Friday, April 29, 2011

LAUSD students sing: "Save Our School"

Rachel Norton: What an “all cuts” budget looks like

An excerpt from Rachel Norton's blog:
Just home from six-plus hours of committee meetings, the first of which was the City-School District Select committee held at City Hall in the gorgeous Board chamber....

Anyway, SFUSD Budget Director Reeta Madhaven led the Supervisors (Avalos, Chu and Cohen) and Commissioners (Fewer, Maufas and Norton) in a presentation of our steadily worsening budget outlook. We’d heard the presentation earlier this month in a Committee of the Whole, but familiarity does not make the numbers more palatable. Due to the failure of the legislature to put a tax extension on the ballot, we are left with two alternatives: the Governor’s original doom and gloom scenario from January (which we were calling “Scenario B” but is now our best-case scenario), requiring cuts of $330 per student, or $25 million, for 2011-12, and deeper cuts for 2012-13; OR an “all cuts” budget that could require cuts of $800 per student or more.
Read the full post

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inside Bay Area: Public schools: Is California's middle class heading for the exits?

This from Inside Bay Area:

It's the hot topic outside the kindergarten room, at fundraising tables and after morning drop-off. Parents are asking: How much more can California lop off public education before they bolt for private schools?

For public schools, 2011-12 could be a turning point.

In recent years schools have endured incremental cuts and annual angst. But with dramatic reductions to the school year, program and staffing expected, many families are contemplating a deposit on a private school.

Local private schools report this spring that inquiries and enrollment are up, and one school that closed several years ago, Calvary Christian Academy in San Jose, even plans to reopen in August.

Bellarmine College Preparatory received a record 1,000-plus applications, most for its 400-member freshman class. Several other schools estimated that inquiries and applications are up 25 percent. That includes Valley Christian, which hopes to increase enrollment 5 percent annually for the next few years, Admissions Director Scott Wessling said.

At St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Saratoga, inquiries and applications are up 40 percent over last year, Head of School Harry McKay said. Although many private schools have closed admissions for 2011-12, some still have openings.

Read the full story

New school in the Sunset?

This from a reader:
It looks like SFUSD has some capacity to open a new elementary school in an over subscribed part of the city.

This is from Rachel Norton's blog, reporting on last week's Board of Ed meeting:

"Another contingent of people came to protest the district’s decision to move the Principal’s Center Collaborative school – a county program for juvenile offenders on probation – from dilapidated trailers in the outer Sunset to the newly-retrofitted and currently empty facility on 7th Ave. The Inner Sunset neighbors are upset because they believe the district should use the facility for an elementary school, and because they are worried about the behavior of the students who will attend the facility.

I am skeptical of the claim that the Inner Sunset needs an elementary school — it’s true that Jefferson and Alice Fong Yu are highly-requested schools in the area, but they are requested by people all over the City, not just the Inner Sunset. I plan to ask staff the question for the most recent assignment round — how many K applications did we receive from the assignment areas bordering the 7th Ave. site that listed their local schools? We’ll see. But I do resent the suggestion that the Principal’s Center students will be a disruptive influence in the neighborhood. They are students who have made mistakes and are trying to get their lives back together – they deserve the benefit of the doubt. (In the time I’ve been on the Board I have not heard of or received a complaint from neighbors of the current site -tomorrow I’ll check with staff for a deeper history.) And Principal’s Center is not a “drug treatment program” as one speaker claimed — it is a highly-regarded program for at-risk youth that is administered by the Probation Department in partnership with SFUSD. We have an obligation to provide them with a facility and the one they are currently in is not acceptable for their needs. 7th Avenue is available, and suits their needs. Of course, we also have an obligation to be a good neighbor and I believe our staff is trying to work with the neighbors on legitimate concerns."

What do SF K Files readers think - is there demand for an elementary school at the newly retrofitted 7th and Judah site? People who didn't get into Grattan, Jefferson, New Traditions, even Clarendon, would this location appeal to you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

And a Round Two We Will Go

Tell about a million people that we got none of our assigned schools in the SFUSD lottery- Check.

Explain what our next step is in the kindergarten search to same million people- Check.

Research more schools online- Check.

Tour our assigned school- Check.

Take more time away from work and my kids to bring form number 2 to the EPC- Check.

That’s been my last month in a nutshell. My second list is officially turned in. I included 17 schools this time (well, 16, as Clarendon has two programs). I’m really just trying to see if I can get some type of award for person who has gone 0 for… the highest number. If this round doesn’t work out I’ll have gone 0/27, which I think is pretty impressive. In case you are interested, here is my list:

Clarendon JBBP
West Portal
New Traditions

The order is kind of funky, and not necessarily in the order of how much I like the school. To be honest, I left some of the schools I figured I had zero chance at for page two in case the employees at the EPC fail to enter my second page. That’s my strategy. Pathetic, I know. We’re still waiting on our financial aid information from Zion Lutheran, so pending that information, assuming we get any of the above schools (besides maybe the first few), whether or not my son will actually attend that school is still in question. More waiting. Joy.

I did tour Glen Park and stayed on campus for quite some time. There are many great things about that school; I met both of the kinder teachers, who seemed lovely, and the facilities will be wonderful when the construction is finished (which I imagine will be before Fall 2011, seems like it’s well underway). But I ultimately did not register my son there. I don’t know how much to say about that, other than it wasn’t a good fit for us- that decision primarily driven by the school-wide color card discipline system they use. I’m sure for every one of me that thinks this isn’t the type of discipline system they would like used in their child’s classroom, there are two other people who say it’s a great system and it works wonders. And that’s totally fine. That’s the joy of being a parent, right? You get to pick what works for your kid. I could say more here, but I won’t, just know that I think Glen Park has a lot of good things going for it and it is certainly worth checking out.

We have also taken a move out of the city this summer off the table for now. We’ve managed to build a nice little support system here in San Francisco and I’m in no hurry to leave that. So our options for now remain SFUSD round two or Zion with financial aid (or with very, very creative finances).

I am so over this process and very much looking forward to this time next month when we will have a direction and my son can tell the rest of his classmates where HE gets to go to kindergarten next year. But for now, a round two we will go.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Edison Gets One More Chance --Charter Renewal Board Hearing April 26

I had earlier reported that the SFUSD Board had denied Edison's charter renewal and that the matter was now with state Department of Education authorities. Well, I was wrong. Edison has resubmitted its charter renewal petition giving the Board another chance to vote on it April 26, 2011. In its new proposal, Edison has sought to cure whatever deficiencies were in its earlier application. In my view, this gives the Board a chance to do the right thing and renew Edison's charter. Edison is a K through 8 situated on Dolores Street in Noe Valley. A little more than a year ago, a new group of managers, led by Adrienne Morrell, broke free from the for-profit Edison Charter school system and have been trying to turn Edison into a neighborhood charter school. I toured the school this past Fall looking for a smaller-grade middle school alternative for my special ed son Ben. And I found her and the staff to be welcoming of my son. Indeed, and I hope I'm not disclosing anything too personal, Ms. Morrell herself has had family members who had learning disabilities and thus educating all students -- regardless of learning disability -- is a personal passion for her. And it shows in Edison's test scores -- the school is now achieving a "10" in testing when comparing its demographics to other schools. That's notable. Honestly, we don't have many public schools in the city at that level. It also is a small-grade middle school, and the Gateway situation I described below shows that many public school parents want a small-grade middle school option like Edison. Furthermore, the school has expanded arts offering and is now offering Spanish-language instruction (starting this year at the K level) that will eventually expand throughout the school. Indeed, for K parents upset at their Round I lottery choice, this is an alternative that should not be missed. In short, in my view, this is a school that should be given another chance.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Do Folks Really Want Smaller Grade Middle Schools In SF?

As our quest for a middle school for our special ed son Ben continues, I wanted to report on a meeting that I and other parents attended last night at Gateway. I think it is important because it speaks volumes about something that has concerned me about the state of middle school public school education in San Francisco. At the meeting, over 50 parents crowded into Gateway's Library to hear about our likelihood of getting off Gateway's wait list. Gateway principal Sharon Olken reported the news that, not only had nearly 300 parents applied for Gateway's new middle school, but, of the over 100 who had been offered enrollment, virtually all had accepted. So many in fact that Gateway is now projecting that only a handful of folks from the waitlist (which is now above 50) will likely get actual offers. Of course, we walked out of the meeting completely crushed. But I then stepped back and thought about the bigger implications of these numbers. Granted that Gateway Middle has a parent entity that has created a successful high school, but where else would a charter -- (1) that is completely new and untested; (2) that is going to have to move in the next two or three years as it runs out of room at its most likely location for next year (Muir Elementary); and (3) that offers no guarantee of admission to its better established high school -- be so wildly popular? And it seems to me patently obvious that this success is at least in part evidence of how much public school parents in San Francisco desperately want more smaller-grade middle schools. Principal Olken candidly admitted her astonishment at this turn of events. Even SFUSD itself, in its plans to redesign the assignment system for middle schools, is now recognizing that something is going wrong at the middle school level -- academic achievement starts to stall at the middle school level. And I see articles about efforts by other large school districts elsewhere in the country to experiment with different kinds of middle school options, including opening up more smaller grade middle schools (both charter and traditional public) as well as trying out "school within a school" models. Yet the reality here is starkly different: San Francisco offers few traditional small grade public middle school options that are extremely difficult to get into at the middle school level and only four middle school charters (one of which -- Edison -- it has recently sought to have shut down). And while SFUSD recognizes a problem at the middle school level, it appears to believe that the issue can be solved solely through rearranging which students go to which of the large middle schools. So, I ask a question that my fellow blogger Donna raised herself in a post last month -- how can SFUSD better improve academic outcomes at the middle school level? And I would posit that, at least in the view of many public school parents, the answer may be more small-grade middle school options.

Guest blog: A response to 'A Case for Equity'

I was inspired by Idealistic Mama’s guest post and have a little different angle keeping in mind her main points of creating school equity, neighborhood schools, and the new assignment system.

In Round 1, families would be given a spot at their neighborhood school automatically. If parents choose, they could try to “lottery out” of their neighborhood school and enter the lottery for city-wide schools, language programs, and charter schools. In Round 1, other neighborhood schools would not be choices. This would cultivate the expectation that families could “win the lottery” and get a special program but most likely, they will attend their neighborhood school. In a situation where non-attendance area sibling enrollment prevented the enrollment of an attendance area applicant, the attendance area applicant would receive superior preference in the lottery for city-wide schools and programs.

Neighborhood schools should not be choices in Round 1 as that goes against the basic premise of neighborhood schools. City-wide and charter schools offer special language programs and/or curriculum which makes them extraordinary and therefore worthy of a special application and a lottery system. This would ensure people within the neighborhood school assignment would get their neighborhood school. If spots offered to neighborhood assignment area applicants are not taken in Round 1, then the spots would be released to non-neighborhood applicants in Round 2. In Round 2, preference would be given to non-neighborhood applicants who qualified for free lunch and added diversity to the incoming class.

An example is the 2011/2012 K class of Alvarado. In the first cycle of the new system, 38 CTIP1 applicants applied to Alvarado. There were 30 neighborhood applicants without attending sibling requests and 8 neighborhood applicants with attending sibling requests. The neighborhood requests were equal to the amount of CTIP1 applicants. There were 22 non-attendance area sibling applicants. There were 88 openings at the school. In current system, 10 neighborhood applicants did not receive a spot at their neighborhood school. In my proposal, the neighborhood applicants would be offered spots and in Round 2 any available spots would be given to interested families with preference for families qualifying for free lunch and ethnic diversity based on the registered class. Thus the final class would be 38 neighborhood applicants and 20 preference or CTIP1 applicants.

A system with true neighborhood preference has many benefits.
a. This would create transparency in the school assignment system. At this point, parents have no idea where they are going to end up. Parents must negotiate many factors such as start times, location, and after school care when choosing a school. If they know their neighborhood school, they will have this information in advance and can plan accordingly. If we honor a neighborhood system, then parents know what school they have; they know the principal, the start time, the building, and the community of parents. This familiarity with the school would take a lot of stress out of the process and make the transition into kindergarten a much more predictable and less anxiety producing experience.
b. It would allow neighborhood schools to change as neighborhoods change.
c. It would allow parents to build connections and maintain them from pre-kindergarten days through elementary school. This would support schools in the long term.
d. It is more ecologically sound. Most people would be going to school in their neighborhood thus cutting down on commuting within San Francisco. It would promote walking and biking to school.

2. Preference would be given to children who qualify for free lunch within the city-wide school lottery program. Ethnicity would be used to help city-wide schools enroll a student population that mirrors the diversity of San Francisco. Student address would have no preference. This would ensure that no one was “gaming” the system as seems likely with preference solely based on address.

3. We need to make all schools within CTIP1 areas schools quality schools. We can use the CTIP1 areas to target specific schools within the system. A possible example would be that all CTIP1 area K-8 schools would become year around schools with an emphasis on academic proficiency and social and emotional development. The goals of these schools would be to prepare students for high school in terms of academic, social, and emotional readiness. Class sizes would be small and some subjects like math and science could be single sex. Campuses would be open 7am to 7pm. Existing child development centers and preschools in CTIP1 would be funded to ensure availability and accessibility for all children under 5 years of age.

4. We need to bring more money into the school system to ensure that all neighborhood schools have basic services like art, P.E., and libraries. Basic education should not be reliant on a PTA’s ability to raise money. Quality education should not be dependent on the incomes of enrolled parents and their ability to volunteer. We need a source of funds that would help to stabilize the system during state and federal budget cuts.

An example of funding the system by families using the public schools system would be an educational surcharge that would be tax deductible similar to property taxes. In the following example, I use specific numbers but these are for demonstration purposes only. If families supported this idea, the exact numbers would need research. For instance, there could be a 1% enrollment surcharge for all families who have an annual household income over $60,000 enrolling their children in public schools. If a family had a gross income of $60,000 they would pay $600 per child per year at the time of enrollment. If a family had a gross income of $300,000 they would pay $3,000 per child per year.

This money would fund the CTIP1 area schools and basic services within neighborhood schools. It would help defer the budget cuts and is only applied to people using the system. This enrollment surcharge would be tax deductible in a manner similar to property taxes. PTAs would still raise money to fund their specific schools but this would be a way to bring more money into the overall system to fund school equity.

In addition, if we have a secured source of funds, it will create stability within the schools system and might actually make SFUSD more attractive to families over the long term. When other school districts are forced to make radical cuts, SFUSD might be able to provide some modicum of financial stability if there is a separate source of funds.

Parents whose children are in the system are usually the most passionate about funding the system. It is doubtful that you could pass a tax on all residents to pay for public education. I believe that most parents with children enrolled in public schools want to contribute to the system. If parents could make a decision to formalize a regular contribute to the system, the funds could create more parity between schools and produce more stability within the system.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Raymond Isola, the principal at Sanchez Elementary, told prospective parents yesterday that the potential exists for a new Spanish immersion pathway at Sanchez Elementary if enough currently assigned and attendance area parents voice their interest now. Sanchez currently has general education and Spanish biliteracy pathways and has authorization from the SFUSD to create a new pathway starting in September that is currently slated as general education. The proposal is to make that new pathway a Spanish dual-immersion program.

Sanchez has the components in place to offer an incredibly rich immersion experience: a strong Spanish-speaking/Latino parent community, bilingually-trained teachers who already teach in the biliteracy pathway, bilingual staff, and a knowledgeable, open-minded, energetic principal. Sanchez is a sweet school located centrally in the Castro/Upper Market/Duboce Triangle neighborhood. It offers a computer lab, a credentialed science teacher to help supplement each class, an active greening project with a vertical garden, and a bilingual Reggio Emilia Pre-Kindergarten Program. The school day goes from 7:50 am to 4 pm with a free enrichment program from 3-4 pm that includes Playworks, art, dance, computers, study skill development, and Spanish as a second language. The free after school program runs from 4-6 pm. Several currently-assigned families have liked what we've seen at Sanchez and enthusiastically support creating a new Spanish immersion pathway. With Spanish immersion programs at 147% capacity in San Francisco, our community needs another Spanish immersion program, especially one with the key elements already in place.

If you are interested in Spanish immersion at Sanchez, please e-mail Dr. Isola ASAP to voice your support for this option ( This is especially important if you are a currently registered or assigned parent and/or live in the Sanchez attendance area. If you were assigned to the school in Round 1 but did not register, please consider registering and/or communicating your thoughts to the principal. If you wanted a Spanish immersion program in Round 1 and would consider putting Sanchez on your list for Round 2, please show your support for this option by emailing Dr. Isola. "Si, se puede!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Help Me Debunk This Myth!

One of the things I've heard often in the last few weeks is to not register at a school you may not want before going into round 2 because the district has more incentive to place kids that are not already enrolled somewhere (more people in system = more money) than it does kids who are registered somewhere.

I know this isn't posted anywhere. I know it's not the way things are supposed to work. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory. But I hear it OVER AND OVER AND OVER again!!

So help reassure me this is not the case. Post a comment here and tell us if you registered somewhere, entered round 2 and got one of your round two choices that wasn't the school you had already registered for. Help me debunk this myth!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Tale of Two Schools

They are sisters on the surface. If one were to judge their kindergarten classes on paper, it would be hard to distinguish between the schools. The composition of the classes are remarkably similar, with among the highest percentages of white students in the District. Location, location, location! The attendance area of one school encompasses the wealthiest zip codes in the City, while the other attendance area is located in the far reaches of hill country. Both schools got the density tiebreakers for their respective attendance areas. But that is where all the comparisons stop, because one school is the darling of the District (requested by 54% of attendance area families) with 1797 total requests and 322 first-choice requests, while the other school is shunned by the District (requested by 2% of attendance area families).

The Schools? Cobb and Clarendon!

Here are the statistics for the choice offers (AA for attendance area):

Cobb: 0% sibling non-AA, 1% sibling AA, 2% CTIP1, 1% AA

Clarendon: 34% sibling non-AA, 11% sibling AA, 36% CTIP1, 10% AA

Here are the statistics for the racial/ethnic composition of all offers:

Cobb: 4% African American, 16% Chinese, 4% Latino, 62% White, 12% Other Asian, 1% Other

Clarendon: 2% African American, 10% Chinese, 13% Latino, 53% White, 17% Other Asian, 5% Other

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

- Donna

Friday, April 1, 2011

Can someone 'splain me the math?

The March 2011 Student Assignment Report has the following explanation for the Density Tiebreaker (Appendix C, page 26):

Elementary (K5) students who live in attendance areas that do not have enough space to accommodate all the students living in the attendance area receive a density tiebreaker.

For each attendance area we calculated the number of kindergarten applicants who live in the attendance area (regardless of the choices they listed on their application form) as a percent of seats in the attendance area school. While 100% of kindergarten applicants live in an attendance area only 84% of kindergarten seats are in attendance area schools; the remaining 16% of seats are in city-wide schools. Therefore, if the percent of applicants in an attendance area was equal to or greater than 116% of capacity all elementary students (K5) who live in the attendance area got the density tiebreaker for all of their requests.


This passage seems to imply that city-wide seats were allocated to each attendance area at a fixed amount of 16%. Hum?

Is it correct to add 16% to 100% for the tiebreaker (116%) if only 84% of seats are in attendance area schools?

Can someone explain the assumptions and the math?