Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot topic: Turn-around schools

This from a reader:
I hear that Junipero Serra is now looking to be the new turn around school. Are there more? What do parents think? What other school might be hidden gems to consider? Also, how about middle school and high schools?

48 comments:

  1. This could be a good topic, but I HATE the use of the word "horrible." Yes, these schools serve really poor kids. They are not horrible kids though. They are not horrible families. In many cases they have truly excellent teachers (although El Dorado's wonderful staff, which has terrific esprit de corps, is largely pink-slipped this year, a lovely consequence of how we staff our low-income schools with newer teachers).

    I'm not denying the challenges faced by these populations. Nor that they are largely lacking some of the particular advantages brought by the middle class (money, connections, kids not traumatized by poverty, kids with full bellies, kids with books at home). Just can't we find a better way to approach the fact that these are real people, people with gifts and dreams, who are already there.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is very difficult to turn around schools with the teachers passing through a revolving door. Principals know that they need continuity of staffing to build the community and relations that make school a familiar and confortable place for children to learn. At John Muir the principal has taught third grade most of the year because of the inability to place a teacher in that spot. Many classrooms at that school and others have teachers coming and going daily or weekly. You cannot run a school that way.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 1:18,

    I don't think "horrible" is a bad word for these schools and the author said nothing about the student body or the families. I think they meant horrible in test scores and that no one really wants to send their kids there.

    I know that I would never send my kid to those schools. I was bussed to Bessie Carmicael as a child and had to deal with those kids coming from the poor families, it was a "HORRIBLE' experience and I would never send my kid to a similar school; and I think that those schools listed would be some of them. You might be OK with it but I am not.

    But really, would you send your kid to them? Ask yourself. We might say all sorts of things about how not to denigrate these schools and the like but most parents I know, that are honest and have a choice, would not send their kids to those schools.

    Don,

    I agree with your assessment. It is a valid point. But I also think the problem is the parents. There is little to no involvement with the schools and as 1:18 points out, these kids come from violent homes with little income and no books. They maybe hungry and they do not have any of the advantages of the middle class. So what does one do other than avoid these schools at all cost?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Juniperro Serra has had alot of the
    same teachers there for a few years now. Shows loyalty to school and principal. And the principal has been in place for awhile. Momentum grows when teachers can stay more than a year or two. Good luck JS!

    ReplyDelete
  5. What about Garfield or Parker?

    We are in the North-East corner of SF, and assigned to Garfield (went 0/7). Yick Wo and Sherman are our desired schools. I had toured Garfield but it took me until going 0/7 to tour Parker.

    Has anyone else toured Garfield or Parker? These seem like schools ready for turn-around. They both have API scores in 800's-- are they already turned around except for the lack of diversity and lack of parent involvement?

    Parker is mainly filled with children from non-English speaking families (Chinese). Garfield is slightly more diverse, but not much. The Parker principal explained that most kids are not from the neighborhood, but their grandparents live in Chinatown and help to care for the kids after school while parents are working. Students' writing skills in the lower grades seemed impressive when I was shown work from September as compared to current.

    I think the principal at Parker is one who is very good at using limited resources. Those classrooms looked like many private school classrooms I toured. They have smart boards, white boards, fancy projectors, plenty of supplies, books, tools, etc. The teachers have a low turnover rate (I'm told least seniority is 8 years).

    As for Garfield, my impression was that it is a clean building with very well behaved kids. I can't say I got a feel for the education going on there. I've heard criticism that teachers are not fond of the principal, but guess what...she's retiring at the end of this school year. Also very little parent participation at this school. Garfield raises very little money (less than $5K?), less than Parker (quoted about $20K which would be a great start).

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's all about gentrification. As the demographics of a neighborhood change, the demographics of the school changes. Noe Valley, Cole Valley and Miraloma have been "good" neighborhoods for a while, so it's not a surprise that Grattan, Alvarado and Miraloma improved. The neighborhoods around McKinley, Sunnyside, and Revere have gentrified, and parents who want good schools near to them will eventually decide to try the school (as appears to be happening at Serra this year).

    For me, one of the bad things about the new assignment system is that the pressure to go to a neighborhood school with a bad reputation will be higher, which might turn parents off. When parents choose to try a school, that choice is a very strong motivator.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi.

    I'm one of the horrible, horrible teachers at horrible, horrible El Dorado.

    Oh, wait. Actually, I'm a master teacher - right now, I'm even a full-on, capitalized Master Teacher for SFUSD through Prop. A - at a school that is about to be destroyed by its District.

    (That's right: we've had student teachers here. Yeah. Horrible El Dorado.)

    Like several of my pink-slipped colleagues, I have more years in the classroom than you might think. I just made the critical miscalculation of deciding to teach at my neighborhood school, which necessitated giving up tenure in my old District. Like three of my colleagues here at Horrible El Dorado, I am tenured in SFUSD, too. We're just at the bottom of the pile.

    So please, stop acting like we're newbies. We don't have the energy of youth - we have the energy of wanting to be here.

    I could continue to brag on the awesomeness of our staff, what with the National Board Certified teacher, or the many master's degrees, or the teacher doing original research, or that we actually have two of those Prop. A Master Teachers, or the way we were the school Donors Choose visited in SFUSD, but I should focus on our other Horrible characteristics.

    Our school population? Well, they're my neighbors, so you'll excuse me if I like them quite well. Are there poor children here? Yes. Are there children of color? Yes. Are there English Language Learners, children with learning differences, children who have been traumatized, children in shelters, children with health problems, and foster children at our school? Yes.

    Are each and every one of these children a brilliant, vibrant individual who deserves the very best the city can give? Yes.

    Not every school dreams of being a trophy school for anyone but the population that chose it - or the population that didn't but have found it quite likeable. As one of my student's parents remarked to me (her own uncle went here, by the way - one of our many long family trees) yesterday, El Dorado is an "underdog" school.

    We kind of like it that way.

    We get that you don't.

    We're all - to a one, laid off or not - devastated about what SFUSD has chosen to do to us. (And mark my words: it's a choice.)

    But don't you dare call us horrible. We would never, ever, ever, EVER say it of you. We are working with very different issues than you are, and our desires and needs are different. We are not asking you to join us. We do, however, deserve that you treat us with respect.

    ReplyDelete
  8. To 2:21 pm -- we went to a "turnaround" school with very similar demographics to the schools you are mentioning several years ago. We have now been trying to leave it for the last two years. Why? These schools are very stable, with good test scores. Your kid will be very safe there. But the families there simply don't have the money (or are unwilling to donate it) to give the PTA anywhere near the money it needs to counteract the harsh effects of the budget cuts that are coming. The few of us trying to improve things at our school find our efforts constantly hitting a brick wall with these families. If you are part of a group like the Juniperro Serra families --the most recent posting talks about 40+ families going in there -- then you can truly change schools like the ones that you are mentioning. But if it is just you and one or two other families, you will find yourselves drowning in the massive budget cuts that the Board has just begun to implement. Trust me, at that point, you are better off going private for a year or two and then trying to get into one of the better-funded public schools (or perhaps back into those schools when the economy improves and the cuts end).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Parker and Garfield are both quite strong though non-diverse schools. I am not aware of any predominantly Chinese school that does not have good test score averages, no matter how high a percentage of the kids come from low income families. Moscone and ER Taylor are strong schools with predominantly low-income and predominantly non-Chinese students, but they are unusual. I wonder why more middle-class parents in the SE don't consider them. If the lack of diversity does not bother you, I would think most children who are supported at home would do very well at either Garfield or Parker. We did not consider either of them for logistical reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have to agree that calling the schools "horrible" is to harsh a term. I like the "underdog" label, but I think that applies better to schools like El Dorado or Junipero Serra. For the 17 schools with an API of 1 and "similar schools" API of 1, a better term is needed. "Anti-trophy"? "Seriously under-performing"?

    It's interesting that we have a little K Files jargon for good schools, but not for bad ones. (Trophy, hidden gem, bubble school, up-and-comer, etc.)

    I like "underdog" for the 3-4-5 schools, but John Muir and Malcolm X aren't "underdogs".

    ReplyDelete
  11. Can we please call them "poor performing" schools? This is objective (based on scores). I am very uncomfortable with the "horrible" terminology and my heart goes out to the teacher who posted here as well as to any other families or teachers who may be feeling bad due to the terms used on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It looks like there are only 9 SF schools with a 1,1 API, not 17. And one of those is Revere, not normally considered an "anti-trophy"/"wooden spoon" school.

    ReplyDelete
  13. most middle class people are not comfortable enrolling their child at a school where most of the kids are low income for a few reasons. many may not feel comfortable around folks without backgrounds similar to their own. some are worried about low test scores and think the teachers are not good or are overwhelmed by the number of students with high needs. some are worried there are not enough financial resources during these scary economic times to support important programs such as art, music and community events which schools with more resources fund through their pta. these are all valid concerns but of course it is not okay to call these schools and their communities horrible.

    we ended up at a school that was considered untouchable a few years ago but that has enticed middle class parents through an immersion program. we are loving many things about the school and our child is thriving. not perfect, but thriving.

    many have posted and posted about the "social experiments" sfusd is conducting, and that we should focus less on diversity and integrating the schools and more on improving schools. i think all the examples of "turn-around" schools show that schools that become more integrated really do improve, on many levels, for all community members. sfusd's wierd social experiments and strange obsession with diversity actually do have benefits for the schools which have been "turned around" (and i think what turned around means in the context of this blog is that the school has become appealing to more middle class families). another big benefit?--many more schools in which middle class families feel comfortable and happy.

    so i say support sfusd's policies which stress diversity and consider propositions such as the one to "turn around" junipero serra. one unexpected benefit that has been a result of our involvement in our "horrible" neighborhood school is that i have learned a lot myself, about what it means to be connected to communities very different from my own. social education for us old people is important too.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jennifer Moless,

    You maybe a great teacher and many of your colleagues may also be wonderful but that doesn't make the school more palatable. The disadvantages of going to a school where they test scores are dismal and the student body is 7% disadvantaged and receiving public aid is too much to over come when one wants the best for their kids.

    I am sorry that you have gotten a "Pink Slip" and may very well lose your job. It is bad all around even at the better schools. But many of the those schools have active PTAs that are fund-raising like crazy to make up for the deficit coming. Unfortunately, many of the under performing schools don't have that ability and that is one of the reasons they are under performing.

    I understand you getting upset but people have to try to do what is best for their kids. I've been part of the S.F. social experiment. It didn't work. It just made those parents, as I am one now, try to cheat the system or go private. I would rather pay to send my kid to a private school than send them to a severely disadvantaged school. Many parents feel the same way. You can blast us but it doesn't change things and it won't change the school and its reputation.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sorry, I meant 70% disadvantaged.

    ReplyDelete
  16. When I read the word "horrible" I winced because I knew it would turn this thread away from the intent. I agree that it was an insensistive choice of word. I know I'd love to have my kids taught by someone with the compassion of Jennifer Moless

    HOWEVER, back to the point of the original post.......Can anyone tell me whether they are going to add Junipero Serra to their new list? We are seriously considering JS.

    ReplyDelete
  17. 3:47, have you joined the Google group for Junipero Serra prospective parents? Check out the JS-specific thread. That seems like the place to go to meet committed families.

    Have to say, it seems like a great option. I'd do it if I were looking for kinder this year. Especially if I lived near there and/or had gone 0/7.

    ReplyDelete
  18. After getting 0/7, I toured our new assignment: Parker. I agree that it seems pretty great on all fronts except for diversity, parent participation and fundraising.

    I think folks really could turn this around by banding together and adopting it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hello again.

    So, I will try to make this clearer:

    Horrible El Dorado wants to be the school of choice for families in its neighborhood: Vis Valley. This includes all families living at Sunnydale. These are the people whose opinion of our teaching and learning matter to us. So honestly, if you find our school unpalatable, it's probably not for you.

    That does not give you the right to call it horrible. It is denigrating to our teachers, staff, and community.

    Also, I must dispute this notion that the cuts are impacting schools equally. THEY ARE NOT. SFUSD's own data show that the Hard-to-Staff schools are taking the biggest hit in layoffs, and schools with tight budgets have very little left to cut.

    High-needs students get less. The weighted student formula doesn't cover it - especially because those about-to-be-laid off teachers cost less than their more senior colleagues. El Dorado takes a big hit every year by paying the average salary in to the District. Other schools benefit.

    Moreover, what do you think the impact of teacher turnover is on children? How about on children who have experienced significant trauma and adult inconsistency already? SFUSD's budget plans have a significant impact on the opportunity gap: for the worse.

    So we over at Horrible El Dorado would prefer that, if you are not able to visit us before you judge us, that you refrain from judging our children and teachers in public, particularly under the cover of anonymity.

    ReplyDelete
  20. So is "turning around" a school the code we use when we mean "making middle class white people feel comfortable there"? Just asking, I mean exactly what about Parker needs to be "turned around"?

    ReplyDelete
  21. It just seems so simple to me! People in the "underperforming" or "challenging" or "non-diverse" schools don't seem to be unhappy about it. They don't want to go out of their way to be socially, economically, racially, integrated any more than anyone else here. Neighborhood schools! Don't like your neighborhood? Move. (You afforded your house by buying in a cheap neighborhood knowing you could leave for school -- now you like it or lump it.) More money to challenged schools. City-wide PTA that funds all schools....

    ReplyDelete
  22. 5:38 Yes, that is correct.

    ReplyDelete
  23. So is "turning around" a school the code we use when we mean "making middle class white people feel comfortable there"? Just asking, I mean exactly what about Parker needs to be "turned around"?

    Yes, that is what is meant. By any other measure, Parker obviously does not need to be "turned around."

    Whereas some schools that middle-class white people fight to get into, like some of the immersion programs, have worse test scores and so forth.

    It's a state of mind, not a reality.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 4:58-- Have you registered at Parker yet?

    ReplyDelete
  25. I don't think schools like Parker need to be "turned around." Its academic performance is just fine thank you very much. It's not very diverse, but it's doing its job, which is educating the students who go there. A school like John Muir, whose academic performance is inadequate for virtually every student in attendance, needs to be turned around or closed. For some "turned around" is indeed a euphemism for "made more comfortable for the white middle class." One would hope that for most people, "turned around" means "given the resources and support necessary to do the job of educating its students." Different schools seem to approach this differently. Grattan and Parker have comparable API performance, but guess which school is more comfortable for the white middle class and in very high demand.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Someone said:

    "You maybe a great teacher and many of your colleagues may also be wonderful but that doesn't make the school more palatable."

    If having excellent teachers at a school doesn't make it more palatable, what would?

    It may be that you simply don't want to mix your kids with those from "challenged" backgrounds. By all means you should do what you think is right for your child. And it is true that troubled homes are hard to overcome at school, but kids, be they rich or poor, soak up education like a sponge if you provide them with a stable classroom environment and an excellent teacher. If you cannot fix that home, the next best thing society can do is to give that kid a good school experience.

    Jennifer, alluded to the fact that SFUSD is choosing to lay of teachers at higher rates at low performing schools. That is because they choose not to employ the skip clause, a way of contractually cutting slack to low seniority teachers at low performing schools. Conversely, teachers will rightfully complain that they got laid off instead of their lower seniority colleagues. But one thing is for sure, SFUSD cannot lower the achievement gap if it cannot commit itself, by whatever means it can, to keeping dedicated teachers like Jennifer. She is not easily replacable. And if a higher seniority teacher is consolidated at El Dorado, how long do you think s/he will last?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Someone said:

    "You maybe a great teacher and many of your colleagues may also be wonderful but that doesn't make the school more palatable."

    If having excellent teachers at a school doesn't make it more palatable, what would?

    It may be that you simply don't want to mix your kids with those from "challenged" backgrounds. By all means you should do what you think is right for your child. And it is true that troubled homes are hard to overcome at school, but kids, be they rich or poor, soak up education like a sponge if you provide them with a stable classroom environment and an excellent teacher. If you cannot fix that home, the next best thing society can do is to give that kid a good school experience.

    Jennifer, alluded to the fact that SFUSD is choosing to lay of teachers at higher rates at low performing schools. That is because they choose not to employ the skip clause, a way of contractually cutting slack to low seniority teachers at low performing schools. Conversely, teachers will rightfully complain that they got laid off instead of their lower seniority colleagues. But one thing is for sure, SFUSD cannot lower the achievement gap if it cannot commit itself, by whatever means it can, to keeping dedicated teachers like Jennifer. She is not easily replacable. And if a higher seniority teacher is consolidated at El Dorado, how long do you think s/he will last?

    Sorry for the double post. Hit the wrong button

    ReplyDelete
  28. I wouldn't use the term turnaround to describe our school, Glen Park, but we could definitely use some more help to build on our parent involvement momentum.

    We've had a great year so far (kinder family) so if you live nearby, come and check us out.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Jennifer Moless: thank you, and thanks to all your colleagues. It's teachers like you that make my daughter's little brown neighbourhood school the unsung powerhouse it is. It's teachers like you that make Hillcrest and Revere the birthplace of college careers. You are doing great work. The scornful voices here do not speak for us all.

    ReplyDelete
  30. RE Parker: in this case turned-around = parents making a significant difference by fundraising or giving of time from parents.

    The Principal would LOVE to have more parents involved by volunteering more, taking on fundraising etc. but in 11 years as Principal has yet to see it happen as broadly as other schools. These resources could take it from a good school to great.
    For example: At Sherman, they have pictures of about 10 volunteer parent librarians posted outside the library. Parker has no volunteer librarians.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I say if middle class people want to bring their time and PTA dollars into a school, great, and if having more middle-class people around them helps them commit to that, great. Just don't let that critical mass dictate how it's going to be at every turn. On tours, I was struck by several schools that seemed to be sweet little worlds of their own: for instance, Guadalupe. They were not necessarily a good fit for my kid -- for one thing, having two dads doesn't go over so well in predominantly Catholic communities. But they were serving their constituencies beautifully, and I could imagine that a horde of entitled parents might not be the most welcome thing. It sounds like both the principal at Serra and the parents meeting about it are aware of the pitfalls of the "turnaround" way of thinking, which is encouraging.

    And to the person who says, "Don't like your neighborhood school -- move!", give me an effing break. Like anyone, we are where we can afford to be in SF: I can't exactly move to Pacific Heights just because I like their neighborhood schools. I couldn't even afford to buy in my OWN neighborhood. I suppose we could leave SF and move to Arkansas, but is that really what you meant?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Why would Kate/Amy/(whoever is monitoring this blog not very well) allow a whole thread to be started where a school is called "horrible"?

    What is horrible is people who have no regard for the children who go to those schools.

    Teachers who teach at the non "trophy" schools are heroes.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I think Kate does a great job monitoring this blog, by not overmonitoring it. I think the "horrible" was uncalled for, and El Dorado sounds like a school with great leadership and teaching that is being hit very hard by the budget cuts. But why shouldn't the original poster be allowed to speak his/her negative mind?

    ReplyDelete
  34. "Has anyone else toured Garfield or Parker? These seem like schools ready for turn-around. They both have API scores in 800's-- are they already turned around except for the lack of diversity and lack of parent involvement?"

    Yes, they're already turned around. They have scores in the mid-800s.

    Similarly, the poster described Vis Valley Elementary is described as "a horrible school". Its API is 823. Grattan's is 822. Under what definition is Grattan a trophy and VIs Valley "horrible".

    Apparently "turned around" = "affluent white people go there" to some people.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "You afforded your house by buying in a cheap neighborhood knowing you could leave for school -- now you like it or lump it."

    Yes, indeed: lump it, lower income/net worth scum!

    Jeez, it's nice to see the neighborhood schools advocates are so full of the milk of human kindness.

    ReplyDelete
  36. "And it is true that troubled homes are hard to overcome at school, but kids, be they rich or poor, soak up education like a sponge if you provide them with a stable classroom environment and an excellent teacher."

    I disagree. I've been a student at one of the most disadvantaged schools in the city. Many of the children didn't care about school. It was a holding center for them that they had to attend. They made it terrible for the children that did want to learn and do well. People like me, that were interested in learning, were bullied and called names and generally picked on for being, in their minds, "teacher's pet". Some children in bad situations want to learn but not all and those that don't make it terrible difficult for those that do.

    A recent study has shown that a school will remain disadvantaged if more than around 30-35% of the student body is disadvantaged. I will post the study if I can find it. Some schools will remain off people's list for that reason. If you can't feel comfortable sending your kid to a school, why should you, especially if you can afford private or work the system to get a better performing school.

    ReplyDelete
  37. "A recent study has shown that a school will remain disadvantaged if more than around 30-35% of the student body is disadvantaged."

    The study you're referring to indicated that below 40% low-SES, you start to see substantial gains across the board.

    It might seem like we're pissing up a rope, then, given that SFUSD is 54% free/reduced lunch. However, a lot of the low-SES families in SFUSD are from Asian communities that value education highly, so you can have schools with high %ages of low-SES students (Taylor, Yick Wo, Moscone, Vis Valley) which still have high test scores.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you Jennifer!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I think part of the reason white middle class families aren't choosing the high performing schools in the low SES communities (mostly poor new immigrant families who speak languages other than english at home) is that there is no after-school care available to the middle income families. The CDC's are a state program which are legally required to enroll low-income children, leaving no space for paying families. These schools also do not have money for the bells and whistles offered by wealthy PTAs like yoga/language/theater/art/etc. I think lots of families would like to go to these schools (especially if they are in their neighborhood), but without aftercare it is IMPOSSIBLE.

    Also it is challenging to send your child to school full of immigrant families when you can't communicate with parents due to language/cultural differences, how do you become part of the community? What happens for setting up playdates, sleepovers, birthday parties? Is it too hard on your child to be the only white/asian/latino/black/etc. (depending on the school) kid in class?

    ReplyDelete
  40. 2:21

    You do have a point. Most middle class parents (have to) work. The non-low-income folks most likely to try a lower-income but high-performing school are probably middle, not upper, class, and have two parents working. A workable, sane childcare plan is imperative! And if the CDCs, Excel programs, and the like will not accept us because of our (well under 6 figures!) income, then we just can't go there.

    It seems like a win-win to me to have wrap-around services for low-income and/or mixed schools, including after-school tutoring/enrichment that is open to ALL. I bet enrollment goes up and overall outcomes improve when you add these things.

    Of course, that takes money. I get madder every day thinking about the $$$ wasted on private contractors like Halliburton in Iraq--for WHAT?--when they say we can't even pay the teachers we have. History will not judge us very well.

    But BoE, can you do something about the aftercare? Maybe encourage some non-profits to go onsite at some of these schools, like Longfellow, Redding? I would be able to pay something reasonable for my share. Is this going to be even more of an issue with the new system, with families being defaulted into schools that don't meet needs like this?

    ReplyDelete
  41. To: March 25, 2010 9:38 PM and parents thinking turning around a school means bringing a lot of white middle class people to a school.

    What it really means if bringing a decent sized group of committed, dedicated parents or community members who give 3-5 hours a week to a school. The problem with many of the lower income schools is the current populations have parents who care, but don't have the time or money or sometimes the know how or invitation to come in and help out. They can be connected to!

    To the man whose son who has two dads -- I would seriously reconsider your fear of your child not fitting in a :predominantly Cathloic" Guadalupe -- first of all, it's not predominatly Catholic, there is a large Asian population and the teachers and principal would do their best to create a welcoming enviroment. Many of SF schools have many teachers of varying orientations on their staff. Also, a school like Guadalupe is sweet because it has a community that has worked hard to be inclusive and caring. The staff is very involved and the principal has made great inroads with the families. They would welcome any families that want to help out. They have had a fabulous PTA President who has done just that for years. That school needs a few more people willing to commit energy and care to to their already considerable vision.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Along the line of 2:21 pm's comments, I think it is a valid point to consider if you want to send your child to a high performing school where you may not be able to fit in to the community due to language differences.

    I was just asking my friend about her son's experience being the only blond haired child in a heavily predominant Chinese immigrant school community. She said it was very difficult to schedule playdates or invite her son's favorite pal to his birthday party because the family would just hang up on her every time she tried to call.

    ReplyDelete
  43. 5:05, I wonder if your friend ever considered asking her son's teacher for help in reaching out to his friend's family? I teach in a school with many Chinese-speaking families, and we have several people on staff who regularly translate for conferences, important notices, etc. I think any teacher would be more than happy to help facilitate bringing the families together. It is a little more work to bridge the cultural differences, but I've found the parents of my students to be exceptionally warm, generous, and supportive of our teachers and our school community.

    Also, taking the time to learn even just a few words of their language can go a very long way towards establishing relationships. Showing even just a little respect and interest in their culture is almost always greatly appreciated and reciprocated.

    ReplyDelete
  44. The Asian Principal at one school like the ones being discussed here said after working there for years and years she is resigned that Asian immigrant families are generally not going to get involved at school. She says it's cultural: they expect the school to take care of everything.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Okay, I'll be honest, I am concerned my blond haired blue eye child, will be the only one in their class who will not fined friends because of the culture differences coupled with less than spectacular test schools that make schools not encouraging from an academic stand point. In contrast, I have a friend who's child is African-American and they live in Bay View but they will be attending a highly segregated private school where they know the education is top notch but their child will stand out. If you could tell me the same about some of these pubic schools (i.e. stellar academics and nurturing environment) then I might be inclined to listen but so far, we offer diversity (yes, caucasion is a minority in this district) but also get assigned to under performing school. Why is not my 0/7 assignment to a high-performing school where I offer diversity, perhaps Alamo or Garfield?? Nope, I get the bottom of the barrel.

    ReplyDelete
  46. The schools with a majority of asian students are doing a very good job, if test scores are any indication. I have to wonder what some parents are looking for. Is it about finding a quality school for their child, or a social group for themselves?

    I went to elementary school in the 70s, and my parents had next to nothing to do with what went on in my classes. No one else's parents were hanging around, either, although most kids had stay-at-home moms. It seems to me that the idea that classrooms and schools need parent volunteers to run effectively is a relatively new phenomenon.

    From what I've seen of asian families, they tend to have a lot of trust and respect for teachers and schools. I think middle class white people used to feel a lot more like that, before Reagan got started with his "Nation at Risk" campaign to convince everyone our schools are failing.

    ReplyDelete
  47. "The Asian Principal at one school like the ones being discussed here said after working there for years and years she is resigned that Asian immigrant families are generally not going to get involved at school. She says it's cultural: they expect the school to take care of everything."

    We have been going to a majority Asian immigrant school for several years now. I think the quote above is not entirely true. The Asian immigrant population in the city is much more complicated than people realize. It runs the gamut from extremely wealthy, highly educated parents to uneducated parents who are doing extremely low-wage jobs. These different strata are attracted to different public schools. The result is that some majority Asian immigrant schools do LOTS of fundraising, while others don't. Asian immigrant families that go to schools like Yick Wo and West Portal do LOTS of fundraising for the school. Asian immigrant families are Francis Scott Key and Ulloa do not.

    "I was just asking my friend about her son's experience being the only blond haired child in a heavily predominant Chinese immigrant school community. She said it was very difficult to schedule playdates or invite her son's favorite pal to his birthday party because the family would just hang up on her every time she tried to call."

    On the issue of playdates and talking to other parents, I think the comments above are truthful, but I'm not sure how significant the issue really is. There is definitely an insularity to the Asian immigrant community and it can be difficult for both you and your kids to make friends. But the same is true of many other minority communities -- Latinos and African-Americans. And one positive I will note is that Asian kids are not as vicious as Caucasian kids at making fun of slow learners and "odd" kids. There is a powerful cultural force at work on that issue, but Chinese children shy away from some of the cruel taunts that one hears lodged by Caucasian kids at kids who are different or socially awkward. So, all in all, I think this issue is a bit of a red herring - you may not have as much interaction with other parents but your kid, on balance, could end up better socially than at a majority Caucasian school. Having said all this, I do think this is one of the reasons that some westside schools are so heavily Chinese -- I do think Caucasian parents purposefully stay away from certain ones and coalesce around certain other ones (compare Sunset Elementary with Francis Scott Key, for example).

    ReplyDelete
  48. March 25, 2010 9:38 PM: Two-dad family who liked Guadalupe--there is at least one same-sex couple who send their kids there--they are very happy there.

    ReplyDelete