! Just to say--let your kids have input on this one--we parents tend to freak out at the large school concept at first but many kids are ready for it. Large schools offer some things that smaller ones can't--music programs, clubs, and more opportunities to make friends and avoid cliques. Your kids will have some idea of what they want in this category.

    * Language immersion if you are coming from an immersion school, and FLES programs. Hoover, James Lick, Revere (soon) and Everett (soon) offer Spanish immersion, for example. Presidio offers Japanese as a FLES program. Some schools have extracurricular language programs, such as Aptos with Italian, which is sponsored by the Italian consulate.

    * Honors versus no tracking. See the thread further down this blog for a fuller discussion.

    --end first part, to be continued--

  7. --second part--

    * Extra funding for low-income schools. We parents tend to seek higher test scores and what we see as a college-bound culture. High test scores are to be found at AP Giannini, Presidio, Aptos (new at #3), Hoover, Roosevelt, and several of the K-8s like Alice Fong Yu, Lawton, Rooftop. However, this doesn't tell the whole story. I wouldn't suggest that every school is a wonderful fit for your kids, but there are energetic schools like James Lick that can serve a mix of kids and that also have huge bennies because of government and grant money aimed at low-income populations.

    Case in point, James Lick has class size reduction to 25(!!!); a longer school day (one more class); 826 Valencia in a dedicated room onsite; a wonderful free afterschool program with tutors who stick with the kids for the year plus it offers great activities, and on and on. It's a smaller school at under 600 kids overall and has great sense of community bonding. They have invested a lot in teacher development and in building a collaborative approach to teaching within departments. Test scores are low--their largest population is very low-income and there are a lot of ELLs (including recent arrivals), and as we know, test scores are a complex's Band 3 for Lowell admissions and likely to remain there for awhile. They have recently supported SOTA admissions too with portfolio development help in studio art and other disciplines. They also have more counseling support and wellness stuff going on than some of the bigger schools that don't get extra funding.

    * Buildings and grounds. All are lovingly worn down like all our public schools, but some are beautiful buildings and some are, well, ugly. This isn't the deciding factor for me, but it is a difference between them. Similarly, some have access to green parks next door (Aptos, Giannini) whereas others don't (Presidio, Hoover, Lick).

    * Uniforms/no uniforms. Again, not my biggest issue but there it is.

    * Transportation--this is a big issue for many of us since a lot of our kids will be taking the school bus (if it survives the budget cuts) or possibly taking MUNI. (It's okay, really.) But be sure you want him/her to manage the trek across town--or if you are driving, if you want to.

    So those are my thoughts. There are a surprising number of pickable options, in my opinion. Then you look for what works for your kid in terms of location, size, atmosphere, electives, extracurriculars, and academic/counseling support.

    So, that's off the top of my head. I'm sure I've missed something!

  8. Me again, experienced middle school parent--just wanted to clarify the elective scheduling thing--

    James Lick has an extra academic period. This means that the extra class that immersion kids use for Spanish language arts does encroach on the opportunity for the immersion kids to have an additional elective. It also gives the kids doing remedial work a chance to have that elective.

    I think the main thing is that if the community is energetic and the teachers are good, and working together, then your kid can do well there. Don't worry too much about the test score issue. If your kid is competitive and driven, then maybe an honors program would make sense. However, the opposite might be true for another child, who would thrive in James Lick-type school where he/she would get more attention.

    For those who are still afraid :-) I urge you to talk to families--including the kids--who are in SF public middle schools. I think you'll see they are not so scary (other than the ways that all 13-year-olds are). I think you'll meet engaged, articulate, passionate kids--I know I do, every day!

  9. I don't know anyone who can afford to have their kids skip SF public middle school choose to do so.

  10. Translated into English, I gather that 11:37 a.m. means that anyone who can afford private middle school chooses it rather than public.

    Not true. We're among many SFUSD families who could have afforded private middle school and chose public.

    Another factor, by the way, is that by 6th grade, the kid has to have some input, unless you have an alarmingly passive and docile child. Most kids in SFUSD schools want to continue into SFUSD middle schools. Even though it's rarely true that they move into middle school with ALL their classmates, they will almost certainly be going with some of them, and they're excited about the new step in their lives.

  11. Just a thought about sending a kind on MUNI -- not after that poor boy was attacked on the bus going to Marina Middle. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be sending my kid on MUNI to middle school. So what is this about the school buses for middle school being cancelled? Is this really going to happen?

  12. 11:37, so sorry your circle of friends is so limited. Our friends in my kid's class made a range of choices for middle school--KDM, SFS, SFFS, Cathedral, St. Philip's, NDV, Aptos, Hoover, Presidio, James Lick, and Kipp come to mind right away. Many of the public school choosers could have afforded private school--a few even have or have had other children in private--but chose public.

  13. 11:50 AM - My apologies.

  14. 11:47

    It comes down to personal choice and a sense of how worldly your kid is, but I would just point out that there is a big difference between the 14-Mission and the Taraval line. And your kid has to grow up sometime! It's a harder transition for the parents, I think. But it will be your choice--you can drive them if you don't feel comfortable, or pick a school that is nearby.

    Re school buses--I don't know is the answer. Seems like the middle school buses get mentioned a lot, although I might argue that many of them serve a purpose in getting offering access to middle schools like Aptos and Hoover to kids from the Mission. Not sure how they will work with the new assignment system either. So I don't count on them, but remain grateful for them.

  15. sorry--range of choices in my kid's class included KDB, not KDM :-) the others. Typing too fast.

  16. Not true. We're among many SFUSD families who could have afforded private middle school and chose public.

    Us, too! There is no way we're sacrificing our vacations for education. I'm with you.

  17. The kid who was attacked was on a 49-Van Ness/City College, but point is the same. The attack occured when the bus was on Mission Street near 19th.

    Then there was the high school girl who was attacked at the bakery up by Twin Peaks near West Portal. She was in a fine neighborhood and did nothing wrong. It was freaky randomness.

  18. Oy, the troll is hitting this thread too. Someone wants is trying to start a flame war on public school parents. Ignore it! It adds nothing to the conversation. Can we get back to the topic of middle schools, please?

  19. Be aware of the bullying issues. We pulled our daughter out of Aptos.

  20. The high school girl who was stabbed in Creighton's bakery attended the Bay School (elite private high school), so I assume you will all want to avoid the Bay School even though she was way across the city from the school and the incident had absolutely nothing to do with the school. Hey, same with the stabbing of the Marina Middle School student on a 49 bus at 19th and Mission.

  21. And I know families who have pulled their kids out of K-8 private schools and K-8 schools to enroll them IN Aptos. (I specifically know families from Kittridge (sp?), Adda Clevenger, West Portal Lutheran and Rooftop.)

    Bullying is awful, but individual situations don't necessarily reflect on a school.

  22. And the clique issues.

    Bullying and destructive cliques can happen anywhere, public or private. The question is how does school deal with it and also how does it help the kids find positive avenues for conflict and drama, i.e., in addition to dealing with it when it happens, do they also have a constructive approach.

    Without at all denying 12:29's experience, I also have direct knowledge of emotional bullying that has occured at two much smaller schools, CAIS and SFD. I believe SFD handled it better, fwiw. So again, the question is not, does it ever happen (think of the age group), but what is the school's approach.

    My kid has had a good experience at Aptos. She was on the edges of a social drama and the counselor, whom she loves, was super-helpful in resolving it. Some schools also offer peer leadership training. This is an area where knowing your child's personality can help.

  23. 10:17 again -- we got some great postings about things that more experienced would look for in a good middle school and then we got off on bullying. I have to say that bullying can happen anywhere, just like attacks on MUNI can happen to anyone. So is there anyone else with recent experience in public middle schools who cares to speak to the factors to look for in a good SF public middle school and any warning signs?

  24. I really appreciate SF K files taking on this topic. It is important to consider when thinking about kindergarten, K-8, etc.

    However, I don't understand why the same group of kids who attend SFUSD elementary schools and go on to middle schools together are all of a sudden not good enough to go to MS with or become some kind of rotten bullies but then are good enough to associate with again at HS. Doesn't make sense to me. Or, if it is the curriculum - it seems from the above information that is pretty uniform across schools.

    I live across the street from Francisco Middle School and it has so many extras as a low-income/newcomer (ESL)school that it is amazing. There are more counselors and principals on duty during recess than there are at recess for an elementary school. I am not concerned about test scores since it reflects the /ELS students who are in specialized instruction classes. It is not even that great of a match for my child but I can augment with special lessons during the time she would spend traveling across town to a "better" school.

    IMHO, I think kids get into more trouble after school and on muni when they are not supervised. Also, I have experience commuting to work everyday and taking kids to special day camps everyday for two weeks and that stress is too much for me and my family. I say try the commute everyday for a week and see how you like it.

  25. Teresa, I think you have some great pearls of wisdom here. Thanks.

  26. I think the issue some of us grapple with is how to keep our keeps away from the bad seeds. It's easier in elementary, but near impossible in middle school.

  27. But....what do you mean by bad seed? Class and race know no boundaries for difficult or messed up people, and drama abounds in all middle schoolers.

    I myself attended private middle school that was hothouse of cliques and emotional bullying--I know, because I was a particular target. I recently heard a hair-raising story straight from the person who was a victim of bullying, just last year, in a local private school here in SF (hair-raising because the attacks on her were well-planned and executed, and very deliberate). By contrast, my own middle-schooler is miles happier in her public middle school than I was at her age.

    But this is all anecdotal. I don't assume that all private middle schools are emotional scarring zones any more than I assume that all public schools are dark and dangerous places. If you are concerned, it's probably well worth asking about anti-bullying policies and prevention programs, as well what kind of counseling is available. No doubt, it's a tough time of life. I would also say that a lot has to do with the particular child.

    I guess my takeaway is that you can't protect a child from this phase of life. You can help her/him work through it, hopefully with help from the school. In extreme cases, you can move your child. But you can't really pre-protect your child by choice of school, except in a few obvious cases.

  28. Okay, I'll enlighten you-;

    My kids had great experiences at big public middle schools in San Francisco.

    Some children love the huge mix n mingle of race, the rich & poor, and lots of sports and clubs...

    ...they love the REAL WORLD ASPECT of the big middle school.

    However, these schools may not be right for children who are not accustomed to life in the big bad outside (either because their parents have been overly protective or they have special needs).

    Some adults like living in big, urbane cities with lots of choice, many different kinds of people, uncertainties, strangers
    [just like a large public middle schools

    And some adults like living in small towns in Nebraska. Everyone knows each other on a first-name basis, and most everyone is of the same race and color and loves all the gosh-darn "certainty" of it all
    [like a small public or private middle school]

    Chose your pick!

  29. I don't get the last post. It was either condescending or simply wrong. If my kid might not do well in a large school environment, that means he'd do better in a small community where everyone looks like him? Seems a little unfair to me. And, frankly, the comment doesn't comport with the way SFUSD structures its middle school classes. The relatively small grade size K through 8's in the city do not offer the full array of special education classes that the very large middle schools offer. So, contrary to that post, if your kid is special needs, then you may have no choice but to go to one of the large 6 through 8 grade schools. I'm still interested in any other constructive advice more experienced folks have about the middle schools in SF.

  30. 6:44:

    I'm glad it worked out for your kid in a big middle school, but the rest of us could do without the judgmental tone. Just because a middle school is small does not necessarily mean that it's homogenous. The small middle school I went to (in a major metropolitan city) was actually very racially diverse. We also had kids of all different abilities, outlooks and backgrounds....just on a smaller scale. If anything, knowing each other well made us more tolerant.
    We were like family.

  31. Yes, a small-town feel. A small middle or K-8 school offers this.

  32. Anyone attend tonight's meeting?

  33. Re middle science curriculum--it's been interesting seeing the syllabus fleshed out as my child goes through (public) middle school. The current teacher very much favors hands-on experimentation as a method, and also disfavors homework (especially busywork--there was a lab report tonight but I have never seen a worksheet).

    Just one example: the class has been studying cells and cell function in life science class, and they did a cool experiment with chicken eggs in various liquids and substances in order to test hypotheses of diffusion and osmosis. Simple, not fancy, but effective. I enjoyed reading the lab report, which managed to convey the fun of the experiment (dramatically shrinking and expanding eggs!) with a a clear description of the concepts being studied.

    My kid is loving this class--and this is not a kid who particularly loved science in the past other than the field trips (especially compared to my other kid). This class is kind of like a school version of Mythbusters and is a great example of what a good teacher can do. The curriculum itself is fine--CA standards are quite good--but it's the teacher who makes it come alive. Now this kid is talking about a future in science. Who knows, but isn't that great?

  34. 11:47 - curious if you would say which school since we have a kid very into science looking for public middle school next year. Which middle schools are considered really strong in science and math? I know they have the same curriculum, but it is indeed teachers that make it come alive. Thanks.

  35. Anyone whose kid in special education (I.E., has an IEP) and is in one of the large public middle schools in SF care to comment on how good (or bad) their particular school has been. I have heard that special ed in middle schools has been hit particularly hard by the budget cuts. Anyone care to help out a parent who is pretty much stuck looking at one of the large public middle schools in SF for her special needs kid?

  36. "I just had one of my best public school parent friends.."

    Ah yes. So some of my best friends are public school, too."

  37. Since there's no SF M Files, here's my take on tours: Just did the AP Giannini tour. Pluses: they've got a new program for sixth graders whereby kids only have two rather than four teachers for the core classes. Place seems to really excel in orchestra, band and other musical pursuits. (We watched a group of eighth graders in band play and darn if they weren't better than I've ever seen!) Also, their team sports looked good, although I got the feeling that it is VERY competitive to get on a team. May be good or bad depending on your kid's situation: Got the impression that once kids get beyond sixth grade there's fairly significant tracking -- with (some?) GATE kids getting Honors classes; they have got some new programs (AVID?) but it is not clear how kids get into them or exactly what they are all about. Mandarin and Spanish are offered by the PTA at 8 am in the morning (is your kid an early riser?) Definite minuses: didn't seem to be much (any?) dance at the school.

  38. 8:25 pm again -- scratch my earlier reference to Giannini "uniquely" having sixth graders only have two teachers for core classes. I went to Hoover today and they do it too so I'm thinking that's something that is universal. Also I forgot to mention that Giannini does NOT have separate classes for General Education and Honors in sixth grade. They only start separate Honors classes in 7th grade. At Hoover, they most definitely do and the separation of classes is fairly set there. It is tied to your kid's CST score for Fifth Grade, although the principal was agonizing at this tour that, because of the earlier start of school in August, those results won't be in yet, so he said they would have to figure out some other method to separate the kids. The immediate separation of general ed and honors may have one good benefit that I had not thought of before for those us whose kids are not, ahem, honors material -- if your kid is in GE, it appeared that the GE classes generally had smaller numbers of kids in them than the Honors classes. Other things about Hoover: they have Spanish and Chinese Immersion classes; Giannini doesn't have any. Because of that, there appears to be no before or after school chance to take a second language for those of us whose kids did not do immersion in elementary, although there is a "Spanish Club" at lunch that might or might not be a language class (I think it is just a social thing, but I may be wrong). Hoover seemed to have the same plethora of band, orchestra and choir choices, but also had a dance class too, which Giannini didn't. I don't know if it was because the start time for the Hoover tour was closer to the start of school than Gianinni's tour was (in which case this is clever marketing by Giannini folks), but I definitely felt that the scene at Hoover was a bit more chaotic than at Giannini. I did feel that the few classes I went by on the tour seemed as generally well-behaved as at Giannini, so maybe my impression isn't evidence of a significant difference. There is an after-school program, as at Giannini, but it has a fairly significant space limitation -- only 100 versus Giannini's which is at 300 -- which is a bummer for those of us who have to work. The principal said they are trying to double the capacity. Hoover, unlike Giannini, is about to have major construction -- a complete redo of the facility which the principal said would take approx. three years to complete. And the physical plant really needs it -- unlike Giannini which appeared in pretty good shape. Other things -- both Giannini and Hoover have lots of sports, but I got the impression that Giannini takes sports more seriously -- which can be a good or a bad thing (obviously depending on your kid's capabilities). Anyway, those are my thoughts about Hoover.

  39. James Lick -- took this tour today. Lick is, in many ways, very different from Hoover and Giannini. Lick is less than half the size (620 kids). Lick also has a longer day -- school is 8:30 to 3:30 with 7 periods. This gives immersion kids probably a better chance to do electives, although the Hoover FAQ sheet was fairly emphatic that immersion kids can do an elective if their immersion class is at 8 am. It also seemed that Lick's immersion programs had more (two?) periods that a foreign language related, unlike Hoover where it is just one. Lick also has LOTS of grant money that gives it a bunch of extras that Giannini and Hoover don't have -- average class size of 25; dedicated dance studio and teacher (no concrete floors!); absolutely amazing "rock band" elective put on with Blue Bear music studio teachers; and 826 Valencia dedicated site for writing workshops. (Note: while your kid learns instruments for the rock band, she doesn't get the same access to the traditional wind and string instruments that she'd get at Hoover and Giannini.) There is an afterschool program til 6. Although it does have a size limit like Hoover's, I got the impression that getting in is (perhaps?) easier than getting into Hoover's, although there may be a waiting list at the beginning of the year. Another big (huge?) difference: unlike Hoover and Giannini, where kids are immediately or, after one year, segregated into Honors and Gen Ed. classes, Lick's philosophy is to keep them all in the same class, and have the teacher give differentiated instruction depending on student's abilities. The principal gave some anecdotes showing that "good" students do better when they are in with the not-so-good students than when they are segregated. She also pointed to some research on the subject showing essentially the same thing. I got the feeling that Lick is pretty committed to this teching style, although the principal said that, currently, the school is experimenting with the better students getting pulled out of math for more math enrichment. All told, I think some posters on other strings on this website referred to Lick as a school that has "emerged." I don't know if I'd say exactly that, but, given that it probably has a larger percentage of needier students than Giannini and (maybe?) Hoover has, it certainly has a plan in motion for improving the learning experience for that population.

  40. One addition to my Lick mini review. On the "chaos meter," I would put Lick at a lower level than Hoover and even Giannini. The hallways were well-ordered as were the classrooms. One also advice to anyone reading --for idiosyncratic reasons having nothing to do with the actual middle schools themselves, I'm not going to be doing Aptos, Presidio, Everett, or Horace Mann. Anyone else who has toured those please feel free to comment here. I will be doing Roosevelt, but won't put that one in until next week. Hope this has helped.

  41. Yes, thank you!

    I also thought that James Lick seemed more quiet and well-ordered than some of the other, larger schools.

  42. Just to clarify: The after-school program at James Lick runs until 6:30 p.m.

  43. Roosevelt Middle School -- toured this one today. The school is small -- just 721 -- which is very close to Lick's size and nearly half the size of Giannini and Hoover. Same electives offerings as Giannini and Hoover, although we didn't see any of the band or orchestra classes. There's no dance like there is at Lick or (in a more limited fashion) at Hoover. We did see a "media arts" room and the kids were using computers to do all kinds of neat artwork. The school has an afterschool program -- Beacon -- that appears to be able to take all kids, although there are discrete classes within the afterschool program that may fill up. PE is pretty much the same as at the other schools, except that the kids go swimming at nearby Rossi pool. There appear to be the usual range of baseball, basketball and other sports too. The school has a new principal -- Michael Reimer. He is not only new to the school, but I think that he's new to San Francisco. I say "I think" because he appeared woefully unknowledgeable about the district's assignment system, even mentioning that ethnicity is considered in the assignment process. On segmenting honors kids versus general ed, Roosevelt stands at the opposite spectrum from Lick. Honors and General Ed are segmented in all grades. Roosevelt uses GATE as the primary vehicle for segmentation (unlike Hoover which is using straight CST test scores). All GATE students "automatically" get into honors classes. Non-GATE kids apparently have some ability to get into the honors classes, although the process requires getting your kid GATE-identified, which is, in the handout given to us at least, a multiple month process. This suggests that, at a minimum, a non-GATE kid is going to not be in honors classes through sixth grade, although the principal seemed to suggest that there was some way to do it faster. There are no language classes, either immersion or PTA-sponsored before or after school offerings. On the "chaos" meter, I'd have to put Roosevelt down as closer to Hoover in high chaos, more chaos than at Giannini and much more than at Lick. I am a little puzzled as to why that is so, since the school is half the size of Hoover and Giannini. But that's definitely the way I perceived it. Anyway, that's it for my touring. Hoped this helped!

  44. I have one addendum to my mini-tour reviews of the four middle schools above. On LGBT issues, Hoover has a GSA group. It either stands for Gay-Straight Alliance or Gay Student Alliance, I can't remember. Pretty interesting for a middle school -- and especially so since my LGBT friends say the hassling of gay kids really starts well before high school -- it starts in 7th grade! So bravo to Hoover!

  45. Aptos has a Gay-Straight Alliance group as well.