Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paul Revere College Preparatory School

Reviewed by Marcia Brady

The Facts

Location: 555 Tompkins St. (Bernal Heights)

School hours: 8:00-3:00

Tel: 695-5656 Main, 695-5974 Annex

Principal: Lance Tagomori

Web site:

School tours: Weds. 9-10 AM

Grades: Pre-K-8

Kindergarten size: 60 (3 classes of 20 each, 2 SI and 2 GE)

Total student body: 450 [as corrected by a poster; I think I had the # for the Annex]

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

Safety from budget cuts, a powerhouse principal, lots of financial resources

Class Structure / Curriculum: The two-way Spanish bilingual immersion program is replacing the current Spanish bilingual program 1 year at a time, and began with the K class of 2005, so now it is K-4. Right now, there is also a Spanish bilingual program for Spanish speakers from 3rd grade on up. There is also a K-8 GE program, and a new Spanish immersion Pre-K. The school’s two buildings separate the older (4th-8th grade) and younger (Pre-K-3rd grade) kids. The younger kids have no contact with the older kids except through a “buddy classoom system,” though they eat lunch in the main building’s cafeteria.

Math is “Everyday Math,” which I found thrilling, given all I’ve read on how pencil-and-paper, procedural math kills off math learning. Science is FOSS, a system that delivers “labs in a box” at varying grade levels.

Campus/Playground: Clean, bright, spacious early 20th c. main building (for grades 4-8) and similarly impressive Annex building (grades Pre-K-3). The hallway boards were meticulously organized to showcase student art, writing projects, curricular innovation, etc. Though each building has its own yard, we only saw the Annex yard, one upper and one lower asphalt lot, with one small-ish play structure. The principal said that next on his docket was getting a new play structure.

After School programs: After school program runs 3-5:15

Additional Programs: Enrichment is grant-funded here, and thus secure from the vagaries of state funding and PTA fluctuations. Grants secure an extra paraprofessional in each classroom [a commenter says these are focused on the lower grades]. 20 kids per class K-5 and 18 per class 6-8, at leas through 2015. Games coach, science partnerships with Mission Science Center and UCSF.

PTA: Not much funds raised, I gathered [a commenter says their goal is $50K this year], but the president was articulate and seemed very dedicated. The PTA raises a few thousand for books for the library every year, which the principal matches. Meanwhile, the grants-getting and partnering-with-industry system that the principal is committed to ensures that the lower-income parents have as much say as those with more time and resources. I found this interesting, as I’ve worried a bit about the privatization-effect of depending on middle-class PTAs to fill in gaps left by state cuts.

Language program(s): Two-way bilingual Spanish immersion replacing Spanish bilingual program.

Library / Computer Lab: Oh. My. God. I see why they save it for the very last part of the tour. In the main building, the biggest, most beautiful library ever: 12,000 volumes, all catalogued online, in a space bigger than my local branch library. Library includes rotating artifact collection, displays of ethnic cultural items, other themed displays, charming bulletin board and wall art, etc. Grants have funded comfortable furniture and ambient lighting (the principal cited studies that said too much fluorescent light overstimulates kids). Accelerated readers can get help searching the catalogue using a “high-lexile reading index” for books appropriate to their level. There are 20 brand-new Mac computer terminals in the main library, 10 more in a small room in the annex, plus 20 mobile laptop stations with wireless and printers that go from classroom to classroom. Full-time librarian and half-time IT person. Kids have library 1x/week, plus time if they finish classroom work early. They can check out 2 books/week (1 fiction, 1 non-); I wish it were more but it’s my only complaint!

Arts: Looks like the standard district-wide offering. I did see a nice lesson on symmetry in English in an SI classroom.

PE: 2x/week, games coach on site 3x/week

Recess/Lunch: 2x/day recess, 20-min. lunch. Principal is about to experiment with having recess before lunch to get kids hungrier and help them settle down to eat rather than racing off to play, which seems an obvious move that no other school I’ve seen has made. Grants and parent volunteers supply healthy snacks.

Tour Impressions: This is the only tour I have been on that met in a dedicated meeting room, which made for a nice, quiet, thoughtful beginning. We were joined by the Principal, the PTA president, and 2 parents, for a brief intro and Q and A. Principal Tagomori asked each of us our name, our child’s name, and the name of the preschool our child was currently in, if any. He briefed us on the history of the school, which 5 years ago was in such poor shape that it became a STAR school, essentially recreated from the ground up (with only 2 staff remaining from the previous incarnation). The principal’s respect for his teachers shows, though; he even calls subs “guest teachers.” He described the space challenges that had come with both growth and the commitment to keep class sizes small (get ready for 2 new bungalow classrooms), and when a parent accosted him rather unpleasantly about PR’s test scores, patiently explained that they were building the school up from the lower grades, so they were skewed low by the upper grades as well as by the fact that immersion kids aren’t tested in the immersion language.

We then got to more or less wander into K-5 classrooms in small groups. The classrooms were remarkably spacious, sunny, and well equipped. Most of them had desks organized into small-group workstations, with kids attended to by the paraprofessional and teacher in rotation. The walls showed evidence of lots and lots of work on writing – second-graders’ similes, third-graders’ lessons on how to write a formal letter. It was tougher here to get a sense of the classroom dynamics because parents weren’t told not to talk, so they did – overall, I got a sense of alert, dynamic teachers and well-behaved though not entirely stifled children. PR has uniforms, which is fine by me!

Overall? Very, very impressive. Along with Eve Cheung at Junipero Serra, Lance Tagomori is the best principal I’ve seen thus far (keeping in mind that I didn’t meet principals at several schools, so no diss on them). I wonder if these two incredible principals at Bernal Heights have ever considered teaming up and creating a neighborhood of powerhouse schools, as neither has the high-rolling PTA thing going. In any case, Paul Revere seems meticulously well organized, resource-rich due to Principal Tagomori’s dedication to securing funds that can’t be violated by Arnold and/or by PTA problems, and very deserving of its STAR “dream school” status [later correction: as per a comment below, STAR/Dream School are technical designations for low-performing schools that have been targeted for particular funds and enhancements -- I should have invoked the hackneyed phrase "hidden gem" here instead!]. I’d be very surprised if it didn’t end up on my list!


  1. Wonderful! Another good review (in the sense of being helpful). I'm also glad you liked it so much. I've been hearing great things about Paul Revere for several years.

    Re Everyday Math, I tried to get some feedback on this over on the Town School thread, but everyone was too busy flogging the usual debate. Everyday Math is now in use throughout SFUSD, and it comes out of the University of Chicago--was pioneered at the Chicago Labs school attended by the Obama girls until last January. Apparently Town School is also using this method, as are many private schools and high-performing districts around here. Wonder how other parents feel about this, no matter whether in SFUSD or in private school.

    I like the method myself, as it seems to split the difference between traditional drills and memorization of formulae and the New Math-underlying-concepts stuff I was taught in the 70's. I think there is room for both; one extreme is deadly and the other is fuzzy but the combination is good. My kids like it, but they have always liked math. Everyday Math (or spiraling, or Chicago U method) does generate controversy though--mainly from those who want the traditional drills as far as I can tell.

    Aside from the math thing, and back to Revere, I'm so, so glad to hear about all the improvements they are making over there. The library sounds wonderful, the heartbeat of the school. I especially appreciate your point about fundraising that is somewhat secure from budget cuts and also not driven by only one set of parents.

  2. I have often told people that if I had a prospective Kindergartener and lived in Bernal, I think Paul Revere would be at the top of my list.

  3. Regarding Everyday Math and the controversies around it: I think that, as a parent, it's very easy to be dissatisfied with your child's grasp on math as they go through school, and to blame the situation on the math curriculum. No math curriculum will change the fact that kids learn math at different speeds, and some of them are going to be somewhat frustrated going through that process.

    Everyday Math has worked well for my kids so far. I can honestly say that any difficulties they have with math stem from their own approach to it, and not the way that it's being taught.

  4. Just to clarify, I am pretty sure that being a STAR / Dream school is a negative thing. Means more funding generally, but is only applied if insufficient progress in key metrics is shown by the school. I am sure Revere is moving in the right direction - but want to not get people to get the wrong idea about their status.

  5. 5:28, being a STAR/Dream School may begin with a negative assessment, but is not a negative thing in outcome. It allows a principal to do a "sweep" of dysfunctional staff -- otherwise a huge problem in SFUSD, where you really can't fire teachers with tenure. Paul Revere began as a STAR school and at some point will not be. But right now, if API scores are your be-all-and-end-all, then no, it's not the school for you. That would be true of most Spanish immersion schools.

    You're right, though, the note I ended on sounded like "Dream School" was equivalent to "hidden gem." I was just trying to avoid the latter hackneyed phrase.

    4:20, on Math, I'm well acquainted with the Chicago Lab School -- people fight hard to get their kids in there! I know a bit about Everyday Math and the research backs its positive effect, especially on girls.

  6. Thank you for your review. We have a daughter in private but are looking at public K-8s, as we've both become recently unemployed. Your review really lifted my spirits today.

  7. This school does have a web site (more than the SFUSD portal as mentioned in the review) - but it is hard to find via Google. I asked about it during my tour, and was told to go to:

  8. I would like to add two other great things I saw during my tour. When touring, I noticed many classrooms had the same white plastic box filled with cut apple. The tour leader (a PTA president past or present) mentioned that PR receives food donations for healthy produce and the PTA volunteers regularly (daily or weekly) to prepare and distribute the snacks. Another example of the extreme community support this school receives.

    The librarian also told us about the 'mouse squad' - a group of 6-8th graders who based on good behavior and skills learn and apply computer skills. She mentioned this was along the lines of a system administrator and the kids in the mouse squad learn to disassemble and reassemble computers, build computers from spare parts in a box, and maintain the computers in the school. She was very proud of them, and I felt these kids receive a lot of encouragement and vehicles for learning and self-esteem.

    Finally, I was somewhat floored by the hours and heart the parents have put into this school. The librarian talked about the journey from closet to jewel facility the library took to reach it's current state. Everyone had a lot of investment and pride in the school.

  9. Corrected, thanks, LeslieO. I didn't find it via Google!

  10. 5:28, being a STAR/Dream School may begin with a negative assessment, but is not a negative thing in outcome. It allows a principal to do a "sweep" of dysfunctional staff -- otherwise a huge problem in SFUSD, where you really can't fire teachers with tenure.

    Reconstitution is a Dream School thing - STAR schools are not reconstituted. I am a teacher, and I've certainly encountered teachers who are perhaps not at their best at high-needs schools, and even some teachers who are not at their best in teaching. That said, your comment (maybe inadvertently) places the reasons for Revere's low test scores, etc. rather heavily on the teachers who were there before reconstitution.

  11. I have to chime in here about Everyday Math.

    Problems with Everyday Math:

    Emphasizes the use of calculators, which is inappropriate in the elementary grades.

    Tries to get children to invent their own methods of arithmetic. The basic arithmetic algorithms took over a thousand years to develop. Children will develop their own shortcuts once they know the basics, but not before.

    Fails to build automaticity in basic arithmetic functions.

    Alvarado, known to have strong math teaching, uses many approaches to teaching math and does not strictly follow the Everyday Math curriculum.

    Everyday Math shows poor outcomes compared to another math teaching system, Singapore math.

    Girl's learn math the same way that boys do. Perhaps they don't respond well to all the missile and explosion problem examples, but other than that, I wouldn't say that girls learn math differently than boys. I'm speaking as a women engineer who uses are fairly high level of math in her work.

    Anyone interested in a comparative discussion of Everyday Math vs. Singapore Math can check out the following blog or look on the web. Search Everday Math vs. Singapore Math. There is plenty of discussion out there.

  12. Thanks for this review . . . great news for families in the SE who want Spanish immersion.

  13. i think you need to put it FIRST in round 1 to have a chance this year IMO. i listed it mid-list tow years ago and did not get a spot.

  14. 9:44am - why does listing it first increase your odds? I have heard numerous people say that 1st choice increases your odds - but yet SFUSD says it doesn't (except in case of tie-breaker). I'd love to know more about the importance of '1st choice'. Thanks!

  15. "(except in case of tie-breaker)."

    I think that's your answer. We are talking about a small amount of spots in spanish immersion schools after siblings and target language speakers are placed... Therefore, tie-breaker scenario matters.

  16. I think that there's only one type of tie-breaker scenario:

    - if a student is assigned to two different selected schools based on the Diversity Index, the higher-ranked school is assigned.

    The assignment system doesn't pull kids out of the pool based on the ranking.

  17. Frank, sorry but you're wrong. That used to be the word, but Vicki of PPS went over the algorithm last year with the SFUSD computer people, and it turns out that there are other tie-breakers. One is neighborhood assignment, and the other is rank order. The system searches for diversity first, but in case of all diversity exhausted, neighborhood is one tie-breaker and beyond that, all other things being equal, the assignment goes to the person who ranks a school higher. Since schools tend to get so many applicants with similar diversity profiles, and especially in the case of an immersion program where the applicants are first sorted into language groups that probably look similar amongst themselves, YES, this could matter. And the poster is correct that Paul Revere SI is probably not a safe R2 school anymore and is the best bet listed at #1--though still a much, much safer bet than Alvarado or Clarendon et al if listed there.

    All that said, you are correct that if a kid hits the jackpot and gets a "yes" on multiple schools on his/her list, then that child will be assigned the highest-ranked school on the list. This wans't true back when we went through, and it caused a lot of us to leave off "hidden gems" for fear we would have no shot at our #1 school. PPS succesfully lobbied to have it changed.

  18. Thanks Marcia - I will now be considering Paul Revere based on your thoughtful review.

    One other item to note regarding recess before lunch. Last year on a tour, the principal at Miraloma (I believe his name is Ron Machado, but I don't have it handy) noted that they implemented this change at his school and it worked wonderfully. The children tend to eat their entire lunch after burning their energy off and the school has dramatically reduced the food it is throwing away, so it is "green" too. I remember thinking, "wow, that is so simple I wonder why all SFUSD schools don't try it too?" I'm sure that some schools may have scheduling reasons why it doesn't work, but it seems like a pretty easy way to ensure children are re-fueled for afternoon learning.

    I have subsequently heard on other school tours, "Don't be surprised if your child comes home with a full lunchbox for the first few weeks or months of K". So this seems to be a widespread phenemenon with a potential quick fix. Glad to hear that Paul Revere is doing it too.

  19. I find these discussions about parsing the less than single digit Round I chance of getting into a challenged school to be unerringly dull.

    Could we stop?

    I'm sorry, but I do not really buy Pricipal Tagamori's explanation for low test scores. The very high number of low income, English Language learner kids at Paul Revere are bound to impact teaching at the school. The teachers have to teach to the mean, which, in this case and other low scoring SE schools, is bound to pull down the academic tenor of teaching.

    The teachers are doing a good job of teaching these kids. However, I don't think there is really any point of standing on your head to get into this school.

    If the school board does want to have true socioeconomic diversity in this school, it can change the lottery.

    At the moment it not appear willing to do this. Might as well accept this and waitlist Miraloma or Grattan.

  20. Go for the 0/7, waitpool strategy if you like 12:59; that's your choice and it's not a hugely crazy strategy if you can stomach it. I think you are wrong though to discount the nuance of this review that seeks to look beyond the test score data (while not discounting it). Revere is following the formula of several other schools that people now call "trophy publics" (wow, how I loathe that term, but you know which ones I mean).

    I happen to know several teachers at Revere and they are *wonderful* to match the principal. They are fully capable of teaching all sorts of kids in one classroom and I have talked with one of them who thinks a lot about how to do just that, as she is already seeing the demographic changes move through the schools. We all know of the schools whose test scores have risen dramatically with demographic shifts and I assume we will see that with Revere. It also seems they are trying to hold onto a sense of equity and lifting the academic achievement of all the kids from whatever background, which I think is great.

    This school bears the hallmarks of success in the years to come: a magnet program, invested parents, stellar leadership at the top, and good teachers. Plus a lovely building, K-8, and diversity, all in a part of town whose schools were avoided just a few years ago. Revere may not be your cup of tea, 12:59, but it's not at all strange that many here would be drawn to this one. I'm sure lots of families will be happy there in the years to come. How nice of you to make room for them by not applying for it.

  21. Hi 1:26 PM:

    No argument with anything you are saying. The problem is the lottery.

    The lottery constructs a demographic mix where only about 6% of applicants are middle class english speakers. With the SE program, some middle class Spanish speakers may be attracted to Revere, but that is unlikely to yield enough of an upscale demographic mix to bring up the mean level of teaching in the class.

    Also pointing out that a middle class family of native English speakers has rather narrow odds of getting into Revere.

    The demographic mix of the school very well reflects the intent of the lottery algorithm:

    67% of kids at Revere participate in the free or reduced lunch program. 44% of the kids are English Language Learners.

    The principal may be very capable and the teachers exceptional and dedicated, but they are pulling a pretty heavy load.

    I don't know what the solution is, but the current intent of the lottery does not make it easy for the many affluent and middle class parents in the Bernal neighborhood to sign up to this school. Most of them have ended up sending their kids to parochial or private schools. Some may have signed up for Paul Revere if the "lottery" hadn't been such a difficult process and had the school been more directly able to encourage a critical mass of neighbors to sign up.

    Again, the "lottery" does not favor this process.

  22. 1:59--I believe that the lottery (which will exist for one more year, right?) will favor middle class English speakers just fine, if they really want it. Revere is still at a place, as you point out, where that demographic will lend diversity to the school, so the odds will be easier than at a school like Clarendon. And ultimately, the mix of the class will be based on the mix that applies.

    Look at Alvarado, Flynn, and other SI programs around. There are plenty of middle class English speakers at these schools--it's hardly 6% middle class English speakers getting in, but a much higher percentage! I think you are fixating on those 6% "pools" and ignoring the factor of who actually applies to each school; the applicant pools are not balanced. Not all English-speaking middle class families who apply will get in of course, because too many of this category apply, but enough do so that Alvarado has lost its Title 1 status and free lunch hovers around 50% (it was once much, much higher than that). Yes, they hold spots for Spanish speakers, and many (though probably not all) of those kids will qualify as low-income. But that still leaves spots in R1 for middle class English speakers--in fact, these families are likely to get them precisely because they lend S/E diversity when compared to those Spanish-speaker spots, especially if there is a dearth of applicants in some of the other 6% "pools."

    Revere is not yet as popular as Alvarado or even Flynn. While no guaranteed placement unlike a few years ago, this is exactly the time to be going full bore for Revere and Daniel Webster, before they get overrun like the others. Put them high on your list in R1! It's a fabulous opportunity.

  23. Let's leave it at that and hope you are right!

  24. 1:59 is missing a key point.

    Paul Revere is a school in the early stages of turnaround. Even two years ago, "the many affluent and middle class parents in the Bernal neighborhood" wouldn't have this school on a platter. THAT's the reason the school's makeup is heavily low-income and limited-English, not because affluent and middle-class families have been unable to get in.

    This is what the concept "hidden gem" is about.

    Schools that are in high demand by affluent and middle-class families tend to reflect that by having higher percentages of affluent and middle-class families -- check the demographics at Clarendon and Miraloma, for example.

  25. 3:03 PM

    Please don't speak for me.

    I did tour this school last year. It is within walking distance of my house. I know children that attend this school.

    I decided against this school. Some of my concerns were:

    1. Math curriculum. See my comments above. A school with a lot of children with math savvy parents will push back on the deficiencies of the Everyday Math curriculum. Not the case at Paul Revere.

    2. Mean level of teaching. I noticed that much time and energy was being spent teaching kids to read. My 5 year old daughter can already read in English. She is now working on speaking and reading another language. I don't think my daughter is exceptional. She just attended a good preschool and has been read to almost nightly since she was two.

    3. Was concerned that the Paul Revere teachers were being marched to the beat of the No Child Left Behind drum. Wanted teaching to be broader and I didn't get the impression that the teachers were free to do this.

    So, if it were up to me, and I were to apply again to public schools, Paul Revere would still not be my first choice. I wouldn't be standing on my head putting this school as first choice.

  26. Thanks to Marcia for giving such a comprehensive review about Revere and its community of teachers and parents. Allow me to clarify some of the facts that might not have gotten across completely accurately during the tour:
    - Total student body: more like 450, not 240;
    - The Spanish Immersion program currently covers grades K through 4, and is adding a grade each year as it 'progresses' through the grades;
    - Paraprofessionals' support is focused on the lower grades, mostly;
    - PTA funds: the PTA is aiming for a $50K budget this year.

    I hope this helps.

  27. My 5 year old daughter can already read in English. She is now working on speaking and reading another language. I don't think my daughter is exceptional.

    Reading research shows conclusively that children will be interested, motivated, and ready to read between 3 and 8. This is a big range. So in the way your daughter is not exceptional, nor were the children in the class you observed. Indeed, it may be counterproductive for SFUSD, the state and the nation to put so much pressure on all children to read by the end of Kindergarten.

    Since teachers must be ready for a class of children that includes readers and nonreaders - and that goes for Paul Revere and similar schools, too - you can assume differentiation occurs. I think you too easily assume that it is not present.

  28. Here's the school profile for Paul Revere:

    It doesn't have the "diversity index" info, but it does have the racial/ethnic breakdown. It's is interesting to see the change in "OW" over the years. What will that mean to the API scores there in two years.

    It's all about demographics.

  29. "Reading research shows conclusively that children will be interested, motivated, and ready to read between 3 and 8. This is a big range. So in the way your daughter is not exceptional, nor were the children in the class you observed. Indeed, it may be counterproductive for SFUSD, the state and the nation to put so much pressure on all children to read by the end of Kindergarten.

    This may be true, but the process of reading can definitely be moved along by a good preschool/K/early grades phonics program and regular reading at home, both of story books and readers such as the Bob books:

    I guess you can tell I'm not a Waldorf mom.

    I would doubt that low income kids get much reading help at home. It does slow reading acquisition. With an immersion program, it is even more important that kids get help, in both languages, at home.

    If not, kids are still fumbling around in 3rd and 4th grade when they should have moved onto concepts like adding and subtracting fractions, being able to do simple unit conversions, such as from inches to feet, or beginning to examine and understand the periodic table. Pretty difficult when you can't read.

    My suggestion that the mean level of teaching must be adjusted to the students in the class is based on the comments of a "Teach for America" teacher and a mom who had a child in an SE program here in the city. The problem is surely exacerbated when class sizes go up in fourth(?) grade.

    I'm not singling out Paul Revere, but I am pointing out the very serious problems that schools with a lot of low income + English language learner students face.

  30. Yes, I can see you are not a Waldorf mom! And it's fine for you to have the emphasis you do. My own is a bit more of a mix of academic and social learning, but that's me.

    I will say, as a veteran immersion parent whose kids, by design of the program, have learned in mixed-income settings for almost a decade now, that my kids' reading and math skills have not suffered. The key thing in this, because I do take your concerns seriously, is that my kids have always had a critical mass of other kids working more or less at their level. Even 3-4 kids makes a difference in giving the kids a peer set to read each others' papers (in the upper grades) and in pushing the teacher to teach differentially. I am certain that the demographic shifts at Revere are creating these critical masses. Also, they are not always what you would expect--middle-class, English-dominant kids at the top.

    I was told just last week in parent/teacher conference that my son is in the highest math group with one set of kids of four, which is working above grade level. It happens to include a mix of Anglo and Latino kids. He is also in an English reading group with another set of kids that is reading above grade level. For Spanish, he is in a group that is reading at grade level, and several primary Spanish speakers are in a more advanced group than he. My daughter spent years with the same group of fanatical-reader kids; they read Harry Potter together in the 2nd and 3rd grade. But for other subjects, such as science, arts, social studies, they have been in mixed groups (some large, some small, depending on the subject being taught).

    I do think the English-dominant, middle class kids do better overall--but mainly because of the enrichment that can be, and is, provided at home. This is not a reason not to send your child to a school with kids who do not have that enrichment. It won't hurt your child to be in that classroom; it is hurting the other kids not to have what your kids have outside the classroom.

    Also, regarding Everyday Math and other, previous, math curricula, it has been my experience that EVERY teacher using EVERY curriculum has added to and adapted the curriculum. This was true when our school was poorer (more free lunch kids) and now. I like Everyday Math myself, but the teachers definitely add their own pieces based on how they see the kids doing, and what they know works.

    I'm just speaking from experience, but I do think Revere sounds like a very promising choice based on what I have heard about the principal, teachers, and increasingly active parent base.

    Good luck, everyone!

  31. While many Teach for Americans are good teachers, they tend to have very little theoretical knowledge. Alternate credentialing programs have their strengths and traditional credential programs their weaknesses, but time constraints alone bar much in the way of reading theory (outside the pedagogy covered on the RICA).

    And while reading can be taught to children who may not be independently interested in reading, there is some evidence that pushing reading leads to lowered interest in reading later (and correspondingly lowered reading comprehension). This could also be due to over-reliance on decoding cues, since phonics-prominent programs sometimes ignore structural and contextual reading strategies. (It's important to read the studies underlying the problematic conclusions of Bush's reading counsel - balanced literacy is the way in the end.)

    Since I teach low-income children five days a week, I can assure you that the vast majority of them have supportive families. Please check your assumptions here. Paul Revere is not a school you would choose. It is your impression that high-poverty schools lead to teaching toward a mediocre middle level to reach the students present.

    I think it's ultimately futile to teach to the middle in such classrooms, because it ends up stultifying for everyone involved and offers the reality of the "soft bigotry of low expectations". Most of the teachers I know in schools like mine prefer to aim for the same standards held at wealthier schools and scaffold for linguistic/social-emotional/etc. needs.

    The conflation of low test scores and teaching to the middle is conflated in your view. I think that there are more than enough factors that your view is debatable.

  32. jcvpve, thanks; I have added corrections to the main post as per your information.

    I am betting that the economy being what it is, more middle-class families will be choosing public schools: why not go for the ones that are on the upswing? I'm not shooting the moon for Grattalomarendontopienthal, myself, so that's one more potential slot for 12:59 and others.

  33. 9:13 PM:

    7:03 here. Thanks for your balanced comments. That's the crux, isn't it. Having a group of students that can form a competitive study group. Given the fact that 60% of California schools have socioeconomically disadvantaged children, it is increasingly likely that our schools will increasingly be comprised of mostly socioeconomically disadvantaged children with parents who have not graduated from highschool.

    I hope Revere comes up. I know several wonderful children there.

  34. "And while reading can be taught to children who may not be independently interested in reading, there is some evidence that pushing reading leads to lowered interest in reading later (and correspondingly lowered reading comprehension)."

    Please! I know kids that are not so thrilled with actually having to do the work of reading, but I really don't know ANY kids that don't like being read a story. It is obvious that if the kid doesn't want to do the reader, then the parent should switch to "Billy Goat Gruff", "The Reluctant Dragon", "Nacho and Lotita", or whatever. You can still teach reading while you are on the fifteeth iteration of "I do not like green eggs and ham . . ."

    "This could also be due to over-reliance on decoding cues, since phonics-prominent programs sometimes ignore structural and contextual reading strategies. (It's important to read the studies underlying the problematic conclusions of Bush's reading counsel - balanced literacy is the way in the end.)"

    Does this mean that the kids have to memorize some words? Or learn a few rules? Or practise?

    I don't need a degree in reading pedagogy to figure that out.

    There is no supplanting the evening bedtime story.

    Structural and contextual queues? Try poetry. How about Jabberwocky?

    Bush? My grand-mother and great-grandmother, both school teachers, could probably give "Bush's reading counsel" an earful.

    PS. My grand-mother taught english language learner kids back in the fifties.

  35. 9:13 again, to 7:03--yes, I think that is it. I don't buy the theory (which I think hardly anyone holds here, even the most ardent public school supporters) that ANY school is just ducky. However, I think having even a small critical mass--combined with strong school leadership that includes at least 2 of the 3 important adult groups (principal, teachers, parents)--can work really well. From what Marcia wrote, Revere is at that place, and kudos to them for getting there.

    I also want to say again that while middle class kids have serious enrichment advantages outside of school that obviously show up in test scores, it is not always the middle class kids in those higher-level peer groups that the teachers tend to set up for math and reading (but not so much for the other subjects). With good teacher support, the bright kids of all backgrounds find themselves in those groups. The Spanish speakers are often ahead of the English speakers in that language, which is one of the great things about dual immersion--it gives those kids a chance to shine, and gain content in, their native tongue while also learning English--and it gives a different kind of challenge to primary English speakers who may be used to sailing through. At least, that is my kids' experience.

  36. 9:53, I'm not the teacher who wrote in about reading strategies, but I think he/she is getting at early-early reader programs that tend to stress phonetic learning. This could be a negative strategy for kids who are not ready.

    I don't think anyone would argue against reading stories to children from a very young age and all teachers I know do this, all the way up through 5th grade(along with having the kids read their own books at that level too, of course). Reading to kids encourages reading but so much else. There's nothing so wonderful as the attention of being read to, is there?

    As a parent I've seen my two children learned to read very differently (one child had a lightbulb go off and combined phonics, whole word recognition, and context all at once, and went from sounding out letters to reading short books with fluency within two weeks; the other child learned primarily phonetically and sounded out words for months until fluency came). They both learned in to read in the first grade; I learned to read at age four. It was all good....

    The goal for the district is reading by the end of first grade and competent/fluent reading by the end of second--because content kicks in more in third. Kids who are struggling to keep up this pace are usually provided with special support (reading recovery etc.), so it is not all up to the classroom teacher. Also, most schools I know have stories being read in the classroom as noted above, but often there are library story days, and book buddy programs too where the 4th/5th grade kids read with the kinders.

  37. Is Paul Revere going completely Spanish immersion, or will there always be a GE strand? The GE strand is what would give me pause in sending my child there. I saw the Paul Revere GE kids on a field trip to the Kidquake literary festival which I volunteered for. They were some of the most disruptive kids I have ever seen.
    I would think twice before putting my own kid in with them. A lot of the kids in the GE strand are not getting their needs met at home, probably have poor parenting, live in highly stressed out situations, and bring all of that to school.

  38. 10:44, I'm pretty sure they are keeping their GE strand.

    In schools running both GE and immersion, it's not unusual that the immersion track has more middle-class kids. Whether those kids have better parents isn't something I can comment on.

  39. 10.44: Please refrain from commenting on other people's parenting skills based upon an incidental observation of a classroom on a field trip. I know several people in the PR GE strand that read this blog as well: it is highly, highly offensive to them and, quite frankly to us, and others, to read generalistic, simplistic remarks like yours.
    Worse, it only contributes to the elitist perception this blog sometimes suffers from.
    Please feel free to e-mail me off-line if you would like to discuss further.

  40. Do a lot of the kids in the GE strand come from project housing?

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. I second the call to avoid blanket statements about parenting skills based on socio-economic status. It's not true and it's not fair and it's hurtful.

  43. 9:53 from last night.

    I don't know about all the children in PV GE, but I do know that some of them come from wonderful, loving families.

    To my mind, the school has done a good job in maintaining discipline and order in the lower grades. (Third grade and under?)

    To me, the problem for PV now doesn't stem from a need for discipline. It stems from the fact that 83% of kids at this school speak Spanish at home, that 67% of the kids participate in the free or reduced lunch program, and 44% of kids are English language learners.

    There is little exposure for these kids to the influence that a parent community of professionals in the arts, sciences and technicial fields would lend. A few kids may have a general idea of a profession that they want to aspire to, but there is little community support, little knowledge, and little guidance.

    I was reading on Rachel Norton's blog about an innovative program for kids with disabilities where they have the kids do their homework at the school. PV has started a program like this, I believe.

    More is needed. Does PV have a guidance councillor?

  44. I believe Paul Revere has counselors in the middle school, like all our middle schools.

    What Paul Revere is trying to do is create a mixed community that exposes ALL the kids to the gifts of the different communities within it. Yes, that includes a wider worldview that professional families can bring. It also includes the wider worldview that working class families from Mexico can bring. Just to name one aspect, I could point to the emphasis on family and on taking care of the younger kids--this is endemic among the Mexican American kids and not so much among the anglos at my kids' school. And of course the school's job is to try to expose the kids to a wide variety of sources of learning via fieldtrips, books, and in-school experiences with the arts. It seems to me that Paul Revere is doing exactly what needs to be done to address your concerns! And how would your kid be harmed by this? I don't think mine have been at their SI school.

  45. 1:04 PM

    It wasn't my suggestion that my child would be "harmed" by going to Paul Revere, at least not in the sense that you are referring to in terms of cultural exposure. Our daughter is very good friends with one of the kids in the Paul Revere GE classes.

    I would have loved it if our daughter could have attended a school like Alvarado. I don't think Paul Revere is there yet.

    I do look at the test scores of the English language learner kids in many schools. It is very concerning when you don't see the scores coming up in the higher elementary grades. That indicates that the kids are not learning English. Cultural exposure is wonderful, but it shouldn't come at the expense of going to college.

    I am not so sure about the Latino family emphasis of the older children taking care of the younger children. Frankly, I see this in all cultures. But parents also have the greater responsibility. Too often, I see some minority parents being too busy to get their kids to study and the older children being unfairly burdened with responsibility. Not always, but frequently enough, studying and skill development are not sufficiently emphasized. That places a greater load on the school. It ultimately undermines the opportunities for children to fully develop.

  46. 4:26, those are valid and frequently discussed points about some cultures -- those that don't have a strong cultural emphasis on academics, as well as those whose cultural practice is to place responsibility for younger kids on their older siblings.

    But being in classes with the kids from those families is not going to harm your child. In fact, your child could well benefit from exposure to the practices of diverse cultures.

    I'm not going to be overly PC about it. A school that has too many unprepared, needy kids will be overburdened. But short of that point, those families' shortcomings in supporting their kids' academically won't do your child any harm.

  47. I think 5:35 has put her/his finger on my question for 4:46. I have found 4:46's comments interesting, and I don't belittle the concerns about the burdens on the schools of serving mostly disadvantaged kids, but how Alvarado got to where it is was by starting at the place where Revere did just a few years ago (I think Revere is a couple years into this process). Eventually, Alvarado attracted a much larger mass of advantaged children, but without losing the significant mass of disadvantaged children either (hence the test scores at Alvarado for all children stays well below those of Clarendon, although demographically similar children score the same). In other words, Alvarado moved to a 50-50 mix (more or less), which is according to many sources a very good way to build more success for all kids.

    I guess my point is, if 4:46 and presumably others are unwilling to send her children to Revere until it becomes an Alvarado, how will it ever attract that larger mass of children that will help the school not be so burdened? It takes families moving in to build that Alvarado mix. It's a real question.

    I also don't see how, a couple of years into the turnaround, the advantaged kids are harmed by being a part of such a school. What do the test scores of other groups have to do with 4:46's daughter? What do the test scores of the upper grades at Revere have to do with the turnaround, which is just now reaching the second or third grade? I am sure 4:46's daughter wouldn't have a problem in English or math or science and would score very high. The school's trajectory is UP, so the programs and excitement are there. The critical mass of achieving kids are there and growing. The diversity is there in a way that private schools can only dream of. How is any child--whether advantaged or disadvantaged--harmed by being a part of that? Being part of a school on the move seems like a win-win all the way around.

    I'm sorry, I'm just really trying to figure out how the very real concerns articulated by 4:46 with regard to ELLs add up to concerns about how her kid would do at that school, which I think would be very, very well.

  48. 4:26 from Saturday.

    It was not I to suggest that my daughter would be "harmed" by sending her to Paul Revere school.

    I have tried to illustrate some of my concerns, not only about PV, but about all schools with a lot of disadvantaged english language learner kids.

    The dynamic is really too complex to settle here. I'll try to illustrate it a little bit.

    I think we are all familiar with what I will call "The Good Will Hunting" effect. It is tough for a kid to make it to college when they come from a working class background.

    I am also speaking from some of my own experiences and those of my husband. Some of you may be familiar with my "Junker Driving Husband" from some of the stuff that I have put up earlier. He was on the school lunch program for several years in middle school and remembers seeing the Grade "C" turkey underneath the ice cream sandwiches in the freezer. He remembers thinkging, "Wow, we're not even worthy of a Grade "B" turkey."

    He did have to confront a lot of pressure, both from his parents and the larger Greek community, to get to college (MIT, as it turns out.) His Dad, who was familiar with the value of a good education largely due to their city of origin, Salonica, still could not figure out why my husband was always studying. My husband attended excellent public schools, but his father often complained that "So and so is working at the local mechanic, so what about you?"

    Peer pressure, family pressure and community pressure can and do undermine a child's willingness to push forward toward college.

    Not only children from working class families fall victim to this kind of pressure.

    It is not my point here to single out Paul Revere School.

  49. Just to chime in here: Revere's the only public I've seen that calls itself a "College Preparatory School." It's also the only one where I saw a college banner in the hallways.

  50. 4:26

    First I just want to say I appreciate that you are willing to have a conversation about real issues. I don't mean to be a jerk, but rather to engage with what you are saying. Second, if you are happy where you placed your child, far be it for me to disagree with that choice. In other words, I'm not trying to get you to change your kid's school at this point. I am trying to understand your reasoning. Hope that makes sense. Basically, I am still confused by what you say, and since you are willing to converse, I'd love it if you could explain further.

    You have said that you would not consider Paul Revere for YOUR child because of what you understand to be a non-college-bound culture in the largely working class community there. However, you would have been willing to send your child to Alvarado. Others have responded and said, well, YOUR child would not be harmed by this larger community and would be very likely to have academic success and college aspirations (mostly due to family expectations but also the school itself improving). And with your family (or a similar family) adding to the demographic mix, that would contribute to a shift to a higher-expectations, college-bound culture at the school, as we have seen in the Alvarado turnaround. Then you respond by saying that you are not worried about your child being harmed, but you are concerned about the kids who are there don't have that culture, who are (my words) basically marooned in a ghetto of non-college-going culture.

    Seriously, I'm confused. If your child would not be harmed, and in fact would bring some of that college-going culture to the school, making it in fact a school much more like Alvarado in its demographic mix, what again is the problem with going there? Your child is still acadmically focused and college bound. There is increasingly a critical mass of like children who would be your child's academic peers. The school culture itself is being transformed (not only through demographic shifts, rather starting with principal and teachers, but yes, also families moving in with higher expectations).

    I guess I'm saying, it doesn't make sense to say that you won't send your kid there because you are concerned about the future success of those other kids. Isn't that perhaps a reason to dig into that community, in fact? If the evidence shows (from Alvarado and other schools) that your kid will do well, and evidence also shows that your family will help integrate the school (socio-economically) in ways that help to raise expectations, then what is the problem? It seems like your "solution" for your concerns about these OTHER kids (school dominated by ELL, low-income kids) is to say that YOUR kid shouldn't go there, when your kid would do fine and help to address the very concerns you list. You are answering the question about why you didn't go there with a statement about the other kids.

    Does that make sense? It's a serious question!

    Btw, I went to public school in an inner-city ghetto all through growing up and Paul Revere looks like a crystal palace compared to that atmosphere. There is no comparison. We had nothing like the facilities, leadership, and teaching that Paul Revere offers. Those of us who grew up in 70's inner-city schools need to know that it is not the same (it is much, much improved).

  51. 12:54 PM

    4:26 and 7:42,

    I'm going respond in brief, if that is OK.

    Peer group. I believe you need greater socioeconomic diversity than is currently at PV. A few more middle class kids would be a pull for all kids upward, something like the mix at Alvarado.

    Less pressure to meet the No Child Left Behind mandates, as I said earlier. Some kids need to learn to read and some kids don't. When I toured, I didn't get a sense of what kids who had already learned to read would be doing. Nobody spoke of differentiated teaching.

    Math curriculum. I asked about it and was told that PV was using "Everyday Math". I know that is what SFUSD has chosen. Some schools adhere to this more strictly. I wanted a more conventional, rigorous math approach.

    The public schools we applied to addressed these issues. Alas, we did not get into any of those public schools. One thing I will say is that we did not put PV on our list, but had it been assigned to us, we might have had a second look.

    I've gone to the trouble to illustrate our concerns because I think these issues need to be addressed if the public school are going to draw some of the middle class parents back.

    Thus far, all I see is a like or lump it attitude.

    That is all I have to say about it.

    PV does seem to be on the upswing and we would only be happy if that happened.

  52. If you live in the community and would be WALKING your kid to school, then Paul Revere is definitely worthy of consideration. If you live across town and would be driving everyday, well maybe not. My point is that PR is developing a community school feeling that many of us were looking for and we happily put in the volunteer hours to facilitate this process. Of course, it's not necessarily a fit for everyone.

  53. 4:03, thanks for responding, and I won't ask for another response. I guess I am still confused though as to how PR is supposed to build a strong enough middle class community to address your concerns if middle class families such as yours won't consider it until it does. That's a vicious little circle, no?

    Once upon a time not that long ago, Alvarado had similar demographics to Paul Revere of two or three years ago. Fortunately, the immersion magnet program is surely attracting that set of folks you mention to Paul Revere, just as it did to Alvarado--which will lead to more differentiation as the needs warrant it, just as it has at Alvarado.

    I mean, someone's got to take the leap, right? I wouldn't leap into just any school, but one with the leadership and vision of Paul Revere, yes I would.

  54. Hi 4:47:

    "4:03, thanks for responding, and I won't ask for another response. I guess I am still confused though as to how PR is supposed to build a strong enough middle class community to address your concerns if middle class families such as yours won't consider it until it does. That's a vicious little circle, no? "

    Well, I think Paul Revere School will break out, but it could use some help. The principal and teachers seem to be doing the right things. Perhaps we were one or two years too early when we looked.

    One more thing to say about Paul Revere School. Perhaps some of the staff there know that the Annex sits atop a geologically significant outcropping of serpentine. (The southern extent of the NW to SE stripe that crosses the city and on which the Mint and the south anchor of the GG Bridge sit.) You can see the out cropping on Ogden between Prentiss and Banks. It is a darkish polished very hard rock.

    If there are any Paul Revere teachers that are interested in teaching this, using the local geology as a reference, please see the amazing book:

    "A Streetcar to Subduction" written by Clyde Wahrhaftig. It is a great place to start to understand and teach the geology of Bernal Hill:

    The school might also consider inviting Walter Alvarez for a talk:

  55. For any PR General ed parents out there...I have a 1st grader and I'm thinking about applying to a different school for next year. In all honest here...what do you think about the GE strand? Especially the older grades? I'm really hesitant to put my child in GE at PR.

  56. 11/9, 7.43: I just came back from a PR PTA meeting: we had 1 6th grader, 1 7th grader, and 2 8th graders (all GE, as SI didn't exist yet when they came into the school) joining us in the meeting, actively participating in our discussion on the 2009-2010 PTA budget (yeah, I know, we're just like the state of CA, always finalizing our budget a couple of months late...).
    If you were to know that their requests for PTA support ranged from 'more books on social studies' to 'more fieldtrips around engineering and architectural subjects', that one of them is a part of the 'mouse squad' that essentially maintains our 2 computer labs of around 20 state of the art desktop Macs and wireless mobile lab with laptops, would you consider joining us at PR?

  57. 7:43, who is considering a second grade change for next year (English):

    I can only tell you that I think the teachers of the general ed on the Annex side are extremely talented, caring, dedicated, and hip. It was the second grade general ed. class that hosted and interviewed Obama's Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan when he came to SF. When you walk into that 2nd grade room you will see a large colorful rug that fits everyone, a couch, a guitar, and student made books. And you will most likely be greeted with smiles!

    I am afraid I have little information to offer regarding the Main side (4th-8th). I just haven't seen much because my child is still younger. They do some awesome performances for family nights though.

  58. 7:12, thank you! I had no idea. The info will be passed on.

  59. "Just to chime in here: Revere's the only public I've seen that calls itself a "College Preparatory School." '

    E.R. Taylor also has a strong focus on prepping its kids for college. The kids tour UC in fifth grade.

  60. Hi,
    I'm 7:43, who is considering a second grade change for next year (English)--

    Thank you for the comments from current PR parents. I am really looking forward to my tour, with high hopes.

  61. We're affluent and live in Bernal, and we're putting PR #1 on our list.

  62. We're in Glen Park (and doing OK financially) and I'm listing PR as my #1 too. Fingers crossed.

  63. SFUSD has adopted everyday math... all schools will be using it. It is a good thing to have your child figure things out for themselves instead of memorizing formulas - but they may find that the formula is the way THEY solve problems.

  64. We are in Glen Park also and looking seriously into PR for #1. If it wasn't for the start time...

    I wanted to make note on Marcia's comment about College Prep - E.R. Taylor is also considered "college prep" but it's a huge school. Where PR may be ethnically more hispanic, E.R. is Chinese.

  65. I appreciate the work of all people who share information with others.