Thursday, January 3, 2013

Alice Fong Yu: Blue Ribbon Academics, Traditional-Style

You should consider this school if you're looking for:  Cantonese immersion, high test scores, K-8.

The Facts

Web site: afypa.org/portal.php
Location: 1541 12th Avenue at Kirkham
Grades: K–8
School Hours: Grades K-5 9:30-3:30, Grades 6-8 8:40-2:40
Before/After-school program: yes, GLO
Kindergarten size: 3 classes of 22 students
Playground: black-top terraces; play structure
Language: Cantonese immersion

Overview
AFY is the grandmother of Chinese immersion in SFUSD, the model for other programs. It's a well-established program and has been wildly successful. AFY consistently has the top academic scores in the city. The US Dept of Education recognized AFY as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School for being "Exemplary High-Performing."

Changes in Demographics Mean Changes to the Lottery for AFY: A Heads-Up for Bilingual Families

Parents who are hoping for their child to be classified as bilingual to improve their chances at another language immersion program, take note:  for 2012-13, if you list ANY language other than English on your school lottery form, your child will automatically be classified as an "English Learner" for AFY. This may lower their chances at AFY.

The issue is that as AFY's reputation has grown, it's become increasingly popular with Chinese families, including monolingual families. AFY is by far the #1 kindergarten choice for Chinese families. (Source: 2011-12 Annual Report on Student Assignment,  page 18).  As a result, although AFY was designed as a one-way language immersion program for English-speaking students,  an increasing proportion of its enrollment has been comprised of Cantonese-speaking English learners.  In 2011-12, nearly half of the K-2 enrollment was classified as English learners.  SFUSD doesn't have the resources to test everyone who lists AFY for English proficiency, so they are trying this workaround.


Diversity
It's Chinese. Whites, Blacks and Latinos combined make up 10% of the school population. See "The Numbers" section below for details.


Academics/School Culture 

The principal, Liana Szeto, founded Cantonese immersion in SFUSD at West Portal before starting AFY. She's been at AFY since the beginning, is known to be a strong administrator, and she runs a tight ship. Parent support is welcomed, but she's the one in charge.  The downside is that some parents may feel like there's less room for parent involvement and innovation than at a newer school like Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila.

The school has been criticized as being overly focused on academics, with a heavy workload, little emphasis on the arts, and with a traditional instructional style. Culturally, the school feels more traditionally Asian in its approach to instruction and discipline/behavioral expectations of the students.  This may be a plus or a minus, depending on your point of view.  

Elementary students do get painting and ceramics instruction, funded by the PTA, and the middle school has several active sports teams, including a very successful girls' basketball team.

For English learners, the PTA spends a considerable amount of money for English tutors (not supported by SFUSD) to bring their English skills up to grade level.  AFY is very successful at this, and by 4th grade, almost all the students qualify has English proficient, with the test scores to match.

Details of Cantonese Immersion

     For K-3, all instruction is in Cantonese except for English Language Arts. This works out to be 15% English for K, 20% grades 1-3.  Starting in 4th grade, the amount of Cantonese drops to 50%, then to 3 of 7 periods in 6th grade.  By 7th and 8th grade, all instruction is in English except for 1 Cantonese Class and 1 Mandarin class per day. Eighth grade students participate in a 2 week exchange to China with a homestay; AFYfamilies also host visiting Chinese students.
    Science and PE classes switch to English in 6th grade, Math switches to English in 7th grade. Health for grades 4-5 and Social Studies for grades 4-8 are always in English.   

Parent Involvement, Enrichment and Class Size

For the 2010-11 school year, the parents association raised $284,750 and spent $237,456 (Source: https://www.guidestar.org/organizations/77-0439991/alice-fong-yu-parents-association.aspx). This money was used to fund the garden, an art instructor, and English tutors for AFY's English learners.

Facilities

AFY felt like a private school in a small town or suburb. The facilities are well-maintained and beautiful.  There are 3 separate buildings surrounding a airy walled courtyard where children were playing before school.  There is also a large upper court with a basketball court and tennis/badminton nets.

The elementary school classrooms in the main building open onto both outdoor walkways overlooking the courtyard and onto a broad inside hallways.   The elementary school classrooms are spacious, high ceilinged, with lots of space for whole-classroom instruction, activity stations, and more. The K-2 classrooms felt like they were made for many more than the 20-22 students we saw in each room. Each classroom had a few computers in it.

The middle school is physically separated in another building on the other side of the courtyard. Middle school classroom we saw felt cramped for their 33 middle school students, who also take up more space than same number of kindergarteners.

Up the hill from the middle school building is a beautiful garden with raised planting beds. Most elementary schools seems to have or be getting gardens as part of their "greening" project, but this one was larger and more attractive almost all the ones that I saw. It reportedly includes a pond with a solar powered pump and a rainwater catchment cistern. Elementary school students have a garden class once a week.

One of the most charming things I saw was a neat row of backpacks outside a middle school classroom.  The classroom is too small for the students' bulky backpacks, so students line up their backpacks outside the classroom along the wheelchair ramp.  A nearby gate to the street had been partly left open, but no one seemed concerned about it.

That was what felt most like a private school to me. The implicit trust that those backpacks sitting outside would be safe and untouched.  I loved that sense of trust and safety, both with the other students and with the surrounding neighborhood.


Supporting AFY


You can make a PayPal donation on the AFY website . Please note: PayPal will take a cut of 2.2% + 30 cents.  

Or you can write a check to the "Alice Fong Yu Parents Association" and send it to:
    Alice Fong Yu Alternative School
    1541 12th Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94122

See their "shopping" webpage for many other ways to support the school. Here's a few ways that cost you nothing.
  • Register your Safeway Club card and credit cards at eScrip.com (AFY ID: 138042692). A percentage of your purchases at Safeway and other participating merchants will be donated to the school.
  • Register your Target RedCard in the Take Charge of Education program. 1% of your purchases will be donated to the school (AFY ID: 335)
  • Use the AFY link to shop at Amazon. Approximately 4-6% of your purchases will be given to the school. 

The Numbers

2011-2012 K-2 Enrollment by Ethnicity

EthnicityAFYSFUSD
Latino of any race
4% 
27%
Not Latino or Hispanic:
Asian*
74% 
33%
Filipino
2% 
4%
African American
3% 
9%
White
5% 
17%
Pacific Islander
0% 
1%
Two or More Races
7% 
6%
Not reported
5% 
3%
Source: California Dept of Education, Educational Demographics Unit

* Overall enrollment K-8 is 59% Chinese on SFUSD's CBEDS 2012-13 report.  Of the other Asian students, many are listed as Vietnamese for CST testing, and many of these families may be ethnic Chinese from Vietnam.  During the Diversity Index lottery era, when Chinese enrollment was limited at popular SFUSD schools, many Chinese Vietnamese families chose to list their ethnicity as "Vietnamese."

2011-2012 Parent Education Level, Grades 2-5 only*


AFYSFUSD
Graduate School/Postgraduate
22% 
15%
College Grad
37%
22%
Some College/AA degree
11%
21%
High School Grad
9%
15%
Didn't graduate high school%
3%
13%
Declined to State/Not Answered**
18%
13%

*CST test takers only. CAPA, CMA and STS not included. CST tests start at 2nd grade.
**For SFUSD, the "Declined to State" group has CST scores close to or slightly below the "Not a high school grad" group.


2011-12 Economic Status,
Grades 2-5* only
Percent of Enrollment Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch
(<185% of the Federal Poverty Level)


AFY
SFUSD
All students
 34%
61%
Latino of any race
29%
83%
Not Latino or Hispanic:
Asian
41%
65%
Filipino
13%
55%
African American
86%
79%
White
17%
19%
Pacific Islander (only 1 student)
--
83%
Two or More Races
20%
38%


*CST test takers only. CST tests start at 2nd grade.

2011-2012 CST Scores by Economic Level, Grades 2-5 only


Alice Fong Yu
SFUSD

Score
At or above grade level
Score
At or above grade level
NOT Economically Disadvantaged
English 408
Math 464
 89%
95%
Eng 398
Math 433
80%
82%
Economically Disadvantaged
(<185% of Federal Poverty Level)
Eng 386
Math 446
81%
87%
Eng 351
Math 385
52%
63%

2011-2012 Asian CST Scores by Economic Level, Grades 2-5 only*


Alice Fong Yu
SFUSD

Score
At or above grade level
Score
At or above grade level
Asian, Not economically
disadvantaged

English 407
Math 475

86%
96%
English 401
Math 454

82%
90%
Asian and Economically
disadvantaged
English 390
Math 468
84%
93%
English 377
Math 435
70%
86%

*The California Department of Education only publishes scores for grades with over 10 students in each subgroup. Other ethnicities didn’t have enough published scores for comparison.



2011-2012 CST Scores by Parent Education Level, Grades 2-5 only*



Alice Fong Yu
SFUSD


Score
At or above grade level
Score
At or above grade level

Graduate School/ Postgraduate Education
English 425
Math 480

93%
98%
English 416
Math 455
89%
89%

College Degree (BA/BS)
English 404
Math 460

87%
90%
English 391
Math 428
78%
81%
Decline to State, grades 2-3 only 
English 383
Math 465
87%
90%
English 339
Math 377
44%
60%

*The California Department of Education only publishes scores for grades with over 10 students in each subgroup. Other parent education levels and grades didn’t have enough published scores for comparison.

Source: http://star.cde.ca.gov/

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review. We are a white family and put Alice Fong Yu at the top of our list. The school is really like a private school in terms of the facilities and completeness of vision. In looking at schools, I was most drawn to programs which seemed to have a fully articulated mission, meaning that the school committed to one idea and fully developed that across the grades. We put Rooftop and Chinese Immersion at De'Alvia on the top of our list for this reason. The 9:30 start time at Alice Fong Yu and easy parking in the neighborhood was a factor in our decision as well. I was most influenced by the fact that the children seemed very happy and engaged when I saw them in their classrooms and also when they were outside lining up for some activity. Almost all the children had smiles on their faces and seemed to be enjoying themselves. I know that AFY had a reputation for being focused on academics, but I saw some truly interesting art hanging in the kindergarten classrooms and the garden program seems well developed. The day I toured, the 4th graders were rehearsing in the auditorium with their instruments. They sounded great and also it was the largest class of 4th graders with instruments that I've seen at a SFUSD school. At some schools, it looked like only 4 or 5 students were signed up for individual instrument instruction. In the end, even though there is a clear focus on academics, there did seem to be engagement with the arts. I really liked CIS, too, but the location is not great for our family and when I imagined trying to find parking to pick up my son from after-care, it seemed that it might get frustrating after 6 years. At any rate, it is an impressive school. The lack of racial diversity is a concern for us, but it feels that with all of the SFUSD choices there are pros and cons. In the end, it's a lottery so fate plays a role as well.

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  2. Incredibly thorough... thank you!

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  3. To 2:01PM,

    I am a CIS parent. There is a stop-drop-and-go in the morning, by parent volunteers. There is stop-pickup-and-go in the afternoon, after regular school hours, by the principal, teachers and parent volunteers. There is also stop-pickup-and-go by the after-school program, GLO, at 5:45. If you use any of those, there is no need to park.

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    Replies
    1. Great information! Thanks. From the tour, I remembered the morning SDG, but for some reason, I did not remember the GLO SPG. CIS looks like a real gem of a school. I thought the principal was fantastic.
      We turned in our application today and we'll see what the lottery brings!

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    2. Are you going to post your Claire Lillenthal review? I didn't get a chance to tour and am curious as to why it's your number 1.

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    3. I will post reviews for West Portal and Lilienthal before 1/22. Each one takes me about 4 hours (or more!) to do, with all the numbers and getting the html tables into the blog, so I am trying to finish up private kindergarten apps first.

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    4. SFGeekMom -- we love your reviews, I appreciate your narrative the most. The data is available from the CST website. Maybe you could post your text narrative and refer readers to the CST website for the data, to save yourself the effort of formatting the HTML tables. Thank you for all the time you put into this effort.

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  4. I wonder if the new language assessment will bring more diversity to the school. It seems like the district is making an effort to bring in more English speaking students into the school through this year's pilot program.

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  5. I'm an AFY parent and will put in a plug for GLO. After-school care can be a real headache, and can occupy more of your time than regular school. But GLO at AFY is really, really, professional and high quality.

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  6. Good stats on this page for parents:)


    ~Clint
    @cazoomi

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