This is a safe place to share your honest opinions of a school, whether good or bad.
King (Starr) Elementary School4
Posted December 20, 2014
- a parent
We wanted Mandarin Immersion (MI) for our child so we toured Starr King (SK) and privates like CAIS, Presidio Knolls and St. Mary's. What helped sway our decision: SK's big renovation and state-of-the-art greening plans as well as the vast cost difference and the MI program's consistently good feedback. Our child just started Kinder and we're very happy so far with SK and the community. We love her teacher (she is super responsive, creative and astute), and both MI teachers are highly regarded. They have 3 field trips planned for the yr (to a bank, the SF Symphony and Chinatown). Parent involvement in our own classroom is very high, and school-wide I'd say it's moderately high. As a gauge, SK is set to reach its $100K fundraising goal (same as last yr) and our class had 100% participation. The kids have weekly drama class, gardening, library time and after-school soccer. The school has a free bus service and the principal is a native Chinese speaker herself who recently won a grant for $20,000 worth of new Mandarin books. I'm convinced that P/T language studies just couldn't yield the same results. Thanks to Starr King, our child is bilingual, biliterate and increasingly confident!
Starr King is a great school getting even better, in my view. My daughter is in the 2nd grade there, in the Mandarin program. The school has a principal who is wonderful -- dedicated, very able, and with respect to the Mandarin curriculum in particular is working for continuous improvements. My daughter is entering her third year at the school and so far has had tremendous teachers -- conscientious, thoughtful, really skilled, caring. The parents community is really dedicated too. Some people wish that Mandarin progress would happen more quickly, but to me it's just about perfect. Studies show progress in Mandarin happens more slowly than with other languages, it has been proven in research across cultures. Finally, I've had nothing but good experiences with the school's administrative staff. In the coming year, the facilities' upgrade will be complete. I am entirely happy that I chose Starr King for my daughter. I would do so again.
We never thought that Starr King would be a good choice when we picked school for our little girl. It turned us down at the beginning just because it was next to the biggest low-income housing project in the city. Our daughter was placed in one of the schools in Chinatown. We decided to transfer our kid to Starr King after we heard from a trusted friend whose daughter is going there. After one year, we affirmed that it was the right decision. Best I can say: involved parents, passionate teachers, dedicated principal and nice staff. As my daughter said, even the lunch lady was nicer; the custodian lady was a friendly boss in the cafeteria. I always believed that Chinese classes should only be prepared for kids from Chinese families until I saw all those wonderful non-Chinese Kinders spoke so fluent in the Kindergarten graduation. Good job Kinder teachers!
I could not be happier that my child was able to gain admission to Starr King's mandarin program. I had applied to private mandarin school programs, which I could simply not afford, and when I compare what friends who have their kids in those programs versus Starr King, I am entirely pleased that my child is at Starr King. Great principal who is quite committed and who went to Starr King herself. Great teachers so far (we're a couple of years into it and have heard great things about future years' teachers), great curriculum which continues to be improved, and an urban setting and diverse student body that gives my child a broader view of the world than she might otherwise have. I can't praise this school enough -- even while recognizing that it is not perfect. The PTA is engaged and parents give of their time, resources. And so on.
Our child is completing 1st grade at Starr King in the Mandarin strand and is thriving and succeeding in both English and Mandarin. The teachers are energetic, organized, dedicated and the support staff at the school are as well. The warm, open parent community in the PTA has made us feel really welcome as a family. The changes coming in the next year with additional on-site Mandarin support, extra English support and expanded onsite Mandarin after-school options are all things we look forward to. The off-site after school at Fei Tien has been a great option to provide additional Mandarin language and Chinese arts exposure for our child. Although I agree with previous posts that the school reflects the diversity of San Francisco the one change I would love to see is more integration of the Mandarin, English-only and Autism strands during class-time as recess & lunch don't provide enough time for all of the students to truly know each other. We've looked private schools and you would pay at least $25,000/year more with tuition and expected fundraising for similar results so we're very glad we're at Starr King!
Update: This school has decided to finally use the zhongwen textbook - Finally! Surprise: The current principal has decided to give way to a new principal in the coming grade in 2013/14, to one who is bilingual in both english and mandarin. SKMI and JOSE is on course for a major readjustment in terms of curriculum, but I won't rate this school higher until all the necessary changes are made. I want to transfer from MI to GE because our kids are way ahead in mandarin by privately using Zhongwen and leveled readers at home while school offers insufficient ENGLISH. We made it to CIS in the 2013 transfer round, but since immersion schools have the same time slices for the respective languages, we will stay until we get into GE. I suggest that immersion schools teach science and math in ENGLISH instead of Chinese, and make sure CLA time is properly accounted for. If you're an incoming parent, be sure to ask what subjects are taught in english vs. chinese throughout grade levels. Issues are no fault of the principal as the architectural issues existed 6+ years ago. If done correctly, SKMI can easily best CIS/AFY, but my kids are growing fast and they need more english. I will update.
One of the biggest problems at this school with respect to the Mandarin Immersion program is that the majority of families enrolled in the program are not from Mandarin-speaking backgrounds. The parents who are happy with this school are likely to be the ones who do not know the language. They can't tell that their kids are not learning the language very well at all, not for the investment of full-time study over the 6 years of K-5th grades. If Chinese families want their kids to learn the language without sacrificing the English and other academic subjects, then doing Chinese school or after school is a better investment of time.
After joining the school with great excitement, I have been tremendously disappointed. Despite having dedicated teachers in the Mandarin Immersion program, there is a profound lack of leadership to provide them with the necessary supports to accomplish their goals. The problems are multifaceted. The classes do not have the appropriate mix of students (native:non-native speaker ratios) to make an immersion program feasible. Furthermore, there has been tremendous parent opposition to providing the teachers with the necessary in class resources to overcome this handicap. The school has lacked basic educational materials - i.e. books, an integrated curriculum, or assessments. There is no significant Mandarin afterschool program. Additionally, the behavioral problems in the classroom, particularly within the MI strand, are a monumental drain on the teachers, and are simply not dealt with by the school leadership. Because the kids are not learning Chinese well, they are not learning anything that is taught in Mandarin well. Additionally, a great deal of English education is sacrificed, which is expected, but for which there is no return on investment. Truly a disappointing experience.
I have three children enrolled in the Mandarin Immersion Program. When my first entered a few years ago, my wife and I were hoping for a quality educational experience, and we weren't disappointed. The principal, teachers, and staff provide the atmosphere necessary for the children to flourish. With the choices of private and public elementary schools in San Francisco, I would consider Starr King the best.