Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hot topic: Claire Lilienthal

This from an SF K Files reader:
Would it be possible to start a topic on Claire Lilienthal? There aren't any reviews of the school on the blog and unfortunately, we can't make it to any of the tours due to work conflicts. I know it's one of the oversubscribed trophy schools but the parent comments on GreatSchool.net's site puzzled me - some reviewers claimed the middle school doesn't offer AP classes, several bemoaned the lack of arts, and several cited the high principal turnover in the last five years. I'd love to hear impressions from other parents who have either toured the school or whose children who attend it.

48 comments:

  1. You can take an advanced placement class for college credit in middle school?

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  2. not that I know of (in *any* school in this town, public private trophy parochial etc)

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  3. My hair dressers kids go to this school and she loves it. Also my neighbor down the block sends her son there. They like it too. It's too far from us to consider. It is on a lovely tree lined street.

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  4. I am a Lilienthal parent.

    Facts:

    *The current Principal, William Hack, has been at the school for 9 years, as Assistant Principal prior to becoming Principal 4 years ago. The Assistant Principal has been at the school for 4 years.

    *Arts are integrated into every grade, and this has increased under Principal Hack's leadership.

    *K-8 schools do not get the same kind of funding for middle school that the comprehensives do. Consequently, electives are more limited. That being said, teachers do a great job with what they have, and there are ample opportunities for community service.

    *I'm guessing the poster means Honors classes instead of AP? The middle school has an average of 66 kids in each grade, with two classes of each subject; kids are either in 6A or 6B, for example, and all instruction is differentiated according to each student's needs. I know about 1/3 of last year's 8th grade class was accepted at Lowell.

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  5. I would take anything on Great Schools with a grain of salt. Translating the comments on Great Schools, I think what I'm seeing is the classic SF public middle school debate between parents who believe that the only way for their kids to be challenged is to be in honors-only classes and the views of teachers and many authorities that kids -- even smart ones -- learn best in classes that integrate them with students who are not performing as well. Sounds like Lillienthal's practice is not to segregate out honors students and that's why some parents are upset. Suffice it to say that these are not issues that should be driving your kindergarten decision.

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  6. AP classes are only offerred in High School. I would say that the standard middle schools do offer more electives and opportunities then the K-8 schools do. If you are looking at K -8 schools, definitely consider the upper-grades at the shcool too. It is VERY important.

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  7. My son went to K at CL. I want to mention 3 nice things about Claire Lilienthal:

    1) the separate K-2 campus is nice. It means that the younger kids are not with the middle schoolers until 3rd grade. People with multiple kids bring all kids to the K-2 campus in the mornings and the older kids ride a school bus to the Marina campus.

    2) The Korean Immersion Program brings a cultural experience to all students at the school, and the school also gets funding from the Korean government.

    3) CL is one of the schools that has been retrofitted for kids with hearing loss. That means that background noise is minimized in a lot of the classrooms, and many teachers are accustomed to using the microphone systems.

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  8. Lilienthal parent said:
    *K-8 schools do not get the same kind of funding for middle school that the comprehensives do. Consequently, electives are more limited.

    Actually, K-8 schools get the same per student funding that every school in the district does. But the "upper school" of a K-8 cannot possibly fund the extensive electives that comprehensive middle schools can, because of the small number of students - Rooftop, for example, has 150 students in its middle school; our comprehensive middle schools accommodate anywhere from 700 to 1,200 students. This means that the larger comprehensive schools have economies of scale that K-8s cannot offer. In fact, to compensate for the disadvantage of being small, K-8s get a "small schools" differential through the weighted student formula -- which actually means their per student funding is somewhat higher than a comprehensive middle school.

    Sorry for the detail, but it is important to dispel the notion that somehow the district discriminates against K-8s through funding. It's also worth considering this as a prospective K parent - K-8s are great for some kids, but others are ready to be in a bigger pond by the time they graduate from 5th grade.

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  9. Thanks for the detail, Rachel! It is good to know how the funding really works.

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  10. If you're at a K-8, you can still choose to leave after 5th grade, right? So there's not a downside to starting in a k-8 and having the option to decide whether you want to stay for middle school or not when the time comes.

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  11. 4:56, that is correct. Many choose to stay on, of course, but I can say that among my kid's friends at Aptos there are several from various K-8's who entered at 6th and even 7th, looking for a bigger pond both socially and in terms of academic / elective offerings.

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  12. I know about 1/3 of last year's 8th grade class was accepted at Lowell.

    How does that compare, percentage-wise, to other middle schools?

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  13. I don't know about exact percentages, but you can check "over-represented" versus "under-represented" middle schools at Lowell by checking the Band 1 and Band 3 lists in the Lowell application section of sfusd.edu.

    Remember that this is quite often not a function of the school's teaching but the of the demographic/family background of the students (just like test scores in general). Lowell admission is mostly based on grades and test scores and is very competitive. If your kid is not a genius, it can be a huge advantage for Lowell admission to be in a Band 3 school, which offers more tolerance in terms what is required--i.e., you can get a few more B's and still get in.

    Case in point, James Lick, which is a Band 3 school. I know lots of kids who went there for Spanish immersion. They just don't have to stress as much about Lowell admissions as their friends who went to Presidio or AP Giannini.

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  14. "Case in point, James Lick, which is a Band 3 school. I know lots of kids who went there for Spanish immersion. They just don't have to stress as much about Lowell admissions as their friends who went to Presidio or AP Giannini."

    Presidio was a Band 3 school last year... according to the Band 3 info at the SFUSD website, anyway. (Not sure about this year.) It's not just about having the grades and achievement test scores, but about wanting to attend Lowell... and some schools seem to have more kids who want to attend Lowell than others. (At least, I'm assuming that's why Presidio and some others - like Hamlin- are Band 3 schools.)

    Scroll down for Band 3 schools:
    http://tinyurl.com/ycbytbb

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  15. Good point, M. I wasn't up on the latest of which schools were Band 1versus Band 3; and it changes every year.

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  16. Okay, after touring and many agonizing unpaid tours of elementary schools we have listed CL as #2, here is our list...we are submitting it on Monday due to the Lowell deadline, all coments welcome:

    1. Sherman (neighborhood school)
    2. CL
    3. Alvardao - Spanish
    4. Grattan (great science program)
    5. George Peabody
    6. Argonne
    7. Yick Wo

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  17. when are the public school choices due? i thought it was in january?

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  18. 9:28

    I just want to make sure you know that your top FOUR appear on the infamous "List of Eleven"--

    quoting from Rachel Norton's blog here:

    Of the 947 families who did not receive any of their Round I choices last year, almost 800 listed one of these high demand schools as their first or second choice:

    * Alamo
    * Alice Fong Yu
    * Alvarado
    * Clarendon
    * Grattan
    * Lawton
    * Lilienthal
    * Miraloma
    * Rooftop
    * Sherman
    * West Portal


    Of course past performance is not a guarantee of future performance, good or bad, but you might want to know that based on the lottery of 2009, you are setting yourself up to go 0/7 in a big way. Sure, you could get lucky (longshot). But I have to ask--are you prepared to go 0/7? Do you have a backup plan? Are you okay with doing the waitpools? Will you refrain from whining about the system if you don't get one of your picks (sorry, pet peeve!)?

    Peabody, Yick Wo, and Argonne are all popular, but more moderate choices. You have NO "probables" here at all. I'd feel better about the Peabody and Yick Wo choices if you listed them first and second so you could take advantage of tie-brekaers once the diversity pools are cleared.

    The one thing in your favor is Sherman being your neighborhood school. If that is your true top choice, I'd probably list it first but consider something much less crazy popular than CL or Alvarado or Grattan for spots 2-4.

    Hope that helps.

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  19. 11:24

    January 8 is the deadline for Round 1. This week's deadline for Lowell though.

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  20. I've a feeling Peabody will be making it to Rachel's list this year. I'm afraid it's not really a "hidden gem" anymore - the tours were packed.

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  21. 9:28 p.m. here, we listed 3 moderate schools and our assignment area school as #1 which we thought would give us a better chance. We purposedly did not list all trophy schools so we would have better odds. For example, we picked Argonne over Alamo. CL and Sherman are our closest schools which weighed heavily in listing them as #1 and #2. After some of the comments, I think we will switch the order a bit after that and put Peabody as #3 and Yick Wo as #4, moving the rest down the line (and basically conceding we will never get Alvarado or Grattan but putting us in a better cohort if we go 0/7). Those schools are also a good geographic fit though the 9:30 a.m. start time at Yick Wo is not great for our schedules. Question, however, does neighborhood preference continue in Round II or the waitlists? As for whining...you bet I will not be happy if I go 0/7 directly as result of the amount of time ths process takes. I have toured many "probables" in hopes of finding a good fit and none made the list so to speak.

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  22. Is it really fair to blame "the system" for the fact that you didn't like some of the schools you toured, and the fact that the schools you do like are popular ones? You happen to like your neighborhood schools so you don't like that you're not guaranteed a spot in one - but if you didn't like your neighborhood schools you would ge vary glad to have a different option instead.

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  23. I would just point out again that if you put Sherman and CL as #1 and #2 that you will be choosing a pattern that matches the profile of the VAST majority of 0/7s from last year. You can certainly choose to do that! --many do-- I would just encourage you to have a backup plan and be prepared for a summer of waitpooling.

    As for whining--I can't contest anyone's fundamental opinions about the 50 or so schools that many of us consider just fine (yes, I think we all know there are a few that are really not). Stepping back from those personal judgments, I would only say again that if you really believe that the only schools worth applying for are the ones that are most likely to send you 0/7, then you should plan for that probability, and not be surprised or let down or for godsakes whiny when it happens. It's like saying you think your kid is only good enough for Harvard, Yale, Amherst; you can believe that with all your heart, but you'd be crazy to not to have a backup plan anyway, and people will find it very trying if you complain that the "system" is broken when your kid doesn't get into one of them and now you have no options.

    I mean, we all know the odds by now, right? You don't have to like the system, but it *is* the system, for now anyway, and making rational decisions within it means considering the odds. This is the moment to back away from wishful thinking and get very clear on the probabilities, and make your choices based on the hard numbers (at least for last year, as far as they are predictive). And please, spare us the OMG I went 0/7 routine in March! If you put this list, I'd be surprised if you didn't go 0/7. Is that okay with you? That's fine, but live with the consquences of that choice. If not, then make a different choice.

    Sorry to be harsh, but I think it's better to say it now than in hindsight, which happened a lot last spring, and people felt attacked for "shoot the moon" Round 1 choices they couldn't change at that point.

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  24. What does "shoot the moon" mean? It would appear that it is getting harder every year to get into many schools in the SFUSD with the increased enrollment data (probably an indication that the lottery actually is working to raise the standard of education at many schools). The list of likely to get into schools seems to be decreasing leaving families with little certainty surroundig their choices. Rachel Norton's list is 20% or more of the schools in the city and there are many more schools where demand outstrips requests.

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  25. I think the list of eleven is "shoot the moon" [it's a card-playing term, for those who are not familiar with the game of Hearts, for a risky but high-payoff move to take all the tricks in the deck, no mistakes allowed]. Objectively, the families that put these schools as #1 or #2 comprise a super-majority of those who got nothing in the lottery. Perhaps another way to think of it is would be to examine the 5-year demand data and say that shooting the moon is to go for a school with a certain large % of apps over spots available, but I think the "list of eleven" is a good shorthand--especially given that those who listed all other schools are only barely represented among the 0/7s. In other words, only a small group of families that *didn't* list one of these eleven @ #1 or #2 didn't get one of their picks. Sounds good to me!

    Yes, other schools are increasingly popular, no doubt about that. But I would call them moderately popular by comparison. If you list seven such schools, you have a decent if not guaranteed chance of getting one of them, especially whichever one you list at #1 or #2.

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  26. "Rachel Norton's list is 20% or more of the schools in the city"

    ***

    I think 11 schools is more like 14% of elementary programs in the city--that's leaving out the Chinese and Spanish bilingual programs altogether but counting GE and immersion.

    That means that if you pick from the remaining programs--86% of those available!--that you are much less likely to go 0/7 than if you pick from the 14%. There are a good many fine schools beyond that trophy list! Unless you are really committed to a 0/7 waitpool strategy, I can't imagine why anyone would go that route given what else is out there.

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  27. 5:24 a.m. (Dec. 10). God I hope you are wrong about Peabody as we put it Number 1 to "ensure" we don't go 0/7. It'll be an interesting winter/spring.

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  28. Well, according to Adam's spreadsheet at PPS, Peabody last year had 292 total non-sibling requests for an estimated 30 non-sibling spots, i.e., 10.3% of getting it, all things being equal in terms of diversity, etc.

    However, you increase your chances in a tie-breaker by listing it as #1.

    Peabody's certainly a better pick than Claire Lilienthal, but I hope your other picks aren't all "list of 11"-type trophy schools, because then you are really relying on Peabody for a hit.

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  29. Peabody's first-choice requests last year were 33--better odds for the first-choicers once diversity pools are cleared out. However, that may be shifting if the tours are packed--Peabody's been climbing in recent years.

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  30. Does SFUSD have any projections for the number of applicants for K this year? Curious,if the numbers will be climbing again, like last year.

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  31. With the recession, it would be a good bet that a higher % of families will be at least trying the lottery. I don't know the demographic numbers of how many 4-5 year-olds are in the city, but surely that is searchable?

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  32. my child got into CL while in the WP last year. just from my experience we were 0/7 all the way up until the week before school stared. if you are willing to play the waiting game, spots do open up... at the LAST MINUTE and the first few weeks of school. there was a lot of movement the first month.

    I would not list any school you wouldn't be happy with if you get in. I think it is better to be 0/7 all the way b/c you will get priority in the WP. it's nerve racking but, spots DO open up.

    we love it at CL. the community and the teachers are wonderful and I feel the diversity in the student body is great. it's an all around great school, we are lucky that we got in. good luck to everyone!

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  33. Yes, going for the 0/7 waitpool strategy is fine. It very often works. Just know that you are doing it! No whining please to the rest of us....you are *choosing* this strategy to wait it out to the last minute to get a spot at a super-popular school. Thanks.

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  34. Exactly- perfectly acceptable strategy but if you're going to do it, don't whine when you do - in fact - go 0/7.

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  35. Aw, come on -- this blog is whine central. Let it flow.

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  36. Well, whine away then but don't expect sympathy ;-)

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  37. Almost everyone gets my sympathy who is going through the process.

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  38. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I HAD TO READ THIS OVER AND OVER AGAIN LAST YEAR. THE EXPRESSION IS "SHOOT **FOR** THE MOON" NOT "SHOOT THE MOON". i really can't believe how many posters continue to get this wrong. it is not THAT uncommon an expression. i mean, think about it.

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  39. Clearly you have not played Hearts.
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shoot%20the%20moon

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  40. Hey, 12:53, no need to shout. As 7:13 points out just now, and was *already* explained by Dec 10 @ 2:25, "shoot the moon" is a very common expression used in the popular game of Hearts--I'm sure much more common than the "shoot for the moon" phrase you are suggesting. Even if it is not the correct phrasing for say, NASA, it is a colloquial phrase in wide use. It implies a risky and longshot move with a high payoff at the end if successful. Please read others' posts more carefully before you go all grammar cop on us, alright? The people knew what they were saying.

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  41. Back on the subject of Claire Lillienthal. I think the Great Schools comments are indicative of how schools that have a great "trophy" buzz about them can change over time. Not to denegrate any of the commenters here, but, frankly, there are definitely some trophy public schools that have fallen down. It sounds to me like Claire Lillienthal may be heading in that direction. It is yet another cautionary note about parents rushing like lemmings and putting the same "trophy" schools down without looking in in more detail. My advice: don't trust the buzz, verify!

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  42. Regarding the Great School's commenters - in my experience, it's much easier to complain than to do something constructive to make changes when you do not like a particular situation.

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  43. To 2:55 -- I don't think the Great Schools commenters are being "destructive." They are just giving their perspective. It is equally not "destructive" for parents that like a school to make positive comments. What I find destructive is that many parents don't go behind the "buzz" about certain schools and instead, year after year, keep putting down the same small list of schools. My kids are older now, and I have heard plenty of negative things about some of the "trophy" schools. And these are not just comments from grousers -- these are people who pulled their kids out of the school, which to my mind shows that the problems were fairly significant. And, yet, when I look on this board, again and again I see parents rushing like lemmings to apply to these schools. Folks, schools change, dynamo parents leave, dynamo principals leave, things fall apart. My kid's school in the last five years has undergone massive changes so do these trophy schools. Please don't take at face value that the trophy schools are all they are cracked up to be. Verify! Verify! Verify!

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  44. Your point is well-taken, 5:01. So, can anyone comment specifically on Claire Lilienthal and whether it is as good as it was, say six years ago?

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  45. No hard facts but our tour impressions were not that great compared to other public schools we toured. The school is large (4 K classes, 1 being Korean immersion) and appeared chaotic; the assistant principal alsoseemed disorganized. I did not get the "trophy" school label placed on CL.

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  46. I've got to agree with the last few posts. There have been several supposed-trophy schools that just didn't seem to cut it to me -- Clair Lilienthal, Rooftop, Clarendon, and Buena Vista. Maybe it was just that I was expecting too much, but none of these schools really wowed me. Frankly I'm finding some of the other "up and coming" schools much more interesting -- I've got to say I found Sunnyside and Sunset hands down more impressive than any of the above.

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  47. I'm not gonna comment on the quality of the school but. . . What does it say about a school's originality/ awareness when their logo is a direct ripoff of the LG electronics logo? (Korean electronics company)

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