Friday, February 15, 2008

Discussion topic: "dream" assignment process

A visitor to The SF K Files has offered up a topic for discussion: How do you think the SFUSD assignment process should work? What would your "dream" process be?

I definitely like the choice we have—even though getting to know all the schools is time consuming. I only wish my odds for getting my top-choice school were higher. And I wish we could receive our assignments sooner. This waiting is driving me nuts.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Recognizing that it is impossible to meet all and every competing need, I wish that you could have the option to go to any school in the district, but be guaranteed a school from a 'cluster' of designated schools (say 7 schools).

    The cluster could be organized a number of ways - by geography, by program (all immersion, for example) or a mix of schools with various programs.

    I do not think 'neighborhood only'would or can fly based on parents saying they want more choices and options. Parents have made it clear they want choice and enrollment data show that they overwhelmingly are NOT choosing their neighborhood school as their top choice. I also believe that we cannot limit parents to fewer choices.

    I'm sure there is more, but here's something to get it started!

  2. I agree, schools should be banded in groups by a number of criteria - geographical area, language program and popularity - you would then be allowed to chose a max of say 2 or 3 from each band but be guaranteed to get one of your choices. It's the touring 20, choosing 7 (and not the most popular ones) and still not be guaranteed of getting any that is the most frustrating to us.

  3. I agree that choosing 7 of the schools and the thought or chance of not getting any is probably the most stressful and frustrating part of the process. I stated this in a previous posting that I think location to where you live to your choices should be factored in and given great consideration. And again, I don't believe in mandatory neighborhood schools either, but I believe that a school close by (walking or quick muni ride)to where you live is important, especially for elementary school age kids. So for me, I want a guarantee of at least the schools that are close by.

  4. Choice is not working for the people it was intended to benefit... so here's my solution:

    1. All public elementary schools offer the exact same programs (even if that means abolishing Spanish immersion or offering Mandarin immersion at every school). Every campus would be provided with language tutors for ESL students.

    2. You must attend your neighborhood school. If you don't like your neighbors, move.

    3. Any school in an undesirable/poor neighborhood receives additional funding to pay their principal and teachers substantially more.

    4. Funds from any parent fundraising initiatives at any school go into a common pot which is divided equally among all schools.

    This would result in no more nor less integration or segregation than is currently seen, and would offer quality of life improvements to all concerned. There is no process, so there is no waiting.

  5. And... by the way... I'd still like to see this topic posted: why didn't you choose your neighborhood school?

  6. I'll answer about the neighborhood school -- it will amuse newcomers who haven't heard this before.

    Our neighborhood school is Miraloma, around the corner from us. At the time we applied, for K in 1996, pretty much all middle-class neighbors chose other schools. It had a poor reputation in the neighborhood.

    We were parents at Miraloma Co-op Preschool down the hill. One friend there said: "If 10 of us active, involved families went to Miraloma Elementary, it could turn the school around!" Then we went to tour the school and met the principal and went nope, not happening, forget it. He was truly pathetic, the opposite of a go-getter. You could see some potential at the school, but this was clearly a guy who's attitude was: Don't bother me trying to make changes; I'm happy here in my rut, no matter how many kids are adversely affected.

    And we could see that other schools we looked at appeared much more promising.

    So then a couple of years later that principal retired, a well-known and respected new principal was moved into the job, and Miraloma started to take off right away. By '99, when my younger started K, I would have been willing to send her there, but we had already put down roots in the Lakeshore community.

  7. You left out the part about Miraloma having a large black population at that time.... And now it doesn't.

    In any case, your example of that principal shows why teachers and principals at "undesirable" schools should get paid a lot more (thereby presumably displaying the positive effects of competition for their higher paying jobs).

  8. I agree about the need to pay significantly more to principals and teachers at low-performing schools.

    Miraloma's black population has indeed sharply declined. However, a surge of middle-class parents started requesting the school BEFORE that happened. The difference was the new principal. Then, BECAUSE a lot of middle-class parents (largely white and Asian) started requesting the school, they started getting seats.

    The reasons for the drop in Miraloma's AA population are pretty clear-cut. There were ) two "satellite assignment zones" for Miraloma in Bayview/HP, with busing. (There still are, technically, but the system works differently now.) In the past, kids from those zones were being assigned to Miraloma by default -- if they didn't request a different school, or if they didn't file an enrollment application at all, they were assigned to Miraloma. (AA families are the most likely not to exercise their right to school choice by filing an application, unfortunately.) Once Miraloma started getting a lot of requests, the demographics started changing.

    So as I say, it wasn't a drop in the black population that made Miraloma attractive to middle-class families, because the black population hadn't dropped when that trend started. This was an attractive school really ripe for a turnaround, with one daunting obstacle in the uninspiring principal.

  9. Also, keep in mind that middle class kids did not swipe the seats of less-advantaged kids. Miraloma was only half full five years ago. It would probably have been slated for closure two years ago had the school not added enrollment every year for the last five or six years.

    The biggest problem to me district-wide is that certain demographic groups are less likely to file their enrollment forms on time, and miss out on the first round. I know PPS and other groups had a big outreach push last year in the African-American, Chinese, Latino communities. I haven't heard whether these initiatives led to higher percentage of on-time filings though. I think ads on MUNI, like the "get tested for hepatits C" public health ads I see all over, publicizing the first round deadline would be worth trying.

  10. To Caroline or whomever:

    Why CAN'T the public schools notify earlier? Does it really take two months to run the software program to make the assignments?

    If the public schools notified earlier, then it would allow people to drop out of the private school application process, which would ease matters BOTH for parents applying for private schools AND for private schools, who could potentially have fewer applications to weekd through, children to screen, parents to interview, and coffees/open houses to throw. I can't imagine that it is in the best interest of private schools to evaluate students who hope to go there only if they don't get into one of their top choice public.

    I mean, I get why the private school process takes so long - with 300 applicants, each needing to be evaluated, it takes until March. But computers should be faster.

    Someone please explain?

  11. I also think that the key to a better assignment process is to improve all SF schools, but I don't think there is a need to be so rigid or uniform about it. Being able to choose your child's school has two goals, as I see it: the first is that it leads to more innovation among the schools, through greater parent participation and schools' desires to offer programs which are special or a certain type of school community feel. The second goal is integration.

    While my "dream" assignment process would also include a default neighborhood school within walking distance (if I didn't get my first 3 choices, say), this kind of system does not really bring us any closer to either ethnic or socioeconomic integration.

    Like one of the posters above, I agree that the heart of any revamping of the process should be an all-out attempt to improve "low-preforming" schools and schools in poorer neighborhoods. This could be done by pouring tremendous resources into schools (yes, higher pay, but also, reduced class size, special enrichment programs, early intervention programs, more experienced general and special ed teachers etc. etc.) and by encouraging local parent participation and empowerment.

    I don't see, however, why this would need to mean that no school could have any different programs from any other. I was in deep shock when I started touring schools at how little was funded by the district (no PE, art, language or music unless funded by the PTA????), and I agree that there is an inherent lack of equity when some schools are able to fundraise for programs that other schools can't have. But as long as we're talking "dream" solutions, why not try to bring all schools up to a certain standard rather than reducing them all to the lowest (unacceptable) common denominator? There should be language and potentially immersion programs in all elementary schools, as well as art, music, PE, science through gardening, as well as lower class sizes for 4th -5th grades --all "extra" programs I saw funded at different elementary schools I toured. If there were a genuine attempt at fully funding public education in the way it should be funded, and a creative attempt at improving all schools, choice would be just a matter of finding the best match for your child and there would be way more people just attending their neighborhood school.

  12. You left out the part about Miraloma having a large black population at that time.... And now it doesn't.
    During the same time period, the African American population in SF has been cut in half. It's down to 8% in San Francisco (Miraloma is still double or more that.)

  13. Many Miraloma African American families stopped choosing Miraloma when they felt there were other and better viable options for their kids closer to home. Many families have left for Charles Drew (when it became a Dream School) and quite a few have left to go to KIPP.

  14. KIPP schools are grades 5-8 (though they have a lot of trouble filling the 5th grade, since SFUSD elementaries are K-5). So families aren't leaving Miraloma for KIPP, except possibly fifth-graders -- I'm not aware of the fifth grade emptying out.

    I don't know the logistics of the lottery -- I assume there's a ****load of inputting -- so I hope someone from PPS can answer.

    Luckily it isn't QUITE this bleak, though it should be a given that there is sufficient funding for all these programs:

    *** (no PE, art, language or music unless funded by the PTA????) ***

    Prop. H, approved by the voters a few years ago, provides city money to schools specifically for sports/P.E., arts and music (and libraries). Elementary schools are definitely seeing the benefits. Even before that, the district has managed to maintain a somewhat bare-bones instrumental music program in elementary schools -- 4th and 5th graders at every elementary can choose to take a weekly class in violin, flute, clarinet or trumpet, with a credentialed music teacher who roves from school to school. That's funded from the district budget. (Middle and high schools are another story. Some middle schools offer full band and orchestra, with free loaner instruments, and other arts programs too, as part of the daily curriculum; some have none. I believe all high schools have arts programs.)

    Site-based budgeting, the system Arlene Ackerman introduced, means that individual schools can decide how to allocate their budgets. That's a cruel joke to some extent, because almost all their funding goes to just paying teachers. But some can manage a few of those programs. Lakeshore has paid for the motor skills class with the school budget.

    Language programs aren't as common as one would expect. I think part of that might be that there are so many families who already speak a language other than English in the home, so the notion of teaching yet another language doesn't seem as imperative to those parents as it does to me.

    There are many setups providing extra funds to low-income schools -- just clearly not ENOUGH extra funds. One issue, though, is that middle-class families at schools with fewer low-income students scream bloody murder. I can't tell you how many times I've heard angry middle-class parents voicing outrage at schools' being "rewarded for failure" or "penalized for high achievement." So even though devoting extra resources to high-need schools seems like an obvious thing to do, it's not that easy to implement.

    A corollary is that schools with a lot of high-need kids who need extra help in basic academics often have to scrap "enrichments" like arts and music to provide remedial basics. In fact, the aforementioned KIPP has no arts for that reason -- it's drill-drill-drill.

  15. Caroline or Lorraine- So, what does one do if we run into a school we want to attend in our neighborhood and it appears to have an uninterested principal or teachers or the school seems to be "underfunded" and not going into what we think are basic important programs. Is there someone's attention we can bring this to? Because I can't imagine this could be acceptable (especially regarding uninterested staff), hence why nobody is applying to these schools?

  16. Indeed! - great question - I got the impression specifically when touring Fairmount that the parents (PTA?) had been instrumental in bringing the current Principal to the school. It gave me a lot of inspiration that whatever may be wrong with whichever school we eventually end up at, can be changed, if enough parents feel similarly.
    Although I am sure it is very difficult to "manage up-or-out" sub-standard teachers, most of the Principals I talked to on my touring marathon, assured me that they saw this as part of their objectives.

  17. I wonder if there's much you can do. Glen Park Elementary is one that I've heard of (all 3rd hand so take with a grain of salt) as having a principal that "really needs to retire". Given its great location, I would expect that school to take off once there's a management change.

  18. Glen Park Elementary has high test scores, so the principal is probably firmly ensconced as long as she wants.

    I have to say there's probably not much a parent could do in the absence of major malfeasance. Of course, it could be that even a principal like the former guy at Miraloma appears off-putting to someone first meeting him and is actually an effective administrator -- though this seems pretty unlikely in that case -- I do think that was an extreme case.

  19. Funny, I thought the Glen Park principal was fine, she said all the right things and was very upfront about lack of middle class, involved parents. We would have loved to have included it on our list but did not.
    No PTA, a grim playground and not one single white face put us off.

  20. Lorraine here --
    Well, interesting question. My personal belief is that school change starts with a great principal. Once that leadership gets a strong teaching staff going (the former Miraloma principal definitely drew a line in the sand with the former staff and many left) and provides open arms to partner with parents, you have momentum to grow stronger. I think schools that have had a strong triad (principal, staff, parents) can survive for a while without one of the three (we see quite a few schools with strong teachers and parent groups survive without an effective principal for a few years.)

    Glen Park is such an interesting case - it IS a school that seems to have cracked the code to get the best from students who are disenfranchised and are not doing as well in other schools. She's doing something right. Yet no PTA, no real parent community. In this case, maybe it works fine.

    But I have scads of research that - on the whole - shows kids perform better in schools where parents are part of the community and are partners with their children's teachers. I can't help but wonder if they would be doing even better with children academically there if this was the case.

  21. Lorraine again--
    We decided to go to Miraloma when it was definitely not the place to be - and hoped that, with the handful of us that were there with kinder and 1st graders, starting a PTA and starting to do tours we might make an impact and bring more families there.

    I really never in my wildest dreams imagined that Miraloma would take off like it has - it changed my life (and my career from Corporate Marketing to Nonprofit ED.)

    I encourage families to go to a school and 'make it happen' but feel that there are fewer and fewer parents I know who seem willing to do this - and I can't blame them. It's exhausting and time consuming!

    I'm very reluctant - and skeptical - of the idea of a parent group signing up for a school to change it (sort of like marrying someone and then proceeding to make them different! It's probably doomed from the get go.)Choose a school for what it is and then make what's good better. That's the approach those of us that started the PTA and SSC at Miraloma had and I believe has really stayed with us as we grow and strengthen our community (which I absolutely LOVE.)

    But you have to be open minded and flexible - what seems like priority as a kindergarten parent can change over the years. It sure has for me.

  22. I'm very reluctant - and skeptical - of the idea of a parent group signing up for a school to change it.... Choose a school for what it is and then make what's good better.

    Lorraine -- you're probably aware of what's up at Daniel Webster lately? A parent group is bringing its kids and a Spanish immersion program to the campus in the next year or two to stake a claim at their neighborhood school -- a school that serves the Potrero Hill projects and also hosts two ESL strands... and happens to be surrounded by million+ dollar homes.

    When I toured the school in 2000 there were four kindergarten classes completely segregated by black, Chinese, and Hispanic. Zero white kids. A few years later I read that two white kids were attending the school -- a brother and sister with homeless parents who lived under the freeway in the Dogpatch neighborhood.

    At some point in the late 90s, a white parent group of about 10 infiltrated the school, but I heard they all pulled their kids out by the end of the first year. Will it work this time around?

    As far as I know, the school has always had a strong principal -- that is not the issue here. It's about race and class, 100%. People who try to spin it differently are not being honest with themselves.

    I truly think that most people don't give rat's ass whether or not their kid learns Spanish in elementary school. But they have found that enough people of their kind are attracted to these programs, and a safety-in-numbers environment ensues. (You don't find a demand for Spanish immersion programs in the suburbs, do you?) These programs, for the most part, are about "parallel play" -- not the integration that so many people say they want (but in actuality, don't). People want to bring their own marbles to the game, and bring the game too.

  23. I give more than a "rat's ass" if my son learns a second (in his case third) language in elementary school, it's one of the things I can not offer him at home. It is my number one priority in choosing a school, I chose all immersion programs regardless of the racial make-up of the classrooms (and many of them were two or less white kids per class when I toured) and without having any indication of who else was making similar choices.
    I am European, I want my son to be worldly and have more than a "reading and writing education" - You may be right about lack of demand for immersion programs in the suburbs, I suggest it is indicative of why I choose not to live there.
    You do not know me or my family, please do not assume to know the reasons behind the school choices we have made.

  24. I've made no assumptions about any person in particular. My assumptions are generalized, based on the behavior of crowds.

  25. Crowd's of what? People, or rats?

  26. I strongly disagree that parents don't give a rat's ass about whether their kids learns another language in school. My friends whose kids have done immersion were and are passionate about it. Back when there were fewer immersion schools, they REALLY had to sweat it to get into one. The notion that that's the only way to get your kid into a school with middle-class parents is clearly unfounded, too.

    Palo Alto (your quintessential high-income suburb) just had a big push to bring a Mandarin immersion school in. One issue is that the model used in SFUSD, and I think the standard model, is TWO-WAY immersion. You're supposed to have half native English speakers and half native speakers of the target language. Most suburbs that have populations of educated middle-class parents who might want immersion don't have any populations to speak of EXCEPT native-born white. The more diverse suburbs (Daly City, places like Pinole), which could half-fill a school with native Spanish, Chinese or Tagalog speakers, are lower-income and aren't getting that demand from educated parents.

  27. We are at Alvarado and James Lick Middle School in the SI program, and the second language was a very important piece of the decision for us. Alvarado has a significant (about 1/3) white/professional class population, but James Lick does not to the same degree, though it is gentrifying some. The pull there really was the language, as well as the stellar principal and teachers. If we wanted the safety of more folks like us we would have chosen Presidio, Hoover, maybe even Aptos, with their honors tracks and more white faces.

    I have to second Lorraine's comment that the triad of engaged principals, teachers, and parents can be disrupted for a year or so at a good school--we had that at Alvarado with a not great principal, and survived. All is much better this year with the triad restored though!

  28. y'all are being too hard on rat's ass. i think s/he had a point about more folks seeking the comfort of their own kind (i.e., safety in numbers) than are seeking foreign language fluency from immersion programs. our family is bilingual/bicultural and pro-immersion for a number of reasons, but if i look into my dirty little heart, i see motivations for being attracted to immersion that have nothing to do with my kids being able to read untranslated allende. i am ashamed of it, but it is there. (if you spent ten minutes in the cracker town i grew up in, however, you'd slap a purple heart on me for my efforts and pat me on the mullet.)

    i know what the dream assignment process would include: postmortem therapy to come to terms with the white guilt we've been wallowing in since we scratched out glen park at the last minute and wrote in miraloma.

  29. welcome back, kim green! just to say, you totally crack me up. i mean, the last minute switches and all....

  30. I think the lottery/choice system actually contributes to segregation, higher real estate prices, and gentrification.

    In San Francisco, richer* people are moving farther afield into poorer* neighborhoods in order to become homeowners. But once they get there, they choose to avoid the neighborhood schools filled with their poorer neighbors. Choice affords them the luxury of buying a house in a neighborhood without actually having to be a neighbor, which buoys real estate prices in poorer neighborhoods, which ultimately drives the poorest out of the city altogether.

    If the cost of admission to a neighborhood were the requirement to attend the neighborhood school, imagine the market-value musical chairs that would ensue!

    But when the music stopped, I think you would find San Francisco in general to be more diverse (gentrification mitigated by normalized real estate prices on the low end) and San Francisco schools in particular to be more integrated (normalized real estate prices on the low end attractive enough to chance attending a neighborhood school).

    It would result in a school-zone driven real estate market. But once normalized, would create a better balance between those who will choose to avoid a neighborhood/school and those who will choose take a chance on it. And it would allow a more diverse range of people to participate in it.

    *I'm using these as relative terms. Richer = you; poorer = the neighborhood you can afford in San Francisco.

  31. Either that or more parents in poorer neighborhoods would simply send their kids to private school, thereby decreasing the diversity of the public schools.

  32. I strongly disagree with the argument that school choice increases home prices.

    On the contrary, most studies have shown the opposite.

    If there were neighborhood schools, home prices would dramatically rise in neighborhoods that have good schools. In up-and-coming neighborhoods, prices would also rise.

    Then, in the neighborhoods which don't have good schools, families could buy in, and then work to improve the schools even before the kids enter kindergarten. That leads to both better schools and higher home prices.

    This actually has happened in places like Palo Alto, where the south Palo Alto schools previously were not considered as good as the north P.A. schools, but now as more higher income people are moving in South PA, those schools are improving, as are home prices.

    I was actually under the impression that one reason for the school choice system (among many reasons) was to stabilize home prices around the city. I think it has worked, relatively speaking, in that regard, while also allowing for some "takeover schools" in up and coming neighborhoods, like Flynn (Bernal), Fairmount (Upper Noe) and Miraloma (Glen Park).

  33. I've served in the past on one of the various community advisory committees weighing in on the assignment process. Trying to influence home prices is beyond the scope of anyone in the district. It's an attempt to diversify and equalize schools, and to create a process that eliminates the classic bleak picture of low-income kids in neighborhoods with troubled schools and no access to better schools.

  34. I think solving issues of race and class are also beyond the scope of anyone in the district. Has it occurred to anyone over there that poor people might *want* to go to their neighborhood schools? If you took away choice, who would be up in arms? Upper-middle-class white people. So choice stays, and troubled schools are meant to be left, not fixed.

  35. I disagree that troubled schools are "meant to be left, not fixed." I think that that comment probably comes from someone who's not informed about a number of SFUSD policies and funding mechanisms.

    A family in a low-income neighborhood currently has the option of choosing any school in SFUSD AND having a good shot at getting it, due to various aspects of the diversity index. That family has the option of choosing a school close to home or one in a high-priced neighborhood.

    It is REALLY hard to "fix" schools that serve a critical mass of low-income, high-need children. No school system anywhere in the world has found a foolproof way to do it.

    Those schools do get extra funding from the feds and the state (triggered by the percentage of low-income students). In SFUSD, they also benefit from the Weighted Student Formula, which assigns funding to each child based on specific criteria -- funding that follows the child to whichever school. There's also the STAR program, which selected the district's 40 or so lowest-performing schools and targeted them for extra resources.
    I'm sure I'm forgetting some. (As I've posted, it's common to hear parents at schools that don't serve a lot of low-income students complaining about the extra funding for troubled schools -- they claim it "punishes high achievement" and "rewards failure.")

    I really appreciate the parents who are posting on this blog -- they have open minds, sincere concern for all children and the community, eagerness to learn about the complexities of public education. I do think people should be cautious about making flat assertions when they don't have the background to know whether their assumptions are well-founded or not.

    That said, there HAVE been past policies that did seem to have that effect (unintended but obvious), such as the (truly stupid and unfair) ZIP code preference. Parents in three zip codes (94110, 24 and 34) used to have guaranteed entree into the school of their choice, with zero means-testing, income criteria etc. Especially in 94110, where Bernal was rapidly attracting middle-class families, that had the impact of ensuring that all those families flocked to Rooftop and Clarendon and ignored Paul Revere, Junipero Serra, Leonard Flynn, etc.

  36. Once again, you missed the point. Choice was designed to give poor people an opportunity to leave their neighborhood. They are not taking that opportunity. Therefore solution failed.

  37. That's so overly simplitic. Some people from poor communities are taking the opportunity to choose schools outside their neighborhood, and others prefer their neighborhood schools. And of course the district needs to try to address issues of racial and class equity in designing its assignment system, even though no one has found a perfect way to do so. If San Francisco had purely neighborhood schools, they would be far more segregated by race and class than they are now. And by the way, I have lived in South Palo Alto, and it is not really comparable to the poorer areas of San Francisco.

  38. Many low-income families ARE taking the opportunity to choose schools outside their neighborhoods.

    Young parents may not have been following this at the time, but five years ago there were massive demonstrations by parents trying to get their kids into Lincoln HS and protesting the fact that kids from other (that is, low-income) neighborhoods were getting some spots. (The demonstrations were mobilized largely by Ed Jew, who has since been involved in a few interesting news stories.)

    Often, when parents complain about the diversity index, that's specifically what they're complaining about.

    My kids' elementary school (1996-2005), Lakeshore, was around 15-20% each African-American and Latino in our time. Lakeshore's neighborhood (unfortunately) is almost entirely white and Asian -- all those kids came form other neighborhoods and had requested Lakeshore.

    Clearly, that system isn't solving every problem, or even most problems. It IS giving families who need it most an option of choosing different schools. Many don't exercise that option, but quite a few do.

  39. It IS giving families who need it most an option of choosing different schools.

    How about this then: just give the option to the people who need it?

    It should not be an option for a upper middle class white family to buy into a poor (read transitional) neighborhood that they can afford in SF, and then high-tail it out of there for school, away from their new neighbors -- people of color.

  40. I take it the last poster owns real estate near one or more highly requested schools. The SFUSD is more interested in affording a quality education to SF kids than increasing your property values.

  41. "How about this then: just give the option to the people who need it?
    It should not be an option for a upper middle class white family to buy into a poor (read transitional) neighborhood that they can afford in SF, and then high-tail it out of there for school, away from their new neighbors -- people of color."

    How ridiculous and racist are you? So everyone but the whites get to choose... how does that move us all forward?

    In fact, why not just make it illegal for white people to move into black neighborhoods and be done?

  42. While the audience of this blog is may be pretty white, don't forget that whites are a tiny minority in sfusd. The idea for racial caps/school (that sounded likely until the recent supreme court ruling) would not really affect caucasians. The group most affected by anything like that would be the asian kids living on the westside. Everyone gets hung up on the white/black thing but in this city it's not the main issue.

  43. That IS the perception that lots of middle-class families have had about the assignment process (in its various permutations) over the years -- that low-income families of color have more choice and better access. And middle-class families have screamed bloody murder about it over the years. That's one of the factors that has clearly driven a lot of them off to private school.

    So I don't know what value there is in calling for re-establishing such a process. It seems counterproductive.

  44. I still don't see how limiting the school choices of ANY parents makes a better system. The issue/problem with the current system is:
    * perception (and in some cases reality) that not all schools are a quality option
    * not enough predictability in getting a school on your list.

    If these two issues were addressed (#1 being most important) we wouldn't have a student assignment 'problem'

    Too many resort to tactics rather than strategies when solving problems.

    The only way neighborhood schools are a 'solution' is if you only want to go to that one school. At this point, only 25% or so of parents actually list their 'area attendance zone' school. So how can anyone say we need to move towards that model if, given a choice, they are NOT doing that now?

  45. Whomever said:

    ..."Choice was designed to give poor people an opportunity to leave their neighborhood. They are not taking that opportunity. Therefore solution failed"...

    ... doesn't know what the hell they are talking about. You are naive and uninformed if you really believe all families really have the option to attend all schools. Some use the school bus system (which provides only limited choice that you DO see families exercising.)

    But even public transport is limited - especially for elementary kids. Only one MUNI bus, for example, comes to my school making it virtually impossible for a family from, say, the Mission or Bayview, to get get to our school by 7:50.

    The original school buses where supposed to help more families have choice. Instead, I see them largely used for middle class English speaking families to trapse across town to alternative schools (because many of the same are not choosing their perfectly fine neighborhood school.)

  46. So how can anyone say we need to move towards that model if, given a choice, they are NOT doing that now?

    Why aren't they doing that? Because their middle class is underrepresented at their neighborhood schools. San Francisco real estate prices cause neighborhood integration. The San Francisco school choice model accidentally supports segregation.

  47. "The original school buses where supposed to help more families have choice. Instead, I see them largely used for middle class English speaking families to trapse across town to alternative schools (because many of the same are not choosing their perfectly fine neighborhood school.)"

    You have a different experience to me and my brother's family. Both of our kids (going to different elementary schools) are either one of only two and in my nephew's case the only, English first language speaking kids on their buses. So there are for sure some of what you consider to be the target kids moving across town.
    Also if that is the system why should we (as Middle class English speaking) families not use it? Are you suggesting we all list only our neighborhood school on our form? Where does that get us???

  48. As a home owning, English speaking family in Bernal, we put our neighborhood school (Fairmount) as our first choice. We live a similar distance from Flynn and had Flynn been assigned as our neighborhood school we would have put that as our first choice.
    I understand from many families who went through the system last year that they did not get their neighborhood school even when it was their first choice so it's not as simple as suggested above.

  49. I don't agree with this:

    ***The San Francisco school choice model accidentally supports segregation.***

    In cities with neighborhood, non-choice school assignment, totally segregated schools -- 97-100% this or that race -- are the norm. We don't see schools like that in SFUSD.

    If you pay attention, you have heard that SFUSD schools "resegregated" under the all-choice, Diversity Index system. BUT! That's because it replaced a system that set strict caps on any one ethnicity at a school -- 35 to 40 percent. That meant, for example, that an Asian family had far less chance of getting into a school that was popular with Asians. That system was ruled discriminatory in the Ho decision in the '90s.

    And another important note: The official definition of "severely resegregated" for SFUSD is 70% or more of any one race. By the standards of any private school, only 70% of any one race would be trumpeted as wonderfully diverse. Ditto by the standard of the many U.S. cities with schools that are 97% black or Latino. SFUSD is being held to a much higher standard than the entire rest of the world here.

  50. Oops -- I was wrong -- SIXTY percent of one race is considered severe resegregation for SFUSD, according to the Chron article. Any private school would find that figure diversity nirvana. And so would all those urban districts with schools that are 97% black. or Latino.

    I wonder why SFUSD is held to such a high standard. I mean, it's great, but ONLY SFUSD, and everyone else gets a pass?

  51. Why aren't they doing that? Because their middle class is underrepresented at their neighborhood schools. San Francisco real estate prices cause neighborhood integration. The San Francisco school choice model accidentally supports segregation.

    So what is your 'solution'? Force families to go to their neighborhood school that they supposedly feel underrepresented in? As if that won't cause an uproar?

  52. I heard recently that buses cost the district $30 million (about the same as we are expected to get cut from the state next year) yet only serve less than 10% of the kids in SFUSD, only a quarter of those are special needs (who don't have equal access to the various programs at all schools) I would expect that this is an area being looked at for cuts.

    Wonder what effect it might have on families - think they'll all just switch to their neighborhood school?

  53. Force families to go to their neighborhood school that they supposedly feel underrepresented in? As if that won't cause an uproar?

    Duh, of course it will cause an uproar! You'll have to go to school with your neighbors instead of someone else's!

  54. Instead of "uproar" just read - "move out of the city" ... isn't that what we are trying to avoid?, making people do the thing they have been leaving to avoid does not help the situation or move the argument forward- why do you keep coming back to it?
    If I get assigned a school where I believe my child will either not be safe, or not be inspired or not be educated we will move, end of story.

  55. Although I can see how some people might think that providing school buses reduces diversity, I believe the opposite is the case. My (white, middle-class) kids attend a school where the overwhelmingly majority (60%) of kids are Chinese. Most of the kids who are bussed in from BV-HP, the Mission and the Tenderloin district are also Chinese. However, most of the AA and Hispanic kids who attend the school rely on school buses to get to and from school. Should they be deprived of attending this excellent school just because the buses afford lower-income Chinese kids whose parents lack cars to come as well? And BTW, our school is bright, clean and well-maintained comparable to many private schools I toured.

  56. A saddening anecdote about buses: My son was in kindergarten last year and mentioned that he couldn't leave his backpack someplace (I don't remember where) because he didn't want the "bus kids" to steal it. Whether it's real or perceived, there's definitely a socioeconomic divide about using the buses.

  57. For an interesting review of Jonathan Kozol's latest book on segregation in public schools, here is a link to Sandra Tsing Loh's review in this month's Atlantic Monthly.

  58. The reality is that all schools should be good enough to send your child to---in your neighborhood!!

  59. San Francisco's Orwellian "Choice" System is a cruel joke. It disenfranchises parents from making one of the most important decisions they make as a parent: determining where their children will be schooled.

    Save for graduate school, I was educated in the public school system. I was lucky enough to go to very fine public schools. Why? Because my parents sacrificed and bought homes within top quality school districts thereby ensuring that I would be able to attend those schools. My parents were decidedly middle class and since quality school systems were located in expensive areas they had to buy small, run down homes on very busy streets where the homes' only saving grace was that they were located within the acclaimed school system. I'm sure they would have loved to have lived in nicer homes in less expensive locales where the schools were poor but they didn't do so because they wanted my sibling and I to get the best public school education available - going private financially wasn't an option (I attended private graduate school via a scholarship). We moved a number of times when I was growing up and the quality of the school system was always the most important criteria my parents used when deciding where to move to when we had to relocate.

    Flash forward to now and because I have chosen to live in San Francisco (for the time being. When we go 0 for 7 in the "choice" system and strike out with the privates, we'll be forced to move) I can't do for my children what my parents did for me. I tried to do so: we live closest to Claire Lilienthal (Of course in another move cosseted in double speak SFUSD has declared that CL isn't a local school for anyone.) That means nothing in this system.

    Put simply if I don't somehow luck out and get a decent school in the lottery or get into a private then I'll have to admit to myself what I already know: I'm a selfish and lousy parent because I've subjected my child to a system which my parents would never have risked when it came to my education.

    So my dream system would be one where a parent has two choices. Option one is the parent can choose to send their child to the school closest to their home (and all schools including the "alternatives" would be local schools for some people). Option two is the parent can opt out of the local school and enter into the lottery as it is currently conducted. Such a system would allow a parent some control (note, such control has been traditionally granted to parents) and it would allow parents to avoid their local school should they so desire.

  60. ^^Thanks!!