Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why I love Alice Fong Yu

I love this school. The academics are stellar, and the opportunity to learn two dialects of Chinese is exciting.

I was surprised how rapidly my kid started to absorb the language - singing songs, counting numbers, and pointing out the characters he knows when we pass by a sign using Chinese pictographs. I think learning a new language has added to his confidence and pride. We feel fortunate to be in a district and school that has taken a real lead in immersion education.
The school is *very* well organized. The teachers are hardworking and highly trained. I've been impressed with the simple, elegant, understated way discipline is handled in the kinder classes, and have learned a lot on how to work with my own kid. The principal, Liana Szeto runs a tight ship, and had the vision to create the nation's first school that was wholly Chinese Immersion.

There are weekly newsletters from the principal and from your class teacher. The PTA is a veritable fundraising machine, with a New Year's Banquet and a Fundraising Gala. There's also opportunities to volunteer in the classroom, and there are regular potlucks during holidays like Halloween & Thanksgiving. Seeing my kid in a costume parade for Halloween was immense fun. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the Chinese New Year parade.

I've been surprised how much enrichment activity there is: there's a weekly art class for the kinders, a garden, and they've also had a dance class each week. How much of this is funded by the district, and how much by PTA funds, I don't know. But it certainly was more than I anticipated.

Expectations are high not only for the kids but also for parents. Homework starts early: there's a fair amount given to the kindergarteners, and this ramps up substantially in the higher grades. So expect a lot of wrangling as you get your kid to knuckle down. I love that there's a workshop for parents who aren't familiar with Chinese to help them help their kids with their homework!

I love that two AFY parents made a film about immersion education in SFUSD - "Speaking in Tongues", featuring kids from Starr King and Buena Vista as well as AFY.

I love that my kid will go to China in the 8th grade for a student exchange.

I love the after-school program, GLO, which is excellent and focuses on building the kids social skills. All the GLO programs have camps during holidays and breaks (for an additional fee) - a big bonus for the working parent.

My kid is very happy at the school, and was enthusiastic to be back this week.
If you gave me a coupon that gave my kid free automatic entry to any other elementary school, public or private, in the Bay Area, I'd refuse it. [Well, I might take it, but I'd then sell it on Ebay and then give the money to the Alice Fong Yu PTA.]

Tom McVey
Parent of an AFY Kindergartener

16 comments:

  1. I have a question related to Clarendon...I was feeling quite positive about this school as an option but just heard that it has a problem with mold in the buildings. Does anyone know anything about this?

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  2. it's true. and the TV tower is going to fall on it soon as well. Dont put it on your list.

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  3. Please enjoy the tax-payer funded, very exclusive education that your child will receive at this school. You are one of a vanishingly small number of middle class families that is receiving an excellent education at tax payer expense.

    The rest of us, non poor, non target immersion language, non ESL parents are stuck with the bill for your families exclusive education as well as the bill for their own children.

    There are a very small number of schools in the same league with AFY.

    Unfortunately, the number of families that gain access to such a school is exceptionally small.

    It should be of no surprise that there is rising resentment against funding public education.

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  4. "You are one of a vanishingly small number of middle class families that is receiving an excellent education at tax payer expense."


    Rubbish, frankly. AFY is great, but so were the 22 other public schools we visited - Flynn, Revere, Monroe, Fairmont, Buena Vista, Alvarado, Rooftop, Clarendon, Bessie Carmichael, E.R. Taylor, Longfellow, Marshall, Moscone, S.F. Community, Jose Ortega, West Portal, Harvey Milk, Starr King, Webster, McKinley, & Rosa Parks. The range of choice is expanding, not shrinking.

    It was hard narrowing the choice down to seven. Yeah, we got lucky and got a trophy. But I'd have been happy to send my kids to any of the above. We took the time to find out how much is out there and had a balanced list of 1-2 trophies and the rest less popular schools where we knew we had good odds. Revere SI, JOES MI, and Rosa Parks JBBP were in our picks.

    Best of luck to those applying this year.

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  5. 9:36 here again.

    Sorry, I fed the troll. Duh. Won't do that again.

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  6. <>

    Uh, who do you think made AFY exclusive? Middle-class parents clawing one another's faces off to get in while overlooking the promise of other schools, that's who.

    It's hard not to feed a troll when said troll is so obviously starved of common sense.

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  7. Surprising the level of ire my question inspired in the exceedingly brave "anonymous". I am not an alarmist, mold should be of concern, to any parent. Incidentally this information came via a teacher at the school.

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  8. "It was hard narrowing the choice down to seven. Yeah, we got lucky and got a trophy. But I'd have been happy to send my kids to any of the above. We took the time to find out how much is out there and had a balanced list of 1-2 trophies and the rest less popular schools where we knew we had good odds. Revere SI, JOES MI, and Rosa Parks JBBP were in our picks.

    Best of luck to those applying this year."

    Enjoy the school funding cuts.

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  9. "Enjoy the school funding cuts."

    Why thank you, so gracious. Likewise, be sure and enjoy your tuition payments, now. I hear there's some great financing plans to spread the pain over several years.

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  10. "January 8, 2010 3:20 PM"

    Thanks. Don't need a financing plan.

    Yes, I've become jaded and have been transformed by my experience with San Francisco public schools from someone used to care about them, to someone who, by necessity, is focused on our two professional income family and our private school.

    What has put me off of public schools are the AFYs, West Portals and Alvarados that serve a narrow slice of affluent families who happen to speak or show interest in a Cantonese or Spanish.

    That is evenly ridiculous with the large number of families in our schools that don't live or pay taxes in the city.

    Keep putting up those posts about how you love AFY. More fuel for the funding cut fire.

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  11. We went in ready to put this #1 on our list - then the person at the desk told us DeAvila had very few #1 picks plus I read GreatSchools.org and found a lot of the comments about so much homework (four hours a night) daunting - not the work so much as me not being able to help. This was a great post and thanks so much for writing it.

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  12. 7:06, bravo to you for not needing financing for private school. You must be a better person than I am.

    And some people don't pay taxes because they are too poor -- like my wife, whose income is $1K/month on SSDI. I fail to see how you could in one breath damn the people whose incomes are too low to pay taxes but whose kids go to the public schools anyway, and the tax-paying middle class people to whom schools like Alvarado supposedly cater too much. Whatever. I'm just glad you are so myopically involved with only your "two income professional family" (like that's relevant to anything) and private school. It spares the rest of us.

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  13. "Yes, I've become jaded"

    Really? Gosh, you were doing such a good job of hiding it with your genoursity of spirit, I couldn't have guessed.

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  14. "We went in ready to put this #1 on our list - then the person at the desk told us DeAvila had very few #1 picks plus I read GreatSchools.org and found a lot of the comments about so much homework (four hours a night) daunting - not the work so much as me not being able to help."

    I think that was great advice you got from EPC. Immersion schools usually take off rapidly, and getting in early not only means you get better odds of getting in, but also means you have more influence (albeit with a lot of work) over the direction of the program.

    "This was a great post and thanks so much for writing it."

    You're welcome. To tell the truth I'm a bit daunted by the prospect of mountains of homework too.

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  15. In 2011, AFY had the highest API (Academic Performance Index) score in the SFUSD: 955 out of 1,000 possible points. I toured the school last year and was impressed with the challenging curriculum and dedicated staff. I loved this school. It was my top choice, but I listed it as #2 after Clarendon, only because Clarendon seemed harder to get into due to sibling and attendance area factors. Honestly, I didn't think I would get into any of my choices. I've never had luck with raffles or lotteries. When I received my assignment letter last Saturday (3/17/12) morning I was a nervous wreck. I put it off. I cleaned my apartment, did 2 loads of laundry and cooked a huge meal for dinner. When I finally opened my letter in the evening, I bust into tears. My daughter got into Alice Fong Yu. I was so happy. It was like someone giving me 20k/yr for private schooling. I was so hopeless leading up to the lottery that I had serious thoughts of leaving the city for a place like Burlingame. Now I don't have to.

    My daughter is mixed Asian/White in a English only household. No siblings at AFY. We live in SOMA (out of the attendance area, AA). AA didn't really matter since AFY is a city wide school. I think what helped us was CTIP1 since SOMA (hipsterville, loft/warehouses, etc.) actually has some of the lowest test scores in the city.

    I've read nearly all of the parent reviews for this school. Some of the concerns include not being able to help your child with homework, A LOT of homework and overly strict methods of teaching. I didn't get this negative vibe when I first toured the school or when I spoke to a AFY parent that was Caucasian, English speaking only. This school seemed like the right fit for us. A challenging curriculum (even it means a lot of homework) is what I would expect from my public school. Ever wonder what school is like in Germany and China??? I would be disappointed if my kindergarten daughter came home with a coloring book assignment. We should be demanding more from our public schools. AFY is a model of what an outstanding public school should be. I feel very fortunate that my child has been placed at this school. I'm excited for her opportunity to speak, read and write in Cantonese/Mandarin. I know that at this school she will be expected and challenged to reach her full potential. The teacher and parent involvement at this school is amazing, which is why the children succeed. The test scores (highest in 2011) speak for themselves. If you want to argue about balance and the lack of extracurricular activities, music, arts, etc. think of this....by getting into AFY, you just saved yourself ~20K+/yr of private tuition costs. So now you can probably afford piano lessons and art lessons outside of school.

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