You should consider this school if you're looking for: Korean immersion, LGBT-supportive administration, strong parent community, K-8 school with separate campus for K-2, early start time
The FactsWeb site: ClaireLilienthal.org
Location: 3950 Sacramento Street (K-2), 3630 Divisadero Street (3-8)
School Hours: 7:30-1:15
Before/After-school program: CLASP (K-2), Excel (3-8)
Kindergarten size: 4 classes of 22 students-3 Gen Ed, 1 Korean Immersion
Playground: courtyard, blacktop terrace with garden and play structure
Language: Korean immersion (1 class)
As our tour entered the courtyard of Claire Lilienthal's K-2 campus, we heard "Gangnam Style" playing softly, background music for the PE class going on in the courtyard. The PE teacher had chosen a wordless version, fortunately so, because many of her kindergarteners would have understood the lyrics.
Claire Lilienthal offers Korean language immersion in a racially diverse, high-performing K -8 environment with LGBT-friendly administration and strong parent community. The separate K-2 campus offers an easier transition to "big kids school" and a more intimate setting geared to the younger students. What’s not to like?
Well, lukewarm SFUSD support for the Korean immersion, large classroom sizes in the upper grades, and for many of us, 7:30 start time. Is language immersion worth wanting to poke your eyes out at 6AM for the next 9 years?
Korean Immersion Program (KIP): Earlier Biliteracy?This video created by SFKIEA, a foundation created by CL parents to support KIP, gives a look at the program in action including classroom footage and a teacher interview. It was created to build support for a Korean middle school program, which SFUSD just approved for SY2013-14.
Korean Immersion Program (KIP) at Claire Lilienthal from Hannah Levinson on Vimeo.
The program starts 70% Korean/30% English, then goes to 50%/50% by 5th grade. There is one class per grade from K-3, then a single large 4th/5th grade class. See the KIP Handbook for details. Korean immersion officially goes only to 5th grade, although the PTA has funded some degree of middle school Korean instruction in the past.
Korean uses a phonetic alphabet that's nearly as consistent as Spanish. This means that students may become literate sooner than with Chinese characters, as anyone who's relied on pinyin would attest. It also makes "reading" more accessible to parents, who can learn the alphabet to help their child. Looking at the KIP New Parent Guide, this is supported, perhaps expected.
We did not get to enter a Korean class in action, as we toured the kindergarten classroom while they were at PE. Looking at the room 3 months into the year, the level of literacy expected seemed higher than the equivalent Chinese classrooms I'd seen. Word lists of all kinds were posted all over the room; the students' names were in English and Korean on their desks as well as on their art projects hanging from the ceiling, and there was a collection of children's books in Korean on the shelf.
For what it's worth, if you get into KIP, your child will likely end up with a cohort of high-performing students, as Koreans are one of the two highest performing ethnic groups in SFUSD for grades 2-5. The other is Japanese. The effect of this on the pace of classroom instruction and differentiation is unclear. See “The Numbers” section at the end to see CST scores for Korean students at Claire Lilienthal vs elsewhere in SFUSD.
What's SFUSD’s Commitment to Korean Immersion? (revised 9/2013)At the time this review was originally written, SFUSD support for Korean immersion had been less robust than for other languages. Scrambling for funding for KIP was a recurring theme in both PTA minutes and SSC minutes. There was no SFUSD funding for 6th-8th grade Korean language pathway, even as SFUSD planned a Mandarin middle school language pathway.
The very fact that KIP's 4th and 5th grades are combined into one large class, with 38 students in 2009, was in contrast to Starr King, where the PTA raises money for a an extra teacher to keep the Mandarin 4th and 5th grade classes small (around 15 each). Looking at Claire Lilienthal's PTA minutes, it seems that even the existing Korean staffing was not fully funded by SFUSD for 2012-13. Emergency funding from the PTA and the Korean Consulate made up for the shortfall.
This raised the question of whether there declining support by the administration or PTA for KIP. It's bad enough to have to raise money for your child's art, music and PE teachers. If you chose KIP, would you have to raise money for your child's regular teacher too?
Parent InvolvementClaire Lilienthal identifies itself as a "Parent Partnership" school. It seems to be a tight-knit social community as well, with Saturday socials where parents meet to sew quilts, and regular fundraisers double as social events. In line with this, Lilienthal had the most open, available-to-the-public PTA minutes on its website of any school I looked at.
For the 2010-11 school year, the PTA (EIN 94-2954256) raised $261k and spent $235k on programs, according to their 2010 IRS report. A third of their budget goes to fund PE and outdoor education aka field trips, with scholarships for needy students. The PTA also covers equipment purchases, arts education, the green schoolyard coordinator, a librarian, and a $1000 classroom supplies fund for each teacher.
Enrichment: Art, Music and Overnight Camping TripsThe artist-in-residence program brings one 12 week program per year for all students: drumming for kindergarten, ceramics/visual arts for 1st grade, dance for 2nd grade, visual arts for 3rd grade, and theater arts for 4th and 5th grades. 6th-8th graders can take an elective in musical theater. It struck me as being light on visual arts, perhaps because visual arts are easier to integrate into the regular curriculum than performing arts. I was a little disappointed because my child loves arts and crafts, and hates being the center of attention. But who know what will happen by 4th grade?
For music, K-2 has chorus, and grades 3-5 get the standard SFUSD instrumental music offering. The school participates in the Adventures in Music program with the SF Symphony.
PE takes place in the courtyard. I was underwhelmed by the PE instruction we saw during the tour; I didn’t see much aerobic activity or running around. First the kids stood around and half-heartedly hulahooped, then when it started to sprinkle, they stood under the eaves and played with various hand toys the ball on a string connected to a cup. Many of the classrooms open directly onto the courtyard, and I wondered if this limits the range of PE activities on the K-2 campus.
The Outdoor Education program sounds incredible. It starts with day-long field trips for K-2 like hiking in Angel Island for 1st grade and Slide Ranch in 2nd. Third-6th graders go on a 3-4 night camping trip each year. Seventh graders go to Yosemite for a week, and 8th graders go to the Catalina Island Environmental Leadership program for a week. Families are expected to pay for these trips, which cost $600 by 7th-8th grade, but the PTA provides scholarship money. Of note: the cost of subsidizing Outdoor Education has been an issue for the PTA in the past, potentially affecting funds available for other areas.
DiversityWhen I asked about LGBT support, the principal responded very positively, and emphasized that LGBT families are very active at and involved with the school and are an integral part of the community. It was by far the most affirming and welcoming response I've received on the public school tours.
The Korean kindergarten class I saw in the courtyard was almost entirely Asian or biracial, but this is within a school setting that is much more diverse. Claire Lilienthal is one of few SFUSD elementary schools where all major ethnic groups represented, with no clear majority group. There is some interaction between KIP and Gen Ed, especially during a week of "integration" where they mix up students to do projects with different teachers.
The principal, who is mostly based at the Scott campus for grades 3-8 this year, who seemed well-liked overall, appeared to have an especially good relationship with the African American students. Several got his attention to say hi as he took us around, and one banged on the window of the library while he was talking, to get his attention.
The student body is less poor than SFUSD for all racial groups. For example, Latino and African American students at Claire Lilienthal are less likely to be economically disadvantaged than Latinos and African Americans in SFUSD as a whole. So while it's racially diverse, the classrooms don't have the extremes of affluence and poverty that were evident at Starr King, for example.
A potential disadvantage is that if you are looking for a sizable Chinese population, Claire Lilienthal is only 8% Chinese. On the other hand, if you are seeking a Korean population, Claire Lilienthal is the clear choice. It is 16% Korean, with a third of SFUSD’s K-8 Korean enrollment. The next closest schools are Clarendon and Lakeshore at 2%. (For those looking at JBBP, a similar pattern exists at Clarendon and Rosa Parks, both 14% Japanese with a relatively low percentage of Chinese students. Clarendon and Rosa Parks between them have 38% of SFUSD’s Japanese K-5 enrollment.)
Hard of Hearing/InclusionClaire Lilienthal's facilities were "acoustically modified" for hard of hearing students. Some teachers are familiar with FM amplification systems, and so forth, to support hard of hearing students. The bonus is that the acoustic modifications create a better learning environment for all students.
When looking at CST test takers for grades 2-5, Claire Lilienthal has an unusually high percentage of students with disabilities--14%, compared to 8% for Clarendon, 4% at Buena Vista, 3% at Alice Fong Yu, and 0% at CIS. I don't know how many of the students with disabilities have hearing impairment.
FacilitiesThe school is divided into 2 campuses, K-2 and 3-8. I only saw the K-2 campus. The K-2 school is arranged around a central courtyard. Like Alice Fong Yu, there are covered walkways on all four sides of the courtyard, including the upper levels. Two sides are made up of a charming older building with beautiful old tilework. The other 2 sides are new construction matching the architecture of the old building.
The older building includes an auditorium that is also used as a lunchroom. I especially liked that children get to sit down at tables inside to eat, unlike other schools I saw.
The library was unusually large and pleasant, one of the largest I've seen, which was especially impressive for just grades K-2. It has a separate computer alcove/area with 14 computers for students, all with purchased by the PTA.
There is a small garden area in process that looks like it will be very attractive once finished. In general, there is relatively little open space, just the courtyard and an upper blacktop with the garden and a playstructure.
According to Lilienthal's SARC, the Grade 3-8 campus in the Marina is a less lovely, less well-maintained 1930s building. The building is not large enough to accomodate all the students, so 8 bungalows arranged around the yard, a large unbroken expanse of blacktop with no visible greening on Google Maps.
Large Classroom Sizes in the Upper Grades?Claire Lilienthal's 4 kindergarten classes (88 students) do not translate nicely into a multiple of 33 when classroom sizes increase in 4th/5th grade. All the other K-8 schools except Carmichael have 3 kindergarten classes of 22 , which conveniently turns into 2 classes of 33 in 4th grade. The KIP students appear to take the brunt of this awkward shift in 4th and 5th grade, forming a large combined 4th-5th grade class that pushes 40 students. This allows the 3 Gen Ed kindergarten classes (66 students) nicely turn into 2 classes of 33 or less.
SFUSD relies on attrition to get the total grade enrollment at Claire Lilienthal down to 66 by 6th grade, with varying degrees of success. This results in potentially larger class sizes. Old PTA minutes mention concerns about a "bubble class" that still had 85 students in 5th grade. Last year, about 40% of the core classes from grades 6-8 had over 33 students per class according to their SARC--probably the 6th grade classes.
The ability to decrease class size in the upper grades is also limited by physical space: even with 66 students per grade, the upper school is overflowing. Eight bungalows already occupy its large schoolyard.
Middle School: Where All The Children Are Above Average?
All classes are taught at the honors level in middle school. This seems a bit disingenuous to me, especially given the unusually high percentage of 2nd-5th graders with identified disabilities (14%). Many of the students may be deaf or hard of hearing, as opposed to having learning disabilities, but I was skeptical that "honors for all" classes would be as challenging as the GATE classes at larger middle schools.
Getting In: Nice School If You Can Get ItBecause SFUSD relies on attrition to decrease the enrollment from 88 to 66 by 6th grade, Claire Lilienthal is not only one of the most popular schools for kindergarten, it is also one of the most difficult to transfer into. According to the principal, when students leave in the younger grades, they are not replaced. The assistant principal explicitly said during the tour that students are not allowed to transfer from KIP into general education, as in the past, some families had applied to KIP just to get into Claire Lilienthal, then requested a switch. In practice, students who are struggling in Korean immersion are given the opportunity to transfer to general ed, though perhaps not until the later grades.
KIP is no easier to get into than general education. As noted in an earlier post on this blog, in 2010, not even all the siblings got into KIP. First choice requests for Korean immersion in 2011 were 204% of capacity, compared to 219% for Chinese, 174% for JBBP and 147% for Spanish. Demand was even higher in 2012, with 55 first choice requests, or 250% of capacity.*
Of the 22 immersion spots, 13 are for Korean-proficient speakers and 9 for English-only speakers. Unfortunately, unlike Mandarin immersion programs, which don't fill with native speakers, Korean proficiency does not guarantee you a spot. However, if your child can pass the language proficiency test, your odds are much, much higher.
The other way into Lilienthal is if you have a hard of hearing student seeking inclusion who will benefit from the acoustical modifications of Lilienthal’s facilities.
Update 4/2013: Just as in 2010, one or two siblings did not get into the KIP in round 1 this year. Unlike past years, this year it was easier for children who did not pass the Korean proficiency test to get into KIP. This was due to an unprecedented number of children who took the Korean proficiency test, many of whom were native speakers.
*SFUSD Annual Report on Student Assignment System for the 2011-12 School Year, and the SFUSD School-Year 2012-2013 Total Requests by School/Grade/Program with Choice Ranking
Supporting Claire Lilienthal
You can make a Paypal donation to the Claire Lilienthal PTA through the Paypal Giving Fund. 100% of your donation will go to the school.
You can also make a PayPal donation to the Claire Lilienthal PTA by going to clairelilienthal.org and clicking on the "Donate to the Annual Fund" image on the lower left. Please note: PayPal will take a cut of 2.2% + 30 cents.
Here's two ways that cost you nothing.
- Register your Safeway Club card and credit cards at eScrip.com (Claire Lilienthal ID: 136556020). A percentage of your purchases at eScrip merchants will automatically be donated to CL. The list is short but includes Safeway and Mollie Stone's. Instructions at the Claire Lilienthal eScript webpage.
- Register your Target RedCard in the Take Charge of Education program (Claire Lilienthal ID: 35346). 1% of your purchases will be donated to the school.
2011-2012 K-2 Enrollment by Ethnicity
Latino of any race
Not Latino or Hispanic:
Two or More Races
* Overall K-8 enrollment 16% Korean and 8% Chinese on SFUSD's CBEDS 2012-13 report.
2011-2012 Parent Education Level, Grades 2-5 only*
Some College/AA degree
High School Grad
Didn't graduate high school
Declined to State/Not Answered**
*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 "Didn't graduate high school" group.
2011-2012 Economic Status, Grades 2-5 only*
Percent Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch
(<185% of the Federal Poverty Level)
|Latino of any race||43%||83%|
|Not Latino or Hispanic:|
|Two or More Races||7%||38%|
2011-2012 CST Scores by Parent Education Level, Grades 2-5 only*
|Score||At or above|
|Score||At or above|
|College Degree (BA/BS)||English 398|
|Decline to state|
grades 2 and 3 only*
* 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. The Decline to State group only had 38 students.
2011-2012 CST Scores by Economic Level, Grades 2-5 only*
|Score||At or above|
|Score||At or above|
2011-2012 CST Scores by Ethnicity and Economic Level, Grades 2-5 only*
|Score||At or above|
|Score||At or above|
NOT economically disadvantaged
NOT economically disadvantaged
|Two or more races,|
NOT economically disadvantaged,
grades 2-3 only for English,
grades 2, 3 and 5 for Math
*The California Department of Education only publishes scores for grades with over 10 students in each subgroup. Other grades and subgroups didn’t have enough published scores for comparison.
2011-2012 Korean CST Scores: Lilienthal vs all other SFUSD, Grades 2-5 only
SFUSD excluding CL*
At or above
At or above
grades 2-4 only**
* SFUSD's mean CST score for Koreans is significantly affected by Lilienthal, as Lilienthal represented 39% of all Korean CST takers for grades 2-5. For this reason, comparison is to Korean students not at Lilienthal rather than to SFUSD overall.
** The California Department of Education only publishes scores for grades with over 10 students in each subgroup. Other grades didn’t have enough published scores for comparison.