The real inequality that exists at Alvarado is not between “Anglo” families and English Language Leaners, it is between teachers and classrooms, and the parent community is aware of this. The disparities between teachers’ abilities and engagement and classroom set-up and resources are truly staggering. Principal Sarah was brought in not to stifle teachers or students, but to bring parity and a standardized reading curriculum to Alvarado. Shockingly, before she started, the school did not have a school-wide standardized curriculum. Not only did this prevent continuity in learning for students, it also went against the CA State Board of Education’s content standards. Honestly, the model teachers, who the parents have already identified, are on board with these changes. Change is never easy, but in order to grow and be the best it is absolutely necessary. The changes that are taking place at Alvarado are not in lieu of the arts and project-based learning, they are a much needed addition. Alvarado is a great school because of its strong and committed parent community. We can only coast on our reputation as a great school for so long, we need to participate and support Principal Sarah’s process of bringing parity to our school.
We've had more than one kid at this school, so we've had a front row seat watching the school's steep decline.
It still has an incredibly strong team of teachers (especially the long-timers in the Spanish-immersion program). But the last two principals -- both with the best of intentions -- quickly destroyed a lot of what made Alvarado great.
Alvarado teachers used to be known for using project-based teaching to make learning engaging and fun. They were superbly skilled at figuring out how to teach a very mixed group of kids.
Today, they are being told exactly what to teach and how. Teachers who were fantastic at using different approaches for different kids are now pretty much following a one-size-fits all script dictated by the new administration! It is such a waste of their talents. Although I haven't heard any of them complain, it must be terribly demoralizing. Kids seem less engaged, too.
When new leaders are brought in to lead companies and teams, they are advised to do a lot of observing at first, talking to team members and customers to understand their perspectives on what's working and what's not. They are warned to earn trust and take their time to understand the challenges at hand before dictating a solution.
Are school principals not given the same guidance?
The last two principals (including the current one) are well-intentioned and ambitious administrators. But they were driven to make their mark before attempting to truly understand the school's strengths and challenges. Had they taken the time to get to know the school, they would have realized that Alvarado's experienced teachers are the school's greatest strength and that they have all sorts of ideas on how to make the school better.
The rationale given for imposing curriculum and stifling teachers and students? The achievement gap between high-performing Anglo kids and low-performing English Language Learners. But that gap is not due to ineffective teaching but poverty. It would be even greater without Alvarado's talented teaching staff. And it will get much worse when the current teachers feel so stifled, that they leave. That is our greatest fear.
It is sad to witness the decline of what was once a a truly great school. My youngest kid is getting a very different and inferior educational experience compared to the older ones who preceded him.
The teachers we have had in the Spanish-immersion track have been incredibly skilled at differentiated instruction. We've had more than one kid at the school, representing the full range, from top student to struggling kid with learning differences. And the teachers have been able to get all of them excited about learning.
The new principal, however, is dictating one-size-fits-all curriculum instead of the creative approaches the teachers had developed and fine-tuned over decades of teaching in heterogenous classrooms. It may end up boosting test scores, but it may well end up killing any love of learning.
How can two new principals in three years make exactly the same mistake? Both came in guns a-blazin' looking to make their mark without first getting to know the school and community.
This is not a struggling school in need of a turn-around. It was a high-performing school that deserved to be studied so its model could be fine-tuned and its successes could be replicated elsewhere.
The best leaders know that if they are coming into a new institution or company, they need to spend the first few months really getting to know the team that is already in place and their point-of-view on the challenges and opportunities. Trust needs to be earned, too. The new principals came in to impose their own ideas without soliciting input from those that know the school best: Teachers.
Instead of inspiring teachers to greatness, the new principal's approach will probably end up inspiring them to leave.
We know several families who sent their kids to Alvarado for Elementary school and then sent their kids to private school for Middle and High School. They report that their kids were supremely well-prepared in Math compared to their private school peers. Some have said that their kids' very best and favorite teachers were the ones they had at Alvarado. Unfortunately, the principal who started in the fall of 2016 is forcing them to follow one-size-fits-all curriculum and abandon the project-based approaches that had been so successful in the past. The school's best teachers are demoralized and i suspect several of them will be looking to leave the school. Who can blame them?
A few upper grade teachers lack any interest in communicating with parents. When they do it is negative and to remind them their opinions don't count. Example - end of year plays. In one class play there were presidential candidates and all were male, some students asked if there could be a female presidenti candidate and the 5th grade teacher said no that it was enough having them as reporters in the play. Parents asked after several of us heard about it from the students. We were told to no as well by the male fifth grade teacher. Fifth grade was a low point in our time at Alvarado. K-4 were great but tge last year was terrible.
Alvarado is a wonderful school, which we are proud to be a part of. We have 1st grader in SI, who comes from an English-only speaking family, but his Spanish language skills are already quite good, after just 2 years. He still struggles with reading and writing, but is getting the additional tutoring he needs via the school, paid for by the PTA. His teacher this year, Sra Rengifo, is amazing. She is firm yet loving with her students, and they all work very hard to please her. Although Alvarado is not without it's problems (loss of the vice principal position due to changes to SF-USD's attendance min requirements, 2nd new principal in 2 years, high turnover in the after care program), we still feel that the school is a very good place for our son, and our family. The PTA is very strong and active, and raises large sums of money to support extra curricular programs, including arts, math, science, PE, computer literacy, tutoring, music, outdoor garden education, etc. for the students.
My daughter is in SI kinder. I'm blown away by how amazing Alvarado is. Her reading and writing skills have improved tremendously and is now completely bilingual. The kids are also exposed weekly to science, art class, computer class, music, gardening and outdoor education, etc. It's amazing all the extra programs this school offers, the festivals, fairs and events are also really fun and great for the community. The PTA is amazing and parents are very involved and supportive. We haven't even been here for one year and already feel part of a strong, diverse and loving community. Both principals are wonderful, and the teachers are so inspiring. We are so lucky that we got into our first choice, very thankful for being part of Alvarado.