Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Horace Mann: A middle school worth considering

While touring Hoover this fall, the principal noted that many families apply to his school and a percentage do not get admitted.   He encouraged everyone on the tour who liked Hoover to also tour Horace Mann as a alternate choice, as he believed that the programs, technology, and teaching philosophy at Mann were most similar to Hoover.   He was genuinely enthusiastic about the faculty and staff at Horace Mann and the direction that they were taking the school

Donna

20 comments:

  1. About foreign language at Giannini: Spanish and Mandarin have been offered for at least 3 or 4 years BEFORE school, and for a fee. It is not written in stone that these programs will continue, but as long as there are willing coordinators from the parent body, the programs should remain.

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  2. There are new notes up about Mann Middle School on the Mann Middle School blog, from parents at Buena Vista who visited. It's at
    http://mannmiddleschool.wordpress.com/
    We started it when it looked like Mandarin was going to Mann for middle school. No one knows what's happening now, but the Buena Vista parents have been keeping it up.

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  3. Thanks for this, Beth.

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  4. Thanks, Beth, for the postings about Mann. You know when I read how worried Sanchez is that Mann's immersion class will have few enrollees, it makes me wonder whether sfusd should consider giving gen Ed kids a chance to START Spanish immersion in middle school. I know many parents who have expressed frustration about the lack of language in middle schools. I bet if they decided to do one Mann newbie Spanish immersion class, it would fill up in no time. It may be the best idea to fill up Mann.

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  5. I am sure you are well-intentioned, but unless everything I've ever heard about learning foreign languages is wrong, it would be a huge challenge to put general ed kids who don't speak Spanish at home into a Spanish immersion program in middle school. The parts of the brain that pick up new languages easily at age 5 are a lot more "hardened" (sorry I know that's not the right technical term) by age 11. Trying to teach the more complex middle school material in a brand-new language would be VERY tough. It's hard enough to learn just the (relatively) small amount grammar and vocab in a standard middle school Spanish 1 class, if you've never been exposed to the language before. Add to that the fact that Mann has historically had a very challenged student population (75% low-income), lousy test scores, and if I'm reading the SARCs right, the highest rate of suspensions in SFUSD. A Spanish-immersion program at Mann might attract a few middle-class Spanish immersion kids from the SE K-5 programs if there is no convenient alternative. However, I expect most middle-class families will shy away from what appears to be a very challenged environment at Mann for the super-hormonal middle-school years, even with the carrot of Spanish immersion. I seriously doubt middle-class families would put monolingual Anglophone kids into a Spanish immersion program at Mann.

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  6. 2:12 pm -- actually European countries start foreign language (English) training just about 11 years old, and, from the folks I've met, they have a pretty good track record. I hear you on the challenges at Mann. But putting in immersion has worked at "turning around" troubled elementaries, why wouldn't it work at turning around a troubled middle school? I, for one, would SERIOUSLY consider Mann if it had a newbie Spanish immersion program, and I doubt I'm the only one. There are PLENTY of people who were locked out of immersion at the K level who might be VERY interested.

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  7. There's a vast difference between beginning Spanish as a foreign language in middle school and beginning immersion. Immersion means that all courses (math, science, social studies, etc.) are taught exclusively in Spanish. This is possible in early elementary not only because children's brains are more flexible then but also because the content is less complex. It's hard to imagine 11-year-olds being able to master the 6th grade curriculum in a language they've never spoken.

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  8. Middle school language immersion is only for students continuing immersion from elementary school.

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  9. "Horace Mann: A middle school worth considering"

    Math Profiency: 11%
    English Profiency: 20%

    No thanks; Mann is not worth considering.

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  10. But if Mann offered a serious non-immersion language strange that would be terrific.

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  11. 4:46 pm -- so how do European countries teach kids English well enough starting at 11 that they can come here and be virtually fluent? I'm sure there's a middle school version of newbie immersion that would work for 11 year old kid's brains. Maybe it wouldn't be every class, but rather specific classes. When I was in college, I did a "bootcamp" like language course where we did 90 minutes every day. It was quite successful. Why not try it at Mann? I get tired when I see posts that just say "no," "no," and "no." Mann is in terrible shape. No one disagrees with that. The question is what will excite middle class parents to come to the school and diversify it socioeconomically? There are TONS of public school parents who couldn't get their kid into immersion in K and who are not terribly happy that most public middle schools offer no non-immersion language course. They might be interested in Mann if it offered such a class.

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  12. I think part of the problem here is confusion between intensive foreign language instruction and immersion. In immersion, every class except English is taught in the target language. If you try to throw an 11-year-old who has never spoken Spanish into a 6th grade math or social studies class taught entirely in Spanish, there are going to be cognitive problems. In intensive language instruction, you get extra hours of the foreign language.

    Many European and Asian schools have intensive language instruction beginning at age 11 and yes, their students do learn English and other foreign languages rather well. However, you have to understand that these schools typically have longer school days and longer school years than American school. Also, by the equivalent of American middle school, European and Asian students are already being placed into more or less academic tracks based on their performance in elementary school. For Mann or any other SFUSD middle school to offer intensive language instruction (which is not part of state proficiency exams) and keep the kids up to speed in all the other subjects that are covered by standardized tests, you would need an expanded school schedule, and California is not willing to pay for that. In fact, in this school year, the number of instructional hours has been reduced due to budget constraints.

    I agree that offering intensive language in public middle schools would be attractive to middle-class parents. But who's going to pay for it to be part of the regular curriculum? And if it's a fee-based after-school program, why would middle-class parents want it to be at Mann rather than at some other, less-troubled, middle school?

    Intensive foreign language instruction for non-immersion students might be a good opportunity for a charter school, but I'm sorry, I don't see it happening in a regular SFUSD school. They simply have too much else on their plates.

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  13. 10:11 am -- thanks for the clarification. I take it the problem really is that the state education demands at 6th grade (versus K) are just too great to devote time to foreign language. Terribly short-sited from my view (our children will be competing against bilingual and trilingual foreign workers in the future), but I guess it is what it is. Just thinking out loud, though, I wonder whether the Chinese government would pay for such a teacher for Mandarin. I've seen articles that the Chinese government and related interests funds a great deal of Mandarin language learning in the US, and they might be willing to fund a teacher slot here at Mann. Kind of weird where the money would be coming from, but, as long as SFUSD actually hired the teacher, it would benefit our kids - and help turn around a middle school that frankly at this point has little chance of turning around on its own.

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  14. Let's face it, when it comes to education generally, the United States is extremely short-sighted compared to Europe and Asia.

    Some SFUSD middle and high schools have immersion programs for kids who already did immersion K-5, and some SFUSD middle and high schools offer foreign language classes. The trouble is, to really learn a foreign language decently (I'm not saying immersion-level perfection, just decently) starting in middle school or high school, you must provide more instructional hours than a standard middle-school or high-school elective language class offers. There is simply too much other heavily-tested academic turf that needs to be covered in the limited number of instructional hours provided by the state education budget to provide enough time for serious foreign language study.

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  15. There are two things to look at at Mann - the administration and the student population. The administration will stay the same, presumably, but when it comes to students, you have to look at what schools will feed to it. The Buenta Vista parents are getting involved there and is a high percentage of those families go to Mann, the student population is going to change quickly. Middle schools totally change their populations every three years, unlike elementary schools which take six. So shifts occur more rapidly.
    Not saying it's the right school for everyone, but in middle school even more than elementary school you need to look at whether the administration is moving in a direction that's right for your child and the kids that would be coming in with them.
    If anyone's thinking of Mann, the folks at Buena Vista would be a very useful group to get to know.

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  16. Beth-- I would really like to consider Mann, but we are looking for next year. It's unknown whether the feeder system will come on line after that. And even if the feeder process is put into place, unless Mann starts really changing NEXT YEAR, I'm afraid the prospective schools who are designated feeds into Mann will have the same cow they had two months ago. That's why I think the district has to think outside the box to make Mann more attractive NOW. Something special to start a buzz with more middle class families. Like the idea above. And I hate to say it but small class size alone isn't going to be enough for my perspective to get middle class families to go to Mann.

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  17. Beth-- I would really like to consider Mann, but we are looking for next year. It's unknown whether the feeder system will come on line after that. And even if the feeder process is put into place, unless Mann starts really changing NEXT YEAR, I'm afraid the prospective schools who are designated feeds into Mann will have the same cow they had two months ago. That's why I think the district has to think outside the box to make Mann more attractive NOW. Something special to start a buzz with more middle class families. Like the idea above. And I hate to say it but small class size alone isn't going to be enough for my perspective to get middle class families to go to Mann.

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  18. It turns around troubled elementaries because immersion attracts a different class of people who replace the dead enders.

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  19. nobody wants to be the guinea pig; especially in middle school.
    this family will be looking elsewhere: charter or parochial probably

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  20. Middle school is definitely where parental influence weakens and peer influence takes over. You have to be highly confident in your kids' ambition to put them in a middle school with a big number of failing kids. I'm not that confident.

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