Monday, September 29, 2014

Hello From Confused (but hopeful) Parents From Pac Heights!

Hi there SF K File Readers!

We are excited to start our year long journey to find and get accepted in the right school for our Small Fry. It seems these days we are lurking on this site and/or attending school tours. The talk all around is about K and K search ;) 

Before sharing the journey here, we wanted to introduce ourselves. We are your typical asian couple; raised in a solid educational foundation, middle class values and strong work ethic. Our parents drilled a love for arts and sports only as a means to "round" off our personality and not to become sportsmen or artists.  To them, that would have been too risky (in terms of employment)! 

We were raised outside US and hence are unfamiliar with schools and school systems here. Having lived here in US for a decade and having attended grad school here makes us value US education system. And we hope our Small Fry will learn to value it as well. 

We recently moved to SF and are now thrown in these tricky waters of unified school system and choice. It seems we settled him into a preschool not too long ago and here we embark on K search again. We currently live in Pac Heights but are open to moving closer to the school once we get accepted to aid with day to day life with kids. Oh, and we also have a Tiny Fry who will benefit from all this research and learning when its time!

Like most parents, we love our Fry but we don't know what kind of education styles will suit him. Also he is a late summer baby so we are torn between red shirting him or not. Our Asian background dictates we should send him to school and let him be. Modern parenting sensibilities want us to give him time to mature. So we are exploring public schools, private schools, parochial schools. Alternate Schools and Traditional Schools. We are exploring Arts curriculum and Science focused schools. 

Our hope is to understand more about education options and what kind of education we want for our Fry alongside of shortlisting schools and getting accepted in a school. 

There are a few things we know for sure:
  • We don't care about immersion schools. 
  • Arts is good but we need solid science/maths foundation 
  • We don't care for a trophy school. Neither of us attended one and we turned out OK. 
  • We definitely need after care. But don't necessarily want to fills afternoons with a bunch of activities. 

We have a few schools that we plan to tour/ have toured already. I will post my thoughts on them soon. I won't be posting statistical information ( like class sizes, school hours, extended care options etc ) unless there is something that stuck with me. That is something that can be easily googled anyways. I will be posting information on PTA and participation, school leadership, how the parenting community looked like to me, whether kids were engaged in various classrooms etc. 

Here is a list of schools that we are touring. We are casting our net wide and are working our way through this process.Hopefully we will have more clarity as December approaches.

1. Public Schools: Claire Lilienthal, Peabody, Sherman, Alvarado, Spring Valley 
2. Private Schools: Presidio Hill, Bright Works, Adda Clevenger, Alt School, Stuart Hall for Boy
3. Charter Schools: Creative Arts, Thomas Edison, New School 
4. Parochial Schools: St. Brigid, St. Vincent De Paul

Looking forward to your  feedback, advise and encouragement via comments! 

Confused Parents

Note: Updated 10/23 to link school tours/reviews and reclassify Stuart Hall as Private and remove Presidio Knolls from the list

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A New School Year Means...Seeking New Bloggers! Updating School Tour Info!

It's September in San Francisco. There's finally warm weather, the apples are crisper and more delicious, and it's almost time for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, And that means it's time to warn your boss that you'll need to take some time off and get ready to run into your friends and neighbors on a bazillion school tours! We'll start updating the info on the website as soon as possible (click on the buttons that say SFUSD School Tours and/or Charter School Tours above the blog posts). Please feel free to share any information you've received about tours in the comments as well.

We'll also start reminding you about an important upcoming date: October 25, 2014. That is the date for the SFUSD enrollment fair. This year it will be held at John O'Connell High School, 2355 Folsom Street, from 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM.

Finally, Fall means we are looking for a new class of bloggers! If you are looking for kindergarten (or another grade 1-5!), middle school, or high school and would like to share your experiences with others, please send an email to kfilesblog @ and we will set you up to write up your tours and document your decision-making process. We would love to hear from a lot of parents, so please write in, even if you can just weigh in on a few tours.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reader Request: Share Your Experience With Spring Transfer?

A reader has written in to ask if folks would mind sharing their experience with the lottery for spring transfer. This reader has a child in kindergarten at her attendance area school, Harvey Milk, but she is thinking about applying for spring transfer to another school. Originally, she hoped to get her kid a spot at West Portal, but now she is thinking about Peabody. So, how about it folks? Did you apply for the spring transfer round in recent years? Was it a success? Any words of advice?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reader Request: Chances of Getting SFUSD Mandarin Immersion in K vs 1st grade?

A reader sent in this question:Our older child has been attending a Chinese immersion preschool that continues to elementary. We will be considering Kindergarten options for this coming year. Our family is very interested in the Mandarin Immersion programs at Starr King and Jose Ortega, but may put off placing our older child in the public school system until 1st grade, primarily to allow a younger sibling access to a spot in the preschool program.Spots at the preschool are in pretty high demand. 

Therefore, I'm wondering whether our chances of a SFUSD Mandarin Immersion program in 1st grade are a lot worse than for Kindergarten. If we ultimately want to be at either Starr King or Jose Ortega's programs, would it be foolish to wait out the Kindergarten placement process in the hopes that there will opportunities to enroll for 1st grade? We are assuming that our child will place as bilingual in both Mandarin and English in the language placement test.

Parents of students in SFUSD Mandarin immersion, what's your take on openings in first grade vs kindergarten for a Mandarin-speaking student?

Chances for K vs 1st grade are unknown for 2 reasons:
  1. For the purposes of the SFUSD lottery, Mandarin-speaking (MN) and and English-only (ME) are separate, mutually exclusive programs. SFUSD doesn't break down requests for Mandarin Immersion by Mandarin-speaking (MN) vs. English-only (ME) applicants.
  2. Openings in first grade are completely dependent on students leaving the program after kindergarten. I can tell you that for Korean immersion this year, all of last year's kindergarteners returned, so no 1st grade spots opened up.
         With three classes for Mandarin immersion, the chance of a student leaving is higher. However, a Mandarin-speaking (MN) kindergartener would have to drop out. An ME student leaving wouldn't help. As you can imagine,students who already speak Mandarin are probably less likely to drop out.
Below is a summary of total requests (MN and ME) for Mandarin Immersion for the last 3 years.
Starr KingTotal
   1st grade4100
   2nd grade1100


Sources for First Round Requests 2012-2014:

Historically, Starr King has had more Mandarin-speaking (MN) spots for it could fill, but this may be changing. In 2013, the list of open spots after Round 2 included openings for Mandarin speakers at Starr King for K and 2nd grade (but not 1st grade). However, in 2014 after Round 1,  King had no open Mandarin-speaking spots for kindergarten. Some spots probably opened up in later rounds since King had no waitpool for Mandarin speakers in any grade on the June 2014 waitpool list.

A first grade spot is less likely to open up at Jose Ortega, which is more popular and has fewer spots than King. Total requests for Mandarin immersion at Ortega increased 45% from 2012 to 2014, compared to 28% for King. Waitpools have been consistently larger for Ortega.

For 2nd grade, the chances look better because only Mandarin speakers can be admitted for 2nd grade and up. In the past 3 years, there's only been 1-2 "top 3" requests for 2nd grade Mandarin immersion. However, depending on the spacing of your kids, you may lose sibling priority for your younger child by waiting until 2nd grade for the older child.

My own opinion is that if you want SFUSD Mandarin immersion and get a kindergarten spot, take it. The younger child will get sibling priority for Mandarin Immersion K-5, which will matter more than 1-2 years of preschool in developing language proficiency.

Parents of students in Mandarin immersion at JOES or Starr King, what are your thoughts?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Request from a Reader: Information on Tule Elk Park TK

A reader writes in that her family just got a spot for their child at the Tule Elk Park Early Education School ( She's looking for any feedback from families with children there now, or insights from parents who might have had a chance to tour. Anyone with good information out there? Thanks in advance...