Magnet Madness: The Recap

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

echoices.pngBetween now and December 16th, getting in that Magnet application choice is on many of our minds…

Which Magnet should I choose, how many points do I have, how many points gets you in, what’s the best way to bank points, what are my odds, am I trying to get in, am I trying to NOT get in, what if I do get in, what if I don’t get in, what if… So. Much. Angst!!!

Take a deep breath and trust you’ll get through this. The Magnet lottery is the first in a series of public school options one can apply to with its application window opening November 1st for the following fall. (Charter and other applications typically become available after the new year.) The hard part is you only get to choose ONE magnet school to apply to, and after that, there’s nothing you can do but sit back and wait to see how you did.

New for 2012 – The Choices Highlight Reel

The Magnet/Choices applications are (finally) online! Some old-school paper applications were sent to local schools and some public libraries, however most parents are encouraged to apply online. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s paperless! And did I mention that it’s online?!

Deadline to get that application in is Friday, December 16, 5pm. After that, most LAUSD schools will close for a 3-week Winter Break.

Magnet tours are happening now folks, so get out there and tour!

Your child must be 5 by November 1, 2012 to enter Kindergarten in Fall 2012.

Remember, LAUSD’s Fall 2012 school calendar will now start on August 14, 2012.

Overcrowded points are becoming virtually extinct. Only 2 schools (Del Olmo EL and Cahuenga EL) will remain on a concept 6 (3 track) calendar by 2012, making those students the only ones eligible for the additional 4 Overcrowded points. For everyone else, it means the most points we could possibly accumulate is: 12 Waitlist or 12 Matriculation + 4 Phbao + 3 Sibling = 19 points max. A more even playing field.

According to the new brochure, “students may be contacted regarding an opening up through the first month of school.” (Used to be the first 10 days of school.)

Any LAUSD resident can apply to a regular Magnet program but for Gifted/High Ability or Highly Gifted Magnet programs one must meet eligibility requirements either through being tested or identified prior to application deadline. If applying from a charter or private or pre-K school, the verification process can be found here. (It’s different than if currently attending an LAUSD school.)

Some Basics

Must be a resident of LAUSD.

You only get to choose ONE program (Magnet or NCLB PSC or PWT if eligible).

You only get to choose ONE Magnet school.

No early applications – apply in the winter before the fall of age-appropriate enrollment.

It’s a weighted lottery so the more points you have the better your chances are.

If you are offered a spot and turn it down you lose all your accumulated wait list points.

If you are currently attending a Magnet school, you don’t need to re-apply each year unless you are matriculating or wish to enter the lottery for another magnet school (from EL to MS, MS to HS, or to switch to another magnet program.)

It’s a random lottery so anything can happen.

For NCLB-PSC or Public School Choice – you must be currently enrolled in a PI school to take advantage of that program.

Transportation is available if you live outside a 2 mile radius from the magnet school’s attendance boundary for K-5, or 3 mile radius for grades 6-12.

Stumped on all this Magnet talk? Come to my last-minute seminar, Navigating The School System: Know Your Public Options, Sunday, December 11th at 5p in WLA and we’ll go over all this and more.


Want to use this article? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Tanya Anton is the creator of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and popular Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

Five by When? Ramping Into The Kindergarten Readiness Act

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

This topic has come up several times this week at my talks, plus it was also an “Ask Tanya” question on my FB page (thanks Susan!) so it begs to be outlined again.

New Kindergarten Age Requirements

With the passing of Senate Bill 1381, also known as The Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, the Kindergarten age cut-off will be changing over a three year period beginning next fall. Currently a child must turn 5 by December 2 in order to be eligible to enter Kindergarten that year.

Beginning in 2012, to enter Kindergarten a child must turn
5 by November 1, then
5 by October 1 for 2013, and finally
5 by September 1 for 2014 and all subsequent years.

This will line California up with the majority of other states across the country.

Transitional Kindergarten

What this also means is that while we transition to the earlier cut-off, there may be current preschoolers with fall birthdays who will just miss the new age cutoff by a few weeks, catching parents by surprise. For those children impacted by these changes, you will have the option of staying another year at your preschool, finding a school that offers a Developmental Kindergarten or DK (some charters and private schools offer this, sometimes it’s called “Preppy K”), or enroll your child in one of the LAUSD Transitional Kindergartens or TK programs established by the new law. There are about 38 schools piloting a TK program this year at various school sites across LAUSD. It is expected that the number of TK programs will jump to 100 in 2012, and swell to more than 500 by 2014, the year of full implementation.

The TK program is designed to offer Kindergarten content at a slower-pace for those children with late summer, early fall birthdays who, for a variety of reasons, are ready to go to school but who might not be ready for the full-paced curriculum of a traditional kindergarten. It will support a foundation of successful learning and offer preparation for Kindergarten. Giving children the “gift of time” in a two-year Kinder program allows the child another year to mature socio-emotionally, physically, developmentally and ease into the rigors of today’s Kindergarten expectations.

Schools opt to pilot a TK program if there is demand and adequate staff. Being a new program and managed site by site, much is yet to be determined regarding the overall quality and consistency of these programs, nonetheless it will be an option to consider as part of the new law.

More Information

Read about the Benefits of TK
Transitional Kindergarten FAQ (from CDE)
LAUSD pushes for TK Program 

For further information contact Ruth Yoon, LAUSD Administrator, Early Childhood Education at 213-241-4713 or ruth.yoon@lausd.net for a list of participating TK schools.


Want to use this article on your blog or website? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Tanya Anton is the creator/founder of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and popular Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

Parent Participation: Know Your Strengths, Know Your Boundaries

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

Now that school is back in full swing, as a public school parent I’ll bet you’re being hit up every which way from Sunday to contribute to your kid’s school. Gone are the days where you drop your kid at the door and expect the school/district/city/state/government to take care of everything else. With reduced budgets and diminished staff, regardless of the type of school you go to, schools need our help. And they are not shy in asking for it.

While parent participation is essential in today’s economy and the best way to build a strong program-rich community at your school, everyone needs to contribute something but it helps to pace yourself so you don’t burn out later.

Ask yourself the following questions: What are your strengths? What are your limitations? What are your boundaries? If you and your partner work full-time and your time is limited, consider writing a lump sum donation to the school.

You can also commit to a monthly payment plan so it is budgeted and spread out over the course of the school year.

If money is tight in your family but you have time to give, consider what you like to do or do best, and give of your time and expertise.

Can you help out in the classroom, or in the office? Can you write grants or the school newsletter after hours? Are you good at organizing or clean up? Can you work in the school garden or lead a fundraising event or man a booth at the upcoming festival? Will you bake cookies or make tamales or sell Tshirts? Can you go after business partnerships and wrangle a technology upgrade for your school? Can you solicit donations or equipment cast-offs or other services or benefits from within your business contacts? Can you chair a committee or mentor some kids or help supervise the play yard? Can you lead a prospective parent tour or special class project or launch an afterschool enrichment program?

We all have something to offer. But we work best when we are doing what we are good at and love to do. Are you a visionary, a connector, a number-cruncher or a worker bee? Do you like to work with kids, with staff, with other parents or alone? Cast your skills wisely and be realistic about the kinds of projects you can take on and the amount of time you can give to the cause. Ask to share duties if you sense you’ve taken on too much.

Every thriving school is surrounded by a strong community of support, both physically and financially. And if everybody offers in a little something, then much can get accomplished without burning out that core few who always manage to do more than everyone else. What is it that you do best and what will you offer to your child’s school? Time, skills, money, or perhaps a combination of all three.

How have you participated in your child’s school? Tell us how. Share your story. You just might inspire someone else.

Want to use this article on your blog or website? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Tanya Anton, author, speaker, public school consultant and advocate, is the creator/founder of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and popular Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

Prenatal Boost: The Friends of Playa Vista School

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

Ripple EffectBack in March 2009, I spoke to a group of what I affectionately call “stroller moms” – or moms with toddlers – in Playa Vista, who, like so many of you, were concerned about their future public school choices. Being residents in the recently formed Playa Vista development, they knew there was talk of a new LAUSD school for their community on the horizon, but without it being built yet there were so many unanswered questions.   

What kind of school would it be? What kinds of kids would it serve? Would it meet the needs and high expectations of its residents or should these parents be weighing their odds elsewhere?

With so many unknown variables, you can imagine how hard it would be to feel confident about your neighborhood school, especially when it wasn’t even built yet.

But rather than get discouraged, I shared my experience of working on behalf of a school before my daughter was even old enough to attend, so that by the time she got there we were already part of the revitalization effort. I encouraged these moms to get involved now while the school was being planned, and instead of just taking what was handed to them they had the opportunity to meet and connect with the movers and shakers of the development, the city council, the local district, the district’s Facilities department so they could have a voice in steering decisions, decisions that would directly affect their families. Most importantly, I suggested they think about starting a booster club and begin to organize and fundraise ahead of time so that by the time the school opened in 2012, they’d already be a strong and viable force. It was an inspirational night and I felt the energy in the room, but like so many of my talks, I don’t always hear how things turn out for folks.

This past month (July 2011) I went to see my husband’s band, Venice, aka Pine Mountain Logs, play an outdoor concert in Playa Vista Park. As I walked near the bandshell with my daughter, I noticed a table selling drinks laid with an assortment of papers and info. As I leaned in to get a better look, I saw the “Friends of Playa Vista School” logo and posters and beamed ear to ear like a proud mama. There they were out there galvanizing the hundreds of community members on behalf of their school, the school that wasn’t even born yet. They did it, I thought. They actually did it!

The Friends of Playa Vista School had formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, created a board and several committees, built a website, email list, and Facebook group. They were out surveying their community members, gathering support and actively engaging participation. They were organized and already advocating for their future neighborhood school. As I read about the school I learned they’d formed a partnership with LMU’s School of Education, Center for Math and Science Teaching, and College of Science and Engineering. The school will have a math, science, and environmental focus, and the facility itself will be a model of environmentally sustainable design with solar panels, recycled water, geothermal heating and cooling, and is slated to become a LEED Gold Certified school, one of only four in LAUSD with this status and the only one on the Westside of LA. The Friends are advocating for it to become a non-traditional Pilot school with certain autonomies from LAUSD, and through perseverance they were able to remove it from the Public School Choice (PSC) 3.0 open bidding process that typically happens to new schools, meaning they’ve maintained control of their school. Nice work ladies! Brava! I couldn’t be more proud.

To read more about Playa Vista Elementary School (PVES or CRES#22) go to:
www.playavistaschool.org
Join their Facebook page: FOPVES
View the school’s sustainable design plan

The lesson we can all look at here is taking an unknown stress-filled challenge and instead of getting stuck there, turning it upside-down into empowered involvement. It’s amazing what we can do on behalf of our collective children when we’re motivated. It requires faith, vision, effort, organization and outreach. But we don’t have to do it alone. Once we become empowered to do something, we become the central catalyst for improvement and change, and then we inspire others around us and it spreads. Inspiration is contagious and ultimately, transformative.

Rather than spiral downward into disengagement and helplessness, we have the choice to spiral upward into empowerment, connection and transformation. 

I know it can seem impossible, one mom against the big giant public school machine, especially in this economy. But take a look around you. What one little piece can you see at your school that speaks to you, that you see potential in, or have a desire to transform? What steps could you take? How can you become a catalyst for positive change? Share your story. We’re all in this together.

© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

Waitlisted

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

waitlisted Many clients have contacted me recently after finding out either their child was waitlisted at several places and they haven’t heard anything yet, or they got into two or more schools and can’t decide which way to go.

Being waitlisted is a sensitive topic. Nobody likes to hear they didn’t get into their first choice school. Some high-performing magnet and charter programs are so competitive to get into, hundreds or even thousands of children are waitlisted every year. So, what’s a parent to do?

First, it helps to understand the application/ lottery/ enrollment process so you know what you are dealing with. Savvy parents know that most folks apply to multiple schools but obviously can’t attend all those schools. Therefore, by their very nature, waitlists become bloated and not necessarily reflective of who would actually attend if given the slot. In other words, if I applied to schools A-E, got accepted and enrolled in school A, my spots on the B-C-D-E school waitlists would be technically vacant since I’ve already enrolled elsewhere. As people finalize their school decisions, other folks are silently moving up waitlists all over town, so you never truly know where you stand on a list.

Second, it helps to know the timeline so you can gauge where you are in it and what your possibilities are.The first round of Magnet notification letters go out in early April. Charters all do their lotteries independently, but typically their letters are sent out in the March-April window. (Earlier for middle and high school.)  Permits and Open Enrollment results typically come out in June. After the first round of offers go out, schools will work their way down the waitlist through May and June in order to fill empty spots, but even then enrollment lists are not necessarily final yet, as families shift in their enrollment decisions. School offices close for the month of July, so this is a good time to vacate, have a cocktail, de-stress, as there’s absolutely nothing you can do this month until offices reopen sometime in August, when they’ll continue to work down the list to ensure all seats are filled. Hopefully you will know your school choice by then, but even as late as late-August or early-September, last-minute seats can be offered. Remember, Magnet schools have up until the 10th day of school to notify you if a spot opens up, and neighborhood schools have until Norm Day, usually the first week in October when they finalize their teacher-student ratios to the District, so really, waitlisted isn’t final until then.

Third, stay positive and be proactive. Don’t bug the staff as they are most likely overworked and underpaid, but you can call, say, in late June or mid-August, to see if getting your child in is a close possibility or not very likely. You can also let them know who you are and how very thrilled you would be to accept a spot at their school, should one open up.

And finally, always have a back-up plan. Perhaps that’s your home school which you’re automatically zoned for, or one with a large number of Open Enrollment seats where almost everyone who applies gets in. Perhaps it’s a new magnet program that was announced late and didn’t fill up, or you apply for a PERT – a Parent-Employment-Related Transfer to a school near your business address. Either way, looking back at it, kids always find a seat somewhere.

Confused about your public school options? Can’t decide or want me to go over your choices with you? I can help. Book a 30 or 55min phone consultation with me today.

© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

API, AP What?

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

May is typically the month where students spend up to two weeks testing their knowledge of grade-level standards. Standardized testing is mandated for all public school 2nd through 12th graders as part of the No Child Left Behind Act former President Bush signed into law in 2002. Test results are used to calculate each school’s Academic Performance Index (API) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Schools are required to progress up 5 points every year and meet all target demographics in the school, which, if not met, can come with steep consequences.

That API score, or overall school test score, is one of the first things parents tend to look at when considering a school for their child, but is it the best way to measure a school? Is a high score all it’s cracked up to be? Does a lower score mean the school is no good? What does that API number really tell us?

API scores tell us how students performed on a series of tests over the course of a couple of weeks the previous spring.

But test scores are NOT indicative of the quality of a school’s educational experience. For my elementary school parents, they merely measure how a group of students, (last year’s 2nd-5th graders), tested in that particular week of spring testing in the subjects of English Language Arts and Math, with some 5th grade Science.

Test scores do NOT tell you what kind of teaching is going on, what the learning environment is like, how effectively teachers communicate and interact with the students, if the school fosters positive social-emotional development, or if students come away with a sense of curiosity, a love of learning, or long-range comprehension which becomes the base with which to scaffold deeper meaning and higher knowledge.

Test scores do NOT indicate what other subjects and enrichments students are exposed to, if they are given opportunities for hands-on learning, exploring alternative learning modalities, working in teams, mentoring or accelerated differentiation where needed, or if instead, students are grouped and repetitively drilled in the basic test subjects of English and Math — sometimes referred to as the “bread and water” of public education.

I have seen parents pull their kids out of high-performance schools that may look better “on paper,” (scores in the upper 800s to low-mid-900s), when the actual classroom experience turned out to be stressful, repetitive, and threatening a child’s innate love of learning.

Dianne Ravitch, one of the architects of No Child Left Behind in George W. Bush’s Department of Education, says she now feels that it was all a big mistake. 

“The basic strategy is measuring and punishing,” Ravitch says of No Child Left Behind. “And it turns out as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there’s a lot of cheating going on, there’s a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards it’s actually lowered standards because many states have ‘dumbed down’ their tests or changed the scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing than actually are.”  Full story.

Sure, we all want our kids to be able to read, write and do their arithmetic, but is that where the majority of the focus should be?

The best way to get a feel for a school, more than just looking at test scores, is to get on campus, take a look around with your eyes and your gut instinct, meet the people involved, ask questions, and have a direct personal experience there. Scores can only tell you so much.

© 2011 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved.

Why Public School? (The Backstory)

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

written March, 2007

Many people have asked me why I have become so active helping parents navigate the challenging, not so top-of-its-class public monolith that is LAUSD. It’s a good question, one I wrestle with constantly.

I suppose I never would have even considered public school education reform a serious issue to focus my energies on prior to becoming a parent. As a matter of fact, collaborating, building community, gathering info and sharing answers with others was only done if it involved musicians, a gig, and some cashola…for me.

Nine years ago, when we bought into this sleepy little Westside neighborhood, a mostly retired blue collar, post-war community, the last thing on our minds was school districts. In fact, I distinctly recall our housewarming announcement. It stated matter-of-factly: “No rings, no kids, no nonsense. (To answer your next question.) But please bring a bottle of your favorite wine.”

Er herm. Yes, well.

Now that I’m married, with child, specifically child about to enter Kindergarten, it seems that there’s a whole mess of nonsense around here to wade through.

Cue favorite wine, please.

The only reason we landed over here to begin with is because the lots were bigger (I wanted a patch of green), slightly more affordable, and we needed a detached garage to house the new recording studio we were going to build. We didn’t want a postage stamp-sized lot with neighbors breathing down our backs as musicians came and went day and night pushing their Anvil cases up and down the driveway. Little did we imagine that with the advent of computer technology, sampling, flying tracks and vocals over the ‘net, the need to actually SEE musicians anymore is a rarity indeed, but that’s beside the point.

By a stroke of good fortune and incredible timing on my husband’s part, we ended up in our little fixer-upper neighborhood almost a decade ago. Who knew it would eventually become a desirable family destination?

However, it is quite simply unacceptable to me that the average price these days for a 1-story, 1200 sq ft tear-down over here has risen to just shy of a million dollars, and yet our local schools are in such a sorry state parents seem to be abandoning them left and right for anywhere better. Now if you can afford the additional $18-25K (choke, wheez) per child per year for private elementary school on up, bravo to you. But some of us just can’t. We need other options. We need public options. You know, for the people. The just folks. Not the let’s-hemorrhage-money-just-because-we-can type folks.

And furthermore, if the real estate values are where they are, I damn well think my kid ought to be able to go to her neighborhood school and get a decent education. Right?

There are many problems, but a big one is size. LAUSD services almost 750,000 children and is the 2nd largest school district in the country. That means that the tax dollars we throw into the kitty over here in our hot little neighborhood get dispersed with everyone else’s, and wind up all across this urban sprawl, not just in our own back yard.

Another issue we’re facing is this very real post 9/11 baby boom. I see it on the ballooning mom boards and on the ever-growing preschool wait lists. There is a swell of kids just about to enter the school system. I have heard many parents tell of even being willing to pay the 20-some-thousand-dollars per year for private school, applied to 5 or 6 of them, and then didn’t get in. Any of them. Too many children, not enough slots. That’s just the reality of the situation. And each year as this boom (and their siblings) enter Kindergarten on up, the available slots per applicant will get even slimmer. Those children will have to go somewhere…perhaps back to their neighborhood schools.

I’ve heard it said that if the state of California were a nation–what with the output of Silicon Valley, Napa Valley and the entertainment industry–it would be ranked the 7th or 8th wealthiest country in the world! Yet we are ranked near the bottom of the country for public education. Our schools just don’t line up with what Californians are capable of. With all our resources, intelligence, ingenuity, creativity, wealth…couldn’t we do better educating our next generation?

So, what’s a concerned parent to do?

Luckily, there ARE public school options. If you know about them. If you apply correctly and on time. There are magnets, independent charters and converted charters, inter and intra-district permits, each with their own application rules, procedures, timeline and lotteries. Additionally, many neighborhood schools are really improving as parents roll up their sleeves and get involved.

In an attempt to sort through and understand all this, I began coordinating parent ed nights at our preschool a few years ago to discuss the options and the process, bringing in alumnae parents who’d already been through it for one event, and both a magnet and charter elementary school principal for another event. I went on countless school tours, and sat in on local PTA and booster club meetings at neighborhood schools, keeping tabs on their initiatives and progress.

Branching out to an even wider community, I agreed to join humorist Sandra Tsing Loh and author Christie Mellor, along with The LA Times, a vodka sponsor, generously donated Gourmandise chocolate desserts, and co-hosted a wildly successful “Martinis, Magnets & More,” public school survival seminar on my own Westside turf.

With the flood of emails following these events, I realized the scope of questions parents had, even fundamental ones, which weren’t readily answered by the District. That’s when I sat down and put it all together in one easy-to-understand Guidebook.

At the heart of all this work is to be able to offer nuts and bolts info on school options, how to navigate the often confusing (and disparate) application lotteries, but also to connect parents to each other and encourage them to get involved locally instead of flee.

In addition to writing my guidebook, I have spoken to many preschool parents in an attempt to calm fears and identify their public school options.

On the horizon:

Public speaking to prospective parents, preschools, booster club leaders, community leaders.

More Westside public school community events.

Considering ways to unite core parents from different schools to share successful strategies, resources, and support, working together to grow our neighborhood schools.

Perhaps I will give up this noble idea of community activism and become instead a private, self-serving, mind-my-own business capitalist as so many have done before me. But then an idea strikes me, and I envision an intuitive way to proceed.

Though at times I resist it, I feel called to do this work. Can’t explain why. I just know things, and am not afraid to try them. I actually feel I can make a difference, and am encouraged when others seem to respond when I speak out.

It’s time to revitalize our neighborhood schools. It is already happening in little pockets of dedicated, core parent groups at many neighborhood schools. We’re building awareness and momentum. With a little twist. I hope you’ll join me.

Cheers.