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Reflections Near the End of a Journey

posted Dec 14, 2015, 11:23 AM by Robin Dutton-Cookston   [ updated Feb 9, 2016, 3:02 PM by Miranda Martin ]
by Maya Keshavan

Last month we submitted our last SFUSD lottery application for my 8th grade daughter and it felt like a milestone moment. 

I vividly remember the Kindergarten search for my son, who is now a sophomore in high school.

Back then we were allowed to list a handful of schools. There was the usual playground chatter that if one didn’t get in to certain schools perhaps one should leave the city or consider private.

I strongly disagreed then as I do now.  We didn’t tour many schools because we found what we were looking for early on. 

A friend at my son’s preschool was sending her child to a “hidden gem” called Grattan. Where is that I asked? Cole Valley. It fit within the radius we were willing to commute. 

I visited and immediately knew it was the place. Why? I loved the nurturing principal and staff.  It was clear all involved had so much respect for the diverse population they were serving.  We listed it first and the rest, as they say, is history. I feel it was the single best child related decision we’ve ever made. 

My son was the last cohort before the middle school feeder system was implemented. We were torn between James Lick and Roosevelt. We ended up at Roosevelt. I warned my daughter she wouldn’t feed with her cohort. She is very close to her brother so it didn’t bother her. She’s thrived there just as my son did before her.

My son is currently at Lowell and is very happy. I won’t know until March where my daughter will be but I’m confident she’ll thrive no matter where she goes.

My daughter has been caught up in some of the changes in district philosophy and curriculum.

I am pro common core. I am also pro differentiation.

The principal at Grattan at the time, Jean Robertson, was a huge proponent of differentiation. I learned so much about it through her and the teachers. 

Both my kids were in honors in middle school. Last year my daughter was in CCSS (common core state standards) Math 7 and honors everything else. This year there is no honors. She has, however, been assigned many projects which allow students to work to their ability.  

But wait!  Aren’t I that person who posts *a lot* about CCSS Algebra 1 in the 8th grade on various forums? Yes. Yes I am. I find myself agreeing with a lot of what the district is trying to do with the exception of how the math sequence has been implemented.

The common core standards themselves recommend that all middle schools offer qualified 8th graders the opportunity to take common core Algebra 1 and suggest different pathways to get there. 

My daughter’s strength is math. She wants to be an engineer like my husband and I are. I think by delaying CCSS Algebra 2 to the 11th grade it reduces the opportunity for those interested in pursuing a STEM career to take advanced science classes earlier in high school. For example my son is currently taking an Algebra based Physics class in 10th grade which my daughter wouldn’t be able to take until 11th grade because it requires Algebra 2 (prior knowledge or taken concurrently).

This is one of the reasons that while I understand and support the reasoning behind common core math, I strongly disagree with not allowing all qualified 8th graders a pathway to CCSS Algebra 1 as surrounding districts do. 

However, I also see this as a minor disagreement in the larger scheme of things. There are other options for us. She can take two math classes (CCSS Algebra 1 and Geometry) next year or, as we’ve decided, take an approved on-line CCSS Algebra 1 class prior to entering 9th grade.

Not once did we consider private at any stage of their elementary or secondary education. The aforementioned changes haven’t changed my mind. I’ve been so impressed with the quality of their education. This includes their teachers, school leadership and support staff. 

I’m now taking the lessons learned over the years and applying it to my son’s college search. He wants to be a physicist. I’ve told him that there are many great colleges out there and not to limit himself to the “name brands." He loves science. He loves to learn. He will thrive no matter where he is because, in the end, that old adage of doing what you love holds true.

If I were to offer any advice to those beginning this journey? It would be not to fear the unknown. There will be times you’ll disagree with the district. However, there are people within who are willing to work with families to address concerns.  

I personally believe San Francisco public schools are our city’s strength. There are many committed professionals working to ensure that all our kids get the best education possible.

I’m very happy we remained in San Francisco and that my children attend public school.