Saturday, January 19, 2013

Delinquent blogger but for what it's worth

Interesting process.

We submitted our application to sfusd schools back in early december, mainly because I was so *done* with school analysis. We submitted one application to a charter school - Creative Arts Charter School.

We toured McKinley, Rooftop, New Traditions, and Clarendon.

I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty on each one but I will be frank as to what my takeaway on each was for the ranking decision.

Rooftop and McKinley, early start, which was an unnecessary hardship as well as an undesirable one for this mom. Otherwise as is evidence by the reviews on this blog, have a great deal to offer.  I leaned more toward Rooftop than McKinley; it being a K-8 and offering a more attractive setting/building/extracurricular offerings than McKinley.  Both had a vibrant and active parent community.  McKinley struck me as more focused on a traditional education... reading, writing and arithmetic.  Not bad just not what I was looking for.

New Traditions and Clarendon, late start time (someone in this world understands me)...both project based and strong art strands which I value highly.  Both had a very strong sense of identity and community.  Both made me feel like ALL my kids would be well-served at these two schools.

Didn't rank as highly as I thought I would and this surprised me... K-8s.

Ranked much higher than I thought I would and this surprised me... New Traditions (second on my list).

All in all.  I think that the process is a good one because it forces you to drill down on what sort of *education* you want for your child.  What environment? What sort of people?  What kind of learning do you value most highly?

It also magnifies the needs that your family has that have to be accommodated... We are a family of six and we move... s.....l.....o....w....l....y.... when you have four under four years old, you take your time.

and if forced to move too fast, well we end up with a man, woman, girl, or boy down.  So late start time turned out to be very very important.

arts focused surprised me as being more important to me and my husband than language immersion.  

... a dear friend wrote me an email that helped me to realize what I believe an arts emphasis offers over a language immersion program...

"You want to be yourself, idiosyncratic; the collective (school, rules, jobs, technology) wants you generic to the point of castration" Nassim Nicholas Taleb 

I feel art helps one be idiosyncratic more than a dual language education focus. Less memorizing, more individual expression and discovery.

"the imagination of the genius vastly surpasses his intellect; the intellect of the academic vastly surpasses his imagination" I feel art nourishes the imagination. This nourishes an idiosyncratic self.

"art is a one-sided conversation with the unobserved" - this may be the highest compliment Nassim can give. His focus is on rare events that are both unpredicted by an observer and carry massive consequences. This is called The Black Swan - when we make errors outside our field of observation. Time spent in this realm builds creativity, thinking out of the box. 

Finally, one of my favorites by Nassim

"what I learned on my own I still remember" Art almost defines self directed discovery.

That said, I chose schools that I felt had strong art strands.

Even so, both my husband and I are fluent in another language.  We picked them up overseas when we were living abroad in our twenties.  Each of us first took language classes in middle school.  I value language immersion but as it turned out, not as much as a strong art focus in elementary school.  I feel like if you love a people you will learn their language.  I don't know what language-specific groups of people each of my kids will love but I feel like we'll expose them to a lot of people in this city (to begin with).  And from there... it was given its accorded weight but not as much as I would have thought in choosing or not choosing an elementary school.

That. Was a surprise.

Besides late start, art and languages...

I looked at CST test scores on the SFUSD site under the highlights tab for each school I was seriously considering.

I looked at them segmented out for subgroups. I looked at how kids tested year after year (trying to *follow a class*, because I attributed those increases, decreases or plateaus to the influence of instruction and not to other factors outside of a school's purview).

I listened to some friends who are teachers tell me that they have to teach to where the majority of the class is... and that influenced my decision to not send my kids to schools that have large subgroup populations that are testing much lower than the subgroup I hope we fall into (white) and schools that don't have the capacity to fund smaller class sizes...

Finally the distance to school was a factor that was HEAVILY weighted in as was our understanding of the strength of having a CTIP tiebreaker address.

Here was the list we turned in... and it may not make sense to you how I weighted everything I just discussed but I'll tell you what... when SFUSD publishes its algorithm...  I'll publish mine.

1. Clarendon (gen)
2. New Traditions
3. Peabody
4. Rooftop
5. Lilienthal (gen)
6. Sherman
7. Rosa Parks JBBP
8. Grattan - GEN
9. Alvarado - IMMS
10. McKinley
11. CIS Avila
12. Alvarado Gen
13. Alice Fong Yu (K-8)
14. Marshall
15. McCoppin
16. Sutro
17. Lawton
18. Stevenson


  1. sherman and lilienthal are both 7:50 start times.

  2. Muppet I think you're such an interesting and thoughtful blogger. Missed you and glad for your delinquent insights. I hope your choices pan out. One thing - the arts are not always highly visible and you learn where they exist (more so) as your kids move through elementary school. The offerings also often change, sometimes dramatically. We've been really happy with the arts curriculum that's brought into our school (Mckinley) from outside groups - especially sfartsed, which is a terrific organization. And this year, the music teacher is magical; several years ago, the then music teacher was not. The switch has totally changed my understanding of arts at the school. I also have realized (now with three there) how little I knew in the first few years and how much more you learn of you go to the arts classes. I've got one in K now, and have been helping out in art and dance (both coming in from sfartsed.) I totally missed out on these classes with my older two, and was generally oblivious.

    In any case, my point is that even if you don't end up at what appears to be the most visibly arts-focused school, your children may end up with more arts than you expected. And you might not even figure this out until several years in. Arts also can figure heavily into aftercare, either offered at school, or nearby, like at the most excellent Randall museum, which has has a treasure trove of great offerings as does Sharon Art Studio. And those offerings are both afterschool and on the weekends. Good luck!

  3. @2:20pm I LOVE your point and I am so happy to see as much art as I did throughout SFUSD schools and at CACS. I weighted what I saw the way I could to make a decision for my family, the rest, as they say, is history.

  4. Nice post!

    We decided against K-8 for the little guy, because big girl has really been much happier at a BIG middle school than she was in ES. With the new "feeder" system, it's not clear what would happen if after 5th grade you wanted to opt for a traditional middle school. You certainly wouldn't have an obvious feeder, and it's not clear if you'd even be allowed to apply to a middle school. And if you were, there might not be space anywhere near your home/where you'd want to go.

  5. Thanks for posting! I love your energy and honesty. I , too, am one of those that could not go with the 7:50 start time. We are working parents but we have flexible mornings and that is when we spend quality time with our son. We can never be pick him up before 5pm so I wanted to make sure we had a good hour or so for fun time (not getting dressed, eating, etc.) before we had to leave for school. I also felt that having to spend so much time in an after-care program might be a bit much for our son. I really wish Rooftop started at 8:40 or 9:30 because I LOVED the school but the 7:50 start time was a deal breaker.