Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hot topic: Getting into immersion schools off the wait list

This from an SF K Files reader:
We put #1 as de Avila and I wondered if you could ask people what a good strategy is to get into immersion off the wait lists?

37 comments:

  1. Don't know about DeAvila, but for AFY and WP there's minimal movement in the waitpool compared to, say, Clarendon, because a fair number of families that get into to Clarendon or Claire Lillienthal end up going private, but that number is much lower for AFY and WP.

    For the Mandarin Immersion programs there's some movement in R2 as spaces allocated to Mandarin speakers get released to all applicants. West Portal I think fills all their Cantonese-speaking slots in R2. Don't know if the same is true for DeAvila.

    For the Spanish immersion programs last year there were minimal waitlists for Revere and Webster, a fair bit of movement for Buena Vista, and a bit less for Fairmont. Don't know about Marshall, Monroe, or Alvarado. As Flynn had a lot of siblings last year, there hardly any movement in its waitpool.

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  2. DeAvila (Chinese Immersion) may not have the Round 2 bonanza for English speakers as it draws from the Cantonese-speaking ELL community to fill its Chinese spots. Cantonese-speaking kids are quite numerous in our public schools in SF.

    Agreed that if immersion is your goal, not a particular school, then look for the not-yet-as-popular schools for R2 and waitpooling. Starr King and JOES MI to start--because of the Mandarin spots opening. Webster & Revere are also good bets.

    DeAvila is a wild card as it is so new (and hardly any siblings yet), but on the other hand is centrally located and sure to be a high-performing school. Who knows how it will do in the waitpools? If you really want it, list it. If it's not DeAvila so much as immersion, look to waitpool size to make your determination.

    Further down the R2 list maybe put Marshall, Monroe, Fairmount, Flynn, Buena Vista, and finally Alvarado last. If you are dying for Alvarado, well, there was movement last year, as it is another school whose applicants are double-applying to private school, but you may have to wait through the 10-day count.

    My 2 cents only.

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  3. "West Portal I think fills all their Cantonese-speaking slots in R2."

    Sorry, that should have been "West Portal I think fills all their Cantonese-speaking slots in Round 1".

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  4. Agree with 10:15 PM. Being a pioneer in the immersion programs usually pays off, as the popularity of those schools soar in later years. JOES first MI class had only 9 in its first year, for instance.

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  5. "If you are dying for Alvarado, well, there was movement last year, as it is another school whose applicants are double-applying to private school, but you may have to wait through the 10-day count."

    Can you tell me more about the movement in Alvarado SP last year? I remember hearing that some kids moved from GE to SP at Alvarado and I was scratching my head as to how that could happen - maybe my information was incorrect.

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  6. I know there was movement in Alvarado GE--not sure about SI.

    One thing is that if your older kid is in GE then you can use sibling preference to place the younger one in SI.

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  7. Alvarado K-GE parent here. There were definitely 2 kids in my kid's GE class that switched to SI in September. Don't know if there's any preference given, what their personal situations were, whether they had older sibs, or were just regular waitlisters who happened to be currently in GE, who got SI spots. Though it does seem unlikely that one who's in Alvarado GE was a 0/7'er and in the highest cohort for the SI waitpool.

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  8. RE: alvarado - It looks like there was at least one approved sibling on the waitlist in July - Perhaps that accounts for at least one of the switches from GE to SN

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  9. i would decide on the language you want to go for first.

    then, i would give up on alvarado, west portal and possible buena vista.

    then, i would list the school you are most likely to get, love it or not.

    my point is to just get it. once 2nd grade comes, there can be movement within immersion programs (ie. transfer from webster to alvarado, for example) but no non-immersion students allowed. if you are miserable with your school come 2nd grade (which you won't be because they are all just fine), you can try to make a switch then.

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  10. Ditto the above comments re: choosing a less-popular program if immersion is really what you want. We live in Alvarado's attendance area (we're a 5-min walk away). Last year, we ranked its SI program #1 all the way through Rounds 1 and 2, the wait pool, the 10-day count, etc. We ranked Alvarado-GE #2. Never got in.

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  11. 3:07 - what did you end up doing?

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  12. 3:07 here: Got assigned to John Muir but got into a private we liked, so we decided to stick with Alvarado through the 10-day count because it really was our first choice and at least we had attendance area priority. We are now at the private. If we hadn't had the private option, we would have been seriously out of luck.

    "Shooting the moon" by sticking with your favorite and being prepared to wait through the 10-day count sounds almost romantic, as if it's just a matter of faith and guts. But if you really want your child to go to kindergarten in SF and you don't have a parochial or private as a back-up, you would be wise to pick a less popular school, where you think you could stay for at least kindergarten, and then decide whether to try to move for 1st grade.

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  13. 3:07 - if you want Alvarado GE (not SI), there's an open space in our K class. Since you're in private, you could jump right in as a transfer. Not SI, but a good, free school around the corner.

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  14. Does anyone know how they deal with bilingual kids for immersion programs in the lottery this year? I understand that it has changed *substantially*, in that they now are effectively limiting bilingual kids in favor of target-language only kids.

    My daughter is fluent in both spanish and english, so I thought she'd be a shoe-in for a spanish immersion program. But I've learned:
    - The district codes kids as one language only - Their computer program doesn't allow for kids to be bilingual (told this via email by the associate director of the EPC).
    - If they speak english fluently and another language fluently, they are coded as English (told this by a parent who just got her daughter tested by EPC - this is what the EPC told her directly).
    - That language programs are selected as part of the diversity process, and not preselected (also via email from the associate director).

    All this tells me that if you are bilingual in the target language and english, that you have no better chance of getting into an immersion program than an english-only speaker. Can this be correct?!?!

    I always understood that bilingual kids are essential to successful immersion programs - how can the EPC try to exclude them? It seems absolutely absurd, but I that's what is apparently the case.

    Insights welcome...

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  15. Surely the language spoken plays into the immersion process. I think they've just removed the language distinction for GE programs if your kid is proficient in English, which seems fair. But I would think they're still trying to have a 50/50 split with the target language and English for immersion. Right?

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  16. I used to hear that they *aimed* for 1/3 target only, 1/3 english only, and 1/3 bilingual. Now, I understand they're aiming for 1/3 english only, and 2/3 spanish only.

    Perhaps that means they've decided to switch and actually prefer to *exclude* bilinguals from immersion programs?

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  17. "I used to hear that they *aimed* for 1/3 target only, 1/3 english only, and 1/3 bilingual. Now, I understand they're aiming for 1/3 english only, and 2/3 spanish only."

    Call PPSSF, they'd know better than anyone on this list, and if they don't, Vicki Symonds will find out for you.

    Last year, what I'd heard from the district director of immersion programs (used to be Principal at Fairmont - can't remember his name) last year was that they aimed for a 1/3:1/3:1/3 monoglot anglophone/bilingual/monoglot target language split, but in practice the number of truly bilingual kids is so low they went for an effective 50/50 split.

    You need to get your kid tested for proficiency in the target language (i.e. Spanish).

    I'd get clarification from PPSSF, who could contact the Director of Immersion programs for you - EPC may be trying to close the abused loophole of people claiming a non-English home language by restricting coding a kid as a non-English speaker solely if they're ELL, and may not have realized that may leave immersion programs without enough bilingual kids.

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  18. When are the spaces alloted to native speakers released to English speakers if there are still spaces available? Is it during Round 2 or sometime after Round 2.

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  19. Last year, the spots were released in Round 2. There were spots in the Mandarin programs only--JOES MI and Starr King MI.

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  20. Re: Alvarado: there was some movement between GE and SI after a few weeks, way past the 10 day count.
    Also, last year was irregular due to the Flynn-arado fiasco. Some 1st grade open spots were offered to some Flynnarados who applied for them and had priority.

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  21. PPSSF investigated this and confirmed that bilingual kids are considered target speakers for language immersion programs, but english for ELL (ie. for the diversity index).

    That makes perfect sense.

    PPSSF rocks!

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  22. OT (sort of) What is a "Reading First" school and why would a parent not want to send their child there?

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  23. Is it impossible to get into Alvarado SI in first grade as a spanish dominant speaker?

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  24. I don't know about first grade -- spots would be few and vary from year to year -- but in general as the grades go up, it is not hard to get into any Spanish immersion program as a Spanish-dominant speaker. Non-Spanish-speakers are not allowed in after first grade, and natural attrition (we had one family move to the Midwest just this year, for example) means that spots open up, and all those spots go to Spanish speakers. We see a handful of new immigrant kids every year. [Who, by the way, are tested in English and all subjects. This is one reason why test scores are lower in immersion schools. But they are great kids and we are glad to have them....just saying about the test scores.]

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  25. "Is it impossible to get into Alvarado SI in first grade as a spanish dominant speaker?"

    Alvarado is the most popular school with Hispanics, so there's a lot of Spanish-proficient kids there. Also, as there'd be transfers from the GE program to the SI programs when slots open up mid-year, there'd be less slots open for EPC in the lottery.

    First grade transfer would be harder than second grade. I'd reckon your odds with school that's wholly SI, like say Fairmont or Buena Vista would be better if you were coming in from outside the school.

    " [Who, by the way, are tested in English and all subjects. This is one reason why test scores are lower in immersion schools. But they are great kids and we are glad to have them....just saying about the test scores.]"

    Thanks for the explanation. I always thought it was odd for some of the SI schools (e.g. Flynn, Fairmount), their API scores weren't showing a sustained increase, but your explanation of that newcomer ELLs being slotted into the immersion programs explains part of it.

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  26. "PPSSF investigated this and confirmed that bilingual kids are considered target speakers for language immersion programs, but english for ELL (ie. for the diversity index).

    That makes perfect sense.

    PPSSF rocks!"

    They do. Give them your money, folks, they do good work.

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  27. "Alvarado is the most popular school with Hispanics, so there's a lot of Spanish-proficient kids there. Also, as there'd be transfers from the GE program to the SI programs when slots open up mid-year, there'd be less slots open for EPC in the lottery."

    Why on earth would there be transfers from the GE program to SI? What are you talking about?

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  28. On getting in off the waitlists: it's best to pay attention to the size of the waitlist and the number of slots. A friend how went 0/15 was on the Alvarado waitlist through the summer, changed to Buena Vista (much smaller waitpool by then) two weeks before start of kindergarten, and got a slot at BV after one week on the BV waitpool.

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  29. "Why on earth would there be transfers from the GE program to SI? What are you talking about?"

    A kid leaves the SI program, and then a kid from the GE program takes the slot. So instead of a vacancy in the SI program from an SI kid leaving, you get a GE vacancy instead. I know of at least one spanish-proficient Alvarado current kinder switched from the GE to the SI program.

    The point I was trying to make was that for schools where there are joint GE/SI programs like Alvarado, Monroe & Flynn, I'd expect vacancies in the SI programs for kinder and first grade that occur mid-year to get snaffled up by families in the GE programs. So there'd be fewer SI slots available at first grade in the lottery than would be the case for schools that are solely SI like Marshall, Fairmont and Buena Vista.

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  30. "A kid leaves the SI program, and then a kid from the GE program takes the slot. So instead of a vacancy in the SI program from an SI kid leaving, you get a GE vacancy instead. I know of at least one spanish-proficient Alvarado current kinder switched from the GE to the SI program."

    Where is this process outlined ANYWHERE? This doesn't seem fair at all. You can't transfer within SFUSD after the waitlists are dissolved, why would you be able to transfer within programs? Why is a fair to allow a student to come from Alvarado GE, when there are other families that would want that SI slot? Why is it open to Alvarado students and not SFUSD at large. If this is true, this is really unfair.

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  31. I think the switches that happened last year between GE and SI at Alvarado were because some kids were not adapting to the SI, so they were switched with some kids in the GE who wanted to get in the SI.

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  32. 10:59 - You think or you know?
    Such a lack of transparency.

    Based on my research for the past 3 years, the school is not able to make transfers, all transfers within the district have to go through EPC. Sounds like it is great for those families but totally unfair for everyone else in the district. Everyone else in the district is relying on the policy that transfers are not allowed mid-year. But I guess that doesn't apply if you already won the lottery and scored a spot at Alvarado. Awesome.

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  33. ALvarado kinder parent here. There were two Spanish-speaking families who requested SI this year and were assigned to GE instead. (I'm not sure, but my understanding is that they did not even list GE on their form.) When Spanish-speaking spots opened up early in the school year, they were switched over.

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  34. "ALvarado kinder parent here. There were two Spanish-speaking families who requested SI this year and were assigned to GE instead. (I'm not sure, but my understanding is that they did not even list GE on their form.) When Spanish-speaking spots opened up early in the school year, they were switched over."

    Wow - How lucky to be assigned Alvarado GE without even requesting it!

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  35. "There were two Spanish-speaking families who requested SI this year and were assigned to GE instead. (I'm not sure, but my understanding is that they did not even list GE on their form.)"

    Not at Alvarado, but one of the families involved went to my kid's preschool, and I think they [mistakenly] listed the GE program above the SI program thinking that would increase their chances of getting into the SI program.

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  36. Wow, the above discussion of transfers at Alvarado is indeed disturbing. Just goes to show you, SFUSD never play by their own rules. And regarding proper "mix" for the SI programs....these rules only apply at the more desirable SI programs. At Marshall the SFUSD does not seem to care that they have mostly Spanish speakers. (There would be no Flynn-arado type hoopla there!). Indeed, the year our kids entered Kg there, there were several Eng-dominant families who did not get in! Even though they had only a couple Eng-dominant kids in each Kg room. 50-50, 30-30-30, ha! Not even. I think the Span Imm programs should have a separate lottery. If you do not get into your 1st 7 choices, you could get offered a slot at one of the schools that needs more Eng spkrs, for example. When Flynnarado happened, we suggested to SFUSD that they put some of the overlow Eng spkrs at Marshall (or at least offer it) to better balance the classes (which is of course why the Flynnarado debacle happened anyway...too many Eng spkrs) and help diversify the school (another one of SFUSD's alleged goals?). But no.

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  37. If your are interested in Mandarin Immersion, there is an option for doing an inter-district transfer to a Mandarin Immersion program at College Park Elementary School in the San Mateo-Foster City School Distict. We visited and thoroughly researched it, and College Park is a really great school!!! It's all Mandarin Immersion classes in K, combined with an excellent Mandarin after-school program. There is also a possibility of combining Mandarin Immersion and gifted and talented placement in grades 5 & 6 because College Park is simultaneously the School District's Mandarin Immersion and Gifted & Talented magnet school. For San Franciscans, College Park will accept inter-district transfers if there are spaces (which I think there are as of today) For more information, go to www.MandarinImmersion.com, and call the school asking for "Tish," the administrative assistant to the Principal. It would be quite a long schlep to and from SF every day, but if one of the child's parents works on the Penninsula and could do drop off and pick up (which was not our situation), it would be workable--or if you were willing to move to the San Mateo area ultimately. Best of luck.

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