Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 9, 2009

Creating a diversion

Filed under: Alameda, School — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 7:30 am

So, I haven’t really talked about it, but here’s a quick recap.  Remember the big hoopla about a year and a half ago amongst about changing the Alameda Unified School District policy when they have more interested kids for actual slots available?   The School Board eventually voted to change the policy from a first come, first serve — which resulted in some parents camping out in front of the school like it was opening day for Star Wars — to a lottery system.  While neither option is completely ideal, at least the lottery system has some semblence of equity, at least for parents without the means to take off the day and night to camp out and/or without the resources to be in the “loop” regarding when that first person decided to start lining up to secure their child’s chance at a Kindergarten slot.

After the implementation of them lottery system this year it appears that the demographic study done by the school district ended up being fairly close to the actual numbers produced.  Of course one could, and I’m sure folks have, argued that the uncertainity that surrounds the idea of going through the lottery has artifically dropped the numbers because some parents would have taken their kids to private schools, but we’re not dealing in hypotheticals since we have actual real numbers for proposed enrollment for Kindergarten 09 – 10 school year.

Turns out there are four schools that will be impacted by more bodies than spaces and those are:

  • Edison
  • Otis
  • Bay Farm
  • Franklin

The school district has proposed several options to deal with the overenrollment and has produced a series of  Power Point Slides to present at the School Board meeting.   Here is the basic information:

  • Edison
    • Current Space -60; Projected enrollment-82;
    • Wait List-20 after K Roundup; 22 Currently
  • Otis
    • Current Space-80; Projected-100;
    • Wait List-14 after K Roundup; 20 currently
  • Bay Farm
    • Current Space-60; Projected-77;
    • Wait List-13 after K Roundup; 17 currently
  • Franklin
    • Current Space-40; Projected-50;
    • Wait List-7 after K roundup; 10 currently

And then this is what the School District is suggesting to handle the load:

  • Edison
    • Add classroom by moving computer center and dividing day care portable into two rooms.  Cost: $30K for construction
  • Otis
    • Add portable to add new classroom.  Cost: $200K for two portables
  • Bay Farm
    • Add one class to exisiting classroom.  Cost: $0
  • Franklin
    • Divert additional students (7-10).  Cost: $0

It wasn’t clear from the powerpoint, but for some reason options like AM/PM Kindergarten was decided against, which personally, I think would be a good way to solve the issue of capacity without needing to add ugly portables to perfectly good schools.  When enrollment numbers drop, PM Kindergarten can be eliminated, when it spikes again it could be insistuted.   It would be interesting to learn what the issues are behind this option.

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22 Comments

  1. “the demographic study done by the school district ended up being fairly close to the actual numbers produced.”

    The demographic study predicted 152 east of park, current sign-up is 182, which means the demo study was off by 16% or 21% depending on how you count. More significantly for parents, the district’s provisioning was off by two whole K classes worth.

    With AM/PM kindergarten, what do you when those students progress to 1st grade? It seems like this option just kicks the problem a year down the line without actually solving it.

    Comment by Andy Currid — March 9, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  2. Hi Andy: I think there could be more of an argument to be more creative with grades other than Kindergarten, such as mixed classes like first and second together (or second and third, etc.) Which would introduce an interesting dynamic. Here’s an article on the subject. I know that some grades are already combined for some classes, Ruby Bridges once had a third/fourth grade class (or maybe it was second/third, my memory is fuzzy) but I can see how that would be valuable for accelerated younger students and older students who would learn better through mentoring.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 9, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  3. AM/PM would mean more teachers. District is trying to freeze hiring and may cut teachers, according to what was bandied about at the last BOE meeting.

    Andy is right. Particularly because we are in recession/depression/economic collapse, more people who would have been sending their kids to private schools will not see that as a viable option for them, and will consequently find themselves enrolling their kids in public schools. The decline in enrollment may be, at least temporarily (3-5 years?), a thing of the past.

    Meanwhile, AUSD district has not planned for any scenario other than the decline in enrollment that was artificially created under the Bush Administration’s myopic education plan (which was, let’s face it, a plan to bust the teacher’s union, among other things…), which gave us the voucher system, as well as the sometimes questionable practice of allowing everyone and their brother the opportunity to create a new experimental charter school. (This is not to say that charter schools are inherently bad; there are tons of them that are terrific. However, we have read about many, over the years, that were mismanaged or whose resultant test scores were so low they had to be fudged by the schools’ admin so as to not have funding cuts or to be forced to close.)

    Comment by E T — March 9, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  4. East End schools are chronically over-enrolled and West End schools, with the exception of Franklin, are chronically under-enrolled. Isn’t the logical decision to just move the boundaries eastward?

    Comment by AD — March 9, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  5. I have a kid on the Bay Farm wait list, so I’m pleased with the recommendation to add a fourth K class. I’m not so pleased that the recommendation is subject to the caveat that all bets are off if enrollment decreases between now and September.

    Obviously I understand that if there is a drop in enrollment similar to what happened at BF last year, a fourth K class may no longer be economically feasible. But I want to know what the contingency plan is.

    I don’t understand why the district can’t tell us what they will do if enrollment drops by 10 kids. Will they go to larger classes, am/pm, diversion? Or can they at least say that they will do something other than diversion?

    I understand that there are some contingencies that are so remote or unforeseeable that they really can’t be planned for. But the district should be able to tell us what they will do in the event of an ordinary course change in circumstances, such as a decrease in enrollment.

    I am relatively new to this issue, but so far the district’s M.O. strikes me as very ad hoc and reactionary. They need to proactively address parents’ concerns. Leaving the whole thing wide open until September is not acceptable.

    Comment by Aaron — March 9, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

  6. I must say that while I am extremely sympathetic to the concerns that were addressed by parents who have been wait-listed, it is unfortunate that most of these parents left immediately after this agenda item.

    Had they stayed, they would have gotten the bigger picture with regard to the budget obstacles. Basically, cuts must be made, there is no choice in the matter. The State has granted some elasticity with regard to how some of the allocated money (categoricals) can be used. However, this may not help bring extra classrooms, when that would require extra teachers. If the last BOE is viewable somewhere, I would advise parents to take a look at the parts they were not there to see.

    This next meeting, the BOE should have actual numbers available, which were not at the last meeting, because the State had provided information only the day before, and there was not enough time to prepare actual number scenarios.

    Comment by E T — March 9, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  7. When I started school, I went to an AM/PM kindergarten–same teachers (maybe 3?) each taught two different classes a day. I think there were also two classes a day for first graders. Don’t recall the number of 1st grade classrooms, though. Eventually, the school district caught up with its building projects.
    Ah, Boomer days.

    Comment by Linda Hudson — March 9, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  8. Re #6 – in addition to budget numbers being highlighted at upcoming Board of Education meetings, there is also a special Budget Forum meeting scheduled for April 2nd, at Wood Middle School, 420 Grand St, 6:30 to 8:00pm.

    I went to the earlier budget forum that AUSD held in February. It wasn’t particularly well attended; most of the people there were AUSD staffers. Hopefully parents and other stakeholders will show up in greater numbers for the April meeting.

    Comment by Andy Currid — March 9, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  9. Why can’t they just send their kids to Paden? Don’t they know that it is just as good as the other schools???
    :-)

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — March 9, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  10. Regardless of budgetary challenges(and I acknowledge that the challenges are significant), the district can do a better job of making — and communicating to parents — contingency plans. They can say, here is Plan A if everything works out the way we expect it to, and here are Plans B and C if circumstances change in various ways. Right now all we have is Plan A and the statement that all bets are off if there is any change in circumstances between now and September. That is what I object to about this whole process.

    Comment by Aaron — March 9, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  11. ET,

    Using Linda’s #7 scenario (In 1960 I was part of same am/pm arrangement), how is it that switching to am/pm set up creates a need to add teachers? What do current K teachers do after am class?

    #2 Lauren. Paden used to have a completely mixed age program, K-1, 2-3, 4-5. An over simplified explanation is that teaching to the tests made it too burdensome for teachers to have mixed age classrooms, especially at the 4-5 level. However, when our kids were in K-1 the Ks would leave after A.M. class leaving a small number of first graders. In the P.M. a small group of first graders got lots of attention on reading skills. In terms of budget that practice will be very long in returning, if ever.

    Comment by Mark Irons — March 9, 2009 @ 6:35 pm

  12. #4
    “East End schools are chronically over-enrolled and West End schools, with the exception of Franklin, are chronically under-enrolled. Isn’t the logical decision to just move the boundaries eastward?”

    I agree, as long as the attendance zone changes do not further segregate the schools. There is no “right” to send your children to a particular school just because of how the lines were drawn on the map when you purchased your home. Rather than wasting tax money on adding portables and other non-instructional expenses, simply make the needed changes. They are all Alameda children and the schools are all Alameda schools. It is time to stop the balkanization of education in this community.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — March 9, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  13. LOL @ ANT … you tell ‘em: “Send your kids east, they are still Alameda schools!” LOL :-)

    Comment by Jeff R. Thomason — March 9, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  14. 11. There is a lot more prep time needed for kinders than any other classes. Much of what is done involves little bits and pieces. Double the classes, double the prep time = much more than a full day, and that means 2 shifts of teachers, not one.

    Comment by E T — March 10, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  15. San Francisco will open a new Cantonese magnet school

    (03-13) 18:25 PST SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco will open a new elementary school next fall to accommodate a sharp increase in the number of kindergartners expected to enroll.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/13/BAKJ16F2RE.DTL&tsp=1

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — March 13, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

  16. Alameda went to full day kindergarten during the last year of Dennis Chaconas being the superintendant; after that, AM/PM K is not possible using the same teachers because that would be too many hours each per teacher.

    I believe when we had AM/PM kindergarten school started at 8:20 and ended at 11:50.

    I would love to see a return to this system. I think that an 8:20 to 2 p.m. day is very long for a 5 year old, and it would save money on classroom space too.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — March 14, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  17. Much of the prep for K- 3 is done by volunteers, not just teachers. Even some older students help their old teachers as do parents of the K’s, but prep time is a consideration which maybe should be based on number of classes or hours taught, not days taught. On the other hand, it may mean that the activities K teachers choose will have to be those which require less prep-time by teachers.

    I agree – often too much is expected of young students.

    Despite claims of the importance of ‘equity’ for all students, it seems much within AUSD is geared to pushing students – often beyond their cognitive development level – a sure recipe for failure. AUSD is re-gearing Math classes – angling toward 9th grade algebra 2 & Trig. This places too much pressure on middle school students. As you look at the difference between graduating 5th graders and high school entry students, you’ll notice an incredible physical difference in muscular / skeletal structures. The same degree of changes is happening inside their bodies and minds. Other than during infancy, this is the time of the greatest physical changes for our students. Now algebraic concepts are even being taught in AUSD’s 3rd grade.

    New systems of teaching children to meet standard testing seem to not account for the very real differences in development among young students. While it is commendable to encourage students to achieve their greatest potential, self esteem and attitude have an immense role in learning, especially for mathematics. The push toward the teaching to the higher achievers is really just teaching geared toward the earlier developers, while those slower to develop have further depreciating consequences of poor self esteem, or animosity toward a particular subject, or even toward school itself. Ultimately slower developing students never get a chance to reach the potential which they could have achieved if they were educated at the pace of their cognitive development. (This according to one of the organizers of the Alameda-Contra Costa Counties Math Educators Conference, which was held today at LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley.)

    Shorter K-days may be harder on working parents, but may be more appropriate, and non-credentialed TA’s or volunteers can watch kids in the yard and play structures, thus giving teachers an extended break during the day, either for prepping a PM class, or just shortening their teaching hours. (This is not to deny that a great amount of K edu happens on the play yard – cooperation, playing well with others, discovering physical limits as well as an opportunity for kids to gauge their own growth and increasing accomplishments, whether being finally able to reach a spinning bar, learning to hang upside down, or learning to swing without being pushed. (Does AUSD have any swings, or have they all been eliminated to reduce liabilities or risk management?). Also other educators have pointed out to me that there are no studies showing that homework has any positive affect for K-5 students. While a voluntary homework program may be beneficial for parent/child/school relationship-building, often the struggle for working parents to get home, get the kids fed, home work done, and into the bedtime routine, eliminates the chance to have loving, quality time because of homework struggles. This can set defeatist mindsets for kids whose parents are not trained with appropriate coping skills.

    Dropping daily homework for elementary school age kids, and perhaps more mixed-grade classes that reflect developmental differences rather than chronological differences would be more of a benefit to a greater number of K-5’ers than a K-5 curriculum on the sexual preferences of adults. – Your comments?

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 14, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  18. Yea, Tentative ruling affirms MH, denies plantiffs!

    Comment by David Kirwin — March 14, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

  19. #16, Currently AUSD Kindergarten runs from 8:20am – 12:45pm 3 days a week and 8:20am – 1:50pm 2 days a week.

    Comment by Kerri L. — March 16, 2009 @ 7:35 am

  20. The curriculum shifts are all too often a ploy to sell text books. These new programs are mandated, and so the schools have no choice. It was interesting that a huge shift in curriculum took place during the Bush years and NCLB. One of the huge publishing execs of text books and curricula had close ties to Bush…

    What I am suggesting is that anything having to do with our kids becomes a hot button issue in politics. The rallying cry is ALWAYS “our children, we will do more for our children.” In the final analysis, however, politics ends up doing less than ever for our kids, and it costs the public MORE for what little does get done.

    Teachers do what they can with what is foisted on them at the state or federal mandate level. But our kids get jerked around.

    Do the “educators” who create the curricula really take into consideration the capacity for children in elementary and middle school to focus? Based on all the literature I have read on brain development, I would have to say no.

    Does anyone remember “NEW MATH”? That was a cute gimmick. Sold entire new sets of math text books to schools. Was it any more effective than what you might have called “old math”? I doubt it. For one thing (and this is huge), the “new method” separated many parents from able involvement in helping guide their children in homework and study techniques.

    I can recall the frustration I had when I was given incorrect marks on math homework. Now, the interesting thing about this is that I had the correct answers, but I solved the problems the way that my father showed me, not the way the textbook illustrated. My father actually spoke to the teacher and to the principal about this and got nowhere.

    Now, how irrational is that?

    Comment by E T — March 16, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  21. Is anybody familiar with the changes AUSD is proposing to math curriculum and what these proposed changes will cost?

    While many things do change in this world, and may require new editions of textbooks – it seems math, like the rules of logic, should be a constant…

    Comment by David kirwin — March 16, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  22. Yes, there is a purity to the logic of numbers, whether rational or irrational…

    Otis school’s Dad’s Club hosted a Pi Day picnic. Lots of fun!

    Comment by E T — March 17, 2009 @ 9:42 am


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