Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hot topic: Cobb Montesorri program

This from an SF K Files reader:
I'm sure you've read the article on the front page of the Monday Chronicle about the Montesorri program at Cobb and alleged tension between the GE program and the Montesorri program. The article didn't seem to present both sides of the story and I wonder if families from Cobb might shed some light/truth on the complexity of the situation if you posted it as a topic. Schools that share a similar construct -- where the District has planted a magnet program such as language immersion in an historically underperforming school (particularly with a core African American population) -- and similar issues, might benefit from the sharing of information and best practices as well.
SF Gate article:

Montessori program at S.F. school stirs clash

Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, December 7, 2009

When San Francisco school officials opened a public Montessori program in an under-enrolled elementary school adjacent to the city's low-income Western Addition neighborhood in 2005, it sounded like a good idea.
It meant that poor, mostly African American students would have free and convenient access to what often is an expensive private program, out of reach and relatively unknown to inner-city children.
Instead, the effort has turned into a major headache for district administrators who now are embroiled in a bitter community battle over the educational fate of Cobb Elementary School.
At the heart of the fight is a district plan to phase out the school's traditional general education program - now serving predominantly African American students - to convert Cobb to all Montessori. While the program is offered to any family in the city, the intent of placing a Montessori program at Cobb was to better serve the neighborhood's African American families. Yet few parents from the community there seem to know much about the program or want it.
"Why should you uproot those kids?" said Deborah White, whose granddaughter attends Cobb's general education program. "That's a community school."
District officials say nothing has been decided and that the school board will vote on Cobb's fate in a public forum sometime in the near future.

A large waiting list

Currently, Cobb's Montessori program, which opened in 2005 for preschool children only, now takes up four of the school's 19 classrooms, offering instruction to 81 students up to the second grade. The program draws equal numbers of white, black, Asian and Latino students from across the city and maintains a large waiting list. This fall there were 133 applications for eight open seats in the pre-K program, said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe. Priority is given to low-income families.
Now the district wants to expand the program through fifth grade, but that would mean there wouldn't be enough room to operate both Montessori and the traditional elementary school on the site.
One would have to go - with the general education program the most likely candidate. District officials say moving the Montessori program to another school would be expensive and would leave Cobb with just 150 students - too few to be financially viable.
Supporters of the Montessori expansion say it would make sense to send Cobb's general education students to nearby Rosa Parks or John Muir Elementary schools, but opponents, who include Cobb's parents and teachers, want the general education students to stay where they are. They're willing to fight for Cobb.
Dozens of supporters for Cobb's traditional program appeared before the school board recently to argue their case.
Cobb has served working-poor families in the Western Addition for generations. Moving to a more distant school would be a tremendous hardship for many, said Cobb general education teacher Yvette Fagan.
"Nobody came and talked to the families about Montessori," she said. "If they wanted the parents to have a choice, did they ask them if they wanted the choice? Are these parents supposed to feel invested?"

Poor marketing job

School board member Rachel Norton said the district opened the Montessori program at least in part to address the relatively low academic performances of African American children across the city, but it appears that school officials haven't done the best job marketing the program to the Western Addition families they had particularly hoped to serve.
Many neighborhood parents said they thought the program wasn't available to them. Some believed it was a private institution or that they would have to pay tuition for their children to attend.
Regardless, most parents remain committed to Cobb.
In the school's traditional classrooms, the teachers teach and give homework and tests. In Montessori classrooms, children teach themselves and each other. There are no tests or take-home worksheets; the teacher is a guide who monitors their progress with very specific visual and tactile tools.
Some studies have shown Montessori students, including low-income and minority children, perform better academically than those in traditional schools - although the research overall offers a mixed bag of results.
The Montessori program at Cobb is too new to determine how successful it is at raising its students' performance. The program's lone second-grader will be the only one eligible to take the state's standardized tests this year.
"(The Montessori method) actually has a really good track record with a group of kids we haven't done so well with as a district," Norton said. "We're not just doing the same thing we always did; we're putting programs in the targeted communities to help close that gap."

Enrollment dilemma

Cobb has long been the school of choice for Corinne Pope's daughter, Savannah, who will enter kindergarten next fall and would be interested in either program at the school.
Yet, at the district's enrollment fair she was told that because her daughter didn't attend Cobb's Montessori program as a preschooler, it would be nearly impossible to get into the program now.
If she enrolls her in the school's general education kindergarten, she wouldn't have any assurance that her daughter would be able to continue in that program through fifth grade.
"I don't know what we're going to do," Pope said. "I don't want to put her in the wrong school."
The school's Montessori implementer Emily Green acknowledged there will be few spaces for incoming kindergartners in the Montessori program and spots for upper grades would also be rare in the future.
In addition, it's not a good idea to transfer older elementary students into the Montessori method, Green said.
"I guess the moral of the story is this is hard," Norton said. "Change is hard."

How Montessori works

The first Montessori school was founded in 1907 by Maria Montessori in Italy, based on the fundamental idea that children teach themselves.
The method includes a "prepared environment" in which children can choose the activity they want to do.
Teachers don't give homework or tests.
Children work at their own pace and are placed in groups with a three-year age span, allowing them to learn from each other.
Teachers are considered "guides." They instruct students in how to use the specific Montessori learning tools and then let them learn and master the concepts.
"Everything is called work," said Carol Husbands, site manager for the Cobb Child Development Center, which includes the Montessori preschool program. "The teachers are trying not to interrupt their work. It's a children's house."
At San Francisco's Cobb Elementary School, each Montessori classroom contains a seemingly identical rack with strings of colored counting beads and a stackable tower of pink blocks. These are the same tactile tools one would find in a Montessori classroom in Hong Kong or Kentucky. The beads and blocks look like toys, but have order and purpose: to teach children individually and often subconsciously.
On a recent day, Cobb first-graders Lamariae and Eve, both 6, sat at a table huddled over a pile of words printed on cards.
"We're working together on singular and plural," Lamariae said.
Their teacher never interrupted or checked their work.
The girls put orange, key and kite under singular and then considered patio, cellos and donkey.
Nearby a student sat by himself and put cards with numbers in sequential order by ones, tens, hundreds and thousands.
While most Montessori schools are private, there are about 400 public programs in the United States, including those in charter schools.
San Francisco's Montessori program at Cobb Elementary School is one of about 30 in California.

94 comments:

  1. I think it's great that there is in SF a public Montessori program, which by all accounts is the real deal in terms of Montessori, a really high-quality effort. I've heard just wonderful things about it. It just adds to the mix of great magnet programs to have this option. I've heard too that Montessori is good at including/mainstreaming kids of all abilities and spectra, so that's a plus as well if true.

    That said, I have two concerns. One is--what was the effort to have community conversations three or four years ago or since about this effort? There is a lot of distrust in the African American community, maybe especially in the Western Addition since the broken promises of redevelopment, and more recently with the closure of Swett ES, toward outside efforts to "improve" things in their community. I would think a very serious effort to engage that community would be a necessary if not sufficient first step for adding a magnet program at Cobb.

    Two is--if the goal of adding or expanding this program is to include the African American neighborhood kids in a program that is sure to attract middle/upper class families, isn't the fact that entry needs to happen at the Pre-K level something of a barrier? This is a population that has historically low participation in Round 1 for K, for heaven's sake. It seems to me that either accomodation would have to be made to include neighborhood kids at the K level, or if that is really counter to the program method, then a really, really serious effort at outreach in the local African American community at the Pre-K level would be highly desirable/advisable. It hurts to hear of the African American mom from the neighborhood who wants her kid to go to Cobb in either program, who was told there wouldn't be spots in the K program. Isn't her kid exactly the target of this magnet effort?

    Not sure what I would do if I were on the BoE (sorry, Rachel--you get the hard choices). I do think the Montessori program should exist, and should include a real mix of kids if possible. How to do that at this point? I don't know! I hope whatever solution there is includes some real conversation with the existing communities, however. Even if it is catch-up on conversations that should have been going on for several years already. Please, no hasty decisions and papering over the dilemmas. That is no way to close the gaps, for sure.

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  3. I think the real disservice of this article is that it presents the two schools as antagonistic. As a Montessori parent of two children, I (and I think most other Montessori parents) have no problem moving to a different site. The choice does not have to be between GE or Montessori.

    As far as "community outreach" goes, I can't really comment. We only happened upon this Montessori preschool program by accident; browsing the SFUSD website. (Who knew "Child Development Center" is SFUSD parlance for preschool?) Unfortunately, there has not been a lot of easily available information about this program.

    With that said, the school is ethnically diverse (from www.sfpublicmontessori.org: "Currently, among our 75 enrolled Montessori students, 20 identify as African American, 15 as Latino, 19 as Asian American and 21 as Caucasian") and reserves 60% of its preschool enrollment for financially subsidized students.

    In short, Montessori is a great program and our children our thriving there.

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  4. So ...you would have no problem moving to another campus? Like John Muir?

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  5. I'd like to know what happened to the discussion about moving the Montesorri program to the school currently used by Spring Valley on Jackson street. Is another program moving there? Maybe you could shed light on this Rachel...I also would say, as a resident of the Western Addition, that it can be very hard to engage all the residents to embrace a new change. It took the lower Fillmore a long time to start moving toward redevelopment for such reasons.

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  6. If one of SFUSD's goals is diversity, the Montessori program does not fit that goal as socio-economic diversity will never be achieved if the preschool places preference on lower income students. Seems to me, it should have the same application criteria as the rest of SFUSD at the preschool entry level if it gives preference to the preschool kids for the K-5 program. I can see how the teachers at the existing school (who are likely not Montessori trained) would not want the change as their jobs are on the line. As for the existing families in general ed, I can also see why they would be upset and more thought should have gone into the montessori program before it was implemented (i.e. it realistically cannot co-exist with a general ed school). However, if the program is attracting that many applicants then I call it a success as the school was undersubscribed previously. SFUSD does not make it a goal accomodate neghborhood families with its current system. I see no reason why the families in the Western Addition should be treated any differently now that a neighborhood school is becoming more popular.

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  7. Are AA families from the Western Addition represented in the PreK program that feeds the Montessori program? If not, then why?

    Is it possible that the families who are upset were excluded from the get go simply by the nature of being beyond the entry point for the Montesorri program -- 1st - 5th? And that this feeling will eventually fade, since theoretically, interested neighborhood families

    Or is there a fundamental aversion to the Montesorri curriculum or perceived lack of fit between what AA families feel their students need and what the pedagogy of the Montessori program? Is it a correct perception? Or a lack of understanding?

    Has the District attempted to facilitate communication between parties?

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  8. Michael Krasny did an hour on Forum (KQED radio) this morning on this topic:

    A Tale of Two School Programs
    San Francisco school officials want to expand a Montessori program at one of the city's public elementary schools. They believe that the alternative curriculum, which emphasizes self-directed, developmentally based learning, could benefit underprivileged students. But some teachers and parents at Cobb Elementary oppose the move, fearing it will push out the more traditional general education curriculum.

    Audio currently not available for this program.


    Host: Michael Krasny

    Guests:

    * Jill Sprague, parent of a kindergartner in the general education program at Cobb Elementary
    * Jill Tucker, education writer for the San Francisco Chronicle
    * Lorie Jones, parent of a child in Cobb Elementary's 3rd grade
    * Marystarr Hope, parent of a student in the Cobb Elementary Montessori Program
    * Rachel Norton, parent and member of the San Francisco Board of Education


    Audio not yet available online, but the show usually reruns in the evening (tonight).

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  9. What was the overall tone of the radio show with regard to the new program - positive or negative? I wanted to listen to it but I had to get to a tour of yet another school I probably don't have a snowball's chance of getting into!

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  10. I went to the school tour at Cobb today and there seemed to be a lot of miscommunication and tension.

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  11. I listened with fascination to the discussion on NPR this morning and came away with a few things:

    1) No matter how wonderful it may be (Montessori) if no one asks the Cobb school community what THEY want, how can anyone expect them NOT to feel alienated, threatened and/or angry when a new program moves in that they had no say over?

    2) If you are going to use this new program to help underprivileged kids at the school, the least you can do is allow them to apply for Kindergarten without being required to attend the Montessori preschool (which is NOT free) as a prerequisite. How unfair for the family already at Cobb who has no chance at the program because the child did not start at age 3.

    3) There was very little information available about the program to the community at large. This is a communication problem and should have been addressed BEFORE the program moved in.

    No wonder the current Cobb GE families feel alienated.

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  12. I did a blog post on this topic that might shed some light on the various ways to resolve this situation - http://wp.me/paNv4-D2

    Just to answer this comment:
    If one of SFUSD's goals is diversity, the Montessori program does not fit that goal as socio-economic diversity will never be achieved if the preschool places preference on lower income students.

    I disagree - SFUSD as a whole is 53% Free-reduced price lunch (our proxy indicator for what "low income" means; it's actually REALLY low income but that's another discussion). Cobb's pre-k program sets aside 60% of the seats for low-income student's so I would put that in the "close-enough" category.

    Also, to the commenter who said: It hurts to hear of the African American mom from the neighborhood who wants her kid to go to Cobb in either program, who was told there wouldn't be spots in the K program.

    I AGREE! One thing I am NOT happy about is the kind of squishy answers the Montessori implementer has given families about whether or not children could transfer in after Pre-K. Best practices for Montessori indicate that there should be a point where children without a Montessori background would be at a disadvantage if transferring into the program, but I'm not sure that point should be Kindergarten.

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  13. No one is guaranteed their neighborhood school. That said, it seems that the application process for Cobb should be made a whole lot clearer for K-5.

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  14. Since there are no neigborhood schools, this whole concept of the families in the Western Addition getting first consideration at the school is contradictory. It would appear that yet again the district speaks out of both sides of its mouth. Besides being inconsistent on this point, they fail miserably on the communication front. There was no engagement in the Haight about starting the Chinese Immersion school there - would it kill the school district to engage the neighborhood communities in dicussions in advance?

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  15. Well, they don't have to offer neighborhood preference beyond the small weighting that is offered to ALL neighbors (outside of the citywide "alternative" schools like Clarendon). But they could have done / could do better community outreach to encourage on-time applications. Nothing wrong with that.

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  16. There is no neighborhood preference! It is an illusion.

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  17. There is some weighting in the lottery at several points. I agree it does not add up to a solid, bankable preference. It can make a difference, however, at a popular school whose applying families have largely similar diversity profiles (not poor, etc.).

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  18. It does seem like the Montessori program and the Chinese Immersion School at De Avila were decided upon in the dark of night. It makes it seem like the district takes a 'we know what's good for you better than you know what's good for you' approach.

    Also, regarding anyone's chances of getting in to certain schools based on your particular diversity profile - if the district would just publish how many kids are in each of the 16 diversity pools, (use last year's stats) I think we'd all feel like they're not trying to pull one over on us.

    They publish the makeup of each school regarding ELL, free lunch, and race. Why not publish the overall diversity of the applicants for Round 1??? It's not like they don't have the information.

    We all love a little sunshine.

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  19. I think the parents are acting like brats here. This is going to make it extremely unlikely that the district will try to start more appealing programs in schools, if the parents immediately start squabbling like 6-year-olds. Can't we all just get along?

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  20. It should not be just the mom in the Western Addition expressing her concern about the failure to make the enrollment at Cobb in preschool a priority as a precondition to being accepted in K but all of the K-5 applicants. Giving the Montessori program, the benefit of the doubt that like a language progam, entry after 1st grade just does not work, it still does not excuse SFUSD from making the preschool Montessori progam prerequisite completely unknown. I do not think this is a neighborhood issue (neighborhoods having little consideration in the enrollment process) but a city wide issue.

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  21. Can't we all just get along? Um, start a public elementary school program that can only be accessed through specific preschools that represent a miniscule percentage of the population of children? In a town where NOT going to preschool at all is supposed to be an advantage in the lottery? I guess I'm confused.

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  22. "I think the parents are acting like brats here..."

    Hmmm.. Well, think about how you might feel if a group of people came to your child's school to start a program with a specific pedagogy. The program became so popular that there was a long waiting list for it with no chance of your child being able to get in. Meanwhile, your child's GE program was being squeezed out to make way for this new program. No one had asked your family's opinion, even though your child was at the school first.

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  23. And there is also the question of John Swett and Golden Gate having been closed, which historically also served the Western Addition population, and specifically the Black population. So, salt into wound.

    I listened to the radio program (there is now an audio link up on the Forum section of the KQED radio site). It was interesting hearing the passion from parents in BOTH programs for their schools. I hope a solution is found that lets them both exist--and a way forward for the GE program to succeed with strong community input. It was especially interesting to hear the voice of a K mom in the GE program who hadn't considered even public school until Round 2, who had no prior sense of Cobb but was "stuck" with it as an option, who has found high-quality teaching in the GE program.

    I'm not worried about the success of the Montessori program if they can find it an adequate space (why is the Jackson site not working out?). I do agree with the others posting here that the admissions rules need to be clarified--and I hate that they are saying you have to go through the preschool. Seems like they could figure out a way to incorporate kids at the K level even if this is not ideal. Given the realities of public school process, access will become limited to a savvy few unless they are willing to compromise on this point.

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  24. "meanwhile, your child's GE program was being squeezed out to make way for this new program."

    But it's clear that existing grades won't be squeezed out.

    I think the district can't do ANYTHING if one group or other automatically throws a hissy fit when they try to implement an exciting new program.

    (And is there really a long waiting list? I don't buy that -- show me...)

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  25. The preschool is oversubscribed, and very few spots open up for kindergarten (entry at K is discouraged anyway). You don't believe that?

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  26. I would have to be shown with clear examples that there's a "long waiting list" and that it's not possible ("discouraged" doesn't count) to get into the Montessori, yes. Anyone out there tried to get in?

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  27. We were told on this blog that you shouldn't bother trying to get in unless your child attended a Montessori preschool. Perhaps this was bum dope?

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  28. We tried to get into this Pre-school when my daughter was four. It was full (we were applying for one of the 40% spots that pay tuition, really cheap tuition by the way and we did get offered a spot in the Grattan CDC later, you can apply to 3 CDC programs with one $10 application fee). But in the end my daughter stayed at her private Montesorri preschool for her 4 yr old year. We are going to put Cobb Montesorri as one of our 7 choices for K this year. We spoke to the director of the program and it's not clear where on the list we should put it to be considered (of course she said if interested we should put it as No. 1, but then that blows our No.1 priority rank for the lotto schools. She said the district would pull the applicants out of the larger lottery that had Cobb Montesorri on their list. Then who knows how they will select the kids to fill the 5 or so open spots.

    The thing about entering at age 5 is that the Montesorri works in 3 year class bands. So the kids in the early class are 3-5 years old. The 5 year old year is when the child is the oldest and a leader. It can be hard for some children to come into this setting at 5 and succeed. We think our daughter might just do better in a regular GE K where all 22 kids start on the same day at somewhat of the same level. In the Montesorri program the other 5 year olds have already been in the class for 2 years. I don't want my daughter to start K Montesorri and immediately feel behind. I do think they need to better define their admittance policy and procedures.

    I think it's a good selection for one of our 7 choices b/c it's such a separate process. It's almost like applying to the Creative Arts Charter school which is separate from the lotto too. I feel like now I have my name in three hats. Cobb Mont., Creative Arts and the regular SFUSD lotto.

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  29. Is it a charter school? Is it in the same category of Creative Arts? They really need to clear up the confusion over how to apply for this school.

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  30. 9:39
    No, it is not a charter - it is a SFUSD public program.

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  31. The problem is pretty simple:

    Golden Gate: closed.
    John Swett: closed.

    Did these schools have low enrollment? Yes. Did they nonetheless have strong communities? Yes. Did these schools serve African American students, who have been poorly-served by SFUSD? Yes.

    It doesn't matter so much that Cobb Montessori reflects SFUSD's overall diversity. That's certainly a great goal for all SFUSD schools. The issue is that Cobb GE doesn't reflect that diversity. Neither did Swett or Golden Gate. Schools serving African American students are shouldering a disproportionate number of closings and program reductions.

    Beyond that, I wonder at SFUSD's ability to ensure that its African American students are meeting their potential in a Montessori program. I think Montessori is great for all students, but given SFUSD's history in working with children of color, I think that Montessori offers too much opportunity to ignore these students' needs.

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  32. 12/10 at 5:59

    I agree with you about the district providing data on overall diversity during the rounds etc. Heck I would love for the disctrict to file a segment on You Tube, showing us the whole process of uploading the info from the application sheets, the algorithim that is used, and the end result. I envision folks in white lab coats scurrying around! Anyway it is frustrating that the district is so terribly contradictory. Attendance at a particular CDC doesn't give you preference at that elementary school, yet at Cobb it does. We treat certain schools as neighborhood schools and lament that the families in these neighborhoods are being left out, yet we don't lament this fact in other neighborhoods, where hidden gems have now become popular, and the folks across the street from the school can't get in, and are ironically assigned to schools like Cobb. And when you look at the demograhpics of many elementary, middle, and high schools you're shocked at how few are actually diverse. Oi vey.

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  33. 12:32, thanks for the common sense thinking.

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  35. Actually, the first mixed-age "band" in Montessori is 3 to 6, not 3 to 5.

    In SF, Montessori preschools have a different practice since kids leave Montessori for kindergarten entry.

    But that first primary years curriculum is for ages 3 to 6.

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  36. If there so much demand for Public Montessori, why doesn't the district create more Public Montessori preschool? If there was more preschool-age Public Montessori,wouldn't more children be served? Doesn't it take time for programs to grow? Where is the support for a new idea to take hold?

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  37. I am confused. We went on the tour at Cobb in October. On the tour, it was very clear that there are plenty of spots for subsidized children but only a few for children from higher income brackets. I saw incredibly diverse classrooms. There were plenty of African American children mixed in. However, we felt we had no chance of getting in since there was so much interest. The classrooms were fascinating: children all busy and definitely getting along with each other. A really warm tone to the place. I'm sorry to hear that it is getting so political. Do good things ever survive in this district?

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  38. 9:11, were you touring for the preschool? If you were touring for K, how can they hold so many spots for lower income kids if it's a lottery? Wouldn't it be the normal algorithm of 50/50?

    Is it true that kids who didn't go to a Montessori pre-school can't get in? How many Montessori preschools are there in this town? Can you estimate from that how many kids might apply? Are Montessori preschools traditionally expensive? (Aside from the subsidized one at Cobb.) If so, you can assume you might be competing against many from your diversity pool if your child also attended an expensive Montessori preschool and you have no diversity index points.

    I think it gets political because it's so unclear and there hasn't been any proactive communication to the public.

    For instance. here is what is stated on the SFSUD website on the William H. Cobb page:

    Named for a beloved San Francisco educator, Dr. William L. Cobb School provides a strong academic program for its students. William Lennox Cobb was the first African-American principal in the San Francisco School District, and the school that he led continues to celebrate his accomplishments as a courageous educator. We feel a special obligation to carry on his mission to care for and educate all children to the highest standard.

    With its cohesive faculty and community, our small school has a family-like atmosphere. Children feel they belong at Dr. Cobb, and their intellectual, social and emotional development shows it. Children are known well, and thus can be nurtured and challenged as individuals. We are second in the city in math growth for 2001-02.

    School tours by appointment. For more information, please call Susan Audap, Principal at (415) 749-3505


    It's odd that there's no mention of the Montessori program, and we're less than a month away from the lottery deadline. I can see why people are frustrated with the lack of information. I wouldn't even classify it as political. Just confusing.

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  39. hello

    I am a parent in the Montessori school and would love to answer some of your questions. It's great you are all interested, but I would ask that you be a bit less quick to form such firm opinions based on such little information about the program. At the moment we are literally trying to keep our program open in the face of a many years old political drama between cobb school and the district, and all the media attention and armchair refereeing by wel intentioned but ill informed folks on the internet is really adding to the misinformation out there about our school. If you'd like to learn more about the program you can visit this website we montessori parents put together:

    www.sfpublicmontessori.org

    Here are some main points:

    The Montessori school has existed at Cobb since 2005. We are in our second year of being a hybrid between Child Development and SFUSD, as last year our first class of Kindergartners were allowed to stay and complete the third primary year. This year we have our first Lower Elementary class and three primary classes. Next year we will need three Lower Elementary classrooms and four Primary Classrooms to accommodate the growth of the program.
    All CDC's have both subsidized and tuition based slots. At the Montessori, 60% of spots were reserved for subsidized families because the program was in part conceived to serve at risk children. It was also conceived to bridge pre-K and elementary, and to offer a choice in educational programming to public school families. We are the only Montessori elementary school in San Francisco and we are recognized by the Association Montessori International, the gold standard of accrediting bodies.
    AT the Cobb school, many families have traditionally begun their children at the CDC, so it was actually a natural and sensible idea to implement a curriculum change in the cdc first. Also, public montessori is always grown from Primary up. It follows and grows with the children, expanding as the kids age up. The community around Cobb is familiar with the CDC. Many of the children at Cobb go there because they're parents work in the neighborhood surrounding the school, and many parents have traditionally started their kids out in the CDC. 30 % of our students live in the 94115 zip code.
    For those of you taking your understanding of the situation from yesterdays radio program I would like to clear up a few things. Firstly, the show definitely lent the impression that there are no african americans in our program. In fact, african american children make up 30% of our students. It also lent the impression that the Montessori program is full of upper middle class affluent people, which is also untrue. We are predominately working families, which is why it made sense for us to start our kids at age 3... we needed childcare and had to work. That is what the child development program is for, to offer subsidized and reduced rate preschool for low and middle income families. Our program has deep socio-economic diversity and a balanced diversity of race and ethnicity. Frankly, we are probably the most diverse school in San Francisco. That was part of the point of starting the program, and it is an incredible success.

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  40. Secondly, the guest who has a kindergarten son in the GE program was not really able to accurately explain the situation at Cobb because she has only been involved at the school for 3 months. She said she asked if her son could move down to Montessori because he had been in a "play based nursery school" and indicated that they are the same thing, which they are not. Montessori uses a specific curriculum which is practiced around the world and has been proven and tested for more than 100 years. Children learn the materials and concepts at work in the classroom progressively over three year work cycles, with each lesson building upon the next. It utilizes very specific materials and concepts that are not found in traditional models, and it teaches children to become independent learners. (None of this is 'play based'). The first reason she couldn't move him to Montessori is that there is a waiting list for open spots with a couple hundred families on it ahead of her in line. The second reason is that there were no open spots for kindergartners, because it is a small and growing program with only three Primary classes and all the K spots were filled by children already in the program and because the school year had already begun... If I called Claire Lillienthal and asked if my daughter could transfer to their Kindergarten, they would say no, right? Same concept. Gotta follow the rules. Pretty simple.
    The last thing that must be pointed out about yesterdays show is that no one was there to represent or explain the Montessori program. Rachel Norton is clearly supportive, but she is not an expert on the school. The conception, implementation and operation of SFUSD Montessori predate her tenure on the Board of Ed by four years. Jill Tucker is a journalist who wrote one article about the controversy, but never interviewed Montessori parents or teachers for her piece. She is also certainly not an expert. (although I loved it when she called us "religious" about Montessori... like a cult. I am not sure if she has kids. I think being invested in your childs education is pretty normal, myself). There were two GE parents on and one Montessori parent. The Montessori parent was on the show for 3 minutes. Just bear that in mind.

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  41. Finally, about the turmoil over the transition:
    The School District decided in 2005 that cobb was non-performing and going to shut it down by phasing in the montesori program. That was the desire and decision of the School District. We didn’t make that decision, we were born of it. I don’t know if the School District didn’t tell the parents at that time or if new generations of parents came thru in the meantime or if GE teachers just didn’t know the timetable. But when everything exploded last spring and they started protesting the phase out, we graciously agreed to move our kids to Jackson Street. We take them at their word that they didn’t know. We have never advocated for the closure of their program and we do not want to take their school. The real situation now is that we were told we were being relocated and they were told they were going to stay and be supported in GE. This fall, district staff legally separated us into two entities, with two separate school site councils and Montessori parents on the PTO were asked to resign and start their own PTO. Presumably in preparation for moving to a new location in June 2010. Then after 6 months of waiting for the Board of Ed to approve this, suddenly we are all told that GE is getting moved to John Muir or Rosa Parks and Montessori is staying at Cobb. No wonder everyone is confused, worried, angry and upset. And the Board of Ed has nothing to say other than they think they're going to talk about it in January. two days AFTER the kindergarten enrollment forms are due. hmmmm. In all the media coverage they keep talking about how we are so divided and what has gone wrong, etc etc etc. Gee, could it be the total lack of information from you guys for months on end? Not much accountability there.
    Anyways, hope that helps a bit. Montessori begins in preK because that is how the educational model works. If you guys want more accessibility you should be demanding more Montessori sites to open from the district. Parents deserve choices in curriculum and programming. SFUSD Montessori wants to go to Jackson Street and we fully support Cobb GE in their desire to maintain their school and grow enrollment/improve proficiency. We believe they should be supported in this by the district. We all deserve an answer about where our children will go to school next year. That's it in a nutshell.

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  42. And the District has time and resources to prove who did and didn't attend a qualifying Montessori preschool?

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  43. um, the "qualifying montessori school" IS the program itself. It begins in Pre-K. The children enroll during preschool.

    for children transferring in, it is pretty easy for administrators to verify their previous education. All families applying to the montessori school talk at length with the montessori implementer and site manager about the program, about their child and if the program is right for them. The Montessori implementer is a well known educator and highly respected in the Montessori community. She is familiar with the other Montessori schools in the Bay Area and what their curriculums are like. What kind of resources do you think it would take to call a preschool and see if a child went there?
    This is a fledgling program. Give it some time and space to grow. Mercy. It's not like it was a secret. I found it just fine on the SFUSD website in 2007. I found it because I was searching specifically for a Montessori school for my kid. If you want Montessori for your child you generally start looking when they are in pre-k, because that is when the system begins. Just as you would not expect to enter a korean immersion program 2 years after it begins, unless you already speak Korean... likewise you should not expect to enter a Montessori program 2 years after it begins unless you speak the language of the classroom and the concepts and materials. Montessori is based on a childs sensitive periods for learning, the age at which the concepts are introduced is whole basis of the methodology. If you want to learn more about the model you can check out "montessori, the science behind the genius" by Angeline Stoll Lillard. If the program interests you, come tour it and see for yourself.

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  44. I have not heard or read any reference by board members regarding the culpability of the district and the board in this mess. There seems to be an underlying assumption that the parents have some kind of control over the future of the GE and Montessori programs. Instead of claiming culpability, there are remarks referencing how board members are surprised by parents representing their program at the last board meeting by wearing stickers or hats, and how the "Cobb turmoil" overshadowed the Special Education portion of the meeting.

    Since parents do not know if their children will have a school next Fall, with no information forthcoming, and none promised in time for the 2010/2011 application deadline, what else would one expect? Why would a special meeting not be held to deal with this issue? Instead, parents patiently waited (some with their kids and babies) for 2 hours in a hot and packed room to speak on behalf of their program.

    The Montessori program has been in operation since 2005 with the first K class starting in Fall 2008. It is not new. What is the holdup?

    My child started in the Montessori K program this past Fall and since then we have been given virtually NO information from the district. What information we have been given proved to be completely erroneous. There was a single Cobb parent meeting in September. Associate Superintendent Kevin M. Truitt spoke and told us that the board would be considering moving the Montessori program to the Jackson Street location at the September 14th board meeting. He stated that a decision would be made by October 1st. Despite this, on October 6th, Rachel Norton posted this comment to the SFKfiles Blog: "...when I asked Superintendent Garcia about this rumor back in late June he clearly and definitively told me there were no plans to relocate Cobb's Montessori program at Jackson St."

    District representatives and board members: Please take responsibility for the situation you have created. Put an end to it by giving us the long overdue decision/s about the future of our respective programs. And please- provide clear and accurate information along the way.

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  45. The facts about the Montessori program, including enrollment information, are included on the Montessori Families Organization website: http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/

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  46. Firstly, the show definitely lent the impression that there are no african americans in our program. In fact, african american children make up 30% of our students.

    If the show gave that impression, that is unfortunate. However, Cobb GE is about 70% African American, so the population historically served at Cobb is still underserved.

    Also, Cobb is not "non-performing". In fact, I believe that Cobb's African American students outperform SFUSD's as a whole (although the figures are still appalling). And the Montessori program has no similar data for comparison.

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  47. I think it is outrageous for SFUSD to put off a decision on whether they are moving the GE, the Montessori, neither or both after the enrollment application deadline (actually the decision should have been made before the period evan began).

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  48. The Montessori website leaves a previous question unanswered:

    "Entry at Kindergarten or an older age is possible but spots are limited. Children with verified prior Montessori from an accredited Montessori program are welcome to enroll at an older age as space permits."

    Does SFUSD have the resources to verify that applicants are coming "from an accredited Montessori program"?

    Also, other district wait pools are not first come first served -- they're a pool, drawn from by lottery when spots open up. But a poster indicated that the Cobb Montessori is first come first served. Which is the case?

    Also, the demand comparison for Cobb as shown on the PPS website doesn't reflect many applicants, which also doesn't support the claim that there's a long waiting list for this program.

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  49. I am a parent in the city who is interested in enrolling in the Montessori program in the future. I have a 16 month old. I heard about this program from my pediatrician who is near the school. He says that there is so much confusion over the enrollment policy because the Montessori is the first program in the district to actually carry out a new policy called "PreK-3." Academics such as Harvard's School of Education and many early mental health professionals have advocated the revamping of school districts to more of continuum of education, especially in the early years such as preschool through 3rd grade. Entry through a CDC makes that a natural for a curriculum like Montessori. This is the first time the district has done this. I think this is the case of a lot of people not paying attention to changes at the prek level that are affecting policies at the Elementary level. Funny, my pediatrician had heard of this program because there is a lot of talk among early care circles about this new concept that helps children through the early years of education as a solid foundation.

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  50. Hi everyone - I have asked district officials (EPC) to put together an FAQ that should address many of the questions that have been posed here. I have been assured that contingency plans are in place if either the GE or Montessori programs were to be closed by the Board after the Jan. 8 deadline (the plans would allow affected families to file an amended application for Round I).

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  51. Rachel,
    What families would get to submit an ammended Round 1? Any family that put Cobb (GE or MONT) in any position on their list? Is that how they define an 'affected family?' Or is it just those that put it No. 1? Please ask the board to be really specific about this. THX

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  52. Rachel - please also have the FAQ include specifics on how you apply to the Montessori program for K, if you have not been in the pre-K and if you list Cobb as one of your choices but you only want the Montessori program how you go about designating it. Location is also key for many folks so please have them identify if and/or when they are going to make a decision on the location of GE and Montessori and what the options are for the locations.

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  53. to: December 12, 2009 3:53 PM

    The demand statistics published are for the Cobb GE program, not the Montessori program.

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  54. I am a current Montessori parent. I don't plan on submitting an enrollment application, as I was told by an adviser at Parents of Public Schools that I would lose my spot in the Montessori program if I were to get one of my seven choices. Is that true? We love the Montessori program and want our my child to stay. Therefore, I won't have an Round 1 application to amend, as suggested in Rachel Norton's 12:09 statement. I hope there are provisions made for families like mine should the Montessori program be affected.

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  55. 12:58

    Agreed.

    The ironic thing is that the issue wasn't even on the agenda for the last board meeting on 12/8. Parents showed up en mass and spoke during the "REQUESTS TO SPEAK REGARDING GENERAL MATTERS" portion of the meeting. This was only an opportunity for parents to speak. The board offered no information. I don't think we would be hearing anything at this point if it not for the parents forcing the issue and gaining media attention. Come to think of it- we still haven't heard anything.

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  56. In regards to the resources required to confirm previous Montessori background. The SFUSD currently conducts language testing for students entering Bilingual or Immersion programs. Confirming a Montessori background would most likely require no more resources than language testing.

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  57. "The demand statistics published are for the Cobb GE program, not the Montessori program."

    You mean the Montessori statistics simply aren't included in the public information? That's weird.

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  58. 3:04

    While the Montessori CDC/preschool program has been around for a while, Montessori K+ program is relatively new and so has not been included on in the lottery, which is how they track demand. I don't think they track preschool demand.

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  59. Rachel Norton mentioned on KQED that in Milwaukee they enroll Kindergartners in Montessori who have not had Montessori before. I looked it up, and actually she is wrong. They don't. They also enroll at age 3, with a maximum age for entry to Montessori at age 4. All transfer kids must have verifiable prior Montessori. You can read about it here:
    http://www2.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/special/mpsmonte.htm

    and here:
    http://mpsportal.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=315&PageID=38283&cached=true&mode=2&userID=2

    here is their policy:
    Eligibility:

    Any child age 3 or 4 by September 1 is eligible to apply for the Montessori program. Students older than age 4 are eligible if they have had continuous previous Montessori experience in an AMI or AMS classroom. Students must apply for fall enrollment during the designated application period each year.
    Seats are assigned through a random computer process. The number of openings, racial balance, and sibling preference determine the students selected. Automatic admission is granted to the Montessori Middle School for those students successfully completing year six of the Montessori elementary program. Montessori — Montessori is a teaching method that uses special classroom materials. Children are in classrooms of mixed ages and encouraged to work independently. There are no textbooks or grades. Because children must be taught the Montessori method, they are not accepted in the program beyond K4 unless they have had previous Montessori experience

    hartford, ct and denver,co also have successful public montessori schools. They both enroll at age three, and do not accept kids after age 4 either. Their policies are found here:

    http://www.hartfordschools.org/schools/MoylanSchool.php

    http://www.crec.org/magnetschools/schools/montessori/admission/index.php

    DENVER http://denison.dpsk12.org/stories/storyReader$25

    just thought I should point that out, since there seems to be much confusion swirling around. It appears that Montessori schools, public or private, begin at age 3.

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  60. I think the lack of this kind of info on the SFUSD description of Cobb is deplorable. How is any parent supposed to know that its age 4 or nothing...which still is not even clear. What a mess.

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  61. Thanks for the correction & I regret the error. I've asked for more guidance from the school district on this point - whether it's really necessary to draw a line in the sand at age 4.

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  62. It IS necessary to "draw a line in the sand at age 4". It does not work, nor is it fair to allow kids without Montessori backgrounds to transfer in midphase. Imagine the amount of time that one child without Montessori experience will take in guidance from the teacher. One classroom might be able to absorb one child without Montessori experience, but if a program allowed more than that, I would place my child somewhere else as he would no longer benefit from this Montessori program. Anyone who has observed a Montessori classroom could see the disruption a non Montessori transfer would cause. It's obvious. If the district is going to support a public Montessori program, they should forget the idea of allowing non Montessori kindergartners in TWO years into the program. It is not reasonable or logical. Please drop that nonsense. It really stinks that parents didn't know to start their children in Montessori at age 3. But please don't let that ignorance disrupt my childs education. If parents want to place their child in a Kindergarten classroom, they should choose a GE program that works for them. If they want their child to be Montessori educated, start them at 3. Kindergarten does not exist in Montessori.

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  63. I think a program that has such different acceptance criteria does not fit in the SFUSD system. If kids cannot be admitted at K, then it should be canned or a solution (like a transitional teacher assigned in K to help out non-Montessori kids) needs to be found. Having one "special" school that requires a pre-requisite which costs $$$$ and is not even publicized as an option is not what SFUSD needs.

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  64. The cost at the preschool/primary level is the same as any other Child Development Center in San Francisco operated by the SFUSD (sliding scale).

    After the preschool level, it is FREE. It is a public school.

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  65. Uh, it was and is publicized. How do you think the program got the 85 students it has and a wait list of 150 more? A K File secret passed only by encrypted messages?

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  66. The Cobb Montessori CDC is on the SFUSD website, and has been for years.

    http://portal.sfusd.edu/template/default.cfm?page=cdc.cobb

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  67. The point is that the prerequisite that you attend the Montessori program for preschool and cannot enter in K is not publicized (and still is not) and the prerequisite preschool costs $$. This makes entry into Cobb Montessori different than any other school in the district where the current system is lottery entry at the K level.

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  68. Hi 1:04, re: " If they want their child to be Montessori educated, start them at 3. Kindergarten does not exist in Montessori."

    We tried to get into Cobb Mont at 3 and didn't get in. So we are in a private Mont now. We would like a 5 yr old spot at Cobb if there is one. It's free and we've had previous experience in Mont. So just b/c you got in at 3 doesn't mean other's shouldn't be allowed to get in at 5 and after if there are spots. I know you are paying for the CDC program just like I'm paying now for private Mont. But next year and after, you go for free. If we want to continue with Montesorri education we have to continue to pay for it! You were lucky you got in at 3 and automatically get the free spot for later.

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  69. The automatic part seems fundamentally unfair.

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  70. How is it fundamentally different in terms of fairness than entry at age 5 or 6 to an immersion program, which primary English speakers can't enter above those ages...including in immersion programs at the middle school level?

    The real issue to me is how to publicize the program to preschool parents at the much earlier age. It's on the radar for some but not others. And the fact that historically there are lower rates of participation in preschool for low-income families, and low rates of participation in Round 1 for kinder applications for certain groups, makes targeted outreach and communication even more imperative. Not a guaranteed spot, but put the information out there in the community much more widely to reach the parents of 2-year-olds, especially low-income families.

    I think the program is great and should be supported as another great magnet option for the public schools. I just fear it will quickly become the school that "in the know" parents (read: more affluent) latch onto, to the exclusion of others, which is counter to the original stated intent. It already has a waiting list to get into the CDC, and few spots available at kindergarten (for which you need Montessori experience anyway, presumably expensive private Montessori if you didn't go to Cobb Montessori). How ensure that the program remains, in practice and in reality, open to families of all backgrounds, and not only those who have the wherewithal and networks to figure it out in a timely way?

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  71. 4:44, it seems to me that it IS different. How? Because any kid can apply to an immersion program for K to get on that track. You're just a part of one of the two groups - native language speaker or not. True, you can't enter at a later age, but at least you have the opportunity to apply through the lottery for the K year.

    However, if you don't get on the Montessori track at age 3, you're out. I think that's the rub - especially given there are limited spots in the CDC program at Cobb and other Montessori preschools are prohibitively expensive for lower income families.

    With that said, I'm sure the Montessori program at Cobb is very special and probably has great potential for educating all socio-economic levels of children. It just feels like a very different animal in our public school system. And when you throw in the lack of communication about it, well, it leaves a lot of us scratching our heads thinking, "Huh?"

    I guess, on the other hand, you could argue that there are bilingual programs out there where you have to speak the language to get in at the K level and beyond. (McCoppin is one example.)

    Maybe a more appropriate place for the Montessori philosophy is in a charter school. At least then the different animal is fully acknowledged for what it really is.

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  72. And just to add, I believe the bilingual programs that do exist (McCoppin, for example) shouldn't exist unless they take ALL kids, not just native speakers. Such programs serve a select group of the population, while leaving everyone else out. The Japanese bilingual programs at Rosa Parks and McLaren, however, are open to all kids (different type of bilingual program) so that seems more in line with being a 'public' school.

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  73. Obviously there are many families in SF who are interested in public Montessori. Wouldn't it behoove the district to create more access for interested families by creating more than one site of Montessori preschool? I don't think it is a factor of THIS program that has the K year as the FINAL year of a three year cycle, if I read correctly, rather it seems to be a hallmark of an authentic Montessori program. Let's give it a chance.

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  74. The only difference between the policy of no admittance beyond first grade for (primary English) students in immersion and the policy of no admittance beyond age 4 for non-Montessori kids is the age of admittance--age 3 is not a time when many families, esp low-income families, are thinking about school admissions, including for preschool. A serious information / outreach campaign would help.

    The issue of bilingual programs is entirely different. They exist to address kids who are at serious disadvantage from lack of English skills. One might argue about how well they work at helping those kids, but to say they should be open to all is nonsensical. "Fair" does not necessarily mean addressing everyone exactly the same, when some kids have real disadvantages coming in.

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  75. I just spoke to a parent from Cobb who has a child in both programs. What a story! He's known about the program for years and both his children have gone through--one ended up leaving before they had the K year set up, the other is still in and now up in the Lower Elementary classroom after 3 Preschool years. He said that it is really hard to explain the multi-aged classrooms to people. That's why so many don't get that there are three year age groupings and they make all the difference in the child's experience. We are all used to K being the start of a child's school days. However, as word spreads,and he says word needs to spread even INSIDE the district, it will become clearer. He told me that when he went to register his child for the Montessori K (parents still need to fill in forms choosing the program)at Cobb, EPC told him that the district had NO Montessori program. So even parents who have experience with the program are being given inaccurate information. He persisted that his son was actually inside the program at the moment and they eventually relented. Apparently he is not the only one who had this experience. This is new, it will take time for the system to digest it.

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  76. 11:05 P.M. The other issues is the cost to go to the CDC pre-K Montessori or other prcey expensive Montessori program (and who decides whether they truly learned the Montessori way). Also, what about those 4 year olds (Aug. to Dec. 1) who are eligible for K in SFUSD, could they apply to the Montessori? Seems to me that the Board did not really think this program through. Perhaps if it was only made available to truly low income students and the CDC preschool was free then I could see its purpose.

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  77. The CDC is free to low income students. 60 percent of the slots are reserved for those who don't pay. It's the higher income parents who pay, and it works this way in all the public CDCs. I know, my kids went to one.

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  78. 11:05 wrote about bilingual programs: "They exist to address kids who are at serious disadvantage from lack of English skills."

    There are plenty of kids who start K at schools all over SF at a serious disadvantage. They're called ELL students and they represent just under 50 percent of all kids entering K.

    The bilingual programs in this town exist to cater to a small segment of the population that wants to maintain their language and culture, at the exclusion of other kids and at the expense of the financially strapped school district.

    And yes, of course it wouldn't work to include other kids who don't speak that language. That would change the dynamic of the program, but that wasn't my point. My point was that it caters to a small segment of the population, to the exclusion of many.

    Can you imagine moving to France, or Italy, or Denmark, and then expecting that country's Government to open a school to accommodate your language and cultural needs, to the exclusion of its own kids? Call me old fashioned, but I'm a When in Rome kind of person.

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  79. for those of you wondering about late enrollment in sfusd montessori, it is adressed on their FAQ. I am copying it here for you:

    Q: What if a spot opens up for Kindergarten or later? How is it filled?
    A: This is also first come first served, with children with prior Montessori given priority for Kindergarten, since it is the final year of a three year cycle. Pedagogical reasons preclude incorporating children without Montessori after 4. There has NOT been tremendous demand for K, only for 3 or 4 year olds.

    There is natural attrition in any program, however, and for other spots for children without any prior Montessori, there is a process of a visit by the parent to the program and a chance to witness it and see where they feel their child would fit in. We have had a total of 10 families last year who wanted to switch either from Dr. Cobb's GE or an outside program (including Waldorf) with a child who is older than 5. Of those 10, 4 decided after their visit to enroll. The 6 others went elsewhere. This is such a NEW program that these policies are only beginning to be shaped. How to handle a large number of later applicants is something the district will have to determine, without compromising the integrity of the multi-age groupings, placing children coming in at a later age at a disadvantage or affecting the instructional balance in the classroom. Montessori is based on an independent learning style.

    you can read more at www.sfpublicmontessori.org

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  80. This is such a NEW program that these policies are only beginning to be shaped. How to handle a large number of later applicants is something the district will have to determine, without compromising the integrity of the multi-age groupings, placing children coming in at a later age at a disadvantage or affecting the instructional balance in the classroom. Montessori is based on an independent learning style.

    Thank you, 8:06. I have been concerned by the consensus among pro-Montessori posters here that admitting K students without prior Montessori experience is against best practices; I am awaiting guidance from our curriculum experts at SFUSD but I have to be honest that some of the bloom will come off Montessori for me if our experts come back and say we can't admit students new to the methodology in Kindergarten. Aren't kids more flexible than that? How is it that coming into Montessori after one's classmates is somehow considered a much more serious disadvantage than being, say, new to the English language? Educate me.

    In general, a person whose opinion I respect deeply told me tonight that we all should find it troubling that so many of SFUSD's new, popular programs depend on early entrance, and bar participation to people who come to learn about these programs later (e.g., language immersion, and now Montessori). This person (who nonetheless is very happy with the schools her children attend) told me, "I couldn't get my kids into an immersion program when they were going into K, and now they can't get foreign language at all," or at least, not until late middle school (exactly what I got, and even after 7 years of French in MS, HS and college, I am notoriously NOT fluent.)

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  81. Exactly, Rachel. I am an immersion parent who understands that it would be hard to incorporate lots of English-only children later than first grade (although btw the district has no problem sending children into the programs in the upper grades who have very little English, which is arguably almost as disruptive--and the teachers make it work). I'm sure the Montessori people equally have a point about their methodology and the optimal situation for them.

    The point is though, if all of the new magnet programs require entrance by 6 years of age, or even 3 or 4, then they will certainly benefit the children whose parents are most in the know. We know that disadvantaged kids already participate in the round one lottery at lower rates--what makes us think they'll be finding Montessori by age 3 or 4?

    Surely some compromise could be hammered out here.

    Re language programs, I know the Board has affirmed the desire to give all our kids access to second-language learning (of various types, not all immersion). I know of course about the budget crunch, but I hope that is still on the agenda. It will be very attractive for families if the district can pull it off. You mention middle school, but many of the language programs we have are either immersion or are happening in the zero period and funded by tuition and PTA, not offered as accredited courses (with some exceptions, like Japanese and Spanish at Presidio). I would love to see (dreaming???) the addition of an academic period at the middle school level, with language added there.

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  82. I feel like I've heard this story before.

    School targeted for closure due to under-enrollment gets picked as the site for a special program designed to attract middle-class families.

    Current families (many of whom have multi-generational ties to the school) resent "gentrification" of their school and perceived condescending attitude from incoming parents who want to come in and "turn around" the school.

    This tension is not new. Ask anyone who was at Flynn when Spanish immersion was first introduced. History repeats itself often enough, the SFUSD should have culled best practices on how to introduce a new program to a school by now.

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  83. Students DO enter immersion programs as late as first grade and thrive -- I should know, I'm a Spanish immersion teacher. How could kindergartners possibly be too old to acclimate to Montessori? Are five-year-olds too cynical and world-weary to buy into the dogma? What's the deal, exactly?

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  84. For those posters who desire kindergarten spots for their kids in the Montessori program, where do you imagine those kindergarten spots are going to come from? How many 5 year old spots do you honestly think will be open in this hugely popular and successful Montessori program? Nobody I know of is planning to quit, so any openings will be a rare event indeed. All other public Montessoris are the same. I think many posters here seem pissed off because they didn't think of this when their kids were three and now have and attitude of "if my kid can't have it, nobody's can". Disturbing. Maybe you should be turning your attention to creating more Montessori programs to meet the demand rather than suggesting the shredding of this one.

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  85. 6:51, I don't have a horse in this race personally--my kids are way too old for entry at 3 or at 5 :)

    However, as a stakeholder in the district and member of the wider community, I care the gaps in opportunity and achievement. From everything I have heard, Montessori is wonderful program, in practice, right now. And that's great! I have no desire to shred it. I have also heard that the current population is diverse, which is also great. However, as the program becomes more widely known through this blog and other forums, I worry that it will become less accessible over time to low-income families and particularly to African American families.

    Originally the program was sold as a way to help raise achievement in Cobb and to bring a shiny new program to an underserved community--so is the reality going to match that rhetoric?

    I have seen over and over how middle/upper class families tend to take things over. We jump on blogs like this and figure out how to send our kids to Miraloma, Grattan, Clarendon, etc., or to private school. Whereas low-income African Americans have the lowest participation in Round 1 of any group. With admission at age 3, is there a plan to recruit and encourage families in the neighborhood to apply? I know they are reserving 60% of the CDC slots for low-income, but it seems to me they should be doing more to reach out, given the early entry.

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  86. Hi 2:54,

    I think all of what you say makes sense. But I would argue that white flight has been a problem for the public school system. And white flight has an impact on more than just white people. If a program like Cobb or Grattan or Alvarado helps keep more white families in the system, that's not all bad. Many white families have resources, and have resources to share (for example, a white family committed to Cobb might donate generously). This of course applies to anyone of any race with some assets to spread around. I think it's great to create a system where people of all stripes feel they can stick around, and not just flee for the privates, should that be an option. The larger key is to figure out a way to more target people with fewer resources earlier (before the child is age 3) and to help them feel a school like Cobb or Grattan or whatever is a welcome place for them and their families too.

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  87. I agree that the integrity of the Montessori program should be kept intact and follow the Montessori recommendations for starting ages. One reason the program is so special and why is is so high quality is that it is not Montessori light- it follows the standards and is recognized by the AMI.

    The focus should be shifted to getting kids into school/into the Montessori program at the preschool age. I'm sure that must be in line with SFUSD goals yes? We have all seen the studies that correlate later success with preschool attendance, especially for disadvantaged children.

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  88. To those concerned about being shut out of foreign language programs if they don't get into immersion...

    There is an alternative: FLES (foreing language in elementary school) programs. The district has elementary FLES programs in Russian, Japanese, and Tagalog (maybe more that I am unaware of). One of the advantages of FLES is that unlike immersion, it can introduce foreign language beyond first grade.

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  89. I agree that preserving access for African American children from the Western Addition should be a major concern here, however, it appears the greatest threat to their entering the program is the awfully negative attitude developing through this horrible situation the district has set up. If two programs are asked to duke it out to survive and one takes the low road of throwing insults and inaccurate misinformation out there while the other decides that the high road of respecting the families of the communities and their ability to make decisions for themselves is the way to go, it is very dispiriting to see the dirty tactics winning. This is a good OPTION for Western Addition families: why is the district allowing it's reputation to be shredded? That will only hurt it's chances of attracting the very families it is designed to serve. If I was in this program as a parent or teacher I would be furious to see it portrayed so inaccurately. This is an amazing program; why are we dragging it through the mud when it deserves to thrive and grow? Shouldn't we be looking much more closely at the traditional program and what it has to offer and most especially, VERY closely at the district administrators who have allowed this travesty to occur. Isn't there anyone with a spine in the district who knows how to support their own programs?!?

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