Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 API Scores for SFUSD Elementary Schools

This is a straight data dump of API scores, including API 2011 Base, 2012 Base and 2013 Growth.  I've color coded the scores against a 829 reference point (the district's median).  I'm still trying to figure out how to post data via Blogger ... so I apologize for the formatting.

Overall, SFUSD schools are doing quite well.  The district average is 821, with a median of 829.

API scores do not fully represent how well a school performing, but it is one of the few standardized reference points we have.

This will be the last year that API scores are reported in California.  With the onslaught of the Common Core curriculum, new testing measures are forthcoming which will replace API.

Name API 2011 Base 2012 API Base 2013 API Growth 2012 to 2013 change
Alamo  896 909 898 -11
Alvarado  847 848 864 16
Argonne 883 895 885 -10
Bryant 701 730 703 -27
Buena Vista/Horace Mann 682 725 748 23
Carmichael, Bessie (K-5) 750 795 783 -12
Carver, Dr. George Washington  698 741 755 14
Chavez, Cesar  661 690 29
Chin, John Yehall  939 989 997 8
Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila  944 951 934 -17
Clarendon  945 950 956 6
Cleveland  665 674 708 34
Cobb, Dr. William L.  755 708 726 18
Creative Arts Charter  777 825 844 19
Drew, Dr. Charles R.  612 675 665 -10
Edison Charter Academy 780 795 795 0
El Dorado  700 695 688 -7
Fairmount 764 758 820 62
Feinstein, Dianne  889 872 892 20
Flynn, Leonard 710 737 694 -43
Garfield 812 862 829 -33
Glen Park754 777 720 -57
Grattan  882 922 917 -5
Guadalupe 804 819 804 -15
Harte, Bret  650 658 648 -10
Hillcrest  706 723 756 33
Jefferson 897 909 924 15
Key, Francis Scott 884 899 889 -10
Lafayette  907 919 913 -6
Lakeshore 772 771 -1
Lau, Gordon J.  829 832 852 20
Lawton 919 928 932 4
Lilienthal, Claire 906 904 921 17
Longfellow  825 811 793 -18
Malcolm X  790 725 711 -14
Marshall  774 770 783 13
McCoppin, Frank  866 805 841 36
McKinley  824 863 900 37
Milk, Harvey 823 854 828 -26
Miraloma 865 884 898 14
Mission Education Center  489 401 -88
Monroe  818 806 806 0
Moscone, George  845 798 822 24
Muir, John688 714 731 17
New Traditions 835 853 873 20
Ortega, Jose 803 842 857 15
Parker, Jean 844 830 830 0
Parks, Rosa 747 793 799 6
Peabody, George 902 926 905 -21
Redding 832 835 834 -1
Revere, Paul 683 754 772 18
Rooftop 868 877 880 3
S. F. Community 773 778 747 -31
S. F. Public Montessori  808 732 -76
Sanchez  693 760 744 -16
Serra, Junipero 745 712 752 40
Sheridan 788 770 803 33
Sherman 932 906 932 26
Sloat, Commodore  887 883 901 18
Spring Valley  831 834 844 10
Starr King 786 791 812 21
Stevenson, Robert Louis  928 931 934 3
Sunnyside 807 825 863 38
Sunset 914 917 925 8
Sutro  866 876 906 30
Taylor, E. R.  887 879 873 -6
Tenderloin 736 745 709 -36
Ulloa  936 937 932 -5
Visitacion Valley 806 781 801 20
Webster, Daniel  672 703 754 51
West Portal  902 905 914 9
Yick Wo 905 915 908 -7
Yu, Alice Fong 955 954 955 1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

School Tour: SF Public Montessori

We almost skipped this tour because neither my husband nor I know much about Montessori; our vague notions about Montessori weren’t particularly positive; I’d heard that this school had burned through principals like kindling; and the location isn’t convenient for us.  But we wound up going and good thing, because I’m now on fire for this school and it has shot up to the top of my list.  I unfortunately don’t have time to craft a flowing narrative of my tour experience, so instead I’ll bullet my impressions and the facts that I gathered:
  • The school is in a gorgeous building, with lots of room for expansion.  The walls of the corridors were pretty naked, unlike the walls of other schools we’ve seen that are vibrant with the art and learning of students.  The naked walls gave me the initial impression of being in a cool and restrained environment.
  • Further on the restrained theme, classrooms are orderly.  Students are engaged in their own self-directed projects, alone or in groups.  What first intrigued me was the sight of 3 children of different races, all sprawled out on a comfy-looking rug, totally engrossed in their own learning experiences with different materials.   Teachers worked with small groups or individuals in quiet voices, and the overall impression was one of disciplined engagement.
  • The tour ended with an intellectual, rational discussion where everyone (principal, Montessori coach, and parents) took turns asking and answering thoughtful, well-articulated questions.  My husband didn’t love this part because he’s a passionate man and likes lots of vibrancy and action.  I didn’t love this part because I was raised working class and sometimes still am intimidated by upper-class social norms. 
  • There is no homework.  Instead, students prepare “reports” on subjects that interest them, and the intention is for the student who is interested in say – Egypt - to be able to learn history, architecture, geometry, and art while researching the report.  Despite lack of homework and differentiation between subjects, the school is still held to standards-based public school testing and I was assured that the teachers work to meet both the Montessori method goals as well as California state requirements.
  • I think the Montessori system works, if kids are brought in early enough.  That said, the tour leaders were open about the fact that transfer students often have difficulties adjusting to the structured self-direction that the Montessori method emphasizes. 
  • This school currently feeds into Marina Middle School.  The principal said that they want to expand to middle and even high school, but that it’s a matter of numbers.  Because there are mixed-aged classes, they just don’t have the demand to support a middle school, but I think the assumption was that this would change as enrollment increases.  One mom next to me said in passing that this was her main concern:  she hadn’t heard good things about Marina and didn’t want to wind up having her kid fed into that school.
  • The PTA raised around $60,000 last year, and the parent who led the tour was quick to point out that Montessori  is MUCH smaller (200-ish students) than many of the larger schools (500+ students) which raise $150,000 – $250,000.
  • I have no idea why they’ve had 4 principals in 4 years.  The current principal seems quite competent and I hope she plans to stay.  The school is only 8 years old so I’m hoping that the staff changes and other “difficulties” alluded to during the tour were merely the growing pains of a non-traditional school.
  • The “3 hour work period” sounded crazy when I first heard about it.  Basically, students spend the first 3 hours of the day engaged in sustained classroom activities.  This work period is then followed by recess and lunch, and then shorter periods of work in the afternoon.  That’s actually how both my husband and I work best, so after my initial shock that anyone would try to keep kids in a room for more than 45 minutes at a stretch, I realized that it made sense to me and that my daughter would probably thrive in that kind of focused, calm, disciplined environment.
  • The tour leader parent talked a bit about the aftercare program, but I wasn’t paying enough attention.  The bits that filtered through to my notes are that there is a Mandarin language & culture aftercare program, something else, and that there is definitely room in the program for all new families.
  • The principal and several of the teachers have backgrounds in the public school system, not  the Montessori system.  Those who are not Montessori-credentialed are working on their credentials this year, and there is a full-time Montessori coach (who I liked) on the tour.  I’m actually kind of excited about the mix of public and Montessori backgrounds, I feel like applying Montessori methods in an urban public school context is pretty innovative and will help ground this 20th century Italian ideology and pedagogy in the social and cultural reality of modern-day SF.
Bottom line:  This school seems like the perfect fit for our family.  I feel like the school environment would echo the home environment that my husband and I naturally try to foster:  a place of creativity, discipline, harmony, curiosity, respect, and self-direction.  If we get in here though, I’ll definitely be sending my kids to breakdancing or parkur or something else that lets them at least sometimes be intensely physical, messy, boundary-pushing, and free.

MomAnon: New Blogger

Hi everyone,

I’m a mom of two, living in the Sunset district.  Our oldest is entering kindergarten next year, so we’ve found ourselves embroiled in one of the most stressful and information-bloated decisionmaking processes of our lives:  where to send our kids to elementary school in San Francisco. 

Politically, I’m a huge advocate of public schools and of the need to keep middle- and high- income families from fleeing to the suburbs.  Personally, we couldn't flee to the suburbs anyway, and we’re actually kind of glad that we don’t have that option to complicate the situation:  I love cities, I believe cities are the future, and I’d be sad in a suburb.   So for the abovementioned political and personal reasons, we’ve got a lot riding on this lottery.

In an ideal situation, I’d send my kids to a small K-8 school with an emphasis on project-based learning and the arts, with little homework.  Test scores are less important to me than are factors like engaged teachers, a variety of enrichment opportunities, and socioeconomic and racial diversity.  I figure that childhood is short and adulthood is long, so my kids may as well enjoy being kids while they have the chance to do so. 

Beyond the visceral desire to let my kids be kids, I see that the entire educational sector is changing rapidly right now.  In that context, I believe that the best bet for ensuring my kids’ long-term well-being is to find a school where they can become passionate learners and can gain the skills they’ll need to be productive and happy members of a global high-tech society.  Now let’s just see what happens when my lofty politics and goals meet the reality of the SF public school lottery….

I’ll mainly be reviewing schools in the western half of the city.  We’ll probably throw the Clarendons and Grattans on our list for swap value, but are going to tour and rank and set our sights on places like:  Jefferson (neighborhood school), Sunset, Lawton, Peabody, Alice Fong Yu, the German School (our only private contender), Creative Arts Charter, Stevenson, Lakeshore, and SF Public Montessori. 

I’ve gotten a lot out of reading the reviews here on the SF K Files and I hope that my perspectives will help out other members in the community. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

School Tour: Daniel Webster

Today I went on a tour of Daniel Webster.

Today was an early dismissal day and therefore it was a "free-dress day" and no students were in uniforms.  We met on the playground for their 8:40am circle time.  I believe this is done daily.  It's a chance for school announcements, the pledge of allegiance and their daily pledge to be the "best me today".  It was very cute and seemed like a good way to build cohesion amongst the students.

Daniel Webster definitely feels like a smaller school in terms of building size and population.  We were told there were 290 students, which makes it the smallest that I've seen on all my tours.

There are three Kindergarten classes; 2 Spanish Immersion and 1 general education.  The Spanish Immersions (SI) all seem to be roughly 85-90% of the day is taught in Spanish and Daniel Webster follows this trend.  The SI classes follow the same curriculum as the GenEd classes and sometimes the SI students will break away from their spanish teacher to focus on English with another teacher.

Kindergarteners eat lunch separate from other grades.  They have a 20 minute supervised lunch and parents can volunteer for this.  Lunch is followed by recess.  Catering is provided by Revolution Foods.

Daniel Webster seems to have a large focus on reading and writing.  That is something that is done from the beginning and the school as a whole incorporates this in to their dialogue with students.

They are also beginning a new math program which is a more "holistic" approach to math in hopes to improve test scores.

For homework kids are sent home a folder on Wednesdays that they need to return the following Tuesday.  It's supposed to be 15 minutes of reading and 15 minutes of another subject each night.  Some kids finish all of it on Wednesday afternoon.  One parent mentioned that her daughter found the activities to be "fun".  For Kinders homework slowly ramps up as they get in to the school year.

Daniel Webster seems to have a big focus on the arts, both in school and their after-school programs. They handed out a brochure with information on what is offered for each grade; dance, art, music, opera/choral music,  and drama.  It seems like the students get a lot of exposure in this regard but we didn't spend too much time on this.

The PTA raised $200k last year.  Their largest fundraiser is "Taste of Potrero".  Last year they received an extra grant that they aren't expecting going froward.  Therefore, their goal this year is to raise roughly $150k.

They did mention they have a few After School programs including Tree Frog Treks, another nearby at Jackson Park (?) and another put on by SF Parks & Recs.  They mentioned that there are enough spots for any one who is interested.

They have Playworks on site for PE and before/afterschool playtime.  It was unclear how often kids have PE.  One tour guide said she thought it was maybe 2x/week.

They also have a before school program but I don't have details on that.  They mentioned a chess class and kids are also free to play on the playground.  I don't know the earliest time you can drop off or if there is a fee to do so.

School runs from 8:40am - 2:40pm.

On the tour I thought the campus and classrooms were clean and well-organized.  The school has many murals and appears safe and small.  The classroom walls were covered in art and various projects the students had been working on.  I didn't see a computer lab on the tour altho they mentioned technology was playing a bigger and bigger role in their school.  Especially since the teachers are "young and energetic".

I also didn't see a garden but was told about it.

Their library was right next to the Kinder classes.  It seemed relatively small but easily accessible.

A few years back they were awarded $6 million for capital improvements.  That money is slated for a 2015 construction project.  Most likely the school would close and the students would be at another facility still in the same neighborhood.  It seemed like details were still being worked out.

Daniel Webster was a school that was slated to close.  It was revitalized and this year is the first year they are fully funded.  I can only imagine that with a very active parent population test scores will improve further at this school and it will continue to be a remarkable story about what parents can accomplish in their community.

I feel like I'm lacking some basic info, ie, class size, etc.  This wasn't discussed at the tour.
It seems like since parents typically ask the same questions at each tour I attend, that a smart tour guide would print out the answers on their school and distribute to every parent.  The tour guides here were mostly parents to Kinders or 1st graders and this was either their first or second tour.  I came away missing some basic info - I'm sure I could have asked but didn't want to be the parent that holds up the whole tour with questions.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

SF School Fair - What did you think?

We attended yesterday's SF School Fair and were pleasantly surprised with the information we were able to receive.  The School Fair is basically a swarm of lost parents asking a lot of questions of each school's principal, PTA members and aftercare staff.  I really had no idea what to expect, but was pretty happy with how painless it felt.  After the first couple of discussions, we found that we could learn a lot about how the schools present themselves, how well the parents responded to our questions, and what the schools focus upon in their materials.  While I still don't feel like it replaces walking into the building, I found the conversations enlightening.

I'm still trying to decide it I am going to add any schools to our tour list, but there are definitely a few that will come onto our lottery list following conversations.

So, what did everyone else think?  Was it useful?  Did you discover any new schools?  Did any drop off your list after talking with the school reps?  Inquiring minds want to know!