Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Long, Short-Version - Our School Choice


I originally wrote a four-page first draft of my final post to the SFK Files to declare our school choice. It was TMI and pretty boring. It became a rebuttal to all the critiques we have heard or assume we will hear from friends, family, and blog readers and a long list of all the factors that played into our decision-making. So I am scrapping that draft and taking 20 minutes (ok, it's longer now) to write the basics. However, this might not be my last post. I still have a lot to say about CTIP1.

My husband and I have decided to send our daughter to Hamlin next year.  It was a tough decision complicated by our love of Rooftop and many other public schools (not just the trophy schools) in San Francisco. 
                 
As parents, we want our kids to grow up and do meaningful work that they love and that pays their bills. We want our children to challenge themselves, think critically and creatively, dream big dreams and commit themselves to giving back to the world. We want them to be their authentic selves and to be grounded by their family and community. As a mama of color raising a daughter (and son) in the Bayview, I know there are things that my daughter will have to overcome because of her race, class and gender, obstacles to actualizing her dreams. I know that the disparity between the rich and the poor is growing and that the “middle-class” jobs many of us love and were educated/trained to do are disappearing or the salary is not keeping up with inflation.

Knowing this, we want our daughter to be in an environment that supports her socially and personally, that understands and values diversity, that challenges her to be a leader, that has solid academics, that opens doors to STEM careers in case she might be interested in pursuing them, and that gives her opportunities beyond the limitations of our neighborhood, community and family. During the fall and winter we kept going back to Hamlin events, because it surprised us that this school in Pacific Heights seemed to speak to the realities of our experiences and the hopes we have for our daughter. It wasn’t that Rooftop would not be able to do these things, but they didn't say too much about them.

There were two things Hamlin moms told me that I keep thinking about:
  • I know for sure that in their lifetime my daughters are going to face discrimination because of the color of their skin and their gender. I need them to not only believe in themselves, but also to have the solid academics to back that up. -  She was certain her daughters were getting both at Hamlin.  
  • I need to know that her school makes sure she learns to stand up for herself and for others, and that she feels safe there all the time so that her mind is free to learn. I need to know that she sees women of color in positions of authority, so that when she is older and bumps into a glass ceiling, her idea of who should be in charge is so ingrained that she does not question where she should be.”
There was something special about the leadership at Hamlin, the openness in talking about the school's problems, the critical dialogue that the whole community seemed to be engaged in to make the school better. The mission of the school is so relevant, "The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time and inspires them to become extraordinary thinkers and innovators, courageous leaders, and women of integrity.” The sincerity of the Head of School as she talks about developing leadership in young women and supporting them to become their authentic selves would set just the right tone for our daughter. Our daughter will love it and live it. And, while I want to support public education, a part of me is really relieved to send my daughter to a school where test scores are not directly related to funding and teachers have more support and resources for professional development.

Yes, I have a lot of guilt about choosing private school over public school. The silence after I mentioned our school choices to our pro-public activist friends was more than uncomfortable, but with an offer of admission and financial aid to make it do-able we couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I have no delusions about this being a “perfect school.” There is no such thing. We are interested to see how this "rigor and joy" actually plays out. We will definitely continue to ground our daughter in her community, be vigilant when issues of race/class come up, teach her more about her family history and culture and make sure her world is way bigger than Hamlin. But we would be doing that for her regardless of the school she was at and while we are not money-rich, we are community and family-rich. This is our strength.  We don’t know if our child will later be diagnosed with a learning disability, if our financial aid will go down making Hamlin unaffordable and/or if the school just isn't a good fit, but from what we saw and heard from the people who are there now, we only got the impression that it would be a great opportunity for our daughter. We will be evaluating and reevaluating our decision each year to see if the school continues to fit our mission, vision, goals and budget as a family. We'll take things as they come.

98 comments:

  1. Good for you! Sounds like an excellent choice for your family, and Hamlin sounds like a terrific place for your daughter. Congratulations.

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  2. Congratulations wordofthemutha ... as another mom of color, I've enjoyed reading your posts and am too sending my child to a private school and hope you hold your head high and listen to your own heart amidst all the critiques. I have a close friend with two wonderful daughters at Hamlin and they've loved their experience ... I hope your daughter loves hers. It sounds like she is very rich (community and family) already and will have lots to offer Hamlin.

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    1. Yes, thank you, WOTM, for such a thoughtful post, especially articulating so clearly and openly the issues that families of color consider in raising children, including the realities of discrimination, the importance of helping your child build the self-confidence and resilience to outface people's assumptions, and the importance of family and community above all. Good luck to you and your family!

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  3. Do not, do not, do not feel guilty, ever, for making the right choices for your child. I blogged here, reviewed a ton of public schools, admired many, and ultimately went private on financial aid, to the school that best addressed my daughter's learning needs. I never posted our choice. That was cowardly, and I am so impressed with you and proud of you for making a different choice.

    The truth is, I felt the same way -- I'm white, but given my own financially precarious childhood as the child of a single mother and our two-mom family structure, I felt I needed to give her every opportunity I could.

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  4. I find this a bit depressing that most of the bloggers ended up going private, even with mostly good public school assignments. Yes it's an individual choice for what's best for your child but still, not exactly encouraging and some great people have removed their voice from the public dialog and equation, and no longer have to worry think about what goes on in public school world. Good luck being your authentic self.

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    1. The flip side is the more people who don't enroll in the desired public schools the more chances those of us have at getting them in future lottery rounds.

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    2. I am happy for word of the mutha and any blogger who selflessly gives their time to help provide information and save us all time, and gets no payment in return. All the bloggers have done a great public service and should be thanked. I've read their reviews several times, as well as the reviews of bloggers in previous years. However, it is a bit surprising that many or nearly all have ended up with wonderful independent schools. Good for them, but I'm surprised with that result given how much time they all spent reviewing public. Sunset and 1+1 are still going round 2, but they are even considering or have considered privates, which is absolutely fine, but wow. This is making me think (we're applying this fall) to prepare our finances for a private result too. I just hope we get in like these bloggers did!

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  5. If being your authentic self is doing what is best for your family....it is the right choice.

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  6. Mutha really did get a great choice and very excited for her. However regarding above posts, her and other bloggers did provide so much insight and enthusiasm for publics and some of their reviews helped me broaden my search. They really seemed to believe in these schools. While I was touring, heard so many ignorant comments about publics like thay only teach to test, a school is too blue collar or not wanting to go to schools that are too Asian (!). Some people flat out told us they would never send their kids to public school and they never even toured one. Anyway, can these bloggers still honestly defend the public school or think it is a truly viable option, not just for them but for most of us out there?

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    1. I am not one of the bloggers but wanted to try and answer your questions by sharing a little about our public school experience. We applied 3 years ago, in the final year of the old system. We were 0/7 in Round 1. Which kinda sucked. It's irrational, but I had spent soooooo much time touring, analyzing, researching that it somehow felt as though the random computer lottery should have prioritized our application over those people who hadn't spent as much time on the process. :-)

      Anyway, one of the things that had been clear to me from early on was that the chance of us not getting one of choices in Round 1 were high. It's simply a numbers game - way more people apply in Round 1 than are going to send their children to an SFUSD school. So we submitted our Round 2 application and the lottery worked out for us in Round 2 and we were assigned our 1st choice of school.

      I think what helped was that from the beginning I knew how long this process could take and was prepared to go the whole way with it, to the 3 day count and beyond.

      Fast forward to now. I am aware of all the issues facing public schools, and all the "teach to the test" worries. And they are real concerns. But our reality is that our 2nd grader is thriving. She has had the most amazing teachers. She has made wonderful friends at the school, as have we. My husband and I (both products of expensive private educations) have been amazed at how strong the academics are, but even more amazed at how strong the arts, sports, social skill and leadership programs are at the school too.

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    2. A bit off topic, but does the district build into their algorithm that fact that so many will go to private schools after 1st round? Of the assignments made, what percentage actually do not enroll by September? Would be curious to know the numbers.
      There is definitely some peer pressure at certain preschools and social groups to put private above public, and it does influence our choices and we agonize over what we'll do to our kids if we don't get this one school, like Clarendon (not in my top 5). I've attended private school in another country, well funded suburban publics back East and not well funded California public schools so there is no one perfect school out there.

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    3. It's not necessarily a matter of all private schools vs all public schools. I had a vague ranking, but private schools and public schools were interleaved on that list. I ended up preferring the private school we chose to the the public one we were assigned. However, I would have picked my top public school choice over 3 of the private schools I applied to, including two very sought-after ones. I also chose not to apply to 2 popular private schools after touring because I liked the publics I'd seen better.

      Yes, there are many great public schools out there. The decision in the end is, what school is the best fit for your child? It may not be a private; it may not be a trophy public. Another way that the children we're given shape the parents we are.

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    4. We should have a playdate and talk about our experiences, because I am so curious to hear about the schools you didn't review or the ones you talked about but didn't name... particularly the school you mentioned in a previous comment that has kindergarteners with tutors. I had this sinking feeling that you might be talking about Hamlin. eek. I hope not.

      While our methodology was very different, I really appreciated your posts and the discussion they created. Thank you SF Geek Mom, good luck! Friends sounds amazing.

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  7. Good for you Word. I too faced that dilemma. As a single parent of color, I totally get, respect and support your choice. And, I know from personal experience that a school choice isn't forever. If it does not work for you and your family, you can choose to go in a differnt direction.

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  8. Good for you for doing what's best for you and your family. Don't let the dissenters get you down.

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  9. congratulations to you and your family! Sounds like your daughter has an amazing role model for a mom.

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  10. Hope to hear updates in the fall. Good luck!

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  11. Congratulations and thank you for all the thoughtful posting and reviews. Your voice added a lot to this discussion. I think you are a great advocate for your daughter and I certainly agree that as a woman of color, your daughter will need the support of many communities and great academics to achieve all that she wants to achieve in this world. On Fresh Air this past week, there was an interview with journalist who commented that while culturally we are more open to diversity, actual social mobility is steadily decreasing.
    Also, I can't help but feel that it is not very productive for the "public v. private" debate to take place on an individual level. It's a systemic problem and needs to be addressed as such. There are many ways we could fix the economic disparity between the two systems, but we are not motivated to do so. While the more educated and active parents who participate in public education have a very positive influence on the public school system, that, in and of itself, becomes another class divide where middle class public schools have a lot more resources than "poorer" public schools. So do people shun a family if they take Rooftop over a less popular school like Muir? Not usually. But somehow WOTM gets heat for choosing Hamlin over Rooftop? I see it on a continuum. Rooftop might have more resources than Muir, Hamlin has more resources than Rooftop. That continuum pretty much mirrors the class divide in our city and how it impacts the education of our children. If we want educational equity for all children, we need to fund it with dollars. We could remove Prop 13 for all commercial buildings. We could impose a tax of 5 cents on every alcoholic beverage sold in San Francisco. We could remove Prop. 13 for all entities, including family trusts, that own more than 25 rental units within the City limits. There are ways to make the "public v. private" debate more productive and positive for all students and not pit individual families against one another. That's a classic way to cloud the actual impact of the economic disparity of resources across the entire system and not to address the problem at its core.

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    1. YES! Buried somewhere in my original 4-pager was a paragraph on Prop 13 and another paragraph about how it's time to move past getting mad at individual families for choosing privates and seek real systems change. What public schools need is adequate and equitable funding. Once that happens, families like mine and many other SF families won't even think twice about going to public school. It'll always be our first choice.

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  12. You know what, 8:59 AM? I thought that what public school supporters want is people to take a good, hard, thorough look at public schools and make an informed choice. That's what I did. I looked at over a dozen, I liked a great deal of what I saw, I blogged with enthusiasm. I didn't blog the privates because I didn't feel like getting flamed by people who are against private school. But some were better than public for our kid, some were not. Whether or not I chose private depended on where we got in and how much aid we got, and I would have chosen our local public (which I had no guarantee of getting into either) over several. Parochial was not an option.

    But if "supporting the public schools" means sending your kid to them no matter whether or not another school is a better fit, well, forget about it. I *teach* in a public school, but not at the elementary level, so I am giving plenty there; I contribute financially to our local public; I advocate for public education because private school can never serve everyone. That's what you should want -- a wide variety of ways people can, should, and WILL support public schools if you don't snark at them for what they do with their own particular children.

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  13. The more we talk about things within the context of someone's "race or color" the more we are passing these outdated ideas down to our children. Living in one of the most diverse cities in this country, my child is colorblind and we deal with our own issues of our diverse family by being open about our heritage. Let's be part of the solution, not the problem. I certainly hope you aren't passing your own anxieties about growing up as a woman of color down to your child because you are only then propagating the issue. I'm not saying these issues of racial inequalities should be ignored, but rather embraced. We are in a different generation- how can we think differently about how our children were raised with this issue? If you were living in Kansas, I might agree with you more, but you are not.

    It's fine if you want to take your kid to a private school, but does race really matter here? I was robbed a few months ago by a black man, but does it really matter it was a black man when I have a white cousin sitting in prison right now for robbery? No. We need to stop thinking about things in the context of a person's skin color if they really do not matter!

    It all comes down to social class and poverty which crosses color lines. I'm assuming you are an educated black woman and your child with that statistic alone has far greater of an opportunity than a poor working class black OR WHITE family raising their children.

    I suggest Annette Lareau's book "Unequal Childhoods" if you are interested in the topic.

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    1. We certainly do not live in a color blind society. One only has to look at public dialogue surrounding Barack Obama's presidency and the statistics of African American men in jail. Our whole history is informed by racism, sexism, and homophobia. To think that these legacies are gone, is to erase the real life experience that many people have every day. We need to acknowledge this history and pass it down to our children so they can have the context of past events to inform their future and future decisions. Yes, class plays a huge role and at this point, it is certainly harder to cross class lines than in the past two decades because of the de-funding of the public sector, but as a culture, we can never forget these legacies of discrimination because they are an important and foundational part of our history. If we want to keep the notion of democracy alive, these parts of our common history need to be included.

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    2. Only white people think we live in a color blind society.

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    3. Yes, because you are teaching your children to think that way. I am not. You would be amazed at what children pick up from their parents around race/color issues.

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  14. Sometimes I wish there was a little less "what's good for my child" and a little more "what's good for my community." I mean, sure, prioritize the needs of your family, but does it always have to the reason everyone rallies behind? I'm sure I'll be lambasted for saying it, but I'm disappointed.

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    1. What do you imagine is a situation that represents "what is good for my community"? What does that look like in the context of this discussion?

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    2. We have a system in place that used to support "what is good for my community." It is taxation. When we had a more progressive tax rate - at it's peak in the 1950s and 1960s - the highest bracket, what we would now call the .01%, was a 90% tax rate. These high taxes on capital gains and the .01% of earners slowed income inequality and funded our public education systems at all levels from kindergarten to advanced degrees. We educated a few generations of people and had a robust, stable economy with this progressive tax system. It could work for us again, we just need to ask for it. The majority of people living in the United States make less than 1,000,000 per year and do not live off of capital gains. If the majority of voters demanded a progressive tax structure similar to one during Eisenhower's presidency, we could fund our communities and at that point, no child would be left behind.

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    3. 11:40 AM, amen. A-men. The whole idea that individual family decisions and middle-class-and-up pocketbooks are what count as "supporting the public schools" is called PRIVATIZATION. Parents who think that sending your kid to a public school is in and of itself a righteous political act are serving a right-wing, not a left-wing agenda. The right wing would love to defund public education and make it an entirely PTA-driven project. A left-wing agenda would be advocating that EVERYONE contribute to public education via higher taxes, especially via closing the loopholes that allow corporations to benefit from Prop 13. And of course you can do BOTH, but there are lower-taxes ideologues with kids in public schools who'd much prefer to give to their child's school and their child's school only, and higher-taxes ideologues (like me) with kids in private who would think it entirely fair to be contributing more to other children's education too. I am so very extremely tired of being shamed by pseudo-political SF parents about my school choices, especially on this blog.

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    4. There is definitely a political agenda to defund and privatize public schools; let the market place decide. It is not just contempt for teachers unions but also for comprehensive knowledge and using education for equity and advancement.The day that happens, what used to be public schools will not follow the Hamlin or Friends model,or even a CACS model, but more of a Walmart, profit driven model. Where will that leave all of us?

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    5. @4:02pm, many of those higher tax ideologues you reference seem to be very happy to donate only to their childrens private school.

      Let's take a look at SFDS as an example. In the 2011-12 year the school had 400 children. The schools Annual Fund netted $1,068,000 in donations, and the campaign to raise the endowment brought in an additional $3.5 million in gifts and $1.2 million in pledges.

      The most successful SFUSD PTA in 2010-11 raised $370,000.

      Should taxes be higher, so that public education in CA can be better funded? I certainly think so. Is it ideal that SFUSD public schools often have to fund art, sport etc through PTA money. Absolutely, no. But at least that PTA money is benefitting a much wider socio-economic group of children than the 10x or 20x greater amounts raised at the private schools. So, please don't kid yourself that parents who send their children to SFUSD and contribute time and money to their schools are somehow following some right-wing privatization agenda and those who send their kids to private school are not.

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  15. Some have made the point about the division between good and bad publics schools or maybe more popular and less popular schools as being similar and as u fortunate as between say Hamlin and Rooftop. But there is a way that even a popular public does help a larger community. McKinley, popular enough, still has a population getting free and reduced lunch that is in the high 40 percentage range - and a couple years ago was more like 50. When middle class parents support such a school, in many ways they also support a larger, poorer community - right at their school. Very few privates have so many kids in such financial circumstances.

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    1. But why? Why is it on the backs of middle class parents? Why is it not the obligation of everyone in the community (parent or not), why are PTA funds (if we must have them) not pooled centrally by city or state, why are the public school auctions looking increasingly like the private school ones?

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    2. @4:03, McKinley is one of the elementary/K-8 schools with the lowest percentages of students on free/reduced lunch, 29% vs around 60% for SFUSD grades K-8 overall in 2011-12. When the elementary/K-8 schools are ranked by LOWEST percentage of students on free/reduced lunch, McKinley comes out at #10 of 74 schools.

      Source: CBEDS Information Day data from SNS Student files, published at http://sfusdfood.org/freereduced.html

      Previously posted at http://www.sfkfiles.com/2012/11/unsettling-data-richest-and-poorest.html


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    3. Ok. Data wrong this year for Mckinley, a changing school (though do look up recent years for Mck too) but you make my point. If the average sfusd school has 60 percent of kids on free or reduced lunch, then there are a whole lot of kids collectively who can benefit from increased participation and giving from families with some means. It does matter and it does help. Also, there's always donorschoose for those who prefer to give more specifically to schools in need.

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    4. For a family of 4 in SF to qualify for free or reduced lunch I believe they have to be earning less than $42,000. For McKinley, those students represent 29% of the student population which, even though well below the district average, means that over 100 children on free or reduced lunch are hopefully benefitting, along with all the other McKinley students, from the time and energy that so many McKinley parents bring to the school. I can't see that in anything other than a positive light.

      @7:39pm You are completely correct - it shouldn't be the responsibility of middle class parents to fund Literacy Specialists, art programs, learning gardens and all the other varied things that the PTA budgets provide. But, in the absence of state or city funding for such things I am incredibly grateful for those parents who are able and willing to provide their time and money to help make their schools better for everyone who attends.

      I think this is one of the things that bothers me about the fact that so many of the rich and powerful in SF (and elsewhere, of course) send their children to private school. All those people with money and influence then have a reduced incentive to advocate for better funding of the public schools because their childrens education is in no way affected by it.

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  16. In some ways, this topic is becoming so heated not just because some people do feel a bit let down by the bloggers' choice to go private, but by this particular choice. An exclusive, establishment, all girl's school in a very wealthy neighborhood, with majority upper class, mostly white students. It hits all the race, class, gender and equality buttons. There isn't anything quirky or alternative about this school, it is elitist, so it gets to some of our insecurities about our finances and ability to provide the best education for our kids, and their future upward mobility. The concept of single sex education in today's society can be tricky. Also, based on the blogger's (and Geek Mom's as well) posts throughout the process, it seems a bit out of character and contradictory to their champion of democracy and public schools stance. But all that said, you have to respect their choices even if you wouldn't make the same.

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    1. This is well said. The heat is really about the choice of Hamlin and what Hamlin seems to represent, fairly or unfairly. This discussion would be very different if say the school picked was Live Oak or the SF School. What really will be interesting is if Hamlin's head reads this. From all accounts, she's an impressive, thoughtful, ambitious, dynamic leader. She might have something interesting to add.

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    2. I think the choice of Hamlin was a surprising one as well. I remembered something about Mutha's Commodore Sloat review and diversity. I just reread it and she voiced concerns about being different ethnically, culturally, and economically from others families at Sloat and not having a connection to the neighborhood. I don't know much about Hamlin other than it's reputation and what has been put on great schools for statistics. She has to change her mind about certain ideas about schools of course. In the end if this is the right choice for daughter than so be it.

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    3. Since this blog was started by a Noe Valley mom, it's always veered towards either public or private schools in the Southeast and which have a much different vibe than schools in Pac Heights and North side of the city. You hear so much disproportionately on this blog about Live Oak, Synergy, Friends, etc and much less about more well known privates like Hamlin, Town, Cathedral, Presidio Hill, etc. Really, the focus on independent schools has largely been on the so-called Tier 2 schools and not the "Big 5", so it's very intimidating for readers to hear "one of theirs" is actually going to Hamlin. I think it's great and hope that next year we'll see more reviews of the larger and more well established privates in the city - SF Day, Hamlin, Town, etc.

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    4. Hamlin's reputation comes from its Pacific Heights zip code. But most people would be surprised to know that the Hamlin of urban legend is not the real Hamlin. Clearly WOTM was surprised. Give it a chance.

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    5. I think some of the emotion also comes from the fact that in Round 1 wordofthemutha received her first choice public school of Rooftop. So, the decision wasn't just about accepting Hamlin, it was also about turning down Rooftop.

      And I disagree with 6:09pm that people are somehow intimidated that an sfkfiles blogger will be sending their child to Hamlin. I think the emotion is more sadness that a parent who seems so well-educated and caring will be spending her time and resources on an already extremely well-funded school which is not accessible to the majority of SF families.

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    6. If WOTM spent her time and resources at Rooftop versus Hamlin, we'd not feel the effects either since none of can get into Rooftop. Do you really think it helps kids at Sunnyside or Cesar Chavez or Miraloma if Rooftop has one more dedicated parent.

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    7. Hi 8:51pm, this is 7:43pm here. And no, I don't think that another caring dedicated parent at Rooftop directly helps the children at Cesar Chavez, Sunnyside or Miraloma. But I do think that another caring, dedicated parent at Rooftop could help the children at Rooftop which, in the 2011-12 school year, had 37.6% of it's student population receiving free or reduced lunch.

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    8. Just based on stats, Hamlin is actually more ethnically diverse than Live Oak or Friends. Still very homogeneous but interesting fact.
      Good point about losing another good family because everytime there are budget cuts to gut public education, the response often is "I'm so lucky my kid goes to private and don't have to worry about that"

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    9. So do you think that parents of private school kids don't care at all about supporting public schools? I definitely feel lucky that we found a great private school and that we don't have to worry each year about budget cuts etc. but I do care that the public school system thrives. Of course, I also expect to be criticized and told that this makes no sense. If I really support public schools, I should send my child to public school. If we were given a reasonable school assignment, we probably would be in a public school. Please don't pretend that it always "works out" and that if you show patience through all of the assignment rounds you will always get what you want.

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    10. I think it's great you support public schools too. One way to show that support (which you may already do) would be to support or advocate for higher taxation/removal of some or all parts of Prop 13. Another way would be to save a portion of the money you donate each year to the appeal at your school to a public school nearby or one that you choose to support for other reasons. All you would have to do was call up the school and ask how you could donate. It would make a real difference to a school. Better yet, spread the word and encourage others.

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  17. Following up on the above comment. So maybe going to a public school and contributing, and hoping it someone benefits a larger community, is a right-wing thought - maybe it is privatization. But some of us there listent to the discussions of changing Prop 13 and raising taxes and say, yes! that sounds like a great idea. But people have been talking about that for years and years and there is tremendous resistance to that despite increasing urgency in funding issues for places like public schools. So we say to ourselves, in the meantime, do we just bail, or do we try to help the kids - ours and others - there at the moment by contributing dollars to the PTA and energy to the school. Many of us thinking along these lines have no problem at all with kids going to private schools -- that's fine too. But in public schools, you do encounter far more people of lower income - and in doing so, have the capacity to help at least some portion of a larger community - beyond your own child. And if that means giving to the PTA generously, so be it.

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  18. I don't think any of us who send our kids to private school on financial aid think that "getting ahead" (whatever that means) is about associating with rich white families. We mostly won't be invited to do so (nor would we if we were at public school, as the rich tend to congregate among themselves), and that's fine.

    Let's get real here. All the research shows that No Child Left Behind has greatly reduced the critical thinking, writing, and problem-solving skills of children in the U.S. These are the skills needed not only for decent jobs, but for informed citizenship. Private school kids read more primary texts (as opposed to textbooks), write and revise more and longer papers, engage in more collaborative projects, and are encouraged in more divergent thinking. Period. This is exquisitely apparent at the college level, where 60% of those arriving to the CSU system need remedial ed. I chose private because it's a better education right now, at this moment in history. I could care less about the race and class issues; we are friends with plenty of people less privileged than ourselves through church. And the more privileged can take us or leave us -- who cares?

    It is perfectly possible to support public education with your tax and private dollars as well as advocacy, and also, given a financial aid package that gives you choices, choose not to have your child educated by what passes for public education right now.

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    1. To say point blank that private education across the board is better is just wrong. Think about it. Obviously I am a public school parent. What are you really doing to help the public school system? Sounds to me like you are doing a lot of justifying, same as the blogger choosing Hamlin. The only hope we have of our public schools getting better is by actively participating in them. sorry, but no way you can really help if you are not a part of the system, period. I know I will get blasted for saying it, like it has been said before. But, by choosing private you are only adding to the problem.

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    2. Yeah, your taxes aren't really doing much to support public schools. It's not your fault but to claim otherwise is to completely ignore 40 Years if Prop 13. Financial support for public schools in California comes from wealthier parents donating to the schools that their children attend.

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    3. "Private school kids read more primary texts (as opposed to textbooks), write and revise more and longer papers, engage in more collaborative projects, and are encouraged in more divergent thinking"

      My child isn't old enough to be writing longer papers yet but with regards to reading I can safely say that plenty of primary texts are offered to them and read. In fact I've been so impressed with the level that my child is reading at and the books they choose on their own to read. I've also seen at lower grade level quite a few of collaborative projects being done. All this at non -trophy public school.

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  19. Dear WOTM, You made a wise decision, and I am so happy that you chose Hamlin. Yes, Rooftop is a good school (as are many public schools in the City), and yes Rooftop is a school that many families on this blog were longing for (do I sense a bit of jealousy in their comments?). However, truth be told, even the public schools that are perceived to be the best in the City still have the handicap of 22 kids/classroom in the lower grades and 35 kids/classroom in the upper grades. The public school model, no matter how well intentioned, cannot provide the individualized attention, support, and instruction that your daughter will receive in Hamlin. It's just a fact. I applaud you for your choice.

    You have been, and I believe that you will continue to be, a great public school supporter and advocate. Anyone who spent as much time as you touring public schools and thoughtfully sharing with this blog comes out of the process a changed person regardless of their personal decision for school choice.

    I thank all the bloggers--those who chose independent schools, those who chose public schools, and those taking the journey for Round 2 and beyond. You have all been great public school supporters by showing the readers that there are many more than just 10 great public schools in the City and by coaching parents to look beyond test scores.

    -Donna (public school mom)

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    1. My child is at Rooftop and reads at a level several grades beyond her actual age. I volunteer in her class, and I can assure you that she gets plenty of "individualized attention, support and instruction" from her teacher, as do many of her peers--whether, like her, they're advanced in a specific area or have learning deficits in a specific area.

      You would be surprised how effectively a qualified (remember that teachers in public schools actually have to be qualified, unlike in private schools) and experienced teacher can implement differentiated learning in a large class.

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    2. The "unqualified private school teachers" ghost needs to be laid to rest. While a few outliers may not require credentials, any private school of decent reputation requires its teachers to be highly trained and credentialed or working on their credential. It's just that it's policy rather than law. If you want to know a private school's policy on teacher education and credentialing, ask them.

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    3. Our experience with highly-sought-after public school was that the advanced students received extra support in the form of more challenging work and time with the teacher to discuss the advanced projects, and the children with learning deficits received support to meet minimum competency standards. The middle-of-the-pack kids like ours got lost in the shuffle.

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    4. That is a common complaint in a lot of school districts, not unique to SFUSD. The students at the upper and lower end get the most resources and attention, while the average midlevel student gets whatever is left over. Of course we all think are children are exceptional. That's why strong parent advocacy and involvement is so important.

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    5. Another Rooftop mom with a child that reads several levels past her grade. I am very impressed with the concern her teachers have shown that she be challenged and engaged. This despite the fact that she isn't in the least bit bored. After many years in school, she still loves going. I always thought that besides the arts and the garden etc., Rooftop's particular strengths were its teachers and its true diversity. Both my husband and I are the products of "elite" schools, and I am thrilled that our privileged children do not spend their lives in a "gated community" where most kids are like them. I have seen a lot of instances of how unhealthy it can be. I am confident (and fully qualified to evaluate) that our kids are getting a great education on many levels at Rooftop.

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    6. Can the Rooftop parents speak to why and what impact the departure of the three kindergarten teachers will be for this coming fall? Who will be the new teachers? I was indeed very impressed with the teachers at Rooftop and was very disappointed to hear that all the kindergarten ones are leaving? Are teachers at any other grades leaving, too?

      thanks.

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    7. I am confident without even knowing you or your family that your kids are getting a great education at Rooftop. The question remains whether I would be as confident if you kids attended the schools many of our families have been assigned. Only a tiny number of people win the lottery very year and are assigned Rooftop. I know there are other great publics in SF but can we really say there are enough seats at great schools to go around? I have a feeling like if the answer was "yes", we wouldn't have so many people choosing the private route (myself included).

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    8. They are all retiring. They came in together 15 years ago actually, and I think it is hard to be the one "left behind" when two decided it was time to leave the profession. I am confident in the school's ability to attract and select great teachers, and though it might have been nice to have one or two providing continuity, there is also the opportunity for a new group to come in with enthusiasm, and the ability to make the grade their own. The school has such a strong culture, and so many fabulous teachers, it is bound to influence any newcomers. The "old" teachers were all very different, and any incoming families wouldn't know which one they were getting as it is. I haven't heard of anyone else leaving.

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    9. @1:29pm My children are at Peabody and also receiving a fabulous education. Are there enough seats at the highly sought after schools for everyone to get a seat at one of them in Round 1? Not even close. Which is probably why we received none of our choices in Round 1 the year we applied.

      But large numbers of people who apply in Round 1 are never going to send their children to SFUSD schools, even if they get assigned to one of the sought after schools. The reasons are varied - WOTM is giving up a spot at Rooftop to send her daughter to Hamlin, likewise SFGeekMom is giving up a spot at Jefferson to send her child to Friends. My friend is giving up her spot at Miraloma (her #1 choice) because they will be moving out of the city. On another Kfiles thread a parent is talking about giving up a spot at Grattan because of concerns her child is not ready for K. There are so many out parents out there making variations on these decisions and giving up Round 1 assignments to really great schools. There will be a lot of movement in Round 2, and in Rounds 3 and 4. And after the 3 day count.

      We stuck with the process and couldn't be happier with the education our child is receiving.

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  20. One correction -- not all upper grade classrooms have 35 kids (at least upper grade in elementary schools). Many schools are using PTA funds to pay for an extra teacher, bringing the numbers back down to the mid 20 range, or using a pull out teacher for small group instruction. Also, some lower performing schools that get more district funds have smaller upper elementary grade classes as well.

    Also not sure about the critical thinking - reading longer original texts and writing longer papers comment. That is, saying that's something that happens in private not public. The comment may or may not be true - and there does seem to be variation - but mostly it's not especially relevant to the elementary grades.

    Also thinking the statewide stats on how many CA students get to college insufficiently or less than optimally prepared may have more to do with the specific demographics of the state than the curriculum and schooling involved. Sure, there's a correlation, but there are other factors that play into the stat. And not sure if that stat is stable year after year, or consistent across colleges and universities, or even applicable to people reading this blogs. Their kids will read lots of original texts anyway and will learn and advance plenty in and out of school.

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  21. @7:25am - Thank you for responding as you echoed so many of my thoughts.

    We are public school parents and I also wanted to say that at the Elementary level in San Francisco what "passes for public education" in San Francisco right now is often a fantastic education. My husband and I, both products of expensive private educations, could not be happier with education our child is receiving.

    I think most parents, and likely every parent posting on this blog, want to do the best they can for their child. Statements such as the one made by 7:06am feed in to the fear that by sending our children to public schools we are somehow limiting our childrens potential. Our experience has been that sending our child to an SFUSD public school is expanding our childs potential.

    Also wanted to add that the reason I am only commenting on the Elementary schools is because that is where we have direct experience. My knowledge of Middle and High Schools is insufficient to comment at this stage, although that will start to change in the next year or so.

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  22. Congratulations WordoftheMutha. I have really enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts and hope your daughter and your family will really enjoy your time at Hamlin.

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  23. Congratulations to WordoftheMutha for coming through this process and making a decision that works for her child and her family.

    I'm a public school mom. And, I came to this district when my now 7th grader was in 5th grade, from a well regarded, well funded "fancy" E. coast school district.

    Honestly, I'm really impressed with SFUSD.

    My kindergartener has learned more science this year than I think my big girl learned in her first 3 years in our old district. He's engaged, he's learning to read, he started "writing a book" this weekend (I have to spell almost every word, but it occurred to him to do it!) and he is thriving. My middle schooler is doing well at her school, and probably headed to Lowell (her choice.) She's not always challenged in every class all the time, but I'm not sure she would have been back on the East coast, either. She's also thriving, has tons of friends, and loves the larger school environment (in a sea of 400 7th graders, you're bound to find 10 or more who "get" you!)

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    1. What elementary school is your son at?

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  24. Michelle, where is your daughter in middle school? Can you explain how she came to go there and what her experience has been? Thanks

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    1. My daughter is at Hoover, which is over near West Poral (we're in the SE, so this was not our first choice...) When she was applying to middle schools, there was no feeder system in place. It was a pure lottery, and if you didn't get one of your choices, you were given "the school closest to you that has room" (rather like going 0/23 or whatever with elementary schools...) Our first choice was Aptos, because the commute was easier (one bus vs. 2 buses or bus + MUNI) .

      Overall, we've been really happy with Hoover. There will be some changes coming down the pike in the coming years as they're now "receiving" feeder students from SI and CI programs, which complicates scheduling a bit for 6th grade. The net result has been that honors classes have been dropped for 6th grade (which is, I think, the trend district wide.) In 7th grade there's honors Math and Language Arts, but not Science and Social Studies. The same for 8th. For my daughter this has been somewhat less than ideal, but not a big enough deal to make us look for a different school.

      For my daughter, a big school (1200-ish students) has been a really good match. She knew only one other student when she got there, and now has a nice group of friends from all over the city.

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    2. Thanks Michelle. Your comments are very helpful to we readers with older elementary-aged kids. It's also hopeful to hear that a big school can be a good thing, and a place which has worked well for your daughter.

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  25. On thing about posts like this is not just the different feelings about choosing private over public but people defending and showing a bit of love for SFUSD. It's far from perfect but it helps to debunk some of the misconceptions, especially from those whose only experience with the publics is Round 1 of the lottery.

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    1. I don't think anyone is down on SFUSD. WOTM said that she loved Rooftop. The purpose of this blog is to review schools in San Francisco because they are so different. All of the public elementary schools within SFUSD are different from one another. I did not sense that any of the reviewers were negative about SFUSD. That said, there are real differences, especially when you go into public schools and the PTAs are paying for art supplies, paper towels, library books, and additional teachers. There is a real resource gap from public to public and from public to private. It's not realistic to ignore the resource gap between schools. I think WOTM would have gone to Rooftop if Hamlin had not come through with an offer and financial aid. I think she would have been excited about Rooftop. But she had a different choice to make and she made the one she feels is best for her daughter. In no way did she not say that SFUSD is a bad choice. You can get a great education at a SFUSD school. I think parents are upset about her choice because they don't want to acknowledge that money is a role in education and it is unfair that some children go to schools like Hamlin and some go to schools that are radically underfunded but all children are expected to compete for college and jobs. Children do not have a choice about what type of economic circumstance in which they are born. They only have their parents to advocate for them. That's why it's important to advocate for your children within a political context rather than an individual context. If you advocate for your child within a political context, you will be advocating for other children as well. It's great that parents are involved within individual schools but it would be especially powerful if parents worked together as public school parents toward a greater commitment to public education across the City and state.

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  26. Let's all try to do something positive for public education. In our world of easy and accessible communication, we can all contact the school board, our City supervisors, and our State representatives. Tell them that you want public education funded at the same percentage of state GDP as in the 1960s. Tell them you will support their efforts to fund public education. Give them creative financial solutions like a .05% tax on all income, including capital gains, over $300,000 toward education, a sin tax for education on alcohol, ask major employers to donate $10 annually for every employee who was educated in the California public system. We live in a wealthy state where we have the economy to finance public education from Pre-K all the way through graduate and professional degrees. But we have one of the lowest per capita expenditure in the nation. We rank around 48 or 49 in the United States. If you are a PTA member, make a huge post-card and send it out to your state representatives and the school board. Start a letter writing campaign at your school. Private schools all have public missions; if you are at a private school, think of ways your resources could help a public school and how you could champion public education. Do you have volunteers that would be willing to work with students that don't have a strong volunteer community. Would private school 8th graders be reading buddies to children who don't have reading partners? If you are worried about your child's education now, you will be more concerned in 10 years when they are trying to access the public college and university system where tuition is rising and programs are being cut. Let's take this discussion to where it belongs - to our representatives.

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  27. Seriously, it's totally unnecessary to be disappointed in someone else's school choice. Everyone has to do what makes the most sense for their child and their family.

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  28. I agree with Lesley KG. The whole point of our democracy is that people can make their own choices. Let's embrace WOTM choice as a choice and be glad that we live in place where a young girl of color has a great option for education. There are many places in the world where girls can't even go to school! Let's hope she becomes a leader and advocate for education.

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  29. Once the dust settles would love to know how WOTM is doing. Feel as guilty as you need to be about this choice, but there is guilty and there is crazy, and you'd be crazy to pass this up. I get why some parents of color are more inclined toward the privates because you don't want your kid in publics to be automatically lumped with the underperforming students. You feel they'd be treated more as an individual in a smaller setting and their intellect encouraged.

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  30. I was sad as well but she has to make her own choice. That being said, the fact that so many go private makes the wealthier voters resentful and vote against putting anything but the state minimum into schools, whereas suburbs where the connected white families go public, like Burlingame, put municipal money in and spend far more per pupil.

    This guy did a study in which SF teachers are paid 48.4% of what police are but in San Diego it's 73% and San Jose 57%. Go to www.sfeducationfocus.blogspot.com. It's the top article. You can email to get on the list, it's on the front page.

    I think that in SF, those in power end up voting against putting more money into public schools because their kids are in private schools, so they don't care. There's no other explanation for a liberal City like SF paying teachers 48.4% of police pay and San Diego, where private school is quite rare percentage wise, paying 73%. The idea is that it doesn't matter, they're educating "those people", the people who really count have their kids at Hamlin or another such school, so let's pay police a ton as they protect our property and safety, but we really don't want our kids having to compete with public school kids for jobs so let's pay our teachers low and prop up the status quo.

    The statistics in his chart are truly amazing. SF is very rich but chooses to spend very little on public schools. I wrote a response comment. Check it out.

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    1. Don't San Francisco's voters vote FOR extra taxes for funding for SFUSD schools every time it's put to them? Based on terrible experiences with public schools, my kid is in private, but I vote for every local and state public school funding measures, and I donate to SFUSD fundraisers whenever I am asked, and most private parents I know in SF are the same. If we want to live in a fair and reasonably prosperous society and not an oligarchic banana republic, it's shortsighted and downright idiotic to underfund public education the way we do.

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  31. This discussion is heated because it's unearthing a lot of people's feeling about wealth. Wealth is different here. For one thing, a lot of it is really big, big wealth. One of the financial mags just did a piece on the cities in the world where the hyper rich live (defined by being a billionaire or close) and SF was fourth on the list in the world. And beyond that level of wealth, there any others who are extremely wealthy, not just rich. So rich looks and feels different here. And it's all happening in a city where there's a great wealth divide. There's a much bigger gap in these 49 square miles than elsewhere and we confront that in a way that we wouldn't say, living in St. Louis or Madison, or Boston, or Chicago, or any number of places. The gap also makes middle class people making quite good salaries feel part of the have-nots, and that gets complicated on a blog like this. It's also true that most of the very wealthy here send their kids to private schools, and many favor places like Hamlin. It's not hidden. Just spending time from Pacific Heights down toward Presidio Heights makes that very clear.

    WOTM feels to some like a betrayer. That's what making this so heated. That's not really fair, but because of the circumstances and because of the financial divide, and because of the concentration of the very well off in certain places, it all gets played out. It's why SFGEEK Mom is not getting the same kind of heat, even though there also are very wealthy people at Friends.

    What would be amazing is if there could be more collaboration between the private world and the public world. This is surely uncomfortable for those on the private side (and that's not to say that there are also those that straddle both worlds) but it could also be awakening. Even better would be if there could be a way to make collaboration true collaboration - not patronage, but something more equal, or approaching equal. It would be good if those with a lot to give could gain social capital, or something that would make bridging that divide something more than altruistic, which is too limited. It would be cool too if the philanthropic urge among the wealthy here could spread to the local regular public schools. Interestingly many of them are very supportive of places like KIPP (it's gotten the official "ok" to support) and Gateway too. And those schools have accepted the bargain to create social and socialite-worthy galas. Charters really seem to have figured this out better. It doesn't need to be interpreted as a sell out. But those that give need to feel like they're getting something direct out of it for real sustainability.

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    1. We don't need to "collaborate" with rich people, we just need a fair tax system. We aren't serfs in a feudal system - "Sire, can you spare a shilling so I can educate my child." We live in a democracy and the working, middle, and upper middle classes still have the vote. How many people does it take to create a billionaire - 2000, 20,000, 200,000? The wealthy people have used our public resources - educated and healthy workers, roads, banking system, judicial system, communications, clean water - and actually have a vested interest in a functioning education system. They need a middle class as a consumer base and work force. The problem is that the middle class has stopped asking for a minimal amount of resources because they didn't realize how middle class they actually were. I think as income inequality increases, which it will because the last recession greatly favored the wealthy who actually did not experience a recession but a wealth transfer, middle and working class people will begin to ask for a minimal amount of resources to ensure the preservation of their own class interests. At this point, if all middle and working class people wanted to vote in a tax for schools, they could pass it. They outnumber the ultra-rich. Hopefully, we will use our votes and our knowledge of tax history to ensure that a middle class still exists in twenty years. If not, we'll all wish we went to Hamlin.

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  32. Here's one idea from Educate Our State....
    A repeal of Prop 13 for Commercial Property. Looks interesting...Maybe PTAs should support this or at least talk about it.
    http://www.educateourstate.org/initiative

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  33. I'm surprised at the disappointment of the choice of private vs public. People who care about education send their children to the best school available to them. WOTM is sending her child to a school that is not only well resourced, but also has a woman of color at the helm. The school fits with WOTM's priorities. Yes, the school can feel a little elitist, but every school has drawbacks. It's like marriage, you learn to live with those drawbacks and take advantage of what's positive. I'm a strong advocate for public education and I would have chosen Hamlin in a second if the opportunity had presented itself.

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  34. WOTM: did you consider/apply to Burke's? Quite similar to Hamlin on the outside, but I'm curious what your thoughts were about it compared to Hamlin given they are two of the more well-known all-girls' schools.

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    1. I didn't tour Burke, it is way too far from our home. Hamlin is far enough. ;)

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  35. We found Burke's and Hamlin to be similar in terms of their top-notch academics and focus on educating and empowering girls, but far preferred the parent community, teachers and overall feel of Burke's. The parents of current students that we met at Burke's were warm, open-minded and down-to-earth, and the new Head of School seems very experienced. It could also be the (understated) Richmond District location (vs Pac Heights) and open campus, but Burke's seems to strike the perfect balance.

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    1. I've heard other people say the same thing but I have not heard anyone say they toured both and preferred Hamlin. interesting.

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    2. We toured both schools and agree with others that the two schools are very similar with their top-notch academics, focus on educating and empowering girls, but we far preferred the parent community, teachers and overall feel of Hamlin. Yes, they can't beat the space that Burke's has to offer... The Hamlin community felt honest, transparent and real. Yes we felt the importance of diversity and inclusivity by the school administrators at Hamlin then at Burke's. And as a family considering independent schools for our child that was important.

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  36. Wordofthemutha - You are able to articulate exactly how I feel about Hamlin (and our struggles with leaving Public School). THANK YOU! We had to make a very difficult decision a couple of weeks ago. We also accepted a spot at Hamlin. I have some fears and apprehension if we are making a right choice but we ultimately wanted a safe and supportive learning environment where our daughter can be her true self. We wanted a school that would help us help build her confidence and realize her fullest potential. It's not that we had a horrible experience at our SFUSD school (or think the school can't do it), it just wasn't the right fit for us as a family. I will admit that I have some fears about what it would be like for my daughter to attend a school where there aren't as many people who look like her but I realize it was part of my hang ups and hopefully it will not be hers... I felt that I have to give her/us this chance to see if Hamlin will be a better fit for her. And like you, we will continue to evaluate and reevaluate each year how Hamlin and us work well together for our child.

    I look forward to meeting you and hope our girls will learn to support each other in the years to come.

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  37. As a current minority educator who works with and at Rooftop, I cannot agree more with this sentiment. Rooftop is a high-functioning institution, but does absolutely nothing to support or recognize families of color. Rather, their modus operandi is one built around a privileged, white notion of what constitutes "family support", one that does little to bring marginalized communities into the fold or even reach out to them in a culturally appropriate manner. Their model of inclusion is one that is reminiscent of the good ol' "melting pot" idea, where one's individual experiences and cultural capital is "accepted" but never discussed or utilized as a tool for further inclusion.


    It's not hard to see why these ignorant, culturally stunted mindsets persist at Rooftop: there are few, if any, teachers of color at the school. How is it possible for a public school in San Francisco, a supposedly diverse and multicultural city, to have no African-American or Latino(a) teachers? Is it really OK to accept the "multicultural" stance of a school that has to call in a Spanish-speaking translator because it has no bilingual educators? While they may be well-intentioned, actions are louder than words and their actions indicate a willingness to ignore or forgo a truly supportive environment for families that don't fit the mold. One can point to the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, or the number of minority families at the school, but even those numbers fall below SFUSD average and only serve to mislead bleeding-hearts looking to pat the school on the back for all its good work.

    I find the above comments lauding Rooftop's successes to be both a sign of the school's success and its failures, as all fail to address wordofthemutha's cultural reasons for choosing Hamlin over Rooftop. To these individuals, I say this: next time you find yourself at Rooftop, look around. Where is the diversity? Are there POC in this supposedly diverse place? Who are your friends? And why are all the black and brown kids playing with each other and no one else? Furthermore, why are all the black kids in Special Ed? Until Rooftop address or even bothers to begin discussions on these issues, it will continue to fall short of what it believes it is already achieving.

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    1. Well said and thanks for the insight.

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    2. You're welcome! I know I'm ruffling a few Rooftop feathers and am being fairly blatant, but it's a part of the experience that few talk about and should be included in any discussions involving race, class, and the school.

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  38. Odd that someone supposedly working at Rooftop would claim that all the black kids at the school are in special ed. That is blatantly not true, and seems really rude and dismissive. The school is between 25-30 % white, and no ethnicity has majority, but I guess that isn't diversity. I can see that, to some extent, what constitutes "family support" is modeled on a certain degree if privilege, in that parents need some time flexibility to help out at school and events, but that is true for any high functioning public school in this city. What do you think it is at Hamlin? The expectation is that there are enough people giving a lot of extra money on top of full tuition (maybe some of them are not white, I bet a solid majority is), so that a few can get scholarships and the lovely buildings and shiny extras can be upheld. I would feel more uncomfortable as a member of a small group of charity recipients at that school, than by having to face some stay-a-home-moms helping out in the classroom at Rooftop! So interesting that someone would attack a public school that made a huge effort to stay city wide, especially so as to keep a high level of diversity, in defense of one of the most elitist school in town!

    My experience at Rooftop is that there are plenty of engaged, involved, resourceful (in a variety of ways), minorities there. My kids play with kids of every color. (oh, and I have heard several teachers at the school speak Spanish.)

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    1. Odd that you completely missed my point. But not really.


      To your credit, not all of the black kids are in the special ed program. For the most part, I've only seen minority males in that program. For that blunder on my part, you may pat yourself on the back.

      For everything else, however...

      - You seem to have a ready-made excuse for Rooftop's lack of diversity and it's blatant privilege. Is Hamlin better? Most definitely not! But at least they're willing to discuss the issue whilst Rooftop hides behind a happy veil of diversity, all the while marginalizing the community it claims to include. Don't confuse my disappointment with Rooftop for support for Hamlin...or did you never learn what "assume" really meant?

      - You seem to have a lot of anecdotal experiences - bravo to you for your experiences. And bravo for your kids for playing with minorities, our community thanks you for being so kind. Tell me, how often do Rooftop's activities actively recruit low-income, high-needs, or minority parents? Are there any programs at the school specifically geared towards including communities from all backgrounds? I know that amazing run and charity auction you all have is supremely inclusive, so I guess I'll move on to my next point.

      - If there are so many Spanish-speaking teachers, why is a translator necessary? Could it be that those individuals don't really speak Spanish all that well? I know it's hard to believe, but there's a difference between nodding your way through a conversation and actually understanding the subtleties of the language.

      - "An effort to stay city-wide" couldn't be more misleading. You, as a parent, know that Rooftop, like *gasp* Hamlin, is an admissions-based school, meaning that families, though not forced to go through the same dog-and-pony show as Hamlin prospectives, must still apply. Who do you think learns about the wonders of Rooftop? The first-generation Chinese families? The Spanish-speaking Mexican kids in the Mission? The Bayview district? Next time you talk to your friends at Rooftop, ask them where they live and see if your definition of "city-wide" is truly indicative of the city itself.

      - Finally, the fact that you are so confident in your altruism while saying that minority kids are "charity recipients" is beyond reprehensible. Is that what you think low-income and minority kids at private schools are, charity cases? No, they can't be there because they earned their way in through the merits of their efforts - it MUST be charity! If those are the words that you are using to DEFEND Rooftop, you're no better than anyone at Hamlin or any other elite institution.

      But thanks for being a do-gooder and please enjoy having minority friends.

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    2. Not sure about the specifics of Rooftop but I think in a lot of the trophy schools, and in SFUSD in general, a lot of black kids are really falling behind. Even at some of the high achieving schools the test scores are dismal. Why is that? This isn't exactly news but it probably makes the school selection process more crazy making for parents of color.
      Diversity doesn't always mean equity.

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    3. Thanks, Eponymous. Your points are well taken, especially the lack of adult role models for non-white children.

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    4. 12:18 - Very good question and very well-said. The Education Trust-West came out with a study this past week that grades each report card on their ability to educate low-income and minority students. Unsurprisingly, most districts are doing a poor, poor job, with SFUSD being one of them - they received a D for their efforts. The link's in the URL, if anyone cares to look at the stats...it's pretty interesting stuff!

      Much like SFUSD, Rooftop is abysmal when it comes to educating low-income, minority, and special needs children, which (more often than not) are male students of color. Here's a quick breakdown of student API scores by subgroup for 2012:

      White: 946 (+21)
      Black: 725 (-31)
      Latina/o: 828 (+14)
      Socioeconomically Disadvantaged: 793 (+14)
      Students with Disabilities: 721 (+21)

      The number in the parentheses is the change from the year before. As you can see, Rooftop is doing an amazingly dismal job of educating its minority, low-income, and special needs students in the same manner as its white students, with the performance for Black students actually getting worse. What makes these numbers worse are the attitudes that prevail amongst Rooftop community, with the first response above being a key example. Rather than viewing their actions and policies from a critical and socioculturally appropriate context, they think they’re doing a good job of “accepting” everyone! The reality, however, is that the school is unable and unwilling to provide a positive learning environment for all of its students and fails to take each family’s individual cultural context into consideration. What results is a school culture that caters to the students who would most likely do well wherever they went to school and who, frankly, could probably afford to as well.

      Though I don't excuse any district or school’s inability to properly educate its high-needs students, the fact that Rooftop (and, to an extent, SF) applauds its accepting attitudes and high-class education in the face of such glaring statistics and harsh realities is quite sad. Less time should be spent touting its super-positive attitude and more should be done to address its shortcomings.

      8:22 - You are also very welcome! I find it angering that the black children have to look to the janitor and the brown kids have to look to an aide to find someone who looks like them. Though diversity doesn’t solve Rooftop’s problems, it would definitely be a start.

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  39. Eponymous, please come to the next Rooftop SSC meeting (next date still to be determined but will be listed in the school calendar) to discuss your issues and help us find possible solutions. Our meetings are open and we welcome and value your input as well as that of the entire Rooftop community.

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  40. I am a current Rooftop parent and I'd like to clear up certain incorrect assumptions that have been made along the way in this discussion.

    Rooftop is very much a city wide school. Here is a link to a SFUSD pin map showing where students live (Scroll down for Rooftop - current as of October 2010 enrollment)

    http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/about-SFUSD/files/elementary-school-pin-maps.pdf

    Rooftop admission is lottery based, just like every other SFUSD school. If you live in a low test score area (Bayview, Mission, Western Addition, Potrero), your chances of getting in are improved. And yes, many families from these neighborhoods learn of the wonders of Rooftop. I talked with them at the enrollment fair.

    The most recent Rooftop school site council meeting that I attended was entirely devoted to the topic of bridging the achievement gap and looking at the most recent test statistics, which, by the way showed that Rooftop is actually doing a better job educating its high needs students than the district average. I know that this doesn't mean it is doing enough, as the gap clearly shows, but to say that the school is doing an abysmal job is unmerited. The teachers, staff and parents at the meeting by no means seemed self-congratulatory in response to the numbers we were shown. People attend these meetings because they are concerned for the school community as a whole.

    So how does any public school adequately educate its high needs students when school budgets don't allow for any extra support? If anyone has ideas, that is a topic that I would love to read about.

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