Tuesday, April 20, 2010

SFGate: U.S. tapping S.F. school's recipe for success

This from SFGate:

A top education official in the Obama administration sat in San Francisco's Marshall Elementary School cafeteria taking notes Monday as parents, teachers and administrators recited a recipe for what it takes to turn around a struggling school.

The main ingredients included quality teachers, involved parents and a supportive principal mixed perhaps with a new dual-immersion language program. Time must be allowed to let it all take hold.

It is the kind of formula federal officials would love to see in place at schools across the country. Too many schools are failing year after year with no end in sight, said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller.

Some high schools have a dropout rate of up to 40 percent, and that's no longer acceptable, he said. Meanwhile, too many students graduate from high school unprepared for college and they end up needing remedial classes at their university or college, Miller said.

"We're lying to kids," said Miller during the second stop on a two-day tour around San Francisco to meet school officials and staff, politicians and business leaders.

At Marshall, Miller was especially interested in the school's dual-immersion Spanish program.

The program combines English learners and native speakers with the goal that all students will obtain grade-level literacy and proficiency in both English and Spanish by the time they move on to middle school. The idea was embraced by the school community - a necessary component of any reform, several parents told Miller.

The school's test scores have been improving as has the school's popularity since the program started six years ago.

With pen poised, Miller asked parents, teachers and administrators in the Marshall cafeteria how they created the school's culture - one that includes open communication among all parties while raising money, giving computer workshops for parents and posting one of the highest attendance rates in the district.

Principal Peter Avila cited several factors, including having a social worker, nurse, full-time instructional support staff member and paid parent liaison on campus - mostly funded by federal stimulus dollars or the city's Proposition H school enrichment money.

30 comments:

  1. Hmmm. If you take a market approach, then providing more immersion programs would make sense. If you hold to the NCLB high stakes testing model, then there's just not enough time for the benefits of immersion to become apparent. Since I don't care for what these tests have done to the quality of curriculum, and since I am extremely impressed by my child's growth/abilities during his immersion education, I guess I'll go with the market on this one.

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  2. Having no previous exposure to Marshall I went to the district portal and looked at the SARC. There's nothing there to write home about. Some of the test data was missing, some showed signs of improvement and some a decline.

    Are the drill and kill people going soft? I thought it was all anout data? This dose of humanitarianism is refreshing, if illogical.

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  3. 11:42 - I think there is something to write home about. If you look at the high percentage of free lunch students combined with test scores, you will see that Marshall does a good job of teaching children that come to the school with high needs.

    Below are the API scores of the immersion schools

    Alvarado: 815 API falling, ELL: 704, Socio: 730, 32.4% free lunch

    Monroe: 803 API rising, ELL: 774, Socio: 780, 51.7% free lunch

    Marshall: 746 API rising, ELL: 699, Socio: 714 75.9% free lunch

    Buena Vista: 738 API rising, ELL: 647, Socio: 667 44.6% free lunch

    Fairmount: 687 API falling, ELL: 615, Socio: 631 48.3% free lunch

    Flynn: 668 API falling, ELL: 635, Socio: 629 55.3% free lunch

    Webster: 645 API rising, ELL: NA, Socio: 645 61.7% free lunch

    Paul Revere: 623 API falling, ELL: 594, Socio: 617 61.7% free lunch

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  4. I agree that it looks like Marshall is doing a good job for its students, but I wonder how much of that success is due to the increased staffing? Having "a social worker, nurse, full-time instructional support staff member and paid parent liaison on campus" sounds wonderful. I wish that more schools could afford to provide the staff and services that help develop the parent community.

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  5. It's nice to hear this. I visited Marshall on a whim during tour season, and thought it was a really warm, communitarian school.

    NCLB = No Child Left Behind. Or No Class Left Bearable for the kids. Tests, tests, tests. Life as a multiple-choice question.

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  6. The nation's schools are really in trouble if the Feds are looking to the SFUSD for reform models!

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  7. All that a language immersion does is to change the demographics of a struggling school, therefore improving its test scores. It works great for one school or a small number of schools, but the demographics in the whole city are what they are, so it's a zero-sum game. One involved family enrolling their child at an immersion program in school X means one less involved family in school Y.
    Immersion is a great idea and I support it, but it's far from the panacea that is being presented to be. It's not a recipe that can be applied to all schools. There are only so many families that chase immersion programs. The feds better take note.

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  8. You also need enough of the target language kids to make immersion work. Not many cities have the diverse makeup that SF has. It would seem they'd be better off focusing on non-immersion schools that are having success with low-SES kids.

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  9. I disagree with the 9:30 post. The opening of more immersion programs as well as the supe's call for 'engaged and joyful learners' is something the feds should pay attention to. Or would you prefer to have them looking to Texas for guidance?

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  10. 9:30's dig is not based on reality. SFUSD is very high-functioning for a diverse, high-poverty urban school district -- can anyone name a more successful comparable district?

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  11. Immersion programs can work cities only. It needs a critial mess which suburb districts do not have.

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  12. All the comments from all the posts have disappeared! Malware?

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  13. I noticed that too! I thought it was just me, but I guess it's everybody. Amy/Kate, where did all the comments go?

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  14. Maybe she deleted them all in a huff? It is sort of cleansing, actually.

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  15. But, hey, good for Marshall!

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  16. Looking at Marshall's SARC, the results are not particularly impressive. I don't know why a high official at the Department of Education who is responsible for touting the testing regimen of NCLB would choose a school that shows such mediocre results from that "reform".

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  17. 12:01: Seattle.

    12:06: Look it up.

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  18. 11:43 Sparklepony,

    Immersion programs and a call for more joyful learners is the answer we've all been waiting for. Teach disenfranchised minority youth how to speak Chinese and mandate that the joy of the holiday season is extended throughout the school year. That's the ticket to America's educational woes.

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  19. defacto hall moniterApril 22, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Please stop posting the dumb questions from Don. (What's NCLB? What's immersion?) This is obviously someone pretending to be Don to make him look ignorant.

    I would think this crosses the line of acceptable SF K Files etiquette and that Kate would investigate who is doing this. I'm no fan of Don, but this is really hitting below the belt.

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  20. 11:43
    I am curious if you do really need the target language kids in an immersion program? Children go to the French school not speaking French and become fluent. And I think SFUSD has a very successful one-way immersion. So, I am not convinced that the 50% target language is essential. i think it just

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  21. 11:47
    Most of us get that, and ignore it.
    I suggest you do the same. Stop telling people how to run their blogs and start your own blog.

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  22. If you are saying that we should ignore posts we don't like, may I suggest you do the same? I'm entitled to suggest appropriate behavior and if you don't like my suggestions, do what you advise of others - ignore it.

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  23. Hey, I don't have an issue with posts I don't like. It's called free speech. I just don't like people posing (and posting) as other people to defame them. That's malicious. I won't sit by and ignore that. People new to the blog may not know the history of the Don Wars. It's only fair that they know that Don knows what immersion is.

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  24. 11:47 is Don, sockpuppeting, as usual.
    PLEASE ignore it all.

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  25. I heard Don has left the blog. Maybe someone out there has an innocent question? It's not unheard of.

    -- not a sockpuppet

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  26. 11:43 here.

    Yes, having both the children who speak the target language and those who are learning it is my preferred model of immersion. Though the 2nd language acquisition has many benefits in itself, I also feel that the relationships my kid forms with students from different cultural backgrounds is extremely important and beneficial to all of the children. They are really sharing culture, and out of that comes some beautiful things that just don't get measured by the tests but will probably have a larger impact on our future.

    It does seem that some more English language development time earlier on would be in the best interest of many children who speak the target language predominantly at home, but that's not some educated opinion or anything. Seems that would be a better conversation to have with their parents (who definitely should have their voices heard on the matter).

    I never said things being promoted in SFUSD were the answer to all problems in public education. I just mean it's great that the administration is looking into the programs that parents are responding to. But they probably sent someone to Texas too!

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  27. This blog is dead now. All the past comments about schools and other information has been wiped clean, so all the effort to write things and exchange information was a waste of time.

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  28. Oh relax

    The owner (Kate?) was trying to move to a dedicated domain (www.thesfkfiles.com, as I could see). When she did that, the comments weren't moved over, so we are back to blogspot.com.

    Pay a little attention to your URL and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out.

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