Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Interesting data

Below is a list of elementary and K-8 schools in ascending order of percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, which is a marker of poverty. It's an interesting list--and amazing to see Miraloma at No. 2 when I'm sure it was much lower years ago. Another striking thing (and I guess I should not be surprised by this) is that if you look at the schools in the top half, you see the wish list for many parents.

Elementary and K-8 schools by ascending free lunch eligibility 2008-09:
1. Clarendon ES
2. Miraloma ES
3. Lilienthal K-8
4. Grattan ES
5. Feinstein ES
6. Alice Fong Yu K-8
7. Creative Arts K-8
8. Lafayette ES
9. Rooftop K-8
10. Sunset ES
11. Alamo ES
12. West Portal ES
13. Sloat ES
14. Alvarado ES
15. Jefferson ES
16. Argonne ES
17. Peabody ES
18. Lawton K-8
19. Milk ES
20. McKinley ES
21. New Traditions ES
22. Lakeshore ES
23. Sherman ES
24. Sunnyside ES
25. Stevenson ES
26. Ulloa ES
27. Fairmount ES
28. Buena Vista ES
29. Key ES
30. King ES
31. Parks ES
32. Ortega ES
33. Yick Wo ES
34. Longfellow ES
35. Flynn ES
36. Monroe ES
37. McCoppin ES
38. SF Community K-8
39. Sutro ES
40. El Dorado ES
41. Revere K-8
42. Garfield ES
43. Cleveland ES
44. Cobb ES
45. Bessie Carmichael K-8
46. Guadalupe ES
47. Taylor ES
48. Sheridan ES
49. Hillcrest ES
50. Glen Park ES
51. Chavez ES
52. Drew CP Acdy
53. Sanchez ES
54. Webster ES
55. Serra ES
56. Spring Valley ES
57. Parker ES
58. Marshall ES
59. Redding ES
60. Tenderloin ES
61. Vis Valley ES
62. Carver ES
63. Moscone ES
64. Lau ES
65. Muir ES
66. Chin ES
67. Bryant ES
68. Harte ES
69. Malcolm X Acdy ES
70. Chinese Ed Ctr ES
71. Mission Ed Ctr ES


  1. In general, a high percentage of low-income students tends to (overall, on average) correlate with lower academic achievement. But ... several of the schools in SFUSD with the highest number of low-income students have APIs over 800.

    John Yehall Chin, North Beach -- 869
    Gordon Lau, Chinatown -- 836
    Spring Valley, Russian/Nob Hill -- 833
    George Moscone, Mission -- 856

    I'm not a believer in the notion that API is the be-all and end-all, but it's still pretty interesting.

  2. This list could also be impacted by how engaged the families are. The more ore engaged, the more likely they are to turn in their forms, and it seems the more likely they are to have high academic achieving students.
    It is sad, but it is not easy to get families to turn in the very forms that can benefit their students and their school.

  3. Families "without papers" (origin of the derogatory term for Italian Americans in a previous immigration wave--WOP) are sometimes reluctant to fill out official forms with identifying data, esp pertaining to income. Parent liasions helped a lot at our school in offering reassurance and getting those forms!

    Interesting to see how this list reflects neigbhorhood concentrations of poverty, eh?

  4. Families which receive various forms of public assistance (food stamps, or CalWORKS or TANF) don't need to fill out a form; they automatically qualify for free meals through a process called Direct Certification. This ensures that many of the families in the most need, and who may face the most challenges in getting such a form filled out and returned to school, still qualify for free meals. They are included in the final percentages for each school. So, ironically, it is much easier to get a very high return at schools which have very high numbers of the poorest students.

    I understand that it is not easy to get some families to fill out the form, especially those who are undocumented and who worry (unnecessarily) that filling out a meal application will reveal them to immigration authorities (it won't - meal apps of individual families are never shared with other government or outside agencies; only total numbers of students are reported, not individual student data.)

    The probelm is that because this school district believes that hungry children can't learn, even students who have no meal application on file are fed a free lunch if they come to the cafeteria. The cost of feeding these students, which used to run about $350,000 for the whole school year just 4 years ago, has now reached over $430,000 just for the 4 months from August-December 2008! This is money which comes out of the general fund and is therefore not available to pay for teachers or books or other classroom expenses.

  5. Hi Dana,

    Any sense of how much of this $430K overrun is from kids who could afford to pay but don't? Or maybe who don't qualify, but are coming to school hungry (the eligibility cut-off seems very low.)

    In other words, how much of the deficit is due to kids not turning in forms, and how much is due to "non-eligible" kids not paying?

    As a parent I have eaten breakfast for free several times, even though I've tried to pay. It seems like more trouble than it's worth for the cafeteria worker to take my money and document it. This is not for lack of trying on my part. Good this is anonymous!

  6. The caf workers are not supposed to be feeding adults, or siblings not enrolled at the school, but in some schools, the Principal orders them to feed all comers. This is another source of cash shortages, because the district can't collect any government reimbursement for the cost of meals served to anyone other than qualifying students. At some schools, all teachers expect to be fed for free, and their Principals support them and demand free meals for staff. More cash shortages.

    As to your question, at this point with no Point of Sale (POS) system in place, it is impossible to tell who is eating at district expense because they never bothered to turn in the form (and would qualify for a government-reimbursed meal if they did fill out the form), who has not filled out the form but would not qualify even if they did (family income too high), and who has filled out the form, not qualified, and is still showing up with no money.

    Once the Point of Sale (POS) system has been installed in all schools (this is underway) it will be possible to know who is eating without ever having filled out a form, and who is eating having filled out a form but not qualifying for free or reduced. It will also be possible to have a letter automatically generated, complete with student home address, asking the family to please pay if the child didn't qualify, or to fill out a form if there is none on file.

    Will anyone follow up with trying to get payment from families who don't pay? I doubt it. Who would have the time? It is not the caf worker's job to do this; Student Nutrition Services could mail out the letters (at a cost of almost 50 cents apiece) but really, would that bring in any money? In Berkeley, I have been told that Principals call parents any time a student shows up with no money to pay for their lunch; supposedly this works most of the time.

  7. twice earlier in the year my then four-year-old daughter could not remember where i put her lunch money and told me they comped her. i was like, hmm, this can't be a profitable practice...also: in the annals of the brown vs. white milk debate dana has elucidated for us prior: i now only let her buy lunch once in a while for a special treat because she equates it with the opportunity to guzzle chocolate milk! (of course, i get why chocolate is better than none at all for many kids.)

    re: this list. nothing super surprising there. it actually depresses me a little, because in several cases what is generally cast as a "turnaround" appears to simply be a wholesale population replacement. er...is that bad?

  8. Kim is right - it is not a profitable practice. But of course this is a perfect example of why there is an informal "No Child Left Hungry" policy in place. Who would think it was a good idea to let a 4 year old go without eating for the entire school day? And even if most of the afternoon curriculum is more play based than academic in the early years, by 3rd or 4th grade, there is real learning to be done in the afternoon; kids need to eat if they are going to be able to stay alert, focused, and on task. So, it is a costly enterprise to feed all comers regardless of their qualification for free meals, but it makes sense from an academic point of view.

    The downside is that when SNS runs a big deficit, with these escalating cash shortages being a major contributing factor, then there is pressure to make cuts in other areas, including to the quality of the food. In a weird irony, the food now served in the caf has gotten so wholesome that it may be too expensive to continue serving in the current budget climate. The government reimbursement cannot stretch to cover both the cost of the meals for students who qualify and also for those who don't. Add in sky high labor costs and you can see where the department may be faced with a Hobson's choice of either letting some unqualified kids go hungry in order to offer higher quality (more expensive) food to those who legitimately qualify for free meals, or serving every child who needs a free meal, regardless of eligibility, but having to lower the quality and cost of the food in order to do so.

    Finally, if you have an opinion on this, or are passionate about school food, and would like to get involved, the next school food subcommittee meeting will be on February 18th, 4:15-5:15 pm at the offices of school health programs, 1515 Quintara Street, right across from Lincoln HS; the receptionist will direct you to the meeting room. These meetings are open to the public and are very informal; if you can attend, you will have plenty of opportunity to chime in and share your concerns, and start getting involved in various projects.

    To learn more than you ever wanted to know about school food in the SFUSD, please visit www.sfusdfood.org

    Also, anyone with questions or ideas is welcome, as always, to e-mail me directly at nestwife at owlbaby dot com. For those who don't know, I am the parent co-chair of the SFUSD student nutrition and physical activity committee. I look forward to hearing from you, and best of luck to those of you awaiting your school placements for next year. I know that uncertain feeling - my youngest is currently hanging out by the mailbox waiting to hear from colleges.

  9. For the uninitiated, I'm not sure if Dana mentioned that SFUSD is rare or unique in its "No Child Left Hungry" policy.

    Other school districts either give a kid a "meal of shame" -- a cheese sandwich or bowl of cereal -- or let them go hungry. I met a mom from Orange County, capital of "You're on you're own" free-market coldheartedness, whose 6th-grader had fainted from hunger at school one afternoon after her family forgot to load her lunch card (which in their district works like a BART ticket) and was refused any food at all. The "only in Orange County" twist to this was that the parents had forgotten to add to the lunch card because they were distracted by the needs of a sibling who was hospitalized with leukemia.

    Regarding Kim's question about whether a school turnaround inherently means population replacement -- well, note my previous comment about high-poverty schools that are also high-performing. It CAN happen. But the more common situation is that schools that deal with a critical mass of high-need students often get overwhelmed and wind up as low achievers. That's one argument for striving for diversity, and for creating a system that offers high-need, disadvantaged students enhanced access to high-functioning schools.

  10. Something weird is going on here. We turned in our form. We reported our combined income accurately: $277,500. We qualified for free lunch.


  11. 12:33, that happened to me one year. it's obviously a mistake--probably a data entry error. believe me, the bar to qualify for free lunch is set at very, very low income levels.

  12. Yes, something like $39K for a family of 4.

    so must have been a keystroke error where they thought the income was $27,750 or something like that.

    Honestly, seems that the bar should be higher.

  13. Off topic I know, but how is it that Clarendon is not the mecca for poor/ELL families looking for a good school? This list bears out my guess that the diversity index does not seem to make much difference there. I imagine anyone of low income or academic achievement could easily get their kid into that school - so why don't they? Is it location, lack of transportation, don't fill out the forms? Anyone have insights?

  14. I think partly it has to do with conceptions or misconceptions, human nature, and yes, maybe transportation and the like.

    The fact is, people like to stay or be around people who are like them, maybe socially, maybe demographically, maybe economically, for sure culturally.

    So people may be picking schools that are closer to their home (for afterschool care, maybe a relative could pick up), or where people speak the same language as them (I would certainly think that may hold true for some Latino families who prefer to pick a school where there is high concentration of Spanish speakers and the reverse may hold true also for some families of course).

    Anyway, one way to combat this issue is perhaps better "marketing", I think the PPS tries to put out the word. But the bottom line is, if being in a "top" school is not the most important factor, but instead being in a school where YOU and you feel your child would fit in is more important, than of course you are not going to apply for all the so called rock star schools in the eyes of some.

    Works also for those of a higher socio economic strata. Of course they want to pick schools where they feel they fit in culturally, etc. It may just simply be picking some place where academics is stressed because that is your value.

  15. I have lots of friends who are Clarendon parents (or mostly *were*, since my friends' kids are generally around my kids' ages. A few do still have younger kids there.)

    At the time when we were looking, lo those many years ago, Clarendon had a reputation as unwelcoming to lower-income families. From what I know of the school's culture from my friends, it is not really like that at all -- but that was the reputation. The general impression was that Clarendon required parents to donate a lot of money, so only parents who could donate a lot of money could consider it anyway. (I assume that in reality Clarendon requests donations and makes a point of clarifying that they're not required.)

    If that was the reputation among white middle-class families like us, I don't know what the reputation would be in lower-income communities of color, but that was the word at the time. Others have said the lack of transportation from low-income neighborhoods is the issue, but in our day, bus lines to alternative schools like Clarendon could be added and redrawn if there was enough demand in one neighborhood.

  16. Ok, I'm going to throw this out there - thinking out of the box here... but does anyone ever consider that other cultures/races/ethnicities maybe actually do not value that much the need for integration and diversity?

    Only "white" guilt so to speak drives this need or maybe its the "educated" people with ideas of a harmonious society that wants the constant integration and diversity?

    I'm all for cultures mixing, we all have something to offer, and it would sure stop a lot of wars and other types of violence etc if we could just get over our "tribalization".

    In any case, I don't really see Asians going out of there way to say, integrate Latinos or vice versa. If the kids grow up in same school and become friends, great.If parents work in same office and become friends great. But not the push to say, lets have more diversity in Chinatown or the Mission or wherever.

  17. I think the only vestige left of "alternative" schools is that they tend to have extremely good bus routes, serving most low income parts of the city. You'd have a much easier time getting from the Mission to Clarendon, than say, Miraloma or Sunnyside. So I don't think it's lack of transportation keeping low-income parents out of Clarendon. They are probably not applying.

    In the past I believe Clarendon did ask parents for a specific monetary donation (request only, but still, when there's a specific dollar amount attached, it feels more like a bill.) I feel strongly that this shouldn't be allowed in any public school. It's fine to ask for donations, and to sketch out the budget and what it's used for so people can decide whether they want to donate or not. But asking for a specific dollar amount per child or family feels like it's crossing the line.

  18. All my kids' public schools have done fund drives requesting parent donations, and usually suggesting an amount. (Sometimes I've been involved in the effort.) But they make a point of acknowledging that not everyone can donate, suggesting alternate smaller amounts, and so forth. The most common amount suggested has been $1 per school day per kid, or $180 per kid per year.

    I've never seen the wording of the Clarendon fundraising pitches, so I don't know if it has been worded in such a way as to imply that donations are mandatory.

  19. I've heard from a number of people that during tours it was announced that a $1000 donation was requested from every family.

  20. ^^^
    P.S. This was at Clarendon.

  21. Thank you very much Caroline for pointing out high scores at high % free lunch schools.

    Imagine that! Poor kids who study!

    What is the point of this data posted on this particular blog anyway?

    I'm sorry, but this blog might just make the SFUSD elementary scene as annoyingly competitive as the pre-school scene. Who needs it.

    I'm sending my daughter to public in 3 years. Having worked in the distict myself, I know full well that there was just the perceived "top tier" of schools with a lot of amazing schools no one ever cared to blink an eye at.

    Great that your helping to get schools names out there, but ugh, all this hemming and hawing over wish list schools is just kind of gross ya'll.

  22. Wow. That's a lot of families.