Friday, October 26, 2012

Practical Information from Parents for Public Schools

I finally got to attend a Parents for Public Schools Presentation and it was SO helpful. The PPS website, SFUSD’s website and the SF K Files have way too much information, but the presentation focused on the necessary and important information and that was priceless! And, no offense, but the anonymous bloggers and commenters are also anonymous in their credentials for giving advice. I highly recommend all parents going through this process to attend one of the PPS workshops. You can click here to find a list of their upcoming library workshops. 

Here is what I found to be the top 5 helpful things or just new things the presenter shared with us (very much useful for our own search and maybe not yours, but I thought I should share anyways):

  1. The secret to getting a good placement for your child is to list as many schools as you are interested in your child attending in the order of your preference! The more schools, the better. This may seem completely obvious, but after reading the SFKFiles and other online resources I’ve noticed folks trying to strategize in different ways.
  2. The Biliteracy Language Programs are for native speakers of the program language.  The programs are to help kids be biliterate, bilingual and bicultural! A few folks told me these programs are just for English Language Learners, but from how she explained it, it sounds like it is just for NATIVE speakers. Kids could be native speakers of Spanish and English, right?  I have to confirm with each school program, but I think my child qualifies for these programs too.
  3. Don’t forget to ask the private and parochial schools about their curriculum standards and teacher credentials! 
     Don't forget that these schools don’t have to have the same curriculum and credential standards as public schools.
  4. Just a reminder that test scores do not tell the whole story, mostly they just tell you about demographics of a school. Word. 
  5. You should know that ALL public schools have:
·      200 minutes of PE every 2 weeks
·      The same lunch menu
·      Funding for a half-time librarian
·      Music starting in the 4th grade
·      GATE identification starting in 3rd grade
·      Same math and English language arts textbooks
·      Max class size of 22 students K-3, 35 for 4-5
* Inclusion programs

I was getting excited about some of these things on tours only to now realize that every school has them.


  1. My understanding of the biliteracy programs is that they are geared towards improving the English language proficiency of those whose primary language is the other language (Spanish at a bunch of schools, Cantonese at a handful, and Tagalog at Bessie Carmichael). The goal is to transition the kids to full-English instruction by 4th grade. So, by and large, those programs are best suited to English Language Learners.

    If your child is bilingual, and a native speaker of a language provided in one of SFUSD's immersion programs (Spanish or Chinese) you'll have a better chance of getting into one of those programs -- there are more slots available to native speakers overall (because the programs work better if >50% are native speakers of the target language) AND fewer applicants. The child;s language proficiency in the target language will need to be assessed by SFUSD.

    If your child speaks another language entirely, then the bilingual programs are not applicable, and you won't get priority for the immersion programs.

  2. Previous commenter here -- I re-read your post. While your child may *qualify* for the biliteracy program, you may find that the program is more skewed towards teaching English than your child needs.

    I'd be interested to hear what you find out, or from families who have gone the biliteracy route with English speaking kids.

    Oh, and I left out Japanese Immersion (Rosa Parks) -- sorry!

  3. Thanks for your info on this. I think this is probably something I need to ask individual schools. I know of at least one kid in the Spanish program who is fluent in English, but whose parents thought it was important to be bilingual and bicultural. I will also follow-up with his parents to see how it's working out.

  4. Great points and very exciting - when do we need to fill in our lottery form by?

  5. WOTM, Are you looking at Spanish immersion? You seem interested in a Spanish language program and there are lots of Spanish immersion programs in SFUSD and if your child is bi-lingual, then you would have a good shot a being part of the bi-lingual cohort in an immersion program.

  6. i disagree with #1. i still think no one really knows how the lottery works-it is still a lottery. the AA tiebreaker counts for very little. i am curious if they mentioned "the swap"?
    this pushed us (and at least 5 other nearby kids)out of our AA school, which was our first choice.

  7. 1:14 - Truth is, the closest school that my family is seriously looking into has a Spanish bilingual program and not a Spanish immersion program. We could actually walk or bike our child to school and that would be nice. So I just want to LIKE the school. But don't worry, I am going to ask so many questions about the bilingual program when I go on our tour there. All other programs we would consider are 15+ minute commutes away.

    5:40 - The presenter explained how the Placement works really well including the "swap." While it sucks that you didn't get your AA area school and non AA families did get it, I totally understand how it could happen in the computer's assignment process. But maybe #1 should really read "The secret to giving your child the best chance of getting a good placement is to list as many schools as you are interested in your child attending in the order of your preference.

  8. About point number four, if you want to know about demographics just look at the stats under school info at SFSD portal. Test scores in conjunction with demographics can tell you quite a lot about the school. If two schools have similar demographics but different scores, that is a heads up.

  9. every school has an inclusion program? is this true?

  10. Anonymous 12:43 - what do you mean by trickery of re lottery system?

  11. "The Swap" was not documented before last year's lottery, and many people were affected by it.

    My understanding of the lottery as it applies to attendance area schools is as follows:

    Effectively, a separate lottery is run for each school. All the kids who ask for School A, for example, are run through the lottery. Priority is given to kids with siblings already in the school, who will also be there next year. If that doesn't fill the school, the next slots are given to kids who live in designated CTIP1 areas. Then if there are slots left, kids who are in the Attendance Area get spots, and finally, the remaining slots go to kids from elsewhere in the city.

    If you think about it, one child can end up "chosen" by multiple schools, with other kids "chosen" by none. In the case where a child is assigned to more than one school, another computer algorithm assigns them the school they had higher up on their list, releasing the other spots.

    Additionally, if through the weirdness of the lottery I "get" school A, which is my 5th choice, but someone else's first choice, and that person gets school B which is my first choice, we "swap." So, a child who "gets" school A, because they're in the attendance area, can (programatically) release that school to me, even though I don't live in the attendance area.

    The downside of the "swap" is that if you didn't get anything in the first run of the algorithm, you have nothing to "swap." So, all the people who got *something* on their list are re-jiggered to get the best thing they can based on the way the swap works, the people who get nothing on the first run remain out of the swap.

    Schools (or programs) which are city wide have some variation on this (examples include Rooftop, because it is K-8, Paul Revere for the same reason, and all the immersion programs) In those, the attendance area piece doesn't come into play. For immersion, there's the added factor that there are a different number of slots put aside for fluent speakers of the target language (a larger number) and slots put aside for the non-fluent speakers of the target language.

    This all makes the lottery not very easy go "game." That said, the larger number of schools you put on your list, the higher the probability that you'll get *something* in the first run, putting you in possible position for the "swap."

    For people who live in the Attendance Area of really popular schools (Miraloma, Clarendon) it's definitely possible to NOT get your AA school in the first round of the lottery, and for someone else to "swap" into it. It's really frustrating for those who live in popular AA schools. This may die down a bit as siblings age out, but the CTIP1 factor will remain, and will continue to be a significant factor, especially as relatively well-off families (who therefore have cars and the ability to travel to far flung parts of the city) move to CTIP1 and make use of that designation in the lottery.

  12. the swap is very frustrating. some schools are so small they have 2 K classes totaling 44 kids-say 12 spots go to siblings, 5 spots go to CTIP1, 3 spots go to local CDC preschool kids, then 6 kids swap in. that only leaves 18 spots for AA kids. in some neighborhoods with a lot of kids that means many will be shut out of their neighborhood school. by the way, the EPC does not track how many kids swap in. they don't collect that information and therefore don't release it. so no one really knows how many kids swap in, could be really high in some cases. because EPC doesn't really release much info the whole assignment process is still confusing and non-transparent.

  13. My favorite quote on attendance area and swaps, CTIP, etc, comes from the blog of Al Roth, one of the proposers of the new SFUSD algorithm and an expert in school choice systems. "People who live near good schools support a policy of sending children to local schools, and people who don't live near good schools support policies that allow children and their families to choose to go to more distant schools."

  14. A lot of people in the mission choose to go to school in the Mission. It's the draw of the immersion programs.

    There is a unique phenomenon in the Mission. Even though Buena Vista and Marshall are not neighborhood schools, since most of the Mission is CTIP1, Mission families that choose BV or Marshall are getting BV and Marshall. You will see lots of families walking and biking to school.