Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Moving van

At around 4:00am one morning last week, our youngest trotted into our room and bounded next to my side of the bed. “Do you need water?” I asked sleepily. Potty emergency? Is someone sick?

“I weady!” he answered happily in a three-year-old’s idea of a whisper. He was clutching his little travel backpack, stuffed with a couple of plush animals and two unmatched socks. “I weady to move to a new house!”

He isn’t alone. Since acceptance letters landed in March, my crew has all been getting ready. We’ve decided to move out of the city and head south down to the Peninsula or Silicon Valley.

For some background on our particular situation, here’s a quick recap:
  • We both work in Silicon Valley, and are each spending 10-15 hours a week commuting. We are very attached to the city, but as for the drive, well, the word “bummer” doesn’t do it justice. We've been doing it for a few years and are burnt out.

  • We toured 15+ public schools in San Francisco. In Round 1, we went 0/10. Here is the list of schools we’d requested.

  • In mid-March, we received happier news on the private school side, and were accepted to two SF independent schools that we very much admire. But the price tag for two kids, plus the continued commuting, made us think twice.

  • Given that we are CTIP2 and didn’t feel that our assignment boundary school (Sutro) was a good fit, I’d seen the “0/X” bus headed our way last fall, and started looking outside the city in October. As part of that process, we applied to several public magnet school programs in San Mateo, where you don’t have to be a resident to apply. Our five-year-old was accepted to one of the San Mateo-Foster City Montessori magnet school programs in late March.

In March, as the deadline for accepting private school spots approached, we asked ourselves a lot of hard questions and weighed what felt like an endless number of factors. We thought about trying to make private school work financially, especially when our younger one is ready for kindergarten in two years. On the public side, we thought about trying for Round II, Round III, or whatever comes in September. But three things argued against that – the fact that we are “CTIP2/Don’t want our school,” which puts us at the bottom of the lottery barrel and keeps us there; the district’s decision to remove the “0/X” tie-breaker from later rounds of the lottery this year; and the lack of transparency over what the process will be like this August and September.

We also considered the input we’ve gotten from others on this blog, in all its forms. Many of you have provided invaluable advice along the way, and one comment in particular stuck in my head:

I'm one of the bigger boosters of SF publics out there, especially in encouraging people to look beyond trophy schools since we are happily in a non-trophy public. However, if we lived in the Richmond and we had to commute to the Peninsula for work for both of us, there is no way in hell that I would stick around the City. Life is too short to spend 500 plus hours a year in a car (that's twelve weeks of vacation time!).

- March 21, 2011 8:39 PM

And so, we’ve decided, we are headed out. With a good bit of sadness, we declined our private school spots. I’m weeks behind in posting this update because we’ve been concentrating on housing issues -- looking for a new place to rent and arranging for someone to rent out our SF home. We may wind up in San Mateo, but are also taking one last look at two school districts closer to our jobs (Menlo Park and Mountain View) to see if anything there makes sense. In San Mateo, we love the magnet school programs, but it’s further from work. In Menlo Park, the schools are excellent, but it’s less diverse and the real estate situation is tougher than most, which is saying something. In Mountain View, the schools vary in quality, and so we’d need to pick neighborhoods carefully.

In posting this update, I’m in no way advocating a mass exodus from the city. If even one of us worked here, we’d stay. But we have many factors (work, family, and friends) that are pulling us south, and for us, it has wound up making sense. If you are thinking of moving, know that wherever you land, you’ll likely find other SF school transplants. We’ve attended meetings and seminars in several other school districts by now, and at every one, we’ve met former SF families who’ve recently moved. One silver lining of the grueling SF process is that it preps you to be an active, involved school parent, no matter where you land. As one school staffer in San Mateo put it to me, “We love our San Francisco families! They always show up well-informed and ready to pitch in.”

We very much appreciate all of you who’ve taken the time to share comments and advice along the way. I’ve also been lucky to be in great blogging company as well. Donna and Helga, all the best at Aptos and Lawton! Emily, two friends of ours send their kids to Zion and love it, and I hope your son will be very happy there. Aissa, all the best in the move back East! Joseph, huge congratulations on Gateway Charter – I was pulling for you and Ben more than anyone. Becca and Marcia Brady, all the best, wherever you land!

I also hope the very best for all of you fellow “0/X”ers out there who are still in limbo. If nothing else, I very much want to see SFUSD publish a clear explanation of how this year’s process will work in August and September. How many rounds of the “August placement” lottery will there be? Waitlists or no waitlists? Why say the process will end in early September when there will still likely be churn on the private school side and spots opening up for another couple of weeks past that?

Even though we didn’t apply for Round II, we still received a Round II letter of sorts. It informed us that since we hadn’t registered at our school of assignment from Round I, and hadn’t applied in Round II, we now had no school in the SFUSD system. We were encouraged to apply for Round III. But unless the district heard from us, the letter said, our file is now closed.

To that I say: Yes, it is.

With love and respect to my home town, which will always be my home town, no matter where I’m living,

- Seattle and my crew, Portland, Tacoma (5), and Williamette (3)

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 31 BOE MEETING ON STUDENT ASSIGNMENT

NOTICE AND AGENDA

MEETING OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION

AD HOC COMMITTEE ON STUDENT ASSIGNMENT

SAN FRANCISCO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

________________________________________

There will be a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment (Augmented), on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Irving G. Breyer Board Meeting Room, 555 Franklin Street, First Floor, San Francisco, California.


1. Board Discussion with the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and Parents for Public Schools (PPS)


2. ACTION ITEM: Staff Recommendations for Revisions to Board Policy P5101: Student Assignment

(Superintendent’s Proposal 115-24Sp1 – Revisions to Board Policy P5101: Student Assignment)

a. Elementary-to-Middle School Feeder Patterns

b. Density Tiebreaker

c. NCLB/Open Enrollment

d. Designation Guidelines


3. Public Comment: Members of the public may address the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment on items within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Committee but which do not appear on the Agenda. Speakers shall address their remarks to the Committee as a whole and not to individual Board Members or District staff. There shall be no discussion of public comment with the exception of clarifying questions and/or referral of the issue to staff.


4. Board Discussion

Monday, May 23, 2011

Middle School Student Assignment Update

SFUSD will present proposed changes to the Student Assignment policy at the May 24 BOE meeting. The revised policy document is attached to the BOE meeting agenda (click here for PDF). The Student Assignment policy starts on page 77 of the PDF (stamped page 52 in the lower right corner) and ends on page 97 of the PDF (stamped page 77 in the lower right corner).


On the first page of the Introduction, under the header of “Complex Challenges," the policy states, “To reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school through student assignment alone, the BOE would need to assign students to schools they have not historically requested and to schools far from where they live. For example, some students living on the west side of the city and in the north of the city would need to be assigned to schools on the east side of the city and the southeast side of the city, and vice versa.


Here are a few of the highlights in the revised middle school assignment policy.


Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, elementary–to-middle school feeder patterns will operate as a tiebreaking factor in the choice process. The tie breakers are as follows:

  1. Younger sibling;
  2. Middle school feeder (unchanged from Feb. 1, 2011);
  3. CTIP1;
  4. All other students.


Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, fifth graders will receive an initial assignment to their feeder middle school and will have subsequent opportunities to participate in the choice process. The tie breakers after the feeder assignment are as follows:

  1. Initial assignment to attend feeder school but prefer another program at that same school (for example, assigned to GE strand, but qualify for Immersion strand)
  2. Younger sibling;
  3. CTIP1;
  4. All other students.


The following tiebreaker (known as the "density tiebreaker") was DELETED from all K-5, city-wide, and middle school assignment algorithms: “Students who live in attendance areas that do not have sufficient capacity to accommodate all the students.


In terms of the timeframe for implementation, the revised policy states, “Any revisions to this student assignment policy requiring Board approval will be approved at least three months before SFUSD begins accepting applications for any given year. For example, if SFUSD begins accepting applications in November, any revisions to this student assignment policy would have to be approved by August.”


The meeting begins at 6:00 PM at 555 Franklin.


Friday, May 20, 2011

And After All the Drama, the Call Finally Comes!

Last I posted I told you all that we had gotten Giannini in Round I for middle school for our special ed son, Ben. It was our last choice for us, and, not as one poster here suggested, because we were concerned its test scores were low (they aren't), but because the school has way too heavy an academic emphasis. Before his present elementary, he'd been at a heavily academic elementary that basically ignored the special ed kids. We were intent on not going back to that kind of environment. We were also waitlisted at Gateway Charter Middle, a new charter that is really our first choice because of its smaller grade size and focus on special ed. So we went into Round II and also filed a medical appeal. I didn't come up with the medical appeal idea -- the placement office encouraged me to file the medical appeal, since Ben's learning problems are medical problems. Silly me, I poured my heart into the medical appeal, getting two letters from Ben's doctors, a report from a psychologist, and letters from both Ben's teachers and his Inclusion teacher. This past weekend we got our response: nothing in Round II and a letter from SFUSD about the medical appeal imperiously telling us our appeal was not only denied, but it was permanently denied. Like forever and forever. Anyway, we were completely crushed. Then we got a call from Gateway Charter Middle School - there was an opening for Ben! Oh my goodness, it was exactly what we wanted. After much excitment and dancing around, we have now enrolled Ben at Gateway Charter Middle School. We are impressed with Gateway's new principal, Aaron Watson, and its new staff of teaching professionals. Starting up a new school (this will be Gateway's "founding" class) is going to be a new experience for us, but we feel assured that, with the proven track record Gateway High has established, the middle school will also be a great success. So thanks to all you parents out there for tolerating my saga of finding a middle school for our special ed child. We made some mistakes along the way, but feel we have finally gotten what Ben really needs in a middle school.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Round Two, Part Two

I'll share whatever I learn from Rachel Norton about Round Two (thanks again Rachel for checking for us!) here when I receive a response.

In the meantime, if you know of a spot that should have been given up after round one and wasn't, please share it here. It might give some folks an idea of what could be available in open enrollment. If anyone has info from the EPC, please also share that here.

(Let's try and keep the comments for this thread on this topic so it's easier for those who are just trying to determine their chances for a spot).

****EDITED TO ADD RESPONSE FROM RACHEL NORTON BELOW****

"Hi Emily -

So, here's what I have been told by EPC staff. Bottom line: there were some adjustments to the number of seats available for the 2nd round so that the district could avoid revoking offers to families; to my mind they were quite limited.

Specifically:
A new kinder class was opened at CIS DeAvila;
No general education seats were opened at Alvarado even though presumably some were available going into the placement run;
Capacity was reduced by 1 seat at each of the following schools: Grattan, Sherman, Lawton;
Capacity was reduced by 3 seats at Rooftop.

Here's a quote from the response I received:
"In the May run we did everything we could to avoid revoking offers from families while also honoring parent choice. We knew it would be very disruptive to tell parents who received an assignment in March that we needed to take back that offer. We also knew that it would impact families if we held all openings at all high demand schools as part of a strategy to shift the balances of target language speakers and non-target language speakers in the immersion pathway. We very intentionally spent a lot of time identifying solutions that would be the least harmful for incoming kindergarten students.

. . . The individual counseling process has begun; EPC is working personally with non-target speaking families at [several schools] to shift the balances while also honoring parent choice to the maximum extent possible."

I hope this helps!"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Round Two

Round two letters should have been sent out today. Was anyone able to confirm with the EPC that the letters did indeed go out?

Any related thoughts, news, feelings?

And of course, share your news tomorrow when those letters come!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reflections on May 9 BOE Meeting to Discuss the Middle School Plan

Rachel Norton is certainly admired (and thanked!) for going home last night and preparing a synopsis of the BOE reaction to the middle school plan. Readers are referred to Rachel's blog for her preliminary reaction to the meeting, as well as two key documents: a 24-page summary of the recent Community Forums, public engagement, and outreach activities, which was prepared by PAC and PPS, and the District's key reference, "Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades," which was published by EdSource last year.

You can watch a webcast of last night's BOE meeting once it is posted on the SFUSD website in the Board Meeting Webcast Archive.


Readers who attended the BOE meeting or who watched the Live Board Meeting Webcast are encouraged to share their perspective on the meeting.

- Donna

Sunday, May 8, 2011

New State Rankings Released for California Schools

The following information is from MercuryNews.com. Click here for complete story. Use the pull down menus on the web page to get API scores, State Rank, and Similar Schools Rank for California schools.

Interpretation of rankings: California public school rankings, which are released each spring, range from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. The rankings are evenly distributed by school level; in other words, 10 percent of elementary schools in California earn a 1, and 10 percent earn a 10. Statewide rankings are based purely on test scores (the Academic Performance Index, or API). "Similar schools" rankings compare the scores of each school to those of 99 others with similar demographic profiles.

In some districts -- including Albany, Castro Valley, Dublin, Pleasanton and Piedmont in Alameda County and Acalanes Union, Lafayette, Moraga and San Ramon in Contra Costa County -- every school was ranked in the top half of the statewide heap, with a 6 or higher.

Similar school (SS) rankings for SFUSD middle schools are very interesting:

SS Ranking 10: Roosevelt (API 864)

SS Ranking 9: none

SS Ranking 8: none

SS Ranking 7: none

SS Ranking 6: Aptos (API 829), Marina (API 806)

SS Ranking 5: none

SS Ranking 4: Giannini (API 874), Vis Valley (API 691)

SS Ranking 3: Presidio (API 871), MLK (API 710), ISA (API 620)

SS Ranking 2: Mann (API 653)

SS Ranking 1: Hoover (API 821), Lick (API 726), Denman (API 722), Francisco (API 707), Everett (API 607)

With the majority of our middle schools in the bottom of the similar schools ranking, it looks like SFUSD has a long way to go to provide Quality Middle Schools for All. It will be interesting to hear their take on "Quality" and how they intend to achieve it (without relying solely on demographic musical chairs) when they present to the BOE later this month.

- Donna

Saturday, May 7, 2011

School Meals SURVEY online! Input needed - please circulate!


The following message was forwarded to me by Teri Olle, the Project Manager for School Meals at the San Francisco Food Bank  
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

School Meals Improvement Project Survey

Please make your voice heard on school food by completing this survey!
The San Francisco Unified School District, the San Francisco Food Bank and the Department of Public Health (EHS) are taking a close look at the school meals program and identifying opportunities for the school district to feed more kids better food.
Background: The school meals program is the largest meal provider in the city, serving 28,000 meals each school day. For many low-income children, it is a critical source of nutrition— yet many students do not participate, impacting their health and readiness to learn. SFUSD has made major improvements to school meals since 2004. The district has eliminated trans fats, now offers salad bars and other fresh fruits and vegetables daily, and uses whole grain pastas and breads. Adding a “Point of Sale” system has sped up the line while improving fiscal tracking and reducing social stigma. They have also provided more meal choices to students at middle and high schools. These enhancements have made school meals more accessible, fresher, and appealing to students— but significant opportunities remain.
How can school meals be improved? With full support of SFUSD, the SF Food Bank hired a consulting firm to study and make recommendations for improving the program (no district funds were spent on consultants). The firm has worked with many districts on food service programs. They’ve already completed a preliminary visit and developed an assessment plan based on data provided by SFUSD. This month, they will spend a week interviewing district, school and cafeteria staff, parent representatives and community leaders, in addition to observing school lunch periods. Final recommendations are expected in fall 2011 and will be shared with the Board of Education and the public.
How You Can Help: Complete the survey and encourage others to do the same— the more people participate, the more the study will reflect the interests of the community. Particularly critical are the opinions of parents, whether or not their children currently eat school meals.
The Parent Survey is available in English, Spanish and Chinese. If you would like to distribute the Parent Survey in paper format to a parent group, please contact Teri Olle at schoolmeals@sffb.org .

Click on this link to complete your survey: http://www.prismaticservices.com/sanfrancisco.html.
Thank you for your participation!


The Case for Skipping Class

Schools need to ease up on family travel restrictions.


By Christopher Elliott

(From the May/June 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveler)


What do America’s schools have against travel?

In Darien, Connecticut, the public high schools’ attendance policy warns: “Inexpensive airfares are not an excuse for extended student vacations.” Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., also discourages absences for family trips, and at least one of the county’s high schools, Annandale, seems to have an outright travel ban. “Family trips and vacations will not be excused,” states the posted attendance regulations. Notably, school-sponsored sporting events are generally exempt.

Alright, I get it. Mom and Dad sipping piña coladas while Junior lands cannonballs in the resort pool on a school day—it’s just wrong. I don’t care how cheap the Priceline tickets to Cancún were. And this kind of truancy certainly won’t help American students, already lagging behind their Chinese counterparts in math and science.

But some trips are worth skipping school for. What about the cruise to the Galápagos to witness evolutionary theory in action? Or a tour of Europe’s castles to immerse the family in medieval history? That’s not the same thing as hanging out at the beach, is it?

“Time in the field adds context, meaning, and challenge to the one-dimensional classroom feed,” says Scott Pankratz of Ecology Project International, cultural exchange program. “Traveling is learning in 3-D; it’s an opportunity to grow and become what otherwise isn’t possible.”

Tell me about it. While my own spotty school attendance record may have affected my grades, it certainly didn’t interfere with my education. In fact, my youthful travels across Europe and the United States with my parents, when I was supposed to be sitting in a classroom, inspired my career.

Educational travel may have other benefits, too. More than 88 percent of students who traveled before the age of 18 receive a college degree, according to a recent survey endorsed by the Student Youth & Travel Association. Slightly more than 8 in 10 had a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and more than 40 percent had GPAs of greater than 3.6. What’s more, half of the respondents reported a household income of more than $75,000 as adults. These correlations add up to some pretty intriguing math.

And yet many U.S. school systems are taking an increasingly hard line against pulling children out of school for learning trips, even as they forgive absences with questionable educational value, such as sports competitions. Junior can’t be excused for traveling to the Grand Canyon to reinforce earth science lessons, but he can leave early with the rest of the football team for away games with the school’s blessing? Puh-leeze.

There’s a reason schools are reluctant to issue waivers for educational travel. Rigid testing requirements under the ten-year-old No Child Left Behind Act, which is meant to hold school districts accountable to national standards, have made schools mindful of every unexcused absence, according to Ezekiel Dixon-Román, an authority on international supplementary education and out-of-school learning. “What’s being covered in school is specifically targeted at what the school is assessed on in the tests,” he says. In other words, schools teach to the tests, and traveling kids may not be learning what they will be tested on.

I have a horse in this race. Three, actually—two sons and a daughter. Taking them out of school for educational travel involved negotiation and creativity, and we sometimes were made to feel as if we were depriving them of an education. By the time my older son started third grade, it was clear that the school calendar and school leave policy were too restrictive. Last January, we withdrew Aren from public school and enrolled him in an accredited homeschool program. His two younger siblings soon followed.

The solution isn’t to push parents out but to reform schools. Real change must come from the top. “Federal policy around education should be changed,” says Dixon-Román. “There’s too much of a focus on testing and not enough on a rich and meaningful pedagogical experience.”

To get an idea of how the system should work, consider what happened when Sonja Lother asked to take her daughter, Pippa, out of school for 12 days to visit Washington’s Orcas Island last year. Yes, there was some red tape. She applied in writing for permission from the principal at Bluff Park Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama. Then she met with Pippa’s teacher, Mrs. Evans, who asked Pippa to keep a travel journal. Finally the school green-lighted her request, classifying her trip as a pre-excused absence. Pippa’s trip “expanded her thinking” and was worth the bureaucratic obstacles, says Lother. Pippa created a 28-page journal with daily entries and drawings of the islands, complete with postcards and other mementos, which she shared with her classmates, who learned something from the trip as well.

My kids already know that sometimes the best place to learn is outside the classroom. They’ll never forget standing on the edge of Kilauea, on Hawaii’s Big Island, inhaling the sulfuric air, and listening to a park ranger tell them the secrets of a volcano. Or the fascinating story of northwest Florida’s rare sand dune lakes, formed by a combination of tidal flows and weather, presented by a nature guide named Snookie as they walked along a narrow, sandy trail. They know there’s no substitute for being there.

Hey parents, this is an issue worth getting pushy over (unlike the B that should have been an A on Junior’s last history test). You’re most likely to be successful if you can first work with a teacher to ensure your child will keep up with the schoolwork before approaching the school administration.

Skipping class to travel isn’t something all families can afford, unfortunately, but it may be more affordable than you think. Remember, not every trip has to—nor should—include a five-star resort. When I was young, my family crisscrossed two continents on a shoestring budget, often staying with friends or camping. (For truly needy students, groups such as the SYTA Youth Foundation and ACIS offer scholarships for organized travel.)

Travel shouldn’t be an option for only the elite; it should be an opportunity available to any student or family who wishes to expand their horizons. Schools shouldn’t get in the way of a good education.

PAC and PPS Present Middle School Recommendations to BOE on May 9

The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and Parents for Public Schools (PPS) will present their findings and recommendations on Quality Middle Schools & the K-8 Feeder Proposal to the SFUSD Board of Education Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment. Public comment welcome! Here are the details.

NOTICE AND AGENDA: Monday, May 9, 2011, at 6:00 PM

The meeting will be held in the Irving G. Breyer Board Meeting Room, 555 Franklin Street, First Floor, San Francisco, CA.

Agenda

1. Informational Updates

a. Transportation for 2011-12

b. Attendance Area Boundaries

c. Monitoring Student Assignment

d. Quality Middle Schools -

i. Parent Advisory Council and Parents for Public Schools

ii. Staff Update

2. Board Discussion

3. Public Comment

Members of the public may address the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment on items within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Committee but which do not appear on the Agenda. Speakers shall address their remarks to the Committee as a whole and not to individual Board Members or District staff. There shall be no discussion of public comment with the exception of clarifying questions and/or referral of the issue to staff. Call ahead (241-6427) to reserve a spot and prepare to speak for 1 minute.

Friday, May 6, 2011

New Blog on Inclusive Education in San Francisco

Those who have been following my middle school journey for my 5th grade child ("No. 1") know that my 4th grade child ("No. 2") has an IEP for Special Ed services. I just learned of a wonderful new blog: Inclusive Schools in SF & Beyond. Some recent topics include How do Inclusion families choose schools? and the 5-3-11 Board of Ed Meeting on Inclusion. Also, the blog provides links to useful local, state, and national organizations and information.

This is what the blog originator, Catherine, writes about her blog: "This blog was born out of my work on San Francisco Inclusive Schools Week and ongoing advocacy work for inclusive education (not to mention the world at large)…inspired by a very charismatic youngster and his peers. Please feel free to be in touch to share resources and connections."

- Donna

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tipping Point

Recently I watched a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson on Changing the Education Paradigm and it made me feel even more disheartend with our country's approach to educating children. The talk was recorded almost 5 years ago and nothing has changed towards a more sensible and effective method to public education. I know that many other pundits have declared our education system to be broken decades before Sir Robinson but it seems like true education reform is gaining more momentum because of recent books such as NurtureShock, Feel-Bad Edcuation, Drive, The Flat World and Education, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, and the like.

The official website for the movies Waiting for Superman and Race to Nowhere have sections on taking action. In fact, the Waiting for Superman site is hosting and streaming a live town hall meeting On May 11th with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the future of education in America.

Or perhaps it seems that true education reform is this way only because I've become a parent to school-aged children?

I thought of my 10 year-old nephew who is like the dancer in Sir Robinson's talk. Circles being pounded into square holes. I think of my brilliant 15 year-old honor roll niece who is worried that she doesn't have a 'hook' to get into the ivy league schools. Which makes my mind spin with recent opinions posted on Forbes online regarding the decline of investment in higher education.

With all the multimedia attention I wonder what would be the tipping point for education transformation?

Is it a matter of bringing it to the voting booth again and again and writing to your elected officials? Would it be a critical mass of driven parents demanding change at their school -one school at a time? Or do we need to wait for a trickle down effect from college admissions boards should they change their criteria to have less emphasis on test scores ?

So here I sit pondering how I can be the change I wish to see in the (education) world. In my last post I told you all that I was not going for Round 2 and keeping my spot at Jefferson. I also mentioned at one point that I was exploring the idea of joining a home school coopertive. One parent asked me why I didn't want to go to Jefferson. It's not Jefferson I have an issue with, it's the approach and test-driven philosophy in public education. The reason why I was so attracted to the Presidio Hill School and Synergy was because they have an entirely different approach. And given that Luke was neither accepted nor could we afford either without aid, I looked for a solution between the public and private options.

It came down to creating the educational environment I wanted for Luke - from scratch if needed. The initiative is to
  • Hire an amazing teacher with over 35 years in primary education who is passionate and progressive in teaching style.
  • Secure a dedicated classroom space for the children to attend and feel a sense of ownership in their learning environment.
  • Dedicate the time, effort, and funds that will go directly to my child's learning and that of the families children in the co-op.
This small home school group, called the San Francisco Schoolhouse , is still looking for K-3rd graders to be part of their inaugural year. I find myself very drawn to this option to roll-up my sleeves and create what I want for Luke.

And yet other family considerations are pulling us to our third option: moving back east. West and I will be leaving our hearts in San Francisco and going with our heads and children to the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Our family is sadly joining the statistic of those middle class families exiting San Francisco.

So there you have it. A spot at Jefferson will be available as are spots in the home school co-op (email info@sfschoolhouse.org for more information if you are interested). We will enroll Luke and Lulu into a Virginia public school. I will be a vociferous advocate for my children's right for quality education. I will cast my vote and elbow grease into the ring with other parents seeking education transformation and hope we get closer to the tipping point for nation-wide change.

Our very best wishes to all SF K file readers.

- Aissa, West, Luke, & Lulu

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Are Feeders for the Birds?

SFUSD, PPS, and PAC have been gathering feedback on the K-8 feeder proposal at Community Forums. Now we are down to the wire.

Here is the calendar for the upcoming meetings on middle school assignment as provided on the Parents for Public School website. All meetings are at 555 Franklin Street, 1st Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. Please see the SFUSD website for time and agenda. Public comment is welcome at BOE meetings. Call ahead (241-6427) to reserve a spot and prepare to speak for 1-2 minutes.

Monday, May 9, 2011: PAC and PPS present findings and recommendations from the middle school forums at the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011: District staff present their recommendations to the Board of Education (BOE).

Monday, June 13, 2011: Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment meets to discuss the middle school proposal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011: BOE vote on the middle school assignment policy.

What do you see in your crystal ball?

  • Will SFUSD recommend K-8 feeders as described in the second (Feb. 2011) proposal, revise them a third time, or possibly postpone again?
  • Will BOE approve the K-8 feeder proposal or is more work/input needed?
  • Where is the $$$$ for District-wide middle school reform (Quality Middle Schools for All), new immersion pathways (including a 7th period), and fully inclusive student practices (Special Education Redesign Implementation)?
  • And last, but not least, can all these things happen simultaneously in 2011/2012 school year or does the District need to prioritize this workload in the face of a dismal budget forecast?

- Donna

Special Education Inclusive Practices and Redesign Implementation

Important Board of Education (BOE) meetings on Special Education.

Monday, May 2, 2011 5:00 PM: AUGMENTED CURRICULUM AND PROGRAM COMMITTEE UPDATE on Special Education Inclusive Practices – Guest presentations from the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) and the Community Advisory Council for Special Education (CAC)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011, at 5:30 PM: Committee of the Whole update on Special Education Redesign Implementation

Public comment is welcome where indicated. Call ahead (241-6427) to reserve a spot and prepare to speak for 1-2 minutes. All meetings are at 555 Franklin Street, 1st Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. Please see the SFUSD website for time and agenda of the BOE meetings.

- Donna