Thursday, March 10, 2011

Can we build K-8 language pathways while maintaining a choice system for general Ed students?

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 busters!

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.

- Donna


  1. That sounds like a great suggestion and one that helps create a "something for everyone" solution rather than a zero/sum proposal (as currently stands). It also prevents the polarization that seems to be occurring along the GE/immersion lines. Have you sent this idea into the district yet?

  2. ps - although it would be nice to see a ge magnet option that is smaller and centrally located such as Roosevelt

  3. I am so curious to see what happens and if the SFUSD listens to parents when they ban together because based on what I went through this year, they certainly do not care about the individual families.

  4. If we got the math right, then about 60% of the seats at Roosevelt would remain GE.

  5. This is a great suggestion. This is one of the most constructive responses to the feeder program. I just hope the district will really listen to those of us GE parents - this current system is just so frustrating.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I attended half the Roosevelt community meeting on Wednesday. Orla O'Keefe explained to me that the Board's adopted MS feeder system is still a go and the community meetings are only about feedback to tweak some of the details as it pertains to various pathways issues, immersion, sped, ELD. She seemed to be very clear and matter of fact about it. I don't believe I misunderstood.

    Therefore, for all practical purposes, it appears to be a done deal, at least as to the what and where, feeder pattern and maps.

    I think it is unfortunate that there hasn't been better communication between SFUSD and the community. I don't know where the idea started that the MS assignment system was back on the drawing board. That clearly is not the case, at least at present. Even Ellie Rossiter of PPSF was confused to learn that was not the case.

    It's weird. But never say never.

  8. Donna, this is a great proposal. I know numerous upper-middle class parents who simply aren't happy with their assigned middle school and thus are likely to bail out of the public system at the end of elementary school. If that happens, all middle schools will suffer. Choice means choice, for everyone, including and especially those from CTIP-1 areas. Currently we're assigned to Giannini (from Jefferson), which is a high-performing school that is historically popular. But we don't want to go there; we'd rather go to a "lower" performing school by numbers but one that is more diverse and less traditionally academic.

    The district may not be open to this now, but ultimately they'll agree if the pressure is kept up. And given how most parents currently feel (at least the ones I know), the pressure will only rise.

  9. bopper pye-- Excuse me, but Hoover is not the only high performing school that would become a magnet under Donna's proposal. Francisco and Lick are both well regarded schools. Donna, I think your idea is a great one. I know special Ed families will be happy to retain some choice.

  10. This has great potential as a win-win proposal. I hope the district will give it some serious consideration and flesh out its feasibility.

  11. I think this proposal has real promise.

  12. Thank you, thank you THANK YOU for a terrific, well thought out and constructive idea! This is the best idea I've heard on this to date.

    Well done!

  13. There is a significant amount of research that shows capping the percentage of low income students in a school at 40% results in significant gains in test scores for the at risk population without compromising the remaining population. According to the most recent available numbers on the SFUSD web site, San Francisco K-8 public schools have about 60% of students with free or reduced lunch (45% free, 15% reduced). But in San Francisco low income does not invariably track with low test scores. The correlation breaks down in the majority of schools with a large Asian population (the CECs being the exceptions, but their populations are small). Therefore the majority of the at risk population consists of low income Hispanic and African American populations, which together make up about %35 of the SFUSD population. So for a feeder plan to truly be equitable it should mix up the lowest and highest performing schools to achieve that 35% cap on at risk students.

    The plan that is on the table simply doesn't do that. First, of the 15 poorest performing schools in the district (based on API scores from 2010) 4 are assigned to Visitacion Valley. And 3 are assigned to Lick. There is absolutely no way that a feeder plan designed with equity in mind would fall out in this way. It is a complete mystery how the district could claim to be looking out for all children when they put forward a plan with such a glaring and appalling inequities.

    Second, all the high performing schools are clustered together, when they should be divided up and mixed in with the low performing schools. Then the schools with middling scores (800s) could be divided up in a way that make geographical sense. This would result in some commutes across town, but the current map already subjects many families to long commutes to inconvenient schools.

    If the district wants to use the K-8 feeders as an opportunity for social engineering, which appears to be the case, it would be much more productive to be honest with its stake holders and just say so. Then initiate a meaningful and intelligent conversation with the stake holders so that we can work together to establish a set of goals that both sides can agree upon. Having parents and kids who are invested in the process is much more likely to lead to success.

  14. I appreciate the effort and thought. It sounds good on the surface. But this idea doesn't address some of the main problems that the feeder system is meant to solve. The original intent was to create more equitable middle schools throughout the city by getting more people into the under-enrolled schools so more equitable programs can be built throughout the city and also make schools more diverse.

    It seems like it would make schools much less diverse.

    Also, with the choice system, everyone flocks to the same schools leaving higher concentrations of underserved populations at underperforming schools. So that the schools that are historically underperforming and less desirable will remain so.

    In the past people were generally able to get into a school they like. But since enrollment has gone up that will not be the case much longer. Soon many people will not be able to get into one of the desirable schools and and will be unhappy with the school they get. I actually liked the choice system, but after thinking about the likelihood that it would be harder and harder to get into a good middle school, I started thinking that i do like the idea behind the feeder system.

    In the feeder system, many people are currently unhappy with their placement. But at least in this version of the map they made the mix of feeder schools at each location more balanced and equitable across the board. And you are at the middle school with a community of people that you have been with since kindergarten. There is less of people having to go it alone at a school they are not happy with. There would be more of a community feeling to pull together and get things done if needed.

    I think the language pathways are definitely important in that the pathways need to be viable and an an effort has to be made to make the pathways strong or else we waste a lot of resources. But lots of people seem to think that this feeder system is all about language pathways. So there is a lot of blame and hostility directed toward the immersion programs now from people who are unhappy with their assigned school and comments at the community feedback meetings have gotten pretty ugly. I think this hostility is misdirected at immersion and I wish people would examine the situation more carefully before placing blame or trying to block a certain group of people from their school. The language pathways are just one aspect of this new system but it is really about trying to create more equitable schools across the board.

  15. Hi, I just logged on to respond to the thoughtful comment from "bopper pye," but post is no longer visible (I hope that you can repost). I'd like to clarify that our concept for magnet language schools is not a dumping ground for ELL or underserved student populations. These schools would be highly academic institutions for language pathways (immersion, bilingual, FLES). Recently arrived immigrant students would continue to be served by 1-year newcomer programs at Everett (Spanish) and Francisco (Cantonese, mixed languages). Afterwards, ELL students could select general Ed pathways (similar to Early Exit Bi-lingual) and continue to be served with ELD accommodations. Magnet language schools would be designed to replicate single-site K-8 immersion schools like Alice Fong Yu. These magnet schools would concentrate resources and expertise to provide optimal and consistent language education opportunities in the district.

    A few posts have mentioned concerns about racial or socioeconomic diversity in magnet language schools. We must assume that these schools would mirror the diversity of the feeder K-5 schools. If diversity is a significant driving force, then the District would need to fix it at the K-5 (feeder) level, not through artificial engineering at the 6-8 grade level by removing parental choice. Neighborhood schools at the K-5 level may be creating mutually opposing goals.

  16. I think this sounds like a much better starting plan than the District's current attempt. I'm assuming that you all have forwarded on to all the powers that be - BOE as well as feedback link for quality middle schools. If not - please do!! Have to say what is MOST disturbing to me about these feedback meetings is when the SFUSD rep keeps talking about the fact that they are still working on determining 'what makes a quality middle school', a gap analysis and then a plan. Huh? Can't believe this hasn't been done before - and then without an actual defined plan they want to rejigger the Feeder system. There is no talk about about how they will measure middle school quality success because there is no plan to measure against (at least at meetings I went to). Nuts.

  17. Simiar to what others have said, this proposal doesn't address what the district's upcoming problem: there won't be enough seats at the currently more desirable schools for everyone very soon.

    With this proposal, you set aside the 15% -20%of the immersion population, but 80-85% still won't be happy because they won't all be able to get into where they want based on the choice system.

    I also want to echo the sentiment that the district should frame the issue more specifically instead of lumping everything under "Quality Middle School". The real goal is "How to create more equitable middle schools across the district with the upcoming bubble"? If they had been more forthcoming, some parents would still be upset but at least the majority of them would understand where the district is coming from.

  18. With the perspective of long experience, I have to point out that this isn't the stubborn problem it seems to younger parents:

    "...there won't be enough seats at the currently more desirable schools for everyone very soon."

    When my oldest started at Aptos Middle School in 2002, it was known as a "dirty," "dangerous" "ghetto" school; a couple of years before that, its rep was even worse and we probably wouldn't have tried it either.

    James Lick was still viewed as totally unacceptable to aware families at that time -- a gang school.

    Things changed.

    I'm on the other side of town so I'm not as wired in, but my impression was that Roosevelt's rep was on the same trajectory as Aptos'.

    A school that cohorts pass through in three years can change really fast, or its reputation can.

  19. I totally agree. A lot of schools have changed. When I toured middle school this past year, I found several unpopular schools to be acceptable to me so I put them on our list for my son.
    However, the truth is that some schools have longer ways to get there than others. So I can see under the plan this year the district is trying to speed up that process by moving co-horts together. This plan, however, would slow down that process. I am not defending either option. Just pointing it out.
    Also, I think this plan would add to transportation cost which the district just can't afford. The district's transportation proposal is to reduce transportation to send students from CTIP1 area to their schools only. This plan would greatly increase that cost.

  20. I commend you for your proactive efforts. I had a little chuckle and sense of pride in thinking that people sitting in a cafe could consider doing a better job of thinking through an assignment system than the Board of Education with all their resources.

    It's a complicated problem made difficult because of the academic needs of various student populations. The Board has different priorities than you do. They have to cut down costs first and foremost. You want K-8 pathways and consideration of costs was only a briefly mentioned. Funding is the key issue.

    It cannot go unnoticed that under your plan immersion students will have assured placement while GenEd students have to suffer the lottery. No insult intended, but it is a little disingenuous on your part to say that is fine for Gen Ed families to be subject to the vagaries of the lottery when language families have a secured future.

    Also, the notion that choice is successful is debatable. Even if we agree for the sake of agrument it was successful, the massive changes you proposed to make to the middle school map will undoubtedly change the entire landscape for choice and any former statistics pertaining to choice success would no longer be relevant.

    I will reiterate what I said in my earlier post. There does not seem to be ANY consideration at present to get rid of the feeder system. For you to have any chance at all, you will first have to get the Board to open up to the possibility wholesale change. Right now your efforts seem like a long shot at best considering that the community meetings are about tweaking the adopted feeder plan, not dropping it.

    You should rally your troops to make your voices heard at community meetings. This blog is nice to share and exchange ideas, but it is not going to have any impact on policy unless you can follow through with some sort of political pressure. I'm not opposed to the feeders, but I think that SFUSD should listen to all the voices in the community when making important decisions.

  21. Don, the issue is that most general ed parents WANT choice, not mandatory assignment. For whatever reason, the voices of the families who want guaranteed/mandatory assignment (because they live near prized schools and are not thinking about others) have dominated in the discussion about assignment to K-5, but that's not the case in the middle school discussion.

  22. Public education policy decisions are not based and should not be based on opinion polls of only the families currently affected. I'm sure that the unemployed would vote to continue to receive checks in perpetuity. The way public institutions make decisions have to be based upon a number of factors including costs, court orders, legal mandates, public opinion, that is to say, the entire community. What can you cite to back up your contention that most parents support school choice? And I might add that I would support school choice too if a larger spectrum of schooling styles was available.

    I do not see any evidence of feeder proponents dominating the discussion. According to the topic post and responses to it, immersion families want guaranteed assignment, too. That is the nature of pathways, but it is worth noting that the very choice you promote is actually decreased when you take several schools dedicated to immersion out of the mix, as proposed here.

    I'll remind you that groups from all over the city signed the petition for neighborhood schools, not just those that live near prized schools.

  23. Acck.
The new feeder plan is supposed to benefit ALL kids and make middle schools more balanced. Less isolation along racial and language lines. The elementary assignment system is moving towards more of an attendance area system with priority given to kids who live in low performing areas. Makes sense to me, although I doubt many of the students who really could benefit from being in a low performing census tract will take advantage. The middle school draft proposal then takes these elementary schools and tries to place high and low achieving schools together, somewhat successfully. Under your proposal, in general, GE kids will have access to presently higher performing schools than kids in language pathways, who are not, by the way, mainly rich/entitled immersion kids, but ELL kids. (And the rich entitled immersion parents that I know were for the large part "pulled" to immersion because they did not have any good GE programs in their neighborhood or were scrambling for a school after bombing out in the lottery.) So, if you speak a second language, are in immersion, and/or are a parent who has not historically taken advantage of the choice aspect of our district (read:poor, uneducated parents), then you will probably not end up at a presently high-performing middle school (with the exception of Hoover under your proposal). Sound fair? Sound like a good way to reach the district goals of quality middle schools for all? I don't see it at all.

  24. There has to be something in the Quality Middle School for All initiative besides student assignment. Student assignment is only a very small part of the equation.

    But we haven't heard what the other components are yet.

    It might be wise for the district to adopt a hybrid model to deal with the language pathways issues while they figure out what in the world a Quality Middle School really is. First they need to meet with middle school faculty and principals who deal with the nuts and bolts of middle school education every day and come to some sort of philosophical agreement on what a quality middle school is (honors programs, arts, music, language, organizational skills, etc.) My impression is that most middle schools are doing certain things really well, and could improve on others. Why not have those in the trenches visit each others schools and come up with an agreed upon list of "best practices?"

    Then vet what the model middle school with the public so everyone understands before implementation. Only then does it make sense to start talking about a feeder plan for the rest of students.

  25. The funny thing is immersion parents have been dreaming about an immersion magnet MS for years, but the district has turned a deaf ear to that desire. Thus far immersion programs have been placed at struggling MSs because immersion families will follow their program and, it appears, help turn those schools around. This is also true of higher SES families in GE programs, and it's clear to me that the district wants to make the most of the resource of engaged, involved parents by distributing them around. Research does show that the benefits of higher SES status and the whole knapsack of privileges accruing from that do trickle down when the schools are more integrated. I, too, wish the district would be more forthcoming about its intentions as it's hard to argue that making public schools (whether, ES, MS, or HS) more equitable is a bad thing. Still, when it looks like your kid is getting the short end of the deal for whatever reason, you're bound to get your back up. We need to demand from the district a commitment to equitable offerings (language, honors, instrumental music) at all middle schools for all kids. I realize that funding it will be another battle, but it's hard for middle class parents to back a plan with their own resources (of both time and money) as we have been doing in public schools if the district won't make its goals clear.

  26. Yes, the "trust us, the plan has the word 'quality' in it," just isn't quite enough. I think in the end that's my biggest frustration. I could really go either way on feeders. But I just don't see what part they play in improving middle school. Until the district can articulate this to parents, there will be opposition.

  27. Improving middle schools with feeders, particularly for SE MS's, is entirely speculation, hoping that the magic of what went well at several SE ES's repeats in MS. That is the shot in the dark that the district is taking with virtual K-8.

    The other reasons are money and safety. Less transportation expenses. Avoiding very long, possibly unsafe, Muni rides for 6th graders. The citywide choice system for ES and MS was not sustainable. Many 0/7 parents were getting assignments clear across town. That had to end. No more citywide choice.

    But why feeder patterns instead of geographic assignment areas for MS? Feeders do less harm to immersion than simple geography.

    But all MS's are different in terms of electives. Why have the tail of immersion way the dog of GE with feeders instead of simple geographic areas? The simple geographic areas were not going to equalize the middle schools either. Both feeders and geographic areas were going to take away parental choice. At least feeders did less harm as far as immersion goes. (I still say feeders do too much harm to immersion and there should be large immersion magnet programs for struggling SE middle schools.)

  28. (Part 1)

    I wish that SFUSD could articulate their vision and plans at the community forums.

    I wish that the Board would prohibit the District from implementing K-8 feeder patterns until every middle school in the district can be truthfully judged to be a quality middle school.

    I attended forums at Denman and Aptos. Both times, SFUSD showed a slide entitled "Quality Middle School Inventory - Key Categories," which has 7 components: academic performance, staff composition, program quality and range of programs, student support services, family engagement and supports, safety and school climate, and physical environment. These words, in and of themselves, are meaningless without definitions and metrics.

    The next slide in their deck has the following two bullet points:

    ** The district postponed moving forward with the elementary to middle feeder patterns in order to take more time to assess the current state and future vision for middle schools; and to gather more parent and community input about quality middle schools and proposed feeders.

    ** Your feedback will be taken into consideration as staff plans for middle school improvements and before the Board votes on feeder patterns.

    The breakout sessions at each forum started by asking the attendees, "What makes a quality middle school?" (loose paraphrase, sorry). Then the parents shouted out suggestions: "honors/GATE instruction," "safety," "green campus," "good teachers," "fully inclusive for Special Ed," "fine arts," "language instruction for everyone," "a vibrant dramatics art program," and so on.

    To be continued...

  29. (Part 2)

    This approach would be good if the District was going to use this information to formulate a plan to improve all the schools to the same high standard; however, I keep hearing people say that it is a done deal. If that is the case, shouldn't it start with the District presenting their vision of a quality middle school, their school-by-school plans for middle school improvements, and their method for completing this initiative by 2012. What are the deliverables? What is the timeframe? What are the metrics to judge success? Right now, it feels like they are trying to change the tires on the bus while it is rolling down the street.

    I am particularly interested in the District's plans for Denman (my feeder school). Can they realistically have "honors/GATE classes," "green campus," "fine arts," and "a vibrant dramatics art program" (all of which are currently lacking) in place by August 2012? Importantly, do the faculty and staff want these things? Is this how Denman faculty would describe a quality middle school? I don't think so. They have a model that serves them well. In a full-choice SAS, we can respectfully agree to disagree with their school philosophies and send our children elsewhere. It is not an indictment against a school if we do not want to send our children there, just a difference in opinion.

    I think that there is a significant disconnect between individual school philosophies and parents' desires, which can only be addressed by a full-choice SAS (voting with your feet). We do not need cookie cutter middle schools because our children have different needs that can only be address within a school district that has different models and different menus. We need to foster individuality in our children and in our instructional models. Forced K-8 feeder patterns will create unnecessary tensions between parents and staff as their visions collide. As we water down the expectations and definitions, as we force the square peg into the round hole, I fear that we will end up some place in the middle--mediocrity for all!

    It is hard to image that this is the best way to achieve the key category of "family engagement and supports"!

  30. I am curious if parents who do not like their middle school assignment under the feeder system and want choice in middle school also favor going back to the diversity lottery for elementary school as well rather than the current neighborhood attendance area system.

    There are lots of inequities amongst elementary schools also, but the people who are loudest now about wanting choice in middle school don't seem bothered about the choice that is now lost at the elementary school level under the new assignment system.

  31. I read some of these posts and people throw around terms like diversity and equity as if nothing has changed from 1965. Some students at schools are getting 2 to 3 times the funding of others. What equity disparity are you referring to? Some schools don't have honors because, as Rachel pointed out, there aren't enough higher achievers at the school to make it financially possible. They don't have music or art because remedial requirements that go along with the extra funding takes up the school time.

    The far left uses these terms to express their outrage over lack of diversity at schools. If those liberal-minded higher income people who live in the SE would talk the talk and walk the walk, they would go to the schools in their neighborhoods and stop complaining about the loss of choice. What they want it to be able to go to schools across town and to have the kids across town go to theirs. They want diversity as long as they don't have to provide it.

  32. I picked a neighborhood elementary school for my children in the old lottery (API 681, only 23 people listed it as first choice that year). The District appears to support the concept of neighborhood schools in the new kindergarten lottery. Why in the world would SFUSD assign my neighborhood elementary school to a middle school all the way across town? These are mutually exclusive philosophies. I am not happy that SFUSD finds it acceptable to force me to drive across town past two, yes two, perfectly acceptable middle schools. I am not happy that I must cross the City on surface roads at rush hour in the exact opposite direction of my morning commute for some poorly defined objectives. The District is replacing yellow school buses with parent chauffeurs!

  33. Joyce,

    I wonder why you feel the faculty and staff at Denman don't want "honors/GATE classes," "green campus," "fine arts," and "a vibrant dramatics art program"? I know that's your opinion, but I don't know its accurate.

    I demand that our district have equitable middle schools. If this equates to mediocrity for all then so be it. Yes, there could be middle schools known for specific programs, its not necessary to have award winning orchestras at each.. but we should be allowed to choose. If a school is falling behind in the Quality Middle School categories, then they MUST improve them.

    As for the immersion, I don't think its fair since immersion seats for non-native speakers are not widely available that they should get some preference for MS. I believe the programs should be consolidated and maybe have GE strains that also have that language offered. Yes, we are now getting to a choice point: Do you want your child to have exposure to language and culture different than our own or do you want advanced academics and enrichment.

    You can't have it all, that is NOT POSSIBLE for everyone. And that is what public education is about. Educating everyone.

  34. WG,

    You said "There are lots of inequities amongst elementary schools."

    Can you give any substantive examples?

  35. I mean the test scores, the amounts of money the PTAs raise, some have stronger programs for arts, gardening, technology, language, the physical campus, after school programs. There's all sorts of stuff. Isn't that why some elementary schools are so much more popular than others?

  36. I *love* how people with no personal experience with "language pathways" (i.e. immersion programs) seem to be experts on what it is, how it works, what it needs, how it is (or more accurately, ISN'T funded) and what schools are like for those attending them.

    "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."

    False. At Starr King, as with many other schools with multiple programs, we make a point of finding ways to intermingle students and parents among all strands. My son, in Mandarin Immersion, frequently hangs out at lunch with several boys in the Spanish Bilingual program. Kids do music and other outside-the-class activities together, including after-school programs and off site soccer. We've even experimented with mixing kids up in different classrooms for ELA instruction. We have kids from different programs who do sleepovers with each other... some even from the - gasp - projects!!! It does take awareness and attentiveness to ensure we don't get stuck in our own silos, but the notion that different programs inherently means 'a school within a school' is simply false.

    "Why does one assume that these students have identical aspirations, interests, and goals that can only be met at the same MS?"

    On a family-by-family basis, no one can assume we have the same interests and aspirations. That's true between programs and within the one program. But generally, yes, we do all want the same things. We all want a well-rounded education for our children. We all want a safe, clean schools. We all want differentiated teaching and classes that meets the needs of students at whatever level they're at. We want dedicated staff who put children first. The district simply cannot be everything to everyone, nor cater to thousands of different families individual wants and desires. But, at a minimum, it must find ways to ensure quality education at all schools, and meet a certain baseline with that. Right now, due to the current 'choice' system, inequities are entrenched at certain locations. I'm not going to go into all of the reasons here and now... but the feeder plan has the potential to help address some - not all - but some of the issues that keep things stuck.

    The feeder system offers many other benefits. For parents, knowing where they're going allows them to improve their MS in advance of their arrival, and to coordinate with families at other feeder schools in making that happen. For students, by giving them a sense of continuity and community that comes with the bonds they build with their friends in elementary school. For MS educators, they know where their students are coming from, and can work with their feeder schools on preparing for each incoming group. These are just a few benefits... it is easy to come up with more if one is open to seeing them.

    Has anyone considered that by spreading language programs around, those immersion language teachers could also teach the target language as an elective for GE students at those lucky middle schools? And wouldn't that give more options to GE parents besides Band or Theater - especially if there were a 7th period???

    By the way, how does consolidating immersion programs to a minimum number of schools fit in with the long term goals of expanding language pathways into all four corners of the city? Seems a little short sighted... perhaps?

    Let's be honest here, this proposal does NOTHING to address the District's stated goals. It is a self-serving proposal, period. Let's see a counter proposal that has something more behind it than "I want my choice", or "I want my neighborhood", or I want my [fill-in-the-blank].

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  38. It seems like the SFUSD feeder proposal threatens to pit immersion families against general-ed families.

  39. Money is always a problem. Consolidate immersion programs at the MS level, particularly in the SE, which would benefit from magnet programs. Even shift immersion resouces from non-SE areas into the SE as part of this consolidation. As funds become available, expand to more MS's.

    We live within our budgets. We might have a taste for champagne, but our budget says beer.

  40. Donna's proposal matches quite well the new elementary school assignment system, which is a CHOICE system with tiebreakers that favor neighborhood residents. The middle school system would have to be similar: we're not going back to the uncertainty of the random assignment model, especially with middle schools on their way to reaching 100% capacity in 10 years.

    A tiebreaker that favors neighborhood residents is nearly equivalent to one that favors local elementary schools. In the setting of 100% capacity, this means that Donna's proposal would lead to a de facto K-8 feeder pathway that is strongly local. The exception would be CTIP-1 students (or their elementary schools), which would help create the diversity and equality the district is seeking - we all know that won't be the result, but it won't be under ANY system, including the current district proposal in which the predicted quality of middle schools (e.g. Giannini and Presidio vs. SE middle schools) will vary drastically.

    So Donna's proposal, in the end, in practical reality, changes the current district proposal in a way that puts non-CTIP1 kids at middle schools closer to home. And that's a worthy goal, in my opinion. It also separates immersion from GE, which is also desirable. I say that because the district so strongly prioritizes immersion that one gets the feeling a school that does both immersion and GE will ultimately focus on the former at the expense of the latter. A pure GE school could mold a curriculum that provides a well-rounded education, including foreign language, to all kids.

    The only thing I would alter in this proposal is to move a bit closer to the district model by making the elementary school (rather than residence) the tiebreaker - but based purely on proximity (after immersion programs are separated), rather than the current district proposal which puts people in middle schools miles away from home. This will create a greater sense of security among families about their future MS, a worthy goal of the district.

  41. "Donna's proposal matches quite well the new elementary school assignment system, which is a CHOICE system with tiebreakers that favor neighborhood residents."

    Reading the comment above from the previous post, it strikes me how we cannot agree on whether the new elementary assignment system is choice or neighborhood. It seems clear to me that it is a mixture of both, but many choice proponents repeatedly claim that the new SAS strongly favors neighborhood residents. SFUSD touts the plan as a neighborhood-friendly SAS. But nima and others see it as a choice plan because... well... you choose and the lottery decides.

    I suspect that the practical reality of it can be determined only on a school by school basis. The less desirable the school, the more it favors neighborhood and vice-versa. Well, that was the de facto reality of the previous SAS, meaning - the new elementary school SAS isn't much of a change for many residents of this city.

  42. Nima, I totally disagree with your statements:

    "It also separates immersion from GE, which is also desirable. I say that because the district so strongly prioritizes immersion that one gets the feeling a school that does both immersion and GE will ultimately focus on the former at the expense of the latter. A pure GE school could mold a curriculum that provides a well-rounded education, including foreign language, to all kids."

    I assume you are mainly thinking of the mandarin immersion program being assigned to Aptos. I'm sorry if I am wrong about that.

    I'd like to remind you that in the proposed feeder map there are 5 GE programs assigned to Aptos and only 1 language immersion program. Starr King and Jose Ortega both have GE programs. The mandarin program won't reach full capacity for several years, but when it does it will only make up only about 16% of the total school population leaving a leaving a very large GE program that can focus on getting a "well-rounded education." So by allowing a language immersion program access to 16% of spots at Aptos, you come to the conclusion that the district "so strongly prioritizes immersion that one gets the feeling a school that does both immersion and GE will ultimately focus on the former at the expense of the latter?" Does that make sense?

    Also, remember that immersion programs in middle school consist of 2 classes out of the day. Why is there so much fear associated with a small portion of students taking a different class for 2 periods a day? I assume all the GE students take different electives for 1 period of the day. You yourself suggest that GE programs should have access to foreign language as an elective which is something I agree with. How is that so different from immersion students taking just 2 classes in a foreign language?

  43. No way, we need pathways so you know if you get into an elementary school, that means a middle school. We need to keep middle and upper class kids in our school district. The more we do so, the higher our average test score and the more strong families will move and stay in SF and it will self-fulfill. SF has been improving since the early '90s. Before that you had a process where it was getting worse, people thought you had to go private or go to suburbs. Now it's getting better, but we have to offer the parents who have choices a better choice in SF than Palo Alto, hence giving preference to all-City elementaries like Rooftop to parents who don't get into their neighborhood school due to capacity, to guarantee they at least don't get put into a bad school which almost always causes them to move or go private, which hurts all kids, rich and poor. We need guarantees, ironclad guarantees, not maybes.

  44. potbellypornstar said...
    Joyce, I wonder why you feel the faculty and staff at Denman don't want "honors/GATE classes..."? I know that's your opinion, but I don't know its accurate.

    It's only one teacher, but in my breakout session there, a Denman teacher told me that the staff philosophically opposes honors classes and didn't want to do what Aptos has done. This came up as part of his lament that so many high performing students were not choosing to go to Denman.

    Whether real or perceived, I think many parents are choosing the 4 schools that are highest demand (to date) because there is a defined honors program.

    Seems that if SFUSD policy for something like this is a school by school decision, it just exacerbates the difference (good or bad) between schools and brings us farther away from the concept that we can really develop a unified quality middle school plan (whatever the heck that seems to be according to SFUSD because I see nothing emanating from upon high on the subject.)

  45. WG first, then Lorraine,


    If what you want is equity than SFUSD will have to forgo the $150 million that it gets in compensatory education because you cannot have these programs like QEIA, TIIBG and Title I, just to name a few, without having different rules that mandate types of classes and sizes. There are many overriding requirements of the current system of education that are not taken into consideration when parents start brainstorming. But back to the topic....

    It makes little sense to offer immersion education and then not provide a pathway once past 5th grade. SFUSD should be working to make it possible for everyone that wants immersion and B/L to have it. That is a much better solution than trying to figure out how to ration it, especially if it doesn't cost any more.

  46. Donna's proposal shows how choice for GE and K-8 language pathways can co-exist. The false assumption is that immersion issues are driving the change-over from choice to feeder patterns. Donna's propopsal says that you can give immersion a K-8 track without making eveyone else, that is, GE, go K-8.

    Donna is correct as far as it goes, but it is incomplete. GE city-choice needs to change for reasons other than immersion language pathways. GE assignment needs to change because of money, safety, and schools in trouble in the SE. Some would see that change reflected in neighborhoods schools. The district has chosen feeder patterns.

  47. We were very deliberate in our choice of middle schools to accommodate immersion pathways. These are the exact same middle schools that had language pathways when the current set of fourth graders started immersion programs many moons ago. These parents were aware that they might end up at one of these middle schools when they enrolled their children in kindergarten, so there are no surprises in our proposal (except perhaps removing Hoover's small Spanish program, which is more than adequately covered by converting Mann to full Spanish immersion). General Ed parents, on the other hand, did not make kindergarten choices with a similar knowledge of prospective middle schools. We were completely blind sided by the first draft of the K-8 feeder patterns, being forced into schools that did not meet the needs of our children. When we selected an elementary school five years ago, SFUSD wasn't escorting students all the way through middle school. We participated in a SAS lottery that had full choice every step of the way (kindergarten, 6th and 9th), and the hybrid proposal allows this to continue. On the other hand, the language pathways have always been advertised to transition to this discrete list of middle schools, and the hybrid proposal allows this to continue. Seems like win-win for everyone.

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  49. Donna, your proposal isn't a win-win for everybody as much as I agree that it makes little sense to assign immersion students on the arbitrary basis of feeders (as concerns pathways).

    Before the SE was adamantly pro- choice. Now the SE immersion folks want secured virtual K-8s and everyone else ought to be happy with choice, thank you very much.

    Your assumption is wrong that GenEd families were overwhelmingly satisfied with the choice system. The website poll indicates that is not the case as almost a third want their neighborhood school, not any one of seven. (And the poll ought to have a pretty strong SE bias if it reflects the number of SE participants on the blog).

    As I said before, it is all well and good for your immersion family to have certainty, but it is a stretch to say it is all well and good for everyone else not to. I never bought into the idea of high choice success as promoted by you here and many others, especially SFUSD and the media. I never seriously considered more than a couple schools close to my home. And many many others had the same limited number of acceptable schools based upon proximity.

  50. (part 1)
    Thank you WoodruffLong. Your response to 'potbellypornstar' is exactly the feedback that I too received at Denman, and it was the basis for my comment.

    Denman is one of four middle schools that does not offer honors courses. They use a "differentiated instruction" model in every classroom (just like James Lick). This is OK for Denman's current student population, because they do not have the critical mass of GATE/honors students to develop separate classroom structures, and they are serving their current student body very well. I applaud the District for having diversity in their instructional models--it is an important aspect of parental choice (finding a school that is a good fit for your child). However, it is not appropriate instructional model for every child.

    I had an opportunity to speak personally with Denman's principal after the first community forum at Denman. She told me that Denman does not intend to change their teaching model to accommodate the influx of GATE/honors students from the proposed feeder schools, and the Superintendent of Middle Schools (who was standing with us) confirmed that SFUSD would not make Denman create these pathways. To me, the lack of access to GATE/honors instruction should be an absolute non-starter for forced feeder patterns, esp., for schools with high percentages of GATE/honors students like Lakeshore and Miraloma. That's why I like Donna's hybrid proposal.

    If the District is determined to pursue K-8 feeders at all costs, then (1) Lakeshore and Miraloma should feed into Aptos as originally proposed by SFUSD in the first draft of feeder patterns (obviously someone in SFUSD thought that it was a good idea too) and (2) King and Oretega should feed into Denman (a great central location and very good commute for both schools), a middle school with excess capacity and ample space to create a Mandarin immersion pathway de novo.

  51. joycejim01
    What are you saying?
    1. That it is unacceptable for SFUSD to have feeder patterns if there are not equal offerings at all schools (especially GATE/Honors).
    2. If feeder patterns are going to happen, and Denman will not change to the model you think is necessary for smart kids, then your child and her smart peers should go at Aptos but the smart kids from King, Ortega, and other schools should go to Denman.

    This is a public school district which should be working towards making all schools better. How is it a solution for our school district if some kids (like yours) get what they need (or what their parents think they need) and other kids don't?

    What you propose is just a solution for you and your kid.

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  53. The Top Four Reasons we have dumped citywide choice:

    4. The 0/7 Nightmare. A small but significant number of parents got very onerous assignments, more than halfway across town, under citywide choice.

    3. Muni. Long Muni rides are not safe for 6th graders.

    2. Money. SFUSD can cut its transportation budget if it gets off citywide choice.

    1. Desperation. We will try something, anything, to shake up struggling schools in the SE.

    The Top Three Reasons we have feeders instead of geographic assignment areas for middle schools:

    3. The virtual K-8 makes it less scary to go to a struggling MS if your ES classmates are also going to the same MS.

    2. Line drawing for geographic attendance area MS was going to be non-contiguous--opening up endless debate on line drawing/gerrymandering.

    1. MS attendance areas was going to get us back into the address verification problem.

  54. Totally agree with Me's comments.

    Don, I think you are misunderstanding. Donna is not an immersion parent, but she wants choice for GE students. A lot of the comments on this thread in favor of choice are coming from GE parents who are not happy with their child's assigned school.

    This thread is not about immersion families wanting a guaranteed assignment and promoting choice for everyone else.

  55. The point is not where Donna sends her kids, it is her proposal. But yes, I did not understand that she was not an immersion family.

    She is wearing her parent hat, but a policy person would tell her that she hasnot incorporated many requirements of law. For example, many schools receiving state and federal aid have very low class size requirements. You cannot have influxes of kids without either getting a waiver, losing the funding or greatly increasing costs by lowering their class sizes,too. And I'm talking about tens of millions. This was one of the topics that arose at the Committee of the Whole Meeting 3 weeks ago. Another example is - Federal school choice for Program Improvement mandates transportation. The District has to make a bus plan around the mandate as it cannot afford to transport kids to school on empty buses. Another example is - schools in program improvement, depending on the year, have guidelines for remediation. They are not going to comport with an immersion program.

    The point is choice has created an ungodly mess, though it has had its benefits. We have such a disparate group of offerings, the assignment problem cannot be fixed as if it were simply a puzzle needing assembly. There is no way to put together a new system whose physical and programmatic infrastructure is built around around the old one. But the district cannot afford the old one any more. Legislation is required to untie the mandated hands of districts to give them the maximum leverage.

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  57. I should add that SFUSD should build out it's citywide alternative schools around the demand for them. You shouldn't be turned down for immersion for lack of space. SFUSD has plenty of surplus infrastructure. But they do stupid things like turning Cabrillo into an administrative office building when it's located smack dab in the middle of a an area without excess capacity. If they had turned it into a Chinese immersion, it would have met the demand, and increased chances for locals to go to neighborhood schools as well.

    You only have to look at a map to see that immersion was intended as a fix for struggling schools.

  58. ""caroline said...
    It seems like the SFUSD feeder proposal threatens to pit immersion families against general-ed families.
    March 12, 2011 6:55 AM""

    If you are referring to some current and former Miraloma families who feel Miraloma students are entitled to attend Aptos… then yes, they have pitted themselves against Mandarin immersion families. (I didn’t hear all this outcry when Miraloma was slated to be a feeder school for Aptos…. along with Ortega, including its nefarious Mandarin Immersion students.) At least they are not still saying the 60 MI students per grade (max., and even that won’t be achieved until four and a half –plus- years from now) will destroy the arts program. (Like the immersion kids have already destroyed the arts program at Hoover, presumably?) As a current Aptos parent (and current Jose Ortega MI parent), I have found the coordinated attacks on my child and other MI students disturbing.

  59. Hallelujah!
    Glad to hear coffeeklatch is working! I think it 's a great idea and have heard that a k-8 Starr King is also an option, with the Bryant st school having lots of room. Middle school kids would move down the hill and share the SK principal and have its own vice principal.
    Would take some hustling, but I agree that compromising already existing general ed programs does not make sense.
    And down the line, I expect Mandarin immersion is going to be a very popular choice in the city
    - knowing that the excellent mandarin immersion experience that we've had will continue through middle school and the program won't be dropped into a semi-hostile environment sounds like a good plan.

    Meg Neville

  60. I don't think that's fair, M.

    A lot of families would *prefer* to retain the right to choose Aptos or another school. That's not the same feeling "entitled" to access to Aptos.

    And I think the situation is the opposite of "coordinated attacks." I heard from some general-ed elementary school parents that they showed up at the Aptos meeting and were blindsided to find out that a big segment of the community (immersion families) was so enthusiastic about a proposal that they were unhappy about. If they had been aware of that, I imagine they would have been better prepared to address the issues.

    What I'm saying is that the situation INHERENTLY pits immersion families against general ed families. That seems like a really bad idea.

    Don, I strongly disagree that choice has "created an ungodly mess." When we were first parents in the district, there was far more negative feeling about middle school, and anecdotally it seems like many more parents were determined, or at least prepared, to go private starting at 6th grade. With the choice process, we saw Aptos, Roosevelt and James Lick all soar in reputation and popularity. And I know very few families who didn't get one of their middle school choices, which jibes with the district's numbers.

  61. Caroline,

    Ungodly mess is hyperbole on my part - a figure of speech.

    I think what the district faces now is akin to putting a square peg in a round hole. The landscape is the daughter of consent decree, then choice. An SAS with new preferences at ES and feeders at MS requires reworking of infrastructure and programs on a scale that cannot play out within the time frame of a year. It took a long time to get to where we are now.

    There is a build-out required but it will not happen over night. The problem is that there is no agreement on what the district should look like. This is what happens when you drop the age old system of neighborhood assignment and try to remake the world.

    When the district had a court order there was some direction and purpose. Now we have a state of chaos with groups pitted against one another. I'll use Ravitch's comment that "we abandon neighborhood schools at our peril."

    I think she is right. But I still support choice for all alternative schools. SFUSD should focus on meeting the demands of its public.

  62. It may be that a MS magnet program in the SE will not work unless MS immersion programs outside of the SE shut down.

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  64. Charlie,

    Your numbered explanations are very concise. I do believe that the transportation issue is somewhat of a straw man, though. 3 to 4 million for non-sped transport is nothing to scoff at, but I do not think that kind of money is driving policy changes. I think SFUSD uses transportation as a talking point to deflect criticism for their feeder proposal. That really is not that much in the big picture.

    What is important to know is that the home-to-school money has been made flexible, so whereas it was use it (for transport) or lose it, now they can grab that money and put it into the Superintendent Zone, where all the rest of the newly discretionary money is going. Most people are absolutely oblivious to these things. They don't see how the money flows.

  65. " caroline said...
    .... And I think the situation is the opposite of "coordinated attacks." I heard from some general-ed elementary school parents that they showed up at the Aptos meeting and were blindsided to find out that a big segment of the community (immersion families) was so enthusiastic about a proposal that they were unhappy about. If they had been aware of that, I imagine they would have been better prepared to address the issues"


    When Mandarin Immersion parents who have been told their students are headed for a particular school actually show up to express support for that plan… that “blindsides” some GE parents? (MI parents at the meeting should have concealed their enthusiasm for the plan out of respect for the delicate sensibilities of certain Aptos/Miraloma parents… parents who have not hesitated to loudly and incessantly proclaim they do not want MY child at “their” school?) My husband (an Aptos GE parent AND an Ortega MI parent) ended up apologizing to MI parents who were stunned to find themselves the target of whatever frustration certain GE parents have with the recent proposal. (Talk about blindsided…) Are immersion families being targeted this way at other schools? The MI community (a new and tiny segment of the SFUSD immersion population) is facing a rude and NIMBY-ish assault.

    “Coordinated” in the sense that there are several women (some of whom may share history in a particular advocacy organization) who get together (sometimes over coffee?) and come up with talking points to support their point of view. Certain (oft repeated) assertions emerge (like, “Mandarin Immersion will destroy the arts and honors programs at Aptos”)… … then, when the bogus assertion is shot down (Hoover already has the exact same small number of immersion students being proposed at Aptos, yet manages to maintain its arts and honors program), they move on to another talking point, like “Immersion is really a school within a school”… and so on.

    And about that annoying “Golden Ticket” refrain… any family with kids currently in 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade could have gotten the Golden MI Ticket if they wanted it; they either didn’t want MI, or didn’t want it at the schools where it is offered. (I looked back at the May, 2009 KG Waiting Pool- after the April pool, when spaces were still being reserved for target language speakers- and found zero waiting for Starr King.)

  66. No, M, you're wrongly ascribing opinions to me. I didn't say anyone should have concealed anything. I'm just saying that I heard from some GE parents that they were taken completely by surprise over the run-in with immersion parents at the Aptos meeting. If they had been aware, they might have "coordinated" a more prepared response.

    It sounds like the immersion families at that meeting weren't prepared for the reaction they got, either.

    It also sounds to me like the parents who created the plan on napkins at a coffeehouse were trying to find a compromise.

  67. Caroline, if I could chime in here, I believe that M may have the mistaken impression that only Miraloma parents are opposed to this feeder proposal. Actually it is far broader than just one school parent group. I am both a special ed parent AND a general Ed parent AND my kids don 't go to Miraloma. I'm opposed to it for several reasons. Special Ed families desperately need choice because our kids are so unique. One size just doesn't fit all. Second, for my gen ed kid, I am also opposed to the feeder system because I want my kid to go to a school that. Integrates honors and regular classes and the feeder school under this proposal would send my kid to a school that segregates honors kids out. My third reason is the reason Caroline and many others have expressed concern. Parental choice at the middle school level has led to both better schools AND more diverse ones. If it ain't broke, why fix it. I hear you that immersion parents may appreciate having immersion at more school sites. But why does that necessarily require coercing families like mine to go to gen Ed schools we don't want to go to? I, and Donna, submit that there are ways to do this where immersion parents get multiple middle school sites AND gen ed parents still get some choice.

  68. "No, M, you're wrongly ascribing opinions to me. I didn't say anyone should have concealed anything."

    Sorry. I was being facetious. I just meant that MI families have been directly- and repeatedly- told (in no uncertain terms) that these women do NOT want our children at Aptos (because they would destroy honors… decimate the arts… bankrupt the school…undermine community… demoralize the staff and eviscerate all that makes Aptos special… though, on the other hand, these same kids would be pure GOLD, I tell ya, at Hoover or Denman), yet I (and others) first politely tried to find common ground, to dispel myths, to demonstrate value added, to address concerns and to offer possible solutions… only to find their immovable bottom line to be: “Stay off of my lawn!” But when MI parents just express simple approval at being assigned to Aptos, these parents get thrown for a loop?

  69. Joseph,

    I understand some parents want choice. Have I spoken out against that perspective? There are still at least 100 plus “choice” seats per grade under the current Aptos feeder plan, according to my calculations, even if all the feeder school students were to arrive at Aptos (which seems unlikely). Under the previous plan (which did not generate this attack on immersion families), the school would have been overenrolled if all students showed up… but Miraloma and Lakeshore were still feeding into Aptos, so the response was different, shall we say.

    But I understand why some families prefer choice. That is a reasonable position to taken and is quite different from attacking students in a specific (and very small) program, and saying that they will destroy a school… and are not wanted. Surely as a special ed parent you can understand the pain that causes.

  70. Meg, will the District have enough details to discuss the possible Starr King/Bryant middle school proposal tomorrow night at Lick community forum or is this still in very preliminary idea generation phase? Is this location suitable for all middle school Mandarin programs or just Starr King elementary students?

    - Donna

  71. “I hear you that immersion parents may appreciate having immersion at more school sites. “


    I’m not sure what you mean when you say immersion families “may appreciate having immersion at more school sites”? There were previously immersion spaces at some middle schools reserved for elementary immersion students (although, I think there was already an issue with lack of available spots), but in the last few years the number of immersion programs at elementary schools has increased dramatically, so these additional students will require additional immersion space in middle school.

    Mandarin Immersion is a small (and new) program at just two schools. The program started with two kindergarten classes at Starr King in 2006, and then added another kindergarten class at Ortega the following year. The kids from the first year of MI at Starr King are in 4th grade. The first year or so was under-enrolled (since other parents didn’t want that “golden ticket”), and there is also attrition, but new students need to know Mandarin, so it is hard to replace students who are lost. I’m not sure how many kids are in 4th grade MI, but it is now one class. (Maybe 30?) So, the year after next, 30 MI students could arrive at Aptos for 6th grade. The following year, another 17 (the size of my daughter’s third grade class) could arrive from Ortega with another 40 (at the most) from Starr King. The year after that, maybe they would be up to the projected 66 per year, at which point (in the 2014/2015 school year), there would be 153 MI students out of a capacity of 1260- about 12%. (To put that in perspective, last year, there were 115 Special Ed students out of an Aptos population of 991- about 12%) Even with a fully enrolled MI program, we are talking 198 students (out of 1260).

    The feeder patterns were not created by immersion parents… but under both the first and second plans, when Jose Ortega was chosen to feed into Aptos, MI came with it. Under the first plan, Starr King was going to Horace Mann…but then, Horace Mann became Buena Vista K-8 Spanish Immersion… plus, it seemed more cost effective (and program effective) to combine these two small programs at one school. I was excited to have the program at Aptos, since my son is at Aptos ... and we told all the immersion families what a warm and welcoming community they would find there.

    My Jose Ortega MI 3rd grade daughter has attended every family potluck (every other month) held by my son’s English/Social Studies and Science teachers… and the winter music performance (to see her brother in the band)….. and the Aptos back-to-school-picnic. She read one of the inspirational quotations at the Black History Month celebration. (While Mr. Dent, the principal, read the poem my son had written about Jackie Robinson, but was too shy to recite.) My daughter sang a song in Mandarin and English (while playing guitar) at the Aptos Lunar New Year celebration. She and other members of the Jose Ortega Bike Club ride bikes at the Aptos playground.

    That is why this feels personal to me. Mandarin immersion has to go SOMEwhere. Under the "choice" system, the West Portal ES Cantonese Immersion students have "fed into" Hoover, the closest middle school to West Portal. Aptos is the closest middle school to Ortega, so even under the existing system, placing MI at Aptos is a logical decision. But that doesn't matter... because even with all the choice in the world, this group of Aptos/Miraloma women (including the Aptos PTSA president!) has told us they do not want our children at “their” school.

  72. M -- I can tell this is personally upsetting to you. I would counsel you -- and others - to try to keep it above personal issues. I think the saddest thing here is that this feeder proposal has unwittingly ended up splitting the two groups of parents who have done the most to improve both elementary and middle schools in the city -- immersion parents and parents at turn-around gen ed programs. Frankly we (and here I mean people like myself who, ahem, haven't been doing all the blood, sweat and tears work) need BOTH sets of parents to keep the enormous -- but still tenuous -- improvements in SF's public middle schools going.

  73. PART 2:

    DALE: > • language programs create schools within schools (as I already
    explained, demonstrably false)

    LWL: While this isn't my fight and I'm not the best to explain it, I must to
    share that the Aptos staff and leadership adamantly believe that adding a
    Mandarin Immersion program that is not accessible to all would halt their
    long-time efforts to break down walls that create exclusivity within the school.
    I urge you to try to understand why.

    Most of our teachers have been working at this school since it was reconstituted
    almost 15 years ago. They have worked very deliberately to break down "school
    within a school structures" that had existed such revising rigid honors and
    general education divisions to become more accessible to all students including
    ELL, removing special day classes and incorporating inclusion, working to
    accelerate students behind grade level and help them gain access to arts
    programs that make school a rewarding experience. Only since I've been there
    have "honors teachers" and "GE teachers" been eliminated. All teachers teach
    both. And they have the results to show for it – higher expectations overall,
    top performers are doing better, and so are historically low performers. And
    please take note: It isn't parents doing this stuff. It's teaching staff and
    administrators. Where is the looking at what works in middle school before
    changing it? Or consulting with them first to see how it affects their success
    to date?

    I wish the district was spending more time exploring WHY some schools are
    performing better rather than others, and how a school like Aptos has
    consistently increased academic performance across all student groups, remained
    diverse ---and this all happened through a choice enrollment system. Please
    remember, Aptos was NOT a choice school until very recently. Why are we not
    looking at what happened in the past decade to change that?

    Secondly, what I had no knowledge of until I was working closely with Aptos
    staff on the SSC, is that making a middle school master schedule work is a
    sisyphean challenge and is something that most that parents (MS or ES) have no
    clue exists or how it works.

    To say "it's just two classes" or "just two teachers" or whatever, doesn't
    reflect what it takes to make it all work for the entire school, and most
    importantly keep the flexibility to meet changing student needs. (For example,
    my daughter's honors class just added 4 new ELL students to math last month. The
    teachers designed the class structure to ensure this worked) Another program in
    there does indeed have an impact.

    Also, know that Aptos lost its Title I funding to the tune of $200,000 last year
    and is currently the lowest funded per capita for the Weighted Student Formula.
    I can assure you that Mr. Dent and the SSC are facing enormous challenges making
    sure all kids we have in the program now are actually covered with teachers. We
    are, literally, allocating time of teachers by funding a teacher here by .3, a
    librarian by .6, and doing this so that we can hopefully fund a whole school.
    Do we lower PE class size from 41? Or do we add a .6 FTE 8th grade science
    teacher? Do we lose a guidance counselor or a librarian. (Also of note: All 3
    of our Aptos principals, all guidance counselors and many teachers got their
    pink slips on Tuesday.)

  74. PART 4

    DALE> • immersion programs in MS mean less electives for everyone else (not true
    - and immersion program families want those electives too, while language
    programs could potentially add electives to a school's offerings)

    LWL: If we have $5-7 million to fund a 7th period, I agree this is not an

    But, again, if we DON'T have it, I again refer to the challenge of middle school
    master schedule challenges and, at least Aptos', ability to meet the needs
    through the limited resources we already have. This is a concern at Aptos.
    Right now, we are wondering how we will fund all our current staff, including
    elective teachers, on our current budget. Adding another two teachers for a
    specific program does indeed affect the schools ability to keep doing what it is
    and has been successfully doing. And teachers are there that have memories
    SFUSD requests to cut band and orchestra and electives to make ends meet. The
    issue is raw and real and has been posed.

    On a related issue regarding school capacity in all this: while the district
    says Aptos has room to grow in the first floor, those rooms are apparently not
    designed as classrooms, yet the district is counting them as full middle school
    classrooms that can be filled with another 150+ students (memories of school
    closures and incorrect capacity data arise…) We don't have room for another
    150+, yet this plan is developed with this in mind as well as having a fully
    funded 7th period. There is a lot of partially correct/incorrect data being
    used by the district that doesn't compute at the site level. (For those of us
    that lived through wrenching school closure process, and the use of incorrect
    capacity data as the basis for mistaken recommendations close schools like
    McKinley, this is concerning.)

    DALE:> • immersion programs will displace large numbers of existing teachers
    (not true - especially when adding population to a school - but even if it were
    true, it makes even less sense to send lots of language programs to one school
    where larger numbers existing teachers would be displaced)

    LWL: I agree that in underenrolled schools, new programs offer a way to grow
    enrollment and add teaching staff. As noted above, this is not the case at Aptos
    which is fully staffed. I believe UESF may have raised concerns about this and
    this is why the Aptos teachers had the reaction they did. Another reason they
    responded so strongly is that much of what they have worked for and built as a
    team is being imposed upon from the central office, and with no input or
    consultation by them.

    DALE:> • immersion program is already an elective, so they don't need to go to a
    school with full elective offerings (immersion programs are NOT an elective,
    they are Programs. And do we really want to impose language program apartheid
    in the district? Yeah, that's a great way to expand language programs.)

    LWL: Agreed that immersion is a program and that all kids should have
    electives. But as SFUSD has noted, it only works if there is a 7th period or
    zero period that has to get funded from somewhere.

    As far as language apartheid, I agree that this is a problem. I really see a
    hole that SFUSD's proposal doesn't address GE language at all.

    A proposal: Why not pilot this idea at a school that currently is set up as
    SFUSD is suggesting? Lick Middle School has dual immersion Spanish and growing
    GE enrollment. They have a funded 7th period – but to date, no effort to
    seriously provide Spanish language to GE kids that are there. I've heard lots
    of reasons (excuses?) but really, if we can't do it there, why expect it'll
    happen district wide?

    DALE: > I could go on... there was plenty more. > Here's the key thing: the whole motivation behind their argument is 100%

    LWL: Stop here. All parties are viewing this issue through their own lens.
    Including you, Dale.

  75. I have no idea why, but some of my posts are coming through and others are not, and as a result a few things are coming in out of order from when I posted them. I just did a 5 part post that was meant to be read in order.

  76. PART 1:

    Dale, I wanted to respond to your earlier post.

    Last Tuesday was a tense night at Aptos. Those in attendance have invested a
    great deal of time, energy and effort in a variety of ways for our public
    schools. In addition to meeting the needs of their own kids, parents
    (immersion, GE and others) are invested in their schools, programs and in
    numerous district-wide efforts in SFUSD. Teachers and staff have invested their
    careers and lives in gaining ground for their students and schools. The District
    is trying to address the multitude of needs of a wide variety of communities
    with dwindling resources. At Aptos last week it seemed there were four primary
    viewpoints: elementary immersion parents, elementary GE families, teachers and
    middle school families.

    Everyone comes from a different perspective. Everyone is a little bit right.
    Everyone has something to learn. Everyone would benefit from trying to sincerely
    understand other viewpoints.

    I wanted to respond to your comments below as you represent one (valid)
    perspective. I hope you, and all of us, might be able to better understand
    viewpoints that are equally as valid as yours. There are plenty of reasons for
    people on all sides to feel frustrated by how all this is playing out. SFUSD
    historically has been out of touch with what is happening at school sites, on
    the ground and the dynamics of how schools affect families and is proving no

    As a middle school parent I see things very differently than I did as an
    elementary parent. Issues that were of great concern turned out to be nothing.
    And things I had no clue about turned into huge challenges. I care deeply about
    middle school and this discussion because I have two kids at Aptos, and am
    halfway through my time as a parent of middle school students. I still have
    another 2 ½ years to go. Like you and all of us, I see school issues through my
    own filter: As a long time public school advocate and activist, as a middle
    school SSC chair or PTA president every year I've been at Aptos, and as one who
    has had some of the best, and some of the worst, public school experiences
    during that time. I have been bringing up the subject of SFUSD and quality
    middle schools for the past three years.

    I'm frustrated that all that is happening right now in no way begins to address
    how SFUSD plans to create quality middle schools in San Francisco.

    Below I have responded to your comments:

    > People who want their local school, or their choice choice, are using language
    immersion as their scapegoat. They proceed to make up things that aren't even
    true about language programs to buttress their arguments and malign language
    programs, just as we read in the 'napkin proposal', or like the many 'false
    accusations' heard at the Aptos feedback session I recently attended, like:

    LWL: I agree I heard some jaw dropping statements that made me ashamed of
    others. Things like "we shouldn't have to go to bad schools" to which one must
    ask: who SHOULD go to bad schools? Answer: no one. Which is why this entire
    issue should be about building quality middle schools, and it isn't (THAT is my
    beef with the whole thing.)

  77. PART 3
    As Mr. Dent shared Tuesday, Aptos staff would welcome this program if it was
    fully funded with a 7th period, that it would allow all students to have
    language access, and would not create a school within a school. In other words:
    Let's make sure if this is added it works with what has been very successful at
    creating top notch academic outcomes.

    For another time: whether $5-7 million a year is accurate (a decade ago a
    similar proposal was projected at closer to $12 million a year); whether it's a
    pipe dream that we have the money (I heard SFUSD officials shout out at the
    Denman Q&A when asked about sources of funding "parents can fundraise" and "we
    can seek grant funding" – which seriously made me want to cry) or whether THIS
    is the most important thing to discuss or talk of funding right now when we have
    cut 5 days from our calendar year.

    When I used to do market research tests we never tested things that weren't
    scalable. I'm baffled why this whole idea has been put forth for all us to
    banter over when district officials (or the SFUSD consultant working on it
    anyway) told me at the SSC Summit that it only works if a 7th period is funded,
    something that seems remote at best. What is plan B?

    DALE> • immersion program families already got their "golden ticket" and
    therefore don't deserve the "good" schools (say what?!?)

    LWL: The person who posted this on the Starr King listserve was standing next to
    me during the breakout. I said that immersion families get the "golden ticket"
    of a language at kindergarten through 5th (our family applied, but did not get
    into one.) I went on to state that the district has made a big deal about the
    goal of expanding language access to students, but that nothing I've seen
    includes language access to general education students. I lamented that my kids
    would get no access to language at all until high school. These are facts and
    are a cause of frustration for many GE families. To me it has nothing to do
    with the immersion program or their families – I'm frustrated by what the
    district is communicating but not providing. I'll cease on the "golden ticket"
    phrase in the future, something I picked up from a post on SFKfiles (not me).

    If someone else said immersion families don't deserve "good schools" -- I
    didn't hear that and, of course, would never even THINK, much less say, such a
    thing (if for no other reason than I don't believe in the sweeping
    generalization of "good" or "bad" schools.) But more importantly, because EVERY
    child deserves a quality school.

    And, as overly simple as it sounds, we wouldn't have a student assignment
    problem if all schools were meeting the needs of all students.

    DALE:> • immersion programs are well funded and take money away from special
    education (both demonstrably false)

    LWL: In our breakout session, a special education parent questioned how this
    would affect her child, and pointed out that SFUSD is still struggling to meet
    the needs of her student. I understood her point (rightly or wrongly) to be:
    why are we shifting emphasis on building new programs when we still haven't met
    the needs of special education kids. She seemed concerned that her son's
    disability prevents him from learning another language. I thought that she just
    wanted to point out that the discussion hadn't addressed issues that affect
    special education students, something I think we all can be reminded of.

  78. PART 5
    DALE: > I could go on... there was plenty more.
    > Here's the key thing: the whole motivation behind their argument is 100% self-serving.

    LWL: Stop here. All parties are viewing this issue through their own lens.
    Including you, Dale.

    DALE: >If those parents were actually thinking about how the District could accomplish it's stated goals, thinking about the needs of various programs, of various communities, of the needs of low-income and struggling students, proposals like this wouldn't exists - and there would be no scapegoating of language programs.

    LWL: And maybe no scapegoating of …. others? I agree that the districts goal is to meet the needs of all children. And I agree that the situation requires that everyone involved realize that there are many valid and competing issues to be addressed in the situation.

    San Francisco could make an Olympic sport out of individuals who compete to "care the most" yet never actually make things better. I fully understand immersion parents desire to continue a program they have helped to start and have invested so much in. And I know you've been promised and encouraged on this. I don't consider that self serving, I consider that advocacy. It's the same for all the other valid viewpoints out there. It does your cause wrong to insist your group "cares more." Not true.
    We live in a democracy. Everyone has the right to be heard. And there are
    certainly things the district hasn't thought of that can be improved upon. That is what is happening in this situation, painful as it sometimes may seem.

    DALE: >No, the District will be hearing from the napkin-scratchers until theyget what they want, and they'll use any program, any excuse as their foil. Hopefully the District and BOA have the backbone to stand up to war of intimidation that's already begun.

    LWL: I'll resist the temptation to be sarcastic as you have a right to feel
    frustrated and angry. So do I, BTW, since I have worked for the past three years towards a serious discussion of a quality middle school plan but all we really got was (what feels to me like) a half baked student assignment plan for middle schools that in no way addresses the day to day challenges my own kids and their classmates are facing. Teachers and administrators that are actually making quality MS happen deserve to be heard. And so do GE and other families that are adversely impacted by this plan, GE families that have volunteered every bit as much, given just as much, and invested just as much in their schools to make them better for all children. Others concerns and issues are every bit as real, and valid, as yours and there exists room for compromise.

  79. PART 6:
    In summary, I know the district and others say: What is your solution? I guess my answer is: We are not asking the right questions.

    I wish this whole process would have begun with a hard exploration of what is REALLY happening at SFUSD middle schools.
    • What middle schools are academically successful in SFUSD, especially acrossdiverse student target subgroups and why?
    • How are schools that making academic gains getting better than average results? What are they doing?
    • Why is it that 50% of students are enrolled in just four schools by choice?
    Why are these students/parents not choosing other schools?
    • What do these schools offer, or students/parents "think" they offer, that the others don't?
    • Are there schools that are emerging as "up and comers" in middle school? Who is attending these schools and why are they selecting them?
    • How do school finance allocations within the district help or hinder schools ability to provide quality? How will the new feeder system change how funds are allocated currently and will that help or hurt schools?

    So far I've seen no exploration of these questions, or use of any best practices studies such as EdSource: Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades, that are driving what we are spending so much of our energy on right now.

    My two (or three or four!) cents.

  80. M posted:
    “…because even with all the choice in the world, this group of Aptos/Miraloma women (including the Aptos PTSA president!) has told us they do not want our children at “their” school.”

    Lorraine Woodruff-Long, the Aptos PTA president, here.

    You are attributing thoughts and words to me that are absolutely false. For heavens sake, I have never expressed, thought or UTTERED any such thing and frankly, have little opinion about MI at Aptos.

    Anyone who knows me (and my own discussions - or rants - on the subject at hand) knows that my biggest beef with the whole thing is that none of what the community is discussing involves getting us to a quality middle school plan. This is something that I have been talking to SFUSD officials about for several years now while serving as SSC chair for two years and now as PTA president. I’ve posted extensively on this all along.

    My words are transparent - I've posted publicly my thoughts. My actions speak for themselves - actions that include working as a public school parent and advocate for the past decade. My volunteer time, and brief time as PPS ED, has always been on providing access to quality education for all kids and growing parent leaders and advocacy in all communities.

    I’ve reposted what I shared on the PPS & Aptos listserves above to try and provide some perspectives of various stakeholders. I’m happy to debate what I’ve actually said, but you are passing on nonsense. Please stop.


  81. Lorraine,

    These was definitely the longest and certainly one of the best posts I've read on this blog. Thanks for your heartfelt explanation and I hope it cools down tempers.

    As for why SFUSD does what it does, the district is focused like a laser on school improvement. The problem is that the focus is only on 9 schools.

  82. WoodruffLong, you claim to have "little opinion about MI at Aptos", but I see that you just posted a 6 part treatise on why it will disrupt Aptos. Yes, you used the teachers as a mouth piece to voice your opposition, but it still comes across as hostility from the elected leader of the PTA representing the opinions of her school. Here's your quote:

    "...I must to share that the Aptos staff and leadership adamantly believe that adding a Mandarin Immersion program that is not accessible to all would halt their long-time efforts to break down walls that create exclusivity within the school. I urge you to try to understand why."

  83. LWL said:

    "• How are schools that making academic gains getting better than average results? What are they doing?"

    Ask SFUSD. That is what the BSC's MATRIX is supposed to be all about. That's what they spent millions on - figuring out how to share information across schools - making a science of it. Problem is - it isn't a well kept secret unless you need to cheat on exams. It's about the hard work of teachers and students. They don't like to see all their hard work go down the drain on the whim of a central office bureaucrat.

    But, oh, I'm off-topic. Back to the bickering....

  84. WoodruffLong, I realize there are different viewpoints on this subject. But at some point, shouldn't you be able to stand back and assess your own viewpoint objectively? Isn't it even a little embarrassing to take the stance that we've done a lot of hard work and you will ruin it all for us? That MI at Aptos is too much of a scheduling challenge?

    And implying that MI will be creating "exclusivity" within the school? It's only 2 classes out of the day. One of the classes that students take is an elective. If students take different electives do you consider them to be exclusive of each other? If there is ever a foreign language for GE students will you consider the students that take a foreign language as being exclusive and making walls within the school? And wouldn't adding a foreign language teacher for GE kids possibly displace teachers and create scheduling challenges?

    I can see you care deeply about middle school and Aptos. But the school system isn't all about your school. It should be about what is best for students in the district overall - not who "advocates" the loudest. Reading your posts about how much goes into making a middle school work made me wonder, what about other middle schools? Don't they have it just as tough or even harder than a school like Aptos?

    I think the point you make in your summary would come across more effectively if it hadn't been preceded with details about why you don't think MI should be at Aptos or long paragraphs defending others who have expressed that viewpoint.

  85. This comment has been removed by the author.

  86. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the community of a school may not want to have an entirely new program installed against its wishes? If the Central Office is going to unilaterally decide what is best for a school, this will send a chilling message to the community: The message being that all its efforts can be unraveled at the whim of a bureaucrat's notion of what constitutes the greater good.

    If parents are so crucial to turnaround, the policy makers ought to tread very carefully when they decide to overrule the wishes of those that do all the hard work. Nevertheless, there is an ingrained paternalism in the education bureaucracy that fundamentally believes that parents ought to stick to bake sales and SSCs and leave the real important decision-making to the professionals.

  87. One thing is for sure. We all agree to disagree. I am starting to believe that this is exactly the reaction that the District wanted. While we are debating the pros and cons among ourselves, we are too busy to look behind the curtain. The real issue is the ineptitude of the District; the K-8 pathways are a diversionary tactic. Smoke and mirrors! It is an absolutely brilliant tactic.

    The first draft of the K-8 feeder proposal dropped out of nowhere, but clearly respected proximity (and geography) for school assignments. The second draft appeared PRIOR to the public input stage; consequently, it is unworkable, with a mishmash of schools, misalignment of programs, and unworkable commutes--all born on the shoulders of parents at the expense of their children.

    The District has yet to provide compelling data to justify these hardships. More importantly, the District is soliciting ‘input’ at a very odd stage of the process. How are they going to assimilate all this information and make acceptable changes before they go to the BOE in May for approval? Will stakeholders (parents and faculty) have an opportunity to see the third iteration of the K-8 feeder proposal before the BOE vote to verify that their concerns have been adequately addressed? Or does the battle go into Round 3 overtime after the bell?

    The proper sequence for introducing this K-8 initiative has been implemented completely backwards. Carlos Garcia should have started by listening to the stakeholders and by analyzing the operational aspects of those schools that are perceived to be “quality middle schools.” He needs to step out from behind the curtain and articulate a PLAN for our Emerald City (TIMELINE and BUDGET, with real money in hand) BEFORE proposing K-8 pathways or a 7th period or anything else for that matter. Not vice versa. Not by deconstructing the handful of quality middle schools in our District, by arbitrarily assigning children to arbitrary middle schools across the City (eeny, meeny, miny, moe), and by tossing families into the arena to battle it out while diligent note takers record the fracas. Beware the wrath of a mother protecting her young! This whole process has become the best spectator sport in the City!

    The next Board of Education meeting is Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM. Time for parents to be heard. Time to stop this K-8 pathway foolishness until Carlos Garcia has delivered on all his promises to provide quality middle schools for every child with guaranteed, sustainable funding (not some elusive $7 million slush fund that could evaporate in 24 months as the District spirals into bankruptcy). Only at that time can we begin to discuss feasible K-8 pathways.

    - Donna

  88. If you oppose the feeder plan, you should be prepared to say what you want instead, such as citywide choice or geographic attendance areas.

    Rank those choices, such as #1 citywide choice, #2 geographic attendance areas, and #3 feeder plan. If you have a group, vote as a group with ranked choice voting. Ask other groups, especially the Board, to vote on all three choices in a ranked choice fashion.

  89. It's not that simple.

    If you live next to a highly requested middle school (like the top six schools that received 74% of the requests this year) or if you live next to a school that you really, really like, then you will probably favor a BOE decision to base MS assignments on proximity (geographic attendance area).

    Likewise, if your elementary school feeds into a highly requested middle school or a middle school that you really like, then you will probabaly favor a BOE decision to base MS assignments on a K-8 feeder pattern.

    If none of the above apply, then you will probabaly fall on your sword to get the BOE to base MS assignments on a full choice lottery. For you, the most critical feature of the MS assignment process will be assurances of equal access to a middle school that is the "right" fit for your child. Otherwise, you will accuse the District of arbitrarily dividing families into the "haves" and "have nots" with minimal chances of correcting the outcome.

  90. I say choice lottery with CTIP1 preference, just like there was this year for high school and middle school. Simple and fair.

  91. I love the following quote about school "choice" on the redesigned SFUSD website. 

    "Keeping it simple:
    The new student placement policy is about the rich diverse cultures of the San Francisco community. And it’s about choice, because we’ve consistently heard from our communities that parents want choice.

    We are committed to keeping school choice simple. To apply, tell us where you live and what schools you want.

    Consistent. Clear. Fair.
    The new placement policy aims for every student’s top choice, and we believe in meeting as many top choices as possible for all San Francisco families."
    So explain to me again why middle school assignment will not remain a "choice" lottery?????  Their philosophy appears completely contradictory to their K-8 forced feeder proposal, which is neither simple, consistent, clear, nor fair.

  92. "Lorraine Woodruff-Long, the Aptos PTA president, here.

    You are attributing thoughts and words to me that are absolutely false. For heavens sake, I have never expressed, thought or UTTERED any such thing and frankly, have little opinion about MI at Aptos"

    Correction: I did not mean that the Aptos PTA president and others literally said, “We don’t want your children at our school.” I apologize.


    While I didn’t mean you (or the others) have literally told us you don’t want our children at your school (and also didn’t literally say, “Stay off of my lawn!”)…. you have provided several reasons (here, on the Aptos listserve and elsewhere) for why MI would be a particular (and seemingly unacceptable) burden for Aptos. Almost as soon as the second proposal came out, you said MI at Aptos “displaces band, orchestra and arts opportunities,” proposed sending MI to Denman... and on this very thread, applauded a plan that includes sending MI to Hoover. (For some reason, that has left me with a pretty strong impression that you don’t want MI at Aptos….)

    I have included just four excerpts (below), although I could have included more... and nothing from your 6-part post (which also makes your position clear)… and these are all your words, right?

    [From Feb. 2 Feeder School thread (While these were posted under “Anonymous,” I have been assuming they came from you, and reflect your opinion… unless there is another “founding member of the Miraloma PTA” with kids at Aptos who is posting using the same language and sentiments you have expressed elsewhere.)]

    "... Why force a new and successful program (Mandarin) in an already successful school at full enrollment capacity (Aptos)? Why not use language program placement as an opportunity to increase enrollment in a school where there is plenty of room to grow (Denman)? Again, presumably families are already invested in the program so this would fuel the growth and opportunity at Denman. This option would also ensure no encroachment or displacement for general education students into the music and arts programs that have made Aptos a success.”
    February 2, 2011 3:20 PM

    “As a founding member of the Miraloma PTA many years ago, I’m very familiar with the transformative abilities of parents and staff to change perceptions of schools....
    …As I understand the current plan if launched next year, students could be in immersion, or the other electives – not both. As much as it pains me, moving MI to Aptos displaces band, orchestra and arts opportunities for middle school students in SFUSD.
    If the overriding goal is to get the two MI programs in one place, put it in a place where it will not interrupt current success and will, instead, create a whole new opportunity in SFUSD with room to grow. Denman is a perfect location with plenty of room to grow.”
    February 2, 2011 5:55 PM

    “… It's my understanding that the MI proposal at Aptos, too, would NOT provide a language option for GE students there. Instead, they want to create a school within a school.
    February 3, 2011 9:23 AM

    From this thread:
    …Magnet schools for Cantonese/Mandarin Language Pathways (based loosely on 2/1/11 draft):

    Hoover (Only Cantonese/Mandarin; eliminate Spanish) –
    CEC II, Hillcrest, King, Moscone, Ortega, Taylor, Ulloa, Vis Valley ES, West Portal...

    “WoodruffLong said...
    Thank you, thank you THANK YOU for a terrific, well thought out and constructive idea! This is the best idea I've heard on this to date.
    Well done!”
    MARCH 10, 2011 10:09 PM”

    Again, I apologize for writing in a confusing way. My intent was not to quote your actual words, but to convey your perspective. You say I have also misrepresented that, since you actually have “little opinion” about whether MI should come to Aptos, but if so, I am not the only one who is not communicating clearly.

  93. Lorraine,

    Even though you have since retracted the “golden ticket” line, that was pretty annoying. As I mentioned in an earlier post, even in 2009, there was no one in the May Waiting Pool for Starr King, so that “ticket” was readily available for quite some time, but there were no takers… because most other parents did not want Starr King. And I had known SK MI was under-enrolled the first year (and was even doing disability awareness programs in those kindergartens at the time), but had forgotten (until I just reread a newspaper article) that there were only 13 kids in each of the two MI kindergarten classes.

    As you know, Spanish and Mandarin Immersion have been “used” to attract middle class families to schools they would otherwise reject. The district was considering closing Starr King before the MI program started there in 2006/07. In 05/06, the school population was 151. By 2009/10 (according to its SARC), the population was 329. Starr King managed to achieve that without losing the population that was already at the school. According to last year’s SARC (and comparing it to the school profile from 2005, the year before MI started), the school has more Latinos, more African Americans, more Asians and more Whites than before the program started. So the money and other resources that middle class families were able to bring to the table (which is not to say the existing families were not already contributing, but didn’t have as much access to some of those resources) has benefitted the original mix of students, too. At some “turn around” schools, that has not been the case. The schools have grown while losing much of the original demographic. (Where did those kids end up? Was it a “win” for them? Not from what I saw when working at Willie Brown, and reuniting with kids who had transferred there from a “turn around” school.)

    Public School advocates were touting these immersion programs (ALWAYS advertised as K-8) at under-enrolled schools and encouraging (with much vigor) families to give them a try. “Kate” (our host), who had initially gone 0 for 7, heeded the cry, and turned down her private school offer (at a school she loved) for Mandarin Immersion at a school most San Francisco parents (middle class or not) had never heard of. But, a few years later, when middle school rolls around, you say her daughter, “Alice,” will “displace” arts opportunities for other students…. and MI families are accused of being golden ticket holders who are “demanding” (the word used by someone on the Aptos list) middle school immersion. Times change?

    (Also, I just looked back at Kate’s original list of seven, and found it included Miraloma, which had 41 in the April Wait Pool that year, 2008, vs. 0 for Starr King and Ortega.)

  94. Lorraine,

    To use Caroline’s term, I was “blindsided” by your assertion (on the Feb. 2 thread) that MI at Aptos “displaces band, orchestras and arts opportunities for middle school students” It was the first hint I had that you (and some others) view immersion students as being in a different category of students. I had assumed GE and immersion students were ALL our children, and was startled to find you already had an idea in your mind of future Aptos middle school students that didn’t seem to allow for the possibility of my 3rd grade daughter (who, as I have mentioned, is already a part of the Aptos community) or her classmates. I tried to suggest ways MI could be an asset (or at least not a liability), but you (and others) never seemed to allow for that possibility or to respond in any positive way to that line of thinking.

    I know your history in the school district, and have previously acknowledged (and commended) your contributions. My daughter and I have tried to contribute what we can, too, over these last thirty years we have been involved with the SFUSD. (She will even be honored in Sacramento on Monday by Assemblyman Ammiano as “Woman of the Year” for his district, partly, I assume for her work with thousands of students in San Francisco schools to promote inclusion and support students with disabilities.) I’m sure I have not contributed nearly as much as you, or "Donna" or the others... but the thing is, even if I had, I can’t imagine coming up with a plan for the district (and particular schools, and particular programs, including immersion, but without input from the immersion families affected- or families/staff from other schools, like Hoover ?), like the one outlined here by “Donna” and friends… and supported by you. (Most "average moms" don't have this extensive knowledge of the SFUSD... and that coffee shop must have some pretty big napkins.) Apparently becoming so involved in schools engenders more than just a metaphorical sense of ownership. In all these years, I had never previously encountered this phenomenon in (public) schools. It has been eye opening,

  95. "M" at 9:31 AM said:

    "Most "average moms" don't have this extensive knowledge of the SFUSD... and that coffee shop must have some pretty big napkins."

    Hi, I'm Donna, and I am flattered that you think that I have an "extensive knowledge of the SFUSD." I guess that I am a quick study. Other than my kindergarten search, I have never been involved with the District. I was reluctantly thrown into the fray with our middle school search, an adventure that I have shared on this blog. I have never been a PTA officer or belonged to PPS. Everything I write on this blog is my own words and thoughts. Lorraine doesn't know who I am. I read everything on the topic that I can find. I enjoy Rachel Norton's blog too.

    I am also tickled that you mentioned the size of the napkin. I used the techniques that I learned recently in a book titled, "The Back of the Napkin," by noted San Francisco author Dan Roam. It doesn't take much space to chart your ideas with a few boxes and arrows. I filled in the individual school names from the 2/1/11 draft proposal as I typed my submission. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I always try to verify my facts, which might make me appear knowledgeable too.

    In the end, I am a mother, like yourself, who wants the best for her kid. Like yourself, I sit here wondering if our mail carriers will be able to deliver 14,347 pieces of mail, on top of the usual ton of recycling, on this cold, blistery, gray rainy day. Why does SFUSD bulk mail on a Friday????

    - Donna

  96. At Aptos, there are students who need Special Ed services, ELL assistance, remediation in certain subjects, Honors, “Regular” Ed, etc. My son is enrolled in the new 7th grade Algebra 1 class which I’m sure was not easy to arrange and schedule… and we are grateful, since the previous class was too easy, and he was tuning out. Kids have different needs…and the same needs

    In the same way that passing 7th grade Algebra 1 creates a “need” for 8th grade Geometry for some (school within a school?) kids… the MI path creates a need for continuing immersion (even though the immersion part of the day decreases over the years). And this path entails significant trade-offs (like much less English instruction in the early years), more homework (which can be hard for parents to help with), etc…. and Mandarin is ranked by the State Department as one of the hardest languages to learn. So, a pretty big commitment is required… but, these first families, now on the verge of middle school, answered the call (at school’s most other middle class families, including my family, did not want), and made that commitment to their new schools (including GE) and to the MI program, itself. So, the year after next, MI students will start to arrive at middle school, and will have a need for a Mandarin Language class and a “regular” Social Studies class, conducted in Mandarin. (They will also have the same kinds of needs other students have...)

    If MI doesn’t come to Aptos, Aptos GE students will still not have access to language instruction. Of course, we would prefer language for all (and would like to help figure out ways to help provide it; I have previously outlined some possibilities), but MI is not the reason it doesn’t currently exist. After first grade, students have to “test into” immersion programs. That’s how my daughter got in from a private immersion school. She had to score high enough on an SFUSD Mandarin language assessment test. If there is space in a post-first grade MI class (and since Mandarin is not like Spanish or Cantonese, which both have large populations of native speakers in San Francisco who can potentially "test in," there has been space in MI), ANY San Francisco student who passes the test can enroll. My son also had to qualify for 7th grade Algebra 1. Not all students qualify, so they can’t take it. (They also don’t tend to “need” it if they can’t qualify.) Those in his class who pass Algebra 1 will qualify for (and need) 8th grade Geometry. (Is that “fair” to the kids who didn’t take or maybe didn’t pass 7th grade Algebra 1?) Providing middle school Mandarin Immersion to kids who qualify for Mandarin Immersion (either have tested in or have successfully completed 5th grade in SFUSD MI) does not take away language opportunities from GE kids… but when MI families opted for immersion at schools that other parents didn’t want, they did free up seats (some, at least) at schools other families DID want.

    I’m not saying establishing a new program (scheduling, funding , zero period/7th period/elective issues, etc.) would be easy, but Aptos isn’t as unique in that as you seem to think. (Although there is a constant theme of Aptos “exceptionalism” when MI parents try to find solutions to concerns raised regarding MI at Aptos.) No schools are exactly clamoring for our presence. The implementation wouldn’t be easy at any school, and in these difficult times, any principal/teacher/other staff member with a brain would have reservations… and that has been found to be true at Denman, too, by the way. Again, the program has to go SOMEwhere… and I don’t think it is fair to make MI families feel like their children would be the turds in the Aptos punch bowl…

  97. M, it is clear you are passionate on this subject, and I respect that. I would only gently point out that the continuing attacks (including by name), no matter whether accurate or not, are perhaps not the best way to persuade anyone that it's a great idea to bring your program to a school that is reluctant to take on this program for various reasons, perhaps nefarious reasons as you suggest, but also perhaps not....there are good arguments on all sides of this that are not rooted in rejection.

    Your last post in your long string of posts is perhaps the most productive. You acknowledge that implementation of a new program is going to be hard at any school. In this and other forums (pps listserve for example), Aptos parents have tried to articulate some of the reasons why this is so. Some of them are particular to Aptos (lowest per-pupil funding in the district, for example, so resource allocation is a huge issue there). Some of them are not singular to Aptos. But they are real issues that a transition will have to address. It is helpful when that is acknowledged and when we can all be sensitive to the issues on all sides.

    You have a strong point that the district has promised the MI program a K through 8 experience, and it has to go somewhere. I believe there is a way to advocate for that, and to think of ways that it can be done, without completely dismissing the concerns of the existing GE community, especially about resource allocation.

    More than anything, all stakeholders need to figure out what kind of additional resources will be forthcoming, if any, to help with this transition. Will there be financial resources to extend additional language instruction to the entire Aptos student body in the form of a 7th period? Or will there be a zero period provided for just the MI students? Where are the resources coming for any of this (if out of the existing site council budget only, then, excuse me, but WHAT?!). Beyond that, how will teachers be found and hired, and how will that affect existing staff, and schedules? These are all real concerns. They are concerns that the district must address as soon as possible, and with clarity instead of the vague wavings of hands we've been getting.

    As for us parents, this is all by way of asking that we get beyond what so and so may (or may not) have said when this proposal was dumped on all of us. Yes, dumped. Because, whether you love it or hate it, it was created with no consideration for the impact on the local sites whatsoever, and that is one of its biggest problems. We could have avoided a lot of this bickering if work had been done ahead of time to assess community strengths and needs and to get community buy-in for big changes. But---oh well, this didn't happen.....and it is time to move forward now and leave the past behind.

  98. M -- on top of everything else, please also know that Aptos will next year have to take on a substantial number of Inclusion kids, including my son. (don't blame me, it wasn't one of my picks but the district has sent us there.) Unlike Hoover and Denman, the other two most talked about places for MI, Aptos has never had Inclusion kids. Furthermore, unlike immersion kids, a panoply of federal and state laws protect my kid. This is quite a change that Aptos will have to deal with. Isn't this enough disruption not to have yet another new program added to a school that is really only now beginning to blossom? I say MI needs to go elsewhere.

  99. "M -- on top of everything else, please also know that Aptos will next year have to take on a substantial number of Inclusion kids, including my son. (don't blame me, it wasn't one of my picks but the district has sent us there.)"

    I would never blame you... or your kid... or the inclusion program. Or try to send inclusion kids elsewhere... especially without ever even considering how we could all work together- all families for all our children-- to pull it off. That's my entire point.

    And I'm sorry you didn't get the school you wanted (maybe in the Wait Pool?)... and I hope Joseph has heard that Ben got into Gateway.

  100. I believe Joseph posted elsewhere that his kid was waitlisted for Gateway. Fingers crossed it all works out for them!

  101. I don't understand why parents at Aptos (Donna and Lorraine) are so against Ortega and Starr King in their school. Is this really a problem with MI or do they just want school like Miroloma feeding into Aptos instead. If it's really a problem with MI, would Aptos PTA advocate for sending only Ortega and Starr King GE kids to Aptos. That way they don't have to spend money on MI and they will have a more diverse school.

    Did Aptos lose their Title I money because they are serving less disadvantage kids? Maybe this is why the district want to have a more diverse feeder to Aptos than having Miroloma feeding into it.

  102. 3:28

    Aptos lost Title 1 funding because it made adequate yearly progress on its API scores for the past 2 years. The population at Aptos is 30% Latino, %10 white, 7% African American, 27% Chinese and 8% Filipino, 35% free lunch, 18% reduced lunch - which pretty much mirrors the diversity of the middle school population in the city. So Aptos lost Title 1 funding because it was successfully teaching a socioeconomically and racially diverse group of kids.

    I think Donna's point is that Aptos is successfully reaching this population, a task that has become more challenging with the loss of Title 1 funds. Adding a language program into the mix may affect the school-wide changes that have worked to be so successful.

    Also, I don't recall Donna ever saying that Miraloma, or any other school should feed into Aptos. I suspect she would support choice, which was the system that organically turned Aptos around (in combination with a concerted effort of the teachers and administrative staff - which cannot be understated).

    I'm not a Miraloma parent. I'm a Monroe parent, slated to go to Hoover. I was initially enthusiastic, until I tried getting to Hoover by public transit. It took over an hour. It isn't a viable option. At least not for me, and I suspect many other parents at the school. So, I think the feeder system needs to be rethought for many reasons....

  103. Joseph here. Waitlisted Gateway; got Giannini in lottery. Worried about Giannini's academic vibe but are going to go back and talk to spec Ed folks more. We will definitely stay on gateway wait list though.

  104. I'm interested in what lessons the results of the current middle school assignment process tell us about this feeder process. First off, I note that CTIP 1 assignments are quite large at some middle schools -- Aptos at 24% for example. That means that nearly a quarter of the 312 slots there -- nearly 80 -- would not be available to feeder elementaries if the new plan goes into effect. I haven't done the math yet, but my guess is that this high number of CTIP 1 applicants plus siblings really does mean that, for Aptos, there will likely be no extra slots available for non-feeder school families. So, for example, when M above suggests that there will be 100 extra seats available for gen ed non-feeder families (outside of the feeder schools and immersion), I think these results suggest otherwise. For non-CTIP 1 gen ed families, my guess is that the feeder system is going to be fairly airtight -- your middle school feeder WILL be your middle school, with little wiggle room. This underscores how important this discussion we all are having is.

  105. Not only that - the tie breaker order suggests that siblings of current middle school students are likely to be forced to their feeder - that would kill many families (including ours) - this entire proposal is really a handful of people moving students around like chess pieces with little regard for the school sites or the families involved - i think full choice is fairest thing - it spreads the misery of getting an assignment you hate around and does not pit one set of parents against another set. new programs (MI) should not go into heavily oversubscribed schools. the point of this system was supposed to be to spread out the middle school demand wasn't it?

    to the inclusion parent at aptos, i'm really surprised to hear that you did not get any of your choices - what schools did you request?

  106. This may come a little late- will anyone read this? :-)

    I posted a similar message to this comment on the PPS group, but I wanted to include something like it here as well. Having had some time to step out of the fray, I wanted to say something I think is important.

    In the urgency I felt after the Aptos feedback session to make myself heard, I may have left others feeling unheard themselves. If so, I apologize, and regret that example I set because I do believe that for any of us dealing with these proposals at the ground level - where the rubber meets the road - it will require listening to each other in a way that builds each other up and moves things forward.

    I'd like to also address the Aptos folks directly for a moment.

    It’s clear that Aptos is a major success story on a number of levels. One of the most important accomplishments has been raising test scores across the board without significant demographic changes. That’s a BIG DEAL. So, I understand the fear is that these feeder system changes could undo the really great stuff that so many have worked so hard to build at Aptos. I don’t take that lightly. I'm an MI parent, but I would not want MI to go to Aptos if it meant that it would unravel the fabric of what's working there. If anything, whatever Aptos is doing should be understood and replicated elsewhere.

    That said, I believe it could work. I think if we put our heads together, honor and address the valid concerns of Aptos and MI in a spirit of exploring a potential future partnership, perhaps MI at Aptos could even become a net positive for the school and a new model for the District of what works.

    But, I have no personal attachment to Aptos. All I want is a solution that works for MI, and Aptos, be it together or apart. My hope is that we can start moving forward together.  Where 'forward' leads to, feeder or no feeder, MI at Aptos or elsewhere, is far less important to me than the idea that when people listen to each other and work together to find solutions, the outcome is always better.

    And I hope that by sharing this message with y'all, perhaps things can go a bit more smoothly for others as well.

  107. Donna,
    [Tried to post this several times on Friday, but it would disappear… then I started getting Error Messages…then we were out of town]:

    "M" at 9:31 AM said:
    "Most "average moms" don't have this extensive knowledge of the SFUSD... and that coffee shop must have some pretty big napkins."

    "Hi, I'm Donna, and I am flattered that you think that I have an "extensive knowledge of the SFUSD." ... have never been a PTA officer or belonged to PPS. Everything I write on this blog is my own words and thoughts."

    I'm VERY sorry, Donna... and I mean that sincerely. That was snarky and presumptuous of me. We have friends at Miraloma who said some parents there (including some who are heavily involved in public schools) were “up in arms” (their words) about the second proposal (including the Miraloma to Denman part, and the MI to Aptos part). I am sorry for assuming you were in that category.

    I have to say, the part where I said you have a more extensive understanding of the SFUSD than most moms (or dads) is certainly true, so kudos to you. Our friends at Miraloma had not even known about the first middle school feeder plan until I told them, but after the second plan came out, they were alerted right away by the parents who would have also known about the first plan, but apparently didn’t find it alarming enough to--- sound the alarm (at least, not at the same volume). I understand many (perhaps most) parents speaking out for choice have ALWAYS been for choice (even with the first plan), but at the same time, when the middle school was one they wouldn’t mind “choosing” anyway, the alarm wasn’t sounded in the same way (with such urgency and intensity)… and MI wasn’t scapegoated.

    When the first proposal came out, there were many comments here (August 19th thread)… but no attacks on MI… and the few comments about Aptos and Denman feeder schools largely had to do with how well Aptos did under that plan (and how Denman didn’t do nearly as well)… with some even suggesting it wasn’t “fair” to Denman, and that switching some of the feeder schools with Aptos would make it more equitable…. and that the two proposed MI programs were too small and should be consolidated. (Which is what happened in the second proposal.) When the Aptos immersion program got a little bigger (though more cost effective to the district as a whole) and a couple of popular Aptos feeder schools changed, suddenly it was all about choice vs. language pathways (as opposed to the previous choice vs. feeder schools)… including how language pathways (with MI specifically and frequently mentioned) would now take choice and resources from Special Ed, too!!! Again, when Caroline mentioned GE families at the Aptos meeting feeling blindsided… consider the situation for MI families who found the particular SFUSD program in which their children are enrolled suddenly under attack.

    When Meg mentioned (on this thread) the “semi-hostility” MI families could avoid by forgoing Aptos, you zoomed right over that (troubling?) statement to inquire about her reference to the possibility of MI at Bryant! And… so many posters are applauding a plan that is turning Hoover into- what? A completely Chinese language school? Is that really the plan? Am I misunderstanding? What about the “displacement” of the opportunities for band/orchestra/etc. (and a “path to SOTA”) at Hoover… and what about not putting immersion in a "successful,""popular," "at capacity" school... or do those issues only apply to Aptos?

    Again, I strongly disagree with your plan for all the language programs in the SFUSD (which also seemed kind of presumptuous)… but you have every right to express your opinion without having me make (erroneous) assumptions about where they are coming from, so I apologize, again, and wish you all the best in the assignment process.

    [Now I see your child got into got Aptos….. so, Welcome to Aptos!]

  108. Hi M, while few people will read this, it is still worthwhile to set the record straight. In my very first post in September, when I introduced myself ("Is Middle School Enrollment Going to be a Breeze"), I wrote the following paragraph regarding my preference for a "100% choice-driven lottery," which is how I honestly felt in September 2010 and how I honestly feel right now, March 2011. I am not blowing in the wind, "I love it," I love it not," depending on the feeder pattern at any one moment in time. Also, I was quite aware of the feeder proposals from the very start, because my 4th grader, "No. 2," has an IEP for Inclusion (also described in my first post). As you know, there was nothing, absolutely nothing, at that time to tell us how the District was going to provide Special Ed. services and make fully inclusive middle schools with the new feeder proposal, so I began attending Special Ed. CAC meetings to learn all that could to make good choices for my family and to meet the new Asst. Superintendent of Special Ed. Ceclia Dodge. I am not a parent activist or a particularly involved parent at my school, but I do pride myself on being an informed parent. And as I said before, I am a quick study (my livelihood depends on it).

    Here is the excerpt from my very first post:

    What do we think about the format of the middle school lottery this year? I capital L-O-V-E it! I guess that I never fully bought into the idea of feeder schools, given the diversity of middle school programs and electives across the district. Also, I hadn’t heard many complaints about the previous lottery, so I cannot grasp the concept of “fixing” it. Our friends who went through the middle school lottery in the past few years seem satisfied with their placement. They chose middle schools for very personal reasons, rarely “because everyone from our elementary school was going there” or “because it was our neighborhood school.” Now, it often turns out to be the case that a large proportion of the children from one elementary school end up going to the same middle school, because driving distance and MUNI routes often come into play, especially if you still have an elementary school drop off for a younger sibling as part of the morning driving circuit. While these factors generally lead to a natural migration to a relatively close middle school, which looks like a “feeder” pattern, I still prefer a 100% choice-driven lottery with the whole City in one big bucket. Furthermore, I am extremely happy to be participating in a lottery in which the priorities are so crystal clear: 1. siblings, 2. CTIP1 census tract, and 3. all others (this is our cohort). The phony-baloney has been stripped out of the computer algorithm. Now, it feels like a real honest-to-goodness lottery, with the exception of possible address fraud for CTIP1 priority, which I assume will be small and which I hope will be caught."

    So there you have it. I was following the feeder proposal from Day 1. The opinions I express are my own. I have attended the Community Forums. I hear many people asking for separate immersion middle schools. This is not an original idea. When we toyed with the idea of a hybrid proposal, we were just looking for some common ground, a compromise if you will. Interestingly, even in September, I was suspicious of possible CTP1 fraud. Judging by lottery results and some of the comments on another thread (Guest Blogger), perhaps it was more widespread than I could have even imagined.

  109. Donna, thanks for this. I'm in general agreement with your points, i.e., in favor of choice for middle school.

    Except for the last one: I'm not convinced there has been significant "fraud" or "gaming" in CTIP1 areas (people renting an apartment for the season sort of thing). No more than there is in any system where popular seats are significantly outnumbered by applicants. (In a pure neighborhood system, a few people would rent in those neighborhoods for a time, or look to move in permanently--is that "gaming" or fraud?)

    Even those high-SES people who have legitimately, according to this somewhat blunt sorting system, benefited from CTIP1 are not that numerous: they only seem so because they are concentrated at just a few schools. They are not among the large # of CTIP1ers applying to Moscone or Taylor, but instead are applying to Clarendon, Alvarado, Miraloma, and Rooftop.

    For Aptos (your kid's new school, congrats!) I'm guessing the large CTIP1 cohort was a bit mixed in terms of SES status, as there has always been a flow of low-SES kids from Mission and Bayview there as well as, more recently, middle class Mission folks.

    The point is--it looks like there are a lot of middle/high SES CTIP1 folks precisely because they chose the same schools that people who post here also want to go to. My guess is they number in the double digits, not triple. Not a perfect outcome or system, but there are so many bigger issues to worry about than this one (like the feeder system).

  110. (Part 1)
    On March 23, 3:02 PM, M wrote:

    “When the first proposal came out, there were many comments here (August 19th thread)… but no attacks on MI…”

    Hi, I’m Donna, and I finally had a chance to go back to the August 19 post “Middle School attendance areas/assignments,” which you cited. It is a good post to cite on this topic, because more than anything, it highlights the confusion created by the original K-8 feeder proposal, specifically as it related to MI, and the paucity of information from the District on language pathways. You say that there were “no attacks on MI” and “MI wasn’t scapegoated” at that time. Hello! MI was not even included in the plan! Realistically, who could have commented on or “attacked” MI pathways in a semi-intelligent fashion? MI was a stealth program. I copied some of the posts into a separate letter (Part 3) to highlight the total confusion around MI pathways. I think that everyone agrees that language pathways, particularly MI, were not adequately addressed in the first proposal. You are over interpreting lack of information for apathy.

    Furthermore, the District did not conduct any Community Forums for people to get in your face with comments after the first proposal was released (the SFUSD electronic Survey was a token attempt to be inclusive, but it was not highly publicized and many families did not know about it to participate). Anyway, the outcry about the K-8 feeder proposal subsided once the District agreed to scrap the first proposal and to prepare a second proposal. No need to “sound the alarm.” And where, pray tell, were parents supposed to “sound the alarm”???? In my mind, it was a significant mistake for the District to postpone the Community Forums until after the second proposal was released. Why weren’t they conducting Community Forums between August 2010 and February 2011, with details of language pathways, when public input would have had the most impact? Pubic school parents just sat and waited, and waited, and waited for Godot! SFUSD is soliciting public feedback now, at an illogical point in the process. They put the cart before the horse. Now, there is outrage. And rightly so. The “urgency and intensity” that you detect at the Community Forums reflect the limited amount of time that parents have to comment before the upcoming BOE vote, not nefarious motives as your posts often seem to imply.

    Also, based on some of your posts, it would appear that you are taking comments at the Community Forums personally. You believe that the situation has changed to “choice vs. language pathways (as opposed to the previous choice vs. feeder schools),” and, of course, that is your prerogative. I believe this change in emphasis is related to the amount and the nature of the information on language pathways that is now available. Yes, there have been more comments about language pathways, including MI, because MI is now out in the open (it is no longer stealth).

    To be continued…

  111. (Part 2)
    In addition, I note that you allude to Denman in several of your quotes. If you sincerely believe that the first proposal “wasn’t “fair” to Denman, and that switching some of the feeder schools with Aptos would make it more equitable…. and that the two proposed MI programs were too small and should be consolidated,” then it is only fair for me to ask you, “WHY AREN’T YOU JUMPING ON YOUR SOAP BOX TO FEED JOES AND SK INTO DENMAN?” This Denman suggestion was not warmly received earlier in this thread, which prompts me to ask do you really care about the MI program or do you only care about your child? Should I conclude that JOES and SK parents don’t think that Denman would be a good “fit” for their children if MI programs were established there? If that is true, then why is Denman OK for other children? Once you put yourself in another’s shoes, then maybe you will stop taking everything personally, stop thinking that the MI program is being attacked, and get to the real core of the issue, which is the dearth of Quality Middle Schools in the District. Creating a language immersion pathway from scratch in an over enrolled middle school and scrambling up all the K-5 schools in an impossible, illogical cross-city feeder pattern is a diversionary tactic, so that we don’t begin to critique the incompetence at the District level. It has nothing to do with the District’s objective of creating “Quality Middle Schools,” because it does nothing to address the fundamental elements that are lacking in the least requested, under-enrolled middle schools.

    Finally, you noted my inquiry to Meg, “about her reference to the possibility of MI at Bryant!” What is so evil about my question? I mentioned it before, and I will mention it again, I am compulsive about verifying details. Meg’s suggestion appeared out of nowhere and was not repeated in a public forum. Truth or rumor? I was following up. So are you saying that it was a sort of MI insider joke? I guess that the joke is on me. Touché! But please do not confuse my innocence question with evil intentions.

    Everyone is advocating for children and for improved school quality. We all want the same thing. I hope that the BOE rejects the K-8 feeder proposals and leave the full-choice lottery in place until all middle schools are satisfactory. This has always been my position, and the District has not presented any improvement plans, budgets, or timelines in the Community Forums to convince me otherwise. In the meantime, there is plenty of space in under-enrolled middle schools for SFUSD to build language pathways over the next 5 years, without displacing existing programs or faculty, which circles back to where we started with the hybrid proposal.

    To be continued…

  112. (Part 3)
    These posts demonstrate the confusion with the original K-8 proposal.

    August 19, 10:20 AM: I thought they were planning to have Starr King and Ortega feed the same middle school, so the Mandarin immersion kids will have the same middle school program.

For the same token, CIS and West Portal should feed the same middle school.

Language immersion needs critical mess (a lot of kids speaking the language). Having one single school with a big immersion program is better than having two smaller schools with two smaller programs.

    11:34 AM: The immersion kids at Jose Ortega and West Portal will follow a different feeder path than the GE kids at their schools. For ex. West Portal GE kids will go to Hoover. West Portal immersion kids will go wherever the Chinese immersion program is. There is info on the website about this.

    11:41 AM: Where is the info that Jose Ortega MI kids will follow a different path? Does this mean that they won't go to Aptos? I'm confused!

    11:53 AM: I don't see any reference on whether the immersion kids at West Portal, Starr King and Ortega would have a different feeding pattern from the GE kids.

    11:58 AM: On this link, click "PowerPoint Presentations" under "Learn more about the details." Then go to Appendix A re: language pathways. But I think the other poster was wrong. Looks like Cantonese kids will go to 3 middle schools Francisco, Hoover and Marina. Mandarin kids don't have a middle school yet. It's blank for King and Ortega!

    12:04 PM: I hope Ortega Mandarin gets Aptos like the rest of the school.

    8:40 PM: My biggest suggestion and/or complaint about this plan is that they need to group language programs better. Mandarin from Ortega and King in one school; put Japanese from Rosa Parks and Clarendon together in another. It looks like they are working on expanding Spanish spaces at Lick, Everett and Mann, which is good. By why aren't West Portal and CIS being sent together? The language plan needs better articulation.
And I would agree about re-arranging the Presidio and Roosevelt feeder schools.

    11:37 PM: To 8:40 PM: This map has nothing to do with immersion programs. There's a separate plan. But that fact is not at all clear from how this is presented. There's more in the presentation, but it's a little self-contradictory.

    11:57 PM: Thank you, 8:37. I wish someone would provide us with a clearer presentation of the language pathways. I watched the video of last night's meeting, and still didn't get a clear picture of this. This is really important for those with kids in language programs!

    August 20, 12:40 PM: …I just think they should rearrange the current Presidio - Roosevelt - Hoover configuration. Rosa Parks … to Hoover to connect with the JBBP kids from Clarendon. Rosa Parks GE kids would lend some diversity to Hoover as well. In its place, Grattan should go to Roosevelt. … To keep Cantonese language intact, CIS should go to Hoover to join West Portal. In its place, Jefferson should go to Roosevelt. … Then, Presidio should get Tenderloin and in return Roosevelt should get Peabody. McCoppin should go wherever numbers balance is needed. … I would consider putting a Mandarin program in Aptos, and busing in Starr King. The Starr King GE kids would help Aptos stay diverse. Let Mann focus on Spanish, and send Daniel Webster as well Flynn there for now…

  113. (Part 4)
    Posts continued...

    3:05 PM: I think the district has no idea what to do with the language pathways yet, so they draw the simplest plan based on neighborhood and capacity. It is a pity because they did a great job with the immersion programs at ES level.

    3:11 PM: You're totally right. Looking at the map of language programs, it's shocking how few there are in the west. Clearly these were always magnet programs to help gentrify east side schools. And now, the two Mandarin programs are too far from the Chinese areas and too far from each other. Remember when the Mandarin parents wanted the program at Feinstein? Crazy talk. That would mean that the programs at Ortega and Feinstein would naturally feed into Aptos. Clearly there's no need for that!

    M, I hope that my response adequately addresses all of your concerns - Donna

  114. Hi Donna,

    I don't know if anyone is even reading this anymore, but your latest posts bother me.

    You refer to the MI program as "stealth". It implies that the MI program is an insidious weapon with a hidden agenda. In many of your posts you include some kind of subtle dig at the MI program. I can empathize people wanting a choice system, but the MI program is not responsible for the feeder system.

    I think the point M was trying to make is is that the people who are being so vocal right now about wanting choice and not wanting the feeder program didn't seem to mind it very much after the first draft of the feeder map. No one is denying that there wasn't confusion about the language immersion programs. But your posts consistently frame the issue as language vs. GE which is not helpful and in many cases can be hurtful. So before telling other people to "not take things so personally" and "stand in someone else's shoes" I suggest you do the same.

    I also find it interesting that in your latest blog post "A Tale of Two Schools" you so enthusiastically compare Cobb and Clarendon based on the demographics of the 1st round offers. I wonder why you don't do a similar study of the demographics of the middle schools based on the latest feeder map. It seems like a double standard to me.