Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guest blogger: Plan C San Francisco

I'm the chair of Plan C San Francisco ( - we are a 1000+ member civic group in San Francisco, and we are very interested in trying to push San Francisco in the direction of more weighting to neighborhood schools (note: we're not advocating for a guarantee to attend your neighborhood school - we think choice is still important for lots of reasons - families who want immersion programs, particular curriculums, etc.) I realize not all SF K Files readers want neighborhood schools, but we think moving in that direction makes a lot of sense. Mostly because we think it will bring families back into the public school system who have opted out - and that will start a "virtuous cycle": more families opting into the public schools will make the public schools better, which will cause more families to opt for public schools, which will make the schools better, and so on. Neighborhood schools also promote a sense of community - there are probably 10 kids near the age of my five year old on my block of Cole Valley, but we don't know any of them very well, and the kids don't play with one another - in part because we all attend different schools! And for anyone who cares about global warming, walking to school sure beats driving cross-town 5X per week.
Plan C was established about 5 years ago to promote quality of life issues in San Francisco, and we think more weighting to neighborhood schools will make for better schools, better neighborhoods, and a better environment. If SF K Files readers agree, we'd love to have them join our group (at no charge) by clicking here. And if readers want to help with the leadership of our neighborhood schools efforts, even better!
By the way, we're sensitive to the diversity and "achievement gap" concerns that lead to the current assignment system. It's just that we don't think the current system has been successful in addressing those issues - it really hasn't resulted in any greater diversity in the schools, and we haven't seen any closing of the achievement gap in San Francisco. If the current system is failing at these goals, why not give neighborhood schools a try (like Oakland does), and see if we can achieve some of the progressive goals described above (greater public school participation, neighborhood cohesiveness, and a greener city!)
Mike Sullivan, Chair, Plan C San Francisco


  1. Mike, the plural of curriculum is actually curricula.

  2. "and we are very interested in trying to push San Francisco in the direction of more weighting to neighborhood schools..."

    Oh dear God! The grammar!

  3. You've had 5 years to get to know your neighbors' kids before the start of kinder ;-)

  4. Mike you will find that many on this forum have agendas and hence the snide attacking comments. I would love neighborhood public schools as would many others but I dont think this will happen in the near future. Personally we voted with our feet literally and both our kids are in privates - yes we walk to school. What a concept.

  5. "Oh dear God! The grammar!"

    OMG I am so constipated!

  6. behind you all the way

  7. Stating that the choice system hasn't closed the opportunity gap doesn't actually absolve this organization from lighting upon a method that is certain to further segregate San Francisco's already segregated schools. I think it would be more intellectually honest to admit that Plan C has a short-term, self-centered plan for the education of their children.

  8. I am a dues paying member of Plan C and have been extremely disappointed in the superficial exploration or discussion of public education issues.

    For example, taking a 'no stand' on Proposition A last June when no one from Plan C membership or the campaign was asked to come speak before your membership to learn more.

    I'm a public school parent with kids in two schools - one is our neighborhood school, another is not. While there is a great deal of touting neighborhood schools as a way to increase community engagement, I have yet to see research locally or otherwise that indeed shows this is the case. Most of the parents in my non-neighborhood elementary school that are most active are not 'in the neighborhood' for example.

    I would like to see Plan C have some honest and serious discussion about public school issues before taking stands on things without any due diligence. I think the organization has a role to play in helping voice moderate to liberal stances on issues in SF. But I don't see serious discussion or exploration of issues - particularly education.

  9. "a method that is certain to further segregate San Francisco's already segregated schools."

    Point taken but no system is perfect and the current one certainly needs change. I agree a big initial step in improving the public schools is to draw in more active and 'gasp' affluent parents who are now in private schools or leaving the city.

  10. If we lived in Cole Valley or on the western side of the city, I'd probably want neighborhood schools, too....

  11. 11:06 PM:

    Thanks for noting Plan C's position on June's Proposition A - a position that questions Plan C's positioning as "moderate" and calls into question their support for public education (except for their neighborhood schools, I suppose - which I assume they intend to self-fund, thereby increasing systemic inequities in the District).

    I don't support the notion that attracting more affluent parents to the District will somehow raise overall achievement or close the opportunity gap, particularly if these more affluent parents do not intend to advocate for the District as a whole.

  12. I'd like a list of Plan C members, (could be anonymous numbers, not even names) and next to each person's number,the name of the school which is their "neighborhood" school.

    I bet they are all people living near CLarendon, West Portal, Lilienthal, etc.

    And their opposition to Proposition A shows how self-serving they are.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. (Reposting to fix a typo)

    A veteran parent's perspective:

    While I understand the desire for certainty and for better odds of getting a school closer to home -- and I support a system that provides those benefits -- some of the assumptions about neighborhood schools don't take recent reality into account.

    SFUSD did have default assignments to mostly-neighborhood schools not that long ago -- in the '90s, when my kids started school. Obviously, that meant that some lucky families had access to high-achieving schools, while many were assigned to struggling schools. Among the middle class, there was a mass effort to get into a few select alternative schools -- by families like mine who were assigned to neighborhood schools we viewed as inadequate.

    Many families, as statistics show, fled to private schools for the same reason. The private schools were often across the city or even outside the city -- geographic convenience was not part of the equation. Same with the prized alternative public schools that were sought out by middle-class families.

    Needless to say, the fact that most families had automatic access to nearby schools was not the solution that today's advocates envision. In fact, the view at that time was that families who make an effort to seek out a school and take some trouble to get their kids there are likely to be more motivated and committed to supporting the school. And reality bore that out.

    In my family's case, we were assigned to then-troubled Miraloma Elementary, around the corner from us. We viewed it as inadequate to meet our children's needs, and pushed successfully to get into Lakeshore, a 15-minute drive from our home.

    Many families at our former preschool, Miraloma Co-op, lived close to the preschool and were assigned by default to Sunnyside, conveniently located in their neighborhood. In our five years at Miraloma Co-op (93-96 and 97-99), ZERO families in the preschool accepted their assignments to Sunnyside. They went through the process to get into alternative public schools or went private.

    For a few years in the mid-'90s, families in three zip codes had preference to schools of their choice. The zip codes included 94110, which covers Bernal Heights. We have many friends in Bernal. All of them, along with pretty much all their middle-class neighbors, took advantage of the zip code preference to get top alternative schools outside Bernal -- as far as Claire Lilienthal. My kids' school, Lakeshore (in the Sunset, nowhere near Bernal) was filled with Bernal families for that reason.

    Again, I understand the appeal of a guaranteed assignment to a nearby school -- of course I do. But that's what we had in my time, and it clearly wasn't ensuring success for many of the schools. There are far more successful, thriving schools in SFUSD now, after years in which neighborhood preference was downplayed, than there were in the years when neighborhood assignment was a certainty.

    And as others are observing, it's largely the parents who live near desirable schools who are idealizing neighborhood assignment.

    Also, it's not very effective to use Oakland as an example. Oakland is a seriously troubled school district with a sprinkling of elite schools and a huge mass of badly troubled ones -- a pattern directly due to neighborhood school assignment.

  15. Contrary to popular belief, both curriculums and curricula are acceptable plurals for curriculum.

  16. Good god who cares?

    The pettiness of the people on this blog is amazing.

    Plan C didn't fight for Prop A for money for schools, 'screw 'em.

  17. but, caroline, if, as PPS and SFUSD and others seem to be (consistently) suggesting -- and i believe -- most district schools have hit that critical threshold of qualifying as a "good" school, then maybe the factors guiding middle-class parents' thought in the 90s no longer apply? maybe it is time to bring in some sort of neighborhood weight or element?

    i can see how straight-up neighborhood schools in SF would not promote equity for all. but i am also frustrated that families without cars -- or WITH two jobs -- are supposed to waste gas and family time driving all over the damn place for elementary school. i grew up in LA in the 70s during busing. it STINKS. time spent traversing the streets of your city with your neighbors on foot, bike or public transport is just as important as "choice." (i'm not going to argue that it's as important as closing the achievement gap, since that would imply that the current system has closed it -- ridiculous.)

  18. There already IS a neighborhood weight and element.
    The district has attendance areas factored into the enrollment process. I agree that it should factor more than it does now.
    The schools near me, New Traditions, Grattan, McKinley, all would have been OK with me, and knowing that I was guaranteed a spot at one of those would have taken much of the stress out of the situation.

  19. i meant an attendance area preference that actually has weight. the one in use today is rarely used, as it is always factored in after diversity factors.

  20. If you are near McKinley, Grattan and New Traditions, you are also near John Muir, but I assume that school might not be as acceptable to you?

  21. Why would John Muir be acceptable to anyone?

  22. My nephew was assigned to John Muir. Now is in private school. Can you imagine an shy athesmatic Jewish boy NOT getting beaten up there?

  23. 10:41: What if you bought your house 6 years ago in a neighborhood you could afford, where the schools were not so great because you thought you could apply to schools anywhere in the city?

    We on the eastern side of SF may be a little less enthusiastic than you about our neighborhood choices for general ed.

    If the lottery system changes, we may consider fleeing the city.

  24. That's what happens when you buy into a house, but don't buy into the neighborhood.

  25. That's what happens when housing prices go through the rool.

  26. John Muir where only 8% of the kids score at proficient or above on the STAR tests?

    Sometimes it is Ok to not want some schools.

  27. So there you go: require neighborhood schools; watch SF real estate prices stabilize.

  28. So few San Franciscans actually have children, and of those who do, so many do not own homes.

    I don't think it will affect property prices that much.

  29. i think it would be helpful to look at how berkeley's zone assignment system -- guaranteed a spot at one of several schools in your zone -- has performed. it seems to be that poor-performing outliers would improve faster in the zone model than with near-pure "choice." we're already relying on the admittedly flawed "pioneer" ethic to integrate our schools. wouldn't it work better if you knew any number of your neighbors would pull the same card as you? wouldn't it work *faster*?

  30. 10:59 here again

    We bought our house before we had kids and yes we love our neighborhood. We did not have a clue about the schools back then since it was not on our radar.

    Not everyone buys a house here knowing they will be having kids.

  31. This is Mike - very interesting to read all of the comments. To correct one thing: no one at Plan C that I know of that is interested in moving towards neighborhood schools has anything personal at stake. Most of our members are on the east side of town - very few in the sunset/richmond.

    Maybe we're wrong, but what this is mostly about is trying to reverse the vicious cycle of the current system driving parents to private schools, which hurts school quality further, which causes.... My anecdotal observation is that in SF, most people who can afford private schools opt for private schools. We need to do something to arrest that vicious cycle, and I happen to think that more weighting to geography (not 100% by any means) is part of the solution. I realize that if you bought your house on the east side and you're *not* near a good school, you have personal stake in the current system. (I thought it was interesting to hear one reader say they would flee the city if neighborhood schools were adopted!

    Interestingly, very few people commented on the community building or environmental issues.

    And I want to reinforce something - I'm not interested in moving to a 100% neighborhood-based assignment system. But I think changing the mix to add more neighborhood weighting would be good for the schools, good for the neighborhoods, and good for the environment.

  32. I agree that proximity to a school should carry weight. One concept (floated by Jill Wynns) is to give weight based on distance rather than defined zones. I'm not disputing that.

    I've been a parent for 18+ years now, and believe me, I appreciate the benefits of not having to schlep. (Both my kids are in school for the first time within walking distance from home, BTW, just for this one year -- what a joy, especially because the 18yo doesn't drive yet and doesn't need to.)

    I'm just pointing out that all the rosy pictures of the collateral benefits of neighborhood schools (to the school, to the community) -- and the notion that just admitting the neighbors will automatically turn the school around -- are definitely not what was happening when SFUSD essentially DID have neighborhood school assignment, only 10 years ago.

    And Oakland, which does have neighborhood school assignment, is a badly ****ed-up district (to use the technical terminology), so it's really fantasyland to cite that poor battered place as a model.

    In the big picture, it's clear that the '70s-era notion that you can just schlep kids all over town (involuntarily) to resolve social inequities is a flop. We can't ignore the logic and benefits of a system based on neighborhood schools; we can't act like it just doesn't matter whether the school is 10 minutes away or 90 minutes away. Yet there are benefits to our choice system too.

    But mainly I'm speaking up here to dispel the fantasy that neighborhood schools are the dream solution. We had 'em. I was there. They weren't. That said, again, I understand the benefits.

    The other point I've made recently (I think on some thread here) is in response to young parents who are baffled and outraged to hear officials assume that parents are willing to schlep their kids far and wide. Those officials haven't caught up with cultural shift in attitude, which is sudden and recent.

    The pervasive culture not that long ago, in my demographic, assumed that caring and responsible parents WERE indeed willing to schlep their kids far and wide. Families shunned neighborhood schools (even top-rated ones) in favor of more-popular alternative schools, farther away, that for whatever reason they felt would serve their kids better. (There were a number of families in our day at Lakeshore who had chosen it over Commodore Sloat and West Portal, for example.)

    Private-school families routinely spurned free nearby public schools to pay thousands and thousands for schools way across town, or even out of town.

    It was just assumed to be good parenting. The new attitude is a reversal. I'm not arguing with it; I'm just being the sociological observer here by pointing it out.

  33. Sorry to post again, but my post crossed with Mike's.

    Mike says: "My anecdotal observation is that in SF, most people who can afford private schools opt for private schools."

    That USED to be the given assumption, and isn't any more. It was far more the case when we all had essentially mandatory assignment to our neighborhood schools (with hard-to-get-into, oversubscribed alternative schools as our only public option). But I have seen this attitude changing rapidly over the time I've been an SFUSD parent. A parent in Oakland recently said enviously, "Public school advocacy is on fire in San Francisco!" It caught fire under the all-choice system, not the old system of mandatory assignment to neighborhood schools. And so did the change in culture from "there are only five good schools in SFUSD!" to three dozen-plus (and increasing rapidly) popular schools.

    Mike: "We need to do something to arrest that vicious cycle, and I happen to think that more weighting to geography (not 100% by any means) is part of the solution."

    The cycle has been arrested and is well on the way in the other direction. But we do need to help it continue to turn.

    "Interestingly, very few people commented on the community building or environmental issues."

    The environmental issues ARE significant and on the radar. But my point about the community-building is that while it makes sense, it's also offset by the fact that when parents have sought out and chosen a school, and perhaps struggled to get their child into it, they are likely to be far more invested in it than if it were the default assignment. I'd say (from experience) that it's a wash in that case.

    Again, I'm not defending the current system and not saying neighborhood schools aren't a desirable option. I'm just saying they're not a miracle solution -- recent history resoundingly proves that.

  34. I like the idea of the system weighted towards distance rather than zones.

    Would the idea of neighborhood school preference also apply to Language Immersion schools?
    I kind of think those should have their own specific lottery. Appealing as it is to many people, not all of us are looking for language immersion for our child.

  35. I agree with Caroline and the previous poster -- weighting towards distance rather than an "assigned school," so you have some choice.

    I also agree with Caroline that choice has been an essential part of improving schools. It really was only 10 years ago that almost all middle class parents assumed there "were only five good schools in the city." With PPS helping schools market themselves and making preschool parents aware of options outside of "five good schools" there are a lot more good choices today.

    I can see with all these good choices out there, our current choice system seems unnecessary and baffling to parents of 3 and 4 year olds (who probably weren't following this issue before their children were born.) Also, a lot of today's parents chose to stay and raise their children in the city to reduce their carbon footprint -- and issue definitely not on anybody's radar 10 years ago. So criss-crossing all over the city to get to school just doesn't resonate.

    So things have changed. The assignment system needs to change with the times. Proximity is important today, but I would hate to see the district go back a "no choice" system. Radius would be a good compromise and would help address the equity of access issue, which I also feel is critical. Also, childcare. Every school needs childcare available to every child. People have got to work, and if your choice of school is going to even somewhat limited, childcare needs be universally available.

    Would it be possible to run an immersion lottery earlier than the regular lottery?


  36. Mike again - I just want to say that reading the comments has been a good learning experience - especially Caroline's thoughtful posts - it's interesting to hear from someone who has been around through various assignment systems. Thanks for the input!

  37. If Mike is still participating in this thread, I would be very interested to hear in more detail why Plan C advocated a "No" vote on Proposition A in June. The arguments I could find on the site were very brief and boiled down to the idea that property taxes are unfair to property owners.

    Like neighborhood schools, I think that attitude is pretty short-sighted: if a critical mass of children are being poorly educated in underfunded and decrepit schools, those children are far more likely to require significant and expensive state care: welfare services, Medicaid, food assistance programs, prison. Eventually someone will have to pay for that, and it will probably be these same children who are arguably being served by neighborhood schooling.

    And that's an entirely economic argument. I mean, personally I think diversity is important (and should be modeled and affirmed in our schools) and that a society should take care of all of its children, but I recognize that others do not share these values or believe they are best demonstrated in other ways.

    (As a side note, while I would like to see the public schools' diversity increased, which would require more affluent and white children, I am leery of basing decisions on a small cohort - particularly one that has the most privilege already.)

    I also suspect that "neighborhood schools" would lead to a situation where affluent and connected parents want certain neighborhood schools, and some of those parents would be assigned to less-desired placements within that neighborhood.

    And honestly, there are neighborhoods that are significantly lacking in any schools that cherish children - fewer than in the 70s and 80s when I was in SFUSD, yes, but those neighborhoods exist. What's the solution for those children? Giving extra funding, support, and training to their schools but accepting segregated education? Ignoring them entirely? Busing those children out of the neighborhood (which means that more privileged neighborhoods are spared their children being bussed by exploiting others)? I suspect that busing to these schools from other neighborhoods would not fly (although I think St, Louis had a two-way intradistrict transfer for awhile).

  38. Thanks for a great post, 8:56. I share your perspective.

    Wanted to say too that even if the BoE moves to an elementary school assignement system that weights distance from home more strongly, or one that somehow uses diverse "zones" for assignment, a la Berkeley, I greatly hope they will leave the choice system wide, wide open for middle and high schools.

    We have to remember that the logistics of travel are entirely different for upper level kids, many of whom travel by MUNI and BART on their own to get to school. It is my own experience with my daughter and now son that these kids love having input into choice of school, and are more invested in their school because they helped pick it. They want their choice! They have strong, strong opinions! (At least, my daughter did :-)...).

    As well, choice has definitely had a positive impact on school success (I actually think it has too for elementary, which is why I am leery of returning to the bad old days of a few good schools in certain neighborhoods). The old days of the only perceived-to-be-good high schools being Lowell, Lincoln, and maybe Washington are gone, as Balboa has climbed and Galileo too, and others are rising. Same with middle schools like James Lick, Aptos, Roosevelt joining the ranks of Presidio, Giannini, and Hoover. But all of these have particular characteristics that appeal to different kids, and I would hate for the kids to be consigned to only their neighborhood option.

    Examples, some kids will really want the strong science program offered by Lincoln--you know, the one that got written up in the NY Times for doing well in an international collegiate competition. Others will want the strong drama and English language arts program at Balboa. Or the music programs at Giannini and several other schools, or beginning Japanese at Presidio, or the rock band rotation at James Lick.

    I do realize that many westside parents would LOVE to see all-neighborhood school assignment for high school. Lincoln, here we come....I just strongly, strongly disagree and think that a lottery system that ALL kids have access to for all our upper-level schools is the most fair way to do it--and the most effective in moving change at other schools, as has happened with Galileo due to the Chinese program there and the bus that runs from the westside to Galileo.

    Keep choice alive--especially for the upper grades!

  39. I couldn't agree more with 10:53. Families should be allowed to exercise choice in middle and high school. There aren't that many schools to choose from, and kids are old enough to take MUNI to a further away school if they wish. My kids love the independence of taking MUNI to school, and we have had very few glitches.

    It might be helpful for the BOE to consider different systems for elementary school than middle/high school. I think that middle and high school enrollment is largely working. Elementary school seems to be the real problem. Maybe the BOE could focus on elementary assignment this year, and tackle middle and high school next year, if it's needed.


  40. 8:56, I have to take exception to this one part of your post (while agreeing with much of the rest of it).
    "And honestly, there are neighborhoods that are significantly lacking in any schools that cherish children"
    I think you misspoke here, and maybe what you meant to say was that "there are schools which don't have an organized parent body to provide the additional kinds of support found at other schools" or something like that. I have been to schools which I suspect no one else posting here has visited - Bret Harte, Malcolm X - and while it is true that some of the children at these schools may face hardships in the home, the care they receive in their classrooms is as loving and cherishing as anything you might want for your own child. In fact, I have observed that the staff at these schools does far more in the way of hands of loving and coddling of the students, just because they are aware that some of them are coming from a chaotic home life where affection may temporarily be in short supply. So while it is true that these schools lack the organized PTA fundraising that produces fancy costumes for school plays or rides in private cars, instead of MUNI, for field trips, the staff at the schools is able to compensate in a thousand little ways every day. And while no one on this list seems to ever choose these schools for their children (and I am not saying they should) it is still unfair to perpetuate the myth that there are schools where no one cherishes children, just because there are schools which serve almost entirely very poor children.

  41. Someone please explain to me how neighborhood schools would actually work? There are not enough spaces to fill the demand in some neighborhoods.

    Are we saying that SFUSD would build more schools? This seems like a ridiculous mental exercise in futility.

  42. 11:10, you make a good point. I think 8:56 was making a good point overall, but you are right on too. It is all too easy (I'm guilty too) to use shorthand language to talk about the challenges faced by our urban district--and in the process dis not only the fantastic, above-and-beyond efforts of staff and teachers at schools like Visitacion Valley and Malcolm X, but also the efforts of many, many low-income families.

    I do support the encouragement of upper/middle class families to return to the public schools, but we need to understand we are not anyone's savior in doing so. We bring certain resources and gifts, but we need to understand there are many gifts that other, non-educated, non-comfortable-income families have to offer too--important contributions that we can all learn from and from which we can all benefit. That has certainly been my experience in my kids' very diverse public schools! It's something public education offers that is unique, this learning across lines of both class and culture.

  43. I blogged about this topic on -- mostly a repeat of what I've posted here:

  44. 11:10: I hear you, and I think I should've considered context a little more.

    You are absolutely right that the vast majority of schools and educators on the southeast side love and cherish children. I should know: I'm one of them and I work at a school full of them.

    That said, there are schools in this District that are barely functioning at best. Some of these schools have one or two people on staff who have lowered morale to the extent that no one - teacher, parent, student, custodian, you name it - is treated with respect and dignity. And unless the District takes serious action, someone will have to be assigned to those schools.

    Moreover, there are schools on the southeast side that are doing a fantastic job and have a wonderful community, but would still be unacceptable to some people living in their neighborhood boundary area.

  45. "there are schools which don't have an organized parent body to provide the additional kinds of support found at other schools"

    I want to be very clear that this was NOT what I meant. While I daresay there are wealthy schools in this District that don't cherish children, I am not personally familiar with them. I do, sadly, have personal acquaintance with schools serving poor children of color badly. I definitely implied that there are lots of them, and that was poor form because I don't.

    However, they exist. Denying their existence, I think, allows for a rose-glasses view that erases the needs of the children who attend these schools.

  46. I would argue that a neighborhood preference would change little. People in Bernal/Noe would request Alvarado and Flynn and most would be assigned to J. Serra. It won't make any difference. There still won't be room for everyone in the high demand schools.

  47. Mandatory neighborhood schools!!! Yikes! Plan C neighborhood advocates continuously downplay the neighborhood-assignment preference that is already operational in the lottery. Yes, some people did not get a school they wanted this year, but tell me how Plan C will do a better job? Sibling preference and school capacity don’t (and won’t) allow all families to attend a neighborhood school, even in the best of circumstances. With record numbers of K applications, the situation is only going to get worse, and nothing, absolutely nothing, in the Plan C proposal will make it better (and might even make it worse, or dare I say "worser!").

    The Plan C folks advocate for “neighborhood assignments” as if the City of San Francisco was gi-normous! SF is 7 miles by 7 miles (get it, 7x7). In the scheme of things, it’s a very, very tiny school district. In most places in the USA, school-assignment areas are measured in miles, not in mere blocks, so in reality, a family in SF who traverses the entire district to attend the school of their choice is probably still driving a shorter distant than the majority of families in the good ol’ US of A.

    Plan C neighborhood advocates are complaining in a vacuum. A 7x7 school district is, in reality, one neighborhood. The Plan C definition of “neighborhood school” is self-serving and skewed (relative to the definition in most communities across America).

    I have a great school near me (Clarendon), but I hate, absolutely HATE, the start time, which would not work for my employment situation. I do not want Plan C advocates telling me that I have to attend Clarendon and tolerate that unworkable situation. Luckily, due to our current lottery system, I was able to apply to schools with earlier start times along my commute route. Now, my children attend a lovely school with a 7:50 AM start time half-way between here and there. For all intent and purposes, that's my 'hood.

    Mike, take all your pent-up energy and improve YOUR elementary school (which I am assuming is public, but you never actually named it in your letter) and make the public school system better for everyone in our tiny bit of heaven called San Francisco. Amen.

  48. In the scheme of things, it’s a very, very tiny school district.

    Ever heard of density?

  49. I hate, absolutely HATE, the start time, which would not work for my employment situation.

    could be time to start absolutely HATING the start time of your employment situation instead...

  50. 6:38 -- you bring up a good point about start times.

    Isn't the district plan along the lines of a quadrant, in which there would be multiple schools to be considered your neighborhood school? It would make sense to have schools with varying start times, varying programs within each quadrant. Not everyone will be happy, but well, not everyone is happy now either.

    That being said, I would advocate for the language programs, HS and Middle School to still have a lottery/school choice system. So an the immersion program at a neighborhood school would not automatically give preference to that neighborhood (quadrant).

    At some point, when the language programs are more available throughout the city and basically equalized within each quadrant, then the immersion program schools could revert back to "neighborhood" school.

  51. I'm not part of Plan C and I strongly supported Prop. A, but as regular readers know I am a supporter of neighborhood schools, configured to ameliorate the effect of high concentrations of impoverished students.

    Multiple posters to this thread have referred to an existing neighborhood preference, or existing neighborhood schools. It is important to understand that the existing neighborhood preference has literally no effect under current demand conditions. It is pretty much false advertising for SFUSD to claim that there is any neighborhood weight at this point in time except for schools at the bottom of the list in terms of demand. Please do not perpetuate this myth. The current system is a lottery with an illusion of choice. In developing alternatives, it is important that we all try to work from the same basic set of facts as much as we possibly can.

    As for "distance" rather than zones, while this could make sense depending upon how distance is measured, "as the crow flies" would be a disaster. As any of the urban planners or MUNI route planners in this City can tell you, the geographic features of this City make any straight-line measure of distance virtually meaningless. Throw in traffic patterns, and traveling 7 miles can easily take people 45 mins in a car, let alone public transportation. North Beach and Parkside are not the same neighborhood. Zones, in contrast, can more readily account for these real issues.

    People all over this City want neighborhood schools--yes, that even includes people in the SE neighborhoods. People all over the City don't want neighborhood schools--yes, that includes people in the western half of the City. I'm tired of those who don't want neighborhood schools constantly lowering the debate by accusing the people who do of simply looking out for themselves. Everyone involved in this issue has to balance the common good with their own individual concerns or individual ideology. Everyone has some kind of a personal stake, including those SE neighborhood folks who don't want their neighborhood schools.

    So, to paraphrase our new President, can we please try to elevate the level of discourse beyond the ad hominem attacks of personal interest and have a real discussion that tries to solve a problem? There are some irreconcilable differences in this debate (predictability v. choice), but they don't have to be so nasty.

  52. Some years ago there was a proposal to reserve 50% of seats at each school for assignment-area resident. For some reason the discussion was focusing on Alamo (a popular, high-achieving school in the inner Richmond). In discussion on sfschools, a poster who lived near Alamo was outraged that ONLY 50% of seats would be resserved for neighborhood residents. A poster who lived in the Bayview was outraged that ANY seats would be reserved for neighborhood residents.

    So you can see how directly the opinions were affected by self-interest -- although actually neither poster had a DIRECT self-interest, since both were forever finished with elementary school enrollment. But both were unable to see past their personal situations. It's human nature.

    That's why we have a public process, in an effort to achieve the greater good for the most people.

    By the way, my understanding is that every SFUSD school (except Lowell, SOTA and some language immersion schools) has far more than 50% enrollment from its assignment area.

  53. What's your point Caroline? That everyone should be nasty and self-interested? Are you the ultimate subscriber to the invisible hand theory of maximizing social welfare? Based on your debates with Luis Alegria on the SFSchools List, I'd say it's pretty obvious that you're not.

    And, in fact, that is NOT human nature, as a substantial and growing body of scientific evidence on altruism as an evolutionary strategy demonstrates. There's no reason for any person on this blog to adopt the holier-than-thou approach of pretending they don't have a self-interest. But there's also no reason to go around assuming that people are only motivated by self-interest, which is equally destructive.

    I have seen no evidence in support of your assertion that every SFUSD school has more than 50% from its assignment area. Do you have any data to support that? I don't think it's even possible for that to be true the way you worded it, because half of the kindergarten programs have no assignment area. They are alternative programs. Last year there were 112 programs to which kindergarten students could apply, and 55 of those were either bilingual, immersion or "alternative" school programs. So these programs don't even have an assignment area. Maybe the other 57 have half or more from their attendance areas (I doubt it), but there is no way that "every" school has greater than 50% because half of them don't even have attendance areas. And, btw, some of the people don't have attendance areas either (like me), because we live in a place where a school closed.

  54. I'm from the SE quadrant, and I find it very amusing that the same westside folks who want neighborhood schools also want to exempt immersion from the list of neighborhood schools. Hmmmm, so you get your Sunset, Lawton, Alamo, Jefferson, etc., PLUS you get to apply to popular immersion schools that are mostly in my neighborhood. My neighbors and I get Chavez, Bryant, Starr King GE, Webster GE, Malcolm X, Viz Valley; but NO preference to many of the fine schools like Marshall, Flynn SN, Webster SN, Starr King MN, despite many of us supporting these schools as a neighborhood activists, teachers, and parents all these years. Hmmmm.

    Sorry if this reaction sounds "nasty," but you can see how this plan looks a lot like some people trying to get a leg up on the lottery to the most popular schools. The current system may not be strictly "choice," but it is at least a preference-based LOTTERY (with some weight given for the poorest kids--but the rest of us are competing with each other). Yeah, it stinks that the number of people who want certain slots outnumber the slots. That's life though! The only fair way to change this is not to get a leg up on other people but to change the schools--as has been happening, even if slowly.

    I am having trouble figuring out how the lottery is not the fairest way to allocate popular school slots to those in the whole city who apply for them. Yes, yes, the lottery could be tweaked, drop the language thing, but keep the concept.

    Lots of parents were happy to travel across town to alternative schools a half-generation ago. Lot of parents still trek across town for private and their top-choice public. Nearness and logistics do come into play for almost all of us, but the most convenient school is not necessarily the one down the street; if you have to rush to pick your kid up from school at the end of the day, Marshall might be the best bet, being on a BART line and all.....

    Annette, I'm sorry if this sounds nasty, and I believe your motives are honest--I appreciate that you post with your own name and are upfront it all. It's just that "neighborhood" has been used to draw boundaries and exclude for so long, and the kids in my neighborhood get the worse end of it time after time. I'm not worried about my kids, who will be fine, but I know many low-income families who want the best for their kids, who want to send their kids to schools like Alvarado, Hoover, or or Lincoln. Few have cars, and they rely on the school buses and MUNI to do it, so this is not a big environmental issue either.

    Again, sorry, but I am just totally steamed reading all these "politically correct" arguments in favor of "neighborhood schools." This posters on this blog represent a very small slice of SFUSD parents, and I hope the BoE finds a way to solicit the views of those who are not likely to be logging on to this blog.

    You are right that there is no true altruism anywhere--politics represents competing interests on some level--but I don't see how drawing boundaries contributes to building common ground.

  55. hey 2:58

    I have never suggested exempting immersion programs from my version of neighborhood zones. I realize others may have done so, but that is not my position. I think they should be included as part of the geographic clusters. In fact, it's only through the development of those programs that I think we are to the point of being able to sustain neighborhood schools. So everyone there gets grandfathered, including legacy sibling preferences. That's what I would think would be fair.

    I am not sure who you think is advocating from a "pc" position. Certainly not me, since I'm advocating against taking race into account as part of any system that is developed, and only to consider socioeconomics. As far as I understand it, that would not be considered PC around this town (and, in fact, I've been implicitly labeled a segregationist for taking this position).

  56. Until they can make race a factor in the enrollment process, schools in San Francisco will be very segregated, as they are now. But the law clearly states that you cannot use race as a factor, so the legal repercussions for SFUSD if they did so would be hellish.

    And as for people thinking this thread is "nasty", oh pleaze... I think so many people are so afraid of any conflict, and that's just silly ... but I come from a LOUD IRISH family, where we argue about everything all the time, and we think it is *fun*.

    Different strokes.

  57. 4:01:

    I assume you are referring to 209 (the state proposition) when you say that the law does not allow race to be used as a factor in public school admissions.

    That's true, but SFUSD has floated the idea of testing the Supreme Court's decision (which would allow for race to be used providing Kennedy's test is met - Kennedy set up a situation in which race could be a factor providing that using zip codes/language/socioeconomics/whatever else he could think of did not create diverse schools).

    Since there is federal law that requires desegregated schools, I believe that Connerly and Co.'s proposition would be trumped if SFUSD (or any other state District) decided to use race in admissions.

  58. Annette: No, I don't have data to support that; I said it's what I'd been told (by folks at the district in various circumstances, including when I was serving on a committee reexamining the assignment process a few years ago). It probably wouldn't be that hard to find out, but I don't have the info myself.

    My point is that it's very hard for people to look past their own circumstances, and I've seen examples of that over and over and over again in my 13-plus years as an involved SFUSD parent. And, again, my greater point is that the district's job is to look past that and do the best they can for the highest possible number of children and families.

  59. 5:11

    That is incorrect. There is no federal law that requires desegregation. There is federal law that prohibits intentional discrimination on the basis of race (it's called the 14th Amendment). Busing was permitted as a means of ending decades of intentional discrimination (Jim Crow laws, etc.) There is no way on god's green earth that the SF BOE has intentionally discriminated on the basis of race in the current assignment system, nor would adopting a new system that does not take race into account be such discrimination simply because it might result in racial concentrations.

    It is unlawful under both federal and state law to use race. Under federal law, it can only be used to overcome a legacy of past discrimination which is simply not present here. It might be the case that under federal law a "diversity" rationale could present a compelling state interest sufficient to justify the use of race as a criterion, but that is not possible under Prop. 209. In my view, it is completely unjustifiable from a legal perspective to use race as a criterion under the present and recent historical circumstances. This is even more true when you consider that there is no statistically valid social scientific evidence that race, independent of socioeconomic status, affects student outcomes. Moreover, it is crazy to spend millions of dollars litigating over this stuff as a test case given the current economic crisis.

  60. This is Mike again - since a couple people asked, I wanted to answer the question about why Plan C was neutral on Prop A. We strongly support spending money to improve public education. But Prop A was not handled in a fair way. Property owners got hit with the tax - but there was no pass-through to renters allowed. We didn't think it was fair to have a third of the city's residents paying 100% of the tax, while 2/3 of the city paid nothing. It was a real flaw from our perspective - not enough to warrant a "no" recommendation, but enough for us to go neutral. Speaking for myself, I support spending more money to improve schools, as long as it's done fairly. I am also OK with progressive taxation for education so that the wealthy pay more - but the simple "owner = yes; renter = no" structure of Prop A, foisting all of the cost onto a third of the city's residents, didn't seem fair.


    One of the interesting items from the SFUSD outreach sessions was that Latino parents in the Mission district *perceived* that EPC was using race as a criterion because all of their kids were assigned to the same Mission district schools and they felt they had not been allowed to get into other, "white" schools. In fact, EPC may have been using neighborhood proximity as the assignment factor, but it *felt like* race to some of the parents!

  62. Ms. Hurst:

    And since San Francisco's schools ARE segregated - more segregated now than before Consent Decree and possibly more than they ever have been - the District has floated the idea of taking up Kennedy's test.

    Your opinion on the legality of doing this and of race-based affirmative action is not necessarily the same as the Board's or the Supreme Court's. Similarly, it is difficult to judge the intentionality of school and neighborhood segregation - remember, Kennedy's test takes this into account.

    This article from the Chronicle takes a look at the Board's thinking after the latest Supreme Court decision. Note that 209 was in effect at the time of this article (and that it was a different board configuration):

    To Mike:

    Thanks for answering my question. Your answer confirms my original opinion of Plan C (that it is ultimately short-sighted).

  63. 10:15, I appreciate your inquiring spirit.

    I did want to note that it's undoubtedly not correct that San Francisco schools are more segregated than they have EVER been -- our city really did have all-white and all-black schools, or very nearly so, in bygone days. Today, 60% of any one ethnicity is considered segregated.

  64. @Caroline:

    Yes, point taken. But I don't want to ignore the reality of SF schools now. If you look at some schools and break down their demographics by white children/children of color, you'd have statistics similar to those you mention. I'd bet that would hold for schools using free lunch eligibility or another marker of poverty, too.

    So schools ARE definitely less segregated, but there's deep segregation even now.

  65. Ms. Hurst:

    I want to challenge your claim that race has no independent effect on student outcomes (that is, that race matters beyond its correlation with poverty).

    This review essay covers some relevant studies:;col1

    I'll try to add some other citations later.

  66. 10:13 am -
    I'd like to challenge your assertion that it is RACE that matters.

    Because what you're saying is its a genetic issue then. We can't change our race.

    Was Barack Obama more successful because of his white genes? Note, that his father was black and was actually rather educated, albeit from Kenya educational system.
    This country needs to get away from race if it is ever to resolve the achievement gap. As an aside, the more we focus on race, the more we create racists. When you or others show me charts broken down by race and associated API, what's one to conclude but that somehow race is a factor, so ergo, some "races" must simply be academically superior to others. A logical but terrible conclusion.

    If we are talking about racism, racists, that's a different story. There are racists all over, and by the way they exist amongst blacks, Latinos, Asians -- every group. Its human nature unfortunately. And all over the world.

    But we are talking about educational outcomes and the focus should not be race, because you can't change race. Rather its the culture of that "race" (if you will)'s value of education, its the socio economics, living conditions, single parent vs dual parent, stability of household, abusive vs non abusive parents, parental education, etc. Not RACE per se.

    Let's take Blacks as an example - there are many blacks from Africa or the Caribbean who have succeeded very very well in education. I have met students that hailed from those locales, and they are very motivated educationally (even though they are not rich or affluent or even necessarily borne from college educated parents). They also do well academically.

    More domestically, take Michele Obama -- did she not say that her parents valued education highly, realized that was a ticket out of poverty or lower income status?

    Ok, well, one may say, she is innately smart. Not everyone is born talented like Michele or husband Obama. But we're not talking smart or Princeton or Harvard. We're just talking abilities to be at or above grade level, to go on to college or alternate schools of higher education (trades, etc). Enough to break the cycle of poverty.

  67. 10:02am -- interestingly, the District tolerates segregation, even promotes it, when setting up the Cantonese, Spanish, Tagalog bilingual programs. Of course, economically, it may be more effective if you already have 20 kids of such background, to create a special class for them. But its really isolating these kids in a way.
    We do not create such programs for kids from Russia, Uganda, Japan, Brazil -- oh, right, because there are only a few such kids so economically it wouldn't make sense. Academically, we just have a ELD specialist work with them in pull out sessions, and for the rest of the day they are mingled in with GEN ED. But academically, having a pull out ELD session for the Cantonese, Spanish, Tagalog kids is not good enough.

    And if the argument is that we want these kids to retain their heritage language, please note - bilingual programs is NOT to retain heritage language, but to ensure a smooth transition to learning English and other subjects. Exception for late exit, which my gosh, means these kids are isolated so to speak until they are in the 5th grade as a separate strand within schools. If you want them to retain heritage language, then create an immersion program which has that as a stated goal, and mix in kids from other backgrounds.

    Funny how the District/BOE likes to have it both ways.

  68. 11:31, what alternatives would you suggest? No bilingual programs (as defined) for kids who start school not speaking English, in cases where we have large numbers of kids coming in with the same home language? I'm really not sure that blast at the district about "wanting to have it both ways" was warranted. I'd say that district officials/staff are trying to reach several goals which inherently tend to conflict with each other.

  69. 10:15 p.m & 10:13 a.m.

    In Douglas Harris's piece for the Center for American Progress in connection with the 2006 S.Ct. cases, he wrote, "They show, as expected, that a substantial portion of the “racial composition” effect is really due to poverty and peer achievement. Unlike the results from the above figures, there is apparently no direct effect of racial
    composition on either African Americans or Hispanics." (p. 18)

    Here's the link:

    I will review your cites, but Harris's finding is consistent with everything else I've read on the subject for elementary school children. (I'm focused exclusively on the kindergarten assignment process.) There is no statistically valid data demonstrating that race, independent of socioeconomic status, has a statistically significant effect. Nor should it.

    As for segregation, I have to disagree strongly with the use of that word. Segregation is a loaded word with a history of intentional discrimination behind it. That is not what is happening in SF today. In fact, racial concentrations in the schools went up in the early 00s while the consent decree to prevent discrimination (the court-appointed monitor supervising it) was still in effect. Since then, we've had a "choice" system. So parent choice and socioeconomics are the driving factors, and we still get schools with high racial concentrations. That is not discrimination by a governmental entity, and it's not fair to call it segregation.

    In my view, it is a huge mistake to focus on race for numerous reasons. First, there's no scientific evidence for doing so. Second, it's incredibly divisive. Third, some studies suggest that it actually hurts because students perform more poorly when reminded of their minority (or female) status. Fourth, we take so much time and energy focusing on race that we are missing the most critical factor, which is poverty. Fifth, focusing on race seems to make it impossible to get any reasonable element of certainty into the system, and without that we are not going to win back the hearts and minds of the middle class families.

    Finally, and not to beat a dead horse, we are spending $5M/year on busing kids all over the City and another $2M/year on the EPC. All of this money could be better spent on education. I certainly don't think we should compound the problem by signing on for another $2-3M in legal fees to be a test case for race which will, at the same time, undo a lot of what has been done in the last 10 years and cement the views of many middle and upper middle class families that they want nothing to do with SFUSD.

  70. 10:13 a.m.:

    Hard to read that link, but it looks to me like they did not control for socioeconomics. Check out the bottom of page 11. I don't see how this study can validly attribute anything to race or racial composition if it did not include SES in the models. It's known that SES has an effect on achievement, and particularly that a high percentage of impoverished students in the school affects everyone's performance negatively.

    Is there anything out there demonstrating a racial effect clearly independent of SES? This is an honest question, because I've been looking and haven't found it.

  71. 11:31 here responding to Caroline -- I would suggest immersion programs. There is absolutely no reason not to convert those bilingual programs to immersion. Clearly the "non target" language population has shown a strong interest in Cantonese, and in Spanish. So its not a matter of not having enough English dominant kids to create the program. SF is fortunate in this way. Immersion wouldn't work in a community where you couldn't find enough English dominant kids. I know there are many political reasons why these bilingual programs exist as they do (and I guess when I said the "District", I really meant special interest groups, but lets not go there, its a whole another discussion).

    I absolutely think it is in everyone's best interest in this country that our next generation have as many educated children as possible. Its easy to say screw the next kid, and just look out for our children or neighbor's child but not much further. So yes, I think it is important that kids that enter the system as non English learners be given support, esp at the higher grades (entering from 3rd grade up). But for those entering in K - 2 -- walking working breathing adults have shown the sink/swim method works quite well because young kids are like sponges (I mean, we do it for Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Urdu, Swahili speaking kids and they seem to make it on to HS and beyond). Of course, school still provides appropriate ELD or support system, but no, I can't see wasting resources on bilingual programs as they exist today. A while back, some one said the Spanish speaking parents have a word for their children that graduate from such programs at 5th grade - ni lingues! I know of parents who pulled their children out of Spanish bilingual. The child is now in 3rd grade and speaks English like other 3rd graders.
    But then I'm hijacking this post. I'll go back under my rock now.

  72. 6:00, I'm not versed enough in the ins and outs of language instruction to debate that issue. Perhaps it would be a great idea.

    I *have* heard that there are a lot of Chinese families, and some Latino families, who want bilingual rather than immersion because of the fact that immersion starts entirely in the target language. That would presumably mean the kids would learn English more slowly. My understanding is that it all evens out pretty fast -- but that still makes some parents wary.

    Also, I know there are legal rules about how language must be taught to newcomers, though I'm totally uninformed about the details.

    I'm not shy of blasting the school district for institutional stupidity when warranted, but over the years I've learned that often when I complain about something "that stupid school district" is doing wrong, it turns out there were a lot of mitigating factors that, as a parent layperson, I was totally unaware of. The reason I responded to the original post was the implication that the school district was being malevolent or duplicitous in some way. In general, "the district" is made up of people with good intentions doing a tough job the best they can (undoubtedly with some exceptions).

  73. There is some history to the introduction of the selection system that altered the process from neighborhood assignment over on the SF Schools blog at A dose of reality about neighborhood schools

  74. 10:13am here responding to Annette --

    Thanks for pointing out the pertinent highlights from the study. You are much more prolific than I am!

    I just can't see how race can be a factor. As long as we focus on people's skin color, we perpetuate the negativity. I can't change my skin color/ethnicity. In fact I had the opposite experience as a child.. as an Asian, I was somehow expected to be "smart". I hated it. So I can only imagine that by continually publishing these studies which show poor academic performance by "blacks" (or other groups), it may have the opposite effect on those children. Why not focus on the factors that most/all people have in common when they do not perform well == home background, learning disabilities, parental education levels (which has some effect though not always), etc.

    I'm not a pollyana. I know that back when schools were segregated based on RACE, there was most definitely funding and support issues going on based on race.

    But of course, I'm open to hearing about these "studies", which I wouldn't be surprised sometimes may have a hidden political agenda behind them.

    The day someone will prove to me that being educated has to do with "race" and genetics, all else being equal, I'll be saying Heil Hitler II. (Note, I didn't say intelligent. I do believe we are born with innate abilities but I can't see how it is based on purely race.)

  75. 6:00 pm here -
    Yes, I may have painted too broadly when saying "the Distict". I actually had special interest groups then erased it.

    And absolutely, I definitely can see how if I were an immigrant family I would not want my child to be in "immersion", if learning English as quickly as possible was my goal. I would stick them in Gen Ed to be around as many English dominant kids as possible. But if I wanted my child to be literate in heritage language, I would go for immersion (and have a little faith in the studies that it all evens out).

    Yes, sure there are probably rules for how newcomers are taught English - thanks to our litigious legal system. My point is why is it ok to stick a Swahili speaking kid in a class sink/swim but not Spanish. The Swahili kid maybe goes to the Newcomer Center for a year so its not all sink/swim unless the child is entering in K or 1 maybe, then gets integrated into Gen Ed. So why not same for Spanish, Tagalog, Cantonese. Oh, I'm not stupid... its politics. But just trying to inject some logic here. But true, politics trumps most. :(

    We may be one of the few countries in the world that create such bilingual programs for immigrant kids.. It'd be interesting to know how other countries integrate American or other immigrant kids into their public schools.

  76. If we go back to using "race" for school assignments, families will lie on their aplications, just as they do now for immersion programs and alternative schools, to get any kind of perceived advantage. Unlike language, which we can test, how does one confirm race? It is absolutely wrong, and often misleading, to go by skin color alone. My Mediterrean Italian heritage provides dark olive skin, dark brown eyes, and curly dark brown hair. I have passed as Portugese (Latina), Jewish (Caucasian), and African-American (claiming great grandma was black). Who can verify any race box that I check on a school application? The thought of ever using race again in our heterogenious City is ludicrous.

  77. 9:08 pm again. I forgot to mention that I have been asked if I was Greek or if I was Puerto Rican, like the lovely Rita Moreno. Point is, I can check any box for my children.

  78. 9:08 - frankly the thought of using race as a factor is so passe, I hope Barack Obama may be the beginning of the change.

    Want to stop creating racists? Then stop focusing on race.

    But of course, of course, the political agenda out there, the special interest groups. They focus specificially on race to create a constituency.

    Again - re Race. A friend commented on Sidney Poitnier (sp?) who was featured in a magazine. His wife is wife and some kids looked like the wife (paler), and some like him (darker), and some about in between. Just by looking at the kids, you would not know they were necessarily brother and sister OR all of mixed race.
    If Barack Obama had taken more after his mother and much fairer, and married a white or non-Afr. American, do you think the media would keep referring to him as black? He's half white by the way. People forget. And what does it matter? I see a well educated person who made his way to the top with a little help along the way (it helped to go to good hs etc) but generally his success is mostly due to his own energy.

    How many of you when you are given questionnaire and then told to check off the race/ethnicity box ever think, "oh I never thought about that". See how overrun our gov't has become in trying to be so pc? The balkanization has begun, the train has left the station. Two generations from now, if not reversed, we'll, lets just hope we educate as many of the young that we can. Or we will simply become race based democracy, quite scary indeed when you look abroad to other countries.

  79. Want to stop creating racists? Then stop focusing on race.

    This is Chief Justice Roberts' opinion - almost verbatim!

    It is interesting to me that the posters here immediately make the link from race-based disparity in outcome to eugenics, or to the (assumed) lack of parenting skills among people of color. The possibility that racial disparities are due not to inherent deficits in the student or his or her family but the failure of the (white) school system to serve that student does not appear to be considered.

    Ms. Hurst, I recommend looking into the studies the Governor's blue ribbon panel put together - several of them look into this issue. (Also, take a closer look at the review essay to which I posted a link, since it is looking at a number of studies.)

    I am sorry that the use of the term "segregated" bothers you, but unfortunately it reflects the reality of the schools in San Francisco. Nor am I alone in using it - a quick google search finds that it's used regularly and without quotations in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Personally, I don't agree with Chief Justice Roberts. I believe that we need to have a conversation about race - much like the conversation the President proposed in his address last spring. The desire to avoid accurate descriptors because they're loaded, or to try to silence a conversation by bringing in Charles Murray-esque ideas, and the immediate blaming of "culture" (without any reference as to how you have come to have an understanding of a culture that is not your own) only deepens my belief.

    However, I think it's clear that this conversation won't be happening here, and that the proponents of a neighborhood school system in San Francisco are not willing to participate.

  80. Hey I came up with the phrase myself, never read Chief Justice Roberts opinion.

    Well - if you think its the white school system that failed blacks and other minorities, then why is it working for Asians (Indians, Chinese, Korean, etc). Why is it working for those blacks from Africa or the Caribbean? Or even other blacks who are born here (aka Michele Obama). I thought the problem was genetics and race.

    This is not to say that there are not racists abound. Its human nature. Applies to all humans by the way, not just white or Asians.
    Go to Africa, see how they treat each other there.

    I think you may fail to observe that throwing more money and resources at the problem and claiming its all race race race, racism racism racism will not work. You know what will work? For example, take the African American/Black population witht he what 23% proficiency rate on standardized tests -- where are the Black role models who will stand up and say Education is Cool, don't listen to the rap crap, get an education and think about the next generation? Bill Cosby tried to do that and got shot down. If a white or other non-Black tries to do that, they are accused of racism. Where is Clarence Thomas, Condelezza Rice, Colin Powell, the Baracks, the Kobe Bryants and any other successful black role model who will go into their community and promote education?

    Yeah, a conversation needs to take place, but if everytime someone stands up (like me for instance) and makes a non-pc statement and gets accused of being a racist, well, that will shut down the conversation real fast.

    By the way, I also know of a lot of "dumb, uneducated white folk" so you know, the white school system failed them too. Why are they not doing as well as other "whites"? Thought it was genetic, race based. Also know a lot of "dumb Asian, dumb Latinos/as" too. So it can't all be due to the race.

  81. African-American Yale sociology professor Elijah Anderson has explored the roots of school achievement and behavior problems by low-income African-Americans. He observes that for young people living in a dangerous environment where perceived weakness makes them vulnerable, being oppositional and disruptive is a survival mechanism. I blogged about the findings he reported in his book "Code of the Streets."

    (This is Caroline -- having a problem with my browser, so posting as anon is easiesr.)

  82. 9:42am here (doubting Tomasita)-- just also wanted to add to 7:31am comment that "or to the (assumed) lack of parenting skills among people of color" --

    I don't assume that "people of color" have any less parenting skills than other races/ ethnicities. But when looking for root causes of poor academic achievement across all ethnicities (so we do not assume race/genes are involved), one of the proven factors that affect student outcome is the parental influence. So again, you have made the assumption that the poor parenting skills referred to "those of color". I for one, am talking across all ethnicities/races. And again, poor parenting skills is not the only determinant. We all probably know of friends who have succeeded DESPITE their parents!

    Yes Caroline/anon -- good point. So when children (of any race) are in that sort of environment, I think the last thing on their mind may be understanding phonetics or a multiplication table or other academic endeavors. So maybe our focus should be on fixing the environment, and not focusing on their race.

  83. But if I wanted my child to be literate in heritage language, I would go for immersion (and have a little faith in the studies that it all evens out).

    I wouldn't put faith in the SFUSD doing it in a way that bears out studies... but anyway, when a classroom contains kids of different languages each seeking to emerge with fluency in both, the teaching needs to be 50/50 immersion -- not 90/10 target language until 3rd grade. How else could it be fair and equally beneficial to both groups?

  84. 10:42am - no one bothered to respond so I will - there is research published (just google) on inet re the 90/10 model -- part of the basis for this model is that the target langauge speaker initially needs to have more of the content material taught in their primary language, whereas the English dominant child will benefit from being fully immersed (90%) in the target language (since preesumably when English dominant child goes home, parents, TV, shopping etc everywhere the child will be exposed to English.)

    But there are schools that subscribe to the 50/50 method.

  85. All of the below listed cities use attendance areas, or "neighborhood schools" (with some secondary "choice" options for enrollees):

    New York:






  86. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.