SF AME Middle School Assignment Petition
To: San Francisco Unified School District Leaders
Re: the Proposed Middle School Enrollment Plan
As a group we would like to raise some concerns that specifically affect families with children enrolled in Elementary School Immersion Programs. These concerns have been raised by parents in all three language immersion programs (Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin). We are circulating this document among the various different schools to get a broad response, and as such this is our initial but not necessarily complete or final response.
It has been very hard to adequately staff the existing Immersion Middle School programs as well as to provide adequate materials. We are concerned that starting so many new programs at many different sites will overtax the possible resources. Staffing for immersion programs is not simply a matter of hiring bilingual education teachers, as the pedagogy and content is often quite different.
We would prefer whole middle schools to be immersion so that resources and programs can be made consistently and can adapt to the needs of the students enrolled. Specifically we want to ensure that all middle school students have electives as well as classes in the language immersion program, and access as needed to programs for students with special needs (Special Education as well as GATE).
We feel that by isolating immersion programs into smaller populations within large general education schools, families with children in immersion will have less of a voice in getting their needs and/or concerns addressed. Particularly we are concerned that the two Mandarin Immersion programs are not going to be combined when putting them together in Middle School would ensure that the overall program is strengthened.
We feel that no single Elementary school immersion program should feed in isolation into in any General Education middle school. Thus we are quite concerned about the decision to send BV, Flynn, and Monroe 6th graders to be minorities in general education programs, as well as the splitting off of the Mandarin programs to separate schools.
We are concerned that an existing excellent middle school immersion program (Hoover) is being phased out instead of supported at a time when demand for new programs is especially high.
We are concerned that the feeder school plan will have an unequally negative effect upon some Elementary School Immersion Programs more than others. We are concerned that dropping the City-wide lottery system for some Immersion schools and not for others means that some families and communities will bear the burden of starting new programs more than others, especially in sites that are underperforming. As a community we have always been very egalitarian in our approach to problem-solving and if all immersion programs are not given equal opportunity and access to all middle school programs (at least until all are fairly well-established), this will cause rifts in our greater community which we do not want.
A) All Immersion Middle Schools programs should have enough resources that they can follow the JLMS pattern and offer all students at least 1 elective in addition to their language program; if not enough students are enrolled versus the non-language programs, immersion is likely to be marginalized to elective status. Therefore, at least two (and preferably 3 or 4 or city-wide) immersion elementary schools should feed into each immersion Middle School Program in order to ensure adequate staffing, materials, and community support; splitting elementary school programs into small individual groups within larger general education programs does not facilitate the development of strong immersion programs, but instead could weaken them to the point that they are ineffective.
B) At least in the beginning (if not longer) all Immersion Middle School programs should not be part of the feeder process, but instead should be instituted at all Immersion Middle School sites drawing from a lottery basis from all Immersion Elementary School sites. Since there are more Elementary schools spots than currently available in existing programs, this means new Middle School programs will have to be created. Specifically, rather than choose three new sites for Spanish Immersion where the programs constitute 1/3-1/4 of the school population, we recommend expanding the existing Everett Program until it constitutes half of the student body, adding one new site for half it's student body in the coming school year (ISA, Horace Mann, or Denman), and keeping Hoover at current capacity (SI parents would not be opposed as much if more SI students were fed into one program so that they constituted half the student body– as at JLMS).
C) If demand rises to the point where a new program would constitute half of the student body of any given Middle School, then plans could be made to repeat the process with a new school. If at the end of expansion of two or more programs, and there are no needed extra spots, then, and only then do we recommend phasing out the Hoover program (if at all). At this point also, the feeder idea could be linked to the individual Middle School Immersion programs, but this would have to happen after they have been in place and demonstrated that they are working.
D) Finally, no one group of Immersion Elementary School children should be forced to shoulder the burden of starting a whole new program as a minority population in Immersion. To not have a negative impact upon Elementary Schools and their ability to attract families, all the immersion Elementary schools should equally share in the burden of starting new programs-- at least until these programs are well established. Families should have the option of choosing from a City-wide lottery the Immersion Middle School program that meets their needs, and all of us should have to take our chances with everyone else, with traditional preferences given (as have always existed) according first to sibling preference, then neighborhood, then to other factors like SES.
The Undersigned Parents and Community Members of SF AME