Friday, April 4, 2008

Poll revisited: should SFUSD change the lottery enrollment process?

Last October, I posted a poll asking parents if SFUSD should change the lottery enrollment process to guarantee families their neighborhood school. Thirty percent of people responded yes; and 69 percent responded no. Now that we're further along in the process I'm wondering if people would vote differently—so I'm introducing the same poll once again. You'll find it to the right.

100 comments:

  1. While I don't think that SFUSD should guarantee a family its designated "neighborhood school" IMO they should dispense with the diversity index and just have a straight lottery. This will make the process easier to understand and fairer and, ultimately, yield essentially the same results as the current confusing and seemingly unfair system.

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  2. I think your default school should be your neighborhood school, and then if there are more spaces available at that school, then those would be lotteried out.

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  3. What about immersion programs - our neighborhood school is Spanish language only, not everyones education dream. Presumably there would be some alternative in these cases?

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  4. Granted that the lottery itself needs revamping, neighborhood assignments will worsen segregation and increase the distance between the haves and have-nots. I think San Francisco can do better than this! Changes are needed, but not this one.

    I also don't want our housing stock to be subjected to the same valuations and devaluations that other communities experience based on school assignments (that sometimes change based on population, causing assessments to rise and fall).

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  5. What if your 2 neighborhood schools are both Immersion and you just want General ED for your child? I LIKE being able to choose from any school in the city... if this were implemented, everyone would move to be closer to the "good" schools.

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  6. I think a straight lottery is more fair, too. Granted, appropriate transportation needs to be provided by the schools to all students. Also, all schools need something like an immersion program. I would think in this city, it's not unreasonable to think every school could have a Spanish or some sort of Asian language track as well as GE.

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  7. Wouldn't a straight forward lottery potentially send your child clear across town? So, going back to neighborhood schools...Rather than a designated neighborhood school, how about schools from a neighborhood "zone" area to choose from in which you get priority of say at least 5 schools within that zone (broadening the "net")? I had brought this up before. If I had the choice of getting a really good chance at a good school nearby vs. a slim chance at a "Rooftop/Clarendon" type school further away, I would chose the former. And plus I still like the idea of walk-ability (or easy transport) and sense of community. People can still pick from any school in the district, but they are a bit lower on the priority list (but diversity index still applies to those in need). And I think immersion schools should have a separate lottery system. Just my thoughts. :)

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  8. Students are required to take a foreign language in high school, but by that point, it is unrealistic to expect they'll ever achieve fluency. They won't even obtain the cognitive benefits of bilingualism.

    It makes much more sense to take languages more seriously at the elementary school level, in public *and* private schools. It is the one area where SFUSD is several steps ahead of the independent schools. All children deserve the advantages of speaking more than one language.

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  9. Here are my suggestions for change:

    1. Improve neighborhood schools in more impoverished neighborhoods, or those that are consistently low demand (this could be done by putting more money into lowering class size, attracting and retaining great teachers, paying for the "extras" that well-funded PTAs provide, providing adjunct services--mental health services, parent liaisons, SSTs/Care team meetings for every student, early intervention --to help impoverished families)

    2. Make some of those "extras" standard in every school. In my mind, these should include: PE, weekly art, music for k-3, twice or more weekly 2nd language instruction starting in kindergarten, and gardening/hands-on science programs.

    3. Immersion programs should be in a separate lottery.

    4. It should really be possible to change the system to make it work better and faster: why couldn't the computer system reflect instantly where people enroll and change school (so that in Round II, when someone gets a waitpool school, their space at their assigned school automatically opens up, or so that when someone decides to go to a private school, that choice is immediately reflected)? And after Round II, why couldn't there be rolling changes to waitpools so that there don't have to be distinct "runs" and spaces are filled as they come open (so opening other spaces!)

    5. I know this is highly unlikely to happen, but I would like to see a system where private school acceptances are taken into account in Round II, so that you cannot hold both private and public school choices open and so that you cannot accept at a private school and maintain priority in Round II in the 0/7 cohort (so that this group of people would be placed in the cohort of those who got one of their choices). I know it's a pipe dream, but it would be more fair!

    6. I've been trying to figure out a system where you could have choice, but ultimately also have the back up choice of walking to your neighborhood school! Zones would work well for this purpose, but --unlike in Berkeley, for example --zones are unlikely to lead to more integration which is the main goal of the lottery system. We don't love our neighborhood schools (they are two of the most popular ones in the district!), but we would happily take one as a back up and be happy to send our children there if we didn't get our dream school (much less popular, but slightly farther away).

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  10. FWIW - I have heard that the new superintendent, Carlos Garcia, is a proponent of "neighborhood schools." The cost of busing was said to be a main concern - since the end of the consent decree the district is not compelled to offer free transportation, and they are always looking for ways to save some money.

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  11. I really like the idea from anonymous 6:28. Walkability, community as well as the ability to go elsewhere if you want is great. It is crazy that there are kids of the same age on one street that all go to different schools! Not to even start on the amount of gas/energy that is used to move children through the city during high commute hours!

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  12. this would make sense if you take all schools with special programs such as immersion out of the mix and designate them, or the immersion seats at least, as alternative and open to everyone in the city - otherwise unless you live in the Mission/Bernal you have no choice of getting Spanish and unless you live in the Sunset no chance of Chinese.

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  13. It seems pretty clear that neighborhood schools would create more segregation. I mean, I live in Noe Valley, and giving Noe families priority for Alvarado would obviously make it a majority white, middle / upper middle class school. Can anyone disagree with that? Right now the largest group of kids at Alvarado is Latino, followed by white kids including many from Noe. That would change with a neighborhood school guarantee.

    I just can't cast a vote, even on this basically meaningless little blog poll, for increasing segregation on this 40th anniversary day for Martin Luther King, or within days of Barack Obama's speech on race. I am sure there are better ways to run the lottery, but not a return to assigning by neighborhood, when we all know there are privileged and not-so-privileged neighborhoods that definitely track by income and also race. I don't believe that folks here are personally racist, but implementing a policy that would create more segregation and unequal access to coveted spots would be, in some sense, a racist move and a blow on behalf of the more privileged folks. There has to be another way to do this.

    Even neighborhood schools plus a separate lottery for immersion or other magnet schools would still be a step away from equity. Under that system many of us would fight for the immersion spots as before, but we would be resting in the assurance of our lovely neighborhood backup, something the kids in many neighborhoods just would not have. (And many others of us would be trying very hard to move into a "better" school neighborhood to have that backup).

    I just think "arbitrary" of whatever stripe, including the present system with all its problems, is overwhelmingly fairer than access by real estate.

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  14. Unless schools in less affluent areas improve, none of these plans will work... and, sadly, improving them is easier said than done...

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  15. Anon 6:28 here, again. I did say that diversity index should still apply to those in need. So, if a someone who requires free/reduce lunch, is lower income, speaks 2 languages at home, etc., chooses to attend Alvarado, Miraloma, Clarendon, etc.,then they still get the priority . It's the rest of us (the middle class) that could be prioritized by zones. So, those in need still get a great chance a well regarded school, the middle class may get a better chance at a good school close by. Because unfortunately, if someone is assigned to a school that they didn't choose (ie: undesirable school in their opinion)in the currently system, they are going to try to either go either go round 2, wait for the 10 day count or go private anyway. Why not get a good chance at a good school close by and if you still want your child in a school further out, you can still wait list it or go for the 10 day count? Again, these are just thoughts.

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  16. ^ and after reading anon 8:21 in Kate's absence thread I want to agree and tag on that we need to improve all SFUSD schools to make all schools desirable (yeah, who wants to bus their child across town to get access to a good school?). I think it's slowly getting there, but not fast enough to satisfy the demand.

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  17. if this were implemented, everyone would move to be closer to the "good" schools.

    Instead of trying to pull poor people to good schools with "choice", why not push middle class people to bad schools with real estate costs? That's what neighborhood schools would do. No more nor less segregation than now plus more good schools... The school system can't solve the problems of race and class, nor should it try.

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  18. I agree the schools can't fix race/class issues, but neighborhood schools do segregate, though. Period. The current lottery system also segregates. We either have a lottery system that allocates the population on racial/economic lines with the same percentages at all the schools allocating randomly within that population, or we don't have true integration. That's an extreme solution, but it's the bottom line. A straight lottery would be fairer than the current system, but would not achieve the highest level of integration--probably more than what we have now, though.

    Of course, then you have the same issues with bussing--transportation.

    So, the only other alternatives are to have less desegregation--no matter what system we go with. Even if all the schools are brought up to the same levels, it won't achieve integration. If we allow attendance at neighborhood schools in that scenario, certain neighborhoods will never achieve a mixed population. But at least they'd have a good school. If we have a hybrid neighborhood/lottery system, the same thing will happen.

    Whatever happens, all the schools do need to be brought up to an acceptable level. As has been said before--language programs, basic and frequent pe/arts/music, libraries, computers. There's no excuse for this not happening.

    People have said on this blog that there are good schools in sketchy neighborhoods, and that once you're in the school it's not an issue. So, if we up school value, then location should not be an issue. That leaves the problems people fear associated with poor black kids. How many will willing take on those schools without being assigned by lottery? That's why I feel bringing back race and strict percentages at schools, or even the less "perfect" choice of a straight lottery might be the most workable solution.

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  19. Continued...

    I realize the "but you might be sent across town" argument. A great number of people aren't selecting neighborhood schools now. It is an issue, but it's not insurmountable--especially for the supposed demographic on this blog. Now, for people without cars or a lot of time to spend in transit, I can understand. I still think the BOE should work out transportation issues, but that's probably a pipe dream.

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  20. Whether or not SFUSD changes the assignment process, I think the a lot more parents would be happier if they could instantly find out what the chances of getting into each school was. That way they would feel empowered rather than alienated by a faceless bureaucratic machine.

    To remedy this, a running tally of available slots and number of applicants per school could be kept, which would look something like this:

    Sibling Assignment:
    Siblings apply two months before Round I lottery, and results posted on SFUSD’s web site. This starts a running tally of each school showing total number of slots and the number available after sibling preference given assuming all of them register.
    If a sibling does not apply now then s/he loses sibling preference and must participate in the Round I lottery.

    Round I Lottery:
    Applicants submit seven choices, in order of preference.
    Diversity index used.
    Results posted on the running tally started with the Sibling Assignment, showing number of applicants per school.

    Registration I:
    Register at assigned school, and results posted on running tally, showing number of applicants per school (broken down into sibling and non-sibling) and number of available slots left.

    Round II Lottery:
    Applicants submit seven choices, in order of preference.
    Diversity index used?
    Results posted on the running tally.

    Regisration II:
    Register at assigned school.
    Results posted on the running tally.

    Waitlist:
    An applicant’s #1 choice from Round II is put on a waitlist.

    I'm not so naive as to think even this modest step would be easy. It might require upgrading SFUSD's computers and hiring someone to maintain the tally on its web site. But I'll bet Superindentent Garcia could convince some of the many IT companies in the Bay Area to donate the necessary hardware and perhaps give him an intern to write the program.

    Henry

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  21. Henry, I think these are great suggestions for improving the current system. The only thing I've seen that actually seems fair and makes sense.

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  22. I'm sorry to be the dash of cold water, but on the idea of "let's make all the school good" and "improve the schools that serve poor kids" -- this is THE challenge to public education. No school district anywhere, not in the world, has figured out how to do that. Schools that serve high numbers of high-need students are just too stressed to function well.

    The obvious remedy is to pour more resources into those schools, and that IS what our current funding system does within its limitations. But then at a certain point you run into the middle-class parents yelling about too many resources going to schools that serve poor kids -- "rewarding failure and punishing success," they always say. Any parent reading this who is current in a school with a lot of middle-class parents has heard that comment, I'll bet.

    I know everyone who has made the "let's make all the schools good" comment has already added "easier said than done," but even that understates it.

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  23. Okay, so screw those schools, then. No need to talk about it anymore.

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  24. Caroline, Caroline! I've come to look forward to your postings for your in-depth knowledge and well-argued points. In your last one, though, you seem to be just throwing up your hands and saying this is as good as it gets. I know from your others postings that you know we can improve things. Perhaps by requiring a certain percentage of the city's budget go to supplementing the state funding (which would obviate the need for a parcel tax)? San Francisco has lots of million dollar homes so they're raking in a huge amount in property taxes already.

    Henry

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  25. I like Henry's idea. If I had a choice between a straight lottery and the current system, I'd choose the current one with Henry's suggestions. I think the idea of transporting children across the city is neither practical, economical, nor environmental regardless if one has the means or not.

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  26. IMHO, there are two key problems with the lottery system. One lies within the EPC; the other lies within our society.

    I believe that, even though the lottery system is extremely complicated, it is a step in the right direction and can be improved year-by-year with a tinkering of the computer assignment process and the priority of neighborhood vs. diversity index. What definitely needs to be improved, in order to build support for the system, is the communications process. Nothing is as frustrating or despairing as getting conflicting or innaccurate information from the very people who are suppossed to know what is going on. With such high stakes around the deadlines, the ordering of your school lists, and calculating the odds of getting in to your schools, the EPC should have their information straight. They should have all the counselors giving consistent, clear information, trained to answer every question that parents have. They should have real-time information on the district website. They should amend the process so all registration occurs at the EPC or online or through the mail, so the EPC has all the numbers in a timely manner.

    Of course, all these improvements take money for staff, and we all know that's not possible right now (when will Californians abolish Prop 13?!?).

    The second issue in the lottery is about expectations. Schooling is expected to compensate for and even overcome disparities in family income and resources. Schooling will help equalize opportunities for poor kids and democratize educational advancement and make achievement a meritocratic struggle that doesn't rely on class or racial backgrounds.

    This expectation is a pipe dream. While schooling can provide some children a way out of poverty, for the most part, socioeconomic conditions trump quality schooling. Society will not become less economically stratified by sending all our children to quality schools. The socioeconomic gap is caused by so many things beyond educational disparaties (jobs, health care, transportation, affordable housing) that we cannot expect our schools to be the sole lever that closes the socioeconomic gap.

    We must shift our expectations of schools and recognize the real needs in San Francisco. The lottery system will provide some poor kids the opportunity to escape poverty, but it is not a panacea for economic disparities. If resolving economic disparity is our goal, we should commit more funds to all SF schools and create more good SF schools.

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  27. is there some sort of incentive the district can offer middle- and high-income families to apply to struggling schools or schools in less affluent areas (mind you, i don't know how you'd define them exactly, beyond test scores and/or last year's enrollment demand figures)? immersion seems to function that way already. is there something that would incentivize families within the application process itself (e.g., you can apply to more "second" or "third-tier" schools and fewer "level-one" schools (in terms of demand only -- i don't speak to quality)? or a financial thing (property tax refund -- ha)? this problem is beyond my skills, but just throwing it out there....

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  28. "you seem to be just throwing up your hands and saying this is as good as it gets. I know from your others postings that you know we can improve things."

    Well, obviously so, since I sent my own kids to a school that was viewed as "dirty and dangerous" when we started there. The school was improving, I like to think we helped it improve more, and it has been an excellent school for my kids.

    Of course I'm not saying this is as good as it gets. But I am cautioning against oversimplifying and expecting unrealistic miracles of educators. We can make all schools better and most of them "good," but the very most challenged need major societal changes to allow them to improve.

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  29. Improvement is happening, but it is a long, slow process. The San Francisco model is actually working if you see it that way. Test scores going up, more schools are on the "acceptable" list for middle class parents. Could we go any faster without a return to forced integration through busing with strict quotas, or the opposite, a return to segregation via neighborhood schools? I don't think so.

    Of course other societal supports are needed, like universal health care (which SF is already implementing at least), minimum wage increases, family friendly policies, a college dream act as has been proposed by at least one presidential candidate. The schools are a part of that larger mix.....It's not hopeless if you try to see the big picture. I keep thinking about Barack Obama's speech on race and America; we can do this. We can reach for a new level.

    Meanwhile, most SF public school parents I know, including myself, are pretty happy with how our kids are doing, including at several schools that were considered marginal when we entered. It doesn't feel like a sacrifice to be doing this, rather, it seems kind of exciting to see the improvements at the ground level, year by year.

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  30. What about prop. 209? Like it or not, it is the law... Many of the suggestions here would violate that.

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  31. Why do you think that SFUSD schools are not segregated now? There are some schools that are 89% Hispanic, some that are almost all African American, some that are 72% Asian.
    My local neighborhood school may not be my first school of choice, but if it was set up so that my kid would be assigned there, I would enroll him, and see how it went.
    There is a lot to be said for having a COMMUNITY, walking your child to school, going to school with other children in your neighborhood.
    And since so few households in SF even have children, I seriously doubt that a neighborhood school assignment system would have much affect on the real estate market. Would you move away from Bernal Heights? Would you move away from the Haight? Potrero Hill?

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  32. Caroline's assertion that middle class people will be up in arms if extra resources are dedicated to under-performing schools is only true if you assume that there is a finite slice of the pie that we all must scramble for. In my mind, the key is to increase resources for all schools to fund essential programs and services that have been dropped (art, PE, music, hands-on science), reduce class size, and increase teacher support and other services for schools with more impoverished populations (such as mental health/early intervention services and other resources to increase parent involvement in schools).

    There is no question this would take extra money, the question is where the money would come from. Do we attempt to reverse prop. 13? Do we try to change the funding structure for public schools on the state level? are there other options?

    I do think that we have a large number of good-enough schools in San Francisco, but we should not have to depend on private PTA fundraising for the basics, we should not have to settle for a system which breeds inequity, and we should not have to settle for conditions which are sub-standard in any of our schools.

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  33. 8:31, that is all so true--we need more resources for schools from the state and, imho, the federal level. This will take a big effort that involves institutional partners with funding, such as unions, PACs, etc.

    It will also require a paradigm shift away from taxes=bad imposition on the people to taxes=services that benefit us all (if they are being spent on schools and health care and not stupid wars, of course).

    Just to be clear, San Francisco is already stepping up to this with Proposition H which actually is already funding arts, libraries, PE, and hands-on science in the schools (THANK YOU, Tom Ammiano, for sponsoring Prop H, and THANK YOU, voters, for passing it). The previous Prop A is funding retrofitting, disability upgrades, and greening of the schools.

    So, a lot is happening already in terms of funding in SF. It's not like schools don't have art and science. Not that we couldn't use a lot more though; and of course the inequities caused by reliance on PTA funding, which varies from school to school, can be quite large.

    Hopefully SF voters will also step up to the parcel tax in June.

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  34. "I seriously doubt that a neighborhood school assignment system would have much affect on the real estate market."

    In Oakland the realtors talk about six-digit effects on the price of a house based on 100-point jumps in API scores.

    How boundaries got drawn in a neighborhood assignment system would be highly political. Take Potrero Hill--would you include the projects in a Potrero neighborhood school district? What about the Haight, or Bernal? I'm guessing parents would fight to be included in what would likely become the "nice" school in Bernal as opposed to the one where the Alemany project kids go. And those who found themselves a block or two the wrong way probably would look at moving up the hill, or going private. Seriously, it would have an effect on the market.

    Or take the more likely scenario with neighborhood schools. Since it really is politically untenable to create an obviously segregated system, where all Noe kids went to Noe schools and all Tenderloin kids to the Tenderloin schools, there would likely be a return to "assignment zones" that would allow kids from the Mission and Bayview and the Tenderloin to attend schools in another neighborhood. Except that would mean sending a bunch the Noe kids to Hunters Point, or the Mission, or the Tenderloin. They would be assigned together--so you keep the neighborhood feel--but can't you see the parents like us going beserk about it anyway? We'd get our "guarantee" but it would be the wrong one!

    The fact is, there is not going to be an assignment system in San Francisco that doesn't include assigning some of the higher income kids to poorer schools. It can be partially voluntary, as with our present system of parental preferences and immersion magnets, or it can school assignment zones. Is that really what folks want, who are voting yes in the blog poll? Because you might think you'll get the school down the street, but you might find yourself out of luck.

    When I first moved to SF, long before I had kids, I lived on a block in the Mission that was right across from Bryant School but was zoned for a Chinatown school. The kids on the other side of the block were assigned to Bryant, but the kids on our side were bused to Chinatown. This was the old system of desegregation under the consent decree.

    Can you imagine living on a block on, say, Douglass Street in Upper Noe, and having the kid across the street assigned to Alvarado and your kid assigned to say, Sanchez? You couldn't really complain too much because Sanchez is only five minutes away, they'd provide a bus, and half your neighbors' kids would be assigned there too. But you'd be pissed, because most of your neighbors wouldn't actually send their kids to Sanchez but would move or go private, so it would still be that segregated school with low test scores, and you'd be pissed because it was all so arbitrary that you were on the wrong block, and you'd be pissed because your property's value would suddenly be lower than value of the identical house across the street. You might even try moving across the street.

    The tendency would not be toward integration, but towards trying to get a guarantee for your kid to go to a good rep school, based on renting or buying on the right block. We're educated parents, right? We'll do what it takes to get that for our kids. If that means moving, or buying or renting on the right block in the first place, we'll do that.

    As someone wrote earlier, what is frustrating about the current system is that there doesn't seem to be much we higher income / highly educated folks can do to buy/plan/work the system to get that guarantee--it is arbitrary, and thus, more fair, if frustrating.

    Yeah, a lot of our schools are still segregated. That's because we are in a slo-o-o-ow process of encouraging and nudging parents to check out a wider circle of schools they never would have looked at before. For the Alvarados, Fairmounts, Miralomas, Flynns, Marshalls, Starr Kings, it has worked or is beginning to work.

    Regarding neighborhood feel, I get that is an issue, but there can be a surprising amount of school spirit at many schools despite the diverse places we come from, and that can be really cool too. You get to be friends with folks you might not otherwise talk to at all.

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  35. I don't think Caroline is suggesting that the worst schools can't be improved, but rather that improvement is unlikely to happen without integration as a central component, even assuming all the extra supports people are suggesting under the rubric of "let's make ALL the schools good so we can have our neighborhood schools."

    The point is, integration is one of the key strategies for improvement, one that is proven to work. Even with the persistent and frustrating achievement gaps, scores have tended to rise for everyone at integrated schools, even the at-risk kids. Conversely, segregation of historically low-achieving kids means overwhelmed schools and little improvement. Educators have tried, but they have had a tough time beating this logic beyond a few outliers. That's why neighborhood schools won't fly, because they imply segregation and segregation is a proven strategy for continued failure at a whole bunch of district schools.

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  36. Unless they can use race as a criteria, the whole lottery system is a waste of time. Most of the schools are very segregated ethnically, and the huge disparity in performance of different groups (regardless of all the socioeconomic critera used by the lottery) results in some really good schools and some really bad schools. And how much does it cost to administer this convuluted system? And how many hours did each of us spend trying to figure it out? Big waste of time and money and one of the main reasons SF has more dogs than kids.

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  37. I agree about race. Use it or there won't be integrated schools.

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  38. They can't; they are banned from using race due to court rulings that resulted from pushback from white and Asian folks regarding forced integration. So they are trying the socio-economic factors. Hard to tell how that is / is not working in terms of outcomes: a) trends in integration and b) trends in closing the achievement gap, until more time goes by, I think. A few years is not enough, especially since it is a slow process that is partly voluntary.

    The quick solution to ensure integration would include banning private schools, but that also will not happen. I think SFUSD is doing pretty well given the restraints. I would not want to be a school board member. The current system has many "issues" and some of them are even fixable, but overall the lottery is doing a decent job of promoting integration absent the heavy hand of race-based assignment and busing.

    Yes, there are still many segregated schools, which is what you would expect post-consent decree, but others schools, like Leonard Flynn, have become more integrated through this process. Not a waste of resources then, as that is what the school board wants because they see integration as a path to school improvement.

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  39. I believe the process should change mainly because I don't believe that the "diversity index" that is currently used does what it is supposed to do. Instead, I think there is a lot of cronyism going on. Just to give an example. One poster here noted how there are now schools on the westside of the city that are 72% Chinese. I think we can all agree that, as a simple matter of having schools that in some way reflect the reality of the diverse population in this country, it is simply wrong for any school to be 72% one ethnic group. It is simply not diverse. And one would think that the diversity index would make it impossible for such large numbers coming from one ethnic group. Yet, year after year, those schools remain with high numbers of one ethnic group. How can this be? It is clear to me that the process is being jimmied by parents who use influence to get into where they want their kid to go. I have heard too many stories of parents who use friends with political connections who somehow end up getting their kids into the school they want to get into. Similarly, I have heard stories of parents who just become boorish and obnoxious with the school district as a way of getting what they want. Indeed, one parent I know barraged the placement office with daily emails, phone calls, and faxes for months before obtaining a placement at a favored school. Rather than a process that creates the appearance of fairness but is little more than a mask for powerful people to get what they want, I believe that the schools should change the process to something more on the lines of a lottery system, with the caveat that no elementary school student should be forced to travel more than 1 mile from his or her home. The lottery could be run in multiple rounds, with the parents not happy with their Round 1 choice trying a second, third, and so on time to get into what they want. I bet that, in this way, cronyism will be out, and, moreover, some of these schools with 70+ percent one ethnic group will start becoming more diverse.

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  40. When did these people use political influence and daily calls? These methods were effective with EPC until about 1999 when they abolished appeals for any but strict medical reasons. I have not heard of anyone since then who has gotten a school this way.

    I can see how a school could be racially unbalanced (diversity index does not use race as a factor) yet economically balanced (there are both high and low income people in the Chinese community.)

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  41. To 3:54: It is important to remember that the current system does not take race or ethnicity into account. Legally, it can't. This means it cannot officially be aimed at reducing 72% Asian American segregation in schools on the west side. And there's a lot of economic diversity in the Asian community, so it's possible that these schools actually are pretty diverse, economically speaking.

    You cannot judge the present system on whether or not it has some segregated schools (SFUSD defines segregated as 60% one ethnicity or race). True integration would only happen with race-based forced busing and eliminating white flight, i.e., private schools, and those are not politically feasible options at this time.

    The important comparison point is whether or not the present system does a better job with integration than a neighborhood system would do. By that measure, almost certainly it does.

    In the case of the the west side schools, there are many, many applicants, and many of them are Asian American families. These schools fill up with as much of a socio-economically diverse mix as is possible, and given the applicant pool, many of these happen to be Asian American of all economic backgrounds.

    It's a little easier to create race-based integration along economic lines when you are talking about whites /Latinos /African Americans, because in these cases race tends to track economic class, at least in San Francisco.

    By the way, a one-mile rule would generate more segregated schools in the Asian neighborhoods on the west side of town, not fewer.

    Finally, I am certain the current system has much less cronyism and is also much more impervious to parents who will storm the barricades than in years past. Back then anxious parents would camp out for coveted alternative slots, and then camp out in the EPC. After that, they would file bogus medical exemptions. There are many fewer, if any, loopholes now. (And that makes a lot of anxious and intrepid parents nuts, not having something they can do!). I don't know what stories you are hearing, but it is just not widespread anymore.

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  42. I wanted my child in one of the west side elementary school with high test scores. The school was over 80% Asian. My husband refused to let his non asian child go there, feeling she would be too much of a minority. There is a certain point that if there is too many of one ethnicity, it has a tendency to remain that way.

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  43. So many tremendously thoughtful responses! I am truly glad to be living in San Francisco. I don't agree with some of you, but I tip my hat to all of you for wanting to engage with this issue--and ESPECIALLY to those of you who are so obviously looking beyond the tip of your nose and trying to engage with is problem for all families in SF and not just your own.

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  44. It's interesting to read about what some posters have said regarding West side schools that some of you consider too Asian. Our child is multiracial (White/Chinese)and we too looked for "diversity" -- we too looked beyond schools that were 70% Asian as we wanted more diversity. But, I also have to ask myself, if it were the other way and it was 70% white, would anyone be talking about not sending their non-white child there because of feeling they wouldn't fit in or it wasn't diverse enough?

    I attended SF public schools from K-12. I took a look at my kindergarten photo from a Sunset school and of 23 children pictured, I'm the only Chinese American. Four children are African American and one is Hispanic. Times sure change -- that was 1972! But, how many parents ever considered not sending their kids to school because it was a white majority? Those were also the days of bussing, which I was too young to understand at the time. Think of it, being forced to put your child on a bus across town to a school and neighborhood they don't know --did it do any good?

    The West side has a large Asian population so of course the schools would have a high % of Asian students. If the schools are doing well, wouldn't you want a neighborhood school, all things being equal? As some of you have already pointed out, there is a wide range of economic diversity in the Asian community. We're not all "the same" -- some are immigrants and others have been here for generations, and we are multiracial, too.

    The lottery is not perfect by any means, but "choice" is nice. Our neighborhood school did not make our list of seven. And, we were one of the very lucky ones who received one of our seven choices.

    Anyway, I appreciate the thoughtful comments expressed in this string, and will keep my fingers crossed for everyone going through Round 2.

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  45. Thanks for the thoughtful comment and perspective, 11:14.

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  46. I like 11:14's post, too.

    The minority issue may not be a large issue if the school is majority white IF the school is also a great school. I bet in 1972 the public schools were better than they are now. So it's not a fair comparison.

    I like the choice concept, but the reality of the failure rate for us families is too high. Ending up with a school you don't like, or no school at all, is no choice. That's failure. It's a bad system, if 30% aren't getting what they want.

    That's like holding an election and having 30% of the votes not counting.

    I went 0/7 in the first round. And if I don't get anything acceptable in the 2nd round, then how on earth has this system worked for me?

    If at least 30% of the people are ending up like this, then this system is not fair, not right, not acceptable.

    I don't buy the figures the SFUSD puts out. To say that 80% got a school of their choice is simply not possible. With siblings taken into account, I read somewhere that it's more accurately around 50% in the first round. Especially when you have so many people dropping out at that point. Add another 10% 20% to the end numbers for the second round, and even more people dropping out, add that to the total, and no more than 60% or 70% get an acceptable school. And so you have about a third not getting a school they wanted.

    That is wrong and must be fixed.

    If you had neighborhood schools, it would effect property values somewhat. In the Mission where I live, the property values would go down, unless all the schools turned into Buena Vista or Flynn (not a bad idea, actually).

    But with neighborhood schools, I'd at least have a choice, to move into the neighborhood. At least it's a choice! Something I could do!

    Right now, moving doesn't work. We are at the mercy of a "fair" and computerized lottery, and ultimately, that's no choice at all.

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  47. I am the 3:54 pm poster from yesterday. Three comments: (1) To 11:14 pm, yes, most definitely, I would most definitely NOT send my kid to a 70% white school. Once one is talking about a school that is upwards of 70 to 80% one ethnic group, I feel very strongly that there is no way that that school's experience reflects any kind of reality. So, yes, I would be having this conversation if the schools were 70% white. (2) I disagree with the postings here that suggest that schools with such high numbers of one ethnic group are actually evidence that the diversity index is working. I understand that the index cannot factor in ethnic or race issues, but it can and does factor in language spoken at home. How can the index produce schools with such a high number of students who speak Cantonese or Mandarin at home, unless the diversity index is not working? (I know I'm now going to be criticized here for assuming that a good deal of these Asian families speak Cantonese or Mandarin at home. So, to give you all a real life example, a friend of mine whose kid goes to a westside school that is largely Asian has been at "back to school" night events where her kid's teacher conducts the meetings with parents in Cantonese, with one parent translating for her (as she doesn't speak Cantonese). Tell me how that can go on unless a large majority (nearly all?) of the kids in that class are speaking Cantonese at home. And no, this is not a Cantonese immersion school.) (3) Finally, I do believe that there is cronyism/efforts to jimmy the system going on here with the diversity index, and we are kidding ourselves to assume otherwise. To those who want more specifics, here are a couple, with more identifying information deleted to protect the innocent kids. Example A: parents fail to participate in Round 1, participate in Round 2 and are given what they view as a terrible school. Grandpa, a former official of a county union, calls up some friends at the school district. Two days later, the parents receive a call that, lo and behold, there is an opening at Lakeshore. Example B: Parents participate in Round 1 and are given what they view as a terrible choice. Parents go on a rather obnoxious campaign of bombarding the placement office with e-mails, faxes and letters. One week before school starts, the parents are called by the placement office and offered a slot at West Portal. Let's not kid ourselves. Any time a system tries to allocate scarce resources using hard-to-define factors, there's going to be efforts to game the system. That's why, to my mind, a lottery is a better option.

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  48. To 9:57... I don't believe that kind of cronyism works. I was told that no exceptions happen anymore. Either your name comes up on the computer or it doesn't.

    Do you have any evidence of this? This sounds like a lot of hearsay.

    Prior to 1999, sure, maybe it happened.

    But if what you say is true, prove it. Name names. Report it. Stop it.

    I just don't buy that this hearsay is true.

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  49. 5:39am said:

    "But with neighborhood schools, I'd at least have a choice, to move into the neighborhood. At least it's a choice! Something I could do!"

    I can see the attraction of that. You would have the resources to move to a better school neighborhood, so you would get good dibs if not a guarantee on one of the popular slots. But how is that fair for the kids whose parents do not have the resources to move to a neighborhood, one that will almost surely have higher rents and property values? The lottery feels awful to parents who are used to having "something they can do" -- but the lottery is fairer for all. And yeah, it does suck that the popular spots are limited. Obviously that is why we are all cheering on the schools that are improving and glad to hear when they make the radar of the middle class parents.

    Funny thing, I am hearing that in Oakland even some who moved specifically to be within a neighborhood boundary are not getting into their neighborhood school as those schools are filling up, so the kids are being sent elsewhere. Now, that would really be a drag: make a big move and then find out it didn't work. When spots are limited, there will always be someone out of luck. The question is how to allocate the spots.

    9:57am, I could never say for certain that no one ever, ever figures out how to jimmy the system. I just know that sort of thing was widespread, even expected, a decade ago and I am not hearing the stories now, so if it is happening, it is the exception. What I hear a lot of is frustration from parents because they can't figure out "something I can do" to make the system work for their kid beyond lottery luck. Corruption? Been known to happen in most big systems, I guess, but this one seems to be pretty airtight by comparison to the past.

    I don't know why some of the schools may be mostly Cantonese speaking, other than the fact that there is probably a lot of economic diversity and the because applicant pool may be in fact mainly Chinese American--in part because other parents, as stated here more than once, don't want their kids to be part of a small minority, especially one that is historically very competitive academically (outperforms the white kids as a group).

    Regarding highly segregated white schools, I agree with you. I don't want that either, which is why I support the lottery (with improvements for transparency and better information) over neighborhood schools. Folks who want highly segregated white schools obviously have the option of going private, as most of them (not the parochial ones, but the so-called independents) are 75-80% white at least.

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  50. The diversity index does not factor in what language is spoken at home, but rather if English is spoken at the home as a “yes” or “no” result. I tried to get into a popular west side heavily Asian school. My daughter spoke a unique language and English at home. I thought we would be a shoe-in since her second language was not Cantonese or Mandarin. The SFUSD counselor told me the uniqueness of the language would not help at all. That particular school was about 50/50 in term of speaking English or another language at home (per my friend that teaches there), so I was not able to get any advantage either way I went.

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  51. Anon at 9:54 again. I guess I'm learning more about the diversity index every day. I had thought that the index did factor in the actual language spoken at home, not just whether or not English was spoken at home. But doesn't this again point to the ridiculousness of the diversity index? For three years now, I've made it a big point to understand the diversity index with two kids in public schools now. I've attended numerous SFUSD meetings where it has been explained. And I've gotten counseling at SFUSD HQ. I'm also a reasonably intelligent person (you all are just going to have to trust me on that one). And I still don't understand it! I hate to say this, but isn't this the most serious indictment of the diversity index? We expect governmental processes that allocate scarce resources to be, at the most basic level, reasonably transparent so that a reasonable citizen can understand it. And yet the diversity index and the entire SFUSD process behind is anything but transparent. That's why I feel a straight lottery makes more sense. 100% luck, no fingers on the wheel, everybody gets an equal shot at every school, and let's see what we get. And to all those who trot out horror stories of the 90's as evidence that lotteries don't work, I'm skeptical. I wasn't around then, but none of those processes (people camping out in lines for schools) sound like a true lottery system to me.

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  52. "It's a bad system, if 30% aren't getting what they want."

    19% of families didn't get 1 of their 7 choices, not 30%. 19% is still too high, though. That's why I think your chances of getting into each school should be made transparent with a running tally and with siblings applying before Round I.

    Henry

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  53. by my calculation, it wasn't 19% who didn't get what they wanted... it was 50%!!

    SFUSD reported that 81% received one of their seven choices. So it looks like only 19% went 0 for 7.

    But wait a minute...what about all those siblings that automatically get in? The SFUSD includes them among the group of people that "get 1 of their 7." Given that siblings account for about 30% of entering kindergarteners, that means that the actual percentage of people who applied and went 0/7 is about 50%! (i.e., 81% - 30% = 51%).

    This is the statistic that should make people upset. This means two things:

    1) Many families in San Francisco are not happy

    2) There are not enough good schools in San Francisco

    If we don't figure out some way to make this city fund schools better, this will be a childless environment before too long.

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  54. Silent K: Actually you have to take 30% siblings from both numbers 81 and 100 to take the siblings out completely. so 81-30=51 and 100-30=70. 51/70=72.8% got one of their choices if you discount siblings at roughly 30%.

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  55. You are forgetting to change the denominator. If 30 percent siblings are factored out it would be 50 out of 70 getting one of their choices, not 50 out of 100.

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  56. 12:17: The diversity index is complicated yes, but it's purposely designed so that there is no "gaming" the system and thus, there is no "perfect" profile. In fact, they took out the question of mother's education level since there was no way to verify this and too many people were answering in a way they believed would benefit their profile. Really it seems to me that the diversity index benefits only those who are foster children, live in public housing and qualify for free lunch. For the rest of us, it's a straight lottery pretty much.

    From the Diversity Handout: "A common misunderstanding with respect to the Diversity Index process is the
    assumption that there is a “perfect” or “ideal” profile based on some kind of additive
    properties associated with the diversity characteristics – for example, that having all “1s”
    is better than having all “0s”. There is, however, no perfect profile since the lottery
    program is always attempting to balance the ratios of a given characteristic among many
    characteristics. Rather, there are only profiles that bring these ratios closer or farther
    from the optimal 50/50 balance at a given evaluation point. In other words, a profile that
    would, at one point during the lottery process, pull the ratio further away from the 50/50
    ratio may later in the lottery process be the profile that best pulls the selected population
    toward the 50/50 goal. "

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  57. Whatever the numbers are, the SFUSD is lying when they say 81% got a school of their choice.

    Siblings? People dropping out of the lottery? Numbers are way lower.

    So I stand by my prior post by estimating that at best, it leaves 30% of the people without a school, going to private, or just leaving the city altogether.

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  58. I totally understand and support why people want sibling data to be separated out and reported early, so that folks can make reasoned choice in the lottery. I think PPS should advocate for that. But really, siblings *do* count, it's just that they just get top preference. They are kids too, and their families obviously are wanting spots for them. So sure, why not count them among the happy 81% of families that got a spot this year? For those of you who are stressing now about getting your oldest a spot, you will be so grateful when your #2 comes along not to have to go through this process again.

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  59. Some comments...
    This isn't quite accurate:

    "court rulings that resulted from pushback from white and Asian folks regarding forced integration."

    The court ruling that prevented the use of race in the assignment process was the Ho decision. Chinese families sued for this reason: When there was a cap on the percentage of one ethnicity at one school, in the case of Lowell, which admits by academic achievement, what that meant was that Chinese students had to had higher academic qualifications than any others to get into Lowell. So that was the basis for the lawsuit and the Ho decision (circa late '90s).

    Some quibbles with this whole comment:

    "...it is simply wrong for any school to be 72% one ethnic group. It is simply not diverse. And one would think that the diversity index would make it impossible for such large numbers coming from one ethnic group. Yet, year after year, those schools remain with high numbers of one ethnic group. How can this be? It is clear to me that the process is being jimmied by parents who use influence to get into where they want their kid to go."

    Fair enough about 72% of any one ethnic group, though let us note yet again that a private or suburban school that was ONLY 72% of one ethnic group would be boasting loudly about how fabulously diverse it was. Again, SFUSD is judged based on a much tougher, higher standard.

    But I don't see that those Chinese parents are pulling strings and wielding insider influence. Not many are the "powerful people" whom you envision. A great many are limited English speakers who honestly don't even know the ropes of our bureaucratic systems. In the case of the westside schools with such a high Chinese percentage, it's honestly just a case of overwhelming demand among that demographic, which is heavily overrepresented on the westside. In the case of Lowell, it's the high achievement of Chinese students.

    The diversity index was designed to ATTEMPT to use other factors as proxies for race, but clearly with little success.

    I strongly agree that the current system is far more assertive-parent-proof and fairer to the less-empowered than past systems, and that that drives assertive parents nuts.

    I agree with you, 11:14:

    "Think of it, being forced to put your child on a bus across town to a school and neighborhood they don't know --did it do any good?"

    The process was ordered by a judge who didn't give a crap about how well it worked for families, of course. HIS set wasn't affected. When the judge who had overseen the various (chaotic, unsuccessful and family-unfriendly) desegregation plans over the years, William Orrick, died a few years ago, his obit noted that he was a major supporter of one of the elite private girls' schools -- Hamlin or Burke's, I forget which. Well, WHAT a surprise. Like he even knew any poor scum who sent their kids to SFUSD. (Yes, that enrages me.)

    9:57, one point is that you don't know if those families would have gotten the Lakeshore and West Portal calls anyway. Many do. I know a number of families who had accepted private and forgotten all about SFUSD and still got a Clarendon or Rooftop call early in the K year.

    However, in both cases you're also talking about POST-Round 2 -- waitpool time -- which is when I also advocate for making those frequent calls to the EPC. At that point, the process is down to filling slots as they come up, rather than a standardized (if incomprehensible) lottery process. It just seems extremely likely that if the EPC person is looking at applicant A on the waiting list with no clue whether applicant A still wants the spot or will call back right away, and the daily call comes in from applicant Z, who says "hi, I want that spot!" -- who you gonna give it to?

    You're misunderstanding this, 12:17:

    "...to all those who trot out horror stories of the 90's as evidence that lotteries don't work, I'm skeptical. I wasn't around then, but none of those processes (people camping out in lines for schools) sound like a true lottery system to me."

    There were definitely not true lotteries in the '90s -- the point is that the systems that WERE in place were problematic. The camping out ended before my time, maybe early '90s, and was not at all a lottery. It was purely first come, first served.

    It was replace by a complicated system (as bad as? worse than?) today's diversity index. It was not an all-choice system; your default assignment was your neighborhood school (but that might be far away in some circumstances, not to mention you might hate the school and tough **** if you did). But that was complicated by the cap of 40% of any one ethnicity at a school. There was a lottery for alternative schools, but that also incorporated the ethnic caps. Then there was the infamous ZIP code preference (infamous unless you lived in 94110, 94124 or 94134). For a few years, those ZIP codes got top preference for any schools they chose, behind only siblings - no matter their ethnicity or income. The hostility over that in my kids' preschool, which was about 1/3 94110 Bernal families, was thicker than Play-Doh.

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  60. Did anyone else notice that Miraloma had almost 70% white children entering the kindergarten last year? I ruled it out for that reason. I haven't noticed people getting freaked out about that majority on this blog. But 70% Asians? Oh-my-god!!

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  61. Re the Caroline post. My, we have come a long way on this blog. It started with postings about how it is "just impossible to have any impact on Placement's decisionmaking" and "calling won't do a thing" to Caroline's frank, and definitely true assertion, that, at many points in the process, the squeaky wheel is going to get the grease. I think we are finally giving people some real advice here about the sorry state of this process. And I'm sorry, but I don't think it is "only natural" that Placement would give a slot to a parent because he or she is bombarding the office with phone calls. It rewards pushy people at the expense of people who are actually trying to follow the rules of the process. It rewards parents with the time on their hand (read: well off people who can repeatedly call and visit Placement -- come on folks, have you ever gotten a live person at Placement on the first try?) at the expense of poorer, working people. Yet again another reason why this supposedly socieconomically diverse index does NOT actually do what it is supposed to do! (Indeed, if SFUSD were an advertiser, I'd say it was engaged in deceptive advertising.) And yet another reason why a pure lottery system is at least going to lead to fairer and more just results.

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  62. @8:30pm, is it that high (70% white) at Miraloma at the K level this year? I did not know that (it's not our school). Agreed that is very high if true. Amazingly so, actually, given the overall %s of white kids in the public schools. I see on greatschools.net that the current totals are more like 36%, still quite high. Can anyone else confirm this assertion?

    @8:31, I'm not sure if you are willfully misreading Caroline to make your point, or just missing hers altogether. She has made this point several times before actually, to wit: there may be ONE point in the process where parental advocacy may make a difference, which is calling EPC during the waitpool process, after the Round 2 lottery. At that point the computer-generated lottery stops, and the slots are filled one by one as they open up. That's where being the squeaky wheel might get you the slot, if the person whose name is above yours on the waitpool list doesn't answer the phone that day. Maybe. Worth a shot, she is saying. Worth a daily phone call.

    And yeah, if true, it would reward the parent who is persistent, who is perhaps also a parent with more time. Though at that point in the process EPC is more likely to pick up the phones (less bombardment), so it may be something that most working people, okay, those with access to phones, can do. Maybe it's not fair, but it's a small thing in the larger scheme of things.

    This is not the same thing as saying that "at many points in the process" that pushy parents can wield undue influence. Maybe a few do, I don't know (sigh). However, I'm certain they do not do so in the great numbers they used to, in the old days of 10-20 years ago. The current lottery is a lot more airtight and a lot fairer than it used to be--and it therefore drives pushy parents crazy because they can't figure out how to work it.

    I'm also not sure why you think a so-called "pure" lottery would be so much fairer. I assume you mean with no diversity items taken into account, for balance? Truly, I doubt it, for most of us. The diversity items give an advantage to kids who are extremely poor to get into some popular schools. It's not a huge number that apply to those schools though--many choose schools in their neighborhoods. If you are middle class and applied to all oversubscribed schools, then you were mostly competing against your socio-economic peers, just as you would be doing in a "pure" lottery. In the largely Asian American schools on the west side, as has been pointed out, these socio-economic factors are mostly a wash due to the great economic diversity in that community.

    Really, it's true, despite (one person's?) repeated assertions that there are large numbers of people working the system, and despite Caroline's ONE point about making phone calls at the last stage of the process. It's not a corrupt system, overall. Sure, the lottery could be made easier to understand and there have been some great suggestions made here for improving information flow (I believe Henry wrote about publishing sibling reg data, Round 1 enrollment data, etc.), but actually in terms of fairness the current lottery itself is about as good as it gets. To the frustration of many, no doubt!

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  63. Part of my thinking on the possible impact of making those phone calls at ONE POINT in the process (8:31 is totally misreading me; 9:04 is correct) is based on having experience with waiting lists from being on the board of a parent-run co-op preschool.

    One major point about them is that many of the names are not really "waiting" anymore and have gone off to other, if not necessarily greener, pastures. This is really a hassle when you have to fill an opening. So it's no just a clockwork process at that point.

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  64. 9:04,
    To find out the racial percentages of a particular class at a particular school, go to the SFUSD website and look up the school and the "PF" (profile).

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  65. ^thanks, and wow, 68% white in the current K class at Miraloma. I had no idea. It's been years since we looked for elementary, and it looked very different then! That is very high. Since the diversity index does not track for race it cannnot account for the numbers of white kids exactly, but I notice that only 16% get free lunch and 7% more get reduced lunch. Wow. This segregation makes it look like a private school, or close--and the trends are in the direction of more so. I wonder why more poor families (that might also include kids of color) are not applying?--they would surely get a spot if they did. Is is the transportation issue? Cultural barriers or perceptions of same? Anyone know what the numbers are for this year's class?

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  66. this also tells me that at miraloma, at least, the lottery is mainly a straight lottery, with white middle / upper middle class folks competing against each other. lower income folks are just not applying there.

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  67. I'm a Miraloma parent of a 5th grader and hadn't realized this - it was more evenly spread out (i.e.'looked just like SF') when we started 6 years ago.

    Miraloma is very difficult to get to by public transportation - only the 36 bus which is notoriously infrequent and irregular. Many African American famlies left to go to Drew when it became a Dream School and others have left for KIPP. Many like that it is much closer to home and, frankly with the loss of Title I funding at Miraloma, many of the Bayview schools offer more in the way of extra services such as afterschool, social and academic services.

    We also lost a lot of Chinese immigrant families when I first started as the test scores were quite low at the time and families left to go to schools with higher APIs - mainly Lakeshore and Ulloa at the time.

    In the end, I think we see families move towards a school if they feel they can find a community. Latino schools are getting more Latino, Chinese more Chinese, and African American more African American. Apparently Miraloma is getting more white for the same reason.

    Too bad, as we went there because we loved that there was no overwhelming majority of anything at the time and really no child was really 'different' (including different types of families.)

    My son will be going to Aptos next year, which looks a lot like Miraloma when we started as far as ethnic make up - just like SF!

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  68. Seems like the segregation we are seeing at many (though not all) schools is NOT happening because of corruption or pushy parents getting the coveted slots, but because groups of folks are self-selecting it--different ethnic group tend to pick certain schools as part of the choice process. And with ethnic quotas disallowed per the Ho decision, there are no caps to stop that from happening.

    Where the process can work in favor of integration is where more than one ethnic group happens to choose a certain school in significant numbers, but then mainly if there are also significant socio-economic differences between those two groups, so that the diversity index can do its intended job of making balanced schools.

    Which leads me to think that the most integrated schools, long-term, or going to fall into one of three categories:

    1) immersion programs, which are designed to recruit and attract native speakers and non-native speakers, often translating into immigrant and white.

    2) schools that are situated near several neighborhood boundaries such that folks are willing to and able to go there (solving the Miraloma inaccessibility problem). maybe.

    3) schools that do targeted outreach and recruitment, and intentional cross-cultural work within the school to help folks feel comfortable.

    Perhaps #2 and #3 work best together. The immersion strategy does seem to be working for the most part, at least so far.

    This all assumes that integration is a goal, which I think it is--because as we have discussed here of late, it is a proven strategy for raising test scores for failing schools, and for all the kids in it (though achievement gaps persist even so).

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  69. I agree with the last comment that segregation in public schools is happening to a degree because parents are self-selecting it. And to a degree, you see this happening with the privates, as in the caucasian people are predominantly choosing to cluster at privates. We are fairly tribal people in the end, no? Of course its about class in addition to race. I will confess that this process has made me uncomfortable in confronting my own prejudices.

    Which is why I so much admire public school parents and activists who are able to think beyond their own personal experience! There's such a positive shift in attitudes recognizing that we are all in the together. That as a community we can make good changes... It's amazing really. You don't see this in Oakland where the neighborhood school assignment system creates much divisiveness amongst families and neighbors.

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  70. It's interesting to me that so many suggest that we "improve" all schools because there is so obviously no money available to do this. The current budget crisis isn't getting much press yet, probably because the city controller hasn't yet decided how much of the Rainy Day Fund to release to make up the shortfall, thus no one is really sure how bad it will be. As long as teachers and paras are being laid off due to lack of funds, there's no way there can be enough money to "improve" anything.

    For example, a lot of lip service (in the media, not on this blog) is paid to ideas on how to get better teachers to work in underserved schools, but the reality is that unless there's money available for "combat pay" we're never going to convince better teachers to go to lesser schools. Why should they?

    Consider that teaching is the only profession I can think of where one is expected to supply their own filing cabinet! There is a limit on how much we can expect teachers to do just because it's the right thing to do.

    Lack of funding can also keep a school from using its available funds productively. I know of at least one school that has funds for a P.E. teacher, but hasn't been able to find a certified teacher to take the position at least partly because the staff is swamped with the problems they have on hand - no one has the time to take on leading the search.

    If I seem to come at this from a different angle than most posters it's probably because I'm one of the teachers who got a layoff notice and I'm waiting to find out if I'll be one of the lucky ones whose layoff will be rescinded. From where I'm sitting, I see a school district in disarray, a district that treats teachers as "expenses" that need to be reduced - not as one of the central pillars of our education system! At this point, I wonder everyday whether I should stay in teaching or not. While everyone else around me is starting to plan for next year, I don't even know if I'll have a class - and if I do, there's almost zero chance it will be at the same site or even same grade level.

    I know this blog is really meant for parents, but I'd like the parents to know that from a new teacher's point of view it looks like things are going to have to get worse before they get better.

    Money is SFUSD's #1 concern, so expect all decisions to reflect that concern. Neighborhood schools are likely to be brought back, not because they are better for children, but because they are less costly to administer.

    Some have said it isn't the schools' job to integrate society - whose job is it? Is it anyone's? Or should we just wait for it to happen "naturally"?

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  71. Miraloma is now so popular because it is so "white". Nobody wants to admit that, but that is the way it is.

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  72. Miraloma parent, families leaving for KIPP would only cause the 5th grade to clear out, because both KIPP schools (KIPP Bayview and KIPP SF Bay) are grades 5-8:

    "Many African American famlies left to go to Drew when it became a Dream School and others have left for KIPP."

    Is that happening? In general San Francisco's KIPP schools have a lot of trouble attracting applicants to their 5th grades because not many families want to move their kids away from the current school for the last year. I'd be surprised if many families were eager to pull their kids out of Miraloma after 4th and have them miss the fun of 5th-grade graduation.

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  73. Caroline, I personally share some of your concerns about KIPP, but I know of several Latino families in various popular immersion schools who sent their boys to KIPP for 5th grade. They were concerned that their boys would be particularly at-risk to be pulled toward gang culture and bad habits in their neighborhoods and possibly also in large middle schools, so they wanted a rigorous, disciplined approach to school with long hours and high expectations. That's how it has been explained to me, several times by different moms.

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  74. That is indeed the advantage of KIPP schools -- they self-select aggressively for compliant, high-functioning families who are motivated to keep their kids away from gang/ghetto culture. (Well, another advantage is that they have vast, humongous amounts of money.) And they have very high attrition, undoubtedly due to those same self-selection mechanisms and the problem students who bump up against them -- and unlike traditional public schools, they don't replace the students who leave, so they wind up with only the MOST high-functioning, motivated and complaint, who remain at the school.

    A big issue I have with them is that they insist that there is no self-selection going on and that they enroll a cross-section of disadvantaged kids, which is flaming BS (but that BS is how they get all those multimillions in private funding).

    The big question is that if the public school down the street could implement the multiple self-selection mechanisms that keep out/dump out the low-functioning gang/ghetto kids -- not to mention got all those private megabucks -- would it do as well?

    Sorry, WAY off topic. I was just questioning whether a lot of families were really pulling kids out of Miraloma after 4th grade to move to KIPP. I can see that at a troubled school, but it seemed surprising there.

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  75. Yes, again, I really share your doubts about the KIPP model, both as it is and certainly in terms of any claims that it could be replicated down the street at a school with no ability to be selective and much less private funding.

    That said, I have seen a small trend of Latino families with boys who do pull their kids out of some very sweet schools in the 5th grade in order to get a jump on middle school at KIPP. They still love the old elementary school, and their younger ones remain there, but they are thinking about their kid, especially their MALE kid, they are very worried about the middle school years.

    Their working class boys of color are probably among the MOST at-risk kids in the system, even given that these are very attentive, on-the-ball families--so it's hard to blame them for reaching for this strategy of being with a more disciplined cohort, even with the somewhat problematic nature of the program in a larger sense. I mean, these folks have a lot to worry with their kids (it's a very different picture for most of the kids whose parents read this blog--where the anxiety level to likely outcome for their kids is quite a high ratio sometimes).

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  76. I read these comments and see a lot discussion surrounding racial integration and how the lottery or SFUSD should attempt racial integration in the schools. Racial integration is not an objective of SFUSD, economic integration is an objective and one that is reflected in the diversity questions posed to parents.

    I think this blog has gone a long way in helping parents understand a truly complex process. The discussions over the last month about the SFUSD numbers (and how they do not reflect siblings) is particularly useful for parents participating in the process in years to come.

    I think the lottery process is a good process. I think SFUSD with PPS should use lessons learned to provide clear and accurate information to parents so they can compile a more realistic list.

    Knowing what I know now, I would advise parents to pick no more than 5 "popular schools" (including Flynn, Mirloma, etc.) and reserve 2 choices for truly less subscribed schools. I read Kate's choices in round I and was convinced (based completely on the chatter and gushing on this very blog), that she would get none of her 7.

    That being said, if one is truly committed to public and the public that you are assigned is not working out in K, you can always join the lottery for 1st grade. Can anyone comment on your experiences for 1st grade? I understand that there is movement and your chances are better than K.

    Best to you all..

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  77. A couple kids transferred to KIPP in 5th grade when my current 7th grader was a 5th grader. It was a small class -- only 33 graduates I believe, so even a loss of 2 kids makes a difference. Last year at least one student transferred. Miraloma has school buses from Bayview/HP and Oceanview. Families whose kids have had to get up super early to catch the school bus like the option of a school closer to home. I know the bus stops at the end of my street, and there is not way my kid could be up and out the door in time to catch the bus at 7:15.

    Up until last year, Miraloma was underenrolled, so any child who applied got in. For whatever reason, many African American families are not choosing the school anymore. I am not sure if they ever were "choosing" it, or just got assigned by SFUSD because of the bus routes. I know that in past years the school had a poor reputation among some in the AA community (at least according to some Whitney Young parents I met.)

    Now that all the slots are filled by request, there are no spots available for kids who need a slot later in the process. It will be interesting to see how demographics play out this year with the huge push PPS, EPC, First 5, CDC etc. put into getting on-time round one applications from parent communities that have traditionally filed late, and missed out on slots at many schools. I have really enjoyed the mix of kids at Miraloma -- it has been great for my older kids that no one group was in the majority. The mix of cultures, languages, and neighborhoods has made for a rich learning environment.

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  78. Miraloma had automatic assignments from two satellite zones in the Bayview -- last time I looked at a district map, they were marked "Miraloma A" and "Miraloma B." And of course until very recently, Miraloma did not have a good reputation, meaning that these kids were bused automatically out of their neighborhood to a poorly-thought-of "ghetto school" in a different neighborhood.

    Of course I can see the attraction to a closer school, and especially one that promises to shelter them from the street influence of seriously alienated kids (not to mention one that has more money than God). I can believe that Miraloma might lose a couple of kids a year to such a school -- I was just questioning the implication that it was more.

    My point is not that KIPP schools are not good environments for those high-functioning, motivated, compliant (not "complaint" as I mistyped earlier) kids. It's just that KIPP's success come with a big asterisk -- they are seriously and deliberately misrepresented by KIPP and its huge chorus of supporters (who misrepresent them in search of yet MORE millions in private funding), and often used to bash the public school down the street that accepts the kids who would never even get near a KIPP school.

    (I'm transfixed by the fact that KIPP teaches its students to "walk briskly down the hall" and would love to be hired just to give that lesson, for which I am very well qualified as a teacher. Of course, seriously, we can see how that's a lesson in "how to act middle-class," and also how it helps screen out oppositional kids who would never comply with it.)

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  79. Sorry, I mis-blogged! I check with the fifth grade teacher. Last year one student transferred to KIPP from Miraloma. Several others considered it in previous years, but opted to stay at Miraloma. However, some kids toured and possibly enrolled at KIPP for middle school.

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  80. To 1:25 pm -- I tried transferring for First Grade (and Second Grade) and got nowhere. And my sense from two others who tried it is that they too got nowhere. The best sense I have is that the better time to try to transfer is for 4th Grade. Often, at that point, people are moving out of the city or getting tired of the particular public school and going private. At the same time, privates start increasing their class size at 4th grade, which in turn gives these people places to go to. And people with kids in 3rd Grade are less likely to try to transfer, so that you are competing against fewer people trying to transfer. So, I would seriously counsel people to not plan for future transfers to another public school as a way out of a situation they don't like. However, I know that Creative Arts Charter School often has openings in later grades like first, second, and third, and so a charter like that might be an alternative option if you become unhappy with your assigned school. (We looked at it, but it would not have been a good fit for our kid, but many parents have been very happy there.)

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  81. I'd like to add to that last post: Creative Arts Charter keeps their upper grade class sizes small, so instead of 33+ students in 3rd grade, it's more like 20-22...

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  82. 4:09 - Thanks so much for your comment regarding your experiences for 1st and 2nd grade. I guess I thought it might be easier (or at least a back-up) since I looked at the waitlist pool for last year and there seemed to be very few in the waitlist that went 0/7 (meaning that it seemed most had gotten at least 1/7). How does it work for 1st or 2nd grade - Lottery of 7 still?

    Thanks again for your comments - they are very helpful.

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  83. I am surprised at many of these responses! It is amazing to me that anyone could find this system more appealing than the neighborhood model.

    I understand the ideal, but it doesn't work when you eliminate neighborhood schools. Having a lottery for the alternative / premier schools if fine, but taking away the neighborhood element is a mistake. Neighborhood schools are vital places which represent the greater community with arts, play, performances, civics.. all good stuff!

    I am a public school advocate. Whenever I go, I just find the local school and sign up. I've found neighborhood schools to be the best way to know a community. (And those that tell you improving a school by engaging the community is difficult to do, probably haven't done it before. It can be quite fun.)

    But here in SF, I don't know what school to rally behind. It just doesn't feel right to offer my services to a school that won't take my kid.

    I also worry about the outside effects of shipping my kid to a school outside our neighborhood. How will I get to know his friends, their parents, how to coordinate and really supervise after school time?

    So when I got my round 1 assignment - that told me I could attend the school 3 blocks away or any others - I had just one thought. Let's move. I can't be in a place that so criples its local schools. So like so many of our friends, we are looking for more community oriented places to live.

    So sad, I love this city.

    And I am really not convinced that the lottery does much to improve diversity. Has anyone visited the Cobb school? Its located in pac heights but mostly serves children from outlying poor areas - most receive subsidized lunches. It is still segregated.

    I don't understand how shipping poor kids across the city helps them. I mentor and tutor children from Bayview. And while they think its cool to go to "the popular" schools, that novelty wears off when they have to endure hour long bus rides and miss time from their neighborhood friends. It is hard for them. Parents also find it difficult to be involved as it is a hike for them too.

    I just don't think this system works.

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  84. I grew up in the suburbs of a city in the Midwest. It was mostly white, upper-middle class, probably above 95%. The city was predominantly white, still is, though the hispanic population has increased over the past couple of decades, so that percentage has probably dropped some since I lived there. Most of the (poorer) black residents lived on the
    "North Side". That's the old part of town. The sketchy part of town. The part of town most people never go to or will never see. It's conveniently located away from the center of life now. Schools there are pretty rotten. Tax distribution is obviously way below other more affluent areas with wealthy homeowners and businesses, so schools aren't funded fairly, and nobody that didn't grow up there is going to move there.
    Many of those people can't just move to another neighborhood.

    There are a few magnet schools that are very desirable in the city, and they do have diverse populations. They are not enough to give everyone an equal opportunity.

    Neighborhood schools might give people a snug sense of community. (Frankly, I don't hang out with my neighbors, but whatever.) What they don't give is an educational experience that is fair and equitable across all schools in a system.

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  85. Our elementary school, while not our neighborhood school, has a great sense of community.

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  86. Exactly, community can be achieved without proximity to one's home factoring into it.

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  87. I just want to chime in with something that the EPC counselor that I met with told me. The diversity index only comes into play for over-subscribed schools...and becomes less and less relevant through the process after Round 1. So, by the time, they're slotting waitlist people, diversity isn't really being considered.
    What's the point of having a diversity requirement if it only gets applied in an ad hoc and partial fashion. Unfortunately, I can't think through better approaches, but am left feeling annoyed that the current approach isn't applied consistently to all schools through the whole process.

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  88. Has anyone visited the Cobb school? Its located in pac heights but mostly serves children from outlying poor areas - most receive subsidized lunches. It is still segregated.
    ----------------

    Actually, Cobb has a great number of families that work at California Pacific Medical Center and have interdistrict transfers to go to a school close to their parents workplace.

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  89. I don't understand how shipping poor kids across the city helps them. I mentor and tutor children from Bayview.
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    To the above comment, if Bayview parents choose to send their kids across town to go to a school where they do not have lockdowns, I suppose it does indeed help them, wouldn't you say? Why should they not have choice? They are only going to schools outside of Bayview because of an active parent choice.

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  90. ...is paid to ideas on how to get better teachers to work in underserved schools, but the reality is that unless there's money available for "combat pay" we're never going to convince better teachers to go to lesser schools. Why should they?

    I find this comment very disturbing. I'll admit to being personally offended: I teach in an underserved school by choice, and I would stake the quality of my teaching against anyone and by any standard you can name: standardized testing, student/parent satisfaction, portfolio assessment results, evaluations, etc. The staff at our school is dedicated, hardworking, tapped into our community, and gets results.

    The notion of "combat pay" alarms me, quotes or no. I don't teach in a warzone. I teach in a poor neighborhood. There is some violence and some illegal activity (as there is in all neighborhoods). There's also community involvement, family networks, happy children, and all of the things we assume to exist only in privileged neighborhoods.

    The job of teaching in an underserved community is significantly different than that of teaching in a community that has traditionally been adequately (or even over-) served. I don't think it serves any useful purpose to claim that one is easier than the other - it's just denigrating your colleagues.

    I've taught at a couple of schools in the Bay Area, always those serving underserved communities. In my experience, what really makes a difference is the dedication of the staff. Schools whose staffs want to be where they are excel. Those who think they work in a combat zone don't. It has nothing to do with "lesser" teachers - it's attitude and desire.

    The trick is to find the teachers who are willing to learn from their community and invest themselves in it. I don't know that a little extra cash is going to help find those people. I think it's a recruitment issue.

    Finally, it's worth noting that the schools in SFUSD who are really feeling the layoff pinch are those serving poor communities, simply because they tend to have younger (less seniority) teachers. Given the need to build school/community connections, the possibility that huge minorities (in some cases majorities!) of staffs could be leaving, these schools and their communities will suffer the layoffs the hardest.

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  91. ....Finally, it's worth noting that the schools in SFUSD who are really feeling the layoff pinch are those serving poor communities, simply because they tend to have younger (less seniority) teachers. Given the need to build school/community connections, the possibility that huge minorities (in some cases majorities!) of staffs could be leaving, these schools and their communities will suffer the layoffs the hardest.

    I think this is the key point for Measure A, which will provide incentive pay for teachers at high-need schools. Typically, brand new teachers are assigned to the neediest schools, and most of them leave within a few years. They either leave the field altogether, or transfer to an school serving a less needy population. But, if they had to take a pay cut to take the transfer, wouldn't some of them choose to stay at the more needy school? And, wouldn't keeping more senior teachers at these schools improve them?

    A few great teachers are born not made. But like most professionals, mostly they improve with experience. Even a great novice teacher will be even better in five year, and even better than that in ten. The energy of a new teacher is great, but kids need a variety of teachers. An enthusiastic novice teacher one year, followed by a more seasoned teacher the next.

    Novice teacher will benefit by having more seasoned teachers to mentor them. Seasoned teachers might catch some new energy. The kids will benefit. It's not a miracle solution to teaching needy children, but it does address a systemic problem in our current system.

    Also, as you point out, these schools will be taking the biggest hits in layoffs. If layoffs have to occur, all schools should be affected equally. I think Measure A is a great idea. It will take a number of years to feel the full impact, as novice teachers gain more experience, and choose to stay in these more demanding schools. But ultimately, those children who need the best teachers will have a better chance of getting them.

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  92. Oh, I absolutely agree about experience: it helps. I've been teaching for nine years now, and my practice has changed (for the better, I'd say) dramatically.

    However, it's not the end-all. I'm not arguing that eagerness/desire trumps experience - among other things, first-year teachers who work ninety hours a week because they have the desire tend to burn out and leave, as you mention.

    There's also the very real issue that the teachers in underserved communities are rarely from the community. There's a significant learning curve - culturally responsive pedagogy, thinking about one's own privilege - that is NOT available in wealthier, whiter schools. In short, it's not just experience - it's what experience.

    So for me, I'd rather have less experienced teachers who have more desire to reflect on their pedagogy than more experienced teachers who don't have, want, or even recognize the need for cultural proficiency.

    High expectations, experience, culturally responsive pedagogy, staff unity: you need them all. To the extent that Measure A might provide financial incentive for teachers to stay at a school site, I think it's positive (although I don't think anyone has shown conclusively that there is an effect in retention from these types of initiatives).

    Measure A has some other great stuff, too: a defined Master Teacher program, for one. That would be of incredible use to younger teachers.

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  93. Anon at 9:44

    I agree completely. The best thing incentive pay could do would be to encourage teachers to stay in needy schools once they have gotten some experience under their belts. The payoff would be gradual as needy schools experience less staff turnover.

    I'm not sure that importing otherwise experienced teachers into a needy school would necessarily be successful unless the teacher was really committed to a different environment. But I can't see this really happening that much.

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  94. Research shows there is a 'sweet spot' where teachers are often at their professional best: between 5-13 years. But we need to keep them around long enough to get there (which is what Prop A on the June 2008 Ballot is about - Vote Yes on Prop A!)

    It's true and sad that novice teacher s are often concentrated in the lowest performing schools (a national urban school district trend - we are no different.)

    Because union rules allow senior teacher to choose where they go, they often gravitate to higher performing, less demanding schools (hmmm, sounds sort of like what happens with parents and enrollment, gravitate to what you know and feel the least cognitive dissonance.)

    In any event, I agree with the above poster (teacher?) that experience doesn't necessarily equal quality. I've had good and bad novice/exeperienced teachers. And, seriously, the bad experienced ones were definitely the worst! Fortunately they are a small minority (but Vote Yes of Prop A because it helps to address ensuring a quality teacher in every classroom through increased professional development and accountability!)


    Personally, in looking for a middle school, I was looking for schools with a blend of seasoned and new teachers as that what has been a positive experience at our elementary. There were some schools where the teaching staff, while 'experienced' seemed set in their ways and I doubted that there had been much reflection on new ways to approach education and learning in recent years. I like dynamism and a 'learning organization' in the best sense. Fortunately, there are some good alternatives to choose from.

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  95. I find it very interesting that pre Round 1 letters the vote is 60%+ NO to neighborhood schools, and that post Round 1/2, it remains 60%+ NO.

    While there is still, among this group anyway, a sizable minority wanting neighborhood school, there clearly is no mandate to move towards this as a solution.

    And this group is probably disproportionaletly YES vs the general population (only 19% of kinder applicants put down their neighborhood school.)

    Yet it seems the idea of going to neighborhood schools gets disproportionate attention as a solution (among a more elite few, I suppose.)

    Thoughts?

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  96. 9:20pm

    Where did you choose for middle school? In which middle schools did you find this mix of teachers?

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  97. I liked the mix of 'old/new' teachers at Lick Middle and Aptos. While Hoover is the most popular middle school choice, for my kid I didn't feel it was the right fit and, again my own personal opinion, didn't like that it was so heavily senior teachers. It definitely is the top choice for many. Just personal opinion (and, again, nice that there are choices from which to choose!)

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  98. Thanks and I'm glad to hear that you see some newer teachers at Aptos. I have heard good things about Aptos, but on my visits there, I didn't really see the new, enthusiastic teachers.

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  99. 9:23.

    I think our knee-jerk reaction is to want a neighborhood school. It seems easy. It seems comfortable. The reality here is, most people probably don't like what would be their neighborhood school. Also, when thought out more carefully, there are other factors that become more important. In cities with neighborhood schools, magnet schools are always in high demand.

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