Monday, October 22, 2007

Do I need to list seven schools?

I'm confused! Parents for Public Schools advises parents to enter seven public schools on the enrollment application. The organization says that filling out the maximum allowance of seven choices increases the likelihood of receiving a school of your choice. I guess this makes sense because if you fill out seven schools then you're more likely to get a match with one of those seven. But then I keep hearing from moms who have already gone through the process that they listed only four or three—one mom who has a child at Alice Fong Yu says she listed only that school. All of these families got their top choice. And what about the lady who advised my husband to put your first choice down in all seven spaces? Let's start a conversation on this topic. I'll also ask Parents for Public Schools to address the issue in the comments section. Thanks!


  1. That advice - that you are more likely to get your top choice if you just list one school or list the same school seven times - is wrong, misguided and very, very risky. Please don't believe it! People who list a high-demand school only, or as just one of a handful of choices, are playing very, very bad odds. Spend some time with Adams' spreadsheet and you'll see why.
    For every person who played this game and won, there are 10 others who played and lost. You are much better off looking for seven schools you would be happy with. And if you can't find seven you like, list the ones you do like and hope you get lucky. But don't think there is some kind of "secret" to game the lottery. There just isn't.

  2. I just looked at the SFUSD website and recommend that everybody read the description of the diversity index process at:

    I was surprised by the importance of siblings and where you live. Here is my summary of how the system works, but you should read it for yourself. First, the index assigns siblings to a school and determines a base diversity index. Second, the index divides the remaining applicants into the two groups for schools with attendance areas. Applicants are grouped by living inside or outside of the attendance area. The index then assigns an applicant to the base diversity index that has a diversity profile that is the most different from the base profile. The index pulls applicants from the group that lives within the attendance area. Then the base index is recalculated and the process repeats until all spots are filled or the remaining diversity profile of the applicants in the attendance area do not change the diversity index. At this point, applicants outside the attendance area will be included in the selection for remaining spots.

    One point that is made on the SFUSD website is that there is no “ideal profile” because the index process always tries to mix everything up. At impacted schools, it seems like the “ideal profile” is to live in the attendance area of the school and to be different from the siblings of students already attending the school. If you live in the attendance area of the school you are interested in, you have an advantage, but you also need to be different from the siblings of the students currently enrolled in the school.

    Lastly, you have two months to find and marry a single parent at the school of your choice.

  3. Kate, I could be wrong, but I think that the people who listed only their top choice and got it would have gotten it whether they listed 7 different schools or just one school.

    Meanwhile, had they not gotten that school, they probably would have been assigned to the school closest to them with openings.

    I had some back and forth conversation with a couple PPS folks, and it seems that each parent who is not 'diverse' is assigned a (secret) lottery number. It sounds like a person's lottery number is more important than anything else.

    That way -- and maybe someone can correct me here -- but someone who puts Rooftop 1st, Clarendon 2nd and Lillenthal 3rd might actually be more likely to get Lillienthal than someone who puts Lillienthal 1st but has a lower lottery number.

    PPS or SFUSD, can you help us here?

  4. I've sat through several explanations of the diversity index over the years, but most of it evaporates from my non-math-oriented brain. But I do know that it's not accurate that there's a single lottery number that's the value of each applicant. It's more complicated than that.

    It's one of those super-complex procedures of 1s and 0s. If English is the primary home language, that's a 0. If not, that's a 1. (or maybe vice versa...) Then as the computer runs the applicants for each school, it's aiming to mix up the 1s and 0s. (Most of the top-scoring schools have lots of Chinese applicants whose primary home language is not English, so that gives an idea of where an English-speaking family might fit in, as an example.) Then repeat the process for income (it's just -- above vs. below a certain cutoff). You get the idea.

  5. From what I understood, the reason for putting 7 goes like this.

    If you put 3 and do not get any you are put behind those who list 7 and do not get any in the wait pool.

    Is this correct?

  6. Here's the example I've given to high school applicants, though it's a bit different (because it's not really realistic to list a full 7 high schools; most savvy parents list 4 or 5).

    Say you live in the Richmond and you prefer super-popular Washington High, so you ONLY list Washington.

    In your part of town, other options are Galileo and Raoul Wallenberg, plus you're not too far from Lincoln. All those schools are high-quality and popular.

    If you only list Washington and don't get it on the first round -- it has 6-7 applicants per seat -- it's guaranteed that Gal, Wallenberg and Lincoln will fill up on the first round, and you don't have a shot at them. So if you're assigned to the closest school to your home with openings, that's likely to be Mission or John O'Connell high schools, far from the Richmond. Those are the stories of kids assigned to schools "across town"! You can probably work the process to get one of the closer schools via the wait pool, but you could have saved yourself the trouble and angst.

    To me, this high-school example with fewer schools is easier to comprehend. But I think the same principle applies.

  7. Caroline,

    I think that AFTER all of the diversity factor people are assigned, everyone else -- those that offer no diversity whatsoever (I'm in that category, and it sounds like Kate is as well) are in fact, I'm pretty sure, ranked by a lottery number.

    I actually am a math-person, so I have spent a lot of time working through this. Here's how I see it.

    Let's put aside all of the people who offer diversity - they get ranked as you said.

    Now, all the rest of the folks can be assigned in one of two ways:

    1. SCHOOLS PICK STUDENTS. This would be that there is a list of schools that the computer goes down: e.g. first, assignments are made at Rooftop, then at Clarendon, then at AFY, then at Claire B., etc. Rooftop looks to see who has listed it first. A lottery happens and 25 of those people get a spot. Then Clarendon does the same, etc. In this system, what you rank makes a big difference if you know what order the schools assign.

    2. STUDENTS PICK SCHOOLS. In this way, there is a lottery assigning a number to each non-diverse applicant. Then it goes in order of applicant. The Smiths, with number 1, have Rooftop ranked first, so they get rooftop. The Johnsons, with number 200, have Rooftop ranked first, but it is filled up, so the computer looks to see if the Johnson's second choice, Alvarado, has vacancies. It does. the Johnsons get Alvarado.

    See the difference? One method is by schools, the other method is by applicants. When you are talking about mathematically matching two separate variables, there are really only two ways to do it: by one variable or the other. (the third way, possibly, is to switch mid-way, but that is confusing.)

    My guess is, and the PPS volunteers with whom I spoke (who were mathematically inclined) agreed, that the most likely method of assigment is the latter. It is how housing decisions, for example, are done at universities. It's not complicated. The only difference is that SFUSD for some bizarre reason keeps the assignment order secret.

    I hope that explanation clarifies my thinking. Perhaps someone else with a statistical background can chime in here.


  8. I'm also a math person. 3 years ago, when I was going through this, this is how it worked. The SFUSD had a very detailed alogrithm on-line, the link is now broken. Unfortunately because it was invaluable in helping me understand how it all worked. Perhaps Parents for Public Schools could ask the SFUSD to fix their link (I sent in a request, but never heard back!!)

    Disclaimer: this process could have changed, call the SFUSD Enrollment office to confirm!

    Siblings get priority if families meet the first round deadline.

    Then, for everyone else:

    For first round, they put in all the requests for one school together, regardless of how you ranked it. If you put it on your list, you were entered in to the pool.

    Then the diversity index alogrithm is run.

    Rank was looked at to break 'ties'. The last step before assignment if you will.

    So if Family Y and Family X had the same diversity profile for a school, Family Y ranked the school #1, Family X rated it 7, Family Y got in.

    I think it's important to list 7 schools you wouldn't mind attending, reduces the odds of getting assigned. The key is to look outside the "hot" schools, list some you like (in your top 3 even) but are still considered hidden gems!

    That said, I listed one choice (the school my first attends) for my second child, because of sibling priority.

  9. Oops, I forgot the neighborhood school, people who live in the neighborhood for the schools which have attendance areas have priority over someone who doesn't.

    The last thing they look at is rank for those tie breakers.

    So if Family X & Family Y live in the neighborhood, same diversity, Y ranks the school 1, X ranks it 7, Y gets in.

    If Family X & Family Y are both outside the neighborhood, same thing.

    BUT if Family X lives in the attendance area and Family Y doesn't, they get in, because of the attendance area priorities.

    For more info:

  10. Question: Is the SFUSD school map here:

    ...the one that shows you what neighborhood assignment zone you're in?

    Also: Occasionally there is more than one "orange/elementary" entity in an area, such as the Kate Kennedy School/Mission Education Center and Fairmount ES that are in ours. What gives?

  11. To the anonymous poster a couple posts up, what I am talking about is how ties are broken among completely non-diverse families that all rank the schools the same.

    So, if you look at the list of schools from previous years, you will see, for example, that a few hundred people listed Rooftop as number 1. Of those, let's say that 100 don't meet any diversity criteria, so on a diversity scale, they are all the exact same, the lowest.

    My question is how, among those families, it is determined who gets the remaining 10 spots at Rooftop (those left after slots go to families who present diversity). To assign those, I'm pretty sure that it resorts to a ranking among applicants.

    That's the lottery number to which I refer.

    Most of the explanations assume either that most/all applicants present some diversity, and the other ones assume that there will not be more people listing a school number one than there are slots.

  12. Oh, and as to neighborhood assignment, we were told very clearly at a PPS event recently that the neighborhood school map only becomes relevant for families that present diversity.

    I don't mean to be fixated on this "non-diversity" thing so much, but that one is really the black box. There is no "non-diverse" score like there is a diversity score. That is why there just has to be a lottery number.

  13. "Of those, let's say that 100 don't meet any diversity criteria, so on a diversity scale, they are all the exact same, the lowest."

    This is a tie. And this is where the rank comes in and this is when it matters where you ranked your school.

    Neighborhood attendance comes in to play if you add to the diversity of the school. But if you don't add to the diversity and somebody out of the neighborhood does, then being in the attendance area won't matter.

    This is a good document to read:

  14. "Of those, let's say that 100 don't meet any diversity criteria, so on a diversity scale, they are all the exact same, the lowest."

    This is a tie. And this is where the rank comes in and this is when it matters where you ranked your school.


    Again, if 100 of those people all ranked Rooftop first - then it must be some sort of lottery among those folks, right?

  15. "Again, if 100 of those people all ranked Rooftop first - then it must be some sort of lottery among those folks, right?"

    Yes. From what I understand from the way it worked 3 years ago, when you have a multiple tie like this, it becomes random luck of the draw.

  16. Mission Education Center is a specialty school for newcomer, non-English-speaking children, not a regular school of assignment; and Kate Kennedy is an SFUSD Child Development Center (preschool/pre-K), housed on the same site. So there's not a regular K-5 school there that you might be assigned to.

    Thanks, re the clarifications on how the lottery works. My overall point is that your individual child has different chances at different schools depending on the applicant pool, which I think is still conveyed in the more-detailed explanations.

  17. As a math person I understand the urge to reverse engineer the allocation process. However I think the key thing to understand is that there is some randomness in the system. You cannot game the system so that you get the school you want. It is very tempting to try to do this but it is a waste of time. When we did the lottery 6 years ago we only put down one school, in an attempt to get what we wanted (an immersion program). It did not work and we were allocated to our neighborhood school which at that time was not as strong as it is today. Fortunately we were able to readjust and find an up and coming nearby school that at that time was not so popular. Things worked out for us but in retrospect I think we should have spent more time trying to find other schools that were good enough. I suggest people should put down as many schools as they can on the list that they would accept. I know this is very hard in an age where everyone wants the best. You should try to look beyond the top ten schools. But don’t put down seven schools just for the sake of it. Make sure that you will be happy with any of your list. The district would like you to put down seven schools so that they can get a good percentage of people that got one of their choices.

  18. andrew raises an interesting issue.

    i never for a second planned on "gaming" the system. i keep coming back to the point that was pounded into me by the PPS people: vote your true feelings. rank accordingly.

    that said, we want an immersion program and we have to be able to walk or take a short bus ride to school (i don't have a car to use). we don't plan on applying to massively oversubscribed schools. and i have put a lot of work into touring (indeed, will have seen at least 21 schools by the time we're done). so we're not dilettantes and we're not being unreasonable, i think.

    given our need to find a nearby school and an immersion school, i can't really find seven that meet these criteria. i can probably find four or five. and i am not applying to the clarendons and rooftops of the world. so, if i do as the PPS people suggest and vote my true feelings, i would only have 4 or 5 listed, not 7.

    what should i do?

    (kate -- that's an interesting wrinkle. to really take advantage of the "choice" in our district, you kind of have to be able and willing to drive your kids to school. i mean, kinders on school buses? not so much...not everyone can drive, either because of work or lack of vehicle. so only people of a certain class can really take advantage of it conveniently with young kids...i guess as a product of LA desegregation in the 70s, the bussing thing gets my goat....)

    but i guess that's a separate issue.)

    thoughts on my question above, smart people?

  19. Kim,

    Your question -- and that of Kate -- is precisely why I offered up my two potential methods of assignment -- by school or by individual.

    If the computer assigns by school, you are more safe to list only 4, if your schools are generally less popular. e.g. Fairount will look to see how many people rank it first. You are one of them. You get it. Capiche.

    BUT if assignment goes by individual, then you are not helped by listing only 4. E.g let's say that your assignment number is 4000 out of 4200. First number 1 is filled, then 2, then 3 etc etc etc. By the time they get to you, all 4 of your choices are taken -- even Fairmount, which went to the 50 people who ranked it lower than you but had higher lottery numbers. Now that all 4 of your choices are gone, you get sent to the school closest to you that has openings. Based on where you said you lived, that might be Cesar Chavez or Sanchez, if they remain less popular this year. Or it may be something all across town. Luckily for you, I guess, many of the less popular schools are in or near the Mission. But that's a whole different story!!

    See my interest in knowing how the system works? It's not to "game" it, but rather, to be strategic.

    I do think that at the end of the day, it seems best to list 7.

  20. thanks for the clarification, anon. i can't believe the district is able to keep the exact specifics of the algorithm, etc. a secret. it seems amazing, given people's tendency to chat. and, yes, i would very much like to know how it works.

    i think we're actually in fairmount's "neighborhood," btw.

    a related question, i guess, is if there is any point in slotting oversubscribed schools anywhere but the highest spots on your list. based on our family's top priorities (geography and immersion) and lesser ones (visual arts, safety and academic rigor) i may well have to consider rooftop and clarendon in *low* spots; they may meet the criteria better than any other.

    but, given the number of people who will rank these schools #1, am i just wasting a spot and buying a one-way ticket to, say, junipero serra?

    the need to know better how this all works -- it is maddening.

  21. I attended the enrollment workshop at the Enrollment Fair today. One piece of clarification I have to offer is that assignments are done on a school by school basis first independent of ranking. Ranking only comes into play after tentative assignments are first completed.

    What I mean to say is that if you list seven schools, your name gets thrown into each school's lottery regardless of where you ranked it. Tentative assignments are then completed at each school without regard to whether or not you get into another school. If you happen to get into two or more schools, only then will the computer look at how you listed the schools and offer you a placement at the higher ranked school.

    BTW, Thank you for this blog!

  22. Martin (about 10 posts up) is absolutely correct. The reason to put 7 is that if you don't put 7, then when you don't get the school you want, and wait list yourself, then you are BEHIND the people who put 7, and didn't get their choice.
    This 7 business is all about the waitlist process. Fill in the 7 - it's easy, because generally, anything past #1 is irrelevant (read on).

    Kate, please keep in mind that you really truly only have 1 choice: the school you put first. If you put a high demand school (i.e. Alvarado, Buena Vista, etc.) 2nd, or 3rd, or 7th, you have absolutely zero chance of getting into that school. Someone told me about the "Adam" spreadsheet floating around, and it seems that it illustrates this. You have ONE choice - the line you put first.

    ... dave (a happy Flynn parent)

  23. I don't think Dave's advice is necessarily true. Your name gets thrown into each school's selection process whether you list it first or seventh. Rankings only come into play if you happen to get into two or more schools. Someone I know who went through this last year got West Portal in the first round and listed it second.

  24. Wow, I just got off the phone with Archie Fokin at SFUSD, and you are absolutely right and I am wrong. You do indeed have more than one choice. Unless you get into more than one school, your rankings are irrelevant. Each of your 7 choices are treated "equally".
    As a statistician, IMHO this is the craziest and worst system imaginable. Wow, I'm stunned. For one, how can the system actually allow someone to get into more than one school? Crazy.

    Okay, disregard my comment above.

    ... dave

  25. Just want to say that my understanding also chimes with the poster that explained that the rankings mean nothing unless your child comes out of the system with "multiple tentative acceptances" (i.e, assigned to more than one school). Then, the ranking is used to determine which school you would prefer over the other(s).

    And, yes, the system apparently runs through each school separately (according to the presenter/programmer at the Enrollment Fair). That's how a child could possibly end up with more than one assignment.

    I'm actually quite happy with this revelation, in that I no longer feel like I will have to dwell so much on any "gaming" of the order of my choices and can simply put those that I like in the order I actually like them.

    Kate, great blog, BTW!

  26. One additional comment...

    Yes, if you list all 7 choices and get none, you will have priority in the wait pool over someone who lists less than 7 and gets none.

    However, as other posters have said, it's really only wise to put all 7 if you truly would be happy with any of the 7. That's because you could very well be assigned one of those 7. If you are, and you're not happy with the assignment (and choose to go in the wait pool), then you will then have LOWER priority than if you had put less than 7 and got none. Make sense?

    Specifically, the wait pool priority is the following (NOT including appeals, siblings, late filers, etc.):

    1) Listed 7, got none
    2) Listed < 7, got none
    3) Listed any number, got one

    Sure, it's a risk, because we just don't know what the system will spit out for our child. But, IMO, putting down only schools you would be (somewhat) happy with is the wisest choice, even if less than 7.

  27. Amy - that is a HUGE relevation. Thank you!!!

    That is COMPLETELY different from how the waitpool process was explained to us at a PPS event.

    So does this mean that the only people who get in off the waitlist are those who didn't get any of their choices? Or is there a basis to think that there is still hope to come off the waitlist if you get one of your lower 7's.

    My previous strategy was going to be to list 7, and if we don't get our 1-3 choice (or whatever) then we'd try to waitlist there, but at least feel confident that we have SOMETHING better than an undersubscribed school.

    But now I'm rethinking that ... ?

  28. FYI - I got that info from the Enrollment Guide on the Wait Pool page (don't have it in front of me right now or I'd give the exact page). I'm curious how it was explained to you? I have recently attended PPS events myself, but I can't recall specific wait pool info.

    I totally understand what you're saying. If you end up with no luck with the wait pool, of course you'd rather end up with an assignment that you listed rather than a random, undersubscribed school. Although everyone's chances are obviously going to be different, yes, I believe there is hope for the wait pool even if you get an assignment from one of your choices. I have recently met at least 2 people who went through this last year/year before. They had accepted their assignment (1 of their 7) and were later called after the 10-day count for their wait pool choice, and switched. Granted, an earlier call would be nicer, but the most shuffling understandably happens after the 10 day count.

    So, IMO, I think your strategy is still very valid, as long as the 7 you list are ones that you visited and found acceptable. If you can't even come up with 7 that you find acceptable, then I would say don't put down 7 just for the sake of it. For example, I know someone else who didn't visit any schools, simply put down the schools that she heard about from other people (which were naturally all the over requested schools) but then just guessed at the final 1 or 2, based on proximity to her house. She ended up getting one of those, but would never consider sending her child there. So, in that case, it would have been better for her to have listed less than 7. I don't believe she ended up even doing the wait pool, so who knows what would have happened there. She chose to go parochial.

    Hope this helps...

  29. I am wondering how the waitlist system works for middle school. I can easily imagine picking seven schools at the elementary level; there are many more wonderful ones than there were six years ago when we applied....or am I just more aware and relaxed now? But it's harder to imagine picking seven middle schools; the pool of schools is overall much smaller, and there are issues of proximity and desire for special programs. For us, this means continuing language immersion. We have no qualms about going public for middle school, it's just that we don't want to trek to the Outer Sunset or Presidio, or lose the language. So guess we will just put down James Lick and Hoover and hope for the best. Traditionally Lick has been easy to get into, but that is changing as the school improves and more immersion kids are graduated from Grade 5.

    Any thoughts about middle school enrollment / waitlist issue would be appreciated. Any PPS or current middle school parents checking out this blog?


  30. I'm a veteran middle-school parent, in my 6th and last year as a parent at Aptos Middle School. (And also, as others have posted, strangely fascinated with this blog.) I've always been interested in the enrollment process and have supported and counseled a lot of families through the process over the years.

    My brain is unequipped to deal with statistical probabilities and related strategies (that's not where my counseling focus is). So I'll back up and give you the bigger picture on middle schools.

    No, it's not realistic to put down seven middle schools (nor certainly high schools) -- don't worry about that. But the good news is that far, far more families get their choices for middle school than for K, and that's even though I'd bet very few families put down more than three or four. I don't have the statistics at my fingertips, but I know they're much higher, and that jibes with a lot of anecdotal experience too. The only ones I do know have only put down one or maybe two oversubscribed ones -- and have still gotten their choices easily in the second round if they didn't decide to go with their assignment.

    James Lick is getting steadily more popular, but it's not oversubscribed yet and probably won't get to that point for years. Aptos has been on the same upward popularity curve as James Lick, but ahead of it, and Aptos still isn't oversubscribed (that is, more first-choice applicants than seats). Aptos isn't on your radar because it doesn't have immersion, but I'm just using its rise as a gauge for what to expect for Lick.

  31. Thanks for responding, Caroline. I'm the poster who asked the question about middle schools.

    In fact, we are looking at Aptos, but it's a long shot because of our desire to continue the language immersion. Your response helps me clarify that more, because I was wondering if we would be be at some weird disadvantage if we put only two schools (the only ones that have Spanish immersion at the middle school level). It's what we really want, and so my gut tells me we would be sad if we put another, even an up-and-comer like Aptos, or an established powerhouse like Presidio, and then ended up getting it. Would rather get what we really want.

    I think you are right that James Lick is still under-subscribed in the first round, but this may be changing faster than you suggest. They had more apps than ever last year for immersion, but were able to accomodate them due to expanded SI seats. In the next few years, more and more SI schools are going to graduate 5th graders (from Buena Vista we have already added Alvarado, then Fairmount, now Monroe, then come Marshall and Flynn down the pike). Even if there were not a higher percentage of Spanish immersion parents willing to try James Lick as its reputation improves (and I think it is improving), there is just a larger pool of kids from which to draw for that program. There is some talk of expanding again the number of SI seats at Lick; I'm not sure what the status is.

    I'm assuming--and hoping!--that we have an excellent shot of getting into either Lick or Hoover this time around, but wouldn't it be great if more of these middle schools became more popular so as to make this an issue? Make it not all about Presidio and Giannini.

    Thanks again.

  32. Anonymous, I do think it's happening that other middle schools are rising. Roosevelt, Marina and Francisco are among schools that sound like completely feasible options -- they're all across town from us, so they weren't on my enrollment radar.

    As with schools at all levels, those that hit a critical mass of high-need students struggle. The Chron has been writing about Visitacion Valley Middle School, and while it does sound like the classic case of "critical mass of high-need students," the caring veteran principal just won a high-profile award, and it's clear that the school staff is working admirably to meet the needs of some really challenged kids.

    The entire middle-school scene is completely different from the scary cauldron of hormones, drugs and violence that I envisioned when my kids were small!

  33. I wanted to point out that in San Francisco your little white kid DOES offer diversity. About the highest percentage of causasian kids in any one school that I looked at (except Creative Arts Charter) is 40 or so percent at Miraloma. Most schools in SF have no more than about 20-25% caucasian kids and many have far fewer. Obviously if you try for a school where many other caucasian parents are trying (West Portal, Clarendon, Alvarado etc) then your kid is in the batch with the other causasian kids and many or may not offer diversity to the equation at the moment their name comes up.

    For us, we put our neighborhood school, LR Flynn, first and I was positive we'd get it. Because they look at the attendance area applicants first, and because my little blond boy does offer diversity in this largely hispanic school he was in like, well, Flynn.

    BTW, because Spanish immersion is only in its 4th year at Flynn - each year bringing more middle class families to the school, it is worth noting that within my son's class there are 9 hispanic kids, 9 caucasian kids and one African American kid.

    We are very happy with the school, and Miles tells everyone "I am in Spanish Immersion!"

  34. kathy b., it is great that you and and your family are liking Leonard Flynn! I have heard wonderful things about this up-and-coming gem and I also love seeing the enormous sparkly mural every time we drive by the school on Cesar Chavez.

    To your comment, I would only say that the lottery does not consider race as a factor, so, technically, being caucasion/white does not contribute to an application in any direction. To the degree that race correlates with some other factors, such as family income, it may contribute. And you are certainly right to point out that "diversity" can mean different things in the lottery at any given school, so depending on the circumstances of class population via sibling preference at the time the lottery is run, one's middle-class child could be adding or subtracting diversity.

    This may especially be true at an improving school like Flynn, where younger siblings may be mostly socio-economically disadvantaged in lottery terms, and an incoming middle-class kid who does not qualify for Section 8 housing or free lunch would indeed add diversity. For relatively balanced schools it might depend on the mix of siblings that year.

    And of course, the chances are better for anyone at the schools with fewer applications, though which are those is a changing scene year by year, thanks to improving and also better known schools.

    I think the best idea is to find a mix of seven schools that one would truly be willing to attend, in rank order of preference, that includes at least one rising gem with likely fewer applications. That way, there is a good chance of getting one of the seven (versus an altogether undesired offer), and still doing the rounds of waitlisting to try to get a higher preference if desired.

    I have known families that did this. Most got their ultimate desired school at least by the 10-day count if not well before. Others removed themselves from the waitpool for choice #1 when the realized how much they loved their choice #6 or #7 once they were there.

  35. As with the articulate poster, Kim, we will not have a total of 7 schools that meet our criteria. I love the diversity and community of our neighborhood, but am not satisfied with our neighborhood school choices. Our only choices are either Spanish immersion or early start. We would prefer to teach our daughter a different language outside of school, and we are a late night family. Not to mention we would like to set our minds and hearts in a direction (like immersion, or non immersion.) As the system stands, we'd have to put 1/2 immersion schools, and 1/2 non. So then what, we let the random SFUSD computer system decide which path we set our child on? I'm not happy about that AT ALL. Yes, call me a control freak, to my face even. I admit it. But my partner and I want to be the ones to decide our daughters education path. So there.

    So, we're forced to drive, or put high demand schools on our application. It's frustrating, to say the least, that the process is so difficult to navigate and so random. For our family (and most of yours) this is one of THE important decision for our daughters future.

    I bet if people were able to pick their favorite school (2 choices, say) the diversity would come out the same as what we have in SFUSD now.
    We'll put the 4 we can live with, and plan on wait listing.

    THAT SAID, we need to sit down and re-think this system. The SFUSD beurocracy isn't equipt to change the system in this century. Lets, put a group of people together and design a better system; a group that has a good math/engineering component to figure out the system details. THEN we can offer it to SFUSD. Anyone?

    Best of luck everyone!