Monday, March 30, 2009

Hot topic: Assignment process redesign

An SF K Files visitor asked me to post the following:
This was supposed to be the last year of the lottery system as we know it (thankfully!!!). However, the same week that this year's Round One letters went out, the following note appeared on SFUSD's assignment redesign website:
“SFUSD hoped to have a new policy in place in time to prepare for the 2010-2011 enrollment process but, given the complex nature of this policy decision, it is unlikely that it will be possible to meet the necessary deadlines for a new district wide system in time for next fall’s enrollment cycle. The Board is eager to make this decision and is moving ahead as quickly as possible.”

Here are some interesting facts, for those who haven't been following this. San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) currently uses a Diversity Index/Choice assignment system. Under this system:

-almost half of all families receive none of their 7 choices in Round One and are therefore assigned to a school they didn't choose.

-the school district spends $5.3 million/year on busing (excluding special education)

-the school district's current assignment process costs over $2 million per year to implement

-this situation is getting worse - this year there were 400 additional K applications.

Consider the quote in the Civil Grand Jury report on elementary school assignment in San Francisco: “ The SFUSD's school choice process and its Diversity Index are unnecessarily complex and confusing, time consuming, alienating to the families the District purports to serve and, most damning, fail to deliver a diversified school population.”

Before you decide to flee the city or start saving for private school, also consider that SFUSD is one of the best large urban school districts in California and one of the best school districts in the Bay Area (considering scores and access to special programs).

Many parents want to stay in San Francisco and support the public school system but are fearful of the enrollment process (and if you’re not fearful, you should be!) and want some predictability. The good news is that families might not have to go through the agony of the Diversity Index/Choice system! SFUSD is in the process of redesigning the enrollment process (good news) but they are dragging their feet (bad news). If families speak up we can we can push the school district to move forward.

Here's what families can do:

The most important thing families can do is come to a public meeting this Thursday with the school district and SF Board of Supervisors. Here are the details: Thursday, April 2 at 3:30pm, City Hall Board Room

This is the best way for us to tell SFUSD that the current system is unacceptable and we want it changed! While this may be inconvenient, it's a lot less of a hassle than driving 25 minutes to/from school every day. This may be our only opportunity so it is crucial that families of SF get out and let SFUSD know that it's time to change the system.


  1. A few ideas, nothing coherent:

    1. More than 7 choices. There's no reason to restrict people to ~10% of the available schools.

    2. A "draft number" system, where families are assigned a ranking at the start of the process, before they choose.

    3. Full and explicit disclosure of odds for non-siblings, each diversity category, and language ability for immersion programs. Openness is the only way to make this system work.

    4. Choice bands, where schools are ranked by demand into several bands, and picks are required in each band.

    5. An auditing committee. Once a process gets beyond a few coin-flips it needs some oversight to reassure the public, and to help improve the process.

  2. I hope the board will change those parts of the system that are un-transparent and needlessly cumbersome. Disclosing sibling apps in December, in December, for example, so that first-time parents know the actual # of seats available. Disclosing the non-sibling results instead of this silly business of "80% got a choice." Break it down, for heaven's sake.

    I also hope the BOE holds strong against calls for neighborhood assignment, which would create MORE segregation than we already have returned to since the end of the consent decree, and which would be really, really unfair to the southeast part of town with its high levels of poverty and low-performing schools. Our current system, while obviously difficult for those who don't "win" the lottery, has also had an impact on slowly improving schools all over town. I fear that a return to the failed policies of neighborhood assignment would cause a stampede of parents to the perceived "good" zones and leave the rest of us abandoned. That is what has happened in other districts.

    I also hope they leave middle and high school out of it! Our kids want to indicate preference at that level, and they are able to travel across town via MUNI and BART to get to a school they like and which they chose.

  3. Consider a "modified" neighborhood school assignment system where a certain percentage (ie 70 - 80%) of the kids from their neighborhoods are given preferences before kids from other neighborhoods. While I understand some may think this will cause "segregations" among neighborhoods, our schools are already very segregated. People need to be comfortable with the school before they would invest their time and effort. Strong parental involvement is absolutely necessary to improve schools. Physically placing the kids based on race and economic status as in the current system, will not help. SFUSD is losing quality families to private schools when they are not willing or cannot travel too far out of the neighborhoods.

  4. 70-80 percent, huh? And which neighborhood do you live in? Seems like a high percentage to me, but then, I am surrounded by low-performing schools so what do I know.

  5. This isn't a difficult topic. The district should stop disenfranchising parents and adopt the traditional neighborhood school assignment system. Add in an opt out provision for people who want to subject themselves to a lottery.

  6. I like the idea of default neighborhood assignment then the ability to opt into a lotto for special programs (language, arts, etc) or open seats out of neighborhood. Put the special programs in the poor performing, unpopular schools. If people really want that progam, they'll be willing to drive across town for it.

  7. I would definitly support a neighborhood assignment system.

  8. 6:52 your definition of "disenfranchising" depends on where you live in this case. You have no entitlement to the best public schools in this town just because you have the money to live in the fancy neighborhoods.

  9. 9:10

    Cobb is in a posh neighborhood but it is a low performing school.

  10. 9:09

    But why do you support a neighborhood assignment system? Lots on this blog do, but this blog is not representative of the majority of district families. The reasons given here are fancied up, but seem to boil down to "because then I could get my kid into {abc popular school} because I live in that neighborhood." The BOE has to look at the needs of ALL the kids.

  11. In the current system no one wins. It is already biased towards the disenfranchised and it still doesn't work. It's more segregated then ever and the performance numbers continue to decline. Give the neighborhood people the priority to their schools and then lottery off the remaining spots in a lottery system. Right now the SFUSD has been written off by the very people who have the money and time to invest in the system. No $ no improvement. Bare bone fact. Sorry.

  12. There is a meeting between the Board of Supervisors and the BOE regarding the student assignment that will take place next Thursday,
    April 2nd at 3:30pm.
    Board Chamber @ City Hall

    Interesting that there isn't a whole lot of advertising for this going on. Spread the word.

  13. 3:30 p.m.?

    Is that so working parents can't participate?

  14. I am not really sure what the call to action is here... The district has not put forth any alternative models. I can't say I want the system changed because I don't know what the alternatives are!

  15. Everyone ...

    The school board hates the words "Neighborhood School". The president of the school board told me this herself. The only words that she would accept was "community walkable school".

    The word "Neighborhood school" has a segregation tone to it that dates back to whenever.

    She also told me that the minority of people want a "community walkable school".

    She needs to look out for the 55,000 other kids who don't have a voice and make sure their is diversity and not a community supporting the school.

    She told me that it would never happen.

  16. There have been some good ideas on this list. I'd like to add some of my own:

    1. SFUSD should measure what fraction of applicants are choosing alternatives when they don't get an assignment they like so that the information can at least be considered. You are asked to report race for statistical purposes; why not also ask parents what alternatives they are considering on the application (Private, Marin, East Bay, etc.). Publish what fraction of students participate in the assignment process, but then do not choose a public school!!

    2. When measuring the achievement gap - do it fairly by considering all children in San Francisco and those that are displaced due to dissatisfaction with the school system. Does it do anyone any good if they solve the achievement gap problem by displacing enough high achievers out of their measurement? We should at least have some idea of what this effect is and the School board clearly does not (did you hear Kim's answer on Forum)?

    3. When Diversity Profiles are equal, consider assigning students by lower commute time rather than a flip of a coin.

    4. Automatically add the nearest 3 schools by commute time to the end of a student's application (after their preferred choices). Many underpriveleged students' parents do NOT participate in the assingment system, leaving them out of a nearby school, reducing the systems ability to provide some diversity. If you look at GreatSchool scores by geographic location, you could see that there is a border that runs down the city where there is an opportunity to mix things up a bit without imposing onerous commute times.

    Map of public schools

    5. Adjust the Computed Diversity Index formula so that it attempts to have a school reach the diversity of San Francisco, rather than 50/50 for each diversity profile bit. Do we really have 50% english speakers and 50% preschoolers and 50% extreme poverty? 50% seems so arbitrary - it just makes the formula looks symmetric. Let's make the formula attempt to achieve a blend that represents our city.

    Here are some stats and facts that I've learned from attending various meetings.

    The school system does NOT need to spread funds to the schools evenly. When SFUSD notices that the PTA from Lilienthal raises $250,000, some of the public money could be used to get Drew a copy machine!

    Students from the South East actually tend to prefer attending their local schools.

    Approximately 10% of the students are white (saw this at a School Board meeting)

    Approximately 49% of San Francisco residents are white.

    Approximately 70% of students take the bus to school.

    Approximately 30% of students surveyed claim that they witness or experience violence while riding the buses.

    I have other ideas - some of which are slightly more complicated. And I'd love to get feedback.

    1. Publish what fraction of applicants from each of the 16 Diversity Profiles applied and were accepted to each Kindergarden spot (and whether they were sibling preferences).

    2. Provide an online application form that gives you more immediate feedback by telling you how many people applied who were like you and what fraction got in. Heck, I'd build it for them for free.

    3. Modify the student assignment system so that it guarantees that each student will be assigned to one of the nearest 3 schools if they do not get one of their top 7. Yes, some kids who wanted Sherman may get Cobb and vice-versa. (more later)

    4. Modify the student assignment system so that it assigns a Profile (from available profiles) rather than a specific student. Continue assigning profiles to the schools who would show the greatest CDI increase while an assignment solution still exists (with each student going to one of the 7 choices or a nearby school).

    5. Next, using the profile assignments as a constraint, apply something like the "stable marriage" algorithm to assign students by preference to the schools (again, where nearby schools are automatically added to the end of the preference list).

    I think it's ridiculous that they have not provided ANY concrete ideas yet for us to consider, so I'm beginning to work on my own. Hope to see you all at the meeting on Thursday.

  17. One of the commissioners said the preferred term is "attendance zone". The term "community walkable school" hasn't come up in any of the meetings I've attended.

    Look, I'm sympathetic to the view that neighborhood schools with their PTA cash are exercising a form of gerrymandering. And I'm certain that "turning around a school" requires a lot more than simply changing its demographics.

    But I don't know how the BoE can support its assertion that people in favor of neighborhood schools (which by the way was the term that some successful candidates used on their campaign literature) are in the minority.

  18. "Students from the South East actually tend to prefer attending their local schools."

    So untrue.

    77% of kids in bayview attend their local schools, but not because they prefer to, it is because their parents didn't submit applications so they were ASSIGNED to those schools.

    Of those in the SouthEast quadrant who actually turned in an application, over 70% of them requested a school 5 or more miles away.

    There is so much misinformation on this blog, it is ridiculous.
    Don't believe anything you read here.

  19. I was at the meeting in the Bay View where 2 parents got up and used their voice to say "I want to attend my community school and I want it to have the same programs that everyone else has." Including the copy machine that was referred to in the previous post. I think the generalizing is going both ways.

  20. wondering what a neighborhood schools policy will do to our already inflated housing prices..

  21. "1. More than 7 choices. There's no reason to restrict people to ~10% of the available schools."

    Ideas I've heard knocking around are to *reduce* the number of choices to, say, four - makes it more likely you'll get one of your choices, assuming the algorithm stays the same. Also would leave a larger pool of places for parent who did not get one of their choices. Also would reduce perceived need to tour 20+ schools.

    "2. A "draft number" system, where families are assigned a ranking at the start of the process, before they choose."

    Doesn't seem to me to be an improvement on the current system.

    3. Full and explicit disclosure of odds for non-siblings, each diversity category, and language ability for immersion programs. Openness is the only way to make this system work."


    "4. Choice bands, where schools are ranked by demand into several bands, and picks are required in each band."

    This is the most promising idea I've heard, actually.

    "In the current system no one wins."

    By my estimate, ~68% of non-sib elementary applicants got one of their choices. (We got our second choice.) Many don't fill out all 7 choices, and many only list trophy schools. I expected that number to be a lot worse than it turned out to be this year.

    "It is already biased towards the disenfranchised and it still doesn't work."

    Actually, it looks like the outreach by PPSSF to the disenfranchised is one of the reasons why there's a greater crunch in Round I. More from lower SES communities are getting their application in on time.

    "It's more segregated then ever and the performance numbers continue to decline."

    Cite please on performance numbers.

    API numbers are up year-on-year (part of a long-term trend), and SFUSD performs (based on Greatschool rankings) on the same level as Sunnyvale, San Bruno, South SF, Brisbane, Berkeley, and Redding, and San Jose school districts, with Los Altos, Alameda, and Mountain View being marginally better. That's despite 30% of the most affluent SES opting for privates and SFUSD having a higher %age of low SES students than, say, Sunnyvale.

  22. 11:04 AM, from where do you get the percentages?

  23. "'Of those in the SouthEast quadrant who actually turned in an application, over 70% of them requested a school 5 or more miles away."

    Where are you getting said information? As SF is only 8 miles square, that's more than halfway across the city. Also, there's seven choices on the application - are you citing the choice that was furthest away?

  24. 11:04 if we are not supposed to believe anything on here then back up your numbers and give us something to believe.

  25. Chad, the Google map of SF elementary schools is a great idea.

    That would be wonderful for SFUSD and PPS-SF to link prominently on their website.

    Even if you remove the ranking data first, the Google map is so much faster and easier to understand than the existing maps.

    A couple things about it: McKinley is in the wrong place (current map shows it at the corner of Cesar Chavez & 101). Starr King is missing. Might as well add DeAvila now even tho there's no ranking yet.

  26. I'm frustrated that neighborhood assignment advocates keep saying that the current system has made the schools more segregated. Well, hello, of course it has, since the comparison is to a system with racial/ethnic CAPS!

    The relavant question is, does the current system keep the schools from being more segregated than if we returned to a neighborhood assignement system without racial/ethnic caps. The answer is almost certainly YES in that case.

    And previous poster is correct that overall performance is UP not down in the current system. Most sub-groups are improving too, although not at the same rate--hence the widening achievement gap.

  27. Until all the schools in the city are excellent, no one is going to be happy who did not receive one of their choices. SFUSD is trying to please everyone by coming up with some sort of compromise. This is how I would describe our current citywide "choice" system.

    It seems to me that returning to a system of neighborhood school zones will make the city more segregated and cause a mass exodus of folks who want a decent GE program but live in, for example, Potrero Hill or Bernal Heights. On the other hand, having to drive all over the city (assuming you have a car) just to bring your child to school in the morning is also ridiculous.

    I don't have the answers of course, but hopefully SFUSD will take some of these issues into consideration before making any type of radical change.

  28. To Anonymous 11:04:

    I would recommend listening to
    KQED's Forum. At approximately 38 minutes into the show, Jane Kim states that the South East sector is the sector that most applies to their neighborhood schools. If she's wrong, please let her (and us) know. If you have evidence to the contrary, you should share it!

    To Mibb. I'm sorry about the mistakes with the map. I should have given a big disclaimer... I built the map more or less by hand and there may be mistakes. I simply searched for school names found on the Great Schools website and put the address into Google maps. Unfortunately, it seems that if you accidentally click and drag, you can move a pointer around when you intended to pan the map around. I'll try to get it fixed!

  29. 10:57

    This is not misinformation. I personally spoke with Kim-Shree Maufas who told me that she did not believe in neighborhood schools. So if the president of the school board tells you she doesn't believe in them. I think it will be a "LONG" time before we see neighborhood schools. She basically told me that the community elects them because of what they bring to the table. Kim-Shree Maufas feels that she should do what she feels is right and not what the community is asking her to do. She doesn't believe in attendance zone schools because San Francisco had them and then everyone wanted choice.

  30. "wondering what a neighborhood schools policy will do to our already inflated housing prices.."

    The South East - Mission, Potero, Visitation Valley, Bayview/HP, Bernal, Glen Park and maybe Noe will get the shaft relative to the rest of the city.

    That is, unless SFUSD restricts the immersion programs also by neighbourhood. If I can't apply to Grattan 'cos the neighbourhood's put a ring-fence around it, then I want Monroe, Revere, Flynn, Alvarado Spanish Immersion programs ring-fenced too.

  31. Kim-Shriek has her head up her ass.
    She is an idiot.

  32. Chad, nice map (so far).

    What is this line that could be drawn to create equitable assignment zones without onerous commute times, though? What I am seeing is a sea of red and yellow in the SE and purple and dark blue in the NW.


  33. Check out the powerpoint presentations online at:

  34. Wow...interesting. Kim Maufas has her own personal agenda and Jane Kim doesn't think SF is a good place for families. (As heard in that same Public Forum clip) FABULOUS SCHOOL BOARD we have here. I am so thrilled these women are deciding the future of my children.

  35. Hear, hear 12:46. Let those west-siders over the hill have their schools with their well-off neighbors, as long as we get priority access to the popular language programs over here, and oodles of extra funding in general. They'll have plenty of PTA $$$, so they'll be fine.

    --east-sider parent

  36. I don't live in one of the choice neighborhoods and the school I want is not a popular school. I just want my kid to be close to home and have friends that are nearby to play/study with. Why am I not afforded this choice by default?

  37. Agree with 12:55. Geographic/neighborhood assignment should be the default, and *then* there should be a system for parents who are unhappy with the neighborhood to try to enroll in another school. This is how lots of other large American cities work (Boston, NY, Seattle, LA, and DC by my reckoning). Why SF should have this byzantine, stressful, and unpopular lottery is beyond me.

  38. We presented to Kim-Shree Maufas that they go with attendance zone schools and create partner schools that can help the schools that need assistance with growing a stronger school parent association.

  39. I think the partner schools idea is a great one - no matter what the assignment process is...

  40. 12:55

    I agree whole heartedly.
    Kim-Shree Maufas argued with me that doesn't provide for diversity or help with achievement gap. Diversity within a school and solving the achievement gap are the priorities the school needs to solve and that having attendance zone schools does not solve either of those problems so it will not happen. She inferred that only the "white" parents want "attendance zone" schools. I find this very hard to believe that most people don't want attendance zone. She then reminded me that redoing the lottery was not going to be done be a democratic vote of what people want.

  41. @1:07 -- Did Kim-Shree Maufas indicate what is the democratic wish of the parents in SFUSD, and how that was determined? Was this issue (of attendance zones) put to a vote recently?

  42. Kim-Shree Maufas indicated that the school board would "listen" to parents but they would do what they wanted to do.

    Ie: Diversity and achievement gap are their main considerations.

    The funny thing is that I don't hear any parents speaking about those things.

  43. Let me translate for you.
    "Diversity"= I don't want to get sued again
    "Achievement Gap"= Our test scores look really bad and scare people away which means less funding for the district

  44. Maybe Kim-Shree Maufas should start listening to public opinion

  45. Tx,

    Thanks! I agree with your sentiment that there is no way to make an assignment system where every child has an equal probability of a great school without onerous commute times without changing the quality or capacity of the schools.

    Those all the way by the coast are going to get a pretty good school (according to the map) unless SFUSD makes them commute half way across town. And sadly, the converse is true for those in the deepest South-East quadrant.

    I just wanted to point out there there is a "band of opportunity" down the middle of the city. For example, Cobb is near government housing, nearly 90% African American and is very close to Pacific Heights. Those kids could be given nearby schools that are ranked much higher.

  46. @1:30pm -- What I don't understand about the achievement gap is that SFUSD is one of the better school districts in both the Bay Area and in California. So what it is about SFUSD's achievement gap that drives funding away?

    @1:33pm -- Totally agree. What a strange notion for a publicly elected official to listen to public opinion, huh?

  47. 1:30

    You are exactly on target. They were afraid to make any "comments" on diversity adn the new lottery without their lawyer present.

  48. This blog is not representative of the majority of parents or voters. Kim Shree-Maufus absolutely does talk to parents, but they mainly don't look like the folks here, is what I'm saying. White and well-off is not exactly a majority constituency in SFUSD or even among school-age kids.

    I'm sure lots of parents on the SE side want neigbhorhood schools IF they are good schools. Huh, that's the key, right? How many "good" schools do you see on the SE side of the city right now?

    Seattle btw is in the middle of an assignment redesign because their proximity zone thingie isn't really working, and parents are (wait for it) ..... unhappy. One problem as I understand it is that their board tried to mix schools within zones in terms of socio-economics, and folks would pretty much be guaranteed a spot within their zone. But of course the zones were a little too mixed in terms of what the parents wanted (code words: "doesn't look like what I think of as my neighborhood"--although there was reasonable proximity in terms of commute) and not all parents liked their default assignments. Same problem as we have now in terms of scarcity of choice seats, but less ability to choose a school near grandma or work or a special program that you would be willing to drive to, like the Japanese at Rosa Parks.

  49. African American
    SE dweller
    Want my neighborhood (or whatever you want to call it) school
    Speak for yourself 1:45

  50. '"Achievement Gap"= Our test scores look really bad and scare people away which means less funding for the district'

    But SFUSD's scores (according to ranking) are on par with San Jose, Sunnyvale's, Brisbane's, San Bruno's and Reddings (to name a few) and a shade behind Mountain View, Los Altos, and Alameda.

    The (literal) urban legend that SFUSD scores are Teh Suxxor relative to the 'burbs doesn't seem to bear out, unless you're talking about a pretty select subset of the 'burbs (Palo Alto, Albany, Pleasanton, Cupertino).

  51. That's great 1:51 that you want your neighborhood school. Do you think you will have a problem getting it in the lottery system as currently set up? I'm not sure which one is your neighborhood school, but with a few exceptions it is generally not hard to get SE schools in Round 1 if you put it first on the list.

    You are one person. Unfortunately the number of African American applicants in Round 1 is relatively low, though community outreach is helping with that. Among those who do apply, absolutely some want to send their kids to Carver, Drew and other local schools. But many also choose schools out of the neighborhood. Do you really want to take away that option?

  52. It isn't the test scores that scare people away, it's the lottery and ensuing uncertainty.

    Even though a 'burb as a whole may not rank high, there will be some high-ranking schools within that 'burb, and people can move close to those schools and count on neighborhood assignment to get in.

  53. I realize the system is flawed, but I would like to add to this argument that it worked very well for us. We got our first choice school. (our first choice not being any of the more "popular" schools)

    I will say however, that we still feel very lucky!

    I just hope the new system is more transparent and that you won't need a degree in math to figure out your odds of getting into a school.

    I will say that I think the intentions of the current system are good - we should be able to "choose" what school our kids go to. So I hope this doesn't get lost in the fray...

  54. 3. Modify the student assignment system so that it guarantees that each student will be assigned to one of the nearest 3 schools if they do not get one of their top 7. Yes, some kids who wanted Sherman may get Cobb and vice-versa. (more later)

    This will obviously be gamed.

    5. Next, using the profile assignments as a constraint, apply something like the "stable marriage" algorithm to assign students by preference to the schools (again, where nearby schools are automatically added to the end of the preference list).

    Now that you mention it, the assignment algorithm already looks like a stripped-down Gale-Shapley algorithm (perhaps that's why its description is so ungainly). Where it fails is that people run out of ranked choices due to the 7-school limit.

    If that's their algorithm, it's actually fairly easy to see where the clumsiness lies. The schools are ranking students only by the 8 (or 16?) diversity categories, and then randomly within those sets.

    The category slots could be pre-assigned to each school by diversity criteria, and then applicants could apply based on how many seats are available to their category. Is that what you mean by "profiles"? I was thinking of something similar.

    The other problem with picking an established algorithm is that they're chicken to change it. That's why I'm thinking an auditing committee with some algorithm people could help streamline the process.

  55. "Even though a 'burb as a whole may not rank high, there will be some high-ranking schools within that 'burb, and people can move close to those schools and count on neighborhood assignment to get in."

    And how exactly is that a superior and fairer system than SFUSD's?

  56. "The other problem with picking an established algorithm is that they're chicken to change it."

    Possibly because the current, albeit crude, algorithm is so difficult to game. However, this in turn is causing a lot of the frustration from middle and upper-middle class parents; the edge from acquiring information on schools only gets you so far, and a lot of professionals find it frustrating to have so little control. In the end, your success in getting one of your choices is linked to (1) dumb luck, (2) being in one of the groups that add diversity, (3) being willing to include lower-demand schools in your application.

    [In fact, it's lower-information higher-expectation parents (the ones who take their cues for desirable schools by popularity, and hence list only high-demand schools Clarendon, Alvarado, Rooftop) who are the most likely to go 0/7.]

  57. KWillets,

    Yes, the algorithm is similar to the Gale-Shapley algorithm with the caveat that a school's preference resets after each iteration (because their choice may have gone to a different school) - meaning that it does not actually have any guarantee of optimizing anything.

    If anyone is interested in reading a technical description of the existing student assignment system, it is available in PDF form from the SFUSD website.
    Click Here

    Their document explains what a Diversity Profile is.

    I somewhat agree with you that it is probably better to pre-assign profiles to schools rather than individual students and then optimize from there. Of course, how you choose to assign diversity profiles to schools would be a matter for serious discussion. Obviously they have to match the choices available from the applicant pool.

    I'd be thrilled to discuss this further. I think there is a slim chance that maybe if the community produces at least one complete proposal, it might be considered.

    If anyone is interested in discussing ideas of how the existing algorithm could be modified, or wants to have a more technical discussion of the existing school assignment system - feel free to contact me:

    chad dot lester at

    Regarding your comments about "gaming" the system with regard to automatically adding the nearest 3 schools to a student's application, I can only guess that you meant that people might lie about their address.

    I believe that just because someone may be able to game their address, it does not mean we sould throw out geography and commuting time altogether.

    SFUSD does require documentation to validate your address, and I would think that the number of people cheating could be minimized.

  58. I'm looking at that doc, and it's unclear what they're maximizing. I had assumed they just tried to get a flat distribution in each school that matches the overall distribution across the district, but they seem not to be comparing to the overall distribution at all.

    The score they're using maximizes at 50/50 distribution, even if the underlying variable is not 50/50.

    I'll have to read more of this later; there's something I'm missing.

  59. KWillets, if I'm following you correctly, then you think the algorithm may be trying for a 50-50 split across the various diversity factors, so for example 50% free lunch vs. 50% not free lunch, whereas (I think) the district overall has more kids than 50% who qualify for free lunch. Seems like this would benefit the not-free-lunch families in oversubbed schools in this case, because the algorithm would be trying for half non-free-lunch kids, when there their % overall is not actually half. Is this what you were saying? Sorry if not--I am no technical whiz for sure.

  60. the current, albeit crude, algorithm is so difficult to game. However, this in turn is causing a lot of the frustration from middle and upper-middle class parents; the edge from acquiring information on schools only gets you so far, and a lot of professionals find it frustrating to have so little control.

    Thank you, 4:11! This is the source of much of the gnashing of teeth. Any other system would be just as "unfair" to whomever didn't get what they wanted, but this one is especially frustrating to professional class folks who hold as an article of faith the idea that if they work hard and figure out the right pathway they will control their destiny. It's all about merit, right (leaving aside all the advantages and luck that life tosses their way). Working class folks tend to know better.....but this is really why relatively well-off people here get so *^%$* mad at this difficult-to-game process and would LOVE neighborhood assignment--I can see the stampede now to buy/rent in whatever zones were created.

    I mean, look at the thread about feeder preschools if you don't think these folks wouldn't tie themselves into knots and basically make themselves totally miserable if they believed that doing so would open a pathway to some mythical (and it *is* mythical in this case) land of success.

  61. "[In fact, it's lower-information higher-expectation parents (the ones who take their cues for desirable schools by popularity, and hence list only high-demand schools Clarendon, Alvarado, Rooftop) who are the most likely to go 0/7.]"

    I'm really tired of hearing this BS. We didn't list a single one of these schools on our seven (didn't bother to even visit them because we knew we didn't have a snowball's chance of getting in) and we still went 0 for 7. We spent countless hours investigating the schools and figuring out the process. Listed our local school, a couple of long shots, and a few "hidden gems" (another ludicrous designation) and got zip. Bottom line if you live in the wrong zip code and don't have any of the SFUSD diversity elements you are getting nothing and are heading for the projects or are leaving town. The public school fans on this blog are so full of it.

  62. You have no entitlement to the best public schools in this town just because you have the money to live in the fancy neighborhoods.

    I wouldn't really call the Sunset "fancy."

  63. KWillets - Ha! I thought the same thing when I first read the student assignment algorithm. Nope, you're not missing anything. The formula does not actually optimize anything and it does go for a 50/50 split regardless of the actual distribution of diversity "bits". This is one of of the things I suggested fixing in my earlier post.
    Seriously - we need to talk. Send me an email. There are some easy and obvious improvements to the current system that are better than doing nothing. But the school board is on track to do exactly that - nothing.

    If Anonymous 6:39 is correct about school lunch, then yes, not being on school lunch could be an advantage. However, keep in mind that many disenfranchised students have parents who do not even participate in the lottery system. So even if the majority of students participate in the school lunch (and I'd be surprised if they do) my guess is that among participants, school lunch is VERY rare. Although we'll never know, because the SFUSD keeps pretty tight control over their data.

    Anonymous 7:41PM - I'm sorry to hear about your situation. From what I understand, this is also somewhat expected from the current algorithm. You see, if you don't get your first choice school, then you're chances of getting your second choice school are much much lower because you're automatically behind anyone who listed that school as a first choice school. And if you don't get that one, you're way out of luck for the third choice, etc. Loosing the lottery for your first choice school can have a cascading effect of shutting you out of all of your choices.

    You can see this clearly described in Stage F of page 5 of the technical description I linked to earlier. After attendance area, parent preference rank breaks ties, then random choice. This has the effect of giving more people their first choice school.

    Lesson - pick your first choice school VERY wisely!!!

  64. Interesting about what Kim Shree is supposedly saying. There is no data anywhere that shows parents in the SE sector do or don't want 'neighborhood schools' - but the SERR report (with feedback from parents in every zip code in the city) sure indicated that what families want is access to a school where they feel a sense of community. That can be defined in a lot of ways - but some in the SE want to be close to home, and others want some choice to go elsewhere. Basically, the SERR showed that no matter what your race, language, neighborhood, for the most part parents want the same thing.

    Unfortunately, many on the BOE at that time (including Jane Kim and Kim Shree) don't seem to accept this, yet have no other data to refute it - but insist on standing by their own dogma.

  65. To my algorithm-happy friends:

    I attended the enrollment fair 2 years back and listened to the consultant who was the architect of the algorithm describe it. Then my friend and I (both with strong analytical training in different fields, though I certainly don't develop algos for a living or anything) pelted him with questions. How he described it was this: (1) the algorithm calculates the diversity index profile of the incoming class (the siblings); (2) next the algorithm fetches the applicant *within the assignment zone* who differs the most in terms of diversity index features, no matter what number that applicant ranked the school; (3) the algorithm recalculates the profile of the class; and (4) fetches the next applicant who adds the most diversity to the class, and so on. If the class reaches equilibrium (meaning there are no more applicants within the assignment zone who would change the diversity profile of the class), but there are still spots, then the algo looks at applicants outside the assignment zone for diversity-contributing applicants. If equilibrium is reached (again, defined as no more applicants available who would change the profile), then the spots are assigned more or less at random, starting with people in the assignment zone and then moving outside of it. Meanwhile, applicants' rank of the school is supposed to function to break ties -- so, if the applicant is fetched by 2 schools, the applicant is automatically given the school that he/she ranked higher.

    This is one of the reasons why, if you have a good school in your assignment zone, you should rank it first, because you'll be in the preferred cohort. I live in a zone that did not have a school (used to be -- and now is again! -- DeAvila), so I had asked specifically about the relevance of assignment zones, and was told that if I ranked a school with an assignment zone (so not an alternative school) first, that would become my default assignment school and it would give me a bit of a bounce. I did exactly that, and got my first choice. (Gigantic disclaimer here that I'm still horrified by the current system and have been at every meeting, etc., etc.)

    Does my description -- seriously, straight from the horse's mouth -- jibe with your evaluation of the technical data?

  66. OK, I'm totally impressed with the folks on this blog who are trying to de-construct the district's assignment system algorithm! I love it when people actually stop doing the crazy ideological comments and try to work through a problem. I totally agree with the comments to the effect that the first choice is absolutely key -- your first choice has really got to be relatively possible to get into under this sytem, or you are just not going to get any of your other choices. I know I only have anecdotal evidence, but I have yet to meet someone who says something like: oh, I got my fifth choice on the first round. People either pretty much got their first choice or they got nothing and then got something in later rounds or off the waiting list. Since the BOE is not going to change the system, it might be better to offer them some slight tweaks that can actually remove the crazy frustration of going weeks without knowing where your kid is going to be once school starts. When I talk to parents who express frustration, this is probably top on their list. Yes, there are parents who are risk-takers, but, for goodness sake, the whole point of parenthood is to reduce risks for your children and a system that does not produce assignments to all in the first round is just bound to raise blood pressure all around. And I don't think you have to be an elitist to think that way!

  67. I really loathe the current assignment system, for many reasons. I also think that some BOE members have been counterproductively dismissive of people's personal experiences and expectations. What the BOE should say is that it has many competing interests to consider, and that it needs to do right by as many students as possible. That's the BOE's responsibility, not ours. We can provide ideas, bring pressure to bear, and hold our elected officials accountable when it comes time to elect them again - or not.

  68. "We spent countless hours investigating the schools and figuring out the process. Listed our local school, a couple of long shots, and a few "hidden gems" (another ludicrous designation) and got zip."

    As Chad said, sorry to hear of your experience. All the parents I know who went 0/7 either solely listed high demand schools or programgs, or listed less than 7 choices.

    But it sounds like you did all you could to maximize your chances. The one caveat is that the PPSSF spreadsheet many use doesn't take into account the rapid shift in demand that can occur for some schools/programs, e.g. Jose Ortega Mandarin, and can give you a false sense of security.

  69. "And I don't think you have to be an elitist to think that way!"

    I totally agree. I'm not sure why when we're all pecking at crumbs, we decide to use our beaks to try to poke each other's eyes out instead.

  70. I know I only have anecdotal evidence, but I have yet to meet someone who says something like: oh, I got my fifth choice on the first round."

    PPSSF found out this year that rank of the choice is used as a tiebreaker between two candidates with the same diversity profiles. So, for schools where there are more first choices than slots (e.g. Clarendon), you're not likely to get into the school if you list it, say, #5. The first choice really, really, matters.

    I do know one family that got a high-demand school (like, 10-to-1 oversubscribed) even though they listed it second choice. Not sure how that happened.

  71. Here's the one thing about listing the overly subscribed schools -- SOMEONE gets those spots.

    It kind of reminds me of one of the private school tours I attended, where the admissions person said, "Yes, well, it's true there are [negligible number approaching zero] spots for girls this year, but think of it this way, you definitely won't get one of them if you don't apply!" [Cue the polite but nervous laughter].

  72. Latina here! Hey, I want neighborhood schools!
    Yes, I'm educated and middle class with a child in pre-K. Not all Latinos live in the Mission. I'm sure many of you must be thinking that I'm in the minority. My many Latino friends in SF that WANT neighborhood schools and don't live in the Mission just like me.

    SF K files, trust me, not all of you are white! Minority folks enjoy this site as well and want a change just like you do!

    Good luck with Round 2. Something SF families should not endure. We have enough on our plates!

  73. Anonymous 9:46 -

    Your description is pretty darn close to my understanding. I think there are some minor points which probably don't matter to most people, but here you go:

    First, when you refered to "reaching equalibrium" among applicants in an attendance area, you defined it as when there are no applicants which can change the diversity score for the class. In actuality, it stops when there are no students which continue to improve the diversity score of the class. There may be students which make the score worse. So I wouldn't use the words "equilibrium". Sorry...just being pedantic.

    After the assignment system cannot find any applicants from the attendance area which increase the diversity score, it extends the applicant pool to those outside the attendance area. Those who are in the attendance area still have a shot, but now they have to compete with those outside. (although attendance zone kids always win ties). At this point, the algorithm will continue to fill seats based on who improves the diversity score the most (or hurts it the least). So it never goes into a pure random mode as long as there are choices which have a different effect on the diversity score or have other tie-breaking factors.

    There are TWO ways parent choice affects assignment and they are both important.

    First, if you are lucky enough to have multiple schools pick you, then you get your highest choice. This then leaves an empty seat at your lower choice school and the algorithm starts over again to fill the newly emptied seats. Even students who were already assigned now have a chance to compete for the newly emptied seat. This, in turn could empty their lower choice seats and maybe you'll get to move up again! This continues in a loop until no seats are emptied.

    The OTHER way parent choice affects assignment is for breaking mathematical ties within the same school. Let's say you are an English, Preschool, Non-poverty, Normal socioeconomic status applicant. If you listed this school as choice #2, you will be selected after all those who were like you who listed it as choice #1, unless you were in the attendance zone and they were not.

    So yes, listing your attendance zone school as #1 gives you the best possible shot at getting it. However, you could list it #7 and still be ahead of all of those just like you from outside your attendance zone.

    I'm guessing that the tie-breaking rules are probably pretty important. While there are technically 16 different diversity profiles for Kindergardeners there are probably only a handful of common combinations. Again - good luck getting data from the SFUSD board.

    And sorry Lilienthal folks, from what I can tell, you don't have an attendance zone (see page 41 of the enrollment guide).

    Anyway - you were pretty close in your description. I'm just being pedantic... sorry.

  74. 8:33

    Can you share where you have got this data?

    I will send an email to Kim Shree and put her reply on this board.

  75. The day someone can get Kim Shree to listen is a golden day indeed. Asian, live in Bernal, want my neighborhood school. Tell Ms. Maufas that.

  76. OMG!!!! Did you guys see this???

    April 1, 2009

    For immediate release:

    Office of Public Outreach and Communications
    555 Franklin Street, Room 305
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    Tel: 415.241.6565 Fax: 415.241.6036
    CONTACT: Gentle Blythe, 415-241-6565

    After a careful and painstaking review of its student assignment system, SFUSD has made the hard choice to automatically assign children to the school nearest to their residence address. This assignment process will start during the next school year, and does not affect those currently enrolled.
    The high cost of busing children all over town, combined with the inequities of the current lottery system, drove this decision. “We need to address the opportunities and challenges our district faces, and if that upsets parents, that’s unfortunate,” said Jill Wynns, the Board of Education’s longest serving member.
    “We are not in the transportation business” Carlos Garcia, SFUSD Superintendent stated, “our priority is serving the needs of our joyful learners” he added.
    “We were elected to make these decisions, and we have to do that without regard to what parents are saying they want,” said Kim-Shree Maufas, Board of Education president. “The only parents we hear from are the ones who we shouldn’t be listening to anyway, we need to think about the silent majority.”

    A special meeting has been scheduled for parents to voice their concerns:

    When: Wednesday, April 1 / 6:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.
    Where: Irving G. Breyer Board Room / 555 Franklin St (at McAllister)

  77. 9:20 - I think that's an April Fool's day joke

  78. "said Kim-Shree Maufas, Board of Education president. “The only parents we hear from are the ones who we shouldn’t be listening to anyway, we need to think about the silent majority.” "

    LOL. Too funny! Mostly because it is so TRUE.

  79. Are you sure it is a joke?

  80. 6:18 in Bernal, which part of Bernal, which school? Paul Revere was not a huge longshot in round 1, and Junipero Serra was no problem, so I don't think the current system would have been a problem for you if you wanted neighborhood above all. One or other other of those two is walkable from most of Bernal.

  81. Revere. But the point is I shouldn't have to go through this silly system to get the school down the street from my house. Just because other people would opt to send their kids half way across town doesn't mean it's automatically my choice as well.

  82. I am so tired of folks on this blog assuming that everyone who went 0/7 listed only Clarendon, West Portal, Miraloma, Rooftop, etc. We had a mix of more and less popular schools on our list. By demand rank with this year's data they were #9, 12, 15, 18, 23, 26 and 67. We did get bitten a bit by the fact 2 of the programs were immersion so the capacity is actually 1/2 (that we were qualified for). If we could do it again we might drop one of the immersion programs that we really really had no shot at, and add a program that ranked in the mid 40's or 50's in popularity. Also we kind of burned our #1 on the longest shot on our list, which as we've found here was kind of critical. Now we're paying for it.

    Hindsight is 20/20 but we had limited time to tour schools, and it is MORE important to tour the less popular schools because you can't count on the reputation.

    I hate that this process is time consuming and the result is highly unpredictable. I don't know how any assignment system is going to address those to aspects. I really appreciate some of the thoughtful suggestions folks on this blog are making, though. Hope someone hears them!

  83. The whole assignment process debate is a red herring. It tricks us into believing that the SFUSD's job is to provide everyone equal access to the good schools. That is not their job. Their job is to make every school a good school.

    By allowing them to pour resources into this lottery, and now into "redesigning" the lottery, we are essentially letting them off the hook from doing their real job. We are agreeing to accept that not all of the schools are performing well. We are taking our eyes off the ball.

  84. Anonymous 11:04 - I feel your sentiment. However, realize that a good student assignment system may be part of the solution to making SFUSD schools better. It's certainly no panacea - but it could help:
    1. help at-risk kids do better
    2. reduce the number of parents who flee the city
    3. increase parental participation.

    And each of these things might help make all of our schools better.

    From reading this thread, you might reach the conclusion that this is all they are doing - it's not.

  85. Bernal parent who wants Revere--would you have wanted neighborhood schools five years ago, when Revere was by all accounts a failing school with a less-than-stellar principal, a school on the brink of being closed? Pre-immersion? I'm not trying to be snarky. Serious question. It seems that love or hate for neighborhood school assignment depends a lot on where one lives. And where one lives, or has access to living, is in large part a function of economic status.

  86. 11:04, I believe the lottery does both -- provides greater though not truly equal access to the best schools while improving the worse schools.

    One of the biggest benefits of the lottery, though, is that it changes public perception about which schools are good.

    I'll be the first to admit it -- I'm a lemming. I had zero knowledge of any school going into this process a few months ago, and little time to figure it out, so I relied on test scores and word of mouth. The lottery forces people like me out of their comfort zone, which isn't entirely a bad thing.

    And while I hate the lottery as much as the next parent, when you talk to the people who were around 10 years ago, the school system seems massively improved since then. Something is working right.

  87. 7:41 and 10:10, you say you don't hear about people getting anything but their first choice.

    For the record, we got our 6th choice. Not in our zip code, no diversity points.

    Yes, we feel very fortunate to have been assigned a school we picked. I'm sure that's why I'm not as anti-lottery as others on the blog.

    But our list was mostly the less popular "hidden gems". This place seemed like a solid school that cleared its tiny waitpool last year...which does makes me wonder what we're missing about it, lemming that I am.

  88. Which one, 1:02 (if you don't mind....).

  89. We were assigned Sutro, our 6th choice.

    So it does happen. We're not in the assignment area and have no diversity points.

    Maybe we do in fact create diversity for the school because of its Cantonese bilingual program for ELLs, which we figured is also why its test scores were lower than surrounding schools.

    Or maybe we were just really lucky and won the lottery.

    But Sutro cleared its waitlist last year, and only 5 people made it their first choice this year, so the odds seemed relatively good. It mystifies us because the school seems like as nice a choice as any.

  90. 3:01, Congrats! Sutro is indeed a lovely school. Too far away for me but would have been on my list if we lived way out there.

  91. Can anyone confirm this meeting is happening today?

    "The most important thing families can do is come to a public meeting this Thursday with the school district and SF Board of Supervisors. Here are the details: Thursday, April 2 at 3:30pm, City Hall Board Room"

    It's not on the USFD web site or anywhere on the Internet. I hate to miss work if it isn't happening. There's a similar meeting happening at City Hall at 2 p.m., but that's about layoffs.

  92. The meeting is posted on the Board of Supervisors' website.

    The meeting starts at 3:30, City Hall Board Chambers (room 250).

    They are also going to show it live on SFGTV. To watch, go to the City's webiste and follow the links to SFGTV (bottom right hand corner of the main page).

  93. I just called my supervisors office (Alioto-Pier) and her aide confirmed the meeting at 3:30 today as it's been written here (in the board room with the BOE). Hope that helps! Thinking leaving the office myself as one of the hotly-hated white middle class moms who is SOOO BAD for wanting my child to go to school close to home and has no hope of such...

  94. My wife heard from the GGMG that the meeting was canceled. We just called clerk Linda Laws (415) 554-4441.

    She said that the portion of the meeting on homeless children is still going on, but that Supervisor Chu's portion on the School Admissions Process was canceled.

    However, the meeting agenda online still says it's going on: Click Here to see the agenda

    Who knows what will really happen. I may show up anyway. Maybe I'd get a chance to talk to the BOE again.

  95. I would leave middle and high school enrollment alone. Most of the schools are not segregated. Middle and high schoolers haave opinions about where they want to go. Also, kids usually get themselves to school at that age by public transit, so families need some choice. Most importantly, most families seem to get either their first or second choice, so the system seems to be working.

    Elementary assignment needs the most tweaking. I still favor a choice system, but somehow there has to be some more certainty added to the process.

  96. Agreed, PLEASE leave the middle and high school process alone.

  97. "And while I hate the lottery as much as the next parent, when you talk to the people who were around 10 years ago, the school system seems massively improved since then. Something is working right."

    Well, one of the aspects of the lottery/school choice system that isn't widely understood is that the money follows the student.

    So, if a school is chronically underenrolled, SFUSD faces a close it or turn it around decision based on the economics. Hence, you get immersion programs in formerly failing schools like Alvarado, Flynn, Revere, and Daniel Webster to draw in families to those formerly underenrolled schools.

    If you have captive neighbourhood attendance, then the funding may no longer be as strongly attached to the student.

  98. Was there a meeting yesterday? Can anyone report back?

  99. High schools NOT segregated? Ever been near George Washington? At least 90% Chinese.

  100. Actually, last year Washington was 66% Asian (not sure of ethnic breakdown within that figure), 11% Latino, 9% white, 7% African American, 4% Filipino. It is segregated, but probably a lot less so than if it were neighborhood assignment.

  101. I can't believe that people think the high school process is working. This year tons of sunset kids got assigned to O'Connell and Mission. These are mostly kids who have gone to schools near home and rely on walking and muni. Do you have any idea what its like to get from the outer Sunset to O'connell on muni? I think its safe to say its over an hour each way. And then you are being delivered into a neighborhood that has gangs and a high school that doesn't have much of a selection of high level academic classes. This is not "working". I have no idea why we're not hearing more about this disaster but actually in many ways its worse than the kindergarten situation, because most of these kids don't have rides from parents, and of course there is no aftercare. This is not my family, but after years of hearing all sorts of SFUSD horror stories, the number of westside kids assigned to O'Connell is just about the worst. I think they just aren't making an organized ruckus (yet).

  102. hmm, 4:54, so you're fine with our kids getting assigned O'Connell, just not yours or your neighbors? Once again, the perspective is a little different over here on the east side of town. We want a chance at Lincoln, Washington, Galileo, Balboa too. We don't mind the commute, either (it's not an hour on the 48, btw).

  103. X-post from another thread, an interesting article on the NYC system, which is largely neighborhood-based. Lots of anxious parents, skewed rents, not all kids in each zone getting into "their" school. Comments are interesting too--sound like comments here. Still the perceived scarcity, no matter what the system.

  104. Hey 9:50

    What attitude. I'm actually more of an eastside parent and I feel sorry for ANY kid that needs to spend an hour or more commuting one way to a school they don't want to go to. It's a horrible thing even if you want it. We ruled out even looking at Lincoln or Wash because they are too damn far (even if we liked them). If we didn't like them and were sent there that would just be hell. Please get off your political attitude long enough to just see this is not fair to kids and no one would want this. Most eastside kids don't want to go to Lincoln and Washington either (and the ones who do may be the lucky ones who can get a ride - I've known some of those).

  105. It isn't just "rich white" people who want the system improved - I am neither. In fact, I am Samoan -from one of the most academically challenged groups in the city. My husband is a public servant. But I want neighborhood schools - because even if my school isn't the best, I'll be close, I can more easily get involved, and can reach out to other parents close by who can join in the effort. So, shame on those people who think that only white rich people want the neighborhood system. And since when was it awful to be middle class?

    I lived in LA for 15 years, and one of my favorite stories was about Ivanhoe elementary. As "hipsters" moved in to Echo Park and had kids, they couldn't afford private school, so a group of parents decided to embrace their public school, and helped transform it into a school that they were happy with. It's not a perfect school, but it's a hell of a lot better than they found it. These people were not "rich white people" - yeah, mostly white, but lots of writers and artists and tatoos. Middle class (remember us?)

    Last year, we got 0 for 7 and luckily ended up at Peabody from round 2, but I drive 2 hours a day to make that happen, and because of working, my 6 year old child leaves the house at 8:00am and doesn't get home until 6:00 EVERY DAY. If we stay there, I'll be doing this 5 days a week for 8 more years because I have a younger child too. Or maybe we'll get really lucky and have our girls at 2 different schools across town from each other!

    This limits the amount of time I can work, and limits how much I can be involved at school. Too bad, because I'd love to work more and be more involved, but when you're driving 2 hours a day, there isn't a lot left over.

    Thanks SfusD!

  106. Some were asking if the board of supervisors held their meeting with the School Board to discuss why the assignment system was taking so long. Well, sadly no - they did not. There were two other parents there who were fuming mad. I tried to convince them to come to the Ad-hoc committee meeting on the 13th.

    Regarding some statements about diversities at High Schools - there is no need to guess. Most schools have their stats on line.

    George Washington's profile shows 49.7% Chinese, not 90%.

  107. 11:40pm, "more of an eastside parent" (what does that mean??? either you are over here or you are not, right?)--

    Great for you if your top priority for your child's high school is not a long commute. I think you will have no trouble getting him/her into Mission High or O'Connell! Go for it.

    Some of us want more of an academic path, which is much more likely to be found at Lincoln, Washington, Galileo, and increasingly Balboa. I would like a chance for my children to have one of those, if they don't get into Lowell (I'd say it's on the bubble for that option). LOTS of parents are happy for their kids to commute to Lowell! Why not Lincoln. It's not that bad of a commute--reverse commute on the 48/Taraval. No, I would not be driving. My middle schooler currently takes the MUNI back and forth from a west side school and is doing fine. High school will be more of the same, I hope.

    Remember too that when the Sunset parents complained like crazy about the commute to Galileo (even though *many* Chinatown kids were more than happy to do the reverse commute to Lincoln), the district added a school bus from the Sunset to Galileo. School is very much up-and-coming with the new mix. This seems like a better solution to me than gating off the west side schools from those of us who live on the other side of the hill. It's a small city and very much navigable by bus if you want that school.

    If we reverted to neighborhood assignment, there really would be 90% Chinese kids at Lincoln and Washington (since the white kids go private in huge numbers, who the heck is left out there), and almost no Latino or African American kids.

    I accept that for you, the commute issue is paramount. NOT true for all of us. I know parents in the Bayview who are very much hoping for Lincoln over Thurgood Marshall for their bright kids.

  108. I've had a chance to visit several middle and high schools in the past few weeks in conjunction with a research project I was working on. I was really impressed with both Burton and Marshall high schools. The atmosphere at both schools was orderly and positive, and both have some really attractive physical attributes, including great views. I think they would compare very favorably with schools like Lincoln, Washington, and Balboa, and I'll definitely look at them for my now-sixth grader when the time comes.

  109. Reading these posts is depressing and stressful. Does anyone have advice on strategy for 2010 as it looks like the current system will be in place for entering K. Last year I toured 4 schools knowing that I would not have the time to tour more than that this coming up fall. Of the 4 schools(Yick Wo, Sherman, McKinley and Rosa Parks) I only would consider one of the schools for our child. I now need 6 more choices (though it may be pointless as I might get zero anyway)!!

    My priorities are a great learning environment, close to where we live (in the NE section of town)and a smaller school. If you can't tour during the Fall, can you tour at other times, like now? I am trying to grasp how everyone comes up with 7 choices and the more when you go 0/7 if they can't tour 20 plus schools. The schools I have at the top of my list to tour are Peabody, Claire Lillenthal and Creative Arts Charter. Should I not bother with CL? It is the closest to where we live and thus would be ideal but I know it is completely oversubscribed. How do folks make choices other than just looking at those SARC reports which seem not to tell the real story?

  110. Many schools will be having spring community events like carnivals in the next couple of months. These are fun family events and a great way to see the whole school community together. You can also spend a few dollars and help the school's fundraising goals while your kid has fun. The school building will usually be open so you can take a little tour around to get an idea of the physical space.

  111. As far as I know, most schools will let you visit any time of year. Call or visit the office to set up an appointment.

  112. As far as I know, most schools will let you visit any time of year. Call or visit the office to set up an appointment.

  113. LOL...I called CL last year in the fall to see when I could tour and they flat out said they would not even take appointments for a tour unitl after the Nov. School Fair. I have also checked the websites of a number of schools , which all say that tours will not begin again until October. So much, for tours being a available all year. If there are specific schools that allow for tours year round then please share which ones they are.

  114. 8:21, the schools that are not super-popular with parents are the ones that will let you drop in outside of "touring season." Quite frequently you will even get the principal giving you a tour! The Clarendons have no need to offer this service and in fact they may feel a bit overrun with the hundreds of parents who show up in the fall. But go by a school like Redding and you'll get the one-on-one treatment.

    There's a similar funny story about this phenomenon in Sandra Tsing Loh's book "Mother on Fire"--about her school search in L.A. When she finally dropped by her disdained neighborhood school, they had no idea what she was talking about re a tour, but the principal gladly showed her around.

    Anyway, that would be my advice--seek out the lesser-talked-about schools. There are several on the NE side of town (isn't that where the original poster lives)? Save the fall tours for the biggies. Or--given the odds--maybe forgo them altogether and focus on finding something closer by and more realistic.

  115. So frustrated by feedback from the 4/13 board meeting - there's the firm perception among the board that it's a "vocal minority" interested in neighborhood schools.

    That comment (along with lots of others) totally depresses me. It says that anything I or other parents in favor of "community walkable schools" say is going to be dismissed and ignored.

    I stayed behind after a recent public meeting and talked to the folks on the board and the most depressing thing is that I think everyone feels like they're trying to do the right thing and genuinely cares. That's great, except that the decisions are already made and it's not a discussion any more.

    If my priority is a walkable school, I'll be given opportunities to voice that in surveys and blogs and emails to the board and at public meetings. Once my perspective is "heard" it can then be ignored in favor of the "silent majority" certain members of the board believe they're fighting for.

  116. Isn't it incredibly condescending for the School Board to presume what the silent majority (what ever and who ever that constitutes) wants. Seems very arbitraty to me to allgedly speak for a group of people who themselves are not defined, who have had no say in their wants and desires which are purportedly being protected by the board and who are conveniently "silent" so that the board can do what it wants as opposed to what is sought by families. Sounds like a dictatorship or in this case an oligarchy to me as opposed to a democracy. I say let's put it to a vote of all the incoming parents as to what their preferences/priorities are and then we can let the majority rule.

  117. I'm still hopeful that something can be done. Many parents want neighborhood schools, but there were also many parents who wanted choice. We need some concrete way to reconcile these. I have to say, the proposals that the committee put forward at least appeared to try and find a compromise, although they left out enough details from their proposals to allow me to be optimistic. Perhaps when the details are revealed my opinion will change.

    I've been to three of these ad-hoc meetings now, and I must say I wish I could vote off about half of the board. But the special committee that is designing the system doesn't seem to be too bad.

    Also keep in mind that there was some pretty convincing evidence that mixing at risk kids does improve performance for everyone. My fear is that they aren't measuring the side effects, such as lowered parent participation when you have to commute or lowered willingness of the community to raise funds.

    Perhaps someone should start a petition to be signed at the next meeting.

  118. 9:33 pm - I am truly sorry I missed the meeting last night. I am also a neighborhood school person for many reasons. Is there anything to do at this point to show that we aren't necessarily a minority?

  119. There is a Google Group formed around neighborhood schools.

    Click Here to see the group.

    Let's see how many people actually sign up.

  120. Chad, interested to hear more about your thoughts from the proposal as would love to get a more optimistic read.

    Below is the summary from the GGMG listserv:

    Here's a brief update of last night's meeting on the SFUSD school assignment redesign. There were 3 general scenarios presented for K. The first involves automatic assignment to your attendance area school with choice/lottery for special programs and extra seats. The second involves choice/assignment to a school in your attendance area zone with choice/lottery for special programs and extra seats. The third choice is similar to our current system, which is primarily considered a choice system (even though 1/3 or more get none of their choices).

    HERE'S THE CRITICAL POINT: attendance area is defined by academic/economic/linguistic/racial diversity, geographic barriers, enrollment projections, student density, and school capacity. Proximity or neighborhood is not any part of this!!! Here is the quote from the presentation, "Proximity is not a priority but should be considered when it does not compromise academic/economic/linguistic/racial diversity." In case the implication of this is not clear, it means that your attendance area is not necessarily where you live and could in fact be anywhere in the city.

  121. "There is a Google Group formed around neighborhood schools.

    Click Here to see the group.

    Let's see how many people actually sign up."

    I went to the site and only 9 people are signed up, but then I did a google search for "sf neighborhood schools" and even "parents neighborhood schools" and for both searches this group did not come up on the first list of results, so how would anyone even find this site if they wanted to??????