Monday, January 31, 2011

It's official: Buena Vista will become a K-8

An email announcement about Buena Vista becoming a K-8 went out today:

This went from being an SFUSD proposal to Buena Vista in December 2010 to being officially announced to Buena Vista families today (Monday, 1/31):

This morning Superintendent Carlos Garcia came to Buena Vista to speak with ELAC parents and others about the District’s proposal that Buena Vista be a K-8 school. The Superintendent told an excited crowd that the Buena Vista communities’s dream to become a K-8 school would be realized this coming academic year. Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, Buena Vista will move to the Horace Mann campus. The pre-K program will remain at Buena Vista due to
site licensing, but all other programs will move, including before and after school care. Seventh and eighth grade classes at Horace Mann will continue until they graduate, and once they do, Buena Vista at the Horace Mann campus will be a Spanish K-8 immersion school. The Superintendent expressed that he has had discussions with the members of the Board of Education and they support the move.

Visit Buena Vista at:

Please join in the discussion in the forum: Comments on this thread have been disabled in an effort to encourage forum engagement. Thanks!

A tales of two screenings: Part II

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a few mornings in school screenings. One of those meant accompanying a friend to language testing at SFUSD. Another brought Portland, Tacoma, and me to the lobby of French American International School, checking in for a private school evaluation.

Since it was a weekend, I’d thought the campus would be empty. But the lobby was busy, not only with the arrivals of about 15 or so other families also joining in that particular evaluation time, but with bigger boys and girls, welcoming visitors and chatting among themselves. They were all wearing name tags, and we quickly learned that these were FAIS middle school students. They and their parents, along with the FAIS admissions team, were there to greet us and help guide us through the evaluation.

We were all taken to an elementary school classroom, where the children had a chance to draw pictures and play with toys for a few minutes. The kids all looked fine – it was all of us parents, standing with arms folded, chatting nervously, who seemed more on edge. Then it was time to go.

The FAIS students gently gathered the smaller children and escorted them to the evaluation rooms. Tacoma looked up at the older girl who offered to guide her, smiled shyly, gave us a little wave, and set off. A group of current FAIS parents then led all the grown-ups upstairs to wait. As we walked upstairs, one little girl was still in the classroom, sobbing, clutching a pair of blocks, clinging to her parents. My heart went out to her, and her mom and dad, as we left them and the FAIS team to sort it out.

Upstairs, where we waited for about an hour-and-a-half, things were happily low-key. There were no formal presentations or interviews. FAIS Admissions Director Andrew Brown and Associate Admissions Director Coumba Diouf seemed to divide their time between upstairs and downstairs, sometimes appearing to chat casually with waiting parents. Our most constant company came from current FAIS parents and students. The middle school students, especially, made a point of introducing themselves, asking if we had any questions, and chatting animatedly about their school life at FAIS – which teachers they loved, which classes were hard, and which sports they preferred.

Then, it was time to go back downstairs. As we waited in the same classroom as before, our children came running back in, escorted again by a middle school student. Tacoma was one of the last to return, all smiles. Like the others, she had a small card, decorated with stickers, hung by a piece of yarn around her neck.

What was the card for, we asked? She smiled, and said “For fun!” Where did the stickers come from? She replied that she got one every time she “visited a teacher.” What did she do with the teachers? “We played, and talked about shapes, and drew a “B” in a box.” My best guess is that FAIS teachers or evaluators were each manning different activity stations, and the children rotated through the stations trying different tasks. Mostly, though, Tacoma just said she had fun, and then shifted to lobbying us for a burrito for lunch (chicken with avocado, with a lot of chips on the side, soon please!).


  • The FAIS team, including current families, went to great lengths to make us and our daughter felt welcome and comfortable.
  • Based on the number of stickers on Tacoma’s tag, she did a lot of different activities during the evaluation. Some seemed to be related to shapes and letters of the alphabet, but I’m not sure what many others involved.
  • There are a lot of things we like about FAIS, but as at the Open House, it is the school’s students who stole the show. The middle school students who helped take care of their young visitors and us nervous parents were all polite, articulate, thoughtful, confident, and clearly intelligent. Yes, I know, those students were also hand-picked for the task, but they represented their school well, and we all appreciated their efforts.

Others out there on the private school application circuit, how’s it going? I know there’s a lot to say about different evaluations. I’ve only got time for this one right now, but you can also see more stories in a screenings thread on the site’s community forums.

A tales of two screenings: Part I

If the “T is for Touring” part of the kindergarten search process is winding down, then it must be time for “S,” as in “Screenings.” In the last couple of weeks, I went to a few, including language testing at SFUSD HQ and one of the student evaluation sessions at French American International School.

The two screenings were so different that there’s little point in comparing them. But given that there are lots of others out there in the same boat(s), I thought I’d post some notes on each and see what others are experiencing. The notes on language testing are below, and I’ve put the FAIS notes in a separate post.

Language testing was never part of our school enrollment plan. But it is for a good Spanish-speaking friend, who made a testing date for her bilingual son down at the EPC in the hopes of having a better shot at a Spanish immersion spot. When the day rolled around, she found herself having a slight attack of nerves (“What if he won’t talk at all?” “What if he won’t even go into the testing area?”), and I went along to keep her and her son company.

I hadn’t been to the EPC “mother ship” in person before. Wow. Even though the enrollment deadline was still weeks away, the line was l-o-n-g. And the language testing waiting room was packed, with parents and kids there to be tested in many languages, including English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Cantonese.

Even though the testing waiting room was packed, though, the process seemed efficient. My friend’s son was called for his test right at the appointed hour. And he was called alone. Parents can’t go into the testing room with their kids. A big heavy wooden door without windows opens up. A tester comes into the waiting area, calls the child’s name, and escorts them right through that door. Many kids went in calmly (including my friend’s son, much to her relief), but some were very upset and didn’t want to go.

My friend’s son was in there for a little more than an hour, when his mom was called to join him in the testing area. One tester evaluated his English (94 out of 100) and another assessed his Spanish (91 out of 100). Since he did well on both, the second tester told his mother that he would fall into the “bilingual” category, which is helpful in winning a spot in Spanish immersion programs.

She asked what was covered on the test, but the evaluator didn’t want to share too many details. Later, in that scatterplot four-year-old kind of way, her son recalled that he had to “say name some easy pictures,” do some coloring with crayons, and answer “lots of questions.” He remembered only one, which he said was asked in Spanish – “Who brought you here today?”


  • If you are getting language testing, prepare your child to not only be separated from you, but be separated rather quickly by someone he/she doesn’t know.
  • The testing is neither quick nor simple. While we were waiting, we did see some children come and go within 40 minutes. But for many, it seemed to be about an hour. And the testing material seems to require genuine conversational ability, not just saying or recognizing individual words.
  • You can also prepare your child to have some fun. Every child who completed the testing came out of the testing area proudly waving a picture he/she had colored.
  • Language testing or not, give yourself a decent amount of time to get your enrollment form turned in. When we left the testing area, in the late morning, the enrollment line was out the door and stretching into the hallway.

If you’ve done language testing with your child, how’d it go? And if you’ve already turned in your form, any suggestions on better times hit the enrollment line? Like Helga, I’m waiting to finalize and submit our list until after the February 1 school board meeting.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Helga's Private School Redshirt Plan?

I haven't submitted my SFUSD list yet as I'm waiting to hear the middle school and transportation policy updates during the Feb 1 board meeting. I am nervous -- given historical demand -- that we will not get into any of our top 10+ public school choices since we do not have sibling, SFUSD pre-K, CTIP1, attendance boundary nor densely populated area advantage.

Accordingly, we applied to project-based Creative Arts Charter (outside the SFUSD lottery) (previously reviewed here). (Note: Unfortunately the C5 International School Charter was denied by SFUSD Board and the development team has decided not to pursue an appeal to the State Board in time for 2011-2012 school year.)

We also applied to project-based Alta Vista School with science, math & technology focus. I toured Alta Vista in October and my full review is here.

Pros: We like the small school size, small class sizes, and, above all, the project-based and science orientation of the curriculum. We also like the option for Junior K (academically the same as K but smaller class size/ratio) that would allow Hugo to go straight into 1st grade if he is developmentally ready at the end of Junior K.

Cons: The price. Let the spousal squabbling begin if we get in without financial aid.

The flaw in the redshirt plan is, of course, if we don't get in. We'll find out the same time as the SFUSD assignment letters. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Share your Round I lists

February is approaching and Round I lists are due soon. Please feel free to share your lists in the comments, and asks questions about your lists.

Forum topic: Private school first choice letter

A reader has brought up an interesting topic in the forum: first choice letters for private schools. If you have thoughts on whether you should let your first choice private know that they're your favorite, please share in the forum:

Note: Comments have been disabled on this blog post in an effort to encourage discussion in the forum. Thanks!

SFGate: Children's low science proficiency worries leaders

This from SFGate:

Just 1 out of every 100 U.S. schoolchildren excels at science, while less than a third of their peers reach grade-level proficiency in the subject, according to the Nation's Report Card released Tuesday.

The scores are not nearly good enough given the demand for innovators, inventors and problem solvers required to keep the country on the cutting edge of industry and enterprise, education officials said.

"In a world that is increasingly dependent on science, we are failing to educate our kids in science," said Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, a nonprofit that awards grants to improve education. "That's putting them at risk and putting our country at risk," he said in a statement.

Read the full story

SFGate: Six weeks cut from school year?

This from SFGate:

State treasurer Bill Lockyer dropped a little bomb on the IGS Conference/Lookback at the 2010 Guv's race in California. "T-Bill" as he calls himself, said the state could be issuing IOUs in May -- if Gov. Brown and the Legislature don't pass a budget in a "timely way." Or as T-Bill put it:

If they are "unable to meet their self-imposed deadlines to adopt a budget in a timely way to address the current, very substantial shortfall in current accounts," Lockyer said.

Brown advisor Steve Glazer said that governor "submitted his budget and called for prompt consideration" within 60 days.

So, Legislature: Ball's in your court. Tick...tock...tick...

Count Lockyer in the camp with Brown on combining cuts with extending various taxes -- the measure that Brown wants to put on the ballot in June. If that doesn't pass, Lockyer -- when asked -- outlined a doomsday scenario Saturday that few in Sacramento want to talk about. Stuff like cutting six weeks off of the public school calendar.

State of the Union roundtable on education with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Monday, January 24, 2011

"The Talk," a CBS Daytime show, seeks parent to interview

Was your child rejected from a school lottery? If so, we want to hear from you ASAP!

"The Talk," a CBS Daytime show, is preparing a special program on education this week. We would need for you to be in-studio in Los Angeles on Thursday, January 27th. Since this is just days away, please send us in a brief description your story. In addition, we will need your full name, full address, daytime and evening contact numbers, email address and age. We also require that you send a RECENT photo of you and your child/family... as far as travel expense, we may be able to cover, we would need to speak with you first.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope that we can tell your important story on television.

Please email responses to

Should parents get graded by teachers?

A Florida lawmaker is proposing that teachers start grading parents based on how actively involved they are in their kids' education. More from the Orlando Sentinel:

As a state lawmaker interested in education reform, Kelli Stargel said she's heard a lot of discussions that come down to, "What about the parent?"

Schools and teachers can do only so much, she said, if parents don't make sure their children are in class and ready for academic lessons.

That's why she has proposed a bill that would require elementary school teachers to grade parents on the "quality" of their school involvement. A parent rating — satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory — would appear on the child's report card.

The proposal is not meant to be punitive or intrusive, she added, but a way to prod parents to make their child's education a top priority.

"I think there's a certain segment of parents who would just step it up a notch," Stargel said. "It's not intended to be big government coming down on parents. It's just intended to hold parents accountable."

Read the full story
What do you think? Should parents get graded by teachers?

Local principal nomated for principal of the year award

This from a reader:
Maria Luz Agudelo, the principal at New Traditions Creative Arts Elementary School in San Francisco, has been nominated for the Elementary Principal of the Year Award by San Francisco, Region 5, of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). ACSA Region 5 consists of San Francisco and San Mateo counties and serves 25 districts and more than 300 schools educating 158,000 students.

ACSA is the largest umbrella organization for school leaders in the country, serving more than 16,000 school leaders. The mission of the organization is to support California¹s educational leaders; ensure all students have the essential skills and knowledge needed to excel; and champion public education.

As a parent of a kindergartener at New Traditions, I am thrilled that Ms. Agudelo has received this nomination. Her tireless work on behalf of our children is an inspiration to me as a parent and an educator. When I asked my daughter why she likes her school, the first thing she said was, "The people at school are really, really nice, especially the principal."

Lisa Borah-Geller
Program Manager

A Curve Ball on Middle School Assignment

[Rachel Norton published the following update on her website ( on January 19, 2011.]

At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Board members were thrown a little bit of a curve ball as part of a progress report on the work to rethink and redesign elementary to middle school feeder patterns.

Regular readers of the blog might recall a major kerfuffle last fall when parents of children enrolled in dual-language immersion programs and parents in southeastern neighborhoods reacted strongly to the district’s first pass at elementary t0 middle school feeder patterns. As so often happens when redesigning complex systems, what initially seemed a straightforward change took on many unanticipated and unintended consequences. So staff, with the Board’s agreement, decided to go back to the drawing board and re-think the implementation of the middle school portion of the new student assignment policy. A working group made up of middle school principals and key central office staff, with input from PPS and the Parent Advisory Council, has been delving into the problems identified last spring, and tonight was the first public peek at where they are going.

Some of the new directions are surprising, and the budget and program implications are complex. The presentation shown to the Board tonight began with a striking overview of capacity and demand data — specifically, that we are expecting a 39 percent increase in middle school enrollment in the next three to five years based on current elementary school enrollment trends; also that almost 50 percent of SFUSD middle school students are enrolled in just four of our 15 middle schools: Aptos, Presidio, Giannini, and Hoover. Finally, five schools are operating at less than 50 percent of capacity (Willie Brown, Everett, ISA, Horace Mann, and Visitacion Valley).

The project working group has begun with the mission to ensure quality programs at all middle schools, “extending language pathways, and other academic program options, from elementary to middle school allows for effective implementation of a new ‘virtual K-8′ student assignment policy that meets the academic and social needs of all middle school students.”

There are many benefits to the “virtual K-8″ policy (which doesn’t mean virtual in the sense of online but rather school assignment patterns that ensure that cohorts of students will remain together in the same schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade). For one thing, the current system that unpredictably reshuffles students between 5th and 6th grades hampers planning for middle school administration teams. Assistant Supt. Jeannie Pon, the administrator in charge of all SFUSD middle schools, pointed out that Hoover MS alone receives students from 45 different elementary schools, making planning for and coordination of curriculum and program needs very difficult. A system of feeder patterns does make student populations far more stable and predictable from year to year, which is helpful in budgeting and other planning.

For another thing, the sense of community fostered by a stable cohort of students and families staying together from elementary school through the turbulent middle school years is desirable and probably helpful in supporting positive student outcomes.

But all that predictability and stability comes at a price that might ultimately be quite large. Ensuring that students in elementary school language pathways are afforded appropriate (and in some cases, legally-required) language paths in middle school means that the district must dramatically expand language programs to make sure they are available when and where they are needed. A chart shown to Board members this evening predicted that the district would need to go from three different language programs currently offered in middle schools (Cantonese, Japanese and Spanish) to at least six language programs by 2016-17 (Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Tagalog). (I forgot to mention Korean, which fits in there somewhere too). Currently 15 percent of all 6th grade students are enrolled in some kind of language program/pathway; by 2016-17, it’s anticipated that 34 percent of all 6th grade students will be enrolled in a language program/pathway. Additionally, district staff are characterizing language pathways as “dual-language,” which comprises two-way immersion programs as well as bilingual programs created to support students who are English learners. In my mind, this is somewhat unusual, since students enrolled in bilingual pathways tend to have different needs and goals than students enrolled in two-way immersion programs.

Anyway, it’s not as if this coming expansion hasn’t been anticipated, but what has emerged in conversations with middle school principals is the trade-off necessary if students are enrolled in a language program as part of a six-period day: most would have to sacrifice other electives such as art or band in order to continue with their bilingual study. Instead, principals said, it would be much better to extend the day to seven periods in order to preserve students’ ability (and the Board’s oft-stated goal) to be bilingual as well as exposed to electives such as art or music. The problem is, adding another period to every middle schooler’s day is fantastically expensive — at least $9 million based on Commissioner Wynn’s memory of the cost of a similar proposal a decade ago (the cost could easily be millions of dollars more than that now). Whatever the cost of adding a seventh period, that cost could well be money we just don’t have at the moment.

Finally, staff floated some trial balloons for how a new middle school assignment system could work — none of which sounded particularly simple to navigate or easy to understand (originally a major goal of the new assignment plan). I’ll quote directly from the Powerpoint we saw tonight :

§ Option 1: Build feeder pattern based on proximity and capacity with language pathways as a “city wide choice option.”

§ Option 2: Assign elementary schools with language programs based on proximity, capacity, and school readiness, and then assign the remaining 27 elementary schools based on proximity and capacity, with mitigation for specific equity challenges. (Editorial comment: what?)

§ Option 3: Build language pathways over the next five years and allow feeder patterns to emerge as enrollment grows in middle schools. (Editorial comment: what?)

So how did Board members respond to all of this? Most of us voiced some concerns about the idea of merging immersion and bilingual strands into generic “dual language” strands; we also felt the options presented by staff represented “outside the box” thinking but needed more time and reflection. Personally, though it’s not my first choice, I am wondering whether our stated goal of supporting dual-language proficiency for all students is at odds with the idea of middle school feeder patterns. I asked staff to come back with some thinking on whether supporting language pathways and creating feeder patterns are mutually exclusive goals.

I appreciate that we are taking a more thoughtful and inclusive approach to the second pass at this policy — I have no idea where we will end up, but clearly we are trying to do our due diligence. The current plan is for a full proposal to be unveiled at the Feb. 1Committee of the Whole meeting, and then to embark on an extensive community engagement effort in February and March. The Board is scheduled to vote on a final middle school enrollment proposal for 2012-13 and beyond sometime in May.

- Donna

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is it February yet?

I actually want it to be late March so I know which school/s we get assigned. I want to tour Sunnyside, Jefferson, Dianne Feinstein, and Fairmount but I am running out of time! I know that some readers think it's a waste of time to tour but I'm in the camp where my list matters and will give me something off my list (cross fingers).

I want to find the top 3 schools in which Luke would thrive. I don't feel like I've found #1 yet. Of the schools I have toured, they are all going on my list but I have no idea in which order. I've added brief tour notes for Synergy and New Traditions.

One question I have for the 2 schools:

Synergy- do you think that a school is better run by teachers (given that they all get along) or one that has a paid administrative staff?

New Traditions- I like that they have a creative arts emphasis but I'm not sure that it's Luke's 'thing'; perhaps for Lulu. Would you put your child in a school that has a focus on something that might not be attractive for him/her to get them more exposure? It's something I wonder about with schools that have an emphasis in science/ technology, arts, etc. At 5 years old, will they grow to enjoy it or always shy away from it?

Jefferson Elementary

I toured Jefferson Elementary recently. It’s not particularly close to me, but is on a good commute path for my husband and is a large school with no immersion (meaning there could potentially be spots open to people outside the neighborhood). My tour notes are here but a few points of interest:

- The principal said she guesses there will be approximately ten siblings next year, give or take a few.

- I know there was a debate awhile back about whether or not parking should be an issue when searching for schools. I’m of the camp that parking is, indeed, something to consider. And parking at Jefferson is certainly a negative to that nice school. I was unable to find free parking the day I went (well, I guess I could have searched for another 15 minutes…) but I was able to find metered parking with no problem. So at least there are options. The good news is that once the kids are in first grade (principal said the kinders are generally walked in and picked up before and after school) they do a pick up and drop off system in the front of the school so that parents don’t have to get out of their cars. So parking wouldn’t be an everyday burden after kindergarten.

- In a casual conversation the principal said, though she hasn’t heard anything official, she wouldn’t be surprised at all if start and end times change once bussing is cut, starting as early as the upcoming fall. Nothing official, but to me this means pay a lot less attention to start times and a lot more attention to the school itself (the start and end time of our neighborhood school has been a pretty big concern to me).

I think Jefferson is a nice school and it will be on our list.

Incidentally, my list is now done. I’m headed to 555 Franklin on Monday to try and beat some of the lines (maybe I’m dreaming about the line part). How are your lists coming along?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Paxti's edMatch night was a success!

Dear Friends:

Last week I emailed you about our first edMatch fundraising event with Patxi’s Restaurants. I want to thank you for making it a HUGE success! Despite the fact that it was only Wednesday, Patxi’s staffed up as if it was a Saturday – and even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the demand from the edMatch crowds. Lines were out the door, gift cards sold out, take-out orders were backed up, even the dishes could not get washed and set fast enough. It just goes to show how passionately we support our City’s public schools.

With all three restaurants packed from lunch through dinner, Patxi’s sales were 30% higher than average! It was such a success, we are thrilled to announce monthly edMatch days at Patxis throughout 2011, with proceeds benefiting our San Francisco public schools.

Here’s what Bill Freeman, CEO of Patxi’s had to say about our event:

“I have to say edMatch is a very impressive organization. You guys really got the troops out and it was a huge success…We are thrilled with the results! The people who visited our locations last night experienced great food, service, value and felt that their meal meant something, not to mention it is great for employee moral. I wish everything in life created a circle like this!”

Best of all, more businesses have approached us about similar events!

Please consider supporting edMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter (@edMatch), so that we can stay in touch with you as our organization grows and we have more events to benefit our SF public schools. We also have plenty of opportunities for you or your company to get involved, so feel free to visit our website and stay in touch with us that way:

Thank you again for your support!

All best,

Todd David

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SFGate: Struggling SF schools ousting half their teachers

This from SFGate:

Three San Francisco schools have begun the unsavory task of replacing half their teachers to fulfill a bargain that got them $5 million each in federal grants aimed at boosting test scores.

Bryant Elementary, Carver Elementary and Everett Middle are among 10 San Francisco schools that landed on the state's list of the 188 lowest-performing schools and are now required to take drastic steps to turn themselves around.

All told, the three schools must replace 26 teachers. Those teachers will get first choice to occupy vacancies left by retiring teachers at other schools. Those who transfer will remain at their current jobs through this school year.

A fourth school, John Muir Elementary, was also required to swap out half its staff, which it accomplished through attrition before this school year began.

Seven other San Francisco schools on the list are also making drastic changes, following one of four reform options under the federal program that allows schools to choose to convert to a charter, close entirely, replace their principal and overhaul instruction methods, or replace half the staff.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mother Jones: Why Aren't All Teachers Like This?

This from Mother Jones:
It's 8:10am and I'm sitting in a Mission High School World History class waiting for 20 kids to trickle in. Theoretically, these are some of the more challenging kids to teach. One student near me is a "safety transfer" from another San Francisco school, where gangs invaded his world. A student I'll call Benton walks in late with a serious, apprehensive look on his face. He towers above the other kids, and is considered loud and disruptive in other classes.

Twice I've watched teachers ask him to leave their classrooms. I wonder if this teacher will too.

World History teacher Jenn Bowman passes out an assignment while students talk about the recent shootings in Arizona. "Did you all hear about this?" she asks. "My father told me about it last night," says the safety-transfer kid. "Why do they hate immigrants in Arizona?" a Latino student wonders aloud. Ms. Bowman asks a student to summarize the latest Arizona news for the rest of the class.

The class moves on to their assignment: Completing sentences that place "capitalism" and "communism" in historic context.

"Can I have a piece of paper?" asks a student with a copy of Alan Gratz's "Samurai Shortstop" on his desk.

"What are tenements?" another student yells out. "Very cramped apartments," someone stage-whispers in response.

Ms. Bowman asks students to raise their hands if they have questions and walks around the classroom with extra supplies, responding to students in a low voice. Students hunch over their papers for 10 minutes in silence.

Next, Ms. Bowman darkens the room for "China Blue," a documentary that follows the life of 17-year-old Jasmine, a Sichuan province native who works 22 hours a day to produce jeans in exchange for a pitiful wage. This part of the film shows how some of these jeans are transported to America, across the Bay. "Oh, I can see them boats from my house!" one young woman mentions. Benton starts talking to a girl next to him during the film.

"Benton, could move a few seats to your right please?" Ms. Bowman asks him.

"Yes, Ma'am," Benton responds. "That's all you need to say, Ms. Bowman."

Read the full story

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Forum topic: Kindergarten spots at private schools

There's an interesting conversation going on in the K Files forum about kindergarten spots at private schools.

Here's a summary of the discussion:

Cathedral: 10 to 11 spots
Town: 17, or possibly more
Friends: 29
SF Day: 29
Presidio Hill: 5 to 7
Burkes: 30 plus

Any numbers for Live Oak or MCDS?

Comments in this post have been disabled. Please comment on this forum thread here.

SFGate: Jerry Brown proposes drastic cuts, spares K-12 education

This from SFGate:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday proposed drastic spending cuts, extending tax increases and reorganizing government to bring an end to California's chronic budget deficits, which have crippled the state and made it an example nationwide of ineffective governance.

The Democrat wants to cut billions in spending on health care for the poor and elderly, welfare, and higher education and wants California voters to extend billions in tax increases for five years to close the deficit. He proposed an overall budget of $127 billion, with $84.6 billion in general fund spending...

...The biggest portion of the state budget, K-12 education, would be funded at about the same level as it is this year, one of the few areas to escape cuts. Higher education, however, would take a significant hit. Both the University of California and California State University systems would be cut by $500 million, and community college funding would be sliced by $400 million, with per-unit fees increasing by $10.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hot topic: Middle school feeder pattern

This from a reader:
There was a meeting about Middle School Feeder Patterns sponsored by PPS, SFUSD, and PAC on Friday morning. I wonder if anyone who attended the meeting can share their notes and takeaways? Who attended? What is the process for determining feeder patterns? What’s the timeline? What is the current thinking around establishing the patterns? How does immersion and FLES programs fit into the picture? Etc?

Forum topic: Does anyone have concrete knowledge of how the lottery will work?

This from the forums in the left hand margin--please post your responses here as comments are disabled on this post. The SF K Files is trying to encourage more engagement in the forums, which are able to run themselves....Thanks!

I have seen all kinds of different points of view on this site re: whether there is still room for "strategy" in how you list your school preferences vs. the advice given by Rachel Norton and others that families should just list their schools in order of preference. Seems to me that to cut through the speculation, one only needs to understand the mechanics of the lottery itself. For example:

1) Suppose each school runs its own lottery. They get a list of all of the people who listed their school (in any position). After setting aside sibling / CDC / CTIP slots, they have X spaces left. Then they take everyone who is in the attendance area and randomly assign them a number (the lottery aspect) -- the first X kids picked get a spot, the others don't (and are put in an ranked order on an alternate list). Then they do the same for non-attendance area kids. After every school does this, the district looks at individual kids and sees the various places they have gotten in, and gives them the one they ranked highest. They then disappear from the rolls of the other schools where they were accepted, and those spots go to the next people on the alternate list for that school. And so on. This is what I've pieced together as the likely process from reading various things, but don't have concrete confirmation... but if this is true, then it seems true to say that there truly isn't possible to "game" the system based on how I rank things, and I don't jeopardize my attendance area spot by ranking something else I prefer first.

2) In contrast, suppose there's a city-wide lottery and every student is assigned a number, and they fill schools working their way through all of the students (first at first choices, then at second choices, etc.). In that scenario, if I list my neighborhood school 7th, my odds of getting it would be jeopardized because it might be full with other neighborhood kids by the time they get to the "7th round" of the process. I don't think this approach is the one they're using, nor do I think it would work mechanically given the whole attendance area issue. But something like this would support those saying there is some "strategy" to employ in the ranking.

So, in short -- I think it's something more like the first, which supports what Rachel and others have said (and, frankly, suggests that people who are deeply strategizing on how to rank order are wasting their time b/c the district hasn't sufficiently educated people about the mechanics). But is there anyone on this blog who has some more concrete info, either from listing to the Board meetings or from SFUSD / PPSSF resources etc? I haven't been able to find something definitive online...

WSJ: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

This from the Wall Street Journal:
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I'm also using the term "Western parents" loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

Read the full story

SFGate: America ignores education funding at our own peril

This by Robert Reich on SFGate:

Over the long term, the only way we're going to raise wages, grow the economy and improve American competitiveness is by investing in our people - especially their educations.

Yet we're falling behind. In a recent survey of 34 advanced nations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, our kids came in 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. The average 15-year-old American student can't answer as many test questions correctly as the average 15-year-old student in Shanghai.

I'm not one of those who believe the only way to fix what's wrong with American education is to throw more money at it. We also need to do it much better. Teacher performance has to be squarely on the table. We should experiment with vouchers whose worth is inversely related to family income. Universities have to tame their budgets for student amenities that have nothing to do with education.

But considering the increases in our population of young people and their educational needs, and the challenges posed by the new global economy, more resources are surely needed.

President Obama calls this a "Sputnik moment," referring to the wake-up call to America by the Soviets' successful space launch in the 1950s. That resulted in the National Defense Education Act, which trained a whole generation of math and science teachers.

Sadly, we're heading in the opposite direction. The tax bill signed by the president in the closing hours of the last Congress was a huge boon to the very wealthy. Yet by further widening the federal budget deficit, it invites even more federal budget cuts in public education. Pell Grants that allow young people from poor families to attend college are already squeezed.

Less visible are cuts the states are already making in their school budgets. That's no surprise. Education is one of the biggest expenses in state budgets. But states can't run deficits, and tax revenues during the prolonged downturn haven't kept up. And Washington is in no mood to help.

State cuts in public education have been under the national radar, but viewed as a whole they seriously threaten the nation's future.

Already, 33 states have sliced education budgets for next year, on top of cuts last year. For example, Arizona has eliminated preschool for 4,328 children, and cut funding for books, computers and other classroom supplies. California has reduced K-12 aid to local school districts by billions of dollars and is cutting a variety of programs, including adult literacy instruction and help for high-needs students.

Colorado and Georgia have reduced public-school spending nearly 5 percent from 2010, Illinois and Massachusetts by 3 percent. Virginia's $700 million in cuts for the coming year includes eliminating funding for class-size reduction from kindergarten through third grade. Washington suspended a program to reduce class sizes.

Meanwhile, at least 43 states are cutting back on funding for public colleges and universities, and increasing tuitions and fees. This means many qualified young people won't be able to attend. For example, the University of California has increased tuition by 32 percent and reduced freshman enrollment by 2,300 students; the California State University system cut enrollment by 40,000 students.

Arizona's board of regents has approved in-state undergraduate tuition increases of between 9 percent and 20 percent, as well as fee increases at the state's three public universities. Florida's public universities have raised tuition 32 percent. New York's state university system has increased resident undergraduate tuition by 14 percent. Texas has cut funding for higher education by 5 percent, or $73 million. Washington has reduced state funding for the University of Washington by 26 percent.

Why have we allowed this to happen? Our young people - their capacities to think, understand, investigate and innovate - are America's future. In the name of fiscal prudence we're endangering that future.

Maybe the answer is that America's biggest corporations don't especially care. They're getting the talent they need all over the world. Many of them now have research and development operations in Europe and China, for example.

America's wealthy and upper-middle-class families don't seem particularly worried, either. They have enough money to send their kids to good private schools, and to pay high tuitions at private universities.

I'm not suggesting that the stealth attack on American education is intentional. It's happening because public budgets are tight. But when big corporations and the wealthy demand tax cuts, and don't particularly care about public education, the inevitable result is that most of America's kids are vulnerable.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

SFGate: S.F. school board bracing for outcry over bus cuts

This from SFGate:

The big yellow school bus is becoming an increasingly rare sight on California's roadways, sidelined to save money in an era of unprecedented education budget cuts.

San Francisco is among the most recent districts to cut busing, following Vallejo, Oceanside, San Diego, Fullerton, Capistrano and Cucamonga, to name a few, where officials have slashed or eliminated busing for students who are not disabled.

Here, the district has relied on the yellow buses to transport thousands of children across the city each day, accommodating a student assignment system that prioritized diversity rather than proximity to sites.

Sac Bee: Brown budget will spare schools if voters extend tax hikes

This from the Sac Bee:

Gov. Jerry Brown will spare K-12 schools from further drastic cuts in his budget – so long as voters extend higher income taxes in a special election, according to sources familiar with his proposal.

The tradeoff wouldn't cure education ills, and many districts would still face another year of fewer school days and larger class sizes. But it could avert even deeper cuts after years of school rollbacks and help Brown galvanize powerful education support for tax hikes in a June special election.

"If something like that happens, I'm going to be looking for the feet to be kissed," said Kevin Gordon, a veteran education lobbyist, of the Brown education proposal. "The big question is, what will the voters do, and if voters don't come through, will we go through incredible anxiety all over again?"

Brown does not plan to suspend Proposition 98, the state's minimum guarantee for K-12 and community college funding, though he may seek to do so if the tax hike extensions don't pass.

Celebrity Chef and Slow Food SF Celebrate with Sanchez Elementary

Chef Adam Timney (from the Castro District restaurant Starbelly) will be making raviolis filled with organic veggies harvested from Sanchez Elementary’s schoolyard garden, and students will share how they’ve developed the garden over the years. Members of Slow Food San Francisco and the Sanchez community will join students for dinner. The school has been partnering with Slow Food SF to grow an instructional school garden program since 2007. The dinner is a fundraiser for Sanchez’ new pollinator garden, which will include flowering herbs.

When: Tuesday, January 11 / 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Where: Sanchez ES / 325 Sanchez St.

(Source: SFUSD website)


Enjoy Patxi's Pizza on Jan.12 and Support Our Schools!

Local public school parents have forged a new non-profit enterprise called edMatch ( Corporations and private philanthropists are asked to "match" funds raised in San Francisco's public schools, then edMatch will distribute the matching funds to all the city's schools on a per-student basis.

As the organization’s first city-wide fundraiser, Patxi’s Chicago Pizza will be donating a percentage of their proceeds from all pizzas purchased on January 12, 2011.

When: Wednesday, January 12

Where: All Patxi’s Chicago Pizza locations


New Mobile Enrollment Center

SFUSD is hitting the road this month with its brand new Mobile Enrollment Center to bring enrollment counselors and paperwork to neighborhoods with large numbers of children and families. This week, enrollment counselors traveled to the Instituto Familiar de la Raza in the Mission District and City College’s Mission Campus, and will continue to appear around the city for the next three weeks. The district hopes to reach more low income families who may not have an easy way to visit the central office to file their application. SFUSD now has a new placement system and a child’s home address plays a larger role in where a child is assigned. Applications are due February 18 for the 2011-12 school year.

SFUSD Mobile Enrollment Centers (10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.):

* Tuesday, Jan. 11 / Shih Yu-Lang YMCA / 220 Golden Gate Ave.

* Friday, Jan. 14 / Ella Hill Hutch Community Center / 1050 McAllister

* Tuesday, Jan. 25 / City College S.E. Campus / 1800 Oakdale Ave.

* Thursday, Jan. 27 / Visitacion Valley Boys & Girls Club / 1099 Sunnydale Ave.

* Tuesday, Feb. 1 / Treasure Island Boys & Girls Club / 401-13th Ave (Treasure Island)

* Thursday, Feb 17 / City College S.E. Campus / 1800 Oakdale Ave.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Designing K-8 Pathways: A New Way to Approach Middle School

The following information was posted on the SFUSD website ( )

The San Francisco Unified School District is refining a plan to develop K-8 school pathways, which will be implemented in time for the 2012-2013 school year. The K-8 pathways will have assignment patterns where certain elementary schools will feed into specific middle schools. More importantly, these pathways will create continuity for academic programs, support positive school climates, and build a bridge from elementary to middle school.

Timeline for Change

The Board of Education aims to adopt a new system for middle school assignment by late May 2011. New systems will be developed and put in place for the 2012-2013 school year, affecting students who are currently in the fourth grade.

Community Engagement to Shape the New Plan

During February and March 2011, SFUSD staff and partner organizations will hold community forums across the city about the K-8 school pathways. Forums will be conducted at all middle schools to give families, students, and community members a chance to hear more about the new K-8 pathways.

The goals for community engagement are to:

  • Inform the community about plans for creating K-8 Pathways
  • Help shape the new systems through community discussions
  • Increase middle school quality for all students
  • Strengthen implementation of the new student assignment system

How to Participate

  • Attend a community forum! A schedule for the forums will be posted on the district’s website under the Parents tab.
  • Complete our online survey! If you can’t attend a forum, let us know what you think by completing our survey, which will be available soon.

To Learn More

  • Follow the Board of Education’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Student Assignment. The committee meets monthly - the schedule will be posted on the district’s website.
  • You can also visit the websites for the Parent Advisory Council at and Parents for Public Schools-SF at to learn more about the process.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Entering the Final Stretch!

Only 6 weeks remaining before the Feb.18 enrollment deadline. I hope that families are successfully narrowing down their list of preferred schools. I will complete my middle school tours by the end of January. At that time, I will publish my impressions and my “list” (in order of preference) for the SFUSD lottery.

Is anyone ready to share their list of schools for K, 6th, or 9th yet? Is anyone discovering that their significant other is ranking schools differently?