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:

Miraloma
Clarendon JBBP
Sunset
Feinstein
West Portal
Sunnyside
McKinley
Grattan
Argonne
Milk
New Traditions
Lakeshore
Clarendon
Alvarado
Jefferson
Rooftop
Sloat

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.

72 comments:

  1. Emily, thank you for your post and your thoughtful comments about Glen Park. It takes grace to realize a school is not a good fit for your family and at the same time, not disparage its positive attributes. Thank you for your round two list, it's interesting to see your choices. Keeping my fingers crossed for you in round two!

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  2. You'll get something in Round II. That's my prediction. I know lots of kids going private that got great public schools in Round I (that are on your list). Those spots will be freed up.

    I say this having sat on our No. 1 schools wait list all summer and getting the call 3rd day of school. We didn't talk about K at all at my house. Just that he was going and that we were looking for the best school for our son. Thankfully it wasn't really talked up at his preschool so we didn't have to deal with him asking about where he would go.

    hang in there.

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  3. Not what you want to hear right now, but even if you don't get your dream school for K, consider trying again for first grade. About 10 kids leave Feinstein and West Portal after K each year to go parochial. Sunnyside too. This will not happen as much over the next few years with the roll back to Sept. of start date for publics. Right now with a parochial June cutoff and Dec public, there is a whole half year of kids that fall into this "free public preshool b/f parochial k" range. It will go down to only three months in a couple of years.

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  4. I get that the lottery can be frustrating for those of us who are accustomed to pretty much getting what they want, by that, I mean for those who through their own experiences have come to expect that if they are diligent, follow the rules, and put some work into it, they'll get the outcome they aspire to. This, by the way, I see as pretty much a middle/upper middle class experience. Most people in this world have the experience of doing the above and NOT getting what they want, but getting on with their lives and making the most of what they have. Not saying that those who are dissapointed so far should have to do that. Just trying to put it in some context.

    However, I'm puzzled by the total cynicism and self victimization that i see so much of on this blog. Public school is as much of a free ticket as you're going to get. I figured that all the time i took off of work, spent getting here and there, talking to ambassadors, parents, teachers, researching blogs and stats and studies, was the price for getting into a decent public school that i wouldn't have to shell out $200K for.

    I think its especially strange that I so rarely hear anyone complain, and feel the victim of having shlepped their kids to private school observations, enduring social coffee chats, being judged and measured, having my child judged and measured, paying application fees, and not being "chosen" -- like in a beauty pagaent -- for reasons that will always be a mystery to me and likely a source of some self doubt, to gain entry into said private school.

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  5. @3:37pm

    Curious: did you get a school you wanted in the SFUSD lottery? We did not. And we did not apply to privates or parochials. Are you saying I should be happy about not getting a decent school simply because it's tuition-free? I don't see it as a self-victimizing stance to say "We invested a lot of time, we didn't get anything acceptable, we're going to keep trying." I wish my bank account agreed with you that this makes me upper-middle class.

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  6. I would like to know more about what makes Glen Park "unacceptable." The main thing mentioned is the discipline system, which usually varies from teacher to teacher anyway. How can you know if a school is not a good fit for your family until you try it? As an aside, I did not get my choices, tried a school, and ended up switching. But I'm curious how one can reject an elementary school like Glen Park without trying it.

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  7. Thanks Emily for your post. We also did Round 2 and hope we'll get something on our list. We didn't register at our assigned school and think you are in your total right to not register at Glen Park if it wasn't the right fit for you and your family. Like you we may opt for the private school option if we don't get one of our top choices even though we added schools to our list (it's awfully similar to yours as we are also Miraloma AA). Good luck to us all!

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  8. 5:10, I looked at Glen Park and it looked too rigid for us. The kids were desk-bound, there was very little art or children's writing on the hallway walls, the kids had to stay silent in the halls, and the card system turned me off too. I'm sure it is a good school for some families, but all I could see was my kid being miserable. I think it's fair enough, in a choice system, to take a look at a school and go with your gut feeling that it would not work for your kid.

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  9. Best of luck to you in round 2. We also did not get anything on our list and are keeping our fingers crossed for round 2!

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  10. A few years ago my child's teacher at Alvarado used the color card system. For my kid, it was fine. Another teacher, another style, and kids adapt. I don't think it was promoted or used school-wide though. Kids lined up in the halls to go to lunch or recess and were asked to be quiet when passing (so as not to disturb the kids not going to recess at that moment). Other methods of discipline and community-building, including Tribes, were also used.

    That's all for information, btw ....you can only make your own decision, often enough from the gut anyway, so I am not questioning that. I'm glad you at least checked out your assigned school, and I do wish you the best in R2.

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  11. Emily - My family was in your situation 2 years ago. It took the whole Summer to get the closure we needed. Something good will happen, but be ready to wait.......

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  12. When my kids were at Miraloma in the lower grades they used the color coded system.

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  13. Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

    I guess I should clarify, that my concern is less that one class uses a system I don't like, but more that the entire school- so every class in every grade- uses a system I don't like. I understand there could, or even will, be things I don't like about classes my son is in, but I can't imagine signing up for it if I know in advance that it will follow him for as long as he's at the school. Again, just my opinion. I don't want to "try" a school out, though there may be some pros to that method. I have every intention of keeping my son in whatever school he starts kinder in for the duration of our time in the city so I'm trying to set us up for as successful of a school experience as I can.

    Also, we won't be hanging on
    through the summer. It's round two or nothing for us!

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  14. Emily, even though we haven't met, I think I would enjoy getting to know you if your child ends up at Zion. It's really a sweet school, and an example of how a "back up" school (because we went 0/15 in the SFUSD lottery) turned out to be a great fit for our child and family.

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  15. I hate to say this, but your Round II list is optimistic. I think if you stick with this list you WILL get one of these schools in the August round but it will take that long - EPC is being honest that there is not a lot of movement May - August, and then there is a LOT of movement.

    I am annoyed with the person who said they didn't get a "decent" school in Round I. If the schools on the top 15 most requested are the only ones you call "decent" then you are defining "decent" more narrowly than I do. "Decent" means OK, acceptable. It doesn't mean $100K a year in parent fundraising. There are lots of "decent" elementary schools in SF -- and only 15-20 that are high-end. And probably 20 that are unacceptable according to my more reasonable definition of "decent."

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  16. “Curious: did you get a school you wanted in the SFUSD lottery? We did not. And we did not apply to privates or parochials. Are you saying I should be happy about not getting a decent school simply because it’s tuition-free?”

    No. I didn’t get any of my choices because i ignored all empirical evidence (aka “I’m a good person, surely I’ll get lucky”) and only put oversubscribed schools in my first round. But then, thanks to the sensible and patient encouragement of the good people at PPS, I decided to expand my choices. I looked at other schools that were not on the Billboard’s Top 40 List. And I spent an obsessive amount of time (I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of people) talking to families who attended some of those schools and discovered, while not perfect, these families had the same values and aspirations for their child as I did mine. They were not so different from me. I got into one of those schools easily and have never regretted it.

    We did not apply to private/ parochial schools and put a lot of research and study into making that decision from the get-go instead of trying to go down two roads at the same time. For us it was a matter of value and the complete lack of evidence that a sizeable investment for private school would guarantee a superior educational outcome in correlation to that investment.

    And no, I’m not suggesting that you be happy because you didn’t get a school that you wanted simply because its free. I’m just saying that because its free, I was not shocked/discouraged/
    annoyed by the investment -- of time (“away from work and my kids to bring form number 2 to the EPC”), effort, patience, and perserverance -- required to get what I wanted. Because nothing is really free. And, certainly (in my experience, anyway) nothing is easy.

    So hang in there. I hope you get one of your choices in round 2.

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  17. "There are lots of "decent" elementary schools in SF -- and only 15-20 that are high-end. And probably 20 that are unacceptable according to my more reasonable definition of decent."

    So 20 trophies where there is little chance of getting and assigment for those without tie breakers. 20 more that are unacceptable. When you start cutting out schools that won't work because of commute, start times, after school programs, etc. the list of "decent and practical" schools gets to be pretty short for many families.

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  18. 11:03, don't forget that according to the School Board, the #1 reason we have a student assignment system at all, versus letting kids go neighborhood and doing a straight lottery for the City-wide schools, the reason for all of this is EQUITY (closing the achievement gap is the other one). Leaving aside the fact that equity is actually defined as being impartial, how can a system that asks this much investment in just the selection process possibly be equitable? When I looked around at the other parents touring with me, they were almost all some version of middle class just like me. The parents of the kids who are supposed to be benefitting from city-wide choice generally aren't able to invest as much time and investigation as you say you did. I guess the joke is on us, because most of us on the tours had no chance of getting into any of these schools. So, we're supposed to spend months of our lives investigating schools, but not any of the really good schools, to determine which school will be acceptable and not too inconveniently located and not too popular and then take your chances in a rigged lottery where you may just end up going 0 for 15 anyhow. I dare say, all of that parent time could be spent in better, more productive ways.
    So, is there self-pity and discontent on these boards? Absolutely. And there should be, whether or not you get the school you wanted, because as citizens we should all be outraged at something as critical as the public school system being handled in a way that is undermining itself by driving middle class families out of it. And, oh yeah, not even making any progress on closing the achievement gap in the process.

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  19. It will be interesting to see if the different notification dates affect this year's Round 2. The past three years at least, public school letters went out a week before private school letters. So people might have registered for the schools they got in that week. If they ultimately went private, it was sometimes hard to "unregister" at that school. This year, privates and publics sent out notices at basically the same time. So if someone got a coveted public school but also got a private school, maybe this year that person wouldn't have gone ahead and registered at the public as "backup," while the person waited for the private school letters? This is all conjecture on my part, but I hope it works out in your favor. Best of luck to you!!
    Oh, and the Chronicle had a blurb about how Phil Teng (the assessor) was assigned to Jefferson but wasn't going to take it b/c his child was going to do another year of preschool. So that's at least one spot opening up at a school on your list...

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  20. I'm sure 4/15 3:37 will call me cynical and self-victimizing but public school certainly won't be a "free ticket" for my son. I've shelled out enough in property taxes to SF over the years to pay for for K through 8 in any of the City's more expensive private schools and instead my son goes 0/12 in the lottery.

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  21. 6:16, I hope you are right. We briefly considered registering at our public (got our 2nd choice, an immersion) just in case some calamity struck and we'd be unable to pay tuition for the private we accepted. But then we decided that that was inethical and let the space go. We might have registered for the public if we hadn't had both letters in hand at the same time -- so I hope our experience is typical and that lots of spaces become available in Round 2!

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  22. For what it's worth. Our child's immersion teacher uses a "star" system, where the kids get stars next to their name for good behavior and they loose stars if they are not behaving.

    The principal also hands out "tickets" to kids who are showing good behavior at recess, like helping to put away the balls and jump ropes. The kids write their names on the tickets and there is a raffle one a week to win pencils or erasers.

    I think these methods are pretty good. At first the kids do the behavior requested to gain the reward, eventually it becomes habit.

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  23. should be "lose"

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  24. That was extremely thoughtful of you, 7:05. May you gets lots of good karma in return!! :-)

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  25. We have also expanded our Round 2 list (very similar to Emily's) and we did not register at our assigned school.

    - Glen Park is one of our choices this time and we will be happy if we get it
    - Our order of schools was also, unfortunately, based on our paranoia of the data entry folks missing out on page 2
    - My feeling is that there will be movement in Round 2 (more than prior years) but at most sought after 25 schools the spots that will go to attendance area folks, so we do not expect much because we have ), zero, nada tie breakers
    - We are seeking spots at parochials as a back up as opposed to bolting out of the city !

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  26. So is it pretty much the feeling that families with zero tie breakers have zero chance of getting one anything in the second round? I can only really list 7-8 schools realistically due to start times.

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  27. "So, is there self-pity and discontent on these boards? Absolutely. And there should be, whether or not you get the school you wanted, because as citizens we should all be outraged at something as critical as the public school system being handled in a way that is undermining itself by driving middle class families out of it. And, oh yeah, not even making any progress on closing the achievement gap in the process."

    This pretty much sums it up. We went through the process last year and I keep coming back to this blog b/c I'm still scarred from it. We did get our first choice school during the first week of school. I just want to keep coming here and telling people to hang in there. We just wanted our neighborhood school, 3 blocks away, solid but not trophy. All our neighbors that wanted in got in this year. So for some, the new system is an improvement. And yes, I live on the west side.

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  28. 11:13, just list those schools. There will be movement and I agree with others, that more of that movement will come in Round II this year b/c of the private and public timing. In the past people registered at public and waited for private. This year they knew about private b/f the public registration deadline.

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  29. Thanks for your support all of you who have experienced this before. It is extremely heartening to hear and feel the positive and constructive comments. Here is our Round 2 list

    1. Sloat
    2. Clarendon JBBP
    3. West Portal GE
    4. Lawton
    5. Clarendon GE
    6. Lilienthal GE
    7. Lilienthal SDLK
    8. Feinstein
    9. Sherman
    10. Glen Park
    Now the 2nd page that could be missed out
    11. Rooftop
    12. Grattan
    13. Miraloma
    14. New Traditions
    15. West Portal IMMC
    16. Alvarado IMMS
    17. Peabody

    We heard last week that we were accepted at St. Finn Barr and are waiting for hear from 2 other parochials. We will put in the $$ for the deposit at one of the parochials for sure and then wait for Round 3 !

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  30. You'll get New Traditions.

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  31. Sfbernal:

    "1. Sloat
    2. Clarendon JBBP
    3. West Portal GE
    4. Lawton
    5. Clarendon GE
    6. Lilienthal GE
    7. Lilienthal SDLK
    8. Feinstein
    9. Sherman
    10. Glen Park"

    On that list, you'll probably get Glen Park. Lawton, Lilienthal. Feinstein are going to be a humongous PITA to get to from Bernal. It's not worth it for a GE program.

    Why not Taylor, SF Community, Milk, Monroe GE or Ortega GE - 800+ API schools with easy access from Bernal via 280.

    St. Finn Barr is a great school and a smart backup. We had a place at St. Finn Barr in the bag before submitting our Round I application. The deposit was definitely worth the mental health benefits.

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  32. "don't forget that according to the School Board, the #1 reason we have a student assignment system at all, versus letting kids go neighborhood and doing a straight lottery for the City-wide schools, the reason for all of this is EQUITY"

    Well, the reason is that while 20 of the schools are 'trophy' 10-15 of the schools are unacceptable. Everyone getting their neighborhood school doesn't look so attractive if that school is Muir or Bryant.

    The district wants to spread the low-SES kids out because there's solid research out there that when proportion of low-SES kids goes above a certain fraction (40-50%) the test scores tank.

    Also, the lottery system forces the district to do something about schools with falling enrollment, c.f. Daniel Webster's turnaround. It's a lot easier to get into buy-in to radically change a school if it's a "change or close" situation.

    Five years ago, the "unacceptable" elementary schools were maybe 20-25. Now its maybe 10-15. Back in the old neighborhood-plus-alternative system, there were seven trophy schools. Now there's 15-20. I can remember when McKinley was on nobody's radar.

    As for driving middle-class parents out: there's been five years of 5-10% increases in kindergarten applications.

    Systematically, over the long term, I can see why the BoE wanted to keep the lottery/choice system.

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  33. @ 12.40 - Yes, you are right about the long haul from Bernal for Lilienthal and a few others. Part of it is the herd mentality, admittedly. We did not tour Monroe, Ortega, Taylor or Milk but know people at Monroe and Milk who are extremely happy so these will be on our list during open enrollment. That said, it is a relief to have St. Finn Barr - we really like the feel of the school.

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  34. "don't forget that according to the School Board, the #1 reason we have a student assignment system at all, versus letting kids go neighborhood and doing a straight lottery for the City-wide schools, the reason for all of this is EQUITY"

    Translation: There are X number of incoming students. There are Y number of total slots. Among them, Z are in excellent-good-acceptable schools.

    Y>X>Z

    So the assignment system is needed. And no matter how it works (random? neighborhood? whatever way you can think of), (X - Z) parents will not be happy.

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  35. Sfbernal:
    Are you a SAHM? I can't imagine how to work a bernal to Sherman commute? Even bernal to Clarendon. What a nightmare schlep across town twice a day. Are there no good schools in bernal? Someone said that commute isn't worth it for a GE program, I'd say it isn't worth it for any program. Unless they're handing out some little yellow pills. We are northeast side so didn't look on your end of town.

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  36. don't bother putting E R Taylor on your list. It's become a "trophy" and probably is now already oversubscribed.

    as a bernal parent, your options at this point are probably serra and glen park. the others bernal publics will be completely oversubscribed.

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  37. newby here so don't attack me, but why aren't the bernal schools better? there seem to be so many middle class families over there. do the kids that live in bernal not go to the local schools? i'm thinking no or they would be better.

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  38. "why aren't the bernal schools better? there seem to be so many middle class families over there."

    the irony is, if all the middle class families assigned to the bernal schools (and other perfectly decent schools like them) would accept those assignments, these "questionable" schools, would gain the marketing, parent involvement, resources/ access and traction in just a few years and no longer be considered questionable.

    this kind of "turnaround" is
    much more cost effective than the millions poured into reconstitution and reform. maybe they should use some of the money to pay herds of middle class families to attend these schools as a reform strategy instead.

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  39. Bernal to clarendon. Piece of cake. Bosworth to oshaughnessey to woodside. 15 minutes max at rush. We did it for years. Now lillienthal I agree is a whole noter story.

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  40. Yeah, 7:59, that would be a great use of public funds. Not!

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  41. @sfbernal
    I've been hearing about a big turnaround at JSerra. We've got another year for our little guy, so I'm just in the listening phase at this point. Did you tour? Decide not to apply?

    Just curious...

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  42. Yes Clarendon is a quick drive from Bernal though I think it is inconsequential since our chances of getting in there are as close to zero as it gets.

    Sherman, Lilienthal are way out there though sort of halfway on our commute path (but still way out there)

    Lawton, Feinstein are not bad from Bernal but still far enough

    The Bernal schools will get better, no doubt. If the demographics of the area do not change the Kindergarden class starting in 2014-15 may see a Miraloma'd version of Flynn and Serra. Right now we do not think Flynn is good for us and we also know 2 families who moved their kids out of Flynn last year for reasons related to the school. Yes, people move all the time and I am sure every school has these issues but that was the tipping point for us with regard to Flynn (it is our attendance area school). We did not tour Serra and it is in fact closer to our home than Flynn. There is a core set of Bernal families working on turning it around but again, while we are not opposed to Serra and based on conversations with other folks we decided to exercise our options and not add either of these to our list of schools. We will be extremely happy to get Glen Park but hoping that Sloat or West Portal crack open. Luckily we have now have 2 parochial back ups St. Finn Barr and St Paul's though we will continue trying for the publics and continue expanding our lists so thanks for your inputs on these schools.

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  43. sfbernal,
    West Portal (and for the same reasons Sloat) may open up in Round 2. All the neighborhood kids got into WP and many are going private. And many others will go to WP K and then to private K again, opening several spots for first grade. None of these spaces would be available for Round 1 b/c the school doesn't ask if you are coming back until now, after Round 1 b/f Round 2.

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  44. To add to the discussion of Glen Park and the school wide, color coded disciplinary system... I was recently speaking with a friend who taught at GP for several years and she said that she liked the color coded system because it was visual and very easy for her students to understand. She taught K and 1st grade. She went on to teach at CL and used it in her classroom there. She also said the "school wide" system was beneficial because students knew what to expect where ever they went in the school, even as they progressed from grade to grade. She thought this made the school's expectations very clear for students and made it easier for them to succeed, especially if they came from homes that did not have a lot of structure where the parents were not giving positive reinforcement for good choices. Obviously, every family needs to find a school which fits their communication style and that is completely up to the family. I only post this because it might shed some light on why the school uses this system and how a teacher might think about it. My friend also said that GP had some really fine and devoted teachers.

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  45. Skimming the comments here and thought I'd give the historical perspective on why the Bernal schools have been challenged.

    For just about three years in the '90s, SFUSD used a wacko zip code preference in the assignment process. The idea was that certain zip codes were disadvantaged, of course. Zip codes 94110, -24 and -34 got all but guaranteed access to the school of their choice. In the lottery round, literally everyone you knew who got a non-sibling spot in a chosen school was in one of those zip codes.

    Bernal, formerly low-income, was rapidly filling up with middle-class families at the time. The result of that system was that all the savvy, educated parents in 94110 requested a trophy school, leaving only the un-savvy families in the Bernal schools. That's it in a nutshell.

    The impact lingered far more than those years because of the sibling preference -- you might not think it would have such an impact, but it really does. (For example, a family with kids who started K the years my kids did, '96 and '99, had that extra Bernal boost for three years. A family with more than two kids ... you get the idea.)

    Interestingly, zip codes 94124 and 94134 didn't see the same effect (local schools heading downward as upscale families fled for the Rooftops and Clarendons). My theory is that's because they didn't have such a big gap between longtime low-income residents and newer middle-class/upscale residents, and the gap had that extreme an impact.

    Why don't people know about this now? I think it's because the only parents who were aware are those who went through the process in those years, which I think were 95-96-97. People at SFUSD know, of course, but they'd probably rather forget that such a foolish policy existed.

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  46. @Caroline -- thanks for this historical perspective! As a new to San Francisco family, we've really been flummoxed trying to figure out how things ended up so w*e*i*r*d. Reminds me of Park Slope Brooklyn in the 60's and 70's. Middle class/educated families started moving in, but avoided the schools like the plague. Most went private. It wasn't until the 80s that anyone really sent their kids to elementary school in the neighborhood, and middle school was very limited. NO ONE went to the high school. (NYC used to have a neighborhood HS system). The elementary schools in that neighborhood are now some of the most sought after in Brooklyn. So, it can be done...

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  47. Did SFUSD ever publish the stats on the assignment process for ALL schools? More transparency would be a good thing or is there something SFUSD is hiding?

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  48. Bernal Schools bus in kids from the bayshore/hunter's point, so Bernal parents are not willing on sending their kids to their neighborhood school.

    I am in agreement that the diversity of the schools will affect the achievement gap in those schools - Paul Revere, Serra, Flynn, even Glen Park - more than the dollars dumped into them.

    It IS possible to have an awesome school south of the city. I toured ER Taylor and loved it - but it was very large with 5 classes each grade and lacking in the facilities because of it. I am kicking myself now! Even though it was over my 2 mile limit for driving, it would have been a much better fit for my child and I know he would be a challenged high achiever at that school. finding creative ways to supplement his education is tiring.

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  49. This is probably the wrong thread for this discussion, but those of you "correcting" my equity statement seem to have missed the point. I'm not saying all schools are good and if we just had neighborhood everyone would be happy. I am saying that it is hard to see how this system (or the preceding one) in any way supported the BoE's stated goals of closing the achievement gap and providing equity. The data shows that despite the social engineering of the previous one (of which this is just another flavor), the achievement gap had not improved. Just because you make sure that some "advantaged" people are unhappy doesn't mean that you've made meaningful progress. All I want are the metrics they are going to use to measure that and public discussion of the results. If you can't move the metrics, ditch the system or give better reasons for why you are using a system. We need more critical reasoning skills and the ability to think beyond self on the BoE, on these discussion boards and among the parents and members of this community.

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  50. folks, i think you'd be surprised at some of the schools you are deeming as "unacceptable". maybe give it a real chance and find out.

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  51. "folks, i think you'd be surprised at some of the schools you are deeming as "unacceptable". maybe give it a real chance and find out."

    Which of the "unacceptable" schools were you assigned to? Glad to hear you gave it a chance. The only reason I ask is that this advice is really easy to give if you are not faced with the same uphill battle at some of these schools. If, however, you did actually live through a similar situation, I would love you know which school you ended up attending.

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  52. "Bernal to clarendon. Piece of cake. Bosworth to oshaughnessey to woodside. 15 minutes max at rush. We did it for years. Now lillienthal I agree is a whole noter story."

    Umm, you're over optimistic.. O'Shaughnessy gets hopelessly backed up at rush hour, and the best bet is to take Foerster/Teresita. 20-25 minutes to Clarendon, I'd say.

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  53. "Which of the "unacceptable" schools were you assigned to?"

    I know a COO for a software firm whose kid was assigned to Cesar Chavez, and had a friend whose college-age kid had went there and to Lick for MS, then got a scholarship to University High and then Columbia. The kids social circle included kids of billionaires and kids in juvie for drugs trafficking.

    His college application essays stood out, to say the least.

    Anyway, after talking to this kid at Columbia our friend decided that the social background of the kid mattered far more than the school. They got a place at Buena Vista the week before school opened, but were fully open to going to Cesar Chavez before that.

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  54. "I know a COO ... that after talking to a kid who went to Chavez .... decided that the social background of the kid mattered far more than the school."

    Thank you for sharing this story. I hope you can understand that while this example might inspire some to give a school like Cesar Chavez a try, it might not be enough to make every family comfortable sending their child there. It is such a personal decision. Every child is so different. Sharing this one example should help people understand that there is evidence that an assignment to Cesar Chavez isn't necessarily the end of the world. The numbers of people going private or leaving SF, however, indicates to me that it will take a lot more than a few success stories to get them to feel different about schools like Cesar Chavez. Believe me, all of us that went 0/x and were assigned schools we are not compfortable with have heard our share of "hang in there" comments and "I know someone that did just fine with Cesar Chavez" stories.

    And you didn't really answer the question. I wanted to know where you (the person giving out advice to others to give these school a try) send your kids to school.

    Thanks.

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  55. "I know a COO ... that after talking to a kid who went to Chavez .... decided that the social background of the kid mattered far more than the school."

    I came across your same post last year .... posted March 31, 2010 8:25 AM

    "BTW, I know one of kid from Cesar Chavez Elementary won a scholarship to University High and then to Columbia. His friends included gang members in prison, and children of billionaires. His background sure made for more interesting entrance essays when he applied to Columbia."

    You got our 2nd choice immersion program.

    Speaking for my family and not necessarily for all families that went 0/x, I am tired of hearing "hang in there" or "try the unpopular schools out" from parents that were lucky enough to get their choices. I am happy things worked out well for you and for others. I just don't need to hear it over and over again.

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  56. 7:07
    Actually, I think most of the people who encourage families to "hang in there" say so from personal experience.

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  57. April 23, 7:07 wrote: "...Speaking for my family and not necessarily for all families that went 0/x, I am tired of hearing "hang in there" or "try the unpopular schools out" from parents that were lucky enough to get their choices. I am happy things worked out well for you and for others. I just don't need to hear it over and over again."

    The people saying hang in there largely speak from experience. We didn't get any of our HS choices for for son last March.

    We waited it out on pins and needles all spring and all summer while people told us to hang in there. I know it sucks to hear that when your kid has no school, and all his friends do. It sucks to spend nearly half a year stressed out and have your kid miss picking classes and school orientations.

    In the end, he got into his first choice school two weeks after school started. While not happy with the system which put us in that situation in the first place...I'm very happy we got what we wanted in the end.

    So yes...hang in there.

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  58. 10:52 and 12:46

    Thanks. I do have have a few questions.

    1) Is it possible that your experiences in prior years are not relevant this year due to the rule changes. The rules of Round 2 this year seem nothing like rules of Round 2 last year.

    Is it possible that for every story like yours where everything turned out OK, there are as many if not more situations where things didn't turn out OK and families were left with no choice but to give up on the dream of sending their kids to public school in SF?

    Might it be possible that the ONLY reason things turned out ok for you is that another family chose to leave SF or go private? Does that seem to you like a system that is working well for all families in SF?

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  59. I'm not 10:52 or 12:46, and I don't know any COOs, but I do have some comments I hope you find helpful:

    "Is it possible that your experiences in prior years are not relevant this year due to the rule changes. The rules of Round 2 this year seem nothing like rules of Round 2 last year." Yes, and this may work in your favor. I don't know how familiar you are with the "wait pool" versus "amended choice list" process of previous years. In a nutshell, you could basically choose only one hard-to-get-into school as your "wait pool" and then stick with it. If you wanted to go for a "safe school" after Round 2, you had to make it your "wait pool" school, and once you got it, you were done. This year, you can keep turning in additional applications and trying for what you really, really want. If you get a "safety school," you can keep going for the "trophy," etc. I realize no one knows how this will work in practice, but it strikes me as a huge improvement. At the very least, it's certainly possible that you're in a better spot than all the people trying to give you encouragement were when they were in your position.

    "Might it be possible that the ONLY reason things turned out ok for you is that another family chose to leave SF or go private?"

    Well, it's also possible that it was become some thoughtless parents held onto a spot long after they knew they needed/wanted it and either didn't "un-enroll," or had trouble when trying to do so. Again, this year you may be in a better position, because unlike in previous years, people received their private school acceptances before their public school letters, which means they perhaps did not register for their public schools as they might have in the past.

    Best of luck to you. I have been there. I know it's rough, and I also know it's incredibly frustrating to hear encouragement from others when one is in that situation.

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  60. "Is it possible that for every story like yours where everything turned out OK, there are as many if not more situations where things didn't turn out OK and families were left with no choice but to give up on the dream of sending their kids to public school in SF?"

    For the record, our family did not get any of our choices two years in a row, even though we waitlisted non-trophy schools well into September both years. I know many other families in the same situation.

    It's a lie that if you waitlist you will get a school of your choice.

    I'm not sure about this year, but in past years, you could be bumped down in the waitlist by higher priority applicants, even if they didn't apply for school until the spring or summer. I imagine that this will be the case again this year, where CTIP1 applicants will be able to join at any time and be prioritized ahead of garden variety applicants.

    The reason that school insiders perpetuate the "it will work out" meme is that they want you to be stuck without any options and be forced to choose a failing school. They then get $$ from Sacramento for your child, without having to provide your family with a functioning school.

    For the same reason, school insiders spend a huge amount of time manipulating API scores to make it look like kids at failing schools are learning something.

    They want the $$ for your child's internment in a failing school, but they don't want to have to fix the root cause of why a school is failing. They want YOU, parent with no options, to have to fix their failing schools.

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  61. April 24, 2011 2:11 AM wrote:

    "Is it possible that your experiences in prior years are not relevant this year due to the rule changes. The rules of Round 2 this year seem nothing like rules of Round 2 last year."

    Could be...but as I said, we did not get any of our desired schools in Round 1, 2, or 3. We went the entire spring, summer, and first two weeks of the new school year without a school.

    It makes no difference if the assignment rules during the regular rounds have changed. If we had followed the district's advice and taken the far-away, poor performing, discipline problem school the district wanted us to and wait-pooled the school we wanted...we would have never gotten in.

    Having no school trumps accepting a school and wait-pooling a school you really want.

    "Is it possible that for every story like yours where everything turned out OK, there are as many if not more situations where things didn't turn out OK and families were left with no choice but to give up on the dream of sending their kids to public school in SF?"

    Possibly. However, I think in the vast majority of such situations...those families did not have the nerve to wait it out through all rounds, through the summer, and through the start of school. It wasn't having the school year start with no school.

    "Might it be possible that the ONLY reason things turned out ok for you is that another family chose to leave SF or go private?"

    It turned out the way it did for us, because we stuck to our guns. There are always openings the first few weeks of school: people move, people went to a different public school; kids went private (and didn't tell the district). This always happens.

    "Does that seem to you like a system that is working well for all families in SF?"

    No. It is rotten to the core, and I probably lost five years of my life over all the stress it caused.

    I had no way of knowing whether or not the wait would be successful. We had two charters and one parochial (which I would have had to have taken a second job to afford) as undesirable back-ups. Fortunately, the wait paid off.

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  62. 10:20 AM writes: "...The reason that school insiders perpetuate the "it will work out" meme is that they want you to be stuck without any options and be forced to choose a failing school. They then get $$ from Sacramento for your child, without having to provide your family with a functioning school."

    I'm a parent of three SFUSD kids. I hate how the assignment system works and the general way this district is run. I'm far from being a school insider trying to get parents to fix failing schools.

    In fact, the district doesn't advise one to wait it out...they try to get you to pick a failing school.

    If my wait had not paid off, my child would have gone to a non-SFUSD charter or parochial. In either case, the district would not have got a nickel.

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  63. I'm one for whom going with an underperforming, underenrolled school that wasn't on one of our first round lists turned out to be a fantastic experience for our family. So, to that end, I can say from personal experience that it can all work out (this was Miraloma elementary 9 years ago.)

    We did not get any of our choices for high school this year and we are facing tough choices. I really do believe that if we wait it out, we will get into my son's school of choice, but we are at a point where we believe he needs some intervention in HS and not sure that any of the public high school options -including his first choice - will meet his needs (not the case for my younger daughter who seems to be sailing through middle school.) For this reason, we are seriously considering going private for high school for our son. We were waitlisted for a few independents and a charter school, and are now doing what we should have done last fall and seeing which schools have openings (interestly, quite a few of the well known and popular parochial and independent high schools have spots.)

    Does the system suck? Yes, but in this time of crises where there are too few resources for too many needs, we are all fighting over scraps.

    I've been a public school parent for a decade now, and have experienced a lot. As much as people want to think there is a giant conspiracy against all parents, SFUSD simply isn't organized enough to pull it off (as a fellow parent advocate wisely put it.) IMHO, It's a combination of too few resources, and too many incompetent managers that cause us to be stuck in an infinite loop.

    I feel SFUSD schools are much, much better than they were a decade ago. And I believe that the biggest problems we face are largely caused by Sacramento - but everyone seems to forget that.

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  64. " ... I can say from personal experience that it can all work out (this was Miraloma elementary 9 years ago.)"

    Given your experience with SFUSD, are there schools where a turnaround has been attempted and failed? In your opinion, is what happened at Miraloma possible at all SF schools are are there schools that are destined to be underperforming and therefore underenrolled? Some of the problems that exist (whether they are created by Sacramento or SFUSD) seem to create an environment that is not condusive to turning around schools. Not taking away anything from the hard work that happened at Miraloma but might we be faced with many more problems today (the economy and a worsening CA budget being two of them) that make that kid of turnaournd much harder today than it was 9 years ago?

    "Does the system suck? Yes, but in this time of crises where there are too few resources for too many needs, we are all fighting over scraps."

    As a family just getting started in SFUSD (if Round 2 proves to be any better than Round 1 fo us), do you feel like this "fight over scraps" will get better or might it possibly become even more fierce over the next 10+ years? Right now, I am in the "it will get much harder before it gets any better" camp.

    "As much as people want to think there is a giant conspiracy against all parents, SFUSD simply isn't organized enough to pull it off (as a fellow parent advocate wisely put it.) IMHO, It's a combination of too few resources, and too many incompetent managers that cause us to be stuck in an infinite loop. I feel SFUSD schools are much, much better than they were a decade ago. And I believe that the biggest problems we face are largely caused by Sacramento - but everyone seems to forget that."

    I never viewed this as a conspiracy against parents. If that was the case, I really believed that, I would have left this city a long time ago.

    I don't view this as a problem than can be solved by simply increasing headcount or replacing incompentency. These actions usually do help in the short run at most businesses but if the problem is more deep rooted, these steps fail to produce improvement in the long run. I do agree that alot of the problems can be traced back to Sacaramento which in my book is the definition of a "deep rooted" problem.

    I am a little confused when you say we are in an "infinite loop" on one hand but you say you feel "SFUSD schools are much, much better than they were a decade ago". Seems to me that today, we are facing some of the same problems that you faced 9+ years ago. In addition, you are still faced with the same problems you had with kindergarten except this time with HS. How can we say things have gotten better when parents like yourself are faced with the reality of potentially having to leave SFUSD for a private school.

    Thanks for your insight. I hope all works out for your son and his HS choices.

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  65. 6:28

    I'm not 11:01 but you asked if there are cases where school turn-around does not work. Absolutely. It takes a magic combination of a strong principal who sees the value of teacher/parent collaboration, teachers who either share this vision or go elsewhere (as happened at Miraloma), and parents able to see the good work going on in the classroom despite poor test scores because they see the potential for change. Then you truly have a situation where "all boats can rise."

    Middle class parents do bring a certain amount of peskiness to principals and teachers. Some staffs embrace it, if they feel they are all working towards a common goal of improving outcomes for all students, and some are threatened. If you get school staff that feels threatened, or are locked into a particular ideology, change can't happen. I know there are schools out there where this has happened, although I'm hesitant to name names without knowing all the facts.

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  66. 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?

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  67. Yes! We were shut out of Clarendon, our attendance area school, and this location would be a great fit for our family.

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  68. 11:01 pm to 6:28 am---

    You make excellent points and when I have a chance to better answer them, will. But I agree that the budget situation is definitely worse than when we started and that may prohibit many of the things from happening going forward that were able to happen 10 years ago (I'm very sad to say.)

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  69. @8:53
    Perhaps you can see if Kate will post your question as a topic. It seems like another discussion which could be interesting and relevant.

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  70. Maybe you folks don't understand that "Principal's Center" is a done deal. The decision has been made, it isn't open for discussion about taking the site away from them and turning it into an elementary school.

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  71. Yeah, I have to say that that is really nasty and grabby. These kids deserve a decent facility and a chance at a better life. We can leave the city or go parochial/private if we are shut out of Clarendon; these kids have no place to go without a facility. Even if you're a complete reactionary, you'd have to agree that these are kids at risk for prison time and the attendant state expenses, and that it's much cheaper to work with them at this stage of their lives than to support them in the prison system.

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  72. Hi Emily, we went through this process last year and I sympathasize with all the families agonizing and waiting for a spot at a school they want. My son got a spot in a good but less sought-after school in R2. At the end of the second week of school the EPC offered him a place in the school we had been waiting for for 9 months. By that time we were already settled at the first school and really liked the teachers, students and parents and decided to stay. Also, we had become less enthusiastic about our initial top choice (not a trophy school). This process is a real journey and requires a lot of patience. It may force you to take a closer look at a school you didn't seriously consider. Most people I know have eventually gotten their child into a school they like. My advice: talk to parents of kids who are at or have gone to the schools you're considering and don't listen to anyone else's opinion of the schools - including comments on this blog.

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