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.

118 comments:

  1. We are losing kids to the privates at the kindergarten level and at the high school level, not at the middle school level. So no, there is no pressure to market small size middle schools.

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  2. Anonymous, what is your evidence for that? The privates have a big intake at the 6th grade level, sometimes even adding a class. And everyone I know who is going public for elementary school says they'll look at privates for middle school, citing the huge scale of SF middle schools.

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  3. Size of the middle school was a consideration in our choice of schools last year. Francisco, with its separate newcomer and ELL programs (schools within a school)it felt like just the right size. http://thesfmfiles.wordpress.com/schools-by-size/

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  4. I did not do any research. I only heard that the school staff was predicting a huge increase in middle school enrollment.

    Is that prediction real?

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  5. SFUSD has had large increases in K applications every year for a number of years, so they are preparing for larger numbers continuing on to middle schools. Whether ES students stay in SFUSD will depend on how well the district improves middle schools.

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  6. 29% of ES kindergarteners this year will be white, and 13 for MS and HS, so we lose a lot of kids who would have parents donate and bring the test average up and whose parents whould volunteer. Part is because the Demographics are changing, but the 29% will become 20, but we could keep it at 29 with better marketing.

    As for small Middle Schools, personally I want my kids at Presidio and I like big ones. It prepares you for college, for high school, and for making a name for yourself in a crowd. It is more fun to have more people, you are more likely to find people with like interests. It's why we live in a Big City. Sports teams are also better.

    But a lot of people love small schools. So give them that if they want it. To me, the best Middle Schools in the City are Presidio, Giannini and Hoover, better than any private middle school, outstanding test scores, good sports teams, interesting kids. I'd be bored at Roosevelt. Too small. But that's just me.

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  7. 29% of K applications were Caucasian. This year the K class is 18.6% white. All classes are 11.3% white. Many of those applicants just threw their hats in just to see what they got. Probably about 60% will actually go to public based upon last years numbers. That remains to be seen until class starts. And the numbers could change depending on how much overall satisfaction there is with the new SAS.

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  8. What is a smaller-grade middle school? I don't know much about middle school, but I'm curious as to what is large and what is small. Thanks.

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  9. Is it true that getting into Gateway Middle School does not mean that you will automatically feed into Gateway High School, and that you have to go into the High School Lottery? That's not what they said when I went to one of their enrollment information meetings.

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  10. Sign the petition:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/quality-schools-for-all-keep-choice-in-middle-school-selection#signatures

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  11. 8:12, yes. read this:

    http://rachelnorton.com/2011/03/21/accepted-to-gateway-ms-read-this/

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  12. From what I can tell folks want choice. They don't want their child funneled into a school that is a poor match for that child's needs and abilities because the the SFUSD sees their child as a statistical component in a grand experiment. As the parent of a high testing athletic 4th grader I would be remiss to enroll her at our feeder pattern assignment. We'll try our luck at the lottery, at privates with financial aid and if all fails then home school with other families in the same boat.

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  13. Best I can tell those of us who like the feeder plan, in one form or another, are just keeping quiet tying to avoid being attacked by the choice folks. Maybe it's not the best strategy, but I guess only time will tell. I think it's a incorrect assuption to assume that most families want choice.

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  14. 11:13a.m. here. My assertion that most parents prefer choice is based on conversations and public comments numbering in the hundreds at this point. True most have taken place with parents who are not west side residents. We all want what is best for our children. Perhaps it is wise to ask oneself how would I feel if my assigned school was a terrible fit for my child ? Would I still be happy with the feeder pattern ?

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  15. 12:56,
    Does your idea of choice keep or gets rid of CTIP?

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  16. At the MS level, you start to take electives, so the differences in the schools start to matter. However, it is still a long way from three years in MS to your declared college major.

    On balance, I am not going to give much weight to the terrible fit argument. The only good fit is the one you want, for whatever reasons. A lot of people will be disappointed. Most often, bad fit just means that is not the one I want.

    It might be all the school district can provide. So I might go along with the feeder pattern. Not crazy about it. Could change my mind. Willing to try it.

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  17. Also feel like you like choice more if your child is assigned to or already going to a school that would feed into less sought after middles. Our child's current elementary school is set to feed into Everett. Not only are we not particularly interested in going to Everett, it's also not remotely convenient to where we live.

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  18. I agree disagree that school achievement is stalling at the middle school level. Quite to the contrary. Presidio did wonders for my daughter who went to a very small public elementary school. She did quite well and is now at Lowell, and she continues to do well. We visited Gateway HS and she didn't like it because it was too small, and the offerings were quite limited in terms of languages, electives, even sports.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. "The San Francisco Unified School District is reworking the Middle School Assignment process. There are proposals on the table which take away the established process of choice via lottery of any middle school in the district in favor of a feeder system that directs elementary schools to a specific middle school."

    This is not correct. The BOE already adopted the feeder. It is not a proposal and they are not looking at dropping it at present. They are trying to figure out the best way to roll it out.

    I support your efforts to draw attention to the quality issue. This is the most substantial issue in education. I do not support an all choice system, but I can understand that SFUSD needs to make changes before it can equitably have neighborhood schools. That said, some schools with high concentrations of low performing students, T1 schools, are required to have certain remedial coursework and they will never have the same offerings as a result. There is only so much time in a school day and so much money. That is a structural problem. We cannot afford to make school days longer to meet Federal requirement and have a full range of electives. A lot of parents take a common sense approach to reform, but they don't understand the requirements that a school district must comply with to get categorical and title funding.

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  21. @2:50 "fit" was the crux of this post. Do more parents want small ( assuming that means under 400 students) middle schools in SF?
    From the comments it's clear some want small, others prefer large (1200+ students) and for a variety of reasons based on who their child is. Don made the point that some middle schools must offer remedial classes which given funding issues dictate their other offerings. Bottom line: those 3 middle school years can impact high school in a profound way.

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  22. A look at this map of enrollment trends shows neighborhood interest very high at regular schools.

    http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/elementary-pin-maps-SFUSD-students.pdf

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  23. My understanding is that 50% of students are going to 4 large middle schools in an all-choice system. My guess is because these schools have a good balance of strong academics and electives. There are several small middle schools but they are not nearly as popular. They don't offer the academic variety, nor do they offer the choice of band, orchestra, visual art, etc.

    What people are saying "want small middle school" and what they are choosing (big middle schools) are two different things.

    I know I didn't apply for Gateway because I wanted more enrichment than a school as small as that could offer (without substantial parent fundraising, or large grants.)

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  24. "My understanding is that 50% of students are going to 4 large middle schools in an all-choice system."

    That's because most of the middle school "spots" are at the huge middle schools, and there are not very many middle schools to choose from.

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  25. 7:16 Here.

    It is true that there are more spots in these schools, but there were also far more first place requests for these schools than they could accommodate. I think Aptos got 500+ first place request for somewhere around 300 slots.

    Conversely, many of the smaller schools did not even fill up in the first round, at least by request (some of the overflow from the bigger schools were assigned to them, but it's not known yet how many of these students will accept the spots.)

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  26. The popularity of unproven Gateway is probably more complex than big vs small, although that certainly is a factor. One of the issues rarely discussed is that all of the "sought after" quality public middle schools are not close to the center of the city. If you work downtown have > 1 kid etc. the logistics become mind boggling. For us they would have entailed a second car to do a daily trek to the avenues or the sunset to access a quality middle school. Sure, boo hoo who cares, but the longer I am in the city the more utterly complicated it seems to insure your child has a quality public education. Gateway is really central, and was a big factor in our choice to send our child there, who probably would have done great in a large setting and doesn't have any learning issues.

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  27. 2:50

    I too thought it didn't really matter that not all middle schools could/would offer GATE, and band or orchestra. But these offerings do have long term impact. My daughter's middle school did not offer algebra to 7th graders, as many of the bigger middle schools do. Not all kids are ready for algebra in 7th grade, but my daughter and quite a few of her classmates were. So they will all be placed in a lower math class in high school.

    Also, because her middle school did not offer band or orchestra, she cannot take those in high school either, at least at the high school she will be attending next year. They don't offer band or orchestra for beginners -- only for those who took it in middle school.

    So there are two concrete examples of how it matters. Will she be scarred for life? Probably not, but we are college-educated parents who know the system.

    I would argue that these two "dings" might put some of her classmates is less advantageous circumstances (new immigrants, etc.) at a greater disadvantage. I particularly worry about those who have the aptitude to take higher level math, but did not have access to the class. If they do not place into geometry next year, and instead have to repeat algebra, in one-fell swoop they have made four-year degrees in fields like engineering, physics, and chemistry far less likely because they just won't have completed the necessary math. Not impossible, but much more difficult.

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  28. Many thought that acceptance into Gateway Middle School meant automatic assignment to Gateway High School. If this is not the case, Gateway Middle School is less appealing.

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  29. 9:05, different people want different settings for their children, not all children are like yours.

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  30. To the petitioners:

    The overview of the petition has several problems as follows:

    “The San Francisco Unified School District is reworking the Middle School Assignment process. There are proposals on the table which take away the established process of choice via lottery of any middle school in the district in favor of a feeder system that directs elementary schools to a specific middle school.”

    False. It is not a proposal. Get your facts straight. The feeder system has been adopted. They are working up the details on how to roll it out.

    “The SFUSD is doing this in part to address a projected boom in enrollment in 2016, but it does not recognize that there are several flaws in the proposal.”

    False .They did recognize there were flaws. That is reason they postponed the feeder for a year. And those flaws are the understanding that without changes there is a good likelihood they will get sued by SPED and ELD advocates.

    “There is significant variability in the quality of middle schools across the district, which is why a few middle schools are over-requested and many middle schools are under-enrolled.”

    Mostly False. That is one reason not the ONLY reason. There are several reasons why some schools are under-enrolled, including but not limited to changing legal class size requirements and SFUSD diversity policies that promote under-enrollment.

    “Until all middle schools are of a high quality the feeder system should not be put in place. Improve the quality of middle schools and then implement a feeder system, but not before or you risk creating a win-lose situation rather than a situation where all our children are successfully educated.”

    Totally unsupported rhetoric. What do you mean by quality? Tests scores, grades, parent surveys? How do you determine when all schools are high quality? The District would have to switch the Title One designation from schoolwide to targeted assistance with a feeder. This would result in remedial classes for some and not for others at all schools. We would have gate , regular and remedial.That would inherently be viewed as inequitable by some. There is no agreed on standard.

    “Several schools are assigned to middle schools a good distance away even though there are several schools in closer proximity to the elementary schools. This creates a hardship for the families who have to get across town without SFUSD busses.”

    Nonsensical. There is no perfect geographic map, but the feeder maps are geographically based in the main while taking other factors into consideration. You cannot draw circles around schools and assign everyone based on distance to the center.

    “Transparency: Why draw up feeder patterns before the district finishes their survey of middle schools (in April) to find out what is working or what isn't and then draw up a feeer plan based on the information gathered?”

    Wow! You’re contradicting yourself. You just made a case not to have feeders at all until schools have attained the quality status. Now you want them to wait only until they get the public input? Do you really think they want your opinion? If they did they would not have adopted the feeder system before the community input. This kind of naiveté is adolescent.
    Please spell check your petition and don’t change the person.

    I respect your efforts at political action. But this petition is poorly thought out. The overview creates the impression you want to wait for feeders, when the petition itself is all-choice advocacy. That is misleading.

    Finally, did you inadvertently choose the name Quality Schools for All? This is the title of the ballot measure without the word Neighborhood. Not good.

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  31. Is there a way to block certain people's IP addresses?

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  32. 9:05 AM i don't think you're right about the math. first of all some of the smallest middle schools offer 7th grade algebra and some bigger middle schools with "GATE" programs do not, but not taking algebra in 7th grade certainly does not preclude kids from going on to the highest level math. what's important is that all students get through algebra by the end of 9th grade so that they are on track to meet the A-G requirements. even kids who do not place into geometry in 9th grade can get through AP calculus in high school if they take the classes in the standard sequence.

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  33. Hmmm... I'm not convinced about smaller schools. Particularly on the elementary school level, having such a small # of students in the 5th grade was part of our school's downfall (for my child, at least) because it concentrated all the kids with additional needs with one (the only) 5th grade teacher, and made it hard for everyone to get what they need.

    Similarly with middle school, the larger schools seem to have more programs (music, for example.) Now, I have no thought that my child will be a concert cellist, but having orchestra 5 days/week will give her the option of applying to SOTA if she so desires.

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  34. A big issue for many people is not so much school size as class size. My family is the only family on our street with school age children attending a public school (of 12 families - admittedly a small sample size). Virtually all the remaining families are in private schools, mainly non-parochial. Several of them got into our neighborhood school, Miraloma (while still a hidden gem), via the lottery. They elected not to go because of the class size increase in 4th grade. It is even worse in middle school - where 35+ kids are being squeezed into classes designed for 30 kids in the more popular middle schools. It seems likely to me that it is the class size issue as much as anything else that may be driving people to drop out of public schools at the end of elementary school (for example of the ~4200 families that applied to Kindergarten in 2005/2006 only ~ 3000 applied to middle school in 2011/2012, a drop off of about %25).

    SFUSD closed down or repurposed many middle and elementary schools in the last decade. It would be interesting to find out (a) if such a school could be reopened/repurposed, and (b) what kind of programs would make such a school attractive. If we could simultaneously decrease the pressure on the existing middle schools and begin preparing for the 2018 bubble it would be best for everyone.

    So families with 3rd and 4th graders, what will it take to recruit you to a newly re-opened middle school? Think creatively.

    Here is an example: My kid is a young engineer. He loves to build things and do experiments. Can we make a science themed middle school, with science offerings as electives? It needn't be a large school - any of the three elementary schools that are currently used for other purposes would be sufficient. 350 new middle school seats would be a help to the current overcrowding and alleviate the bubble.

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  35. 5:11;

    It costs money to reopen schools or repurpose them. Where is the money going to come from? Progressives seem dead set against selling some of the surplus to rebuild the infrastructure as the Civil Grand Jury suggested. Any ideas always have to be accompanied with a realistic financials. Everything you ask for costs money.

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  36. 9:12 AM said "False. It is not a proposal. Get your facts straight. The feeder system has been adopted. They are working up the details on how to roll it out."

    At the Giannini Community Forum, Deputy Superintendent Carranza said, "It is not a done deal." He reiterated this several times. The slide deck has changed and the messaging has changed since the first Community Forum at Denman. So, it might happen, or not, but at least the District is pretending to listen.

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  37. RE: opening closed schools

    Given the projected numbers for 2018, the middle school system will be running above 100% capacity. Based on the presentation to the Board of Education on Jan 18 enrollment capacity is 14,070 (and that is based on inflated capacity figures for several middle schools), with Horace Mann on the list. The projected enrollment is 14,611 - nearly 600 above the actual spots available. It is difficult to imagine how the system can function at full capacity, much less with 600 + 420 (net loss of seats at Horace Mann due to Buena Vista moving there as a K-8 school) more students expected than there are seats available for. This is about 1 large middle school worth of kids. How can the system function without re-opening one of the closed schools?

    Has anyone asked this question at a middle school forum? Has there been any suggestion of selling surplus real estate to raise the funds to re-open a school.

    Also, it may be that some of the sites wouldn't cost too much to re-open. Newcomer High School, on 7th Ave, has about 120 students enrolled. The capacity must be closer to 360 (or maybe higher). Surely that excess capacity could be explored? An equally attractive site is Diamond Heights Elementary School - beside the Safeway on Twin Peaks. It is used as a San Francisco Police Academy training site. Why is a school right in the middle of one of the highest demand areas, given over to this purpose, rather than functioning as another middle school? Even as an elementary it would be valuable. The overflow from Grattan, Clarendon, Alvarado, and Rooftop could probably fill this school easily.

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  38. You're not getting it. The feeder has been adopted. Then it was postponed for one year. If they were serious about dropping it, they would not have postponed. They would have reversed it. The stuff from Carranza is just for your consumption. But it is also true that any system the Board adopts can be dropped. So it is possible that the feeder, or for that matter the entire SAS, could be on the junkheap. I'm saying the facts do not indicate they are doing anything other than figuring out the time frame for roll out and some possible changes to the map. The quality issues are school reforms that are different from SAS, though related obviously.

    As I said on the forum side, SFUSD could have to move to a Targeted Instruction model if all middle schools are to be equalized in theory. The schoolwide model for Title One is likely to get too diluted to be an effective intervention. Then we would end up with honors, regular classes and remedial classes. How's that for equity?

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  39. Sometimes you have to read between the lines when you get information from SFUSD. Of course Mr. Carranza is going to say it's all on the table. Otherwise, what's the point of your being there? I asked the same question of Orla O'Keeffe. She said the plan has been adopted and there is no plan to replace it at present. But the facts say that the feeder was postponed not dropped. The community meeting are about quality middle schools, not about the SAS per se. Look at the literature.

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  40. 9:05 here.

    James Lick does not offer Algebra in 7th grade.

    You may be right that it's ***possible*** for kids who have not successfully passed algebra in 8th grade to still complete the sequence necessary to take AP Calculus as a senior, but it is certainly far less likely to happen. This is the rationale behind the eighth grade "Algebra for All" initiative.

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  41. 10:40 AM

    "James Lick does not offer Algebra in 7th grade."

    Ridiculous.

    When we should be pushing to introduce Algebra earlier, we're actually increasing the age where kids are introduced to the basics of what they'll need for any scientific, medical or engineering career.

    8th grade is too late!!!

    Yet another nail in the coffin of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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  42. My understanding from talking with administrators at Hoover or Gianninni (can't remember which) is that schools are responding to the "algebra for all" in 8th grade mandate by offering what are really pre-algebra courses for less mathematically-inclined 8th graders but naming those courses in such as way as to suggest that they constitute algebra courses.

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  43. 12:23

    This is from the California Common Core Standards (pages 33-45)which is bowing to the reality that not all 8th graders are really prepared to take algebra:

    Mathematics | Grade 8
    The California State Board of Education acknowledges that the goal for 8th grade students
    is Algebra I. However, they also recognize that not all 8th grade students have the
    necessary prerequisite skills for Algebra I. Consequently, the State Board of Education
    adopted two sets of standards for 8th grade. The first set describes standards for Algebra I.
    The second set of standards is from the 8th grade Common Core document published
    June 2, 2010. These standards are for 8th grade students who do not have the necessary
    prerequisite skills for Algebra I. The goal of the 8th grade Common Core is to finalize the
    mathematics preparation for students in high school. There is some duplication of
    standards between grades and courses that will be resolved in the frameworks/
    instructional materials development process.

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  44. Wow! No Algebra until 8th grade. And you wonder why families opt out of the public school system.

    Just what are kids doing that is so important from k-7 that means they are not ready for algebra even in 8th grade??

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  45. Don't all the kids have the same math books from one middle school to the next? Do the teachers at Lick NOT get through it while the other middle schools classes do?

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  46. I think we need to be very clear about what we're talking about. It's not that they aren't learning ANY algebra until 8th grade. My 4th grader is learning algebra in that he has been solving for x and y for years. It may not be taught in the formal way that it will eventually be taught (in 7th or 8th grade) but the concepts are the same. I highly doubt many private schools are doing it much differently.

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  47. You can highly doubt all you want. When school administrators are saying that kids are not ready for algebra in grade eight, they must mean it.

    Which really begs the question: if they are not ready for Algebra I in eighth grade and then not ready for Algebra II in ninth grade, just when are they going to get to geometry, pre-calculus and calculus??

    Or is Lick just for the hair stylists, burger flippers and baristas of the world??

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  48. " Can we make a science themed middle school, with science offerings as electives? It needn't be a large school "

    That's exactly what we'd like to see. Sign us up.

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  49. The immersion folks have been up that road on small middle schools that have a theme. The school district will not do it if it does not promote integration.

    Therefore, the stand alone small immersion MS is a no go. The magnet school within a school in a struggling area is the model. You would have to locate a science magnet program in an underenrolled MS and have citywide choice for admission to the science program, it seems to me. There would be MS GE and MS Science on the same campus.

    We have or will have immersion classes in MS. Those classes are in a separate program only in the sense that you must have had to already been in immersion while in ES. So immersion is not exactly a separate strand at the MS level the way it is at the ES level, but it works like a separate strand.

    I do not know what you would do about science. The is no ES science program to feed into MS.

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  50. Getting rid of algebra is just another example of the dumbing down of the schools in the name of social justice. Like removing O period science lab at Berkeley High. No, we shan't have smart kids excelling. How's that going to make the under-performers feel about themselves? And if we equalize all middle schools, we'll have to go to the Title One Target Improvement model, which means we'd have remedial class, regular classes and honors classes. The horror!

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  51. "You would have to locate a science magnet program in an underenrolled MS and have citywide choice for admission to the science program, it seems to me."

    "We" won't have to do anything of the kind. Clearly, the thing to do for middle and highschool is to move to Piedmont, Palo Alto, or Marin.

    Thank you, science and math adverse SFUSD, for reminding me of why I love our private school, have opted out of the San Francisco Public School system and will vote down every future tax measure for schools that don't teach kids what they need to know in a 21st century economy.

    The federal trade deficit is ever escalating, yet the SFUSD keeps cranking out kids who at best need remedial classes to enter the UCs and, at worst, are MS-13 gang bangers by grade 10.

    The SFUSD motto:
    "No Child Gets Ahead!"

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  52. Now that makes my cynicism look tame.
    Look, the fact is that schools are doing some great work despite the roadblocks that the Board of Education is throwing at them.

    If you ever want to know why kids and classrooms are not getting enough money there is a simple but telling exercise you can do to know where all the money goes. Go to the website and look at the directory for the central staff.

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  53. Piedmont uses the same Everyday Math curriculum SFUSD does. I blieve that it is the same text book for all grades at least k-5. So what happens at 6-8 that is soo different that students end up in a totally different place by grade 9? My guess is that for average and above students the answer is nothing and they end up in the same place. Both districts have the same state requirements for 6, 7, and 8 grades. Has Piedmont adopted a different math curriculum for those grades? I am confident, based on observations from someone with actual experience, that my SFUSD 4th grader could go toe-to-toe with any 4th grader at Piedmont in terms of basic math skills and creative problem solving skills. I guess we'll have to see if that remains the case in 7th grade, but I think it would be helpful to have real information rather than gross generalizations.

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  54. "Wow! No Algebra until 8th grade."

    I'm not sure what you are are questioning here. Algebra I in 8th grade is the goal for most schools, public AND private. I took Algebra I in 8th grade in private school. Most of my kids' friends who are in private school are taking it in 8th grade. Some private schools have at least two tracks, including one for kids who are not ready for algebra in the 8th grade. And many private schools test for readiness and have kids do or re-do algebra, perhaps a bit accelerated, in 9th grade. So let's not get upset about 8th grade algebra being the standard for SFUSD!

    My kid's middle school actually has three math tracks. Most are in Algebra I by 8th grade--the standard. A few are still learning pre-Algebra at that point. And there is a small group of accelerated students who are on track to take Algebra I in 7th and Geometry in 8th, leading to Algebra II in high school if they are able to test in. The math tracking is separate from other kinds of tracking, e.g., in English.

    This is SFUSD (Aptos). I can't for the life of me figure out why this would be considered a bad thing or somehow out of sync with what should be expected.

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  55. In response to the most recent "anonymous" post....

    This is why Aptos was on the top of my middle school "wish list." Many of the middle schools in SF, especially those closer to me than Aptos, do not take this approach. No separate honors tracks at Lick and Denman for example -- intentionally, for the sake of "social justice." The teachers are to "differentiate" within heterogeneously grouped classes. Denman will put some 6th graders in 7th grade math and so on, and then in 8th grade they'll ship them over to Balboa for 9th grade math (!).

    We got Hoover, which also has an honors program. Still applying for Aptos, for reasons of commute. Would have gone to Lick in a heartbeat if I thought my child would be supported academically.

    2/3 of my daughter's 5th grade class was offered Denman. We were just lucky.

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  56. " I guess we'll have to see if that remains the case in 7th grade, but I think it would be helpful to have real information rather than gross generalizations."

    No need for generalization. Here are the numbers:

    Lick (CST 2010):
    6th grade: 42% math proficient
    7th grade: 46% math proficient
    7th grade algebra: no data available
    8th grade algebra: 28% proficient

    Lick is the school that we would be assigned to under the new feeder assign. Sure, other middle schools probably have better schools, but Lick would be all that is available to us.

    As to Piedmont Middle school:
    6th grade math: 93% proficient
    7th grade math: 81% proficient
    7th grade algebra I: 94% proficient
    8th grade algebra I: 92% proficient
    8th grade geometry: 94% proficient

    There's absolutely no comparison between Lick (Noe Valley) and Piedmont. Lick doesn't even have grade 7 algebra classes or grade 8 geometry.

    Which school would you choose for your child?

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  57. Sure, other middle schools probably have better schools

    should read:

    Sure, other middle schools probably have better scores

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  58. 2:05
    Your numbers explain why there is a Piedmont school district independent of the Oakland school district. The price of staying in San Francisco is a Lick, which is too high a price for some parents. Understood.

    How does SF make a Lick more palatable? We are trying a feeder pattern so that you will have your old ES classmates starting 6th grade with you. Still not good enough? Understood. And no criticism from me.

    It is an experiment. If I assign you to that MS and give you a personal stake in how that MS does, maybe that is what is needed to turn that school around. (It is a similar idea as people taking care of their own private property. And a similar idea about personal responsibility: if something is everyone's responsibility, then it is no one's responsibility.)

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  59. "If I assign you to that MS and give you a personal stake in how that MS does, maybe that is what is needed to turn that school around."

    Lick, Denman, Everett and many others do not have a base of parents who understand why our children need to develop a background in math and science.

    I am sad to say that I absolutely doubt that the school administation at Lick would push for math and science. Instead, they will placate the existing group of parents who want an easy street ticket to a highschool diploma for their kids.

    A small number of die hard parents with backgrounds in math and science will not be able to convey the necessity of doing math and science to an unwilling majority.

    Thus, Piedmont, Palo Alto and Marin. (longshot: Lowell)

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  60. Board of Ed, are you listening?

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  61. Parents in or headed to Lick, Everett, and Denman, are you speaking out?

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  62. No we are making other plans.

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  63. The problem is that principals can choose whether or not they want to offer Algebra to 7th graders, or have an honors track at all. In an all-choice system that's okay. Parents can make that choice. Although I don't think most parents understand that when principals say they offer "differentiated instruction within heterogenously mixed groups," that their child will not access to algebra in 7th grade even if he or she is ready for it, and may not even cover the full state algebra curriculum in 8th grade.

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  64. We need one middle school to be a citywide admission by merit MS. Parents recognize that there is not the critical mass of high achieving students at Lick, Everett, and Denman for the type of programs that are needed at the high achieving level.

    Candidates for the school board should be asked to take a stand on a middle school "Lowell."

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  65. 6:08
    That's it exactly.
    Each middle school principal gets to decide what to offer and how to teach it -- in core subjects. I found it pretty shocking when I was touring middle schools.

    Lick and Denman used to have honors tracks, but decided it was "better" and "more socially just" not to offer honors classes at all. !?!?!??!?

    Personally, I'm not a huge fan of honors tracks in middle school for social studies. Language arts is a somewhat grey area for me. For math, I've honestly never seen a teacher successfully "differentiate" for a class of 30+ kids ranging in ability from 2-3 years below grade level to 2-3 years above grade level performance.

    I don't think a "middle school lowell" is the right model. I think providing similar programs and opportunities at all our middle schools will go a longer way towards equalizing school performance. I'm not the only parent I know who seriously considered Lick but walked away upon hearing about the lack of honors classes and the lack of orchestra.

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  66. You consider the lack of honors classes and the lack of orchestra at Lick key educational issues. Make those issues issues for the candidates for school board and for the current school board.

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  67. Which are the closed unused facilities, which are the underused ones? How is Buena Vista/Mann going to happen? How will they be measuring Spanish proficiency?

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  68. Re: middle school tracking

    I believe that SFUSD will have to switch over to a Targeted Assistance Title One model as opposed to the Schoolwide model they now us, and this will result in having honors, regular and remedial classes. That in turn will create pressure to get rid of more honors classes because without doing so there would be three tier tracking which won't sit well with leadership.

    For those not familiar with Title One, a district can choose either the Schoolwide or Targeted Assistance models. In schoolwide if a school is 40% free and reduced it is eligible for T1. But all the students benefit from the funding regardless of ability. In the Targeted model students needing service have their own classes as a rule. That means another level of tracking, hence 3 levels for some middle schools that still have honors.

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  69. Targeted assistance doesn't have to be pull out, but can you imagine the difficulties in teaching a class with honors, regular and remedial students?

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  70. My child is in 8th grade at James Lick and she is excelling in all subjects, including Algebra. She has had excellent teachers there, particularly in math. She attended a "trophy" elementary where she also had excellent teachers, but she never did especially well in math. But between 5th and 6th grades she went from Basic to Advanced on the standardized math tests.

    The difference in test scores between a school like Lick and a school in Piedmont is almost entirely attributable to the demographics. If you look at the disaggregated scores for Lick you will see a huge difference between the achievement of white and Asian students and that of Latino and African American students, as a group. However, there are many high-scoring minority students everywhere, just as there are white and Asian students that are not high-scoring. The achievement gap is not unique to Lick--it is a pervasive and vexing situation nationwide. Please don't presume that you can predict the achievement of any individual simply based on ethnicity, or that you can judge a school simply by its test scores.

    Next month my daughter's algebra teacher will take his classes on an all-day hike to Mt. Tamalpais as a reward for their hard work. This is entirely at his own expense, including the charter buses and lunch. She will also be traveling to Ashland to see the Shakespeare Festival later this year, on a trip organized by her teachers.

    I wouldn't trade my daughter's experience at James Lick for any other school in the Bay Area. She has been challenged, nurtured, and enriched in her three years there. It is a wonderful school.

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  71. I'd like to chime in as well challenging the assumption of an earlier poster that James Lick is an inferior school full of kids whose parents don't care about math and science. I know quite few families at James Lick. While their kids span the academic spectrum, there is a large contingent of very high achievers in that group. Some folks assume that if a kid is high achieving then the parents will automatically look for a tracked school but from what I've seen, that is not necessarily the case - especially when the student is pretty self-motivated.

    Wasn't it a James Lick student that won the city-wide science fair this year or last?

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  72. By not offfering math honors courses, the impression is that Lick has "dumbed down" the algebra. Maybe your child has down well at Lick, but maybe that was before Lick, per the prinicpal's decision, has decided to "dumb down" the math. It it unfair to want no part of this?

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  73. "Maybe your child has down well at Lick, but maybe that was before "Lick, per the prinicpal's decision, has decided to 'dumb down' the math."

    I have no idea what you're trying to say here. Algebra has not been standard for all 8th graders in the district until a couple of years ago. Lick has been teaching Algebra to all 8th graders for at least 5 years. The curriculum standards for 8th grade algebra are set by the state, not by the district or the school. You should refer to the state department of education web site to see the 8th grade algebra standards.

    I challenge you to look at the Lick algebra curriculum and tell me it is a dumbed-down course. They are covering material the I never saw in my 70's high-income suburban California school. (And, by the way, many of my classmates managed to attend Stanford, Cal, MIT and Annapolis and become engineers, doctors, and attorneys and we certainly didn't have algebra in 7th grade.)

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  74. The issues is not the material in the books. The issue is the readiness of the students in the seats. Those that are not ready should be in a different class. Those that are ready do not need the distraction and frustration of those who are not ready.

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  75. What I am telling you is that your assertion is not true. I have no idea what the achievement of other students in my child's class is. However, their achievement has not affected MY child's achievement. So it is patently untrue that no student can achieve at a high level unless all children--or even most children--achieve at a high level. We should be striving for high achievement for all students, but it is clear that it is not necessary to segregate those who at not there yet.

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  76. I'm not the original poster, but I am someone who decided against Lick for lack of honors classes. I'm NOT saying my child cannot achieve at a high level unless all students are achieving at a high level. I AM saying, though, that if the teacher has 3 high achieving students and 30 who are not, the curriculum and classwork (and perhaps homework) will generally NOT challenge my child after the first week or so when a new concept is introduced. She will still "achieve" well -- getting excellent grades, and doing extremely well on the state exams, but she will be bored out of her mind in class. How do I know this? We're seeing it this year in 5th grade. AND, when I visited Denman, the material being covered in the 6th grade math class I visited (adding fractions with different denominators) was EXACTLY the material her class was covering in 5th grade, for the umpteenth time, much to my child's extreme boredom.

    There are lots of ways to handle differentiating math instruction. At my daughter's school in NY, in 3rd grade 4 classes were "bundled" together for math. At the beginning of each major topic, the kids were given a pre-test to assess ability/strengths/weaknesses on the upcoming topic. They were then grouped according to level *for that 4-6 week period.* All 4 groups covered the same material, each at an appropriate pace. It was AWESOME. She learned a ton, and was challenged when she was ready for it, and supported when she needed it.

    My sense at James Lick is that some years they do something similar to this, but generally each teacher is asked to differentiate within his/her lessons.

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  77. The state math curriculum is "spiraled"--that is, topics are introduced very early and then revisited virtually every year in more depth and with added complexity. Until fairly recently in California, algebra wasn't even introduced until 9th grade. Most students would never see a variable or an equation until then. Students now work with those concepts as early as 2nd grade. Addition of fractions is one of those topics that they will see over and over again--in fact, it's included in the algebra curriculum. Your argument is with the state standards, not with the teachers or the school. The same curriculum is used throughout the district, whether in honors or general ed courses. Your daughter would be just as bored in an "honors" class at Aptos as she would be in a general ed class at Lick. (I know this because I also had a child in an honors math class at Aptos.) By the way, new standards for math have just been adopted--the "common core," which will be used nationwide.

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  78. It is more probable to do well if the whole class is ready for the material, for example, in an honors class. That is the desire for an honors class.

    Why do it the hard way, with some students who have no interest in going to school?

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  79. I think we are all shaped by our own school experiences.

    I was a strong math student, but for some unknown reason (sexism? lack of class space?) was not placed in Algebra in 8th grade. In high school I was a strong enough math student to skip pre-calculus and instead take Algebra/Geometry/Algebra 2/Calculus. Kids who took Algebra in 8th grade were able to take pre-calculus before calculus, and generally fared much better in Calculus. Even after taking Calculus, when I got to college I had to drop physics after the first couple weeks because I couldn't keep up with the course load AND learn the math I should have mastered in high school. I was certainly not alone.

    I worry about the kids who have the aptitude to take a full course of algebra in 8th grade, but aren't getting it. If they don't place into algebra for high school, they will be repeating algebra, and will not be well-positioned to take the right math sequence for degrees in engineering, physics, etc. It's not impossible, but just that much more difficult, particularly if they already face barriers related to language or family circumstance.

    Whether kids need Algebra in 7th grade is another matter, but kids who have aptitude in math should certainly be encouraged as much as possible.

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  80. Or you might be like I was - taking Algebra 1 in 7th grade, then Algebra 2 in 8th (based on testing in and doing that whole Johns Hopkins testing thing) and then advancing so quickly that I so was traumatized by two years of struggling through Calculus in high school that I never took math again. None in college at all! Despite that fact that I initially had real math aptitude. I really regret that and wish I'd still had a yearning for math.

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  81. kids at Presidio take pre-alegebra in the 7th grade. My kid took algebra in the 8th grades (honors). He is in the 9th grade at Lowell and taking accelerated math, which is essentially high honors math - and includes trig. I think he did fine studying algebra in the 8th grade.

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  82. I'm the parent who commented that I would not send my child to Lick or any other school that does not introduce concepts of Algebra by at least 7th grade.

    Algebra has been around since the the Greeks, so there's nothing new to invent. The Parthenon could not have been built without it.

    Whether or not Lick or the California curriculum choose to teach it is irrelevant to me.

    Both my husband and I have advanced degrees in the physical sciences and engineering, so no one on this blog is going to tell me what it does or doesn't take to succeed in universtiy math.

    Richard Feynman back in the 60's was appalled by California curriculum standards in math and science. Little has changed, it seems. Don't know who Richard Feynman is? I won't fill you in.

    It's up to you. You can choose a school that teaches your kid Algebra by 7th grade, and hence allows them to pursue a bright economic future, or you can flake out and communicate math phobia to your child. You can broaden their capacity to understand the world or limit it, by failing to teach vital mathematical skill.

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  83. "what it does or doesn't take to succeed in universtiy math"

    guess spelling doesn't have much to do with it:)

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  84. 11:29
    Suppose the MS had 7th grade pre-algeabra, followed by 8th grade algeabra that did NOT divide the students into honors and non-honors?

    Suppose the principal did not like tracking for math classes, that labeling was too much of a self-fullfing prophecy, and so wanted a policy of no math honors classes. I am unclear if this is fair picture of Lick, so this what if is about any MS in general.

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  85. Feynman ... ya mean that guy they named a shuttlecraft after -- in a Star Trek episode?

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  86. Here's the California content standards for Mathematics:

    http://www.scoe.net/castandards/agenda/2010/math_ccs_recommendations.pdf

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  87. "I'm the parent who commented that I would not send my child to Lick or any other school that does not introduce concepts of Algebra by at least 7th grade.
    . . .
    It's up to you. You can choose a school that teaches your kid Algebra by 7th grade, and hence allows them to pursue a bright economic future, or you can flake out and communicate math phobia to your child. You can broaden their capacity to understand the world or limit it, by failing to teach vital mathematical skill."

    The California standards introduce concepts of Algebra at least by 2nd grade. Very few middle schools in the city--and I include private schools--regularly teach a full Algebra course to 7th graders. However, all public schools teach a FULL algebra course to ALL 8th graders.

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  88. Thanks for posting the 2010 California content standard.

    Looks good. Clearly, according to the 2010 California Common Core Content standard, Algebra (7.EE) is supposed to be introduced in 7th grade.

    The fact that only 46% of 7th graders and 26% of eighth graders are considered proficient (never mind excelling) indicates that the majority of kids at Lick are not sufficiently covering the material of the California common core standard.

    If, say, 70% of the kids were "proficient" you could then argue that having a single class (no honors) was working. However, as more than half the class is failing in 7th grade and fully three quarters of the class is failing in eighth grade, it's hard to see how a teacher, who must be focused teaching so many kids who are failing math, can possible also teach the few math capable students they might have.

    Hence, Lick's decision to eliminate honors math classes is clearly limiting the math ability of motivated students and is preventing them from meeting the level of proficiency described in the common core standard.

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  89. @9:20 -- You nailed it.
    Thanks.

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  90. What's truly sad is that ALL of the kids should be "proficient", shouldn't they? Are we all so beaten down that we don't even expect that anymore?

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  91. Don't know about you, but I'm not beaten down at all.

    Kids that have fallen behind should be given the opportunity to catch up, but they shouldn't be allowed to curtail the opportunities of more motivated and prepared students.

    At many middle schools in the city, we've come to accept that more than half the class fails math.

    In fact, we're well on our way to trying to minimize math requirements all together.

    You're right, there's really no excuse for it, but the only power that SF parents seem to have if they want a strong middle school math and science curriculum is to move or go private.

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  92. When I said "beaten down" I wasn't talking about my own kid -- he scores advanced in everything on his STAR tests.

    I meant the appearance of acceptance of low expectations for all children. And I won't let you turn it into an "us vs. them" scenario; some students need a lot more help than others.

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  93. " some students need a lot more help than others."

    In my experience, most kids don't excel in middle school math because:

    a. They've never developed automaticity in arithmetic operations

    b. They've don't have sufficient command of language to understand problem sets

    c. It doesn't interest them

    d. They don't practise

    Yes, some kids need more help. That's why traditionally, there has been a GE and an honors program. Kids who need more help go in the GE program. But the reason that a lot of kids need more help is because of a, b, c and d above. A math teacher can help them with a and c, but it is quite difficult for a math teacher to help them with b and d.

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  94. I understand the idea of tracking having its problems of reinforcing a negative stereotype of low achievment. I understand the idea of not overdoing the honors classes. Still the whole class gets slowed down by students who are not ready for algebra.

    It is an educational policy decision for that particular MS. It is for the principal to want honors in algebra in her school or not. The decision must not be by a vote of the parents or by the micro-management from 555 Franklin. It is the principal's call.

    But then it should be the parent's call to want to go to that MS or not. The problem is we do not allow parents to make that decision to choose another MS, under the feeder plan. Parents have legitimate complaints about a lack of honors classes at Lick MS.

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  95. "The fact that only 46% of 7th graders and 26% of eighth graders are considered proficient (never mind excelling) indicates that the majority of kids at Lick are not sufficiently covering the material of the California common core standard."

    What percent of the GE kids at middle schools with honors tracks are scoring in the proficient range? I submit that kids who will be proficient at Aptos or Hoover would also be proficient at Lick. The presence of the non-honors kids are not dragging down the honors kids.

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  96. Let me describe the algebra honors issue in terms of learning to read and having a mastery of ABC's.

    Jack does not know his ABC's. Jack is not proficient. Jane does know her ABC's. She is proficient. The teacher spending all her time on Jack does not send Jane from proficient to not proficient. Jane still knows her ABC's. But Jane has been disserved, nonetheless, perhaps bored, unchallenged, neglected.

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  97. And Jane never gets to advanced.

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  98. April 17, 2011 9:44 AM notes:

    "In my experience, most kids don't excel in middle school math because:
    a. They've never developed automaticity in arithmetic operations
    b. They've don't have sufficient command of language to understand problem sets
    c. It doesn't interest them
    d. They don't practise

    ---------

    I'll add, e. the teacher doesn't know how to teach math. My son's 7th grade pre-algebra teacher would assign them 70 problems a night for homework. Then "check" that it had been done - but not if the answers were right. He'd get A's on homework because he'd "done it" - but then do badly on the test. She directed them to the book to work things through. This was a 7th grade honors class in one of the most coveted schools. He was below proficient in math llast year.

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  99. @11:40 thank you for articulating this in that way. I'm definitely going to adopt this.

    And (apropos of the following post) it's not justthat Jane never gets to "advanced." School becomes an exercise in babysitting for Jane.

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  100. And the point is? That tracking is necessary to meet the widely disparate needs of different children. SFUSD seems to be on a trend away from honors classes in MS. This in addition to the assignment system debacle is just another reason to go private for those who might otherwise consider public.

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  101. I toured many middle schools.  While Lick had many positive attributes, I didn't put it on the enrollment form because it does not have an Honors track.  This is a very personal issue for me, and I believe that it is just as essential to teach to the high achievers as it is to close the achievement gap.  I don't believe that you can teach to the two ends of the spectrum in the same way, at the same time, in the same often overcrowded classroom.

    I attended school on the East Coast. In 5th grade, I was a C-/D+ type of student and grouped with children who could easily be called the "underachievers."  I was talkative, a bit disruptive, and I frequently bulled school with the kids in my class who were already drinking hard liquor and smoking cigarettes.  In retrospect, we were all low SES, blue collar kids in a rather prosperous New England community.  Most of our parents were Polish, Italian, or German immigrants and hadn't been to college; many (like my dad) hadn't even graduated from high school.  Somehow, in spite of all the grief that I gave my teacher, she nominated me for promotion into the 6th grade accelerated (gifted) program at the end of 5th grade.  My mother laughter at the news when the principal called her, exclaiming "My daughter?"

    Personally, I did not like the idea of leaving my friends and moving into a classroom of rich nerds and geeks who didn't know how to have fun.  The bigger surprise, of course, was going from remedial math courses with juvenile delinquents in 5th grade into geometry with honors students in 6th.  Our ages were the same, but our education had been quite different--I didn't even know my times tables!  I struggled that year but qualified for a coveted spot in the accelerated division in Junior High, taking Algebra 1 and French 1 in 7th and Algebra 2 and French 2 in 8th (we did not pick our subjects; they were assigned to the whole class).  I made the honor roll every semester and stayed in the accelerated program through high school, completing 5 years of French, 3 years of Spanish, physics, trigonometry, calculus 1, and calculus 2 among other accelerated offerings.  I earned Varsity letters in field hockey (co-captain), gymnastics (silver medal at state competition), basketball, and softball.  I went to the university on scholarship, getting a PhD and landing a high tech job here in the Bay Area in a very math-intensive career.

    How did I go from dunce to head of the class?  My 5th grade teacher recognized that my bad behavior and bad grades were borne of boredom, not aptitude.  I aligned with the lowest common denominator in my classroom--I did not serve as a role model or help anyone improve by example.

    I credit my 5th grade teacher and scholastic tracking for my success.  If I had not been put into a classroom with teachers teaching to my capabilities, I might not have graduated from high school; indeed, many of my 5th grade classmates did not graduate.

    Based on my personal experience, I strongly believe that students need a classroom environment that teaches to their individual strengths, with peers of similar talent, so that it is OK for a student to say, "I don't get it," without shame.  I wasn't able to recognize that I was bored in 5th grade.   Neither could my parents.

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  102. 10:15 AM here with the rest if my post:

    If SFUSD allows a school Principal to offer an Honors track or not, then so be it. That is their prerogative.  I will not enroll my child in a school without Honors tracking, and I strongly oppose the K-8 feeder proposal for this very reason.  Parents need to make this decision for their child, not the Principal.  Due to the disparity in educational options in our school district, middle school assignment must be maintained as a full-choice lottery.  I will not put the burden of closing the achievement gap on my child.  I couldn't do it and neither could she.

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  103. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  104. Tracking--moderation in all things.

    I do not say you have to track everything. I recognize the negative stereotype problem of tracking. I just say that an honors and a non-honors level of algebra should be offered in MS.

    The principal might disagree,and it is his school and his job to make those educational decisions for his school. If I am assigned there, though, do I get a say? It looks like, No. Oh, I could put other schools on the priority list, but with the feeder pattern that is an empty gesture.

    The MS algebra honors issue is one example of the harm of cutting out parental choice in favor of a feeder pattern. The harm to parental choice is repeated over other issues: electives, location of MS, and immersion--in general, what is a good fit for one's child.

    We shall see if the feeder pattern is a good fit for SF. Are those struggling MS's turning around? If not, the gamble did not work. And it will have cost SF with harm to the power of choice that parents should have.

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  105. I don't understand why you think it ought to be the prerogative of the principal to offer honors track. This is a very important decision that affects the entire community and we should not be at the whim of any given principal's personal views on tracking. If you enroll your child in a school with honors and the principal decides not to offer it next year will you still honor that decision as an appropriate use of his or her discretion? If the principal of Lowell decides that Lowell will no longer be an AP high school is that,too, appropriately within his discretion? The feeder is problematic BECAUSE such decisions as whether to have honors are not made as a matter of district policy.

    The district has been trying to get more non-Asian minorities in to AP ( I'm not sure about honors in MS). This has been the sore point with diversity. School diversity does not equate into academic classroom diversity. But placing kids into academic programs that they are not ready for doesn't help anyone.

    Regarding 10:15's comment, that was a very honest and entertaining retrospective.

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  106. The issues of principal's perogative affecting programming takes place not only at the ms level...

    When we were looking at schools,I noticed that some elementary schools have *no* students identified as GATE. Further research revealed that schools may opt-in or out of identifying students.

    There are definitely areas in which I think individual teachers and schools should be able to make decisions about instruction, but the decision to gate-identify or to have honors classes should not be one of them.

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  107. For all practical purposes there is no such thing as advanced instruction in elementary school. Some teachers do pull that rabbit out of the hat, but they have no gate classes. The only exception to that that I'm aware of is the particular instance in which a school may assign advanced 4th grade students to a 4/5 split.

    When I first learned that honors /AP was a site based decision I was shocked. We identify kids as gate in elementary school as per District policy, but then the District has no policy for honors curriculum.

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  108. Honors classes for MS algebra.

    The buck stops on the principal's desk. The prinicpal should certainly be open to input, but he or she decides. It is not a public vote. I think it would even be micro-management for 555 Franklin to have a blanket rule to always or never offer honors.

    Lick could not pull it off when there was MS choice. Now we have feeders instead of choice. Now the principal can just change the offerings and the parents have little choice but to go along because the feeders assign them there with little realistic chance of going elsewhere.

    What are unhappy parents going to do? Go private? Move out of SF with this one last straw? Yes, some do.

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  109. If the District wants to adopt a forced K-8 feeder system, eliminating parental "choice," then the District needs to provide AP/Honors courses at all school sites, eliminating every Principal's "perogative."

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  110. 4;27,

    Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but why would you want to leave that choice to the principal? The decision may result in your having to leave SFUSD? Schools should serve their students and communities. Principal's can make decisions to curry favor with District officials or on the basis of personal political beliefs. Important decisions should not be left to the whims of one person with no accountability for that decision.

    There might be schools that don't have the needed critical mass of students to establish cost effective honors classes.

    The Board is ideologically opposed to tracking, but the issue is hot and no one wants to make a stand. Therefore it remains a site-based decision.

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  111. I do not like micro-management from 555 Franklin on what goes on in the classrooms. So I am inclined to not second guess any principal on whether her MS has honors for algebra.

    Carmac makes a case that once the feeder plan forces unhappy parents to go to certain middle schools, the offering of honors should no longer be considered micro-management--it's fair game.

    Reasonable minds can have differ on this.

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  112. I agree that 555 should not micromanage. The question is whether having honors is a big deal or a small deal. If it's a small deal why would it make a substantial difference with a feeder or any other SAS? If it's a big deal than it must be decided by the elected body. And if people choose not to enroll in a school on the basis of it, that probably makes it a big deal for them.

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  113. My daughter is painfully shy, so I would love to find a smaller, more intimate setting for Middle School. On the other hand, she plays two musical instruments and is very athletic and larger schools are likely to have the critical mass of students needed to support more music and sports programming.

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  114. Are you in public school now and, if yes, what MS does the feeder pattern put you into?

    If you are in private school, how do the feeder patterns work?

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  115. @Anomymous My daughter is leaving 5th grade, and got into Hoover in the current system. In the new system, we would have been "fed" to Denman, to which 2/3 of her class was assigned under the current system.

    I'm targeting ESs with "good" feeders for my little guy, who will go into the K lottery next year.

    The question about kids who are in private school, or otherwise enter SFUSD at the beginning of MS is a good one. No one seems to know.

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  116. The current system is the last year of citywide choice for MS, delayed for one year so that kinks in the feeder pattern could be worked out (new assignments, immersion planning, etc.}

    The new system, the feeder pattern, did not apply this year. Citywide choice allowed you to try and get into Hoover. If you prefered Hoover over Denman, you have gotten in just in the nick of time. Continued good luck with kindergarten selections!

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  117. Yep -- I know. I was responding to the question previous to my post about how the feeder system affects people. We wanted Aptos or Hoover, and got Hoover. Under the new plan which will be implemented next year, we'd get Denman, where most of her class ended up anyway. When looking at ESs for next year, I'm seriously looking at the feeders, at least as they will exist next year.

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  118. Rumor has it they may have to dump the feeder plan as proposed. There was such uproar about it (and a astounding lack of awareness by the SFUSD administration regarding the perspective of schools, teachers and parents on the ground) that I can't see how on earth they can move forward with it as is.

    I'm constantly amazed at how clueless 555 Franklin can be.

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