Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall 2011: Notes from a hot ticket

Thursday is local’s night out in San Francisco, and this evening, warm with a full moon rising, was the perfect time to hit Pier 23, or The Ramp. Instead, where were about 200 of us? Packed into the basement of a church, to talk about what else – kindergarten.

Tonight, Golden Gate Mother’s Group held its annual kindergarten night. I hadn’t been to a GGMG community meeting in a while, and was happily reminded of their nice vibe. The volunteer group is for mothers in the city with kids under the age of five, and there was the usual scattering of new moms with beautiful, sweet babies babbling in the background or crawling up the aisles. There were the snacks and cheese, and a few bottles of wine, which, frankly, tonight’s audience seemed to especially welcome. And this time, dads also turned out. The kindergarten process is clearly a co-ed sport.

I’m still sorting through all that was said. But the presentations, by two private school consultants (Betsy Little and Paula Molligan), a PPS-SF representative (Vicki Symonds), and a current kindergarten mom (Jenifer Wana), held a few points that merit late-night thinking – and late-night posting.

First, some overall points on evaluating a school that apply to all of us on the kindergarten quest, from Little and Molligan. They are basic, but for those of getting pulled in a dozen different directions by the kindergarten process, they provided some grounding:

  • Read the school’s mission statement, and if you tour, look for it in action. Is the school living it?
  • What’s the program? Teacher-directed? Project-based? Experiential? Be sure you understand the program and are on board with it before you apply.
  • Who are the teachers? How long have they been there? How current is their training? How do they engage the students?
  • How is the school accredited?
  • What are the co-curricular programs?
  • What does the school provide in terms of character development for students? Diversity? Discipline?
  • What are the tests and measurements by which the school’s performance is assessed? How does the school stack up against them?

They also offered up this observation, which I’ve seen echoed in a few SF K Files comments – when you tour, focus on the upper grades. “Frankly, we’ve never seen a kindergarten we didn’t like. Always go see the upper grades.” This is the paradigm, they said, for how the kids at the school turn out.

For those thinking about private and parochial schools, a few “Don’ts,” also from Little and Molligan:
  • Don’t be put off by the application process. The school is trying to get to know you, and the process also gives you a chance to get to know them.
  • Don’t give more information than requested. (I took this to mean that writing three extra essays about your child and following up with a cake, balloons, and a marching band may not be as endearing as you think.)
  • Don’t try to coach or bribe your child before the screening or playdate. It’ll show, and it’s too much pressure.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask about financial aid. (I frankly have some questions about this one, but that’ll probably be the subject of a later blog post.)
  • And from Jenifer Wana: Don’t give a school money or sign a contract without understanding the withdrawal policy. If you make a deposit, or sign a contract for a year, what are you financially accountable for if you decide to go elsewhere later?
In terms of public schools, Vicki Symonds gave a basic, upbeat overview of the new assignment process. Most of the information she presented can be found on the PPS-SF website, or has been discussed on this blog. But a few of the questions brought up some interesting considerations:

  • There was lots of rumbling about ranked choice and the lottery process, and why putting a school first on your list doesn’t provide some sort of tie-breaker in that particular school’s lottery. People were confused and unhappy about this, and left the meeting still looking for answers.
  • Symonds mentioned that there will be changes to the waitpool and Round II process, but no one knows what those changes will look like until November. People had some questions here too – why does this part of the process need an overhaul as well?
  • One father asked “What’s the logic of removing the cap on the number of choices? Why let people put down as many schools as they want?” While there was no conclusive answer, one other dad won a round of applause by giving the (yes, slightly cynical) reply that in his view, it’s all political. Letting people put down more schools increases the likelihood that they’ll get something they requested, and lets the politicians say that more people get schools of their choice. (My summary of this view = More choices reduces the district’s risk of another round of “0/7” t-shirts this year – it’s way harder to do a t-shirt that says “0/any given number”.)
Symonds, who has put her kids through San Francisco public schools all the way through high school, said that the coming year is indeed one of unknowns. “We don’t know how people are going to act and choose in the new system,” she said. “To me, the new process is more intuitive…but I don’t know if that means people will like it any better.”

As I left the meeting, we could hear the church choir practicing in another room. “Listen, the angels are singing for us…it’s a good sign!” said a mom walking nearby. “Either that,” laughed another, “or the angels are singing cuz we’ll need their help.”

(A couple of notes: This is hardly an exhaustive list of what was presented tonight, and I had to leave before the Q&A was finished, so if you were there, please add any other highlights! If you have questions about the meeting, it may take me a couple of days to answer, as I won’t be online much this weekend. And if you are GGMG member, the handouts from tonight should be posted to the group’s BigTent site in a few days.)

83 comments:

  1. It is political, but in a different way. Giving a longer list is a win for the west side of the city. If even one student is displaced by CTIP-1 in your zone, then the entire zone gets a priority for the immersion and city-wide schools. If you can list all of these schools, then there is pretty much no chance that you have to go to a poorly performing school. It makes the preference for city-wide and immersion schools much more potent.

    It also highlights that the new system is not about neighborhood schools, but rather guaranteeing that the west side can lock up most of the good schools everywhere in the city.

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  2. It pretty much sucks for those of us who don't live on the west side, eh?

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  3. It does if the immersion schools over here get flooded by displaced west siders. They're all we have.

    On the other hand, there are still west side residents who recoil with horror at our neighborhoods, so maybe that will save us.

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  4. "It also highlights that the new system is not about neighborhood schools, but rather guaranteeing that the west side can lock up most of the good schools everywhere in the city."

    Why would SFUSD want to favor the west side of the city? They have stripped west side schools of categorical funding and transferred it to low performing schools. Does that demonstrate a bias to the west?

    Can you please elaborate on this? It sounds like a conspiracy theory intended to drum up east-west strife.

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  5. Upper grades will be a "paradigm for how the kids at the school turn out" only if the school has achieved critical mass recognition as "acceptable" and has had 6 solid years of buzz to attract families. When we toured Miraloma 7 years ago and decided that we loved it enough to place it first on our lottery form, our playground friends thought that we were nuts. At that time, if we only looked at the upper grades and the test scores, then we might have assumed that it wasn't an "acceptable" school for little Johnny. Now, 6 years later, yes, our upper grades will be a "paradigm for how the kids at the school turn out," but it wasn't always so.

    Moral of the story: a "hidden gem" needs special consideration. Families can and should pick schools like J. Serra, R. Parks, S. King, Webster, Revere, JOES, Flynn, Fairmount, etc., without fear of repercussions from family and friends, because truthfully, the upper grades do not tell the whole story in up and coming schools.

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  6. "Letting people put down more schools increases the likelihood that they’ll get something they requested,"

    As opposed to being dumped in something they didn't request if everything else is oversubscribed?

    Frex, if someone in the SE (say Bernal) lists (say) the eight Spanish immersion schools and then J.Serra, then if they strike out of all the immersion programs but there's room in J.Serra, they'd get assigned there instead of the district picking something else for them.

    Why is this considered a bad thing?

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  7. "It is political, but in a different way. Giving a longer list is a win for the west side of the city. If even one student is displaced by CTIP-1 in your zone, then the entire zone gets a priority for the immersion and city-wide schools."

    Except that the slack capacity is in the West (because of the high percentages that go private/parochial there), and the shortage of capacity in the SE. The preference-if-there's-not-enough-capacity is going to go more to Eastsiders than Westsiders.

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  8. I asked the question about whether they had tested the new assignment model using past years data. They have not. They have no idea what type of results this will produce? (Or maybe they do and don't want to share it) How do they expect to sell the new system to the public without having tested it? From the presentation it appears the new system will put more public Pre-K people and more low income people into the best schools before geography is considered. We're probably calling the moving company.

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  9. Don

    Don't expect an answer. This whole blog is a SE lobby with the overriding purpose of trying to keep west side slots from going to west side children in the name of equity.

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  10. Where do you get the idea that they have to sell it to the public? SFUSD can do whatever it wants and their only consideration is whether Board members might invoke voter disapproval. Realistically, most voters don't pay much attention to student assignment. That's why most non-parent voters think SFUSD already has a standard neighborhood school policy.

    FYI, the district has run computer models with various scenarios. But in the end, they really have no idea what will happen in the real world when there is so much choice in the application process. And it still comes down to whether it is more unfair to be assigned an underperforming school in the neighborhood or to be sent across town to an underperforming school outside the neighborhood. Not exactly a real puzzler.

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  11. Thanks for the report back.

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  12. 8:06 -- here we go again --the miracle at Miraloma can be easily replicated elsewhere. I get so tired of hearing this! Don't worry about all the problems at X school, ignore the chaos in the upper grades, go to these schools and everything will be better. I went to a school that was supposed to turn around too. Unfortunately, unlike Miraloma, it really didn't. Too many low-income kids, a new principal that undid all the good things the previous one did, and a PTA that could never get its act together. We got out of it after six years. Miraloma was targeted by a concentrated group of parents with extraordinary funds at their disposal, a surrounding high-income neighborhood to draw new students from, and, yes, a great series of principals, etc., etc. But a lot of what turned around Miraloma just ain't going to happen at these schools farther on the eastern side of the city, and I'm tired of hearing the same crap from these parents!

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  13. 12:00 - was your school a K-5 or K-8?

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  14. Further to 8:06's comment --

    Little & Molligan probably weren't referring to public schools when they said this, as their focus is the privates.

    The parents they work with (I'll leave you to guess whether I'm one of them) generally aren't interested in potential up-and-comers or hidden gems.

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  15. 12:00 What school? Don't want others to drink the Kool-Aid.

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  16. I went to one of the assignment presentations to the board last year. The reason for allowing any number of school choices was part of eliminating the 0/7 vs 0/6 cohorts for Round II. Under the previous model, if you only liked 6 schools, the "right tactic" was to put down Lilienthal or something in that #7 spot, to make sure to be in the top cohort. But you had to know to do that, so this simplification of the system gets rid of the cap, but also gets rid of the cohorts.

    I assume that hardship, appeal and sibling cohorts will still be in the system, but they also want to eliminate the "late" cohort. So for Round II, with no sibling of appeal, someone who applies in July will (most likely) be in the same cohort as someone who went 0/8 in round 1 and 0/10 in Round 2.

    I don't think it's a bad thing.

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  17. 12:00
    I don't mean to make light of your unsatisfactory experience with elementary school.

    But I think it is fair to say that Miraloma is not the only "miracle"school. There are many schools in recent years that have become more popular with middle class families and also seen significant rises in test scores.

    And I don't think it is easy for this to happen necessarily. I'm sure it was a lot of work. I'm sure that it doesn't work out as we hope it will all the time. But I'm just saying Miraloma isn't the only success story out there.

    I don't mean just your post. But the vibe on this blog is really negative lately. And I hope it doesn't scare new parents off from SFUSD.

    There are a lot of posts recently that basically write off a lot of schools because they have a large population of disadvantaged kids or low test scores or whatever. I know you are stressed and worried about your own kids but I think it's rude. Please try to remember the people there are kids too just like yours and have family and teachers and staff that are just as dedicated to them as you are to yours. The teachers and staff there work just as hard if not more than at some of the higher performing schools.

    In spite of it all, whether you like the new SAS or not, I think there is a lot of room for optimism.

    We toured tons of schools before we went into the lottery for K and overall I thought the schools and teachers and principals were doing a good job. Sure, some schools were more organized, had higher test scores. Some raised more money and had nicer facilities than others and some had more established PTAs. But the level of care and dedication I felt from staff and faculty and parents from the schools we visited overall was impressive.

    I had my favorites, but there was probably only 1 SFUSD school that I visited that I'd be really upset about sending my kid to because I worried they get a bad education. Don't get me wrong. I would have been disappointed not to get one of my favorites, but I wouldn't have been worried about the quality of education. I toured schools in the central sunset area as well as schools in the south and east side of town. And the ones I liked best in terms of what I saw going on in the classrooms were not the trophy schools.

    Just want to remind people to keep an open mind about what's important and not be so focused on a particular school for one particular reason like test scores. They don't tell the whole story. I would be looking more at how the teachers work with their students in the classroom and pay attention to what the kids are doing and how responsive the leadership is to parent concerns. I think that is better indication of how your child will do than school test scores.

    For people who are not happy with the neighborhood school, hopefully you will still visit it and then visit 1 or 2 popular schools and compare. How different is it really? Because I did not see that many differences in terms of what the teachers were doing in their classrooms. I know it's not easy from a short tour but try to decide objectively how much better the quality of instruction actually is at a popular school versus a less popular school before you get too upset about your assigned school.

    Some schools might be better at advertising their art instruction for example. Or maybe they have more money to spend on art, music, or technology. But pay attention to what the kids are actually doing during this specialized time and ask what your kids are going to get out of it. Is it really enhancing the kids' education in an effective way? Do they really need access to a computer lab in elementary for example? It might not be worth falling in love with a school over. Just some things to consider.

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  18. But any number of schools have experienced the same turnaround Miraloma did, 12:00, so the notion that it can't be replicated is not valid. It's sad that yours wasn't one of them (it would be helpful to know what school is is).

    Here's a (random, partial) list of SFUSD schools that friends of mine fought to get out of in past yaers, or just fled in favor of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on private school due to the perceived failings of the SFUSD school:

    West Portal
    Alvarado
    Leonard Flynn
    Fairmount
    Sunnyside
    Starr King
    Daniel Webster
    Grattan
    Lafayette
    Peabody
    Jose Ortega
    McKinley
    Marshall
    Monroe
    Roosevelt
    Aptos
    James Lick
    Balboa
    Galileo


    I won't count DeAvila because it shut down and reopened. SF Community, Harvey Milk and New Traditions are all alternative schools, so no one got default assignments there, but they would have evoked equal horror.

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  19. The vibe on this blog is really negative lately. And I hope it doesn't scare new parents off from SFUSD.

    There are a lot of posts recently that basically write off a lot of schools because they have a large population of disadvantaged kids or low test scores or whatever. I know you are stressed and worried about your own kids but I think it's rude. Please try to remember the people there are kids too just like yours and have family and teachers and staff that are just as dedicated to them as you are to yours. The teachers and staff there work just as hard if not more than at some of the higher performing schools.

    In spite of it all, whether you like the new SAS or not, I think there is a lot of room for optimism.

    We toured tons of schools before we went into the lottery for K and overall I thought the schools and teachers and principals were doing a good job. Sure, some schools were more organized, had higher test scores. Some raised more money and had nicer facilities than others and some had more established PTAs. But the level of care and dedication I felt from staff and faculty and parents from the schools we visited overall was impressive.

    I had my favorites, but there was probably only 1 SFUSD school that I visited that I'd be really upset about sending my kid to because I worried they get a bad education. Don't get me wrong. I would have been disappointed not to get one of my favorites, but I wouldn't have been worried about the quality of education. I toured schools in the central sunset area as well as schools in the south and east side of town. And the ones I liked best in terms of what I saw going on in the classrooms were not the trophy schools.

    Just want to remind people to keep an open mind about what's important and not be so focused on a particular school for one particular reason like test scores. They don't tell the whole story. I would be looking more at how the teachers work with their students in the classroom and pay attention to what the kids are doing and how responsive the leadership is to parent concerns. I think that is better indication of how your child will do than school test scores.

    For people who are not happy with the neighborhood school, hopefully you will still visit it and then visit 1 or 2 popular schools and compare. How different is it really? Because I did not see that many differences in terms of what the teachers were doing in their classrooms. I know it's not easy from a short tour but try to decide objectively how much better the quality of instruction actually is at a popular school versus a less popular school before you get too upset about your assigned school.

    Some schools might be better at advertising their art instruction for example. Or maybe they have more money to spend on art, music, or technology. But pay attention to what the kids are actually doing during this specialized time and ask what your kids are going to get out of it. Is it really enhancing the kids' education in an effective way? Do they really need access to a computer lab in elementary for example? It might not be worth falling in love with a school over. Just some things to consider.

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  20. The vibe on this blog is really negative lately. And I hope it doesn't scare new parents off from SFUSD.

    There are a lot of posts recently that basically write off a lot of schools because they have a large population of disadvantaged kids or low test scores or whatever. I know you are stressed and worried about your own kids but I think it's rude. Please try to remember the people there are kids too just like yours and have family and teachers and staff that are just as dedicated to them as you are to yours. The teachers and staff there work just as hard if not more than at some of the higher performing schools.

    In spite of it all, whether you like the new SAS or not, I think there is a lot of room for optimism.

    We toured tons of schools before we went into the lottery for K and overall I thought the schools and teachers and principals were doing a good job. Sure, some schools were more organized, had higher test scores. Some raised more money and had nicer facilities than others and some had more established PTAs. But the level of care and dedication I felt from staff and faculty and parents from the schools we visited overall was impressive.

    I had my favorites, but there was probably only 1 SFUSD school that I visited that I'd be really upset about sending my kid to because I worried they get a bad education. Don't get me wrong. I would have been disappointed not to get one of my favorites, but I wouldn't have been worried about the quality of education. I toured schools in the central sunset area as well as schools in the south and east side of town. And the ones I liked best in terms of what I saw going on in the classrooms were not the trophy schools.

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  21. Just want to remind people to keep an open mind about what's important and not be so focused on a particular school for one particular reason like test scores. They don't tell the whole story. I would be looking more at how the teachers work with their students in the classroom and pay attention to what the kids are doing and how responsive the leadership is to parent concerns. I think that is better indication of how your child will do than school test scores.

    For people who are not happy with the neighborhood school, hopefully you will still visit it and then visit 1 or 2 popular schools and compare. How different is it really? Because I did not see that many differences in terms of what the teachers were doing in their classrooms. I know it's not easy from a short tour but try to decide objectively how much better the quality of instruction actually is at a popular school versus a less popular school before you get too upset about your assigned school.

    Some schools might be better at advertising their art instruction for example. Or maybe they have more money to spend on art, music, or technology. But pay attention to what the kids are actually doing during this specialized time and ask what your kids are going to get out of it. Is it really enhancing the kids' education in an effective way? Do they really need access to a computer lab in elementary for example? It might not be worth falling in love with a school over. Just some things to consider.

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  22. 12:00 again -- if you are looking for the Kool Aid, I think Caroline just passed it out. Yes, there are some on Caroline's list that are good (by the way, Caroline, who ever thought West Portal was bad? Are we talking ancient times again?), but a bunch of them have a LONG way to go, including the one that my family spent six years at! (And no, I'm not going to mention it. There are some terribly wonderful families who are still stuck there, and I don't want to make things any worse than they already are! At the same time, folks should be aware that some of the schools on Caroline's list have a ways to go. Caveat emptor!)

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  23. The vibe on this blog is really negative lately. And I hope it doesn't scare new parents off from SFUSD.

    There are a lot of posts recently that basically write off a lot of schools because they have a large population of disadvantaged kids or low test scores or whatever. I know you are stressed and worried about your own kids but I think it's rude. Please try to remember the people there are kids too just like yours and have family and teachers and staff that are just as dedicated to them as you are to yours. The teachers and staff there work just as hard if not more than at some of the higher performing schools.

    In spite of it all, whether you like the new SAS or not, I think there is a lot of room for optimism.

    We toured tons of schools before we went into the lottery for K and overall I thought the schools and teachers and principals were doing a good job. Sure, some schools were more organized, had higher test scores. Some raised more money and had nicer facilities than others and some had more established PTAs. But the level of care and dedication I felt from staff and faculty and parents from the schools we visited overall was impressive.

    I had my favorites, but there really weren't any SFUSD schools that I visited that I'd be really upset about sending my kid to because I worried they get a bad education. Don't get me wrong. I would have been disappointed not to get one of my favorites, but I wouldn't have been worried about the quality of education. I toured schools in the central sunset area as well as schools in the south and east side of town. And the ones I liked best in terms of what I saw going on in the classrooms were not the trophy schools.

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  24. 12:00 -
    Can you give us examples of things that went wrong at your school?
    Did your child have bad teachers? What was bad about them?

    I visited 8 of the elementary schools on that list that Caroline mentioned. Not that there couldn't be room for improvement, but they struck me as schools with good teachers and principals and active dedicated parent base.

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  25. West Portal was not considered a superstar school in our time, and yes, that was ancient times, but that's my point.

    One family from our preschool got West Portal as their default assignment and fought to get out of it and to get Lakeshore (with eventual success). I still remember their anguish that all the other kids in preschool knew where they were going to K before their son did. And of course the fact that even one family who didn't request West Portal got it as the default assignment tells us it wasn't overwhelmed by demand at that time.
    (To clarify, this was for K in fall 1996.)

    Miraloma basically started turning around 1998 or 1999, so it wasn't THAT much later.

    I'm not saying that all the schools on my list are perfect, or perfect for everybody, but they're now all highly regarded and in demand. Without looking each one up on the demand comparison, I'd guess that they all get more applicants than they have openings.

    I didn't actually say anything specific about those schools that could be interpreted as drinking the Kool-Aid -- my specific point was that they were formerly scorned and are now popular. That said, I would certainly describe them as successful schools in general, so NOW you can make the Kool-Aid accusation.

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  26. Given the new assignment area rules, I would think that the most important thing would be to look at the families with other four-year-olds at your local park - that's who you're going to school with, unless they're all going private. Not 100% accurate, but a much better measure than in the past, when you just had no idea who's show up the first Kindergarten playdate.

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  27. 12:00/4:13, having visited Alvarado, Flynn, Sunnyside, Webster, McKinley, Marshall, and Monroe, I don't think Caroline is drinking any Kool Aid. All have good parent bases and principals who seemed on the ball, and all had impressive teachers and decent-to-good enrichment. The reasons I might not choose some had to do with lack of aftercare, distance from home and my tilt toward immersion. All had lots of ELL kids taking tests not in their native language, but so what? If you were tested in Spanish you might not look so good either.

    But if you were "stuck" at a school, why not say which one and what the problems were? Let's be specific here instead of condemning a whole bunch of schools in such vague terms.

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  28. I know several families that left Sunnyside in the past few years due to a few really bad tenured teachers and some serious bullying incidents. I heard about a K teacher who shamed a child. She made the class refer to her as a "dummy" for doodling on a worksheet. Kids from the aftercare who were bussed in to the school site bullied a K girl in the bathroom and the really charming Principal did nothing.

    I know there's a lot of enthusiasm for this school and that it's slated to be "the next Miraloma" but I don't buy it. Nice building, though.

    Very hard to tell anything from a short tour of a school. Better to talk to parents who have experience with a school to get the real inside scoop.

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  29. "Please try to remember the people there are kids too just like yours and have family and teachers and staff that are just as dedicated to them as you are to yours."

    While every child is full of potential, the unfortunate reality is that in many cases their parents and family, if they have them, are not as dedicated to the educational life of the child as you think. Some individuals or families put little stock in education and don't inculcate in children the values of hard work, study and discipline. I don't mean to say they don't love their children. But love is not a substitute for parental involvement in the school life of the child. If the parent or guardian is not ensuring that the child is attending class, doing the homework and helping them to do it when necessary, they are not doing what is required to help that child succeed, whether they love them or not.

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  30. As a parent of an English speaking kindergartner at a school with lots of ELL in class, the thing I find sad is that they spend most of the day and evening (6+ pages) doing worksheets. I think it is to get the ELL up to speed for English language tests, but it seems like an incredibly boring busywork waste of time for English speaking kids. I imagine at a school with fewer ELL they could spend that time on art/reading/science/etc. Or is this just part of no child left behind and it is universal at all schools??

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  31. A little Kool-Aid translation, from an SE parent:

    West Portal, Alvarado - haven't been turn around schools for ten years. Highly oversubscribed schools in affluent neighborhoods. We had both these schools on our original K application and of course went 0/7.

    Fairmount, Leonard Flynn - SI programs highly oversubscribed in affluent neighborhoods. Test scores are low.

    Sunnyside - See above comments.

    Starr King - no comment.

    Daniel Webster - no comment.

    Grattan, Lafayette - both highly oversubscribed school in affluent neighborhoods.

    Jose Ortega - perhaps this is one of the rare "hidden gem" schools. However, you have to be willing to opt for Mandarin Immersion which is not for everybody.

    McKinley, Marshall, Monroe - many of the parents in these SE schools, who have made a tremendous investment of time, are gravely concerned about the middle school streaming assignments for these schools.

    Roosevelt, Aptos, James Lick, Balboa, Galileo - no comment on middle schools.

    Caroline, with the exception of three or four schools, all the schools you have mentioned are in affluent neighbourhoods. Most of the "turnaround" you mention is due to the affluent figuring out how to game the lottery system to take back their neighborhood school.

    Many of the schools you mention haven't really "turned around". They were in the process of turning around before the recession hit.

    The schools that remain are in or close to poor neighborhoods. In the current economic climate, neither the funds nor the politically connected "neighbours" exist to bring these schools up. And that's ignoring all the other problems that exist in poor neighborhoods.

    Caroline, you don't live in the SE. Your kids didn't attend school here.

    Beth, speaking of playgrounds, it was there that I met one of the parents that helped lead the effort at Miraloma. She explained that the Miraloma effort was led by a group of education insiders. She herself is a twenty year veteran of the SFUSD. As an aside, she also told me that she questions the quality of teaching at many SE Spanish Immersion schools. If that is true, that certainly makes me wonder if Flynn and Fairmount are really "turnarounds."

    Most of us aren't school teachers or SFUSD insiders. We don't know how to game the system to aggregate resources to build a Miraloma.

    Given that fact, as well as the reality that all of the schools that even have had the potential to turn around are jammed to the rafters, could we please stop with the "don't worry it will turn around" meme.

    My husband is reading a blog post from an SFGate article that illustrates how out of touch Caroline's comments are. I'll post that next.

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  32. From the comments section on Jill Tucker's sfgate article "Board to give final OK for assigning students:"

    "i'm a single mom who's in the process of packing my house and moving out of the city after we went 0/14 trying to get my daughter into a school within 2-3 miles near our house (not necessarily the greatest school ... just one in reasonable proximity). after two rounds, countless tours and a night spent on the franklin street sidewalk for open enrollment, we ended up with a terrible school six miles from home (quite a feat in a city only 7x7) and the opposite direction of my work commute. $10K a year in property taxes and for what? so it's off across the bridge for us ..."

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/comments/view?f=/c/a/2010/09/24/BA5P1FHFT7.DTL#ixzz10Z1A5riQ

    ReplyDelete
  33. My comment was simply a list of schools that are now oversubscribed that were scorned and undersubscribed a few years ago. Even anecdotes about problems at a school don't rebut that, since my point was about the demand.

    I said myself that the days when West Portal and Alvarado were unpopular were MORE than 10 years ago, so pointing out that those days were 10 years ago doesn't rebut my comment. The days when Miraloma was scorned and unpopular were also more than 10 years ago, and my entire point was that there have been quite a few more Miralomas.

    ReplyDelete
  34. It's a shame that there are parents who really hit bad luck in the lottery. I know one going through something like that now.

    But that's irrelevant to my point, which was, in its entirety, that there are quite a number of schools in SFUSD, just like Miraloma, that were scorned and unpopular in the '90s and are now oversubscribed. Describing the individual characteristics of those schools -- problems or advantages -- is also irrelevant to that particular point and doesn't disprove it.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Caroline, the fact that some schools in affluent neighborhoods during an economic boom managed a moderate improvement HAS NOTHING TO DO with the school situation now.

    ReplyDelete
  36. More blog comments from the SFgate article:

    "#2 annoys me to know end - attends a sfusd preschool in the area. Why? Because there is a preschool near me - I tried to enroll my kid, but wasn't allowed to. Was told my "family of 3 can't make more than $10,000 a year." What? I see Lexus SUVs and BMWs dropping those kids off. I called the school district and they said, "well, we can't really check income". So if you lie, you get in, and you get higher priority for the nearby school to boot. You tell the truth (who on earth makes less than 10K for a family of 3 in the city?) and no preschool, no preference for elementary school."

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/comments/view?f=/c/a/2010/09/24/BA5P1FHFT7.DTL&plckOnPage=2&plckItemsPerPage=20&plckSort=TimeStampDescending#ixzz10Z7Zp1sm

    ReplyDelete
  37. The last ten years have also seen the end of caps for ethnic groups. The integration plan use to cap the maximum percentage of any one ethnic group (usually Chinese) to 40 or 45%. When the school district was sued to remove those caps, integration decreased.

    There is a correlation, and not necessarily a causation, that in the last ten years, turnaround schools turned around. What was the racial compositon of the turnaround schools? Did concentrations of African Americans and Hispanics remain high as the schools improved in terms of test scores? Or did test scores go up as the racial composition of the school changed, with the end of the caps?

    We sometimes knock charter schools for selective admissions of motivated students. We should be no less rigorous of our evaluation of the turnaround schools.

    ReplyDelete
  38. If you're in the know, you'll be into the fact that various immigrant groups have gained access to these preschools for years by not being entirely honest about their family income.

    That's why there is this little loophole in the new assignment system. It's a freebie for immigrant groups, who have mostly not been truthful about their income.

    I've met many immigrant families whose combined off the books family income is upward of 100,000K per year. Yet, when applying for preschool, they declare their family income as being less then 10,000K.

    I've heard Rachel say that she doesn't think the kids given inside tracking to kindergarten from these preschools will imposed a burden on the new assignment system. Really?

    Folks, for honest middle class families, the new system will be just as corrupt, arduous and hopeless as the old.

    Be warned.

    ReplyDelete
  39. This whole notion that parents should be more willing to consider their neighborhood, underperforming school because of its turnaround potential really grates on me.

    There's a lot of talk in my neighborhood (a decent one in the middle of the city) about how the local school might improve under the new system and hey, if we all sent our kids there look what could happen. And maybe it will improve. But I am not willing to take that chance. And it is not because I'm not a dedicated parent. Or because I have anything against public schools in general -- to the contrary, I attended public schools all the way through grad school and have always been rah, rah, rah about my own school experience.

    But I am a very risk averse person. And I have an extremely demanding job which doesn't afford me the so-called luxury of spending my days and evenings trying to make a school better. I'm just not going to spend my precious free time at PTA meetings or volunteering in the classroom; I'm going to spend it with my children.

    I suppose I should consider myself lucky that my very demanding job affords me the option of going private or moving to an affluent burb with a better public school system if we don't get a school assignment we can live with (although I actually don't consider my income the product of luck ... I have worked my ass off my whole life to get where I am). And I really try not to dwell on the fact that I pay more in taxes than most people in this city earn in a year, and yet, likely won't send my kids to public school here. But sometimes -- particularly when others suggest that people like me just aren't open minded or dedicated enough -- I get REALLY pissed off.

    ReplyDelete
  40. 10:55, I didn't say it did. I simply said Miraloma is not unique and gave a fairly long yet still partial list of schools that have also achieved turnarounds in stature and popularity.

    Some of those schools have made impressive (not just modest) improvements in achievement; not all are in affluent neighborhoods. And actually, often the changes in demographics at a school are attributed to POOR economic times, as families that might have gone private can no longer afford it.

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  41. Miraloma alum parent here-- just to clarify, the PTA didn't restart there until the 2002-03 school year, the same year parents started organizing tours and outreach. Enrollment requests doubled the next year (from 15 to 30 - whoo hoo!) and doubled just about every year after that until the formerly underenrolled school (245) reached capactiy (320 or so).

    11:44 - do you REALLY think you are do much busier that everyone else? In my middle school all parents that are on the PTA board, SSC and involved all work full time in demanding professional jobs. You don't have to quit your day job to be involved - and make a huge difference at the school (heck a check helps.) (We all spend a great deal of time and energy with our kids as well, obviously.)

    Seriously, a few people giving just a little bit of time makes a huge difference. I know, I've lived it for almost a decade now and seen every single school within a 4 mile radius of my house make huge changes and turnarounds - through parent, teacher and community effort.

    Go read "Bowling Alone"

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  42. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Alone

    I encourage everyone to read this book.

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  43. The one important piece of information in all this conversation that I have never seen mentioned in all the conversation about chosing schools, is the federal law on PI (Program Improvement Schools.) If the school in your neighborhood, is a PI school, by law, you have a right to choose/request another school.SFUSD most likely keeps this relevant piece of information, under wraps.

    ReplyDelete
  44. In fact, the reason that most middle class families move out of SF is exactly because they are "Bowling Alone."

    Difficult school access, no preschool access, lack of parking, dirty and increasingly dangerous public spaces, overpriced housing, crowded community centers, over priced child unfriendly restaurants and inaccessible health care.

    We don't need a book to tell us that SF policies leave many middle class families "bowling alone."

    While I'm not a religious person, it is exactly because of the lack of middle class public institutions in the city that I've increasingly reconnected with our family's religious roots to fill the void.

    The SF public school system as the nexus for community? You must live in a really different part of the city from us.

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  45. 7:08pm, more than half the schools in the city are on program improvement.

    So where will the city shuffle all of the people who opt out of their neighborhood PI school?

    That's an interesting angle. What if everyone opts out when assigned to a PI school.

    What obligations does the Board have to provide a child with a school that is not on PI?

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  46. Sample Parental Notification Letter Year 1 - Parent Family (DOC)
    Sample letter for school choice year 1 parental notification document.

    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/documents/PIYear1.doc

    The following will show you an example of a sample letter that the California Department of Education requires schools/districts to send out to all parents/public of PI schools. Some of what it says goes like this: "Public School Choice: What rights does a parent have to request a transfer to a school that is not in PI?...All parents/guardians of students attending a PI school have the right to request a transfer of their children to a non-PI district school with district-paid transportation....For parents who select this option, the district will provide transportation to the non-PI school for as long as the home school continues to be identified as a PI school. If the home school exits PI by making AYP for two consecutive years, the student can remain at the school: however, transportation will no longer be district-paid......"

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  47. Responding to the Bowling Alone comment. We lost a lot of friends to the suburbs right before our kids hit kinder. It has been a very pleasant surprise to find a great new community of teachers,parents, and kids at our child's school,Starr King.

    ReplyDelete
  48. "The following will show you an example of a sample letter that the California Department of Education requires schools/districts to send out to all parents/public of PI schools."

    When are these letters sent out? How long do you have to be in attendance at a PI school to get one of these letters?

    What happens if a family is assigned to a PI school and simply requests an alternative assignment even before attending the school?

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  49. "The one important piece of information in all this conversation that I have never seen mentioned in all the conversation about chosing schools, is the federal law on PI (Program Improvement Schools.) If the school in your neighborhood, is a PI school, by law, you have a right to choose/request another school.SFUSD most likely keeps this relevant piece of information, under wraps."

    I have pointed out this fact many times on this blog. To be clear - federal law does not give PI students a preference.In essence it just says that a district must provide an alternative school that is not in PI. There are plenty of mediocre schools that fit that bill that are not oversubscribed.

    SFUSD is required by law to inform PI families of their options under law. The great majority do not opt to leave.

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  50. If the school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) 2 years in a row, any student in the school can opt out. SFUSD would simply have to offer an alternative placement (non PI).

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  51. 9:25 p.m.

    All your questions are worthy for further consideration. What is the answer to all those questions? Perhaps in all the SFUSD enrollment process, and "lottery" system approach, "they" are not even following NCLB law and mandates. If parents are in fact not receiving these letters, then the district would not be following through on what they are told to do. The entire convoluted process may be side-stepping this one important legal mandate-which is part of what NCLB is all about- the option to go to another school, when a school does not make AYP.

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  52. So I have no better chance of getting into a school that I rank 1st than someone else (tie breakers aside) that ranked the school 10th? Seriously?

    The SFUSD does not seem to have much information about ranked choice. Any suggestions for getting information?

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  53. "I have pointed out this fact many times on this blog. To be clear - federal law does not give PI students a preference.In essence it just says that a district must provide an alternative school that is not in PI. There are plenty of mediocre schools that fit that bill that are not oversubscribed. "

    Don, sure, the district must provide an alternative school that is not PI. But for SE parents, that's a big deal. Three quarters of the schools in the SE are in PI.

    It's very interesting that last year, many Bernal parents were assigned to PI schools. This year, the district strategy was to assign them to not in PI Junipero Serra, which is certainly an improvement.

    That's interesting. It's as if the District legal counsel told them that they were treading on legal thin ice with all the assignments to PI schools.

    This law, if parents ask that it be enforced, could certainly help parents aggregate in schools with some potential for improvement.

    How is the PI designation determined? That would be a concern. Some may try to manipulate the PI designation as more parents use it to opt for better schools.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Here is information from the CDE that will answer your questions:

    The information below explains how Program Improvement (PI) determinations are made using two years of data for schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) that receive Title I funds. More information about accountability requirements under the ESEA, including California's definition of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and identification for PI, can be found in the 2010 Adequate Yearly Progress Report Information Guide [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ay/documents/infoguide10.pdf] (PDF; 533KB; 89pp.).
    Identification for Program Improvement

    In prior years, identifying schools for PI differed according to the type of Title I program the school was operating: targeted assistance (TAS) or schoolwide program (SWP). Beginning with the 2006 AYP, the U. S. Department of Education (ED) approved California's request to eliminate the distinction between TAS and SWP schools in PI "identification." All schools will be identified for PI using the same criteria. Identifying Title I schools for PI is different from identifying Title I LEAs for PI. In March 2004, the State Board of Education approved the criteria for identifying Title I LEAs for PI. Title I LEAs were first identified for PI in 2004–05.
    Title I School

    A Title I school will be identified for PI when, for each of two consecutive years, the Title I school does not make AYP in the same content area (English-language arts [ELA] or mathematics) schoolwide or for any numerically significant subgroup, or on the same indicator (Academic Performance Index [API] or high school graduation rate) schoolwide.
    Title I LEA

    A Title I LEA will be identified for PI when, for each of two consecutive years, the LEA does not make AYP in the same content area (ELA or mathematics) LEA-wide or for any numerically significant subgroup, and does not meet AYP criteria in the same content area in each grade span (grades two through five, grades six through eight, and grade ten), or does not make AYP on the same indicator (API or graduation rate) LEA-wide.
    Program Improvement Status
    Entering PI

    A school or an LEA that does not meet specific indicators described above for two consecutive years will enter PI in 2010–11.
    Advancing in PI

    A school or an LEA that was in PI during 2009–10 and does not make AYP in 2010 will advance to the next level of PI for 2010–11 and be required to immediately implement the applicable ESEA requirements.
    Maintaining PI Status

    A school or an LEA that was in PI during 2009–10 and makes AYP in 2010 will not advance in PI, but will maintain the same PI status for 2010–11. This school or LEA will be required to continue implementing the applicable ESEA requirements.
    Exiting from PI

    A school or an LEA in PI that makes AYP for two consecutive years will exit from PI at the end of 2009–10. End

    The big scam in Title One isn't PI, it is Supplemental Education Services. The contractors are reaming the districts by providing very questionable tutoring and the districts in turn do what they can to avoid SES (like not properly informing families) because the districts get to keep what SES funds are not used.

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  55. There are those who believe that PI is a set-up. The theory goes like this:

    The federal government creates standards for improvement which, for all intents and purposes, are almost impossible to reach. When you look at the statistics of the number of schools that are perennially in PI this idea is given validity.

    Long term failure then sets up the necessary scenario for charter take over. Given the number of schools that are in PI relative to charters, the second part of the theory doesn't hold up. But that could be due any number of other difficulties in getting charter status from district boards and getting community buy-in among other charter development issues, union opposition being the largest of them all.

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  56. "The big scam in Title One isn't PI, it is Supplemental Education Services. The contractors are reaming the districts by providing very questionable tutoring and the districts in turn do what they can to avoid SES (like not properly informing families) because the districts get to keep what SES funds are not used."

    What can be done about this? Some of these SES contractors seem to have only marginal credentials? Why are SES teachers contractors and not regular SFUSD teachers with a special qualification?

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  57. Don, thanks for the information about PI. Yes, there are a lot of schools in PI, but when I look at the list for San Francisco, I don't see a single school that I could say has been misclassified.

    The option to opt out of a PI school could be used as a lever to force the District to fix schools through funding, program and staffing improvements, instead of pretending they are improving schools by assigning the unwilling to them.

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  58. 9/25, 7:13 PM and 9:02 PM, over here on Potrero Hill we are definitely not bowling alone, and both Daniel Webster and Starr King are indeed community hubs. Some examples:

    A DW parent is organizing a group showing of "Waiting for Superman," a film from which ticket sales benefit Donors Choose projects.

    Another group of parents organized an aftercare program at a local indoor play space.

    Local grocery stores sometimes have "donate to the school" jars

    There are regular fundraisers at some of the fancy, not always child-friendly restaurants here.

    Kids sometimes gather with their parents for flash mob tricycle riding on the grounds of DW.

    We know our parent community leaders here, and they regularly keep us posted on listservs about goings-on at the schools and with the Board.

    And that's all that I, whose kid is too young to be at either school, know about (please correct me if I have any facts wrong). I am sure there's more. In fact, it's become kind of interestingly social to be involved with these two schools: not mean-girl cliquey, but sort of prestige-y and cool.

    It can happen. If the new system produces that, that will be a good thing.

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  59. 11:14 Wait until your kid doesn't get into either SK or DW in the lottery before you get too excited about the community you live in and support. Unless you get lucky, you will feel the sting too.

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  60. 11:30
    I think the discussion about rank of choice was about one parent's experience last year in her ranking of middle school choices. She listed 1=Aptos and 2=Giannini and went 0/5, while another in the 5th grade class listed 1=Giannini and 2=Aptos and that student got Aptos. I said that there is no predicting how diversity factors picked one over the other, because no one could understand or explain the diversity index used in last year's school assignment process.

    The new SAS will not use any diversity index. It will be a less compicated process, looking at addresses, and not socioeconomic considerations that no one could explain or understand. Who gets the school assignment will depend on the listed preferences, such as sibling and CTIP. It is an improvement.

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  61. This talk about opting out of Program Improvement schools gives parents one last option for getting out of a bad assignment. Throw the "Hail Mary" pass before deciding to move out of town. Tell the district you want out of the PI school.

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  62. Re worksheets:

    That has to be No Child Left Behind as opposed to English Language Development - nobody learns academic spoken language through six worksheets a day. In Kindergarten, ELD should prioritize oral language - developing vocabulary and structure.

    Moreover, some ELD approaches tie language learning to science and social studies - there are language objectives and rigorous ELD, but through content areas.

    In short: a big ELL population is no excuse for worksheet-based instruction.

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  63. I find the scorn against worksheets on this blog to be rather surprising. Some of the best schools in the city use worksheets. Stevenson uses worksheets. The Lycee uses worksheets. E R Taylor uses worksheets.

    The problem isn't worksheets, but the lack of other teaching that should surround their use, such as science projects, reading, art, etc.

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  64. "The new SAS will not use any diversity index. It will be a less compicated process, looking at addresses, and not socioeconomic considerations that no one could explain or understand. Who gets the school assignment will depend on the listed preferences, such as sibling and CTIP. It is an improvement."

    You're missing the "has attended preschool in the assignment area" priority.

    There will be a big surprise when people find out they have been bumped from their local school by a huge cohort of in area preschoolers.

    It's already been mentioned that it is questionable as to whether all the families of these preschoolers really do earn less than $10,000 per year.

    Just to illustrate the effect of these priorities, there is an onsite preschool at E R Taylor. Between CTIP-1 and preschool priority, I doubt that anyone else will be able to get into this excellent school.

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  65. Can someone please post the list (or link) of schools that for next year's assignment process are opt-outable due to PI status? Or is the status only known later in the year?

    Thanks in advance.

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  66. 10:15,

    I agree with you. Considering siblings, pre-K and ctip, there will be schools without any further openings. But it has all been said a hundred times before. We'll just have to wait to see what happens...

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  67. SF schools that are currently in various levels of PI:

    City Arts and Tech High
    Metropolitan Arts & Technology High
    Newcomer High
    Bessie Carmichael/FEC
    Bret Harte Elementary
    Bryant Elementary
    Cleveland Elementary
    Daniel Webster Elementary
    El Dorado Elementary
    William L. Cobb Elementary
    Brown, Jr., (Willie L.) Elementary
    Guadalupe Elementary
    Cesar Chavez Elementary
    Hillcrest Elementary
    John Muir Elementary
    Leonard R. Flynn Elementary
    Longfellow Elementary
    Marshall Elementary
    Monroe Elementary
    Paul Revere Elementary
    Rosa Parks Elementary
    Sanchez Elementary
    Starr King Elementary
    Francisco Middle
    Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle
    Visitacion Valley Middle
    Everett Middle
    Horace Mann Middle
    Marina Middle
    Chinese Education Center
    Mission Education Center
    George Washington Carver Elementary
    Tenderloin Community

    You should have a close look at the document

    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/documents/PIYear1.doc

    to find out specifics of PI that applies to each of these schools.

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  68. Newcomer High no longer exists; the BOE voted to shut it down last spring. I would be surprised if Longfellow (a decent school that outperforms its demographics) is in PI.

    ReplyDelete
  69. More info on school choice untile T1 from CDE- I will say that if every one opted out SFUSD would be in one heck of a bind.

    Title I, Part A School Choice
    Students enrolled in Program Improvement (PI) schools have the option to transfer to schools in the LEA that are not PI, with paid transportation.

    Under No Child Left Behind, students who attend a Title I-funded school that is identified for program improvement, corrective action, or restructuring must be given the option of school choice. This provision allows all students attending such a Title I school the option to transfer to another public school, including a public charter school, that is within the LEA and that is not in program improvement or is not persistently dangerous.

    The option of school choice must be made available to all students the first year a school is identified for school improvement and all subsequent years thereafter, until the school has made adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years. Students who exercise their right to attend another school under this school choice provision must be given the option to continue to attend that school until they complete the highest grade of that school, even if the original school is no longer in program improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.

    Schools that are offering school choice because they have been identified for program improvement, corrective action, or restructuring must provide transportation to students who transfer to another school. If funds to provide school choice and/or transportation are limited, local education agencies (LEAs) may give first priority to students from low-income families who are the lowest-achieving students [Title I, section 1116(b)(E)(ii)] based on achievement levels as evaluated by objective educational measures.

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  70. Sorry, 11:12pm, Longfellow is definitely in PI:

    "38684786041362","E","San Francisco","San Francisco Unified","Longfellow Elementary","In PI","2010-2011",,"Year 1",,"No"

    For some reason, the California Board of Education database of PI schools seems to have gone "off line".

    I captured the SF section of the PI schools database a few days ago. If anyone is interested, I can post it.

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  71. Don, your 7:27am post didn't come through entirely clearly. The link didn't post correctly.

    I would very much appreciate it if you could repost the link so that people could get this important about how to remove their child from a persistently low performing or dangerous school.

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  72. I am beginning to flip flop back to neighborhood schools at the middle school level. If you really do not like your middle school, you might be able to get out by going through "Part A School Choice" (a kinder, gentler way of describing opting out of low achieving schools).

    Neighborhood schools and Part A School Choice. Not a bad combination.

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  73. 11:30 re ranked choice:

    I wasn't at the GGMG meeting, but we had a different PPS-SF person come to our preschool Kindergarten Night this year, and she said the same thing as what's in this post.

    She said that things works like this:

    * Each school has its own lottery. If you put down 10 schools, ranking them 1-10 for yourself, you'll go into 10 individual school lotteries.

    * In each of those 10 lotteries, all of the kids in that lottery pool are run using the established tie-breakers (sibling, preschool, CTIP1, neighborhood if applicable, everyone). At no point in the process is how you've personally ranked the school used as a tie-breaker. So if you are in the "everyone" pool, and you put the school as #1 for you, a family that is also in the "everyone" pool and put it as #6 has the same chance as you.

    * Where your choices come in is if you win a spot at multiple schools. Let's say you are run in 10 lotteries, and you land a spot in your #3 and #6 schools. The system will use your choices to give you the #3 school. And if you win a spot at NO schools...well, then it's looking like that "0/10" tshirt for you!

    And yes, everyone at our preschool also couldn't believe that choice rankings aren't used as tie-breakers. Some people were actually pretty angry about this.

    But I don't work for the school district and I'm no authority here, so if anyone knows differently, please speak up!

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  74. 10:22

    It's not really an option in fact. The district can claim (probably with some reason) that there is no space in higher-performing or money to transport opt-out students. They can cite the language that says

    If funds to provide school choice and/or transportation are limited, local education agencies (LEAs) may give first priority to students from low-income families who are the lowest-achieving students

    But of course most low-income, low-achieving families don't take advantage of this--nor does the district encourage them to do so.

    You really think if this were a realistic option that middle class families stuck in low-performing schools wouldn't have figured this out before?

    No, "opting out" is an option only on paper for most of us. It makes the politicians and I suppose Don and other westsiders feel better maybe.

    It is better and fairer at the middle school (and high school) levels to have a lottery much as there will be this year, giving every San Francisco Unified family a shot at a school that has the programs that suit that kid's needs. With some additional preference for the poorest kids who need a leg up, such as CTIP (I personally preferred the diversity index as more targeted, but families hated it, and CTIP has the advantage of simplicity).

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  75. "And yes, everyone at our preschool also couldn't believe that choice rankings aren't used as tie-breakers. Some people were actually pretty angry about this."

    I understand the concern, but there are upsides and downsides for parents for each system. A system without rank-choice tie-breakers means that parents won't have to tie their brains into knots figuring out strategies for rank order. In the last couple of years, families who really wanted, say, Presidio for middle school or Miraloma for elementary ended up not listing it because chances were low and it would blow a shot at a moderately popular school down the list (if too many others listed the moderately popular one first--a danger with up-and-coming schools like Aptos/Roosevelt/Lick or Jose Ortega MI). Or they wasted a spot putting Clarendon 4th or whatever.

    With no ranked choice, parents can list the schools they want, in the order they want. Of course that doesn't guarantee them a spot in Rooftop or wherever, but at least they put what they wanted.

    The real interesting question will be how many choices we are allowed to list. Again, there are advantages and disavantages for parents there. The families who are okay with a wide array of schools will do best with a large # of choices permitted, whereas the families who only want Clarendon or CL will do better with fewer choices permitted.

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  76. 10:36am

    Dear GGMG members who live in San Francisco Southeast:

    It's too late for those of us who have moved out of the city or opted for private school, but not too late for you.

    Get going on a class action lawsuit. There's no way the city can accomodate Castro, Glen Park, Noe and Bernal parents with non-PI schools. There simply aren't enough slots available in the SE.

    The argument for
    "We don't have enough funds to honor Title I, Part A"

    needs to be weighed against
    "We don't have enough funds to honor Title I, Part A because of the San Francisco sanctuary policy."

    The city needs to limit its sanctuary policy so that it can provide every legal resident and citizen families with a non-PI school slot.

    If you're wise, you'll start to organize. Otherwise, come Kindergarten, chances are, you'll be paying big time for private or parochial school or moving.

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  77. GGMG Parents:

    Please see the article in the Chronicle today:

    Gates Foundation Grant Goes to SF Schools

    "The money will be used to, among other things, expand access to preschool and allow more students to earn college credit at work, city officials said."

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/27/BA451FJBLH.DTL#ixzz10kvNIHCM

    That money used to fund more preschool slots will mean more Kindergarten slots *not* available to middle class kids.

    It's not like there were a lot of non-PI slots available in the first place.

    Someone should let the Gates Foundation know that their generous grant will force honest families with incomes as low as $10,001/year out of a chance at non-PI schools.

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  78. Template Letter to the Gates Foundation regarding new SF school assignment system:



    Dear Gates Foundation,

    I was cheered this morning to read that you are funding grants to improve schools in my neighborhood. These schools certainly need improvement.

    However, I think you should be aware of one use of these funds that will hurt lower income families.

    San Francisco has just adopted a new system to assign families to schools. With this new system, children who have attended a public San Francisco preschool go to the head of the line in terms of school assignment.

    Unfortunately, not everyone is honest about their family income when applying for preschool. In fact, because it is well known that the District (SFUSD) almost never checks family income, dishonesty regarding income is widespread on preschool applications. It is common to see families dropping off and picking up their children in expensive vehicles at these preschools. Due to the fact that there are many sources of off-the-books income in the city, many families can easily be earning over $100,000 per year, yet declare that there income is less than $10,000.

    Honest families with low incomes, but not below the on-the-books requirement of less than $10,000 per year, do not qualify for public preschool. Because they do not qualify for preschool, they will then not get priority enrollment in public K-5 school. As you know, many of the schools in San Francisco are very poor and are in Performance Improvement under Title 1, Part A. These schools are persistently low performing and even dangerous. It is these schools that are left for middle and lower middle class families. They are the grand underserved middle in San Francisco’s public K-12’s.

    I am very concerned that the new assignment system will further drive middle and lower middle class families from San Francisco.

    Funding preschool is commendable. However, if it forces honest middle and lower middle class families from the city, I consider it a tragedy.

    It is unfortunate that some of your grant money is being used to further displace hardworking San Francisco families from the city.

    Sincerely,


    _____________________

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  79. "No, "opting out" is an option only on paper for most of us. It makes the politicians and I suppose Don and other westsiders feel better maybe."

    This is incorrect. First of all I am trying to help people in low performing schools understand their options by posting on this subject. You suppose that I am saying this to make myself feel better? If some people get more options others in turn get less so imparting information to you on how to get out of low performing schools is only increasing the likelihood that that it will impact high performing schools. No, I am interested in helping people understand their options.

    That is not true that it is only on paper. All laws are only on paper. If you are going to be naive or claim ignorance you will not be advocating strongly on your own behalf. You have a legal right under federal law to opt out and SFUSD is suppose to send you a letter every year informing you of that right. Whether you use it is another thing. But SFUSD is not going transport middle class families. They will use the language in the law and claim hardship.

    If you want to know more about Title One Part A just google it and include the words "program improvement school choice CDE".

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  80. I will say that SFUSD is grossly negligent in informing people not only about school choice, but also about Supplemental Education Services. SFUSD does not need more pesky parents inquiring about their rights under all these silly laws.(Sarcasm) Especially when the district can divert unused SES dollars to cover other more pressing issues as they see fit within the context of T1.

    The District Advisory Council, mandated by Federal law and required to oversee and sign off on the Consolidated Application for T1, didn't even exist until last year when I started pressing the State and Federally Funded Programs Department about this shortcoming. In theory the chair persons from this and the DELAC are suppose to verify that SFUSD has done its legal duty on behalf of T1 students. This process is a joke. It suffers from the same sort of malfeasance that took place earlier this year when school principals signed off of the BSC when there was no BSC for the 2010-11 year.

    So, yes, SFUSD does a terrible job of informing the community about T1 and don't expect the very expensive bureaucratic nonsense that is the Community Engagement and Parent Partnership Plan to make any difference. I read that document. LOL ZHow many millions did that cost and most people have no idea about it at all. The irony of a community engagement resolution that nobody knows about is not lost on me.

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  81. Don't sweat it. It is really easy to see who has something further to say and who says the same thing over and over.

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  82. Sorry, in my usual hurry I cut and pasted a response to the wrong thread.

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