Thursday, March 5, 2009

March 9 meeting on student assignment process

Board of Education
Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment
Monday, March 9, 2009
6:00 pm
Dr. Charles Drew Academy
50 Pomona Avenue (at Bay View Street, near 3rd Street)
San Francisco, CA 94124
Parking available


  1. A district insider commented to me that all the advocacy the Board of Ed is currently hearing is from parents who want neighborhood schools (guaranteed/mandatory). The commenter wondered if the sentiment is that unanimous or if those who favor the current system, offering districtwide
    choice, are just less vocal.

    So I thought I'd point that out in case there are parents who haven't spoken up.

    My own view is that I'm really not sure how to make this process work ideally for everyone. Here's my blog post "A Dose of Reality," for anyone interested in the "yes, but..." view.

    -- Caroline Grannan

  2. caroline -

    i don't want mandatory or guaranteed school assignments. i choose to drive across town for language immersion and a school that is near my work. to whom should we voice this opinion if we cannot attend this meeting?

  3. I would say send a letter to all the Board Members. Why stop at one?

    Immersion schools as well as other type of "magnet programs", be it Science etc, should not be part of the neighborhood school. That is, being in the neighborhood should not give a family any preference.

    Until each neighborhood or quadrant has approx the same number of such programs, then the restriction could be removed.

    Otherwise, it is unfair that parents who do not want immersion may end up in a school with only immersion or vice versa, families who want immersion end up in only gen ed programs because of where they live. I suppose its easier to move than the alternative which is to get fairly similar programs established in each quadrant/ neighborhood.

    (Immersion is just an example...,most specialized program, should be excluded in the neighborhood preference)

  4. But doesn't the multilingual master plan recommend that each school in the district provide students with access to foreign language -- either through a FLES model or immersion? Assuming the District finds a way to finance this, a language magnet will not be easy to single out as a magnet program exempt from neighborhood assignment. Also, suppose the best Russian FLES program you are interested in is not within proximity to you? Will that be okay?

  5. I'm checking with PPS staff to see if they'll convey opinions to the board members.

    The simplified version would be: all guaranteed/mandatory neighborhood schools vs. all choice. But then, as the last two posts indicate, there are all kinds of questions about access to specialized programs -- so the end product is not likely to be a crystal-clear simple plan. -- Caroline

  6. 11:48 -- No, I wouldn't be ok if there was only one Russian FLES or even two Russian FLES in the entire city - I would say those programs should be exempt too. Open to all who want to apply, lottery run (and please no exceptions for this or that, straight lottery like the California state one, one ticket per child). Get what you get.

    But, if there were a Russian FLES available in each quadrant, but the quality of each is different...well, too bad, then. Each neighborhood offers the program. One goes to the X program in one's neighborhood And help make it better or move or choose something else. I only see that the District should provide similar options so to speak, they cannot "guarantee" the quality because they cannot "guarantee" the teachers and staff and other families in program nor "clone" the best teachers.

    I'm recognizing that this assignment process will not please everyone... there is no easy way at all, esp if there is a huge variation in availability of programs. That's the critical factor. If you go to suburbs that offer neighborhood only schools, they pretty much have similar programs in each school, and for the immersion, or Science/Math etc magnet programs, they will offer lotteries.

  7. If you require neighborhood assignment for everyone BUT those wanting a magnet program, then you clearly facilitate the middle class getting to pick and choose while the under class stays put. In SF, the best way to integrate schools is to make people go to the school in the neighborhood they live. To keep them there you need to add magnet programs. But don't assume that that needs to be immersion. Immersion's popularity is in part tied to the fact that like attracts like.

  8. I think school choice should be limited to those who are poor. I think that's fair, and so far poor people aren't displacing others in significant quantities in "choice" schools.

  9. Actually, history and experience demonstrate that the best way to integrate schools (if you view "best" as just referring to how diverse they are) is with mandates like the former caps on any one ethnicity at a school. But that had many family-unfriendly aspects and was tossed out by the courts after a lawsuit.

    Back when SFUSD had strictly neighborhood schools, they were extremely segregated -- that was why busing began in the first place.

    There are no easy answers.

  10. 10:17--

    Well put. It seems everyone
    has the "me, me, me" attitude.
    It's the poor who suffer the most.
    We're not ultra rich, we want a good school for our kids. If I get an ok school, rather than a "top tier" public school, then I will do as much as I can to help out the school and teachers. Even if it means the need to fundraise, and fundraise til I have nothing in me, while working my full time job!

    Caroline, not everyone will be happy with the system. It's important that the poor get that extra help.
    Ever heard the quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?"

  11. From Caroline's blog:
    Today, I don’t know any white parents who don’t want their kids in ethnically diverse schools, but a neighborhood schools system in a city of segregated neighborhoods does promote segregated schools.

    There are very few segregated neighborhoods in SF (thanks to real estate prices). No assignment or lottery system will change the makeup of schools in the neighborhoods that are segregated.

  12. I was going to suggest that we simply forward the url of this blog thread to the board of education. But since Caroline is posting anonymously approximately every other post -- reiterating and defending her own opinions (see her blog) -- that probably won't serve the purpose of getting more voices heard. In fact I wonder if this "district insider" she posits in the first post even exists.

  13. She keeps posting her blog links because she gets one penny for each click to her blog.

  14. That's all you get paid for an Examiner blog? ONE CENT per viewer?

  15. Ten thousand clicks to make one hundred bucks?

  16. Moggy posted on the PPS listserve giving some ways to make your voice heard, whatever your views.

    First, fill in this survey:

    Second, If you have additional ideas to share about the student assignment redesign,please email them to:


    Third, send emails about your thoughts about student assignment directly to the Board of Education Commissioners:



    I truly don't have a simple answer on this issue. My message is just to be realistic and avoid ascribing magical powers to a neighborhood school system.

    Yes, I was asked to post this by someone I am obliquely describing as a "district insider."

    And the number of clicks coming from a link here is not going to affect my income, believe me. Obviously, if money were a big priority in my life I wouldn't be spending a moment on education advocacy. -- Caroline

  17. Hey everyone -- post your ideas and opinions here. Rachel Norton -- will you make sure this thread can enter into the board's conversation in some way (for whatever it's worth, given that there may be no more than 3 people posting here -- me, Caroline, and the one(s) that I know are not me and do not appear to be Caroline)?

  18. Obviously, if money were a big priority in my life I wouldn't be spending a moment on education advocacy.

    That is very telling, since lots of people make money a big priority in their lives so that they can spend their moments on advocacy.

  19. 11:45

    It would make more sense for people to email their opinions about student assignment directly to the BOE and to the

    StudentAssignmentIdeas"@" email address

    instead of posting them here on this blog, and having to wade through all the meaningless posts and snipes.


  20. Well, I don't know... Snipes aside, I think throwing out some ideas without having to craft an eloquent essay (or, hell, even a sentence) and attach your name to it has value.

  21. 12:26

    so rather than take the time to write a coherent sentence, you'd rather make PPS or somebody else suffer through all the crap and blather here to perhaps dig out a few ideas about student assignment?

    Writing an email isn't all that difficult, is it? You don't even need to compose a sentence, just email a list of things you'd like the assignment system to think about/consider.

  22. Whatever. I'll just forward them the url. They can do what they like with it.

  23. Yeah, they are really going to spend time exploring your links.

    Just what exactly here, out of these 22 posts, do you think even remotely sheds any new insights into student assignment?

    It is beyond me why people think this blog is so informative, it's a bunch of spoiled people whining.

  24. I went to the BoE assignment meeting tonight and my main reaction was what a waste of time. The meeting was advertised as an opportunity to present a set of models based on an analysis of school lottery participation, diversity data, etc. In fact, the meeting had been delayed a month to prepare these models.

    No models. Instead we had more data analysis and a rehash of the usual equity and policy issues. This was followed by parental comments and then a half hour of commissioner grandstanding.

    Highlights of the later included Sandra Fewers stemwinder about how lucky the incoming K class of 2010 will be, followed by tepid applause, and Kim-Shree Maufas's implausible argument for restarting the process. Apparently she found some people in her neighborhood who haven't been following the process -- that's been going on for how many years? In truth, the Bay View parents who spoke at the meeting all preferred local schools with more resources.

  25. I want diversity, and my neighborhood school would have given us plenty of that (12% of our ethnicity attending.) However, we didn't get into any of our choices, nor did we get our waitlist school in the 10 day count.

    I would like to see a city wide lottery (like now) but with neighborhood preference given. If a school isn't wildly popular, maybe, then you can get priority if you put it in your top 3.

    Just an example, but neighborhood should be part of the equation.

  26. Absolutely! Neighborhood schools are easier on families without cars, easier on the environment, easier on commuters in their cars,s easier on the kids, etc.

    It isn't the fault of SF that CA schools are so under funded. However, maybe a bigger chunch of PTA and all parent groups should be given to schools in neighborhoods where fundraising isn't happening on the same level.

    Hell, i already support fund drives at a grossly under funded school, and deny my child's private any extra money above the mandatory fundraising.

    I want public school. I want to walk to school with my child. I live in a diverse neighborhood. The Mission.

  27. "Kim-Shree Maufas's implausible argument"

    Does anyone else think that most of what she says makes no sense? Her stream-of-consciousness monologues are completely incomprehensible.

  28. Neighborhoods are already part of the equation. DUH.

  29. Does anyone have any inside information here? I have a real hard time believing that the Board of Education will actually be able to implement changes to the assignment system for 2010.

    It is almost mid-March and it sounds as if the BoE has not offered new models for public consumption - making it difficult to gain consensus and decide on a new model. Factor in the time required to change the computer model and new communication materials and it seems very difficult for the BoE to implement a change for 2010.

    Can anyone comment? Was there any talk at yesterday's meeting about a "commitment to a new model by 2010"?


  30. Will the BoE actually develop and implement a new assignment plan for the 2010 school year? There are a number of factors that suggest they may run out the clock:

    * They're already well behind their tight schedule.

    * Some commissioners would like to kick it down the road.

    * They may become immobilized by deep fiscal cuts.

    * Under Barack Obama, there may be calls for reimagining equity and performance.

    In previous years the BoE would run out the clock on the issue and table it for the next year. I'm not thrilled with their process or progress, but I hope they're forced to see the issue through this time.

  31. 7:13, did you apply to your neighborhood schools and not get a slot? I am having trouble imagining that you wouldn't have found a space at Cesar Chavez, Bryant, Moscone (which is low-income but high-performing), Sanchez, or even Marshall at least by round 2. Buena Vista may have been more difficult, although I knew folks that got in. Flynn, obviously, had the Flynnarado debacle. But that's at least five schools in your neighborhood (not sure which part of it you live in and which were truly walkable) for which anyone who was not low-income or ELL would have likely provided diversity and received a spot in Round 1. So, what happened? Any ideas why you didn't get a slot at your neighborhood schools?

  32. I just don't get it! BoE in SF is a joke! It's now wonder people leave the city or have their kids in private school.

    How hard is it to get the job done
    and change the system. I too can come up with model after model after model...yada yada yada.

    Does anyone know whether flooding their phones and complaining helps?

    If they simply don't want to change the current system, just say so!!!

  33. Can you come up with a model of a diverse, high-poverty urban public school system that's working better? One that has resolved the issues of diversifying schools, providing equitable access to low-income families, and pleasing middle- and upper-class families? It's a very well-kept secret if so!

  34. Completely confused. We will be applying for kindergarten for 2010, which will require as I understand it, that I start the application process for private schools in 5.5 months and tour the public schools to make an assessment for my 7 first round choices at the same time (if that is what is going to happen with a "new" system). Last year, I toured 3 public schools in what I considered a reasonably close radius to our house (2-3 miles) so as to narrow down the work for this year (wish I had done more). Of the 3 public schools, I would only consider one of the schools as a "choice" and it happens to be the 2nd closest school to where we live (the first is an alternative school and is extremely oversubscribed which we did not tour - yet). When is a decision expected to be made as to 2010? In order to assess whether I need to even tour/apply to privates (which I will if the current public system remains), I need to know what I can expect from the public school process. At this point, I have no idea.

  35. 4:32, get in the Parents for Public Schools loop for complete information:

  36. I also attended the BOE assignment meeting last night and completely concur with 11:41. To address 10:23, sadly, I was left with the distinct feeling that the assignment system will not change for 2010. More than one supervisor spoke about the need to "analyze more data" and "continue to solicit ideas" and "get it right". I apologize for not being able to directly quote which member said what (I was in such disbelief at the lack of models and the insinuation they would further analyze before proposing changes I kind of spaced out a bit), but one of them said roughly, "spring is not the only time we can change the assignment system". In my mind, that meant "don't hold your breath for 2010".

  37. Maybe the BOE and the District has got the paradigm all wrong.

    What if it went to a neighborhood quadrant system -- and had straight lottery.

    Exempt the alterntive programs (such as immersion, or JBBP, Science/magnet programs) for the first year or two years with a separate lottery (similar to other neighborhood based school districts).

    Then spend the money on getting alternative programs into all quadrants --

    Hey it may mean shaking up the playing field, potentially even moving some of the immersion programs from their current school if there is too high a concentration in one area so that eventually all the schools are assigned neighborhood based preference first.

    A simpler lottery with less loopholes.

  38. My child is entering K in 2010. Thank you for all of the information. Keep it coming if you have it!

    I toured some schools in 2008. This fall I will tour more schools and create a list. Unless I hear otherwise, I am going to operate under the assumption that the assignment system may not change for 2010 and will also tour/apply for some privates/parochial as well.

  39. Question for 8:29 - When you say "supervisor" what do you mean? Were members of the Board of Supervisors present at this meeting or do you mean members of the Board of Education?

  40. Me, I'm hoping it stays the same for at least two more years so that we're not stuck with our neighborhood high school! Choice is good good good on the upper levels and the kids love having a voice in it. Middle school has been miles better because my kid had a voice in choosing.

  41. PPS now has the PowerPoint presentation from the March 9 meeting up on its site (in the special SAS section), along with the future meeting schedule. They do seem to be running way behind on their original schedule to address this issue.

    I didn't attend the meeting, but hafta say, looking at the PowerPoint, that the likeliest scenario for future years (if they even get to this next one) is that there will be more predictability, but a lot of y'all in the nicer neighborhoods are going to be offered a secure spot plus transport across town. There is no WAY they can create less segregated schools than they have now with neighborhood assignment alone. So some of you will get that definite, you-know-what-you-are-getting spot, but it will be in the Mission or Bayview or Excelsior. Your kid will get to go with your neighbor kids, to build community. You'll get a school bus, so you won't have to stress about driving. But it won't necessarily be that school down the block. Food for thought, for those of you so eager for this process to move along quickly.

    In any case, I hope they will leave the middle and high school preference process in place. These schools are already more diverse, and travel not as big a deal for the older kids. Many of them want to travel to Galileo, Balboa, Washington, Lincoln, or Aptos, Presidio, Giannini, Hoover at the MS level. I really hope the BOE makes that distinction.

  42. ^ the scenario above does not sound like it will be appealing to many families. I realize why the district would go in such a direction. Not only does the district want diversity, but there are simply not enough spaces for all of the kids that live near and want to attend Claire Lilienthal (for example).

    I just looked at the powerpoint. There are no alternatives listed and in the "next steps" section, there is no mention of when they will present the alternative models. Gosh - I think the community meetings would be much more useful if the community were commenting on alternatives.

  43. I'm saddened and heartened but not surprised at this report.

    Saddened because it appears that BOE simply will not get its act together and make a tough policy decision.

    Heartened because it's clear that people in every neighborhood in this city want neighborhood schools as a means of building community.

    Not surprised because this is exactly what I said at the first committee meeting: (1) you haven't left enough time; (2) you're not making your priorities clear enough for anyone to design a model; and (3) people all over town want neighborhood schools.

    It is idiotic for us to spend up to $7M a year transporting students all over town and funding an EPC for this ridiculous kindergarten assignment system, while at the same time creating an enormous and unnecessary carbon footprint and depriving our highly diverse neighborhoods of an opportunity to build community.

    I do agree that this is not about high school, and it's never been billed as such. From the beginning this has been a discussion about the kindergarten assignments system. Choice and transportation for high schoolers is a whole different ballgame.

    Middle school, I can't quite figure out. There's certainly an argument that kids need community more than ever at such a tough time in their development; on the other hand, autonomy is also a plus.

  44. " there are simply not enough spaces for all of the kids that live near and want to attend Claire Lilienthal (for example)."

    Everyone wants to exempt immersion programs from the neighborhood schools idea, but don't k-8s also qualify as special programs? I certainly think they should.

  45. If the immersion programs (and maybe k-8, bicultural programs) are excempt, does anyone know how the lottery for these programs would work?

  46. hopefully separate lotteries for each language group, straight lottery, no exemptions for this or that which creates loopholes, which the crafty or "always thinking" types will figure out how to manipulate.

    then if you "win" the lottery, your child gets tested in the language you listed as primary (you are told this before you put your name in the hat).

    as for other programs which do not require language, it could be a straight lottery.

    if we want more applicants from a certain socio demographic, than it becomes an outreach issue, should not be a lottery tweaking issue.

    outreach outreach outreach and looking at transportation routes which make sense so that people can get to the school.