Today after school drop off, I joined my friends at Ritual Coffee in the Mission. No matter what we talk about when we arrive, once we sit down, we always end up discussing the middle school K-8 feeder proposal.
Everyone with a fourth grader is in the same boat. Curious, confused, angry, helpless, and hopeless are a few of the words that we use to describe our feelings.
Then we started compiling our thoughts on a paper napkin.
There are 58 elementary schools feeding into 14 middle schools. Currently, SFUSD is projecting that 35% of all middle school seats will needed for language pathways by 2016. That leaves 65% for general Ed students. Why does a language accommodation for the minority of students (35%) need to impact the general education choices of the majority of students (65%)?
So we asked ourselves, “Can we build K-8 language pathways while leaving a choice system in place for general Ed students?” This would be a hybrid of the proposal that has been floated by SFUSD. It would involve creating magnet schools for languages at centrally located middle schools that already have language pathways or have excess capacity (ie, under enrolled), the so-called "pull" model of enrollment (as opposed to the "push" model of K-8 pathways that is currently on the table).
Myth 1. All K students who are currently enrolled in language programs will stick with their language programs through 8th grade and will occupy 35% of middle school seats by 2016. We suspect that this is probably an inflated number based on an assumption of 100% participation (ie, 0% attrition) for 9 straight years. Of course, we (moms) have no statistics on attrition from immersion programs in K-5, but we all had immersion students transfer into our elementary schools (students who were not a "fit" at their immersion school), and there are other students that we don't see, who leave for a number of "other" reasons, such moving out of District, going private, etc. Also, we do not have statistics on possible attrition of language students between ES and MS, but we should expect that some students will leave the language pathways after 5th grade to pursue things that they are more passionate about in middle school or for some of the "other" reasons.
Myth 2. General Ed students need the same K-8 pathways as their immersion counterparts. General Ed and immersion instruction are separate strands in the K-5 schools that have dual pathways. The students do not intermingle in classrooms, and parents rarely socialize together, except on large projects, such as the annual auction. Why does one assume that these students have identical aspirations, interests, and goals that can only be met at the same MS? When we reviewed the schools that fifth-grade families at our respective ES chose in the past three years, we did not find any consistent patterns. Families certainly didn't feel compelled to "follow the herd." In fact, we couldn't find a herd! Families chose schools for personal reasons, according to their personal priority list. For some, proximity was essential; for others, a flourishing theater program was essential, and so on. Families, for the most part, got their first choice (80% according to SFUSD statistics), and most families got one of their choices (90%). The system is working! The currently proposed K-8 feeder patterns protect the families who have language pathways as their top priority for middle school choice, but the feeder pattern does not provide such protections to those families who want geographic proximity or theater arts or a particular orchestra leader, etc., as their top choice.
During our conversation this morning, we developed a hybrid proposal: Full-choice lottery SAS for general ed students and K-8 feeder patterns for language students.
It would work something like this.
Continue the full-choice middle school SAS lottery as implemented in 2011 for all general Ed students (“Don’t try to fix somethin’ that ain’t broke”). In addition, do not establish K-8 language pathways in middle schools that are currently fully enrolled with General Ed students. Preserve the general Ed faculty (stability for staff) and the programs at these schools (the “pull” model). SFUSD will not need additional 7th period at these schools, which will help to contain expenses.
Implement language pathways at middle schools that are central to the student populations and that already have language pathways (to preserve/expand the language faculty, providing career opportunities for staff) or have excess capacity. The District can assign language students to these schools by one of two ways: using mandatory K-8 feeder patterns (the “push” model) or a separate lottery solely for language students based on full-choice SAS (the “pull” model). General Ed students DO NOT MIGRATE with the language students in these K-8 language pathways; they use the full-choice general Ed SAS lottery (as above), which avoids concentrating underserved, underperforming General Ed students at any one school. SFUSD can consider establishing a 7th period at this limited list of schools.
Magnet schools for General Education: Aptos, Denman (93%), Giannini, ISA, Marina, Presidio, Roosevelt (60%), Vis Valley MS
Magnet schools for Spanish Language Pathways (based loosely on 2/1/11 draft):
Everett – Chavez, Lau, Marshall, Muir, Sanchez, Spring Valley
King – Bryant, Cleveland, Guadalupe, Hillcrest, Taylor , Vis Valley ES, Webster,
Lick – Alvarado, Fairmont, Flynn, Glenn Park, Harte, MEC, Monroe, Moscone, Serra
Magnet schools for Cantonese/Mandarin Language Pathways (based loosely on 2/1/11 draft):
Francisco – CEC, Chin, CIS/DeAvila, McCoppin, Garfied, Parker, Sutro
Hoover (Only Cantonese/Mandarin; eliminate Spanish) – CEC II, Hillcrest, King, Moscone, Ortega, Taylor, Ulloa, Vis Valley ES, West Portal
Magnet schools for Other Language Pathways (based loosely on 2/1/11 draft):
Denman – 7% Filipino (Longfellow) and 93% General Ed
Roosevelt - 40% Russian & Japanese (Argonne, Clarendon, Parks) and 60% General Ed
Well, I hope that I copied our notes and jotted down the school names correctly. By the third cuppa’ Joe, our handwriting left much to be desired.