Friday, December 31, 2010

SFGate: New Calif. law requires vaccine for grades 7-12

This from SFGate:

California teens need to be up to date on their whooping cough shots before starting classes next fall in order to be in compliance with a new law.

The statute requires all middle and high school students to be vaccinated against the highly infectious disease, also known as pertussis, prior to the school year that starts in the fall of 2011.

State public health medical officer Dr. Eileen Yamada says students in public and private schools will need to show proof of a TDAP booster shot before starting school.

"They really will need documentation to get into school, so it's very important to plan ahead, make appointments now, and keep student immunization record in a safe place," said Yamada.

Parents should scrutinize medical records to make sure their children got the TDAP vaccine, which covers pertussis, and not just the TD vaccine.

Read the full story

Thursday, December 30, 2010

SFGate: Enough of school fundraisers

This from SFGate:

Many public school parents get frustrated when faced with the ever-shrinking budgets and the endless calls to raise cash. For, even with all our fundraising, if our kid is talented enough to earn a part in the school play, we have to fork over more money to pay for the honor. Otherwise, no funds for sets, costumes or playbills.

Given this sad state of affairs, I'm wholly in favor of fundraising. However, I'm a little fed up with some of the tactics, and I'm strongly considering a boycott.

I came to this conclusion while delivering boxes of raw cookie dough to raise money for my daughter's middle school. Her school is always asking kids to sell stuff to raise money - money that is no doubt put to good use. But here's what happens: All the parents end up buying useless junk from one another. We could raise a lot more money if we cut out the middleman and just donated directly to the school.

Read the full story

SF Examiner: School bus service slashed in cost-saving move

From the SF Examiner:
Thousands of schoolchildren will have to find a new way to travel to school next year after the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education voted to cut bus service by more than 50 percent.

The cuts — which affect roughly 3,300 general-education children in elementary and middle school grades — will be phased in over the next three years and could save the district roughly $1.9 million annually.

It costs the district $100,000 annually to run each yellow bus.
Read the full story

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Middle School Special Ed Search -- Update

So we are now in the middle of our search for a middle school for our son Ben, who is in special ed. First, we've made a big decision. We just decided to change Ben's program designation from "Inclusion" to "RSP." Some parents who have kindly commented on my blog postings in past said they made the switch as a way to expand middle school options as Inclusion was only offered at a limited number of middle schools. But, as I have mentioned, the school district just mandated that ALL elementaries and middle schools now offer Inclusion. Only well maybe they did. After touring three different middle schools that have not had Inclusion in the past but now have it, we have become concerned that, at least for next year, this planned push out of Inclusion is going to be, well, bumpy. I have no doubt that the District wants all schools to offer Inclusion. But actually getting the schools to do it appears to be a different story. Our questions have been met with everything from blank stares to outright rejection -- as in "We know the District wants Inclusion at our school but I can tell you right now that there will be no Inclusion kids at our school next year." There is confusion as to whether extra support will be rolled out at these schools. Moreover, and I am just beginning to understand this, Inclusion seems to mean something different at the middle school level than it does at the elementary school level. At the elementary school level, Inclusion has come to encompass all kinds of kids from ones, like Ben, who have ADD but can generally keep up with the general ed class' curriculum (with support) to kids who need significant modification of that curriculum and/or have significant behavioral problems (which Ben doesn't have). For some middle schools, Inclusion seems to be the box where kids who need curriculum modification and/or who are disruptive go. Kids like Ben to them are RSP kids. Now I don't know if this is the way the District interprets these designations, but I have now heard it from too many special ed professionals at middle schools and, since those are the folks I'm going to be dealing with next year, their interpretation is what matters. So we made the switch at Ben's IEP. Our hope is that this change will make it easier for us to actually get a school that will work for us.

And finding a school that will work is a bit of a work in progress. Here's my two second take on special ed at the large middle schools we've seen so far: (1) Giannini -- special ed professionals seem good and earnest and the school seems orderly, but the school is so academically inclined that we just don't think it will go well for Ben's self-esteem; (2) Hoover -- the school just seems so chaotic to us, plus we have heard too many concerns about increased discipline issues at the school and have too many friends who have had to pull their special ed kid out of it; (3) Roosevelt -- we liked the slightly smaller feel of the school, but we got a negative vibe from the principal about special ed (he was the only principal that didn't want to talk about special ed, but rather sent us directly to the special ed professionals); (4) Lick -- loved the principal but we are worried that the school has too many kids with issues and our Ben will just get lost in the woodworking there; plus we got a sense that some of the special ed staff was not well-trained; (4) Aptos -- of all the big middle schools, this was the one that seemed like it might work; nice mix of kids and relatively orderly and the special ed professionals seemed nice and on top of things.

We've still got a couple more, but that's where we are at.

Monday, December 20, 2010

C5 Charter School Under Development - Need More Interest Forms Within Next 10 days

From C5 Charter School Bev Melugin:

Our charter school in development, C5 International School, must have 20 more parent signatures of meaningful interest in enrolling their K-3rd grade students in our school next school year, 2011-2012, to assure that we will be provided facilities by the San Francisco Unified School District.

Are you and anyone else that you know interested? Here is more information to help you to support having our school as an option for families.

1. When parents sign the form, that is available on our Website at www.C5internationalschool.org, and return a hardcopy with an original signature in person or by mail or messenger to our office before December 30th, it does not obligate them to enroll their child or limit their choices of other schools for enrollment.

2. Signed forms will help us to be sure that we will have a school facility next fall when the State Board of Education approves our charter proposal by March 15. Request for facilities under state Proposition 39 is a separate process from the approval of a charter proposal.

3. We simply ask that those who sign and return a form maintain their interest in enrolling in our school, among other schools if that is the case, through next spring, even if questioned or challenged by the school district.

4. Information about our school is on our Website, the address is mentioned above, and many details are in the copy of our charter proposal located there that was submitted to the school district.

We must turn these forms in to the school District by Noon Thursday, December 30th to qualify for a District facility.

We will be checking the mail each day. We wish everyone a joyful and peaceful Holiday Season and rewarding new school experiences next year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Language-focused schools: Can you have it all?

First off, here's a double apology.

I know I've posted a lot in the last week, probably to the point of over-posting. But I'm trying to squeak in one more private school post before the first application deadlines land on December 15.

And this time, I'm doing things backwards. I won't have time this week to post detailed tour notes on two private schools that we toured -- French American International and Chinese American International. But I'm sure that a lot of families out there are likely to be applying. So I'm going to post this summary first, and add tour notes to the database later.

In thinking through these schools, one key thing keeps coming to mind -- in getting the language benefits of an immersion education, what else might one have to give up?

In our tours, these schools were certainly distinctive. Here are a few key impressions.

FAIS:

  • Challenging but warm kindergarten classroom, with teachers and students working collaboratively and bilingually to think through questions related to numbers and the calendar.
  • Academically demanding middle school classrooms that seemed to take a traditional approach but keep the students engaged. I've rarely seen students of any age, let alone middle schoolers, have such a thoughtful discussion with their teacher about Emily Dickinson.
  • The addition of a third language (Spanish, Mandarin, or Italian) to the curriculum later in elementary school gives students a noteworthy distinction. At the FAIS Open House, the confident, personable middle schoolers and high schoolers who gave remarks -- each in three different languages -- were among the most impressive student speakers we've seen at just about any school we've visited.

CAIS:

  • Challenging, serious kindergarten classrooms. In no other school have I seen little kids working more intently. If you want an academic, immersion-based kindergarten, this is a school for you.
  • Lively, vibrant middle school classrooms. In one Chinese-language fifth grade geography/social studies lesson, kids were practically falling over each other to answer questions posed by their cheery, dynamic teacher. Interestingly, the middle school classes almost seemed a little more relaxed than those in the elementary school.
  • An excellent math program. If you or your child loves math, take a look at this school.

So what's behind my larger question? It's driven, in great measure, by people I've met on other tours -- parents at immersion schools who are looking to transfer. To be specific, on tours this fall I've met four current CAIS families who are seeking other options, two Alice Fong Yu families, and one each from FAIS, Jose Ortega, and Buena Vista.

All have said essentially the same thing -- their current schools aren't terrible or harmful, but they just aren't the right fit for their child. According to these families, a certain kind of child who enjoys very structured, traditional academic environments will do well at immersion schools. For other children, these families said, it's a different story.

(For more context, I tried digging through the SF K Files archives for past tour notes on these schools, but could only find notes for FAIS, AFY, and Buena Vista. If anyone knows of others I missed, please add to the comments!)

I'm not implying that families are fleeing these schools in droves, and I'm not trying to bash immersion schools as a whole. We plan to tour some public immersion programs in January. And movement between schools is to be expected -- we saw lots of it in preschool. All of the above-mentioned immersion schools are popular. But still, I think it's worth asking -- when a school is trying to focus on language, how much additional flexibility does it have?

What have others found at immersion schools, either as current parents, former parents, or on the tour circuit? In an immersion-focused curriculum, what other factors might get lower priority? Which students do best in immersion schools? How do these schools handle different learning styles, or social and emotional issues? Can you get immersion and still "have it all"?

Tell prospective K parents what you think of your elementary school's special ed program!

As I look at public and charter middle schools for my special ed son, I can't help but think of those parents who are just starting the school journey with kids who may need special ed services. I have learned the hard way that I have to make repeated visits to prospective schools: first, to hear how the principal and the general tour guides talk about special ed at the school; and, second, to have more in-depth conversations with the special ed professionals at each school. Prospective K special ed parents, however, have a far larger number of schools to look into, and are going into it with many more unknowns about how much help their kid is going to need. So I thought those of us with kids already in elementaries owe it to prospective K parents to let them know what we think of our elementary's special ed program. Keeping it constructive while being as specific as possible, could people use this thread to let prospective K parents know which schools -- public, private or charter -- have good special ed programs and which have ones that need more, ahem, help? Furthermore, what questions about special ed should prospective K parents be asking at those schools? Finally, what avenues does a special ed parent have if things start to sour at their elementary school?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tour notes for SF Friends and Presidio Hill, and questions on project-based learning

With private school application deadlines looming, I’m racing to get a few more private school tour notes posted. I just added notes on San Francisco Friends School and Presidio Hill School to the database. (I also hope I can get write-ups together on French American International and Chinese American International early this week, but may run out of time.)

In putting together these notes, I found myself left with a few broader questions. Both Friends and PHS are schools that emphasize project-based learning. I didn’t toured every private PBL school in San Francisco (you’ll see the list of private schools we toured and why here), but we did visit a few. After these tours, I definitely have a much better understanding of PBL. But I’d also like to hear thoughts from parents who are either currently in PBL schools, or who decided to go in another direction.

First, for context, here are some vignettes from our tours of PHS and Friends. As you’ll see, I had clearer impressions from some classroom visits than I did others.

PHS:

  • In the second-grade classroom, students had chosen a medieval theme for the year, complete with a castle built at one end of the room. During our visit, the kids were working on writing “flipped” fairy tales, or retellings of traditional versions. Many students were busy scribbling -- one girl, for example, was crafting a story about a witch who used her broom to sweep floors instead of ride through the skies. A few boys, though, were doodling or drawing pictures instead of writing. It was hard to tell if they were being given a chance to express a different learning preference, or if they just weren’t engaged in the assignment.
  • In a fifth-grade math room, students were working on multiplication by looking at a screen projection showing a problem and three solutions. None of the solutions provided the exact answer. Instead, the class was being asked to say which was the closest answer, and why. The students were all engaged in the discussion – no one seemed lost or checked out.
  • In the middle school science lab, students were learning about homeostatis by putting ice cubes in water and then using a mix of heat, water, and more ice to keep the temperature at a constant state for 20 minutes. The kids were all engaged, laughing, breaking up big chunks of ice with a hammer, and busily checking their thermometers and timers.

Friends:

  • In a kindergarten room, students were working on their “magic letters.” As their teacher explained it, the class had been assigned a few letters of the alphabet that day – C, O, and Q. Then they started working with those letters, laying them out with sticks, writing them in the air, writing them on each other’s backs, and then finally writing them on paper. The kids were working enthusiastically and having a great time.
  • In a middle school math classroom, the students were working on fractions by building bridges out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. One explained to us that the bridges would later be tested for their weight-bearing capacity as a demonstration of ratios and denominators. Some of the kids, though, didn’t seem focused on the task at hand, and were talking among themselves about other things. The teacher also didn't seem directly engaged in the activity, and was instead sitting up at the front of the classroom working on a laptop. Overall, I didn’t get a clear sense of exactly what was being taught, how the topic was being taught at that time, or if all the students were involved.

I’m not presenting these vignettes as total representations of these schools. Instead, I’m offering them as a way to get perspectives on project-based learning. In some of the above, I got a good sense of the educational dynamic. In others, it was less clear.

Parents with kids in PBL schools, what has your experience been? How do PBL schools stand out? How do you measure what your kids have learned, and what have you found important? Or, if you chose a different type of school, why?

While the above examples reflect Friends and PHS, perspectives from other private PBL schools are definitely welcome. It'd also be great to hear from parents with children in public schools with PBL programs, such as SF Community, Creative Arts Charter, and Clarendon.

Happy Holidays from Helga

I want to acknowledge my K search support group: Hugo’s classmates’ moms. Their attendance boundaries vary from mine (Sutro): McKinley, Juniper Serra, Peabody, McCoppin, Jefferson and Stevenson so together we have been able to cover a wide range of schools. We have shared our K tour experiences. Based on my colleague Rowena Ravenclaw’s recommendations, I toured Sherman and Peabody. (We had toured Alamo and Claire Lilienthal together as well.)

I also want to acknowledge the SFUSD teachers (Alamo and Argonne), who are also parents, that agreed to answer my questions. They love their respective schools. I asked what other schools they would suggest for Hugo’s interests in science. Accordingly, I added Dianne Feinstein and Sunset, which are along Godric's commute, to my tour list.

Lastly I want to acknowledge fellow parents. I added Lafayette to my tour strategy because a parent at the PPS-SF Marin Day Schools / Laurel Heights event raved about the school’s PTA and chose Lafayette over a prestigious private school. Also another parent (at Claire Lilienthal tour) talked about how the students at Lafayette felt comfortable with Principal Ruby Brown and how the Principal knew each child’s name.

All of these groups help me expand my initial tour list.

I’m signing off until after the New Year ... Happy Holidays!

Helga

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NY Times: Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators

This from the Times:
With China’s debut in international standardized testing, students in Shanghai have surprised experts by outscoring their counterparts in dozens of other countries, in reading as well as in math and science, according to the results of a respected exam.

American officials and Europeans involved in administering the test in about 65 countries acknowledged that the scores from Shanghai — an industrial powerhouse with some 20 million residents and scores of modern universities that is a magnet for the best students in the country — are by no means representative of all of China.

About 5,100 15-year-olds in Shanghai were chosen as a representative cross-section of students in that city. In the United States, a similar number of students from across the country were selected as a representative sample for the test.

Experts noted the obvious difficulty of using a standardized test to compare countries and cities of vastly different sizes. Even so, they said the stellar academic performance of students in Shanghai was noteworthy, and another sign of China’s rapid modernization.

Read the full story

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fall 2011: A few more new public school enrollment changes, courtesy of tonight’s PPS-SF workshop

As advertised earlier today on SF K Files, PPS-SF held an enrollment workshop tonight at the Sunset Branch library. The room was full, with most in the audience wearing that slightly anxious “Cramming for a pop quiz” look that we all seem to get when contemplating the new assignment system.

Most of the information covered by PPS-SF program manager Vicki Symonds touched on essentials that have already been discussed on this blog (neighborhood assignment boundaries, list as many schools as you'd like, get your application in by February 18). But compared to a presentation I saw Symonds give earlier this fall, more details are available, so I thought I’d post a few updates:

  • The school district has now provided an “all in one map” that shows CTIP1 areas, neighborhood boundaries, and district pre-K’s and CDC’s all in one view. The latter is important in knowing whether the schools you’d like have a pre-K or CDC feeding into them, which can affect one's chances of getting in. So far, I've only seen this true "all in one" map on paper, and district offices and PPS-SF have copies. Online, you can find a map that shows neighborhoods boundaries, city-wide schools, middle schools, high schools, and CDCs/Pre-K's (but no CTIP1 areas, at least for now). You’ll find a copy here.
  • After the first round of assignments in March, the old “waitpool” and “Round II” processes have been replaced by what’s now called “placement periods,” which seems like an elaborate way to say “further rounds of the lottery.” According to the school district website, these additional placement periods will probably be run in May, mid-August, shortly before school starts, and after school begins. Participating in each placement period requires its own separate request. The August placement period seems to have a couple of unique features, such as requiring that participants give up a previous school assignment to try their luck should they win a higher choice school and want to accept it in that round of the lottery.
  • The placement periods seem to use the same tie-breakers, and ONLY the same-tiebreakers, as the main lottery. Some of the priorities from the old system no longer matter, such as having gone 0/7, 0/15, or 0/whatever number of schools you put down in on your initial application.

Thanks to the parents who represented their schools – New Traditions, Jefferson, Argonne, Creative Arts, and Sunset. Your presentations were not only helpful, but provided a welcome reminder that yes, believe it or not, we’ll eventually be on the other side of this process and be in school.

And a personal thanks to Vicki Symonds, whose ran tonight’s discussion without the private school swipes I’d seen at the forum earlier this fall. Tonight, when a mom in the audience commented that she was trying the lottery again for first grade after landing none of her choices last year and opting for private school, I winced on her behalf, expecting a lecture. Instead, Symonds listened empathetically and wished the woman good luck this year. Thank you for a helpful, informative workshop that made room for everyone, regardless of where we’re at in this process.

Calling parents interested in Daniel Webster!

Like many of you with a child entering kindergarten in the fall of 2011 we have been obsessively touring schools.

We have been pleasantly surprised by how many lovely schools that we have seen, McKinley, Grattan, Sunnyside, Miraloma, to name a few.

But we are also incredibly impressed by the effort that has been put into our own neighborhood school, Daniel Webster.

A local parent founded PREfund group brought in the PKDW preschool, and started the Spanish immersion education program at DW three years ago.

Now, the Spanish immersion (SI) program, though very popular with neighborhood families, does not offer priority to them, but the General Education (GE) program of course does. Also, many families are not looking for immersion education. The hope of the PREfund group has always been that by bringing in more diversity of families through the immersion program, that ultimately the whole school would improve in both performance and diversity. There is an article about PREFund here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/23/BAOJ19BGKQ.DTL

We think that this year, with the introduction of the new neighborhood school preference and the redrawn boundaries for the DW attendance area, that the time is perfect for an influx of neighborhood families who may not have previously considered the Daniel Webster GE program.

Not long ago Miraloma, McKinley and Grattan were all low scoring schools. Groups of parents banded together and decided to send their children to the schools anyway, seeing the potential for improvement. This addition of this broader demographic to the original population , which brought increased level of participation of families and increased fund raising, ultimately raised test scores and increased the richness of programs and resources available at the schools. Miraloma is a great example (see article, and quote from it below) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/us/01bcjames.html

"In 2005, Miraloma scored 651 out of 1000 on California’s Academic Performance Index. Results released last week show a score of 865, among the city’s best. "

Daniel Webster was recognized last year for a 13% rise in test scores, this coming before the SI program kids have even reached the testing age, so it is already going in the right direction.

Our address falls into a CIPT1/low test score zone, so we would probably stand a good chance of getting into one of the 'trophy schools' under the new system, but we don't really want to add to our commutes by driving half way across the city every day. We would rather be part of the community that is already well on the way to turning Daniel Webster into our own neighborhood gem. We are not looking for immersion education though, so we would like to put our daughter in the GE program.

The GE program currently has just one class that can take up to 22 children. Historically it has been under enrolled.

If we get a critical mass of people who will commit (maybe 8-10 families) the incoming K class will look very different next year. The Principal and teachers are excited to bring in a new wave of families to revitalize the GE program, and are ready and willing to talk to us about it and address ideas and concerns. We can do this before the application deadline.
We believe that with a collaborative effort by the parents and teachers (and our kids), and with the support of the veteran DW parents, we can lift the whole school to new heights of achievement.

We are looking for a group of parents who will say "I'll put Daniel Webster General Ed program first on my application if you will". In the 2008/2009 year only two people put the DW GE program as their first choice, so if we list it first we will get it (even if you don't live in the DW attendance area).

If you are interested, please reply directly to me, at DanielWebsterGE2011@gmail.com. I will set up a meeting, likely on Sunday December 12th, for us to get together and discuss this.

You can also sign up to tour Daniel Webster by calling (415) 695-5787
http://www.danielwebster-sf.com/index.html
Looking forward to hearing from you,

Parents for Public School enrollment workshop: Tonight@

Parents for Public Schools-SF is having an enrollment workshop from 6:30-8:00pm tonight (Dec. 6) at the Sunset Library Branch, 1305 18th Ave. @ Irving St.

Here is what you can expect at the workshop:

• Meet parents from public school.
• Learn about the NEW Public School Enrollment process.
• Get tips on key information and resources

Hope to see you there!

Tour Notes: SF K Files bloggers (and readers) review schools

The SF K Files' team of crackerjack bloggers have been touring schools and writing up their thoughts in the new tour notes section of the site.

Here's a rundown of schools with recent tour notes--please feel free to jump into the discussion and comment on notes and leave impressions of your own if you toured the school:

Marin Country Day: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2681

Lakeshore: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2674

Sherman: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2658

Alamo: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2648

John Yehal Chin: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2649

Claire Lilienthal: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2650

Rosa Parks: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2651

Clarendon: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2652

Zion Luthern: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2645

Lawton: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2413

Sutro: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2414

Argonne: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2415

Spring Valley: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2416

Creative Arts Charter: http://community.thesfkfiles.com/forum/discuss/review/2417

Please post your reviews of schools you've toured in tour notes. Simply search for the school in the database, then type up your impressions.

Marshall Elementary School Holiday Benefit

When: Tuesday, December 7, 6-9pm
Where: Som Bar, 2925 16th Street (btw Capp & Mission) San Francisco 21+ (sorry, kids!)

Do good and have fun! Kick off your holiday season and celebrate Marshall Elementary.

Dance, Drink, Buy Art & Win Great Raffle Prizes to Benefit Marshall Elementary!

There will be live music & DJ's playing hip-hop, latin, reggae, house and old-school music, live painting, an art auction, raffle and more.

Feel free to bring your friends and spread the word.

***Suggested donation of $5-$500 at the door (no one turned away) - 100% of proceeds to benefit Marshall Elementary***

Sunday, December 5, 2010

S.F. Community School's silent auction

Win a private tour of the city hall dome, complete with champagne; and
get all your holiday gifts, big and small, at S.F. Community School's
silent auction next Saturday!
December 11th, 5 - 8pm, at the Grotto at Sports Basement (Bryant
between 16th & 15th).

Bid on some great items, and enjoy appetizers, wine, desserts, music
and good company to benefit project based learning and outdoor
education at San Francisco Community, a small K-8 public school.
Dinners at fabulous restaurants, tickets to everything from Disneyland
to yoga class, handmade items, services and more. Items start at $5.
Get 10% off at Sports Basement during the auction too!
$15 per person or $20 per couple includes food and wine.
*Please note that bidding ends at 7:15*

Children are welcome, but there will not be childcare.
Free parking across the street at Potrero Center.

Friday, December 3, 2010

SFGate: Parents can sue if schools skimp on P.E.

This from SFGate:

Parents can take their children's public schools to court to force educators to provide the minimum amount of physical education required by state law, the California Court of Appeal ruled in Sacramento on Tuesday, which could spell trouble for a lot of state schools.

California's education code requires elementary schools to offer 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days, an amount that rises to 400 minutes in middle or high schools, not including lunch or recess. A small-scale survey of state schools a few years ago found more than half failed to provide the required minutes of physical activity.

Read the full story

SFGate: School lunch program likely to be overhauled

This from SFGate:

The biggest overhaul of the national school lunch program and other federal food programs in 30 years is expected to pass the House today, following a rare unanimous Senate vote earlier this year. It would enact a key plank of first lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign.

Championed by Bay Area Democratic Reps. George Miller of Martinez and Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma, as well as a coalition of celebrity chefs appalled by the poor quality of school lunches, the $4.5 billion, 10-year legislation would increase nutritional standards in all federal food programs and eliminate junk food and soda from school campuses nationwide, following California's lead over the past decade.

Read more

Private schools: Marin Country Day, and questions on $$$$$

I just posted tour notes for Marin Country Day, and have to say that I loved the school. I can even handle the idea of the bridge/bus commute, although I can understand why, for many people, that’s a non-starter. But in thinking through whether to apply, I also have to say that I keep getting that “Mind on my money and my money on my mind” feeling.

The main thing that gives me pause about MCDS is the price tag – up to almost $27,000 by the time a student reaches upper middle school. Ouch. No can do, especially with two kids in school within the next two years. That means applying for financial aid. Everywhere I turn, schools and school experts keep saying that it’s OK to apply for financial assistance. But I’m not so sure.

My first hesitation has been with the intention of financial aid – shouldn’t it be reserved for families who are truly in need? Schools say that they don’t want the “barbell” effect, with some students at the bottom of the income spectrum, lots at the top, and no one in the middle. But I’m not sure how much room financial aid systems have for middle-class families like mine?

And then there’s the issue of how applying affects one’s chances of getting in. Schools say that the two processes are separate. But it’s hard to see how. Most schools probably can’t afford to admit an entire class of students who need financial aid. To me, it seems that there have to be two groups of applicants – those requesting aid and those not – and the two groups compete amongst themselves for spots. Or do I have it wrong?

I’m not singling out MCDS’s financial aid policies here. They seem very generous, and have a unique “indexed tuition” framework that puts assigns accepted financial aid applicants an individual tuition based on ability to pay. But as I contemplate private school applications, I keep circling back to financial aid, and wondering whether signaling that we need financial assistance will reduce our chances of getting in so greatly that it's not worth applying to private schools at all.

Those of you more in the know, what do you say? And those of you applying for private schools for next year, what are you thinking on financial aid?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lakeshore Elementary

I toured Lakeshore Elementary this week. You can read my write up here. Before I went on the tour I looked up the boundaries for Lakeshore and I was kind of shocked by how small and unpopulated the school’s boundaries seem to be. I highly recommend anyone who doesn’t like/thinks they won’t get into their neighborhood school (so, um, just about everyone I’ve talked to so far) check it out. Its way in the SW of the city so understandably not logistically possible for some, but it’s a nice school and with FOUR GE kindergarten classes, I can’t imagine it will fill with neighborhood kids.

PS- I asked the principal there if she had heard any buzz from the district about changing start times now that the bussing is going to be limited and she said she hadn’t heard a thing on that topic. Anyone else ask principals this? I’m very curious and don’t want start times to be any part of my decision process if they are going to change them up.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Subscribe to forum topics!

The SF K Files has a new feature that allows you to receive email alerts for new forum topics as soon as they are posted.

Simply go the the SF K Files Community site, here, and then visit the "Account Settings" section in the upper-right hand corner. Check the box for "Notify me whenever someone adds a new forum topic." Now the Community site will feel more like a mailing list a la Yahoo Groups.

And remember you can start a forum topic any time here. This is also a great place to post school events and links to interesting articles on education topics.

Thanks!

Have you always wondered just what a School Site Council is and does?

Then this workshop from Parents for Public Schools is for you

Please join us for our second workshop in our "Parents Transforming Schools" series titled "Site Council Fundamentals."

Date: Saturday December 4th
Time: 3:00 - 4:30
Location: Ingleside Branch Library
Address: 1298 Ocean Ave. @ Plymouth

We will:

* Discuss the role of School Site Councils in school governance and the role parents play.
* Hear from parents who have been on their school site councils.
* Learn how parents can partner with school staff to make their site councils more effective.
* Explore best practices of what works and how to overcome challenges.
* Discover what you can do to build community support at your school