Thursday, September 24, 2009

June’s Story – Gearing up for School Tours

Thank you everyone for the warm welcome and the suggestions. After going through details about many west side schools Mathias and I narrowed down our list of schools we want to tour. It was difficult; if circumstances were otherwise I would love to tour even more, to get a better feel of what really mattered to us. We have been told that we should tour 12-15 schools, which did not seem like much till I we had to deal with the logistics.

School tours are all around 9am in the morning, on various days of the week, making it impossible to blitz in a day or two. While I work part time from home, and am flexible in that regard, Mathias works in the east bay. Maddie is in preschool only part time, and Noah is home with me full time. This means that for every tour Mathias has to arrange to work from home and I need to find a babysitter for 1-2 kids. Lucky for us Mathias has a very nice employer who will allow him to telecommute and we also have friends and family to help many mornings so we do not have to pay $15-$18 an hour to a sitter. But it does make me wonder, if I already find this frustrating, what about the people the lottery is supposedly supposed to help? How is a single mother with 1-2 low paid inflexible jobs for example supposed to do this? Or parents who have no childcare help, no money for sitters, no employers who will allow them to take time off? I understand it is best to tour while class is in session, but why do they offer it only in the am, why not a few times so parents can squeeze in a few tours a day? Why is there also not an evening or two in the fall where parents can attend and hear a teacher and principal speak and perhaps at least see the facilities if they can not take the time in the day? Why does SFUSD not see this? It seems to me only the moderately well off can seriously tour 12-15 schools, and where does that leave the rest?

132 comments:

  1. Because SFUSD isn't really concerned about whether or not their "choice" system works - its not a choice system at all. For many parents its a forced allocation system which disenfranchises parents. Calling it a choice system is Orwellian in the extreme.

    Touring 12-15 schools or more is a waste of time. I toured more last year and didn't get a single school I listed. Its essentially pointless. Cut your list to five or so would be my recommendation. I'd consider lying on your application too. I hope it works out for you. Its a terrible experience.

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  2. Answer:

    Start a year in advance to stagger the tours over two years.

    Spilt the tours between each spouse, if you're a two-parent family.

    Stick to schools close to your neighbourhood (arts/science/language immersion focus). There are plenty of good schools, so focus on ones that are either convenient or have something unique to offer that makes it worth it to schlep there.

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  3. How about swapping child care with a neighbor who is also doing this?

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  4. I would focus any touring on schools that are not as popular or that you may have doubts about. 12-15 is too much! Try to focus more on talking with real live parents (by phone, over coffee) on your own schedule. You can get names of people who will talk with you from PPS, or ask around your preschool for alumni parents.

    You are right about the inequities, but it is also true that we middle class parents have raised the anxiety level around this to the extreme. Most schools are fine. No need to tour so many! Tours don't tell you very much anyway. You'll hear the same dumb questions, the same dumb answers, and you'll have a chance to see the buildings and grounds. You may see things that wow you or concern you, but they may or may not be indicative of what really goes on. Basically, worthless.

    But anyway, if you are determined to do this--I guess most people feel like they are being bad parents if they don't--you can certainly bring Noah with you if he is a good traveler and you can't find childcare. Lots of parents do.

    Also, do go to the enrollment fair in November. It will be a chance to talk with folks from schools you might not think to visit. And DONT bring the kids to that one. Way too much stimulation.

    Good luck!

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  5. My husband and I did the "divide and conquer" routine.

    We toured different schools each and then visited each other's "finalists".

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  6. My understanding is that for the most part school tours are conducted by parent volunteers at the school, so those parents are also giving up part of their day to make those tours possible. That may explain why the tours are generally in the morning and there is only one given on any given day. If you need a tour during a time other than 9am, there isn't anything to lose from finding out the name/number of a contact person of that school parent organization and asking if it's possible for a time slot at a different time of day like noon.

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  7. There's no doubt that it's a staggering challenge for someone with an inflexible job, limited transportation and child care, and so on to tour schools during the day.

    But the question is: What alternate system is the solution?

    Realistically, the parent who doesn't have the flexibility to tour 12-15 schools is likely to tour far fewer; to apply for schools based on word of mouth; to apply for the closest schools; or to not participate in the lottery. Not ideal, but what's the option?

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  8. Also be aware it is ok to bring a child with you. I toured a bunch last year and wanted my husband with me because we often see things differently. In the beginning I was scrambling to have care for my younger cild, taking time off work, etc. Often times I saw parents with their babies or toddlers. If they had to walk out for a minute it was no big deal. Some of the schools even had books, toys, crayons and such set out for kids. They do understnad not everyone has childcare for whatever reason. So long as your child isn't totally disruptive to what is going on, I would bring them along when it's too hard to find someone else to care for them.

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  9. Generally the less oversubscribed schools are OK with bringing kids along. Unless a tour says "no children", I'd assume you can bring your kids.

    As others have said, I wouldn't bring a kid to an enrollment fair.


    8:09 am:
    "I'd consider lying on your application too."

    Because that's a great example to set your children. I'd encourage any parent who thinks someone they know is lying on their application to let SFUSD know: cheating is reprehensible in this process, (although cheating actually probably won't yield you that much edge, unlike faking an address in a neighbourhood allocation system.)

    Against 8:09 am's point, it is a choice system in the same way applying for the privates or applying to college is.

    You have a bunch of institutions you can choose from. You have no guarantee of getting into any of them, but if you play your cards right, you can maximize your chances. However, if you only apply to Hamlin and SF Friends, or apply to only Stanford and Harvard wihout a "safety school", you're risking a heavy fall. Same thing with the SFUSD lottery.

    "I hope it works out for you. Its a terrible experience."

    Sorry that it was so traumatic for you, but that wasn't the experience for me nor for almost all in my social group. All but three got a SFUSD that they were happy with, and the remaining three got into privates or parochials their kids are doing well in.

    There is more drama and angst about this process than needs to be.

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  10. 10:50, that was a great post. I keep wanting to say something like this to the gloomy poster or posters who keep saying there's no choice involved, and hadn't found the right words:

    "You have a bunch of institutions you can choose from. You have no guarantee of getting into any of them, but if you play your cards right, you can maximize your chances. However, if you only apply to Hamlin and SF Friends, or apply to only Stanford and Harvard without a "safety school", you're risking a heavy fall. Same thing with the SFUSD lottery."

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  11. having done the school tour thing last year, I do think it is worth it, but you can cut down your tours to about five, if you do some research online (greatschools.net)

    as the first post suggests, consider lying on your application regarding your child's ability to speak english.

    and don't say that you sent her to preschool, even if you did.

    that should get you at least enough diversity points to not go 0/7 in round one.

    tour or visit some parochial schools as well, as a backup.

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  12. 11:06, thank you for putting it so bluntly. I wish someone had been as honest with me when I was going through the process last year.

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  13. I guess the difference would be that Harvard and Stanford have criteria that they use for acceptances - like grades and SAT scores that are somewhat transparent and any safety school that you apply in college you presumably already think is acceptable. Sure not everyone gets in with good grades and SAT scores but going to Santa Clara or Boston University as a safety school is not in the same league as being assigned to a school with a ranking of a 1 or 2 for K. The difference is all of these schools offer good educations to their students (not to mention for a considerable sum of money) and the student had a choice of which of many they would attend - not only in terms of general education, but what majors are offered, school size and location. In SFUSD that is not the case as you are assigned your default school if none of your choices are selected. If SFUSD guaranteed students one of their 7 choices then maybe you could compare the process but it does not.

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  14. If you do decide not to state that your child speaks english, but is ELL, and the school board tells you that they want to test your child, consider hiring an attorney as you would probably be the target of racial profiling.

    It is probably unlikely that the SFUSD has the resources to test every ELL (English Language Learner) child to see if they are REALLY ELL.

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  15. "as the first post suggests, consider lying on your application regarding your child's ability to speak english.

    and don't say that you sent her to preschool, even if you did.

    that should get you at least enough diversity points to not go 0/7 in round one."

    It is really pissing me off how many people here are advocating lying. This is shameful.

    Amy, can we get a no-comments post condemning these bunch of cheaters?

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  16. SFUSD has posted job openings for a number of language testers so don't be surprised if they do test all kids who claim to be ELLs this year.

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  17. "It is really pissing me off how many people here are advocating lying. This is shameful."

    Well, it is not that anybody wants to be dishonest.

    When so many moms have done the tour thing, put in their shining best effort, even at the expense of their jobs, been super honest on their application but still gone 0/7 round I, 0/7 round II, then found out that the SFUSD does not check ELL status, actually penalizes parents for sending their kids to preschool, and does not even check San Francisco residency status . . .

    well you can see why maybe a few overworked middle class mommies might be contemplating an *alternative* approach.

    Oh, and I didn't mention slogging for years in school and then forking out big time for city, state and federal tax.

    Isn't it even a little bit reasonable to expect that the city could provide an education for our children without this ridiculous charade?

    It is not like anybody wants to lie, but their comes a time when one realizes that one is a sucker.

    In Liam Neeson's best accent,
    "Yer bein' used, boyo."

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  18. I can totally understand why someone would feel like lying is the only way to get their kid into a school of their choice. But I couldn't do it. I thought about it, but just couldn't let the system turn me into a liar. I'd rather opt out than lie my way in. I know people who did though, and they got their #1 school. I don't think SFUSD has the resources to verify everyones education level, language spoken at home, preschool status, etc. But you have to live with yourself.

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  19. At an SFUSD board meeting last year they made it pretty clear they would be testing those who put other than English on the application. You also have to sign a legal affidavit regarding your answers on the application.

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  20. There are probably thousands of parents who have lied on their application, so it doesn't appear that those affidavits have ever been put into play.

    I was just reading on the Parents for Public Schools webside about how dire the funding situation is for publics schools, what with the rainy day fund running out.

    I don't imagine that there are many legal funds to enforce those affidavits.

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  21. You can call lying an "alternative" means and put it in between cutesy asterisks... but it's still lying.

    Glad to see what kind of example parents are setting for their children.

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  22. "Isn't it even a little bit reasonable to expect that the city could provide an education for our children without this ridiculous charade?"

    Translation: 'If I can't get into Clarendon honestly, I'm going to lie my way in. I'm gonna pretend we're underpriviledged and speak a foreign language so I can get into this school, because all the other schools are too full of low-SES people for me to consider.'

    It's vile, revolting.

    There are 55 schools in SFUSD which have API rankings of 3 or above: 38 of which have API rankings of 7+. There are about 30 parochials, maybe the same number of independents. You do not have to lie and cheat to get your kid into a good school in this city. You just have to *fecking plan ahead, be flexible*.


    'In Liam Neeson's best accent,
    "Yer bein' used, boyo."'

    I'm reminded of the Reverend Ian Paisley, a man from Ballymena like Neeson, who often said in his hellfire sermons, from St. Paul's letters: "What shall it profit a man to gain the world and lose his own soul".

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  23. "You can call lying an "alternative" means and put it in between cutesy asterisks... but it's still lying."

    What's even more despicable is that they're advocating lying to SFUSD, but you never hear anyone suggesting lying on a private application. 'Cos lying to the gubmint is OK, you see.

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  24. I would add that I don't condone lying. I, for one, did not lie on our application.

    When I asked about why so many kids are attending San Francisco schools without living here, I was told that the SFUSD does not have the funds to check this. (Yes, there is a legitimate program for out of city kids to attend our schools, but it is quite limited compared to the number of actual kids who are at school here.)

    It is very costly to enforce the ELL and preschool clauses on the form. The school board does not and cannot do this reliably, especially in the current fiscal situation.

    I would not want to say that the SFUSD willingly turns a blind eye to cheating.

    But it is a matter of fairness for them to come up with an enforceable policy that respects both poor and middle class residents in this city.

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  25. Lying? Eww. Nice example for the kiddies.

    I agree with taking your little one on the tour - I saw it time and time again and with no complaints from anyone. I also agree with trying to start a year in advance and that way, you won't feel the pressure of trying to fit it all in at once. This is what I did.

    For one tour (Argonne), I showed up on the wrong day for the tour. The principal was nice enough to show me around the school and give me a brief tour. It was wonderful, and I know she is a very busy woman. If there is a school you *must* see but can't make the tour, call the school and see if there is a time you can show up to do a self-guided tour. While you're there, find a parent and ask questions. Better yet - grab some of the kids at the school and ask them questions.

    Good luck to you. I did not hate this process or feel angst like some of the posters. I actually felt lucky that I had a choice and didn't have the only option of sending my son to a neighborhood school. I mean, c'mon! Language, differing start times, arts focus, locations, etc. We have so many wonderful schools to choose from and I saw close to 17. Some I stayed for the tour, some I turned around and walked right out of. You will know what feels right for your family.

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  26. "But it is a matter of fairness for them to come up with an enforceable policy that respects both poor and middle class residents in this city."

    Could not agree with you more. While I would not lie on the application, the fact that some people do is an indication that there is something wrong with the system. Any system that is so complicated, opaque, and seemlingly arbitrary is going to be abused.

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  27. "Could not agree with you more. While I would not lie on the application, the fact that some people do is an indication that there is something wrong with the system"

    Look, I know of people who've faked addresses in Marin and Piedmont to get their kids in school. Is their neighbourhood allocation system wrong to, because people cheat it too? If anything, the lottery has a lower incentive to cheat, because you don't have a guarantee that your cheating will yield a successful result.

    Also, last year all students claiming bilinguality were tested. 'Cos my kid was one (bilingual mom, several years in an immersion preschool).

    "Any system that is so complicated, opaque, and seemlingly arbitrary is going to be abused."

    Of course it's arbitrary. It's a *lottery*. The results, by definition, are arbitrary.

    It's the fact that the lottery has a sheer dumb luck component that middle class parents have such a hard time dealing with it - we're used to being able to work a system, whether it be getting the right keywords on a resume, the right community volunteering, the right examination technique, the right application essays, the right choice of major and classes, right networks to get in touch with the hiring manager, all the tricks to give an edge.

    None of those tricks work on the lottery to guarantee a place in a trophy school, and it just drives us *nuts*.

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  28. Here we go again about middle class parents working the system.

    I, for one, I sick of this.

    What, exactly, is working the system?

    Is doing the school tours and submitting your application, truthfully, on time, working the system?


    Is finding out, after the fact, that because you are considered to have no diversity, that you do not, in fact, have an 80% chance of getting into a school, but a much, much lower, secret and undisclosed chance.

    Is making hard choices about family planning, such as delayed parenting and a small number of children, working the system?

    Please, tell me how you think we terrible middle class mommies are working the system.

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  29. Same folks lying on applications likely do not pay nanny taxes either. What happened to basic morals?

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  30. "Is finding out, after the fact, that because you are considered to have no diversity, that you do not, in fact, have an 80% chance of getting into a school,"

    Look, again, *there is no ideal diversity profile*.

    If you want to get into Clarendon, and you're no ELL, or in poverty, you're going to have a worse chance than an ELL or someone in poverty.

    If you put down Marshall, or E.R. Taylor, or Moscone, or Betty Carmichael or Revere, which are all solid schools, with high ELL and %ages receiving free school lunches, then you have a better chance than an ELL.

    So the lesson is, put 2-4 schools which has a different diversity profile than your family's on your application form.

    If you want the same flavor ice cream as everyone else, you're gonna risk that ice cream flavor running out. If you choose a not-so-popular flavor, you're gonna increase your chance of getting some.

    "but a much, much lower, secret and undisclosed chance."

    You seem to think there's some big conspiracy against you. There's not. Everyone's too busy.

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  31. Right. All middle class parents are immoral jerks who screwed over their nannies and cheated on their taxes.

    Well, I hope you middle classes mommies know just how loved you are for towing the line on everybody else's taxes.

    Guess when that job opportunity comes through in another town, you'll really want to stay here!

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  32. I wish you health and happiness every day!
    Ich wunsche Ihnen Gluck und Gesundheit jeden Tag!
    Je vous souhaite sante et bonheur chaque jour!

    網路行銷
    seo

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  33. Good luck, June!

    It's rough out there.

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  34. "Look, I know of people who've faked addresses in Marin and Piedmont to get their kids in school. Is their neighbourhood allocation system wrong to, because people cheat it too? If anything, the lottery has a lower incentive to cheat, because you don't have a guarantee that your cheating will yield a successful result."

    Good point. However, you should consider the disincentives, as well. The chances of getting caught out are lower due to lack of follow-up by SFUSD. Faking an address seems trickier to pull off.

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  35. Yeah...ask Ed Jew.

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  36. "If you want to get into Clarendon, and you're no ELL, or in poverty, you're going to have a worse chance than an ELL or someone in poverty.

    "If you put down Marshall, or E.R. Taylor, or Moscone, or Betty Carmichael or Revere, which are all solid schools, with high ELL and %ages receiving free school lunches, then you have a better chance than an ELL.

    "So the lesson is, put 2-4 schools which has a different diversity profile than your family's on your application form."

    Clarendon: yes, I did put this as my number one choice. So sorry for valuing academic excellence. guilty, guilty, guilty.

    E R Taylor: sorry, slipped up. didn't have gizillions of hours to find this school last year. Put Sunset instead. That didn't turn out so well.

    Moscone: a teacher who teaches there told me she would not send her child to this school. Granted, again, I did not have the time to check it out myself.

    Marshall: too far from my house. Sorry!

    Betty Carmichael: never heard of it. again, it must have been a time thing.

    Revere: I wasn't too jazzed by the drill instruction that the folks across the street told me about. Did look hard at this school. Many things right here, but the reticence of the teachers and pricipal about teaching beyond NCLB kind of put me off. The impression was one of being near the breaking point.

    Also toured Alvarado. Both the GE and Spanish immersion were dazzling, but, alas, I didn't get into either of these and I wasted valuable choices on this school.

    No, I don't think there is a "conspiracy" oh, ah, against me, but am fed up with all the BS.

    The system wastes everybody's time, results in only a marginal increase in diversity, is opaque, and drives middle class tax payers out of the city.

    With the current funding crises, I don't think we can afford to loose to many more of those.

    There are a lot of empty appartments out these, in case you haven't noticed.

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  37. "Well, I hope you middle classes mommies know just how loved you are for towing the line on everybody else's taxes."

    Now that you mention taxes, why stop at cheating on the SFUSD application? Why not cheat your taxes while you're at it? Or claim public assistance you're not entitled to? C'mon, dream big!

    "Guess when that job opportunity comes through in another town, you'll really want to stay here!"

    I'm sorry that we were unable to meet your expectations of entitlement. Have a nice day.

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  38. Golly - I would love to cheat on my taxes. It would be nice to keep some of $200K in taxes that we pay to the federal government and the state. But we don't.

    I love Clarendon too, but there are other good schools in the City that don't have 1,000 people clamoring for 60 seats. I should know - my kid is enrolled at one of them!

    Open your minds people...

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  39. For the record, once you put down your kids classification as ELL it follows you into when your kid enters SFUSD.

    My Israeli friend who speaks Hebrew at home noted on her kinder application that her kid spoke Hebrew and English on the application (she has sibling preference in a school so getting in wasn't an issue.) Now she is jumping through hoops to 'un-ELL' her kid. But the principal has to test everyone, as decreed, so they are using resources because she was designated ELL.

    So, lying and saying you are ELL takes resources (testing and administrative runaround time that could certainly be used elsewhere!) away from our schools!

    I'm flabbergasted at the "it's OK to lie" talk here - hope my kids don't befriend YOUR kids! I certainly hope I'm not having to be on a PTA with those of you as well.

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  40. "Clarendon: yes, I did put this as my number one choice. So sorry for valuing academic excellence. guilty, guilty, guilty."

    Clarendon's great. It's also only 1.7% of the elementary school capacity in the city. And 30:1 oversubscribed.

    If we went with a neighbourhood system, and you weren't in Forest Hill (or priced out of Forest Hill), would you also resent the system because you couldn't go to Clarendon? If not, then why be pissed at the current system for giving you a small-but-not-zero chance at it or other trophy schools?

    I don't what else you put on your application, or where you are, but assuming you're in the Noe Valley/Diamond Heights area, there were Glen Park, SF Community, Harvey Milk, Monroe, Longfellow, or even JOES if you were willing to hop out on 280 to go in your picks at slots 3-7. And a buttload of solid parochials, as your Plan B, as well as Community Arts Charter.

    (I ended up with offers from two parochials as the Plan B, but as we got our second choice in the lottery, we released them . We even got an offer into CAC off the waitlist.)

    "Also toured Alvarado. Both the GE and Spanish immersion were dazzling, but, alas, I didn't get into either of these and I wasted valuable choices on this school."

    I have a friend, who was a founder of Parents for Public Schools, who sent her kids to Alvarado a decade ago when parents in the Alvarado area were demanding to send their kids elsewhere 'cos Alvarado was considered unacceptable.

    What a difference ten years makes.

    "Moscone: a teacher who teaches there told me she would not send her child to this school. Granted, again, I did not have the time to check it out myself."

    Surprised by this because I was very impressed by Moscone and its principal. The pedagogy could be considered old-fashioned, because the principal of Moscone is a protege of Bonnie, the former principal at McKinley who had a firm 3Rs bent and a skeptic about project-based learning. Can you give more details?


    "The system wastes everybody's time, results in only a marginal increase in diversity, is opaque, and drives middle class tax payers out of the city."

    Look, I'm sorry the lottery was a traumatic experience for you, and appreciate you realise that you weren't quite using an optimal strategy.

    But the reason I value the lottery is because the funding tracks the student, by making a quasi-market it forces SFUSD to do something about unpopular schools rapidly,, and to expand popular schools to the limit of their physical plant. So us in the South-East, with schools with lower test scores, get a bunch of immersion programs into schools like Revere and Daniel Webster, which otherwise might have just festered. It forces the district to Do Something. And over, say, the past seven years, we've seen a big change in a lot of schools. It's not complete. It's not universal. But it is progress.

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  41. 2:25 PM

    "What, exactly, is working the system?"

    I don't really know, but perhaps the folks advocating lying on the application can explain it to you. I think they're the experts.

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  42. The district has allocated resources to test language proficiency this year. They have announced they will be testing every child who lists a language other than English as primary. Although somewhat expensive, it should create efficiencies down the road as they really do want to know who actually needs ELL services.

    Agreed it is despicable that some people feel so entitled they are willing to jump the line ahead of everyone else--not only all of us who are in the same boat but also children who are truly disadvantaged.

    You really think Clarendon is THAT good? It's fine, but it's not all that. Overcrowded and overrated if you ask me.

    What a strange combination of entitlement, bitterness, short-sightedness, and stupid this thread is bringing up. So much bile. New parents: You really don't have to do this to yourselves or your children. There are many good schools and you don't need to cheat to get one of them. Do try to be a little savvy in your strategy though--if you put only a few Clarendon-type (in terms of popularity) schools that is asking for 0/7.

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  43. I had a wierd schedule when touring, off one day a week with my one-year-old. I managed to drop by all the schools I wanted to see and politely ask if it was possible to either give myself a tour or have someone show me around. I was accommodated 100%.

    The tours I did go on felt very distracting. Was I learning about the school? Or the other touring parents? Or the tour guide's personality? Once I found some schools I was interested in I spent time talking to the principal and parents of current students and that gave me much better info.

    Don't kill yourself touring, it is not worth it at all.

    Also, we were assigned to a school not on our list, which we had not considered, and ended up sending our son there. So although I know plenty of people who did get school on their lists, the decent chance that you will be making new decisions in round 2 is another reason not to go crazy touring.

    Good luck.

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  44. It's actually Bessie Carmichael, not Betty.

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  45. It's Creative Arts Charter, not Community Arts Charter.

    Are you actually researching the schools? You might want to learn their names.

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  46. Seems weird to lie. You would then have to coach your child on why he/she has to be tested in english? Your friends will then find out your kids are being tested in english. All the moral issues aside, it doesn't sound like a realistic option.

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  47. "Are you actually researching the schools? You might want to learn their names."

    Yes, I did, we visited Bessie Carmichael and Creative Arts Charter and nearly thirty other bloody schools.

    I can even tell you the Vice Principal of Bessie Carmichael was in the same class for teacher training college as the principal of Moscone. I can tell you the building is clean and orderly. I can tell you Bessie Carmichael has the only Tagalog bilingual program in the U.S. I can tell you Bessie Carmichael close off the street next to them and use the neighboring park next door for playground space during lunch recess. I can tell parking is an absolute bitch at Bessie Carmichael. I can tell you that even a frickin' year after the frickin' tour. I can tell you that if the school were nearer to me, I'd be happy to send my kid there.

    OK? Now what do you have to contribute?

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  48. I'm not the person who criticized your spelling :-) but I thank you for what I think is the first-ever review of Bessie Carmichael on this blog. I have never been inside the school, but the new park next the school is sure gorgeous.

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  49. We *really* wanted to love Clarendon. We know many families there who *love* it. We were comforted by the high scores, too.

    BUT...

    1) It felt *really* overcrowded.
    2) There was no real sense of community -- more like a PTA machine than a warm, supportive community.
    3) It is COOOOOLD up there.

    4) I didn't see anything that exciting happening in the classrooms and had to conclude that the high scores are due to a more affluent parent body, not stellar teaching.

    Did I mention it felt really cramped and over-crowded?

    Going into the process, based on word-of-mouth and test scores, it was our number one choice. But it didn't even make our list.

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  50. 7:19:

    Clarendon used to have a vibrant connection to the Armenian community, but the lottery has done a pretty good job of diluting that.

    Apart from academic excellence, which is pretty hard to deny, we were interested in this and that is why we applied there.

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  51. Whoa, 11:01. Calm down.

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  52. "Whoa, 11:01. Calm down."

    Well, I'm just pissed that a person who's sole contribution to the discourse is "lying on your application is OK", versus posting information and advice, gave me a spelling flame after getting shot down as an advocate for cheating other families.

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  53. 8:40

    Actually, those are not the same people. I am appreciative of the post on Bessie Carmichael, and I would never think to correct someone on their spelling, since it is not really important to the communication on this blog.

    I did put up several posts yesterday about the lack of enforcement by the school board about various criteria that they use to determine priority in the lottery.

    We did discuss ELL yesterday, but we haven't discussed SF residency or preschool disclosure. I think many kids would have a hard time knowing if they went to preschool or daycare.

    Nor have we discussed the cost of all this ELL testing, which in many ethnic groups, does not correlate with poor school performance. You can run the test scores at Grattan against E R Taylor to see what I mean.

    It is hardly like I am some nutcase suggesting some horrible measure of fiscal belt tightening. You can have a look at Rachel Norton's blog to see what I mean. The syllogism between our fiscal reality and the spending plans at the school board are startling.

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  54. The sad truth is that there are families who game the system. Most people don't, but some do.

    We chatted with a (caucasian, affluent) gay couple recently at a dinner party who noted that they felt comfortable completing the SFUSD application by indicating that their child's "mother" was non-English speaking and had not completed high school. As far as I could tell, the child's birthmother has no involvement in the rearing of this child – they are both the legal parents, but they felt it was pretty easy to "game the system" to give their child have a better chance at one of the preferred schools.

    Their child is currently enrolled in one of the 3 most sought-after elementary schools (actually, probably the MOST sought-after elementary school).

    I really hope that most people aren't doing these things, but I'm resigned to the fact that more do this than I'd expect.

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  55. Mother's education level is NOT a factor in the diversity index.

    The language the biological mother speaks is NOT a factor in the diversity index.

    The "home" language of the child IS a factor.

    If this couple listed a language other than English as the "home" language, shame on them.

    Otherwise, they were fooling themselves and they got lucky.

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  56. "We chatted with a (caucasian, affluent) gay couple recently at a dinner party who noted that they felt comfortable completing the SFUSD application by indicating that their child's "mother" was non-English speaking and had not completed high school"

    At least now, whether or not the mother has completed high school isn't one of the diversity variables (presumably because it was prone to being gamed). But that's a real letter-of-the-law not spirit-of-the-law case you give. I also know a couple who claimed that because their preschool was a co-op, it wasn't really a preschool, never might said preschool famous for having exceptionally active parents and an enormous gala.

    I'm in two minds on keeping non-native English speaking as a diversity variable. I don't think non-native English is a good diversity variable to help schools be mixed ethnically, because there are large numbers of first-language English and non-first-language English in the Latino and Asian communities.

    But I can see that, as a practical matter, for GE programs (not immersion or bilingual), SFUSD would want non-native English speakers to be not be clustered in a few schools.

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  57. "I did put up several posts yesterday about the lack of enforcement by the school board about various criteria that they use to determine priority in the lottery."

    Well, let's do some numbers. Let's say a 2% audit audit of the ~5,000 kinder applications (only), over 1 month, 2 staff days per family on the audit. So you'd have to assign about 10-12 staffers to the audit over a month. Assuming you're just redeploying staff, I'd guess about one-staff-year to do it, so maybe the cost of one teacher.

    Might also delay running the lottery, although I guess you could run the audit after the lottery over a couple of months to reduce the number of staff needed.

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  58. w/r/t 10:11am - The parents I referred to have a child who is 7 (maybe 8) now. So I assume their strategy applied to the application a few years back.

    Regardless, my point is that there are people who game the system without outright "lying."

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  59. "But I can see that, as a practical matter, for GE programs (not immersion or bilingual), SFUSD would want non-native English speakers to be not be clustered in a few schools."

    I think it is an important matter for the school board to know if a kid needs linguistic intervention. I just don't think it should be used to determine rank in the lottery.

    Also, having to rigorously determine the degree of a child's ELL vs bilingualism can vary on any given day. Fine if the school board wants to test for this to determine placement in an immersion program or need for assistance, but not so fine to determine if a child gets special consideration in the lottery.

    I can even think of parents diliberately avoiding an english speaking preschool or daycare so that their child does test as an english speaker.

    Again, look at the test scores at first generation E R Taylor, with many English language learners versus english speaking Miraloma or Grattan. At E R Taylor, at least, ELL kids do not appear to be at a disadvantage.

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  60. "Well, let's do some numbers. Let's say a 2% audit audit of the ~5,000 kinder applications (only), over 1 month, 2 staff days per family on the audit. So you'd have to assign about 10-12 staffers to the audit over a month. Assuming you're just redeploying staff, I'd guess about one-staff-year to do it, so maybe the cost of one teacher."

    It has come up in earlier discussions on this blog that the school board says they do not have the funds to check to see if children attending a school in San Francisco school actually live in San Francisco. I know of a number of cases personally where this is the case. The families live in Richmond in the East Bay. (No, I have not turned them, nor would I. I is a policy matter for the school board.)

    I am told by the school board that they don't have the funds to check residency, and in any case, school funding comes from the state, not the city, so it doesn't matter.

    Well, it turns out that we do pay for the schools directly from property taxes, with things like the rainy day fund, and may other city programs.

    I have never heard of a city that does not enforce the residence requirement for school placement, except here in San Francisco.

    Someone also posted yesterday that they are hiring new staff to conduct ELL testing, so I don't think it is matter to redirecting the work of a few staff. ELL testers have to have expertise in language testing. In this case, they would also have to have expertise in testing small children, no small assignment!

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  61. ELLs do not get a special advantage in the lottery, folks.

    They might have an advantage in getting into a school with FEW ELLs.

    Just like you might have an advantage in getting into a school with fewer white, upper middle class folks.

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  62. "ELLs do not get a special advantage in the lottery, folks."

    "They might have an advantage in getting into a school with FEW ELLs."

    "Just like you might have an advantage in getting into a school with fewer white, upper middle class folks.:"

    Please tell my why nobody understands how the "diversity index" is calculated. First ELL is a factor, then it isn't, then it is going to be tested then it isn't. Sorry if a few of us are a little confused about this whole process.

    It seems that one of the strategies that the school board is using is keep us all dancing on the head of a pin.

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  63. For what it's worth, last year 99% of the parents we know (including us) eventually ended up in a school they were happy with--and did it legitimately. Some got one of their choices in round 1, some happily ended up in private, one family did move out of the city (they had other reasons besides the schools) and a handful got in off wait lists a few days before the start of school. We even know folks who got into highly sought-after schools such as Rooftop and Clarendon in R1. Yes, it CAN happen.

    I can't even believe anyone would be SO desperate as to even *think* about going thru the trouble of cheating/lying.

    I guess my point is to try to keep this in perspective.
    Try not to lose hope before you even begin.

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  64. "Please tell my why nobody understands how the "diversity index" is calculated. First ELL is a factor, then it isn't, then it is going to be tested then it isn't. Sorry if a few of us are a little confused about this whole process. "

    If you put a non-English language as the home language for your child, you will be tested. That was the case last year. My wife is bilingual, and our kid went to an immersion preschool. We wanted the kid tested how proficient they were in the target language, to get them into the "proficient in the target language" cohort in the lottery. I asked the EPC person at an enrollment event what to do, and they said "put the home language down as English/XYZ language". So our kid was tested: didn't pass the test, as their comprehension is good, but they're shy about speaking.

    So yes, your kid will be tested.

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  65. "I can't even believe anyone would be SO desperate as to even *think* about going thru the trouble of cheating/lying."

    Lucky you!

    Not everyone is so lucky or honest, and I don't think that most school boards determine school eligibility purely on an honor system.

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  66. @12:07 - Knowing that 99% of the parents you know are happy with where there kids ended up isn't helpful without more information. Are the children at top-tier public schools? Were they able to take advantage of the "diversity" index? Are the families college-educated, or Ivy League educated? Could the families afford private school or the move to more affluent neighborhoods outside of San Francisco?

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  67. Regarding kids that live outside of SF - there are indeed kids that come from other cities to SFUSD and, of the many I know of from my kids' schools, they have interdistrict transfers. I know of several that live in Richmond or Vallejo and their parents work here, so they get an interdistrict transfer to make that happen. The other district has to release their funds to SFUSD (many school districts wont' allow it because they lose money.) It isn't uncommon.

    Also, the district DOES check on residency status. Just a few years ago the district hired a consultant to address this - especially at Lowell and SOTA - and found kids with false information on their sFUSD applications (regarding residency). They were kicked out.

    So, c'mon y'all - don't lie. Be good.

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  68. Thank you, 12:53.

    I do think the "happiness" factor differs on where you live in the city. I can't say how, because it isn't statistically correct to work from the 5 or 10 families that you actually know about.

    You can get an idea of success by looking at the total number of applications that various schools received. (Found in the bowels of the SFUSD website.) It seemed to be very tough for parents in the south east of the city this year. Again, it is difficult to wade through that data, given the fact that although a school might have had 600 applications for 60 spots, those applicants applied to 6 other schools as well.

    This undesperate person also talks about people finally succeeding in the waitlist. The fact is that families that could avoid it would never go to the 10 day count. Not only would the parents be freaking out, the kids would be too.

    Most people are done by the end of Round II and it is pretty difficult to haul a kid out of their kindergarten class when they have already been at school for a week.

    Your question about the education of the parents is a good one. I don't think it necessarily depends on Ivy League or not. I spoke last year with one family from Shanghai who could not believe how low our math standards are. I also frequently hear this concern from Russian families.

    If you are concerned about something like this, you might want to look at fifth grade math and science CST test scores. (I suggest 5th grade because these scores would be the most reliable, unless there is a big change happening at the school.) As a rule of thumb, you could say that if the scores are below 70 in either of math and science (more than 30% of the class non proficient), you probably want to look at a different school.

    Unfortunately, some schools have huge splits in their scores demographically, with one group getting a score of 85 and another group getting a score of 40. This might work for your child, but it could also be the cause of a lot of tension in the school.

    Of course, some families would not care about this and would be fine with the majority of schools in the city. Maybe that is the source of the difference in how families feel about the lottery.

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  69. 12:53-

    12:07 here-

    In answer to your question, the families I know who got their choices are middle class. they are a mix of white, asian, biracial and hispanic college educated folks. I am thinking of at least 12 families.
    None are from Ivy League schools (I don't see why this would be relevant, actually). Two families I know that got Alvarado both have parents with Spanish as their native language and the kids speak both languages fluently. One family got Buena Vista and they do not speak Spanish at all. The 3 families we know that got Rooftop and Clarendon are white, middle class, college educated. Most of the families that I know that could afford private school, applied to both private and public and had a choice because they got accepted to 1 of each that they liked. We were also in that category and for various reasons chose the public school.

    Maybe I just know some lucky people out there.

    I also know a family that went 0/15, put Lilienthal on their wait list and got in 2 days before school started. They have a high tolerance for stress, though. Their backup was a small parochial on the peninsula that they would have had to commute to.

    Also, not to be snotty but I really hate the expression "Top Tier" public. The publics are improving all the time.

    I only know one family who were unhappy with the public school they got. (their first choice). They left the city.

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  70. Small correction -- SOTA officially accepts up to 10% of its students from out of district. It was conceived as a regional school, which is the way other arts magnets around the country are also designed. The students bring their state funding with them.

    Students from out of district bring their funding with them to any school, of course, but it's a bigger issue at other schools, where San Franciscans are clamoring to get in. The district seems to be most aggressive with investigation and enforcement at Lowell.

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  71. To return to the original subject of this thread:

    the tours are mostly worthless.

    Since many of them happen on the sames days of the week, at the same times, it is almost impossible to tour all the ones you want to.

    Just show up at the schools you are interested in and walk around. You'll get a better picture of what the place is like and not the staged "show" for the parents.

    Also, I don't think lying on applications is cool, but SFUSD lies to us EVERY DAY.
    They say "87% get one of their choices" ...total BS ... that number includes siblings.
    I've asked repeatedly for them to run the percentages by demographics ...

    what percent of middle-class english speaking people whose children went to preschool get one of their choices?

    about 16% ... at MOST.

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  72. Also, about the tours ... since it is such a longshot of getting the schools you list, unless they are deemed to be that annoying euphemism "up and coming" ... touring is a waste of time.
    You can waste a morning touring Clarendon, but since you have less than a 3% chance getting into that school, just put it on your list and don't bother to tour.
    Of course , if you did tour, you may see that it is cramped, messy, dark, cold and moldy.
    The "lie" here is that they even call it a "choice" system ... it is a roll of the dice, nothing more.

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  73. I disagree with the idea that the tours are worthless.
    Yes, perhaps touring a "long shot school" like Clarendon might be a waste of time, but I think it's valuable to tour at least a couple near where you live that you'd consider listing. The school may be completely different than your perception of it or the hype around it.

    I think just showing up at a school and wandering around is incredibly distracting and potentially disruptive to teachers and kids.

    Ask yourself how you would feel to know there's strangers wandering around your kids' school and poking around the classrooms.

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  74. Tours mostly function to help parents believe they have real knowledge about a school. How much do you really think you can get from spending less than 5 minutes in a classroom? You'll see what kind of diversity the population has, you'll see some student work hanging up, you'll see how well the facility is kept, you'll see a tiny slice of what some students do at some point on some days. A few teachers may put on a bit more of a show, but that's hard to do because the tours don't come by on an exact schedule. You'd get more out of crashing back-to-school night, IMHO, but that's already passed for most (if not all) schools.

    I'm a teacher and I can tell you this, tours are disruptive and annoying. I understand that people want to see the schools, but please try to understand that what you see as a (sometimes very large) group of adults intruding (yes, intruding) on our day is not going to be natural or an accurate reflection of our students or our teaching.

    Like many teachers, I really wish they could arrange for tours to be given after school hours, I think it would work better for everyone.

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  75. Forget the tours, just go look at how the the kids act on the playgrounds at recess or lunch, and that will tell you most of what you need to know.

    I agree with just showing up and looking around. You must check in at the offices though -- you can peek through the windows into the classrooms, but you can't go in or disturb anyone. You can roam the hallways and look at the work on display. If you see some parent volunteers, you can chat with them. You can get the feel of the place without the hype.

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  76. Clarendon has a wonderful community of families. If you don't go there, how exactly can you make a claim that it is a PTA machine?
    Maybe it's not for everyone, but we are thrilled to be there.

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  77. "Also, I don't think lying on applications is cool, but SFUSD lies to us EVERY DAY.
    They say "87% get one of their choices" ...total BS ... that number includes siblings.
    I've asked repeatedly for them to run the percentages by demographics ...

    "what percent of middle-class english speaking people whose children went to preschool get one of their choices?

    "about 16% ... at MOST."

    Nice to see someone as mad or madder about this than I am.

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  78. I am maddest most that they LIE about it, and how PPS spews the same propaganda.

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  79. "what percent of middle-class english speaking people whose children went to preschool get one of their choices? about 16% ... at MOST."

    Nice to see someone as mad or madder about this than I am.


    It's been said many times in many ways in the last few days, but here goes again:

    That's not how the system works.

    The lottery doesn't discriminate against you.

    It all depends which schools you put on your list.

    Apply to only the seven most popular schools, and yes, you're likely to get nothing.

    Put just one school on your list that's unpopular with the middle-class English-speaking preschool demographic, and your odds are virtually 100% of getting a first-round assignment.

    For the record, if it were a straight lottery with no diversity factors, you'd have about a 10% chance at getting into one of the seven most popular schools.

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  80. Beyond all the feelings about it, it's not hard to do the math. Sibling preference spots at established schools seems to run from as little as 20% to as high as 33%. If you run the numbers and recalculate (you have to remove the happy siblings from the total number of applicants when you do the new ratio), the success rate for first-time applicants with no sibling preference is generally a little over 2/3--68-70%. Not wonderful, but not the 40% or 16% of whatever is is that you see people saying here.

    I would easily take a bet that significant # of that 30% that went 0/7 had applied to high-odds schools. Some were gunning for private anyway and were using the public lottery as backup. Others perhaps did not understand the odds, or chose to ignore them. A few genuinely tried to submit lists with better odds, and got unlucky.

    I'm sorry, but I refuse to accept this premise that people who are mostly pretty well-educated, can read and can understand English, are somehow disadvantaged in this lottery. All of the basic information is out there in black and white--the enrollment guide, the algorithm itself, the 5-year demand list for trends. How hard is it to look at those numbers and think that maybe applying to 7 schools with an average of 10:1 odds is maybe setting yourself up for a fall? I mean, it can be a valid strategy (high-risk waitpool strategy) but then you are choosing to go that way.

    The thing is, the people you are in the those high-risk lotteries with are mostly middle-class people like yourselves. The folks who would actually lend diversity to a school like Clarendon are mostly not applying to it--either they are not applying in Round 1 at all, or if they are they are not choosing Clarendon. With only a few exceptions, you are competing against your socio-economic peers. You just didn't get lucky.

    I think its fine to be mad, really mad, that all our schools are not rolling in resources. And I think it is an interesting process to go through the lottery as you think about what it means to live in a diverse city and what that means for who your child goes to school with.

    But the lottery itself? It is simply a mechanism for allocating over-popular spots. ANY mechanism would make a bunch of people mad, because as long as too many people feel entitled to one of those popular spots, they will be mad if they are one of the ones excluded from it. ANY mechanism would be using some kind of arbitrary tool to do this. The lottery may be in fact one of the most fair tools, and also has had the impact of actually pushing some schools to improve through its market-based mechanism of parents expressing a preference.

    I just don't get all this energy expended on getting mad at a lottery. No mechanism can fix the fact that some schools are over-popular. If you really want success in this lottery, you will have a lot more success if you study the numbers and the facts and make savvy choices than if you wail and gnash your teeth about how unfair it is that you are not guaranteed a spot at a wildly popular school. Be pragmatic, people. Focus on what you can control.

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  81. Fantastic post, 12:50.

    It was interesting back a few years ago when mobs of Sunset District parents were all demanding access to Lincoln High School after they didn't get it in the lottery. It's not clear how they expected Lincoln to expand to squeeze in all 200-300 of their kids, all at once.

    But there was a happy ending, essentially. A lot of those families ended up at Galileo, which has been shooting upward in popularity and success. And their younger sibs and cousins started aiming for Balboa (an option those original protesters found unacceptable), and Balboa is now within a few API points of Lincoln.

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  82. "the success rate for first-time applicants with no sibling preference is generally a little over 2/3--68-70%. Not wonderful, but not the 40% or 16% of whatever is is that you see people saying here."

    Depends upon the schools.
    You have to calculate it on a school by school basis, not lump it all together. Do the math, and roll the dice, and don't think you can have any control over it, unless you list schools like Malcolm X and John Muir first.

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  83. WRT "...unless you list schools like Malcolm X and John Muir first"

    That is just plain not true. We are white, no language other than english in the home, our kid went to preschool, I have a master's degree and make a reasonable amount of money. We listed Lillienthal 1st, Argonne 2nd, Sutro 3rd. We got Sutro.

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  84. Depends upon the schools.
    You have to calculate it on a school by school basis, not lump it all together.


    That's basically the point of the post @ 12:50, isn't it, encouraging people to calculate the odds school by school. That is what the five-year trend lists are for, combined with some common sense and keeping your ear to the ground. (For example, if a school adds a language immersion program, chances are the # of applications to that school is going to increase.)

    And if you do run the numbers and choose accordingly, the odds are objectively not as dire as the bitter people are suggesting. Not 16%, not 40%, for first-time families with no sibling boost. Rather, about 70% on average, and that figure even includes the whole group of people who chose to put down only the schools with a 5-10% of getting a spot; so if you are savvy, you can make those odds go way up.

    Do the math, and roll the dice, and don't think you can have any control over it, unless you list schools like Malcolm X and John Muir first.

    You are flat wrong about not having "any control" except for putting down [insert deeply unpopular, low-performing school name here]. It's true that you don't have control over getting one of the top 10 or 15 most requested schools, but you are not consigned to the 10 least-requested schools, or lowest-performing schools, either. This is where the savvy comes in.

    There are popular and increasingly high-performing schools in the district whose diversity profile is different from that of many people who frequent this blog. Try E.R. Taylor or many of the schools in Chinatown, or Longfellow, Jose Ortega GE. There are magnet programs in schools that are in transition and haven't topped out in application #'s--try Revere, Parks, Cobb Montessori, Webster. There are schools that are only moderately popular and while no guarantee do make a better bet than some of their neighbors, like Harvey Milk and Sutro, Marshall. There are fine, functional schools that you just don't hear much about, but which have good programs, experienced teachers, committed leadership, like Redding and Carmichael. There's a whole separate strategy involving Round 2 for Mandarin programs and English speakers.

    I personally would put my time into figuring out a list that is balanced (considering both the overall number of applications you might expect this year, and also whether your family might be likely to add diversity to the school). Really be brutally honest about the #s. "Less popular than Clarendon or West Portal" does not mean great odds, necessarily. Then combine that calculation with your logistical factors--where you live and work, and afterschool issues. THEN look at touring or contacting parents at the ones you want to learn more about. It is possible to do this without investing hundreds of hours of time. It can take a lot less time than applying to private schools (no essays, coffees, interviews, playdate interviews) if you do the work at home first.

    There is a way to do this, and it doesn't involve yelling and screaming about how not getting Clarendon means being consigned to the farthest reaches of h-e-double hockey sticks. For those prospective parents this year who really want a chance of success: take a deep breath, stay calm, and follow the good advice of those who have gone before you and had success. Panic is not your friend in this process.

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  85. Sorry June, but the solution to the terrible process is not to work even harder. Touring 12-15 schools won't help you. In some ways, ignorance really is bliss, because you'll either get into one of your top choices or you'll put one of your choices on your waiting list and get called a few days into the school year. You should do your due diligence for some of the lesser known schools, but not much more.

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  86. What a great example you're setting for your children. That's right, junior, "The way to move ahead in this world is to lie." We had no diversity points, applied to 7 popular schools and didn't lie. We got into Commodore Sloat 3 days into the school year off the waiting list. I have no regrets.

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  87. "What percent of middle-class english speaking people whose children went to preschool get one of their choices?"

    Let's see from just my preschool group from the past year (and all save me are white, middle-class families - we are an interracial upper middle class family who wound up with one of our choices from Round 1)...All but 3 wound up with one of their first round (if not 1st choice):

    Clarendon 2 (both number 1 choices)
    Rooftop 1 (no. 1 choice)
    SF Community 1 (no. 3 choice)
    Jefferson 2 (no. 1 choice)
    Glen Park (no. 1 choice)

    Our unlucky people from Round 1 wound up with McKinley on 10 day count (one party a list that read Clarendon, Rooftop, Grattan, Alvarado and Miraloma on Round 1 - not the lowest risk strategy) and one took Paul Revere on Round 3. That's way more than 16% for middle class english-speaking families.

    From my neighborhood playgroup - more than 50% wound up with one of their first round choices.

    Selection bias in action???

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  88. I really appreciate this blog and the intelligent, helpful comments that are posted here. As someone new to the K application process, I feel that it is helping me make an informed decision, especially about public schools. I just wish that people would simply ignore the unhelpful comments like "lie", which add nothing to the discussion and are somewhat disheartening. I, and I think a vast majority of individuals in this city, would no sooner lie on an application than steal, etc.

    In the end, the main reason that I am choosing to keep my family in this city despite the high cost of living and crazy school lottery system is because nowhere else have I encountered a more diverse, accepting, caring, involved community. And if the school lottery system still needs work, or if some of the public schools need more work, let's get to it and realize that complaining gets us nowhere fast.

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  89. Great post, 8:05. I really hope you end up at our school. :)

    -a parent who went thru this last year and wound up with one of her top choices.

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  90. Hey we're at McKinley, and it's not a bad place to be. Flooded with people this year from Bernal Heights. The parent involvement is staggering.

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  91. "In the end, the main reason that I am choosing to keep my family in this city despite the high cost of living and crazy school lottery system is because nowhere else have I encountered a more diverse, accepting, caring, involved community."

    Ridiculous. Provincial.

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  92. "Ridiculous. Provincial."

    Right. Like anonymous online put-downs aren't ridiculous and juvenile. My middle schooler could pwn someone snappier than that. But what's the point?

    8:53, good attitude, and best of luck to you.

    McKinley parent, glad you are happy. I so remember when McKinley was considered a 3rd-tier pick....about the time Alvarado had risen to 2nd tier....Rooftop was then tops.

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  93. Sorry, actually meant good attitude and best of luck to prospective parent at 8:05, but hey, good luck to all of youz. :-)

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  94. "Clarendon 2 (both number 1 choices)
    Rooftop 1 (no. 1 choice)
    SF Community 1 (no. 3 choice)
    Jefferson 2 (no. 1 choice)
    Glen Park 1 (no. 1 choice)
    McKinley 1
    Paul Revere 1"

    Thanks for the stats.

    Except for Clarendon and Jefferson, many of us would not exactly be beating the door down to get into these other schools.
    And that includes Rooftop with the 7:45 start time and rather mediocre test scores.

    So that is 4/9th or 44% success.

    Not exactly the 70 or 80 percent that we keep hearing about.

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  95. "Except for Clarendon and Jefferson, many of us would not exactly be beating the door down to get into these other schools"

    So Rooftop's not good enough for you?
    McKinley, SF community also have API's north of 800.

    Anyway, in my social circle of 20-30 families.

    3 Buena Vista
    3 Fairmount
    2 Clarendon
    1 McKinley
    1 Harvey Milk
    1 Flynn GE
    1 Miraloma
    2 Monroe (1 of these sent their kid to Epiphany)
    1 AFY
    1 SF community
    2 Alvarado (1 into immersion program)
    1 Buena Vista from waitpool, after deciding to send their kid to their assigned, no-buzz school (long, but fascinating story)
    1-2 to Glen Park
    3-4 to St. Finn Barr

    One of the Clarendon parents is a devout Catholic and was struggling with still wanting to send her kids to Catholic school, but my wife talked her out of it.

    I know only three who went 0/7. As said above, one of these got into Buena Vista, one went private, and one to St. Anne's.

    Based on the many disappointed in 2008, I thought 2009 would be a train wreck, given the increase in applications. It wasn't.

    I'm sorry for those of you frustrated, but most if not all the parents I know are now have their kids in a school they're happy with. And far more of those than I'd expected were public options.

    All middle class, a few (but not many) bilingual, mostly non-Hispanic white.

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  96. "Except for Clarendon and Jefferson, many of us would not exactly be beating the door down to get into these other schools.
    And that includes Rooftop with the 7:45 start time and rather mediocre test scores.

    So that is 4/9th or 44% success.

    Not exactly the 70 or 80 percent that we keep hearing about."

    The 68% is for those who got one of their seven choices without sibling preference (rough estimate).

    The fact other people's choices don't meet your standards or are convenient to your morning wake-up
    schedule doesn't affect the stats.

    There's one thing to understand about this process. If you fixate on one or two schools as The Place My Child Is Destined For Without Which My Life Will Be Empty, the process will drive you miserable. But so will applying to the privates. Without a sibling preference, no-one's guaranteed a place in SF Friends or Live Oak or CAIS or the Lycee or St. Brendan's.

    But if you take the attitude that there are lots of schools where your child will thrive, and you get to have some, but not total control over where that they go, then the process will wear you down less. Having a Plan B will help.

    However, I fear that you've got such a narrow view of what suits you that this process will be extremely trying for you.

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  97. Oh, now I get it! I understand how the lottery is discriminating against middle class families. It takes a few steps, but here is the argument:

    1) Middle class success in the lottery is hereby narrowly defined as getting into Clarendon, Jefferson, and perhaps a few other "trophy" public schools;

    2) Aggrieved party gets to arbitrarily toss out from the mix of acceptable ones even uber-popular schools like Rooftop (because of the start time and "rather mediocre test scores" that apparently did not stop hundreds of families from applying);

    3) Aggrieved party furthermore declares that "many of us" wouldn't beat down the door to get to a school like McKinley (objectively not true);

    4) ....let alone would "many of us" ever look at a school such as Glen Park (even though energized families are moving in from local co-op preschools);

    5) In fact, if you can't get Clarendon or Jefferson, you might as well throw in the towel and sign up for [name the worst school you can think of].

    Well. Okay then. If you put it that way, then middle-class success in the lottery probably is 16% like you said. Hey, that's still better than acceptance rates at most private schools, but you are right, that is horrible odds, and clearly middle class people are terribly discriminated against in this system.

    ****

    [....this sort of like talking to a tea-partier-birther type--you really really can't ever have a conversation, and they have no idea how they come across; just nod your head and smile.....].

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  98. 9:33

    So sorry the process was traumatizing for you. I'm sure it's easy going through life with big entitlement and narrow vision, so anyway, better luck next time.

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  99. Back to the topic at hand--school tours--

    Along with all the other advice about doing your homework first about the numbers/odds and focusing touring on the lesser-known schools, make sure you check out the school websites too. Often they have photos and information or links to the afterschool program and other vital information. The PTA calendar of events, which is also usually posted, will give you a sense of how active the parent community is. Make sure you check out the local website, not the portal.sfusd one.

    Example, I just saw the very cool website of Jose Ortega school: www.joseortegaschool.org, on which they have posted a cool slideshow of children's art--they have designated funds for artists-in-residence who serve the whole school, for example in visual arts and creative writing. They also have photos of classrooms, kinder play area, and library.

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  100. I don't know anyone who ended up 0/7 who was really committed to going public.

    THe ones we know were probably going to go private regardless. When they didn't get what they wanted in Round 1, they gave up immediately and signed up for private school.

    I suspect a lot of families enter the lottery to justify going private. They are too PC to just apply to private, but they figure they'll feel less guilty about choosing private if they can say they tried to go public. That strategy backfired: We know people who got McKinley and Miraloma, their top choices, and still decided to go private. The lottery was just a back-up.

    ALL (and I mean ALL) of the families we know who went 0/7 but were committed to getting into a decent public school have ended up somewhere great, even if it meant starting after the 10-day count. One family just got the call last week and is starting at Alvarado on Monday.

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  101. Most of our friends got decent placements in Round II. But yeah, most of our 0/7 friends didn't even play the waitpools. They just decided the process didn't work and wrote their $20,000+ check for private.

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  102. There seem to be a lot of people out there with a lot of time to spend telling other people about their middle class entitilements and convenient wake up times.

    It is true that it is not convenient for someone working on a 9 to 6 work schedule to send their child to a school that starts at 7:45 in the morning.

    I was at a birthday party a few weeks ago. Many of the parents were from a school with test scores in the 6/10 range on the greatschools rating system. They seemed to be happy with their K and grade 1 teachers. There was a great community at the school. However, they were almost all very concerned about how their children would do in grade 3, 4 and 5, where class sizes would increase and skills beyond reading would be introduced.

    A great school community and determined parents often cannot fix a school with weak teaching or a weak principal.

    I am sorry if that does meet with your political agenda.

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  103. By the way, later school start times are correlated with lower rates of depression and better attentiveness in children and adolescents.

    The Gates Foundation has done studies to look at the relationship between early school start times and the drop out rate.

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  104. 8:32
    Weak teaching? Weak principal? Is there a specific school you have in mind with these dismissive comments, or do you have something against education professionals in general?

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  105. 8:32

    Someone (you perhaps?) wrote last night to dismiss the idea that someone getting into Rooftop as a top choice was evidence of lottery success--because, in part, of its start time, which evidently doesn't work for you. This is a laughable argument, of course. You don't get to define other people's preferences for them. You can only evaluate "lottery success" based on people getting the choices they want, whatever those choices may be--and certainly many, many people seem to want Rooftop.

    Sure, I know lots of families that will not look at an early start time. I know for me it has been helpful as it lets me get to work on time at 9am (I don't see how anyone who worked until 6pm could manage without backup, as almost all after-schools close by 6pm). But that's not the point, anyway.

    The point is that middle class+ families actually do quite well, statistically, at getting the most popular schools, as a group. And it is also true that individual success is more likely with a balanced list. Pretty simple.

    As for the rest of it, you seem to launching a general rant and picking at issues in the air. There is a discussion to be had about some of the topics you mention, but you're just lobbing water balloons now. I thought you were talking about the inherent unfairness of the lottery for middle class people?.....or did you slide off that one and move onto another issue to poke at? I'm losing the thread of your logic.....

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  106. ewww. The PPS old ladies have descended upon us. Make 'em stop.

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  107. 10:57

    parents like you with such haughty attitudes drive parents into private schools you should lighten up

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  108. 9:08 -- I'm pretty sure the research on start times was based on adolescents, not kindergarteners.

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  109. 12:41 and 1:09

    I don't know who you are, but I'm neither old nor associated with PPS other than checking their website for info.

    I also didn't think 10:57 last night was haughty. Maybe a little snarky, but haughty is more like saying that only Clarendon and Jefferson are acceptable choices.

    Whatever you think of the tone, 10:57 is absolutely correct about this:

    1) If you fixate on 1 or 2 popular schools, the process will be miserable for you. (This is true for both public and private.)

    2) You get to have some, but not total, control over the process if you are willing to look beyond those 1 or 2 schools. And best to have a plan B, too.

    Like I tell my younger kid, if you choose to fixate on wanting the candy when you can't have the candy, you are making the choice to be miserable. If you are willing to consider other choices, then you have a chance to be happy. You really want to be miserable?

    That's a helpful insight for someone going through the process.

    And schoolyard-level taunting strikes me as being not so helpful (and am I missing some inside joke here with the old ladies and PPS? It has always struck me as a helpful organization and the person I talked with once was fairly young....but anyway, kinda juvenile, no?).

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  110. 3:53, you are correct about the studies about start times--adolescents naturally tend to fall into a later pattern if given the chance--but it doesn't matter. The person was just throwing stuff up and trying to make it stick.

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  111. This thread (as well as the others) keep getting hijacked by trolls who keep wasting their breath (and our time) bashing the lottery. The lottery is what it is (at least for this incoming class), so STOP the bashing, nail biting, and drama.

    There have been a number of helpful, level-headed comments and suggestions on this thread that keep getting obscured by the trolls. Fagetaboutit. Ignore the trolls.

    If you are really committed to public school, then you will find useful information from individuals involved with PPS and individual school websites. If public school is your back up to private, then put the 7 usual suspects on your lottery (Clarendon, Rooftop, AFY, BV, Alvarado, WP, CL) and use all the time that you save on school tours to volunteer at the food bank, Glide Memorial, or other worthy organization.

    June's letter brought up the topic of school tours, juggling schedules, etc. The parent volunteers who organize these tours appreciate the issues, based on their own experiences, and they try to provide options. Again, school websites will provide helpful information. For example, Miraloma (www.miralomasf.com) will offer evening tours AND Saturday morning tours, in addition to the regularly scheduled Thursday morning tours. Also, on their website, they have more than a dozen video podcasts, covering all topics that are covered in the regular tours from a typical day in kindergaten to the school yard to the gardening program. You can watch the podcasts at home or download to an MP3 device for a self-guided tour of the school at conveniently scheduled times.

    Bottomline: volunteer groups at public schools are working very hard to accommodate us and to help us through the process. We should thank them, not bash them.

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  112. This thread (as well as the others) keep getting hijacked by trolls who keep wasting their breath (and our time) bashing the lottery. The lottery is what it is (at least for this incoming class), so STOP the bashing, nail biting, and drama.

    There have been a number of helpful, level-headed comments and suggestions on this thread that keep getting obscured by the trolls. Fagetaboutit. Ignore the trolls.

    If you are really committed to public school, then you will find useful information from individuals involved with PPS and individual school websites. If public school is your back up to private, then put the 7 usual suspects on your lottery (Clarendon, Rooftop, AFY, BV, Alvarado, WP, CL) and use all the time that you save on school tours to volunteer at the food bank, Glide Memorial, or other worthy organization.

    June's letter brought up the topic of school tours, juggling schedules, etc. The parent volunteers who organize these tours appreciate the issues, based on their own experiences, and they try to provide options. Again, school websites will provide helpful information. For example, Miraloma (www.miralomasf.com) will offer evening tours AND Saturday morning tours, in addition to the regularly scheduled Thursday morning tours. Also, on their website, they have more than a dozen video podcasts, covering all topics that are covered in the regular tours from a typical day in kindergaten to the school yard to the gardening program. You can watch the podcasts at home or download to an MP3 device for a self-guided tour of the school at conveniently scheduled times.

    Bottomline: volunteer groups at public schools are working very hard to accommodate us and to help us through the process. We should thank them, not bash them.

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  113. "3:53, you are correct about the studies about start times--adolescents naturally tend to fall into a later pattern if given the chance--but it doesn't matter. The person was just throwing stuff up and trying to make it stick."

    Hi!

    It is that naughty mommy again, worried about jarring her kid out of a sound sleep before the crack of dawn, just throwing up stuff again.

    For anyone that is interested in the impact on your children when you wake them up before sunrise, please see the following research paper:


    SLEEP HABITS AND STARTING TIME TO
    SCHOOL IN BRAZILIAN CHILDREN
    Tatiana A. Silva1, Luciane B.C. Carvalho[2], Luciana Silva[1], Marilaine Medeiros1,
    Vivian B. Natale[3], Joao E.C. Carvalho4, Lucila B.F. Prado[5], Gilmar F. Prado[6]

    Page 3:
    "In Brazil due to the reduced number of school installations
    there are two starting times to school: morning starts at 7:00AM and finishes at 12:00PM, and afternoon starts at 1:00PM and finishes at 6:00PM. This practice forces the children[7 to 10 years old] to wake up earlier in order to get to school. We analyzed childrens’ sleep habits within starting time to school (morning and afternoon) comparing them to detect possible differences.

    Page 5:
    "school attendance in the morning starting at some time between 7:00 - 7:30AM forces the children that
    studied in the morning to wake up quite early and go against endogenous tendencies to sleep and wake up later[24].

    "We know that poor sleep can modify children's mental conditions, causing problems of behavior and attention15,[27- 28], disturbing cognitive functioning even after a single night of sleep restriction[26], compromising their ability to fulfill school demands."

    For the full text, see:
    http://www.scielo.br/pdf/
    anp/v63n2b/a07v632b.pdf

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  114. "parents like you with such haughty attitudes drive parents into private schools you should lighten up"

    I don't think anyone who's decided getting into Rooftop counts as a failure in the lottery needs any encouragement from me, frankly.

    I wonder if anyone's told her the odds of getting into CAIS or SF Friends or Hamlin. I would, but I think the journey of discovery will be such a joyful growth experience for her I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.

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  115. "I wonder if anyone's told her the odds of getting into CAIS or SF Friends or Hamlin. I would, but I think the journey of discovery will be such a joyful growth experience for her I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."

    Actually, we did get our daughter into a fabulous private school.

    You're right, CAIS is great, but we didn't go there. Didn't look at Hamlin. Wasn't that impressed with Friends.

    Take care, and get some sleep. You'll need it for that early rise!

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  116. "It is that naughty mommy again, worried about jarring her kid out of a sound sleep before the crack of dawn, just throwing up stuff again."

    Look, how you bring up your kid is up to you. When you think is best for them to get up is up to you. We're not arguing with that.

    Where you are wrong is to decide that because one person got their first choice or another of their seven choices, it doesn't count as a successful outcome of the lottery because it doesn't suit your tastes or schedule. Their choices are not your choices, so don't move the goalposts and say they didn't get what they wanted.

    I hope you do get something that suits you, but I have the feeling satisfying you is a hard task for anyone.

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  117. 9:05

    Now she claims to have gotten her child into a "fabulous private school." Hmmmm, would be interesting to know which one, but I guess that would be embarrassing for them. I think she must realize she was making an idiotic argument, so now she's just trying to start a flame war.

    Intelligent counter-argument is great, but she's trolling. Ignore, ignore, ignore.

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  118. "Intelligent counter-argument is great, but she's trolling. Ignore, ignore, ignore."

    Sorry. Won't feed the troll again. Promise.

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  119. Listen, this forum is supposed to be a place where we can exchange tips and share learnings rather than condemn other people's preferences (be they public versus private, early versus late start-times). Stop being so judgmental!

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  120. In response to the original post, we have been looking at schools for 2 weeks and I am already going crazy. We have seen 3 schools. My work is not only full-time it requires me to travel frequently making tours extremely difficult to fit in. I do not get the option to telecommute and we will be foregoing any vacation for the next year based on the amount of time I have to take off to tour. Moreover, I find myself behind in everything...work, house chores, etc. Not to mention arranging extra childcare at a cost as well as cab fare to the school and back (the bus takes too long). I frankly am already to give up and put all trophy schools on my list as I do not have the time or the energy find the hidden gem...which seems really to no longer exist anyway. There has to be a better system.

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  121. I hear you, 9:11. I'm a single full-time working parent myself, with two kids. I have my routine for chores and such but it gets blown to smithereens if I add a school tour schedule or anything else like that.

    However, I hope you don't put down all wildly popular schools, because unless you get lucky you will make your life much more stressful next spring. Take the stress you feel now and multiply because you won't have a school you like and even the moderately popular ones and the "hidden gems" will be gone or going fast.

    My suggestion is to skip the next tours you've planned and spend a little prep time at home. If you are like me, you are on the computer from 11AM-1AM catching on personal emails after finishing the chores or maybe finishing up work. So take some of that time, or maybe that morning you were going to spend at Clarendon, and do a little research for those maybe-not-so-hidden-but-still-more-likely gems.

    There are several threads here that list the likely candidates. You don't say where you live, but surely you do know them by now: Jose Ortega, including GE; Glen Park, ER Taylor Revere SI, Webster SI, Rosa Parks JBBP, Cobb Montessori. Maybe Longfellow, Parker, Redding, Spring Valley. Try some moderately popular ones like Harvey Milk, Sutro, New Traditions, Marshall, Flynn GE, SF Community. Plus De Avila, which won't have much sibling preference pressure this year. Mandarin programs at Jose Ortega and Starr King that tend to open up to English speakers in Round 2.

    These are the schools worth touring, because you may have your doubts about them, but they have some combination of magnet program or high test scores or parent energy or good leadership. You can add the so-called trophy fillers if you want, but they are less important to tour; some are better than others, but you can see they are basically fine.

    So go ahead and make a smaller list from these gems, and probably others, based on your neighborhood and job proximity, plus afterschool issues since you work. Then tour them. And tour the school down the street too that you've maybe never heard of.

    This should all be do-able because you are working off a smaller list and hopefully touring near home (if you are cabbing to the school now, how would you get there next year with your 5-year-old?) Because these schools are not overrun with parents, you may even be able to schedule a walk-around or tour at a time that is convenient for you. And bring the kid if you need to. Not as easy, but it's allowed.

    And do be sure to go to the enrollment fair on Nov 7. It will be exhausting, but it is chance to talk to parents, teachers, and principals and to "visit" schools you might not get to otherwise. However, don't bring the kid to that one. It is big and noisy.

    There is a way to to do this without touring 12-15 schools and driving yourself crazy.

    Anyway, good luck.

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  122. I've been at every school fair since PPS held the first one at Moscone years ago (a gorgeous school, by the way), and my recommendation is to get there early. It's much quieter than it is mid-way through the day. It does calm down a little at the end too.

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  123. good point.

    and good point about Moscone too. That is another "hidden gem"--it's not hidden, actually, but it would be one that a not-poor family could get into, most likely.

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  124. Very helpful comments about reducing the burden of school touring.

    One other suggestion I might add is to check to see where the SFUSD school boundaries are for you address.

    I am not sure how it works, but there does seem to be some advantage to applying to "local" schools. But "local" isn't always local. A school quite close to you could fall into another zip code or whatever criteria is used.

    Does anyone have an idea of how locality works in the school assignment process? Is there any information available on the SFUSD website? Is it just by zip code? If not, how else?

    Again, there seems to be some advantage to applying to a local school. If you think you like a local school, just make sure it is local to you according to the SFUSD computer.

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  125. 11:59

    Like busing patterns, current assignment areas date back to the OER process that was used back in the 1980's and 1990's. It was never revised when the lottery process was started in 2000. Since it doesn't have a HUGE affect on the lottery (schools are basically citywide), and it would be a lot of work and be very controversial to change it, they just never attempted a revision. But the neighborhood assignment has become marginally more important over the last decade as they have tweaked the computer algorithm.

    Basically, it helps you the most if you live in the neighborhood AND you provide diversity to that particular school, or if the school is so mixed socio-economically that you have shot of offering diversity at some point in the calculations. It can't hurt you, that's for sure.

    Assignment area boundaries can be found in the maps in the Enrollment Guide (this year's is not out yet, but check last year's). These are available online at sfusd.edu. You might have to squint though! Some of the areas are non-continguous "satellite attendance areas" that we intended to support diversity. Example, several parts of the Mission were sent to Chinatown, and there is an Aptos attendance area in the Mission as well.

    Also, several attendance areas are now defunct, such as the old Cabrillo area and the old Edison area. Families in these areas are declared to be in the area of the first neighborhood or "non-alternative" (alternative was another name for citywide schools) on their lists.

    I know the choices are confusing and the process can be grueling, but I much prefer the current system to the old OER. But loving or hating it partly depended on whether you loved or hated your assigned school. I will say the current system has pushed more schools to be better rather than people just fleeing them for the alternative schools. But that's how Rooftop, Clarendon, Lakeshore, Lilienthal et al got their start, anyway, as alternatives to the horrible schools like Fairmount, Flynn, Grattan, McKinley, Alvarado, and so forth.

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  126. "There are several threads here that list the likely candidates. You don't say where you live, but surely you do know them by now: Jose Ortega, including GE; Glen Park, ER Taylor Revere SI, Webster SI, Rosa Parks JBBP, Cobb Montessori. Maybe Longfellow, Parker, Redding, Spring Valley. Try some moderately popular ones like Harvey Milk, Sutro, New Traditions, Marshall, Flynn GE, SF Community. "

    That's a great list, to which I'd add Sunnyside and McKinley as well. Maybe pick one of Flynn SI, Fairmount, and Buena Vista for the SI programs as well as Revere and Webster. They're not as oversubscribed as Alvarado.

    Also, on attendance areas: they do provide a slight edge to applying for your neighbourhood school. Immersion programs, being magnet programs, aren't supposed to have an attendance area, but as far as I know (well, as far as Vicki Symonds of PPSSF knows) that hasn't actually been implemented in the algorithm.

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  127. "I know the choices are confusing and the process can be grueling, but I much prefer the current system to the old OER. But loving or hating it partly depended on whether you loved or hated your assigned school. I will say the current system has pushed more schools to be better rather than people just fleeing them for the alternative schools."

    I agree with you that the current lottery system is better than the old OER.

    I also agree with you that it has forced more improvements in the non-alternative schools.

    And I can also see that whether you like or hate the lottery depends on whether you think you'd like or hate your neighbourhood school.

    But I think the fact that the lottery system has forced more rapid improvement in schools (IMHO), is paradoxically the reason why it becomes more and more unpopular. As more schools get seen as being acceptable (what, we're down to maybe a dozen being ranked 1-2, and 33, almost half, having an API rank of 7-10), then more and more parents are going to want the sure bet of getting into their local school, as opposed to an uncertain chance of getting into either their local school or another. So, oddly enough, as the schools improve, school choice by the lottery is less attractive.

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  128. Hm, hey, thanks to the people who offered strategies and insights rather than bitter invective. Right now, this is what we have. It makes sense to think about it clearly and do the best one can for one's kid, or to just shut up and go private or leave the city. Neither of the latter are options for us anyway, so it's great to hear how to maximize one's chances at a satisfying outcome. Many thanks!

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  129. Where does one find the test score data for each school broken down by demographic group?

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  130. There are several sources, but www.greatschools.net is probably the most user-friendly. Click on "CST results by Subgroup." They only post data based on significant subgroups, however.

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  131. "There are several sources, but www.greatschools.net is probably the most user-friendly. Click on "CST results by Subgroup." They only post data based on significant subgroups, however."

    That's not greatschools fault, but based on that the state won't post data for a subgroup if the number in that subgroup is too small for the statistics for that subgroup to be reliable.

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  132. The SFUSD website has info on test scores for each school - just look up the SARC.

    Go to sfusd.edu, click on "school information", scroll down to the school you're interested in, then click "SARC".

    I have noticed that Greatschools isn't accurate for some schools.

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