Everyone gets on the waitlist: ICS #2

If you apply to Independence Charter School you will get a spot on the waitlist.   They pick every last name out of the box.  This year the waitlist was somewhere around 380 spots long.   Getting off the waitlist is another issue: 1-10 will likely get a spot, 10-20 still very promising, 20-30 is possible, after 30 is very unlikely.   I’m sure this varies from year to year.  I was told it’s largely dependent on how many people choose private school over ICS.

The funny thing about the ICS waitlist is that the school that got you on, may not be the school that gets you off.   What do I mean by that?  ICS has two tracts with regards to Spanish language instruction: immersion and enhanced.  Both have a 90/10 split in Kindergarten.  Immersion Read the rest of this entry »

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Winning the Lottery: Independence Charter School

Independence Charter was the only school which explicitly told us, “Do not hover.  Do not contact us.  It makes no difference.”  Their incoming class is filled by random lottery on the first Friday of December.  The only exception is siblings of current students, who get first preference.  Sibling preference actually fills up quite a lot of the kindergarten class – this year there were about 26 openings for the lottery out of a total 44 spots.  So, about half of the incoming class is siblings.  There were about 200 applications, giving us about a 10% chance of getting our son into Kindergarten (or about what my chances were of getting into any particular medical school back in 2003).   The business manager assured us on the phone that the lottery was random, “We actually, literally, pull the names out of a hat.  Well, nowadays it’s a big box because there are so many kids applying.  You’re welcome to come view the process.”

And that’s exactly what we did this past December.  We dragged Read the rest of this entry »

More On Language Immersion

After my post last week on language immersion programs in the area, an Independence Charter parent emailed me a list of resources on the philosophy of language immersion.  This list is from the Independence Charter website.

Recommended Websites

Research on language acquisition
Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Parent/teacher resources
Ñanduti: Foreign language learning for grades K-8 (run through CAL)
Contains section on learning benefits of early language acquisition.

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
A collection of newsletter articles, including “Immersion 101” and “Points for Parents.”

Additional parent resources are listed in the Parents section.

Specific articles
“Why Immersion?”
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
“What Parents Want to Know About Foreign Language Immersion Programs”
Center for Applied Linguistics
“Homework in an Immersion Classroom: Parental Friend or Foe?”
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition

Language Immersion And Philly Primary Schools

In the book, Critical Issues in Early Second Language Learning: Building for Our Children’s Future Myriam Met collected a series of essays and studies on foreign language study in early childhood (abstract).

In sum, the essays assert that learning a second language at an early age…

  • Has a positive effect on intellectual growth.
  • Enriches and enhances a child’s mental development.
  • Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
  • Improves a child’s understanding of his or her native language.
  • Gives a child the ability to communicate with people he or she would otherwise not have had the chance to know.
  • Opens the door to other cultures and helps the child understand and appreciate people from other countries.
  • Gives the child a head start in language requirements for college.
  • Increases job opportunities in many careers in which knowing another language is a real asset.

An interesting point that is made in the book is that Read the rest of this entry »

What The Heck is a Charter School Anyway?

So far my research has been all public versus private.  But there is a third option.  While technically public, Philadelphia Charter Schools are a bit of a different animal.  Philadelphia has 71 charter schools.  According to the charter school website,

Charter Schools are independently operated PUBLIC schools that are funded with federal, state and local tax dollars.  These schools are established to provide families with more educational alternatives for their children. Charters are non-profit, non sectarian, organizations that are approved by the local Board of Education   (the “authorizer”) or the State Appeal Board. Each charter has its own Board of Trustees and administrative staff and operates as a separate, independent  local educational agency (LEA) within Intermediate Unit 26 (IU 26).  The Pennsylvania Charter School Law – Act 22 of 1997 – set up charters to operate free of many of the local and state requirements that apply to traditional public schools.

It is my understanding that all charter schools base their enrollment on a lottery system, with some schools giving preference to siblings in the same school.  I sampled a couple of schools websites, choosing from the Philadelphia Charter School Directory.  The schedule at Independence Charter is an application is made available in September, must be completed by November, and admissions are made in December for the following fall.  Discovery Charter has an October-March timeline for the following fall.

I like the idea of charter schools because of the inherent diversity, which my family values.  However, as kids could attend a charter from all over the city, our other strong value of community may suffer.  Presumably, the most compelling reason to go the charter route would be educational quality, though that may vary.  Many of the charters have specialties (especially in the upper grades), so quality of core curricular subjects may vary especially.  This will be a core of my research as I look into charter schools.

I am learning that when it comes to Philadelphia schools, it is hard to have your cake and eat it too.