Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hot topic: Where to start for 2010

An SF K Files visitor put together the following guide for parents starting the search for a kindergarten:

Where to Start for 2010?

While there are still parents who are waiting to know where there child is going to kindergarten next week, there are those of us who are looking to Fall of 2010. We all know that the SFUSD enrollment process is ... trying, but with a little bit of knowledge, parents can make the process less so. The problem is getting that information. The SFUSD website is full of information, but some of it is "spun" and that makes it hard to believe what they say. However, there is good info, if you can find it.

Despite the assertions to the contrary, location of a school is very important to families. Here's a map of all the schools in the district (including charter schools):


Another very important thing to consider is the quality of the school. With mandatory testing, new parents can easily see which schools have students who perform well on these tests. These results probably don't say "how good" a school is, but they are the best we have. (It's also notable that these scores are not available from the district website. They have "highlights" which list the 7 schools that got a 10, but don't list the 12 schools that got a 1.) Here are the raw scores, from the state.


For more detail, the district does have some good breakdown of how a school is doing with English and math. It's not easy to compare the results, but the detail is good after having a set of schools in mind:


As at least one regular will comment, these scores are more likely to predict mother's level of education and household income. The district doesn't seem to make that data public, but they do have racial/ethnic data here:


The most important thing however, is the likelihood of getting in. It's dog-eat-dog out there, and it seems like black magic getting into a "good" school. As parents, we don't have very much good info, but the 5-year historical demand data is as good as we can get:


The Adams' spreadsheet can be helpful in evaluating your choices and likelihood of landing an acceptable school in the first round:


For those of you interested in language programs, the district has an enviable number of in-class immersion and enrichment programs. The official list is here:


There are also many schools that provide aftercare language classes. Unfortunately, these are not tracked by the district, but the SF-AME multilingual parents group has collected a list of programs. Yahoo Groups registration is required to get the file:


Good luck, and may you get into your first-choice school (as long as it's not my first choice school, that is).


  1. This is an excellent guide. Thanks for posting.

  2. Ditto the comment that this a great summary of information sources.

    By all means, give the public schools your best shot. However, unless you find religion absolutely unacceptable, de-stress yourself by visiting, and if you find an acceptable one, putting a deposit down at an open-enrollment parochial school so you'll be assured of a place. They're not all Catholic. People of all faiths, agnostics and atheists send their kids to parochial schools that offer quality education. I'm not talking about the highly over-requested Notre Dame des Victoires or St. Brendan's, but those that have openings throughout the school year. Tuition is less than many working parents pay for day care or preschool. Financial aid may be available. Whatever you put down as a deposit to hold a place, you'll save in liquor bills and hairdresser's fees to cover the bald spots where you've torn your hair out.

  3. What Susie said. Dropping a couple of applications to the parochials, and the registration fees, will do more for your mental health over the next year than several therapist sessions.

  4. I highly recommend opening up Adam's Speadsheet (linked to in the original post) and reading the "FAQ" and "Unsolicited Advice" tabs. It answers a lot of questions you didn't even realize you had.

    Also, here's a Google map of the SF elementary schools put together by a parent last year:

    Google map of SF elementary schools with API scores

    There are still a few errors -- some schools missing, some schools in the wrong spot -- but on the whole I found it much easier to read than the PDF map put out by the district.

  5. I'd give a caution on overweighting the API rankings. The "similar schools" ranking is a better guide than the absolute ranking. Also, certain of the Spanish immersion schools (Buena Vista, Flynn, Fairmount) have low API rankings, but are still pretty desirable in my book.

    And I'll add to the chorus of praising Adam's spreadsheet, but bear in mind that the demand for schools varies year-to-year. Your actual percentage chance won't match the percentage in the Adams spreadsheet. (SFUSD uses where a choice is ranked as a tiebreaker, which wasn't known when Adams devised his awesome spreadsheet.) It's worth doing a sensitivity analysis to see what happens to your percentage chances of getting into one of your seven if the demand for one or two of the schools doubles.

  6. The original post is incorrect to stat that SFUSD does not have testing data on all but the top performing schools. Each school's testing data, and more can be found here. Click on SARC or SARC Highlights for each SFUSD school.


  7. Hi-

    I will be applying for Fall of 2011 with twins but was advised (and I do believe wisely so) to start public school tours this year---where can I find a schedule of when those tours will happen? Thanks.

  8. The SFUSD web site has information and the individual school web sites may also post schedules. It may not be up yet but check back regularly. Tour season starts lat September or early October so everyone can settle into the school year. Most schools limit tours to one day a week to try to minimize disruption to students and teachers that naturally results from parading through classrooms. You have to take time off work to go, if you work during the day. Another great information resource is the fall SFUSD enrollment fair.

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  10. Requiring registration is the beginning of the end for this blog.

    I really miss all of the opinions and information that were shared through the anon comments.

    Maybe someone could help you delete the occassional spam comments? I'd be willing to take over management of the site - in order to keep it going through at least another enrollment period.

    It already feels like it is dying off... Help!

  11. Neener, here's a page of advice from the PPS-SF for touring schools. On the right side of the page there's a link to the school tour schedule:


    Also, to add to what Susie said, both the SFUSD and PPS-SF hold enrollment events where they hand out sheets of info like this. I can't find any dates for the fall 2009 events, but keep your eyes open.

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  14. I think requiring registration is perfectly reasonable for this site. If you call yourself something other than your own name, you're as good as anonymous anyway, and I think having a "handle" will cut down on the number of snarky conversations.

  15. Coupla commments:
    1. I second the suggestion to get a head start for the folks entering 2011. I toured two schools the year before our year (last year) and that took some pressure off my lottery year. I also figured some things out about myself like that I was tending to rate the schools based on how good the volunteer-parent tour guide was whatever day I toured. Not the best measure.
    2. There will likely be 2 1st grade spots opening at Starr King MI soon.
    3. If you're making your decision about schools based on aftercare, be sure to talk with parents about potential changes this year. Some parents shy away from SK because of problems with aftercare but there's a group of committed parents this year hoping to help the programs change to meet changing needs.

    Good luck everyone.

  16. Neener and others with children entering in the Fall of 2011 -
    Don't forget that the Board is revising the assignment system; changes will be voted on late this fall and put in place for the 2011-12 enrollment season. So go ahead and tour schools, I don't wnat to dissuade you from that, but just realize that the process may be very different than what is in place currently.

    For anyone who is following the assignment redesign, Sept. 14 is a VERY important meeting where the staff will be presenting us with concrete options for a new system for the first time. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Board Room at 555 Franklin and everyone is welcome.

  17. When you look at the test scores in the individual SARC reports, look at how children similar to yours are doing, not just the overall score. A school's average can be misleading and obscure the fact that some kids are doing very well even while others are struggling.

    A school with a lot of English Language Learners or ELLs, for example, might have abysmal test scores, even though children whose first language is English are scoring as high as their peers in other schools. In fact, some people have posited that the main reason Alice Fong Yu's test scores are so high is that it is the only school that will not admit ELLs and demands English proficiency for placement.

  18. Everyone-thanks so much for all of the information! I greatly appreciate it.

  19. " In fact, some people have posited that the main reason Alice Fong Yu's test scores are so high is that it is the only school that will not admit ELLs and demands English proficiency for placement."

    This isn't accurate: AFY has 13% ELL, according to stats on the state's school info website.