Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hello from Helga

I picked Helga Hufflepuff (the most egalitarian of the Hogwarts Founders) as my pseudonym because her students played fair and were hard working, honest and loyal.

Our Family: We are a bi-racial/tri-cultural family. I'm a 1st generation Chinese American and my husband Godric is Caucasian. The "tri" reflects Godric's experience living in Japan during high school and fluency in Japanese. We have 2 sons, Hugo (entering K in Fall 2011) and toddler Gideon, who both attend a wonderful childcare center at my work in NW San Francisco.

Our View on Education: Godric and I went to public schools (SE Washington and DC suburb) and trained in the martial arts in our pre-parent, singleton days (Godric seriously; me not so much). This may have formed our view on education: A quality education is the right of every child, but it should be viewed/treated as a privilege. Parents and children should treat teachers/administrators (and one another) with respect. Additionally, from our experience with the childcare center, parents' involvement makes the curriculum stronger and children learn better when their environment is safe. Children (and their parents) are accountable for the children's behavior and should follow a "code of conduct."

Initial Research: In Spring 2010, we planned to move from the South Bay closer/back to San Francisco after Godric completed his doctorate in chemistry in June. I researched schools along the Peninsula and in San Francisco on GreatSchools.net, Parents for Public Schools-SF and the SF K files websites as well as attended the JCC Annual Kindergarten Information night in May.

I was so fixated on quantitative factors such as API and test scores that Hoover E.S. (an academic-oriented, teacher-directed curriculum in Palo Alto with a 982 API score) was my #1 choice. However, I had a "Yikes!" moment when I came across the trailer on
http://www.racetonowhere.com/. I was so affected by it that I read books listed on its website during my summer vacation: The Trouble with Boys, Motivated Minds and Nurtureshock. I also read the Hassels' Picky Parent Guide for elementary schools based on GreatSchools.net's referral.

With humility, I realized by focusing only on the "quants" that I had a very narrow view of what a great school was and that I hadn't even considered Hugo's needs at all. (Hugo would survive, but not thrive at Hoover.) Using the Picky Parent Guide, I came up with the following and hope we can find a good fit for these needs in SFUSD! (Any suggestions for schools are welcome!)

Hugo's Needs: Per Baby Hearts, Hugo is a "slow to warm" child; he flourishes in familiar places and with familiar people, but is extremely cautious and shy in new situations. He is an observer in new activities; he prefers to watch others do something first and then he'll try it. He would prefer the following:

  • Classes that allow for small group activities (teacher aides/parent volunteers to help reduce class ratio)
  • A smaller sized school
  • Time for free play, physical education/activity
  • A curriculum that is project-based since Hugo enjoys this at his preschool
  • A curriculum that allows for hands-on activities
Helga & Godric's Needs: The following are must haves.

  • A curriculum that includes Critical Thinking (analytical, conceptual and creative thinking) and problem solving. The "why" and "how" are as important as the "what, when and where."
  • An environment where Hugo will love learning.
  • Principal and teachers that seek parent support and ideas.
  • Safe & orderly environment (e.g., "code of conduct" for students and consequences for inappropriate behavior are clear & consistently applied)
  • Parent community that we feel comfortable with and that shares our philosophy on education
  • Logistics: Starts (or has before-school care) before 8:30am and has after-school care that is available to us.

Our Nice-to-Haves: Located close to my work in NW SF (or secondarily close to Godric's postdoc in SW SF), integrated science curriculum, music, Caring School Community or TRIBE, arts, computer technology, Mandarin or Japanese as a foreign language.

  • Hugo speaks English; Gideon speaks toddlerese.
  • I had learned Mandarin in Sunday Chinese school in my tween-to-teen years, because my mom "Po Po" taught there. Since I didn't choose to learn it nor use it (my dad who actually speaks Cantonese wanted us to master English in the household!), I lost it. It would be nice for Hugo to be able to speak with Po Po when we visit the DC area. I could probably recall enough of it to help Hugo with homework, but I'm ambivalent about it.
  • Godric, who is passionate about Japanese, would help Hugo with homework. Godric's best friend and former host family are still in Japan, so it would be nice for another visit. (Hugo came with us to Japan when he was 13 months old. The 16 hour time change and ensuing sleep training back to West Coast time was brutal though.)

Choice: In the end, we chose to move to San Francisco (over the Peninsula), because

  1. I was really inspired by what parents from both PPS-SF and SF K files have done to turnaround schools. (If it's not there yet, built it. "If you build it, they will come." from Field of Dreams.)
  2. Proximity trumps assignment certainty... maybe it's the "helicopter" parent in me! : )

Helga the Hopeful

33 comments:

  1. Hi Helga! Love the pseudonym, and fascinating post.

    While in my experience no school is ever perfect (of any variety), you seem clear about your priorities.

    Have you thought about Jose Ortega Mandarin Immersion? It is not on the NW side, rather the SW, is the only thing. But it is a small elementary, a *very very warm* community, and has the Mandarin of course. The language program will be designated as citywide in the new student assignment system.

    Definitely check out the video on this site for more of a flavor:

    http://joseortegaschool.org/

    In your neck of the woods, maybe look at Sutro and Peabody? They are small schools compared to powerhouse Alamo over in your neck of the woods. CIS is also small right now (with no upper grades yet) but teaches Cantonese rather than Mandarin--though they say they will add Mandarin in the upper grades. And will be citywide.

    Can you say what is your neighborhood school? Most schools over there are fairly calm places. Overlooked gems imo are Francis Scott Key and Stevenson--on this list anyway. Neighborhood folks know about them.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent post.

    What languages do your kids speak?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Try Argonne - Russian FLES during the day, but an available after school program in Mandarin...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for y'all's feedback!

    I'm new to blogging. We're a pretty private family (no Facebook or Twitter), so it's just a matter of time before I violate basic blog etiquette.

    11:16pm - I agree with you. No school (no parent for that matter) is ever perfect. In the next post our touring list, I will list the attendance boundary school. I didn't want to skew the community's thoughts on us just yet. : )

    6:56am - I amended my post to answer your question!

    8:20am - Argonne is on my list of schools to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'll make a plug for Rosa Parks JBBP since Godric is passionate for Japanese language and culture. Our son is in K and *already* sings Japanese songs, knows all the months days of the week, can write his name in Japanese (and English too!)
    He's also participated in a parade in Japantown. The connection between the culture and language is strong.

    I also won't sugar coat that the school does serve a disadvantage population and that it's a little jarring at first. But, honestly, I volunteer at the school during the daytime and have seen the GE classes in session and the students look engaged. The principal is also really committed to helping all students at the school and so far I'm impressed.

    Good luck in your hunt! -a momma with a Brown Belt in Hapkido. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Helga,

    Nice post.

    One thing I think all parents will have to think about is how the new system, while offering much more likelihood of getting your assignment-area school, will also limit your choices. Therefore the old method of touring and thinking about a multitude of schools may not be worth a lot of time--with some exceptions.

    On the west side, where you are, I expect most of the spots will go to siblings and assignment-area kids. CTIP1 probably won't be a huge factor as you are far away from those neighborhoods and I doubt they will provide buses to non-citywide schools. There may be room at traditionally undersubbed schools such as New Traditions, and further down Geary, Rosa Parks JBBP (now not under-subbed, but not wildly over-subbed either). I would expect Peabody and Sutro to fill up though.

    Therefore I think you should (obviously) check out your assignment-area school and then concentrate mainly on the citywide options beyond that. If you really think a particular non-citywide school might make sense, such as Peabody, then add that one and hope for the best, but don't spend a lot of time touring neighborhood schools. Choice is not the word of the day anymore. However, if you like your local school then you will be in luck, because your chances of getting it are much higher than in the past. This is the tradeoff for getting more neighborhood preference--less choice.

    Re citywide. Since you want Mandarin and Japanese, it would be worth touring Jose Ortega and Starr King (is that one deal-breakingly too far??) plus Clarendon JBBP and Rosa Parks JBBP. Rosa Parks won't have citywide designation, but may have spaces due to avoidance/fear of its low-income population on the GE side. Raw numbers aside, it is worth checking it out--really! Great community.

    I would also add CIS, Alice Fong Yu and West Portal, which teach Cantonese, one your family's languages, including both pinyin and Chinese characters. Mandarin is an option to add further down the line--would be easier with the Cantonese already there (AFY adds it at the middle school level). Alice Fong Yu has a very disciplined and structured feel about it. AFY and West Portal have an excellent and accredited afterschool program.

    Of the Japanese schools, Clarendon is big and Rosa Parks is not. Also, I don't want to start a flame war but imo the Rosa Parks method is stronger with the sensei spending an hour per day with the kids. And the Rosa Parks community is tremendously warm and welcoming as mentioned above. So is Jose Ortega, also a small school.

    Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Helga,

    Nice post.

    One thing I think all parents will have to think about is how the new system, while offering much more likelihood of getting your assignment-area school, will also limit your choices. Therefore the old method of touring and thinking about a multitude of schools may not be worth a lot of time--with some exceptions.

    On the west side, where you are, I expect most of the spots will go to siblings and assignment-area kids. CTIP1 probably won't be a huge factor as you are far away from those neighborhoods and I doubt they will provide buses to non-citywide schools. There may be room at traditionally undersubbed schools such as New Traditions, and further down Geary, Rosa Parks JBBP (now not under-subbed, but not wildly over-subbed either). I would expect Peabody and Sutro to fill up though.

    Therefore I think you should (obviously) check out your assignment-area school and then concentrate mainly on the citywide options beyond that. If you really think a particular non-citywide school might make sense, such as Peabody, then add that one and hope for the best, but don't spend a lot of time touring neighborhood schools. Choice is not the word of the day anymore. However, if you like your local school then you will be in luck, because your chances of getting it are much higher than in the past. This is the tradeoff for getting more neighborhood preference--less choice.

    Re citywide. Since you want Mandarin and Japanese, it would be worth touring Jose Ortega and Starr King (is that one deal-breakingly too far??) plus Clarendon JBBP and Rosa Parks JBBP. Rosa Parks won't have citywide designation, but may have spaces due to avoidance/fear of its low-income population on the GE side. Raw numbers aside, it is worth checking it out--really! Great community.

    I would also add CIS, Alice Fong Yu and West Portal, which teach Cantonese, one your family's languages, including both pinyin and Chinese characters. Mandarin is an option to add further down the line--would be easier with the Cantonese already there (AFY adds it at the middle school level). Alice Fong Yu has a very disciplined and structured feel about it. AFY and West Portal have an excellent and accredited afterschool program.

    Of the Japanese schools, Clarendon is big and Rosa Parks is not. Also, I don't want to start a flame war but imo the Rosa Parks method is stronger with the sensei spending an hour per day with the kids. And the Rosa Parks community is tremendously warm and welcoming as mentioned above. So is Jose Ortega, also a small school.

    Best of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  8. 11:15 covered most of the language options. Want to add my two points:

    Rosa Parks is also a big school, with 4 K classes (2 GE and 2 JBBP). It seems the parents speak highly of the JBBP because of the native sensei teaching. The draft plan has both RP and Clarendon JBBP as city-wide programs. So those are worth checking out.

    All the Chinese immersion programs (both Mandarin and Cantonese) are pretty good. Starr King would be too far for you. Alice Fong Yu and CIS are fairly centrally located. West Portal and Jose Ortega are on the SW side.

    You may also want to check out some K-8 programs, like Lawton (west side).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm confused. Are no *low income population* (a horrible way to describe a child btw and dangerously close to racist in this case) part of the JBBP at Rosa Parks? Is this program only for children from middle class families ? Are no children from middle class families part of the GE program there ? Are language programs a great big expensive carrot for middle class parents?

    ReplyDelete
  10. 5:29 pm
    You are right on the money. I might have to go to school with them, but I don't have to go to class with them.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 5:29-
    You are right. Most of those interested in immersion are white middle class.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Helga

    I found myself nodding and smiling as I read your post. I share your view of education and have a son with a temperament as you described for your son. I toured about 20 schools – public, private and parochial. At the end of our tour & application process, I ranked my second choice as Saint Monica School (Richmond location, academic rigor infused with language and the arts, dedicated teachers/parents), and Francis Scott Key (great principal, good scores on the raise, strong teachers with lots of experience, and a strong after school program). We ended up attending Saint Monica School (selected over FSK, which was our 2/7 choice in the lottery) and we are very pleased. It’s been an easy and exciting transition for my son, which REALLY surprised me. The school is more diverse than expected and we appreciate the balanced and complete curriculum. Already our son is venturing into new areas of interest without hesitation or resistance – what a relief! My point, if you don’t end up at your first choice school, you can still get an excellent fit for your son.

    ReplyDelete
  13. 5:29 is right, Rosa Parks is two worlds, the JBBP strand populated largely with white and Asian kids and supported by a very enthusiastic PTA, and the general ed strand populated largely with kids from the nearby housing projects.

    Interestingly, in spite of the highly involved JBBP parents, Rosa Parks had in 2009 the second-worst standardized test scores for white students in SFUSD with 38% proficient in reading and 48% proficient in math. Among SFUSD elementary schools that had enough white students to report separate data for whites on the 2009 SARCs, only Hillcrest had worse scores for white students. Redding was comparable to Rosa Parks, with slightly lower proficiency levels in reading and slightly higher in math. Tenderloin Community had a higher percentage of proficient white students in both English and math than Rosa Parks. Citywide, the only other schools where less than 60% of whites were proficient in both subjects were Bessie Carmichael (66% proficient in English, 56% proficient in math), Garfield (54%/54%), and McCoppin (55%/55%).

    ReplyDelete
  14. 5:29 "Are language programs a great big expensive carrot for middle class parents?"

    Yes. The only reliable way of improving a school is by changing its demographics. There was a presentation to the Board of Ed about how once a school is 70 or 80% African-American or Latino, everyones scores go down, even kids who would normally be expected to do well.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Higher percentage of Russian immigrants? Special ed? Or something else? I'm not from the community. But there is usually an explanation. If it is an outlier in either direction from demographics (like Moscone is as a high-scoring school for its SES demographics), then that is an interesting point.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The reason middle-class parents flock to immersion programs is that their kids have had preschool, so they know all the stuff that's being taught in the GE programs, and are socialized into good classroom behavior already. The second language keeps the brain busy. The reason I don't want my kid in a GE program is that when I toured one last fall, they were learning colors. Colors. My kid knew his at 18 months.

    ReplyDelete
  17. 7:20
    You are saying GE is remedial kindergarten? The quality of our schools is worse than I thought if you are right.

    ReplyDelete
  18. 7:49--it's not "quality of our schools," exactly. It's the presence of deep poverty in our community and its effects on our children. Our poorest kids come to school substantially less prepared than the middle class and affluent ones. That is the challenge facing our urban school districts in all their glorious diversity.

    Sometimes I think we as a society are over-focused on education and "improving the quality of the schools" at the expense of addressing a much more root cause of educational achievement gaps, which is poverty. We made the most gains in closing those gaps in the 1960's and 70's, right up to 1980, when anti-poverty programs of many different stripes were at their height.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 12:45
    If it is not racist to enroll your child in gifted and talented, then it is also not racist to enroll your kindergarten child in language immersion, given how remedial kindergarten GE is. Is that how you would answer the troubling scenario of a public school resegregating within its walls with language immersion programs, and honors courses, even at that most liberal of all places, Berkeley and Berkeley High School? SF is not alone with its resegregation within the school walls.

    ReplyDelete
  20. 2:07

    I admire the amount of effort that went into teasing out those numbers. Are you doing this for all schools and are you willing to share?

    As for Rosa Parks, JBBP, the school does have a special ed program. Also, I think you need not look at just reported ethnicity but at parents level of education, income, etc... especially given that not all white children come from middle class educated families and can also be a part of the "achievement gap"

    ReplyDelete
  21. 7:03AM this is 12:45 again. When did I say anything at all about it being racist for individual parents to choose programs for their children? My comment was a little broader, namely that we spend so much time talking about school quality, which is important yes, but I think we make it a stand-in for a much bigger root problem, which is poverty.

    Since the end of the LBJ War on Poverty (which was unfortunately derailed by all that swirled around the Vietnam War and the culture wars and everything else, so that you could argue it was never fully carried out at all), and the subsequent ratcheting down of support for anti-poverty programs starting in the late 70's and accelerating through the 80's, 90's, and 00's, we seem to have given up on this issue. Yet is it deeply entwined with the achievement gap and deeply a part of all that roils the assignment system.

    To the degree that poverty tracks race, I think there is definitely a conversation about insitutional racism, something that has occurred over many generations--for African Americans, since they were brought to this land in chains and on up through Jim Crow and much else.

    And yes, de facto segregation concerns me wherever it is.

    And I am still a parent seeking appropriate schooling for my children. We have been lucky to find good and also diverse schools for our kids, but these are really, really complex issues.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I realize that not all white people are middle class or above, but of all the SFUSD schools with fewer than 60% of whites scoring at or above proficient in both English and math, Rosa Parks has the LOWEST concentration of SES-disadvantaged students at 62% and the LOWEST concentration of English language learners at 33%.

    All the other schools where fewer than 60% of whites score at or above proficient in both English and math, Hillcrest, Redding, Tenderloin Community, Bessie Carmichael, Garfield, and McCoppin, are 70% or more low-SES, and Garfield has the second lowest percentage of ELLs at 49%; the other schools are all 50% or more ELL.

    The disabled population at Rosa Parks is 11%, higher than McCoppin and Bessie Carmichael (7% each) and Redding (9%), but lower than Hillcrest and Garfield with 16% each and Tenderloin Community with 20%.

    Also, of all the listed schools, Rosa Parks is the ONLY school with a language program (JBBP) that's attractive to middle class families. The JBBP program has active PTA support to a degree I have not heard about at any of the other schools listed.

    It's also interesting that Asian kids at Rosa Parks far outscore the white kids, with 66% proficient or above in English (compared to 48% for whites) and 81% proficient or above in math (compared to 48% for whites). At the bottom school for whites, Hillcrest, there are 21% more Asians proficient in English than whites, and 30% more Asians proficient in math than whites. At Redding 62% of Asians are proficient in English compared to 36% of whites (maybe there is a big Russian ELL population at Redding?), and 63% of Asians are proficient in math compared to 52% of whites. At the other listed schools, English scores are fairly similar (perhaps to be expected if many of the Asian students are ELLs) but Asians tend to significantly outscore whites in math proficiency.

    Unless there is a disproportionately high population of white disabled students at Rosa Parks (and my impression from my visits was that the white children were concentrated in the JBBP program, not the disabled student population), Rosa Parks represents a bit of a statistical anomaly for white students in SFUSD. The factors that typically point to lower test scores, concentration of poor and ELL students, are less of an issue at Rosa Parks than any of the other listed schools.

    ReplyDelete
  23. The goal of K in SFUSD is that all kids be reading and doing basic math by the end of the year. This is not remedial for most incoming preschoolers.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 9/9 10:36am - Awesome on your brown belt. I've tried 3 different forms of martial arts in DC, NYC and SF, and really prefer the "art" part (forms) vs. the martial part (sparring). Needless to say, I didn't advance much.

    9/9 11:15am - Thanks for your post. I'm starting to worry that Hugo's small school size needs (~ smaller # K classes) are going to constrain our chances of getting assigned. Your advice has me reconsidering touring the small attendance boundary schools near ours and now considering the city-wide schools/programs as the alternatives and/or the larger attendance boundary schools.

    9/10 1:27 I'm glad to hear that you found a school fit for your son! FSK's size was not overwhelming then?

    9/10 7:20 & 7:49 and 9/13 3:52 If that is what they are learning in kindergarten, then it doesn't make sense to redshirt Hugo (summer birthday).

    ReplyDelete
  25. Does anyone have a link to the test reports broken down by race re: Rosa Parks JBBP? I'd be interested to know if "whites" includes Latinos/hispanics (not ELL) or if they are noted as a separate group.

    ReplyDelete
  26. The ethnicity statistics available on the SARCs appear to be based on self-identification. It's possible for people to identify as "multiple" or not to identify at all. Rosa Parks enrollment, in rounded numbers, is 42% African-American, 19% Asian, 6% Filipino, 17% Latino and 9% white. 6% of students identify as "multiple/no response" The SARCs do not report scores for the JBBP program separately from the general ed program, as is the case in all schools that have both a general ed and a language thread. Maybe there are other reports that provide this data.

    For groups reported, here is the data (numbers are percentages at or above proficient):
    African American: 18 English, 30 Math
    Asian: 66 English, 81 Math
    Filipino: 18 English, 45 Math
    Latino: 28 English, 34 Math
    White: 38 English, 48 Math

    I don't know that anybody could say with absolute certainty, but given that students are offered the opportunity to self-identify as Latino and 17% of the students at Rosa Parks are so self-identified on the SARCs, I don't think that there is a hidden Hispanic/Latino contingent whose scores are affecting white student averages. Perhaps many of the white students in the Rosa Parks JBBP are ELLs? Having visited a few times, my impression was definitely that the white students at Rosa Parks are clustered in the JBBP program, not the special ed or general ed programs. Perhaps parents actually AT Rosa Parks will report a greater number of white children in the general and special ed programs than was evident on visits.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I went to JBBP at Clarendon many, many years ago and when the program split into two, I chose Rosa Parks JBBP for my daughter, now in Kindergarten. My husband was hesitant at first because of the location and the GE population. And he still has his reservations.

    The culture at Rosa Parks is one trying to move towards more integration, but all parents need to be involved in that and I don't see that happening. At all of the events that were school-wide, ie not just for JBBP, and there have been 4 or 5 I've been to since last spring when we were notified of our acceptance, the majority of the parents participating were JBBP parents, even at Back to School Night. I see the teachers and the curriculum trying to integrate the students while trying to maintain the two programs. Every morning all the students participate in morning exercises - Rajio Taiso and Cha Cha Slide. For various activities the 4 kindergarten classes are mixed up and redistributed to different teachers.

    The K class size in JBBP is about 20 (because they lost 1 K class from last year). The kids have a reading area, play area, and their desks. There is a set Japanese hour each day with a Japanese sensei, but the classroom teachers reinforce the Japanese throughout the day. In line with the recent article in the New York times regarding stuby habits, the kids will go over the days of the week in Eng/JPN in the reading area first thing in the morning (as well as other concepts) and then revisit it at their desks at Nihongo time. Rosa Parks also won the Green Zone prize a few years ago and has a garden where they are growing various vegetables. The kids will be working in the garden and working with a nutritionist about healthy eating. Also, the Food bank donates food each week, which is given to any interested families. Rosa Parks is trying to make sure that all their kids have a good foundation from nutrition to access to services to education in school. The area that they seem to have the most issues with is parent participation in the GE classes and that was emphasized at the Back to school night.

    JBBP (I cannot speak for GE classes) asks for parent participation and volunteering in the class room. It is not required, just encouraged and I see that almost all families volunteer to help with something, even if it is not in the classroom. I think this is a cultural and socio-economical difference. Many of the JBBP parents believe that parent participation is essential for their child's success in education. They also have the ability to take time off from work, or change their schedule to accommodate volunteering, or in some cases we have grandparents volunteering. I think in the GE classes, many parents are not able to make the time to volunteer and some don't want to.

    Other resources Rosa Parks offers include a school nurse and services coordinator to help find any services children need to be successful and thrive.

    The principal is in his 2nd year with the school. He is a soft spoken man, but really wants to see the kids thrive and do well. he has been known to make home visits when he feels it is needed.

    So far I really love the JBBP Program and Rosa Parks. Clarendon JBBP has the scores and is in a good neighborhood. And with the new system to pick school for next year, it may be easier to get into than it was this past year.

    I hear very good things about Alice Fung Yu - the plus for me was that it's K-8.

    Overall, I think that the biggest factor in how well your children will do in school is the amount of time and energy their parents put into their education. Not just doing the assigned homework, but doing additional learning activities at home. And taking an interest in the school and having good communication with their teachers helps too.

    Good luck next year!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Also, yes, there are "low income" children in the JBBP program. Not a lot, but some. I don't know if that is because the "low income" families aren't aware they can apply specifically to the program or if they just don't want to. I know that there was confusion at Cobb about the montessori program and many of the neighborhood families were not aware they could join that program or that they needed to specifically ask to be apart of that program on the elementary school application. There was big write up in the Chronicle about that program last year.

    I know a family who applied to Rosa Parks GE when they intended to apply to JBBP. They were placed on the wait list and at the end of the first round, JBBP had 8 open slots, so it's not that people who put Rosa Parks JBBP as their number 1 choice aren't getting in. It's a matter of choice. Not sure how the enrollment process is going to for next year, but it was confusing and frustrating for many parents this past year.

    ReplyDelete
  29. There are lots of different looks, cultures, styles, backgrounds, abilities and languages at Rosa Parks. I find it exciting and inspirational -- like living in the real world. I want my children to interact and befriend lots of different people from Day 1. I hope they become world travelers! I do feel a strong sense of community there -- with the WHOLE school. My daughter is in JBBP because I had applied to Clarendon and Rosa Parks was the closest school with openings. This strange bit of luck was the best thing the SFUSD has ever done for us! I wouldn't trade places with any school now.

    Mr. Jacobsen, the RP principal, is very concerned with test scores (last year was his first year at RP). On back to school night, his presentation was focused on The Scores. He will surely be eager to answer questions during school tours. I don't get much from the test score debates. So many factors go into aggregate and grouped scores. I know I will be scrutinizing both my children's scores over the years. I will compare the results as each child progresses and I may even look at their scores as I evaluate their teachers. I might go so far as to predict my oldest will score well and my second maybe not-so-well in the early years of these tests. I do not think my first is at all smarter than her sibling. They are the same race, raised by the same biological parents who nurture them and feed them well, attended same preschool and will attend the same elementary school.

    RP JBBP is designated as a district-wide program for 2011. Anyone can apply, including families who get RP GE as their neighborhood school.

    I am thrilled with our school. I don't feel segregated within. I do feel that the SFUSD does do the language thing pretty well and it is a real advantage from my perspective. Language programs are a rare value in this crazy-expensive city we live in. And JBBP is really open to, and welcoming toward, everyone. Go to RP and see for yourselves! (And, while you are there, check out the progress on our gardens.)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Just a word about "project based learning." SF public schools follow an "academic" approach, not a "project based" approach. SF Community is an exception to this rule. There may be some particular teachers who try to implement project-based learning, but from what I understand, this can be difficult with the current curriculum (and "No Child Left Behind"), and increasingly difficult as kids get older and class sizes increase. For example, the very nice principal at Peabody (by all accounts a very good school), made a point of saying on my tour that they took an "academic" approach. If you are set on project-based (or somewhere between an academic and project-based approach) you need to also look at the private schools. Presidio Hill and Live Oak are two examples of "Progressive" schools that use project-based learning. Many of the other privates use a hybrid approach. Not that I'm advocating a retreat from public schools, rather, it is doubtful that you are going to find all that you want in any one public school. So it will come down to making trade-offs, and if you want to consider project-based learning in your calculation, you'll need to look at the private schools. In the end, you (like many people who read this blog) may decide that your commitment to public education (or like of a particular public school, cost, logistics, etc.) outweighs the other items on your wish list (such as project-based learning, GATE (which not all schools have...so check...and the district keeps threatening to cut), a music program, etc.), but in order to make an informed decision, I encourage you to check out all possibilities. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Helga - in response to your question. Yes, when I selected FSR as my second choice, I assumed that FSKs size would be overwhelming for my son, but I was trying to be an optimist and assumed he would eventually adjust. I live in the Parkside/Sunset where many schools are in high demand, so I was also trying to be flexible. Stevenson, our first choice, seemed to be the best fit for the public schools, but we didn’t get it. In the end, I couldn’t ignore that gut feeling that my son, who generally is overwhelmed by large noisy groups, would struggle, and I wasn’t convinced that the teachers would have time to notice. Thus our journey into parochial school began….

    ReplyDelete
  32. Momma with the brown belt, SFMama and 9/15 12:57pm - Your enthusiasm for Rosa Parks JBBP is fantastic. I believe one of you mentioned that JBBP is now only 1 K class... does that mean there are 2 or 3 GE K classes there for a total of 4 K classes? Also, is the curriculum hands-on or project-based?

    ReplyDelete
  33. http://rosaparks-sfusd-ca.schoolloop.com/
    http://www.jbbpsf.org/about/
    http://www.jbbpsf.org/academics/

    There are 2 JBBP and 2 Gen Ed classes at RP this year.

    My daughter was in Mrs. Nakamoto's class last year with Inouye Sensei. I think the core curriculum taught in English is pretty standardized. My daughter did get to participate in projects and Mrs. Nakamoto grouped them and rotated group members. I volunteered once a week and the class would be split into 3 groups for the time I was there. The kids rotated through the projects. Mrs. Nakamoto is so talented and competant and loving and DEDICATED. She is really something. I can remember they wrote and illustrated their own story books, observed and assisted the life cylcle of butterflies, frogs and something else, put on performances and had activities that require lots of planning and practicing throughout the year (Oct 1 is Undokai at Hayward Playground - stop by after 9:00!). The Kindergarten rendition of "Don't Fence Me In" nearly brought tears to my eyes last year. And the older kids "Living la vida loca" ROCKED. The Kinders did cooking projects, made dolls, had parties, went on field trips, etc. It was very full, good year. Mrs. Nakamoto gave homework every night including weekends. It was intense and fun! Sunday nights were rough when we forgot to finish homework earlier. My daughter only has homework Mon-Th in first grade. Phew!

    My son was placed with Ms. Tsukamoto this year before we decided he needed another year of preschool. I was thrilled as well with this as I think she would work very well with my easily frustrated, always-moving, anxious, extra-large son (the one who is as smart as his sister but is unlikely to test as well as she will). She is part of the backbone of the school and the program and is also extremely DEDICATED. I will be very happy with his placement next year whoever gets him!

    I do think many families at RP are also mixed from within. I see a lot of parents who don't resemble each other and quite a few kids who look nothing like their parents. We all feel really good together. I'm comfortable being myself there and I find the other families to be so interesting. I'm really proud of our school. Watch us do the Cha Cha Slide on Friday mornings! There is a lot of love there and it covers Gen Ed, too. My daughter didn't even know what JBBP and GE meant last year. Now she knows that some kids study Japanese and some do not. It's not insidious at all.
    When you have lots of very different people together, test scores don't tell me much unless I look at an individual's progress. I like frequent testing in the classroom to motivate the kids more than anything. My husband and I met in grad school and strongly value education in our family. I guess standardized test scores would have more meaning for me at a prep school with a homogenious population with uniform test-taking strategies.

    My daughter is unfazed by the size of the school. My 4 3/4 son gets a little edgy on the play yard in the mornings with all the energy. If it's too much for him, he hangs on the benches. He will be ready next year when he starts Kindergarten there. He already has friends who know him by name and greet him every morning (Gen Ed and JBBP kids if it matters).

    Also, the school is beautiful. High ceilings, lots of light, lots of green and murals. The architecture is designed to impress and encourage. It is respectful of those who enter to learn.

    I am "9/15 12:57pm" and my name is Mary. I didn't intend to be anonomous at all!

    ReplyDelete