Monday, November 2, 2015

Web research links with comments

I have found this blog and its archives very helpful for elementary school research, so I've been sad to see few posts this fall as we go through the process to choose kindergartens. So I've decided to give something back in at least a small way by signing up to blog and contributing a few posts this year, starting now. I hope it both helps other families, even if they just read and don't ever post, but more importantly let's keep the great community of posters and commenters alive/renewed this year to compare notes and create useful dialogs. If you haven't yet created an account to make comments on the blog posts on this site, please don't hesitate if you have any questions, comments, or observations!

This post is a list of useful research resources, with descriptions of what's good about each, whether you are looking for public grade schools, privates, or both. It's not too late even now to start if you haven't, and even those who have done a lot might find something new and helpful below.

Web research is not a substitute for personally going to a tour or open house and Q&A, but it is a great way to decide which schools are worth the time to visit, and getting the basic facts ahead of time allows one to concentrate on the other important stuff during a visit. Also, the few minutes one gets to observe classes in session or see students outside of classrooms on a tour are somewhat random, so combining this info with other people’s reports of their tours makes for more trustable data. Plus, comments from parents already at a school (in addition to the ones the school picks to interact with you) and comparing notes from parents who are or were making similar decisions to you are both invaluable. Okay, the list.....



sfkfiles.com
Obviously, I don't need to describe the basics about this site, but rather than omitting it from the list completely, let me point out that Google searches with site:sfkfiles.com along with school name/acronym (using multiple variations separated by OR or as different searches) is helpful to find comments from recent years that are probably still relevant.

Also, a good post on new independent schools from a 2013 may be helpful to some people who haven't heard of some of these schools:
http://www.sfkfiles.com/2013/04/new-independent-schools.html



BigTent.com forums: Elementary Years & GGMG
Bigtent.com hosts forums on many different topics. Two forums are relevant:
The Elementary Years (one must request membership, but it seems to be granted easily)
GGMG (GGMG members only, and GGMG itself is limited to roughly SF moms only)
Both of these have discussions of elementary schools (public & private) and of the process for choosing, applying, etc. Many similar kinds of comments to SFKFiles, so just additional comments from some different folks. Using the search box with variations on school names is useful as posts are find-able that way going back more years than is probably relevant.



https://k12.niche.com/
Has rankings for public elementaries & middle schools, public & private high schools, and even private high schools (but not private elementaries), at the national, state, or metro-area levels. (And since specific city is listed, it’s easy to take the SF-Bay-Area one and do find-in-page to get a ranking of any SF schools that make the top-bay-area 100 in each category.) The site also provides letter grades (A-, B, etc.) in several different categories, plus some other basic info (high level type of school, eg Catholic & top grade level, # students, etc.) with more detailed info for the publics (but it’s also easier to get that info other places as well). There are also some reviews.

It’s much harder to get comparative info on private elementaries of course since they don’t all have to do the same tests (or any tests). One method people use to compare is to look at what high schools the graduates attend, which most of the independent schools will tell you if you ask, or put in their annual report, or in a few cases put on their website (with the numbers). The high school rankings at this site, while surely highly imperfect (like all the rankings), can give some idea to those who don’t already know the reputations of how different high schools compare. One big hole in this approach of course is that the many new private schools have no data of this kind yet.



http://www.greatschools.org/california/san-francisco/
Has reviews and some other info for publics & privates. The reviews are the most useful info as there is little other info for privates and for publics there are other sites that provide the info too. Lots of reviews for publics but not many recent (eg, last 5 years) reviews for independent schools I checked except, eg maybe a handful or less for most, essentially none for some, and dozens in a few isolated cases. Also, the comments tend to be a bit less detailed than the above sites.



http://www.theschoolboards.com/forumdisplay.php/2-San-Francisco-Marin
Message board, but seems pretty much unused in recent years with very few recent posts.



Google.com
So obvious that maybe it shouldn’t be included, but also so obvious it could be overlooked with so many other sites to check & search. But just doing generic websearches for a school can turn up interesting things. Or searching for a school name and whatever is most important to you that you are looking for, or most worrying to you that you are afraid of. Or searching for 2 schools (such as the 2 you are having a tough time choosing between).



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The above sites were all generic enough to be helpful for both publics and privates. Those below here are useful for SFUSD schools only. Most links naturally go to sfusd.edu, but I’ll break out distinct useful resources.



Boundary map PDF for SFUSD:
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2015-16/2015-16_schools_map.pdf
Useful for both giving an idea of all the schools near you, and also one’s area school.



SFUSD enrollment guide:
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/enroll-in-sfusd-schools/getting-started.html
Lots of details. Huge Enrollment Guide PDF for download. Lots of info on process, key dates, etc.



Demand rankings:
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2015-16/2015-16_march_enrollment_highlights.pdf
The 2nd page has a table listing detailed numbers for the most requested 15 Ks (and tables for middle school and high school too). There is probably a link somewhere that just gives a simple number #1, #2, #3, etc. for the top 10 schools but this table is actually better since you can see the number of people who list it vs. the number of spots.

And much longer document that gives a lot more details about every school is this:
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/enroll/files/2015-16/2015-16-report-requests.pdf
This one is useful to see the relative demand for different tracks (eg, immersion vs. not).



http://school-ratings.com/
Detailed quantitative info including test scores (API), diversity, parent education, etc. Usefully presented too. Even has maps. This is not SF-specific, so this site can be used also to compare SF schools vs. those in other places (Marin, Oakland, Palo Alto, etc.).



Accountability Progress Report 2012-2013:
http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2013/2012Base_Co.aspx?cselect=38,San,Francisco
API scores and other info for all the SF public schools in a simple table. Alternative source to school-ratings.com for the test sores & 1-10 grades.



SFUSD public schools individual data sheets:
http://www.sfusd.edu/en/schools/elementary-schools.html
Lots of details about each school (hours, uniforms, languages, map, etc.).

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