Monday, October 12, 2009

June's Story - Gaming the system?

I was recently at a birthday party and the talk (as it always seems to these days) got around to kindergarten. Discussion initially surrounded schools we have toured, preferences for public vs private, and who knows people who got their first choice on round one vs. those who went 0/7 and ended up with (insert unthinkable school here) last year.

But then the conversation took a turn I had not expected – I was being told, by multiple parents I know and respect, how to game the system. “Just tell them you didn’t graduate high school” said one mom, “that is the running joke at XYZ school, none of the moms have graduated high school”. “No, tell them you think you qualify for free lunch” said another parent, who by no means can even think her family would qualify, “they do not check until the first day of school, and by then it does not matter - you are in”. Another parent told me to be careful filling out that Maddie was bi-lingual, since they are testing this year - that I would be better off saying she did not go to preschool. To which I responded that Maddie is bi-lingual, so other than the inconvenience, I have nothing to worry about her being tested.

The whole conversation left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Some of these parents I have known for years, I consider them good parents, their children well behaved. I have little doubt they would never encourage their child to cheat on a test, a sports match or even on “chutes and ladders”, yet that is what they were advocating here – cheating to get into the school they wanted. Is that what the current assignment system has done? Turned normally responsible, law-abiding parents into cheaters? I know this is nothing new, have seen it in comments on this blog, but I always assumed it was a small minority that advocated gaming the system. However the fact that I was outnumbered at this party gives me the feeling that I instead may be in the minority. I would not consider myself an overly moral person, pretty much in the normal spectrum, yet this really bothered me. I know for one I could not live with myself if I cheated Maddie’s way into school. How could I teach her to follow the rules when I can turn around and bend them when it suits my needs? And since I will not, and others apparently will - where does it leave our chances?

148 comments:

  1. This gives me a bad taste in my mouth too. Totally ridiculous that people think that cheating is the only way to get what they want. I think it says more about our values as a culture "win at all costs, screw the other guy" than our current assignment system.

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  2. "But then the conversation took a turn I had not expected – I was being told, by multiple parents I know and respect, how to game the system. “Just tell them you didn’t graduate high school” said one mom, “that is the running joke at XYZ school, none of the moms have graduated high school”.'

    Well, a lot of these, at least now, would be urban legends - mom's educational background hasn't been used as a diversity variable for several years.

    Cheating is vomit-inducing though. We know one family who cheated: we don't do playdates with them anymore. But it's interesting to find out how thin the veneer of morality is with some.

    Your chances are fine. We didn't cheat, but got into a trophy school regardless.

    This was actively discussed in a previous thread. As I know of parents who used friends to fake addresses to get their kid into Marin publics, I can't fault the current lottery system relative to neighbourhood assignment in terms of rewarding cheating.

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  3. We were at a dinner party on Saturday and were encouraged to "cheat" as well. I responded that I refused to lie on our public school application, not because I believe I am morally above it, but rather I believe in karma, and will not subject my child to a lifetime of bad karma just to get him into a school that I want. I really really wish that the District would actually investigate people's answers and I would happily increase my taxes in order to make that a reality.

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  4. True. All the neighborhood assignments districts I know of, similar urban districts where perception/legend is that some district schools are winners and others losers, have these same discussions on their anonymous blogs, but based on how to establish a fake address. Check out Urban Baby in New York and others for more on this.

    If anything the issue here, the great frustration if you will, is that it is actually harder to game the system because no one can quite figure out the ideal profile, language is tested now, parent education (the least verifiable factor) matters not at all, and actually there is the possibility of testing some of the other factors too (CalWorks, etc). The SFUSD has stated that providing false information is grounds for removal from a school.

    I personally believe that when it comes down to it the vast majority of people do not cheat. You have to sign the form as a legal document. All cocktail party bravado aside, can you really see most of these big talkers actually attesting/signing their names that they live in public housing or that they participate in CalWorks? They'll then have to stand in line at EPC and have the form verified by a real person (that's how the system works--maybe your friends don't know that). It would take a ballsy liar to go through with that, even aside from the moral repugnance of posing as one of our city's most neediest families to score (maybe--the system is not so clear-cut that this will happen) a spot at a desired school.

    Anyway, in terms of controls, I think there's a lot LESS gaming the system than there was 15 years ago (more stories on that if you like). That's exactly why many not-poor people hate the current system--they can't figure it out in the same way. Making up a dodgy medical excuse probably feels less fake to most people than signing a legal form saying definitively that you are homeless or living in public housing or Section 8. The vast majority can't bring themselves to do this because a) it's obviously a lie, and wrong and b) it's easily verifiable.

    I do hope people are willing to speak up at moments such as your party though, and call it out as cheating on the neediest kids. Kind of like not laughing at racist jokes--just say simply politely but stiffly, "I don't think that's right...." I suppose there will always be the person who finds a way in any system, but social pressure is an important boundary-setter.

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  5. It makes me absolutely sick to hear this. I've heard rumors about this kind of thing, but never a first-hand story such as yours. Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts.

    The public and private school admissions process in San Francisco is completely ludicrous. In both case, some people misrepresent themselves in order to better their chances of getting into a school that they like.

    We owe it to ourselves and our children to make our every action honest and ethical.

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  6. The district has been tightening up more and more each year, so cheaters don't really know when they might get caught. The district has allocated more funds for language testing, and more investigators. Still not enough, that's right, but you never know when you'll get caught. If something looks suspicious to the person who signs off on your application when you turn it in (you think most of these people look like they're in Calworks with their fleece jackets and salon haircuts?) then you could get flagged.

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  7. Let all these people apply for the trophy schools by means fair or foul. It just means our great school with small class sizes, unique programs, a great building, great families, etc., will be "hidden"/undervalued for a little bit longer.

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  8. "I do hope people are willing to speak up at moments such as your party though, and call it out as cheating on the neediest kids."

    What they said. Making people know that cheating on the SFUSD lottery is more socially unacceptable as public littering or letting your dog foul the street will help squash it.

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  9. It's hard to understand why the district cannot set up a simple verification system. Just sample a random 5-10% of applications, using trained parent volunteers (sign me up!) to do the legwork. Make the consequences appropriate for the crime. This might provide several things: 1) a disincentive for those that can't behave morally without one; 2) a sense that the district is doing something, so that the vast majority of us that would never do this in a million years will not spend so much time feeling annoyed.

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  10. That's repulsive. I would never feel right about getting into my top choice school if I had to lie my way in.

    We were truthful on our application last year and went 0/7. HOWEVER, we did eventually get into our waitlist school (one of our top 7) after school started. We didn't have to lie to get where we are today, either.

    It's not worth it, in my opinion.

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  11. Agree with the previous comments. I doubt cheating is really happening much, at all, but the suggestion of it poisons people's feelings about the system. They've already removed mother's education and moved to verify language (important anyway because the needs of ELLs have to be addressed). A little random spot-checking would be a good addition to the mix.

    Preschool attendance is the main remaining non-verifiable factor (but, ick, you'd have to teach your kid to lie if approached by the school social worker--schools are looking to target services like extended learning to kids at risk).

    Funny thing is, preschool attendance probably is a mixed-bag factor anyway. Many low-income kids attend preschool through CDCs and Head Start. The low-income families that are most likely to apply in Round 1 are also at these schools (where information and encouragement is provided for the lottery process). It's not clear to me how you could create an ideal profile for a given school with only that factor.

    I'm guessing they are trying not to discourage poor folks from applying--it's a big paperwork drudgery being really poor--but it would be nice if there were some system of presenting verification of Calworks, Section 8, etc. without making it yet one more onerous process. Or yeah, I do like the suggestion to spot-check 10-15% of applications and let that be the disincentive for the cheaters.

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  12. We didn't cheat last year and went 0 for 7. We were assigned to a school that no one with a clue would send their child to for schooling. While we didn't cheat an unfair and byzantine system compels some people to try and game the system. Its not surprising and the moral umbrage expressed in this thread is excessive and frankly laughable imo.

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  13. Lowell is chalk-full of Daly City children.

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  14. We know a teacher at one of the "trophy" schools located in the Sunset. She told us that one of the kids in her class lives in East Bay even though his mother claims they live in the City. Mother has told the school that they live with her parents in the City (grandparents do have SF address) but the child tells the teachers that he drives across the Bay Bridge every night. Who shoud we believe? Obviously the child.

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  15. Maybe I'm naive, but I'll bet half those birthday party parents won't actually cheat on the school app. Easy to say it, harder to actually pull it off.

    That said we got our 2nd choice, an offer from a private and an offer from CACS. No cheating was involved.

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  16. Name names. If you know someone who blatantly cheated, then tell SFUSD.

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  17. 12:08 p.m., I suggested the same thing to the teacher but she refused on the grounds that doing so would hurt the child.

    I previously posted at 9:16 a.m. and think I have made my feelings clear on the topic, but I have to say that I agree with the teacher. I think it sucks that there are families in SF who would LOVE that child's spot AND did everything by the book, but his mother "gamed" the system and won. I believe this is his second year at the school (though I could be wrong) and he has established friends and connections. It sucks, it really does, but I think the solution would have been for the District to figure this was going on before the child was admitted.

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  18. I know two lawyers for who work for the public defender's office who got their kids enrolled at Clarendon. Also, a parent I know from Claire Lillenthal told me there are many children of public-sector employees at the school. Mere coincidence? Or leverage?

    Also, before Ed Jew's major implosion, he openly stated that he helped people from his district get into Giannini Middle School.

    Do public employees at city hall have clout in the admission process?

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  19. My husband is a city employee and we have no clout. He's not high level though. Maybe the big wigs at City Hall have some pull. I wonder where the Gav will send Hannah Montana?

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  20. "Is that what the current assignment system has done? Turned normally responsible, law-abiding parents into cheaters?"

    That's like saying that the income tax code has forced people to become tax cheaters. We all need to be responsible for our own dishonesty.

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  21. I knew of 2 families who openly had the nerve to tell me that they lied about living in San Francisco but actually lived in Daly City. But they were of Chinese decent and refused to send their kids to school with so many Filipinos and Hispanic kids. But since they lied about so many people living in 1 household, they were able to get into good Sunset schools. I wanted to report these kids but since the kids were mostly 4th and 5th graders, I didn't have the heart to make them pay for the cheating (and down right racist) actions their parents had done. I'm Asian too, but wouldn't teach my kid to cheat and be a racist in lieu of API scores.

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  22. My kids have several friends that live in Daly City and elsewhere and their families got interdistrict transfers. It's not hard to do and quite a lot of families that work in the city (and for the City) do this as it really helps with family time.

    That said, I also know of some kids that have rather fluid living situations - grandma here in the City where the family claims residence, and the parent(s) living outside the City. In the instances that I know of, the kids lived about half the time with Grandma and on the weekends with mom. In the instances I know of, the mom's were trying to get out of living in the Bayview, but were able to juggle things with the help of the grandparents in the City.

    After 8 years in the public schools, I find it hard to believe we are being inundated by people coming in from the outside to 'take our' spots in SFUSD.

    Just 2 years ago SFUSD hired a consultant to check out Lowell and accusations of kids that didn't actually live there. I know they found some people (some moved to SF) and presumably it helped to cut down on lying.

    I was recently at a open house for SOTA (School of the Arts High School) and was a little surprised that there was such an emphasis that kids outside from SF can get in. While I can appreciate that the focus of the school is on the best most talented kid, I must admit my feathers ruffled that so many come from outside SF to attend - something like 10%+ - since it seems that if San Francisco is building and supporting it, places should go to local kids first. I had mixed feelings about it. I assume, however, that any kids that get in get an interdistrict transfer and it is all on the up and up.

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  23. Montana, Gavin's daughter, will go private. No doubt about it.

    11:04 a.m. - You say you went 0/7. Are you still waiting for an assignment, or did you give up on the process after Round 2? If the latter, you can't really complain about the system not working as you are the one who dropped out of the system.

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  24. Oh, come on, 2:08. At some point a parent like 11:04 can reasonably give up on the SFUSD system without forfeiting his or her right to criticize it.

    It's mid-October, for heaven's sake. Is it any surprise if they've moved on with their lives?

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  25. We started at Miraloma when it was just starting to gain popularity but was still not hard to get into at all. (We were 0/7 in round 1 so we waitlisted there and got it in round 2 - it was not on our round 1 list). I recall seeing a diversity report (I think it was something mandated by one of the desegregation lawsuits that has expired now, but perhaps they still generate them) that pointed out that the incoming kinder class at Miraloma (either our year or the next year) was the "least diverse" in the district in terms of the diversity index of the incoming families. These classes were still reasonable diverse, I'd guess many zeros along with a number of kids with many points & probably not much in the middle. My take away was - Good, we're in with the other folks who didn't cheat (this was when Mother's level of education was still a factor). I do think that's why these turn-around schools can get flooded with diversity index zeros resulting in some pretty dramatic demographic shifts. The silver lining is that if you don't get a popular school, you're likely to to end up at school with some terrific and honest families that will really support their school. My recollection is that (should try to look this up to be sure) the "most diverse" incoming kinder class that same year (again, according to the diversity index) was Lawton, which really surprised me, I would not have guessed that at all.

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  26. Hi June,

    Off-topic, but I don't know if you are checking your old threads:

    Have you considered adding Frank McCoppin ES to your list? It's in the Richmond, test scores are over 800 despite higher free lunch percentage than some other Richmond schools, it's small, and demand is not as high as at Peabody, Lafayette, Sutro let alone Jefferson. I believe your Supervisor Eric Mar (former BoE member) sends his kid there.

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  27. "I recall seeing a diversity report (I think it was something mandated by one of the desegregation lawsuits that has expired now, but perhaps they still generate them) that pointed out that the incoming kinder class at Miraloma (either our year or the next year) was the "least diverse" in the district in terms of the diversity index of the incoming families."

    That's kinda hard to believe; ethnically, there are schools much more unbalanced than Miraloma, and I'd have thought CL or Rooftop would have lower low-SES %ages.

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  28. Responding to this comment:

    "I was recently at a open house for SOTA (School of the Arts High School) and was a little surprised that there was such an emphasis that kids outside from SF can get in. While I can appreciate that the focus of the school is on the best most talented kid, I must admit my feathers ruffled that so many come from outside SF to attend - something like 10%+ - since it seems that if San Francisco is building and supporting it, places should go to local kids first. I had mixed feelings about it. I assume, however, that any kids that get in get an interdistrict transfer and it is all on the up and up."

    I was one of the parent speakers at that SOTA open house, and I have to say that the part of the out-of-district parent's commentary that raised eyebrows with us fellow parents was when she explicitly said they had moved out of district to avoid SFUSD (meaning K-8). Some of us discussed it afterward and decided we wouldn't want to stifle her, and that candor is a good thing overall.

    As to SOTA's policy, SOTA was founded (in 1982) as a regional school, intended to serve students from beyond district boundaries. That seems to be the norm, or at least quite common, among public high schools with the same kind of design around the nation, such as Los Angeles County High School of the Arts. The state funding follows the student into the district.

    There are probably good arguments on either side, but my only point right now is that this is a common design.

    My SOTA-graduate son says: "It's about ART, Mom, not geography."

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  29. 3:05

    Miraloma has undergone a tremendous demographic shift in the last 8 years, so it would depend on the year in question, which the poster did not mention. However, these days Miraloma has one of the lowest percentage of low-SES kids in the district. Lower than Rooftop, I believe, which might relate to historic reputation and busing patterns. It's my understanding that Miraloma, Clarendon and Grattan are all in the top five in having relatively low numbers of free-lunch-qualified kids.

    Regarding ethnic or racial imbalance at other schools, remember that the district does not consider race or ethnicity in the lottery, only SES factors. So it is possible for a school to be quite diverse in SES terms but racially or ethnically segregated. This might especially be true in the Asian community whose incomes are across the spectrum.

    Also, any school that is undersubscribed in the lottery will not be subject to the diversity index--they'll take whoever signs up. That's the flaw that you have to take if you give parents more ability to submit a preference rather than preassign them. So you end up with racially isolated silo schools in the poorer neighborhoods.

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  30. I agree with the poster that whatever the situation at Miraloma depended upon what year it was.

    When we started there about eight years ago, it only had 245 kids. Outreach and tours by parents increased enrollment every year. The school is now fully enrolled at about 360 kids and during that time when it was becoming popular, it was disproportionately filled by Other White kids (disproportionate vs. SFUSD, but not necessarily to San Francisco.)

    There is still a bus that comes from Bayview to Miraloma, but we lost quite a few African American families along to schools in the Bayview when those families decided to stay closer to home (many left for Drew Elementary when it became a Dream School and got a lot of new resources - things Miraloma didn't have at the time.)

    We have relatively few Latino families from the Mission at Miraloma because there are no buses there and it's practically impossible to get there by bus (only one bus line comes even close.)

    I was told by the Miraloma principal this year that this year there was an increase in Asian kids applying for Miraloma. I have no doubt that has to be partly due to the increase in test scores (we lost many Asian kids 7-8 years ago to Lakeshore and Rooftop because the Miraloma scores were in the low 600s.)

    Things are changing all the time. My kids have received an excellent education at Miraloma - way back then when it wasn't at all popular and now when it is.

    And, I never had to lie to anybody for us to get it!

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  31. One factor in Miraloma's increasinly white composition is that it's located in the middle of a rather high-income area (bounded by Miraloma Park, Glen Park, Sunnyside, Forest Hill, West Portal, Twin Peaks, etc.) and it's almost impossible to get to by public transportation. (The unreliable MUNI 36 bus is the only option.) Years ago, it was heavily populated by Asian kids from the San Miguel Child Development Center, near Balboa Park BART, but under the lottery many of those families started choosing schools with higher test scores, like Lakeshore. Just as this was happening, families from nearby neighborhoods started to consider it and the population shifted dramatically. My son started there in 1998. Years later, when my daughter was in the upper grades, my husband used to joke, "When did we move to Walnut Creek?" It's a good thing other families started to choose it too, because otherwise the school would have been on the closure list a couple of years ago for sure. At one point the enrollment was under 200, I believe. Now it's at capacity at more than 300.

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  32. I'm the second Miraloma poster. Shout-out to the first 4:09 poster!

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  33. Does Miraloma have a bilingual program, or is it all GE? That'd be another factor in having an outlier on the diversity score, given that non-English home language is one of the metrics.

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  34. Hey, second 4:09 Miraloma poster - I'm pretty sure you're the PPS Parent Ambassador that spoke to me eight years ago and convinced it was 'safe' to go there (I'm embarrassed I thought otherwise -- ever!)
    Shout out to you, too! ;-)

    And on that note to others, you really can't beat talking to another parent one on one to get a sense of a school. Call PPS to talk to a Parent Ambassador at any SFUSD school. I've spent many hours representing my kids' schools over the years!

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  35. We listed Miraloma 6th and got it. I guess they needed some latinos there.

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  36. June, another off-topic suggestion-- would you consider looking at FS Key Elementary School, since you are also looking at Sunset and Feinstein? Key is actually a little closer to you, and has fine test scores, but it less popular than Sunset or Feinstein. More of a neighborhood school, I guess.

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  37. maybe they did, 4:58, but you didn't get in because of being latino. race and ethnicity do not count in the lottery. either your profile added socio-economic diversity at some point in the lottery (and that could be any profile really, depending on the mix as the computer recalculated), or you got lucky in some tie-breaker. nothing to do with being latino.

    but hey, congrats, it's a great school.

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  38. Here's the thing:

    The reason some families stand less of a chance getting into some schools is because their demographic is overrepresented at that school.

    That means that many someones who share their demographic characteristics are already at that school. Nor are they all sibling admissions. Some upper-middle class, English speaking families are getting into Clarendon and Grattan and Rooftop every year. In fact, these schools - like many others - are deplorably lacking in diversity.

    I am tired of the attitude that some seem to have - that the lottery is not only unfair, but biased against them, and therefore cheating is acceptable.

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  39. I think applying to a private and very expensive school all the way in Marin when you reside in SF is just a white, wealthy person version of "the game". Those who don't have the option of paying a private school tuition should be able "to play" too.
    We got our 3rd choice without "cheating" as you call it because we didn't need to cheat--I didn't graduate high school (GED), we do qualify for free lunch and my child went to a nursery school not a preschool.
    SF Unified can say anything they want about the lottery system and what factors are considered but I know many who went 0/7 and their application looked very different than mine. I also know someone whose application got lost and when they went down to EPC with the copy of the application and found out their child was not in the computer at all, were given their #1 school--this was 4 days after the letters went out.

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  40. Educational level of parents is not considered in the lottery, so that had no bearing. Your free lunch qualification did matter, however. The lottery algorithm is available to look at.

    Not sure what you are saying is the difference between nursery school and preschool.

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  41. "The reason some families stand less of a chance getting into some schools is because their demographic is overrepresented at that school."

    Well, those who have the same diversity variables may be overrepresented. The diversity variables are pretty imprecise, and don't work as proxies for race. Hence the lack of ethnic diversity at many schools, because, to a first approximation, the ethnic background of those who get slots will roughly match the pool of applicants.

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  42. We got into our first choice public and our first choice private. Honest the whole way through. So Mom was right - honesty does pay off!

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  43. My experience (granted now four or five years old) was that the folks who got special attention were the "squeaky wheels" -- the parents who were barraging the Placement Center with emails, faxes and phone calls, some on a daily basis. I know of one family in particular that, when their kid finally got in off the waiting list to a top 7 school, the Placement Center made them promise to never contact the Center again! Don't know if this is still true, but I really wished I was a better nag when I was doing the process!

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  44. I think the number of families that went 0/7 in Round I speaks to the fact that the majority of families do not try to cheat or game the system.

    We went 0/7 in Round I, but were lucky enough to get our "waitpool" choice in Round II.

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  45. Our family didn't game the system.

    We went 0/7 in round 1,
    0/7 in round 2, and never got our wait pool school.

    We are now in private school. I've probably talked to thirty or forty parents in the last year who now have their kids in private, who were formerly public school advocates (before their SFUSD lottery experience.)

    They no longer advocate for public schools. Their time and resources are now devoted to bettering their children's private school.

    But, they're honest!

    Just don't expect these honest parents to cough up for the next education prop vote.

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  46. "My experience (granted now four or five years old) was that the folks who got special attention were the "squeaky wheels" -- the parents who were barraging the Placement Center with emails, faxes and phone calls, some on a daily basis."

    I'd say this might be affected by confirmation bias - the ones making a big deal about it are going to go out and talk about how effective their lobbying was, versus folks who didn't make a fuss but got in off the waitpool aren't going to be the type to broadcast their efforts.



    There'd be some informational advantage to being in regular contact with the EPC staff, but I'd see pestering them incessantly as being a liability as much as an asset.

    The moms I knew that got their kids in desired schools off the waitpool are some of the quietest and most self-effacing (but persistent) individuals I know. So the advantage isn't always to the loudest.

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  47. "I think the number of families that went 0/7 in Round I speaks to the fact that the majority of families do not try to cheat or game the system."

    The number of families who went 0/7 isn't related to whether or not they cheated. It's related to the choices that parents made: if a lot of parents put the same few schools down, then a lot will go 0/7, even if a huge chunk of those parents lied through their teeth on their application.

    The capacity limits of the most desirable schools, and the schools that are just solid, remain regardless of what allocation system you use, or whether people try to game it by cheating. But the cheaters make those who don't cheat worse off.

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  48. Please tell us that you and your private school friends wouldn't really punish our city's or state's children in any upcoming school funding votes because you are in a snit over lottery unluckiness. You understand that would be immature and short-sighted in terms of our state's future, right? Especially from someone who values education so much you are paying through the nose for it, and are privileged enough to be able to afford it. You do know that you are privileged, don't you?

    And by the way, which schools did you and your friends put on your lists and what were the realistic odds? If you put only 5% odds schools, then who is to blame for that? But you would punish the neediest kids for your bad choices. Sounds like a cover story for greed to me.

    I sure hope some of the much-vaunted "nice" private school parents speak up here, because this is an ugly impression--can't get the trophy school you want in the lottery, throw a tantrum, take your marbles to your castle and pull up the drawbridge. Sick and selfish. Please tell me that the rest of you will promise to walk precincts for the next parcel tax increase for the schools.

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  49. Geez...folks also lie on their resumes but that does not make it right. I think this issue of cheating is going to get worse if SFUSD goes to zones or neighborhood school preference. It is also ironic that those who do not even think they are cheating, are in fact cheating. FYI nursery school = preschool.

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  50. sorry that last responding to 1:47

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  51. I posted on a previous thread that my big piece of advice was to read the entire enrollment guide to find out how the system purports to work. If you do that, you can avoid a lot of the debate about whether to lie/not lie. The diversity index is not looking for one magic profile. And it's not looking for some of the factors that people at the party were suggesting one should lie about.

    After attending dozens of birthday parties over the years where the #1 topic is K admission, I can tell you there are a lot of urban legends out there. I'm not saying there aren't people who have "cheated" and gotten away with it, but there are also stories that get twisted and changed after years of re-telling and passing them from stressed-out parent to stressed-out parent.

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  52. "Please tell us that you and your private school friends wouldn't really punish our city's or state's children in any upcoming school funding votes because you are in a snit over lottery unluckiness. You understand that would be immature and short-sighted in terms of our state's future, right? Especially from someone who values education so much you are paying through the nose for it, and are privileged enough to be able to afford it. You do know that you are privileged, don't you?"


    Not on your high horse, are you?
    What exactly is a "private school friend?" Why the assumption of privilege?

    Most of the parents I know would not be considered to be exceptionally privileged. They're a lot like Claire, the new blogger. They gave the lottery a try. They were honest. It didn't work out. To June's original post, they tried, failed and gave up on a system that is quite arbitrary and poorly enforced.

    It is not a matter of being in a snit or punishing the public school system. It is a matter of devoting one's time and resources to where it will yield a result and be appreciated.

    I'd love to talk about this, but I'm volunteering at my child's school and need to get to some school emails. No longer have much time to worry about the lottery or the public schools.

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  53. to 2:42, who is also 1:47, right?

    I have no problem with you volunteering your time in your child's well-appointed classroom. That is your choice, your life.

    I took exception to your statements that the "thirty or forty parents" you have talked with "who now have their kids in private school" after a hard time in the lottery "no longer advocate for public schools ....and are now devoted to bettering their children's private school," and that we should not expect these parents to "cough up for the next education prop vote."

    Sure sounds like a snit to me.

    What you are saying is that if you don't get the school you want in the lottery that it's okay to withdraw your care, concern, and votes from the children of our society, the vast majority of whom attend public school. That is obnoxious, selfish, and repugnant--and also plays into the worst stereotype of private school parents who only care about their own kids (I haven't believed it, but you are making it sound like there is some truth in the stereotype.)

    However one feels about how the most popular spots are allocated--and I think one could argue that the lottery, while flawed, is the most fair system we've ever had--what does that have to do with supporting, at least with your votes if not your time, the efforts to improve our schools for all children?

    Btw, you didn't say which schools you and your thirty or forty friends got unlucky at, but we can all guess. You say the lottery is arbitrary. Well, yeah, that's the feature of it, not the bug. For schools that are wildly popular, there is a *lottery* that is actually hard to game, and that drives people crazy because they can't control it. The control you do have is in making savvy picks. I have not known anyone who did that who didn't get something decent in the end--I say that acknowledging that there are some schools I wouldn't accept for my child. It's pretty clear ahead of time which are the long-shot schools so I am mystified by the anger that arises around the results. It's supply and demand, that's all. I hope you will reconsider your directing this anger at the children though.

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  54. Is this your full time job now, responding ad nauseum to parents who are frustrated with the school lottery?

    I'm glad our tax payer dollars are going toward your salary. How remarkable that you can sit there and judge on high parents who have painfully struggled to find a good education for their children.

    Is it really any wonder that parents are increasingly withdrawing the support of public school education?

    I'm beyond caring at this point, but it is horrifying to see how imperious some of these school officials have become.

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  55. I know of at least two families that got in on round 1 to Miraloma by saying their child didn't attend preschool. They in fact went to Miraloma Co-op which I think the district didn't intend by the question to be an "out" for those who had the opportunity to not work full time and have their kids at a "nursery school" which they justified isn't technically a preschool.

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  56. to 3:56 who notes:
    How remarkable that you can sit there and judge on high parents who have painfully struggled to find a good education for their children.
    ----------

    Hey, virtually EVERY parent I know, public or private, English speaking or not, struggles hard to find and get a good education for their children.

    Don't assume that because you chose private you 'care more'. It is simply not so.

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  57. I know someone whose kid didn't get into any of her seven picks. She got her dad, a former top union official, to make a call and, within two days, she had gotten into one of the 7 top schools in SF. Now before everyone starts bombarding me saying that "how do you know" and like, let me say that she, herself, said that it couldn't be anything else but her dad's pull. She was embarrassed about it, wished it didn't happen, but felt she didn't have an alternative at the point she got her dad involved.

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  58. 3:56 pm:

    "Is this your full time job now, responding ad nauseum to parents who are frustrated with the school lottery?"

    You have no idea whether 3:11 pm works for SFUSD or not. Calm down.

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  59. We got into our top choice after Round 2. Nobody made any calls for us. Nobody lied on their paperwork.

    We applied to 8 private schools and spent nearly $1000 on application fees and babysitters to cover for us while we attended various private school events, including tours, kids' screenings (a.k.a. "playdates") and interviews. We also spent lots of time on our application essays.

    We were waitlisted at ALL of our private school choices and suspect our need for financial aid was likely a big factor.

    Yeah, the SFUSD lottery doesn't work for everyone (especially not Round 1) but it also takes a lot less effort and cash to "play."

    BTW: EVERYONE from our preschool who stuck to the SFUSD system is now enrolled in one of their top 7 choices. Most of the private school families we know gave up in March.

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  60. The issue being discussed in this thread isn't whether some parents got one of the seven choices or not.

    The issue is whether the items on the application form are being verified and fairly applied.

    Apart from a few suggestions of checking on residency at a few schools, I've not heard from anyone in the know as to whether there is verification of the items on the form.

    I've also noticed that amongst professionals, there seems to be a remarkable correspondence between success in the lottery and a profession such as doctor, social worker or teacher.

    Other professions such as IT professional, attorney or engineer seem to correlate poorly with lottery success.

    So it is perhaps the case that the school board is using information about the careers or degrees of the parents (even though it says it does not.)

    Just a guess.

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  61. The parents profession isn't even considered by the algorithm.

    Perhaps engineers and attorneys are more fixated on the high scoring schools and are listing only the usual suspects on their form?

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  62. "Perhaps engineers and attorneys are more fixated on the high scoring schools and are listing only the usual suspects on their form?"

    Not a biased statement?

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  63. "Is this your full time job now, responding ad nauseum to parents who are frustrated with the school lottery?"

    Paranoid much?

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  64. I'm the person who posted the rant at 3:11 (sorry, everyone, but it was an appalling statement to suggest that those who didn't get their lottery choices should be withdrawing their votes for school funding).

    So anyway, I don't work for the school district. I'm a single parent who works full time who has two children in our public schools.

    What the person who posted at 5:50 said has been my perception as well. Most (not all) private school parents who lament the lottery gave up in March or April. Many (not all) applied to mainly the so-called trophy schools, because they were working on other options and figured they could shoot the moon. I could not do that, because I didn't have other options. But that's okay, because we love our non-trophy and less-crowded school. But it is a little rich to hear a private school parent talking about a "painful" process with the lottery.

    Give me a break. Half the kids in this town qualify for free lunch, whereas you are able pay a premium price to send your kid to a rarified school, and you say your experience with the lottery is "painful." I think we just learned a new way to define the word entitlement. I stand by my earlier rant, with apologies to all private school parents who are not jackasses like this one and who care very much about all our kids regardless of their choice of schools.

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  65. "Turned normally responsible, law-abiding parents into cheaters?"

    Nothing turns people into cheaters. We all decide for ourselves.

    These people are cheaters. They are responsible for their choices.

    No excuses or absolution.

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  66. "Other professions such as IT professional, attorney or engineer seem to correlate poorly with lottery success."

    Engineer here. Got our second choice.

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  67. Congrats, Engineer.

    Of course this whole theme is based on someone saying "I've noticed that...." I myself know plenty of ITs, engineers, and attorneys who have gotten one of their choices in the lottery. But so what? This is anecdotal. I'm not aware of any collection of actual data of parents' professions in this process. They do collect information on education level (level of degree), but it isn't used in the lottery. It is used to track, in a general sense, educational outcomes.

    Point is, this conversation about engineers versus teachers in the lottery is more than a little silly and we shouldn't take the bait.

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  68. We heard about this "cheating the system" business last year when we were applying for kindergartens. I was worried about being "the only one NOT doing it".... but my husband and I talked and just felt that it would be really bad karma for our children to start their years of education off on a lie. We ended up getting assigned to the Chinese Immersion School at De Avila, and we are loving it. My little girl is thriving, and the community is enormously giving and honest. I think this whole "gaming the system" is a total sham and it doesn't matter at the end of the day. Don't do it -- noone will know but you, and you will have to live with it for the rest of you life.

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  69. Perhaps engineers and attorneys are more fixated on the high scoring schools and are listing only the usual suspects on their form?

    I would hope so. That's what we did.

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  70. "it was an appalling statement to suggest that those who didn't get their lottery choices should be withdrawing their votes for school funding)."

    Suggesting that when parents, who formerly had been public school advocates, end up putting their kids in private school, reduces support for public schools is not a statement of intent. It is a statement of observation, appalling as that may be.

    I am not suggesting that this a desireable situation. However, I don't know too many people who are forking out $40,000 a year for private school who are going to be too jazzed about donating time and energy to their local public school. They're going to look at that prop A tax increase they just voted for and say, "Hey, that's enough!"

    So go ahead and be appalled. But stop pointing the finger only at private school parents.

    Parents on this blog are all so confident to point out that school test scores are highly correlated with race. That is true.

    Yes, it is appalling that some parents don't value academic learning and don't read or do arithmetic with their children.
    It is appalling that some parents have many more children than they can reasonably expect to spend time with or educate.

    It is appalling that some parents game the system in any number of ways.

    Of course, that is not the only reason for poor school performance. But it does need to be talked about.

    Go ahead and be appalled, but stop pointing the finger only at parents who have opted out of public schools.

    And back to the June's original point. Hiding behind an arbitrary and unenforced admissions process does not increase tax payer confidence in the public schools.

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  71. Reading this, I'm with Warren Buffett. We should raise tax rates on the wealthy and outlaw private school altogether. We'd all be amazed to have much better public schools for all. It would be the best solution for the majority of us who cannot afford private school.

    (No, I don't think this idea is feasible or in any likely. But if it is true that many parents who can afford $40,000 for private school don't want to help other kids who are much more needy, then I say, screw 'em. I'll do whatever I can as a voter to get them to pay their fair share.)

    Regarding the original point. The amount of cheating, deplorable as that is, is very, very, very small. Hiding behind this issue as a reason not to support more money for our cash-strapped schools is ridiculous. There is less cheating now than there ever was under OER. There is less cheating in this system than there is in Piedmont, or Oakland, or other residence-based systems. SFUSD has already tightened up on the language issue and dropped the parental education question. Who is to say that any moment they won't start asking for documentation on the other questions? You are signing your name to a legal document when you submit this application. Seriously, the cheaters are a tiny group (although, yeah, shame on them too for trying to take the place of a truly needy child).

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  72. Perhaps engineers and attorneys are more fixated on the high scoring schools and are listing only the usual suspects on their form?

    Engineer here that went 0/7 2 years in a row. And my property taxes are very large and I hope going to the neighborhood public school who's API scores are over 900. But my kid couldn't get the school. She's not bilingual and our income is decent. But we're not financially "comfortable" because of our high mortgage with our tuition we pay to keep her from going to a school in a neighborhood with a drug problem that we keep getting assigned to. Screw us for being so privileged in a happy marriage and decent jobs and being honest on our application.

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  73. 4:17 I'm sorry. It's true that some neighborhood schools are super-super popular and it sounds like yours is one.

    Did you consider applying for a school that is not quite that popular--but better than the one you keep getting assigned? There are many lovely schools in this town in between those two extremes. That's really the knack of succeeding in this system, is either getting very very lucky, or finding something in that realm.

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  74. Hey, 4:17.

    Other engineer here. Similar situation.

    "Blah, blah, blah . . . did you consider . . . blah, blah, blah"

    How many times do we have to have this conversation? You mean, you weren't willing to put your kids in a school with CST scores in the 30 percent range? Well, bad on you!

    Hey, I guess you're not into hoop jumping the way the school board expects. Oh, but isn't that the problem? Every time we try to hoop jump, we get called for gaming the system. Wouldn't want to do that!

    Yep, screw us awful, horrible, selfish private school people.
    We surely must be the problem.

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  75. Hey 7:40, 5:12 here.

    Since you ask, yes I did put my kids in a school with very un-Clarendon-like test scores, as it happens. It's an immersion school, one that was fairly accessible in the lottery at the time as a "hidden gem" that people disdained, and while test scores have gone up, they are unlikely to ever reach Clarendon's heights because of the ELL population that it serves, by design. It's been great, and we got it in Round 1. There were a few other schools on that list that were probably a good shot if this one didn't work, like Harvey Milk. I didn't have private school backup, so I had to be careful.

    Look, if you think only the highest-scoring schools are acceptable, that's your choice, and I respect that. I'm not calling you a bad, selfish, horrible person (read my post again....). What baffles me though is the rage that some people feel when they make the choice to list only schools with statistically long odds--you are an engineer, right? you must like numbers--and then they don't get one of their choices.

    The way I see it, the system is just a way to allocate super-popular schools. It could be done by your address, as in many places, but that is biased toward those who can choose where to live. In our case, it is done by lottery, with an advantage given to the most poor, needy residents. That's not so unfair, in my book. Frustratingly arbitrary, perhaps, but not unfair.

    The point is, we all know the system. We make our choices about how to play the system. You can either decide that only the super-popular schools will do for your family, in which case you play the long odds (and hopefully have a backup plan). Or you can play more careful odds and end up with a moderately popular school or a hidden gem with mediocre test scores but some promise.....we're not talking the worst of the worst with that strategy, including whatever it was that you were assigned by default.

    It sounds like you played the long odds and got unlucky. I'm sorry. I guess the lucky thing for you is that you have been able to make private school work for you. Most of us never had that choice. So why the rage? You made your choice, and you were lucky to afford backup. I just don't get it.

    That's where, yeah, feel like there is a sense of entitlement operating here. Not that you would choose private over all but a few public options, because that's your own judgment to make, but rather that you would feel so rageful at not being granted entree to one of the topmost popular schools. I mean, get a ticket, buddy. There's like 1,500 people in those shoes....what did you expect.

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  76. we are an engineer + teacher + kids family at a school with low test scores. yes, we chose the school and everything's going fine.

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  77. Hi 8:17 PM

    There is no sense of entitlement.

    I will say again that my beef with the lottery is that it is not enforced. I don't buy it that there are just a few cheaters.

    Also, there is no transparency. It is eminently clear from other posts that the criterion are not disclosed. Statistics are not published about lottery success and are instead buried in the sibling numbers. What are they hiding?

    I don't think it is a true lottery. I believe that preference is sometimes secretly given to city workers. It is very disturbing to contantly hear words like "controlling" projected on 'white' people. That to me is thinly disguised racism. A parent honestly trying to understand how the system works has to deal with that at the school board.

    I also hear frequently that one should have put such and such non-Clarendon school on your application and you would have been OK. Unfortunately, that really depends on where you live in the city. Not all "average" schools are the same. Some have very severe problems that cannot be changed.

    The problems in the public schools are much larger than parents sending their kids to private school. I'm tired of the indignation, racism and invective leveled at private school parents.

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  78. For every frustrated 0/7 who wanted Clarendon and got assigned John Muir, there is a happy family attending Avila and Harvey Milk.

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  79. "Engineer here that went 0/7 2 years in a row. And my property taxes are very large and I hope going to the neighborhood public school who's API scores are over 900."

    I hope your kid learns the difference between "who's" and "whose" in private school, Engineer.

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  80. 8:58

    Where did anyone mention "white" people as being "controlling"? I think you were the first to mention race in this conversation....why?

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  81. "Statistics are not published about lottery success and are instead buried in the sibling numbers. What are they hiding?"

    Nothing. There's no hidden reserve. You can work out the odds of getting in R1 without sibling preference by subtracting the sibling %age (about 30%, but there's probably exact numbers somewhere) from the nominator and denominator of the aggregrate percentage who got in R1 (IIRC, 86% for the elementaries last year). Which gives you a figure of 68%.

    Just FYI, everyone I know who went 0/7 got in to a public they wanted in R2 or the waitpool over the summer.

    Note that about 15% of the districts schools are in the bottom two state ranks. Coincidently, about 14% didn't get a school they wanted in Round 1. These numbers are similar for a reason.

    Roughly, 15% of the capacity of the district is in schools that test-wise for demographics or other reasons, are not doing that great. About half the schools are ranked 7 or greater, and so relative to the median school in the state are doing very well to excellently. The lottery is about how the places in the good schools and the poorer schools get allocated.

    You probably shot for the moon and you didn't get what you felt you were entitled to, that's what happened, friend. You were fortunate enough to be able to afford a contingency plan. Good for you.

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  82. "I believe that preference is sometimes secretly given to city workers."

    I believe you're enforcingpatterns on random data. About a fifth to quarter of my social circle got into "trophy" schools. Which is about the percentage you'd expect. None were city workers.

    Slightly over half my acquaintances got their first choice. Again, the percentage you'd expect.

    Similarly, about half of city workers w/out sibling preference would get their first preference. You probably look at that and think there's some city worker preference. I look at it, do the math in my head, and see the effects of probability. As an engineer, you should do this do.

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  83. 10:31, regarding your question on who referred to white people as controlling, see below. The quote is from the thread "Debbie's Story, Decisions, Decisions" on Sept. 19th. The quote does not directly refer to white people as controlling, but to the middle class as controlling. There are a number of other threads where similar inferences are made.

    "I think the biggest issue middle class+ people have with our system is that we are used to being in control, or being able to figure out how to be in control. We're used to going on line and figuring out the system. But the lottery doesn't let us do that. The only thing we can control is whether we apply for super-popular schools or not (or a mix) in order to improve our odds of getting one. "

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  84. 11:08,

    I'm not enforcing patterns on random data. If you read through this thread and previous threads, you will read specific references to people who know someone who specifically and knowingly used a personal connection to get into a school.

    As a human being, I think I am capable of recognizing corruption and insider influence when I hear about it.


    There are no audits of the lottery. As I have said before, there is little fully disclosed data about wait lists (due to the sibling preference.) There is little data published by address or any of the diversity criterion. These would all be very helpful to perspective lottery participants, but the data is not published.

    So, basically, we would never know if the school board was cheating our not.

    Hey, we trusted Bernie Madoff and the banks too. It is kind of foolish to think that any organization will operate honestly without full disclosure.

    It is kind of surprising that the school board can do this, since it operates with funds from the public purse.

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  85. "I'm not enforcing patterns on random data. If you read through this thread and previous threads, you will read specific references to people who know someone who specifically and knowingly used a personal connection to get into a school."

    I don't know anybody in my friends, acquainances, or anyone within one degree of separation who used personal connections to get into a SFUSD school.

    However, I do know people in Marin and Piedmont school districts who faked their addresses to game those systems. And I know much fewer people in Marin and Piedmont than in SF. So it seems to me the lottery is gamed less than neighbourhood systems.

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

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  86. "As I have said before, there is little fully disclosed data about wait lists (due to the sibling preference.) "

    This makes no sense. The numbers of sibs in the waitpools are minimal relative to other cohorts, because of the sibling preference in R1 and R2. As is evident if you ever looked at the waitpool data that's released roughly monthly. Which I'm wondering if you ever did.

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  87. For every frustrated 0/7 who wanted Clarendon and got assigned John Muir, there is a happy family attending Avila and Harvey Milk.

    Some of us pay into the system and want better options for our children.

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  88. "Hey, we trusted Bernie Madoff and the banks too."

    Let me get your logic: Madoff cheated, so other organizations can cheat, therefore SFUSD is cheating.

    What fun! Let me use this logic too:

    The military tortured at Abu Ghraib. Therefore other government agencies may be using torture. SFUSD is a government body, so doubtlessly they're waterboarding people in the basement right as we speak.

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  89. 11:12, okay so to find a reference to race in this conversation you went all the way back one month to September 19 on another thread and located a reference to, well, middle class people. But can you cite an example of an attack on white people on this thread? I think you actually said people here were being racist, and I'm wondering where you saw that. Or are you just inferring it? Again, why?

    Regarding the statement you do quote, would anyone really disagree that most of the angst about the lottery resides in the upper-middle/middle classes in this town? Yes, we do expect to be in control. That's a class-specific trait; in my experience, poor folk don't expect to be in control. So any wonder we get frustrated when it turns out we aren't, really, like when our 401(k) fund tanks. Not really news, and not provocative. It's not an attack on you, or on private school parents. I think it indicts practically this whole blog, honestly, and I include myself, but try to laugh about it. This blog is like the "What to Expect" book for the kindergarten search.

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  90. 11:55

    we all pay into the system. we all want better options for our children and hopefully all children. so what are you going to do about it?

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  91. "Some of us pay into the system and want better options for our children."

    And the rest of us want worse options for our children of course. You'll get a nosebleed from sitting so high on that horse.

    The option you have is the same, quality-wise, as San Mateo's or Mountain View's or Alameda's with distinctly more challenging demographics.

    You can't fit a gallon into a pint pot. You can't fit all kids the kids in the district into Clarendon or Rooftop.

    You may say but all schools should be good; well, that's what we're seen over the past 5-10 years as the number of SFUSD elementary schools considered "acceptable" by the chattering classes went from 10 to 30 to now around 45-55. It takes time to change. And I'd argue the lottery has been a component in this, in how it shapes the behaviour of parents and the district in a quasi-market.

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  92. Calm down, 12:07 AM. Obviously, some people don't think that Avila and Harvey Milk are good enough options. And if they earn enough that they can afford to move to Mill Valley or Piedmont if that's what the "lottery" assigns them, what's the issue?

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  93. It's actually De Avila, which will soon be very successful school by all markers, including lottery popularity.

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  94. I agree with 12:07. I think the current system has been responsible for folks now considering schools that were deemed "completely unacceptable" in the past. I'm worried that when the system is redesigned, the 'cheating' will take the form of folks faking their addresses to get into a desirable public school--much like what happens in Manhattan. I live in the SE section of the city and we can't afford to move, so we're screwed.

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  95. "we all pay into the system. we all want better options for our children and hopefully all children. so what are you going to do about it?"

    What can we do to improve education?

    For starters, we can't continue with our current immigration policy. The birth rate amongst immigrants from Mexico, who have almost all entered the country illegally, is four children per family. These immigrants form 64% of all illegal immigrants. Their birth rate is twice that of almost every other demographic group in the state. They are mostly unskilled and do not pay into the tax base in proportion to the amount they draw out. Research shows that this trend persists even into the third generation.

    Latino immigrants from Mexico are also the least upwardly mobile of any large immigrant group.

    By comparison, the birth rate in Mexico itself is 2.4 children per family. Apparently, Mexico can't sustain a birth rate beyond 2.4 children per woman, but California can.

    I don't think there are too many of us, even with two professional salaries, who could provide for and send four children to college.

    If we started to deal honestly with this elephant-in-the- livingroom problem, we might then be able to get to other problems such as reversing prop 13.

    But until then, I don't think there will be much political will, or dollars, to improve public education.

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  96. People love to rail about how it is the immigrants' fault. The system led has created the upsurge in immigration is large and complex and does not start with the immigrants themselves, so I hope this does not turn into an immigrant-bashing theme.

    That said, we do need comprehensive immigration reform. Along with better controls, it has to include a reasonable pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented people who are already here. For those who want to punish them for being "illegals" I can only say, there are bigger forces at work that led to the situation, and it makes NO practical sense to send them home. They are integral to our economy, in most cases extremely hard-working, and their kids are essentially Americans. The economies of their home countries cannot absorb them. Better to regularize their status so they can pay into the system, stay healthy, send their kids to college (we also need to pass the Dream Act by the way) and generally join the mainstream.

    We also need to strengthen labor laws as part of the package. I fear that business will push for a guest worker program that limits immigrants' rights and allows them to be exploited. Better to improve the quality of our lower-end jobs so that people who already live here will take them. Trade unions and enforcement of strengthened labor laws would help this happen, a lot.

    I understand there is an emotional appeal to not funding schools because they serve undocumented kids. I don't agree with this from a moral perspective, but there is also a practical argument. These kids are sticking around. We really want them to be uneducated? They'll be the backbone of the economy when we are hoping to be drawing our retirement.

    Unfortuntately this issue gets demogogued to death in the Congress, so no progress has been made even though most reasonable people agree it should be addressed.

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  97. 11:55 a.m.: What do you mean?

    BETTER than Avila? BETTER than Harvey Milk? I challenge you to spend a morning (not 5 minutes, a *morning*) observing the kindergarten classes in these two schools. You will walk away with true admiration of the teaching staff of both schools. They are rock stars. I have not seen better teachers at the privates I toured. We know Ivy-educated parents with very high standards who are THRILLED to send their kids to Harvey Milk and Avila. But most of the John Muir-assigned set didn't even try for those schools and obsessed about Clarendon, Rooftop, McKinley and Grattan instead.

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  98. Not everybody assigned to John Muir wants Chinese immersion, which is the only thing available at DeAvila. Not everybody assigned to John Muir got Harvey Milk (I listed it in Round 1 and did not get it). Not everybody assigned to John Muir requested Rooftop or McKinley (though I will cop to having requested Clarendon and Grattan.) And everybody keeps talking about how wonderful the kindergarten teachers are. That's all well and good, but people want a school for the next 6 to 9 years, not just kindergarten.

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  99. Harvey Milk = 5 (per greatschools.net)

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  100. Harvey Milk is a beautiful school with a diverse population and a conscious focus on how to be a community with diversity, including racial/ethnic and LGBT. The sense of community is one of its strengths, but that is not reflected in the metrics used by greatschools. And par for the course, advantaged kids there do fine on test scores. It's a great location too with the Eureka playground, access to MUNI Metro for field trips, and surrounding hills for nature/science exploration.

    Longtime readers may remember Leanne Waldal, who posted a main thread last year looking for a school in the area that is particularly gay-friendly. Her kid ended up at Milk. (Would be cool to have an update from her on how it's going).

    Anyway, it may not be for everyone, but it is not really comparable to some of the default assignments in terms of level of organization and programming (by which I mean, it's better). I'd send my kid there in a second if we hadn't gotten our higher choice immersion school.

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  101. "I understand there is an emotional appeal to not funding schools because they serve undocumented kids."

    "I don't agree with this from a moral perspective, but there is also a practical argument. These kids are sticking around. We really want them to be uneducated?"

    No, we don't want any children to be uneducated. I fully understand the moral obligation to every child.

    We also have a moral obligation as parents to not have more children than we can educate. This includes delaying parenting until one has enough resources. It includes having the time to devote to one's children and to their overall development.

    Unfortunately, Latina immigrants very often have children in their teens. The California Counts statistics indicate that the fertility rate for this group is 4, compared to 2 or less for everybody else.

    "They'll be the backbone of the economy when we are hoping to be drawing our retirement."

    Unfortunately, the children of Latina immigrants, primarily from Mexico, are unlikely to be the backbone of our economy in the 21st century if we are to look at current test score trends. High birth rate, high teen pregnancy rate and limited cultural understanding of the requirements for college readiness will severely limit the potential of most of these children.

    It is true that many of these families are hard working. However, there are only so many contruction, landscaping, restaurant and nanny jobs to go around. These jobs pay poorly. Hard physical labor does not raise four children in the 21st century in California. Many years of hard intellectual preparation and work may prepare a family to raise two children. Statistically speaking, that is the number that a professional family can sustainably educate and prepare to be the "backbone of our economy when we retire."

    The trend of the last twenty years of very high Latina birth rate and high teen pregnancy rate has reached the point were it is imposing great strain on public schools, particularly in Southern California. However, it affects all California schools, not just in terms of funding per head, but in terms of the number of children in a class who have enough support at home to help and encourage them study. Teachers cannot take up all the slack of what is not being done at home.

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  102. You want lower fertility rates? Provide pathways to education for girls and women. Works all over the world.

    I don't deny that the California schools are particularly challenged by the ELL population, but what's your takeaway point? You suggest that the political will is not there for education because of them. Problem is, the opposite is what is needed.

    I say, pass the Dream Act so that kids can go to college. Re-fund our community colleges, CSUs and the UC, because these are the main options for post-high school education for our immigrant kids; however, tuition for UC is going up 42% next year which will price most of them out. And re-fund our schools from pre-K through 12 while you are at it.

    Then, pass immigration reform and regularize the 12 million so that families can stop hiding out in isolation from the mainstream.

    Finally, reform labor laws and enforce them and also focus on development of quality jobs in growing sectors. The Obama folks are doing this to some extent--e.g., money for long-term job development in the long-term care field. These are low-paid jobs currently staffed by immigrant workers. They need more training and better quality pay and benefits. The people being cared for need this too! If we focus on it, we can create pathways to better-quality jobs for our immigrant workforce. It hasn't been focused on. Too easy to hire people under the table to do that sort of work.

    You think these parents don't want a better life for their kids? I know many women who work as domestic workers, and I don't know one who wants her daughter to do the same. There ARE policies that can improve this situation and we should implement them, instead of bemoaning what a big burden we have. It is possible to rebuild California. But it will take resources (federal and state) and an investment in human capital. Complaining about immigrants and the number of children they have doesn't actually help anyone.

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  103. "You want lower fertility rates? Provide pathways to education for girls and women. Works all over the world."

    Yes, I am a long time member of Pathfinders International, an organization that does just that.

    Many of your suggestions are wonderful and we should be providing scholarships for immigrant families. We should coming up with a legal agricultural workers program.

    The problem is that we can't be funding college for half the children of California, most of whom are not college ready anyway.

    What's my point? There is a reason that there is legal immigration. The point is to put curbs on immigration so you don't have more people on the bottom than you can help.

    Twenty years of illegal immigration have severely limited our ability to help the most disadvantaged.

    There is not money raining down out of the sky. Many high end jobs have gone to China, including many semiconductor test jobs that second generation Latino immigrants used to get.

    I'd also point out that the birth rate in Mexico is 2.4. The high birth rate of Latinas in California, 4, is not a matter of education only. It is also a matter of choice.

    You probably won't like this, but I like Charlie Schumer's suggestions for immigration reform, including the e-verify system. We really need to stop illegal immigration and curb high birth rate and teen pregnancy.

    More spending, in my opinion, at least for the time being, won't fix our current problems.

    California is full up. Overflowing. Our green spaces are disappearing. Our schools are in trouble. Our beloved UC University System is in danger. Our high paying jobs are heading overseas, partly because we are not producing enough college grads in science and engineering. Any hope for climate change mitigration is quickly going out the window as we continue to increase our population.

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  104. 2:02, actually I support comprehensive immigration reform, which would include curbs on future immigration. My only axe to grind there is that you hear a lot about enforcement without hearing about the folks that are here, who need to be regularized and supported with investments in education, training, job pathways, and labor protection. It's both at once--curbs and support for those who are here. (Again, I realize many want to punish those who are here, but for various moral and practical reasons we will be better off if we take the opposite tack).

    But yes, this will take spending, and all I hear is the enforcement part, which frankly will not work by itself. I believe both/and is what needs to happen politically and practically. We have a whole class of folks living in fear right now....addressing your fertility issue is not going to happen until they are allowed to function in the mainstream.

    Why high-paying jobs are headed overseas is a little more complex than you suggest, although our lack of investment in human capital relative to China and other parts of Asia is certainly a part of it.

    Regarding climate change mitigation, that can really only be addressed in tandem with the whole world, so local immigration issues are not the point. It's not a problem that manifests locally, but rather globally, no matter where it originates! California being less crowded will not make a difference if human impact is higher than ever in Mexico, Brazil, China, India.

    Actually, California in its usual contradictorily loopy way is a leader in climate change mitigation (AB 32 and participation in the Western Climate Change Initiative--which even if it doesn't go forward is having an impact on the national debate--plus various regulations on autos and so forth). So even as we won't raise funds to invest in human capital, we are leaders (for America anyway) on this other issue. Go figure.

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  105. Do people really go by the ratings at GreatSchools.net?

    That is just foolish.

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  106. Yup. Some people do.
    The greatschools.net rating is supposedly based partially on test scores, so hopefully people look more at those and the comments to get a better picture of the school.

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  107. Hi 2:38,

    Seems we're on the same page, surprisingly enough. The raids and terrifying treatment are unworkable and unacceptable.

    Yes, agreed that climate change is a global issue. I am just pointing out that population increases in the US are more serious than in other countries because our per capita C02 expenditure is very high.

    I would add that something needs to be done to stabilize the situation in Mexico. We can't expect people to want to stay there and build the future of Mexico under the current situation. The Obama administration has made some initial steps, but a lot more needs to be done.

    This is really an aside, but if you are involved in the Latino community, please tell them about Quinteto Latino, a woodwind quartet that plays and promotes classical music composed in Latin America:

    http://quintetolatino.org/

    Maybe you should start a thread here on immigration reform as it pertains to SF or California schools.

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  108. Do people really use the greatschools rating?

    I don't know what other people do. This is what I do:
    As a quick eyeball check, yes, but I then almost always then check the CST scores in grade four and five, or higher if it is a K-8.

    I also check things like the acheivement gap, because I think it a measure of teaching excellence if a school can bring up the test scores of disadvantaged kids.

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  109. To 5:50 PM - why is that foolish? I think Kate touted recently that SF schools went up a notch in the Great Schools ratings, so clearly some informed people use this as part of their decision making process.

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  110. It is foolish to focus on test scores.

    1) The school averages are not indicative of what a child like yours might achieve at that school. Alvarado's API is quite a bit lower than Clarendon's. But the white kids at Alvarado are scoring nearly 950, which is pretty much what they're scoring at Clarendon.

    2) If a school is in transition and has started attracting more middle class families, the influx of those families will not be reflected in the scores until that first crop of kindergarteners is in an upper grade. So check the scores for 4th and 5th graders all you want, but if their demographic profile is significantly different from that of the current kindergarten class, the results are not that telling.

    3) High test scores might be indicative of teaching to the test, which may or may not be the richest kind of learning experience.

    They don't call the API the "AFfluent Parent Index" for nothing...

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  111. 8:10--2:38 again. Yes, it sounds like we are more in agreement than not. Sometimes it is a matter of emphasis, or of perceived audience.

    Thanks for the link to Quinteto Latino. Cool to see that they have been part of the SF Symphony's Adventures in Music program in the SF public schools. My kids have always enjoyed those sessions and have been exposed to many different musical cultures that way--Chinese classical music, jazz, etc.

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  112. 9:58 . . . It is foolish to focus on test scores?

    Obviously, focusing on test scores alone is not a good idea.

    You speak of Alvarado. Yes, Avarado has a 950 or something like that for Caucasian kids in upper grade math and science. You can see that by checking the greatschools CST data by subgroup.

    Alvarado also has quite good scores for Latino kids. I find it rather troubling to check only the demographic data of one's own child and not be concerned about the overall performance of all the kids in a school.

    It is true that some schools are in transition. If anyone has followed this blog closely, we all have a good idea of which schools those are. Again, you can start to see those changes in the CST data: Drastic improvements in Jose Ortega and New Tranditions second grade math scores, for example.

    It is true that some schools may be teaching to the test. But I do believe that the best teachers teach beyond the test. Their great teaching is coincidentally reflected by good test scores.

    It is very difficult to know where all the great teachers are in the city. Parents can't tour every class room. Test scores are a good place to start.

    So, I absolutely don't agree that it is foolish to focus on test scores. Perhaps it is foolish to focus ONLY on test scores.

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  113. "Obviously, focusing on test scores alone is not a good idea."

    What 9:30 said. . It can also indicate how kids are faring after the class size increase in 4th grade. You can also use it to assess whether a school has high scores largely because of its teaching, or because of its favorable demographics (e.g. Rooftop underperforms in test scores relative to other schools with similar socioeconomic intakes [e.g. Claire Lillienthal or Clarendon]). E.R. Taylor and Moscone overperform given socioeconomics of their students. So the test scores, even Greatschools aggregate numbers, tell you a lot about a school.

    Disciplinary records are also a good indicator of the internal dynamics of a school, although if there's been a recent change in principal a high or low rate of disciplinary incidents may just reflect a change in the strictness/laxity of the new principal (e.g. if a stricter principal comes in after a more laissez-faire one, then you'd expect suspensions to increase as the stricter principal tightens discipline up).

    In general, there's a buttload of information available on the publics, and these can supplement your decision.

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  114. 9:53 AM

    Thanks! Very helpful.

    All to 11:29PM and all classical music lovers, there is a great and very inexpensive concert music series at Old First Church on Van Ness:

    http://www.oldfirstconcerts.org/

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  115. If there are more suspensions: Does that mean there are more out of control kids with disciplinary issues, or does it just mean the principal is stricter?

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  116. I've wondered the same thing 10:28.

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  117. I would suspect that parents would have to have a look at the number and severity of disciplinary records and weigh that against other things they know about a school.

    Like test scores, they could be an aid to future investigation, or confirm what a parent already suspects, rather than a blind yes/no on a particular school.

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  118. A school with few suspensions could have a ton of out-of-control kids with disciplinary issues and a lackadaisical principal who does nothing.

    Or it could have an easy-going, well behaved student body with no need for suspensions.

    You can't really tell much from looking at that number.

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  119. "If there are more suspensions: Does that mean there are more out of control kids with disciplinary issues, or does it just mean the principal is stricter?"

    That's one thing you could get a feel from on a tour, by getting a sense of the principal's personality.

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  120. Wow, some folks here are really acerbic...I'll try to tone it down a little and have a real conversation.

    We applied to the public schools for two years, and were 0/7 both years. The first year, we toured 12 schools and many of our picks were admittedly the "trophy" schools. After going 0/7 last year, we searched harder this year (toured about 7 more public schools) for the "hidden gems" and picked schools in the middle of the pack that we could live with--in the hope that maybe we could get one. Again, we went 0/7. Also got nothing in the waitlist process both years. In both years, we were assigned to John Muir Elementary. I am NOT sending my daughter there, and I'm not willing to stick it out in the wait list process--I know people who swore "you WILL get in" and I saw the waitlists not clear out at the schools I would want to get in to.

    In the second year, we also toured 12 private schools (child was old enough to go to private school at that time), and we applied to 8. We got into 5/8, and I believe this is because we have toured SO many schools and talked to SO many educators that we can talk the talk to get us in (and write the essays, and of course our daughter is a dream :) ). I feel that the private application process, while flawed, was at least directly influenced by real factors (debate them if you will), while the public process is driven by randomness (at least so I hope, but am not so naive to believe that Willie Brown's kids didn't get their school choice by randomness).

    We got into, and chose, one of the most sought-after private schools. Some friends of ours at a "trophy" public school have become disenchanted with their school. So far, our private school has been a real dream.

    C'mon folks, let's be real, here are the realities:

    - public school API scores are directly correlated to ethnic breakdown at the schools

    - the lottery system is a joke. It drives folks away from the public school system. This system is ultimately "fair", but for some reason I don't like the end result of driving those who can afford something better away.

    - lying on your application will get an advantage, just as with so many other things in life. I don't want to be that kind of person, though.

    - CA schools are waaaay underfunded and are not nearly as good as the good private schools in most aspects. The class sizes are too large, the teachers don't seem engaged, and overall, the public schools simply don't have the $$$ to offer all of the things needed for a complete and rounded education (specifically: PE, science, anything non-basic skill focus). One could say that most private schools aren't "worth it", but (in my opinion) they are certainly better.

    - parent attitude and involvement must be variable #1, whether public or private. I'm sure if you're an involved parent, your child will probably achieve up to their potential--otherwise the child won't get what they can out of their environment.

    - personally, I want the *best* environment for my child regardless of cost. I don't care if that means that I pay through the nose to go to a private school that is 1% better.

    At least this is my experience in San Francisco....

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  121. Well, I'm glad you are happy now, 12:00am. Sounds like you went you went through a big process there.

    I don't know about toning it down and having "real" conversation, though. There is much in your post that is highly debatable or frankly flat wrong. I'm so tired of hearing the cliches. There's enough self-justifying on all sides of the private/public debate. I just think a "real" conversation should start with acknowledging at least the grain of truth in the other side's perspective. There wouldn't be a debate at all if there were not truth to go around.

    I think most of us understand that many of the private schools provide amenities that are very attractive. And I think most of us understand that there is a subset of public schools that most of us would be reluctant at best to send our children to. There are choices many of us would make easily if presented with stark divison. But that's not where the action is for most of us. Which is to say the bright line between public schools and private schools that you are drawing is simply not as clear and bright as you are suggesting.

    Just for a few examples, I take strong exception to your blanket statement that our teachers "don't seem engaged." I don't know which schools you toured, but my kids' teachers have been some of the most dedicated, hard-working, engaged people I know when it comes to my kids. They are heroes, truly. It's incredible to me that you would say that about our teachers across the board.

    Also, I don't know of any schools that are not offering science, PE, and some kind of art program. Are they as fancy as those offered by the private schools? In some cases no. In other cases, yes. There are many unique and interesting programs that are not available at most private schools, including Montessori at Cobb, numerous immersion and FLES programs, and a new International Baccalaureate program at Flynn, the only one in SF.

    So this is where assessing value comes in. You say you would pay through the nose for a school that is 1% better. That's your choice, of course, but it's not a choice all or even most of us would make--and of course many of us can't make. That doesn't make us less virtuous or caring parents. Perhaps there are other values in play for us than paying any amount for the "best" school.

    I'm sorry, but I don't get what point you are making about ethnic groups and API scores. I think we all understand that there are correlations. Is that supposed to push us to private school? I love the learning-in-diversity we are getting in the publics.

    Also, your comments on the lottery are contradictory--are you suggesting that people who can pay for private should be given a chance to work the lottery so they are not driven away when they don't get what they want? But then it really wouldn't be fair. Some people like that the private school process is not fair--they can figure out how to work it, as you did. But a public system should fair.

    Anyway--I guess the point is, I'll stipulate that many of the SF private schools are beautiful places that provide great opportunities for education for those are accepted and who can afford it. If you really want to have a conversation, would you please stop poking at straw men with regard to public schools (no science, no PE, disengaged teachers etc.--wrong wrong wrong)? It's just so not true for the majority of our schools and does a disservice to the hundreds of teachers and parents who are working hard to provide these things.

    Finally, I agree with you that parental engagement is the #1 factor. That's one reason why I haven't felt the need to pay through the nose. My kids have a quite decent school and more importantly they have their involved family. They're doing great!

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  122. Hi 12:00 AM,

    Thank you for taking the time to describe your application process.

    It is true that many people, a large and undisclosed number, go 0/7 with the schools, even when they do their best to not pick trophy schools.

    There are some public schools that have excellent, engaged, even heroic teachers. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to go around.

    Somebody has to get bumped in the lottery or we wouldn't need a lottery. There would be enough immersion programs and good teachers to go around. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

    1:24 AM, please make an effort to be honest with parents about special programs in the public schools:

    Cobb does not appear to be open for application to kids that have not already attended a similar preschool.

    The good immersion programs in the city are few and far between, especially in Spanish. I can think of only one school that has good math and science teaching within an excellent Spanish immersion program.

    The FLES programs are unlikely to lead to language proficiency for a child who does not also speak that language at home.

    Science teaching is not an extra. Science test scores in public schools in this city are generally poor. Science programs are underfunded and even good teachers often not trained to teach them.

    It is false to say that the schools are generally fine, that test scores don't mean anything, and that the non-transparency of the lottery doesn't anger people and turn them against the public schools.

    1:24AM, rather than waging a war against frustrated parents who went 0/7 in the lottery, why not pressure the school board to disclose the lottery application data with and without the sibling numbers, as well as by zip of the families? Why not pressure them to conduct audits to check to see if people were honest on their application? Why not push school officials to come up with a fairer application system, because, judging by what I heard on NPR last Spring, it sure doesn't sound like the new system will be any better.

    Unless something isn't done, there will more middle class parents leaving the city or going private, and less support for public schools.

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  123. 12:00 a.m. - thanks for your honesty. A number of folks seems to bash private schools because they cost $$$. Not sure if they have even ever toured one. Public school parents go on and on and on about talking to parents who attend different schools. When private school parents talk about the wonderful offerings of their school it is somehow a negative. While not everyone can afford it, those who have not applied and submitted financial aid packets have no basis to quibble about the cost. Further, those of you with one parent working households, fess-up before condemning those who go private and complaining it costs too much. I think you are being very real. You tried public schools 2 years in a row and did not get a satisfactory assignment so you went private. Good for you for knowing the system did not work out for you and good for you for letting us know you are happy with your private school placement and think it is worth the cost.

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  124. Being real means acknowledging that the vast majority of families cannot afford private school, period. Being real means acknowledging that full financial packages are few and far between and that most families in this town could not afford even even a partial scholarship. Being real means acknowledging that last year many people who applied for financial aid found themselves SOL in the private school application process. Being real means acknowledging that the middle class families who "afforded" private school in the past based on second mortgages and credit lines in years past may be finding that that is not possible in the current economy with housing prices down, credit tight, and jobs being cut back or being lost altogether.

    Private school is not a sustainable solution for education for most families. It is an option for the few and the lucky. The only sustainable solution on a mass scale and indeed for most families--leaving parochial aside for the moment due to the sectarian issues, which some people like and others can't deal with--is to build up the public schools. That's simply a fact.

    Seriously, it's great if private school worked out for you, but it is maddening to see the same cliches and myths recycled to trash our schools, which are the option most of us have, when they are 1) not true in most of our schools, certainly not the in the blanket terms laid out here; and 2) missing any sense of nuance and description, which is what MOST parents really need in this process in order to participate intelligently in the lottery.

    I'm not trashing private schools--although they are not necessarily perfect either. I just heard a first-person story from an 8th grader about the difficulty of cliques in a very small, well-regarded middle school, and there is nowhere there for this girl to find other friends, and she can't wait to get to a bigger school for high school. But I can't say from that story that *all* private schools have this problem. I also didn't see 1:24am trashing private schools, only responding to this ridiculous notion that we don't have good teachers, science, PE and so forth. Many, many, many of our schools do.

    Most of our SF schools are in the top end of various rankings--I don't follow test scores or rankings religiously, but most score 7 or up on greatschools which relies on test scores among other factors. A significant but minority number of schools are in the bottom by most assessments, including the school where 12:00am was assigned. Yup, that's a bummer, and I probably wouldn't have accepted that assignment either--I would have waitpooled at an acceptable and likely option. But it is wrong to extrapolate from that school and use that experience to try to devalue the very hard work by teachers and parents that is lifting the majority of schools in this town. It's insulting and hurtful, frankly. I don't know why some of you feel you have to do this.

    I don't see middle class parents leaving in greater numbers than they ever have. If anything, I see more of them staying and rolling up their sleeves to help. Applications and overall attendance is up, remember? They had to open up a new school last year (De Avila) to accommodate demand.

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  125. 7:05 p.m. what private schools did you apply to (independent and parochial) and were turned down for financial aid? There is nothing wrong with being proud of your public school (which you did not name) and the efforts put in by the teachers and the parents. However, I for one am sick of this "it costs too much" attitude from those who do not give specifics on being (1) turned down for financial aid at a private/parochial and (2) what a double income earning family makes that renders it impossible to afford private or parochial school (which by the way, is much cheaper than a number of preschools or daycare).

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  126. 9:53

    Really? You want a breakdown to prove unaffordability? Well,

    Applied to several schools--Synergy, SFS, SFFS, Live Oak. Needed financial aid. No acceptances, waitlisted at two but never heard back. Have no idea if this is because they didn't like us or the kid or because we needed aid. Fortunately accepted at one of our public choices and have been happy--and relieved.

    Didn't apply to parochial as not interested in Catholic education.

    Children attended preschool with scholarship support. We are grateful for free afterschool program at kids' school.

    Gross income with 2 FT salaries but fortunately good benefits is $83,000. 2 kids. Yes I know this puts us in the top half of income in SF but $40,000 for 2 kids not incl child care would have been almost 1/2 of gross (not counting taxes taken off the top). We have some elder care expenses. My partner has recently had $$ cut due to state furloughs so the $83,000 figure is actually a highball number right now.

    Would you now like a breakdown of fixed expenses as proof of why we really couldn't live on the remainder of that income minus taxes minus tuition? Let's just say for now that there is a difference between the middle class and the upper middle class when it comes to disposable income.

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  127. Choosing private school has an impact on the community. Not saying it's something one SHOULDN'T do, but it does have an impact, much like driving an SUV or moving into a gated community would have an impact.

    That's not bashing or trashing private schools; it's just pointing out the situation.

    Regarding 12:00's claim that the private school process is better than the SFUSD lottery because the lottery is random -- well, if you "win" the private school process it may feel that way. But the fact is that if you don't "win" the SFUSD lottery, it was sheer -- yes, random - luck or lack thereof. SFUSD knew nothing personal about your child or your family; you were all a faceless number in an algorhythm.

    If a private school rejects your child, it was because your child and your family were judged, tested and found wanting; you and your child weren't as attractive to the private school as some other candidate(s). I know parents who have been devastated by private school rejections, even those who eventually got spots. So if you look at it that way, it's not valid to blast the SFUSD process.

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  128. Algorithm. Morning brain freeze.

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  129. Parents have many choices and obstacles which make some choices more workable than others. First, there is SFUSD and a lottery win or second, SFUSD and an assignment not acceptable. If you get the first then congrats! If the second, then I see the choices as private, parochial, red-shirt if late-year birthday, hold out until school starts on wait list (though no guarantees), homeschool or move. Now, folks have different ideas of what is and is not an acceptable SFUSD assignment. Currently, however, it looks like there are more than 30 schools that get more requests than can be filled. That is a pretty wide net. The path folks take is of their own choosing and for reasons that are justifable to them. There is no right or wrong choice, only a personal one. I am not sure what I will do when confronted with the second option, but I am prepared that I will have to make a choice. I appreciate those who have explained what factors went into their choice and how it has turned out for them.

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  130. I cheated! The system is a joke. If you are white and went to college, your child will be assigned to John Muir. Or worse.

    The entire system is operating illegally and unethically. My child is more important than going along with the reverse-racism PC BS and pretending it is ethics.

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  131. 11:49 AM

    Thanks for being honest and I would suspect that you are not alone.

    Didn't cheat, went 0/7 and ended up with private, but I don't fault your frustration.

    We really wanted either Greek or French immersion, neither of which are available in public.
    Both languages are spoken in our family, as well as English. We didn't score any diversity points for being a Greek-American bilingual Greek-English + Canadian-American bilingual French-English family.

    Was very surprised recently to discover that many in San Francisco consider French to be a rich people's language and not worthy of a public school immersion program.

    A rich people's language?
    It is one of the two official languages of our number one trading partner, Canada and is one of the dominant languages spoken in the European Union and the United Nations. Many African and Caribbean countries speak it. Continuously spoken in San Francisco since the gold rush, surely it is worthy of a public school immersion program.

    Anyway, we are happily in private because of our desire for language immersion.

    I sometimes am sad for not finding such a program in public school, but not at all guilty or apologetic for going private.

    Sorry if there are any spelling or grammar errors in the above, but I have to make lunch.

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  132. 11:49, sounds like you are the one operating illegally and unethnically (and projecting your behavior onto the system to justify your behavior).

    Question: What does being white have to do with the lottery? Or college attendance of the parents for that matter?

    Answer: Nothing. The lottery does not take race or parental education into account.

    So what does race or reverse-racism have to do it again?

    Many of us are not-poor and we didn't get assigned to John Muir. Some of us did, in Round 1, but found schools we liked in subsequent rounds or waitpools.

    Your statements are so over the top that they hurt your case. The lottery is imperfect for sure, and could use some tweaking. Illegal and unethical? No, it's just a way to assign the spots that hundreds of families want. There is probably no airtight system for doing that, but this one's not that bad.

    The more you choose only the most super-popular spots, the more likely you get assigned a very unpopular school. The odds are not hard to figure out ahead of time. Certainly, it is possible to land a spot in a school that many on this list and in the lottery find acceptable, if you play the odds right and/or are patient.

    I obviously can't dispute your preferences though there as they are, well, your preferences. I just don't get the anger directed at a system that is simply trying to allocate a few choice spots when there are 1,000 applicants for the 44 spots. What would be fairer in your opinion? Besides the route you chose, to steal a spot because you think you are more deserving than anyone else....?

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  133. A lot of Noe Valley families got assigned to John Muir. White is the main demographic for Noe Valley.

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  134. 5:52:

    It is 12:30.

    "What does being white have to do with the lottery?"

    While I certainly support the effort to ensure that disadvantaged kids get a leg up in the application process to San Francisco schools, I don't understand the current choice of language immersion programs.

    These programs do give an immediate "in" to native speakers. We currently have immersion programs in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog?, Korean, and Spanish.

    Not all of the native speakers selected for these programs are disadvantaged. Many are affluent.

    I do know that members of the Greek community as well as French speakers are interested in a public school language immersion program. Members of the Japanese and Russian community have so far only been able to secure a FLES program. I heard something about Italian, but don't know much about it.

    I don't know the history of these immersion programs, but they must come at some increased cost to the school system. Perhaps I am wrong.

    I would be curious to know why there are so many Asian language immersion programs and so few Indo-European ones (with the exception of Spanish.)

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  135. 8:30

    Check out the statistics about who are the English-language learners (ELLs) in this city. They are predominantly, by far, Chinese (Cantonese, although that is slowly changing) and Spanish speakers.

    The immersion programs are multipurpose. They help ELLs learn English without losing their native language and culture, and there is evidence that points to the possibility that they learn both languages better in the long run. These programs are also a popular option for primary English-speaking families who wish their kids to be better global citizens through being bilingual.

    The district has suggested that the numbers of French and German ELLs just are not there. Yes, there are strong communities, but nothing like the Chinese! It may be that there are large enough communities of Russians and Vietnamese to give a try. Remember that ideally these programs would be stocked every year with kids who speak the French, the German, etc. Would there be enough demand, year by year? If you can prove that there would be, then you have a case to make. I urge you to try. Talk with the AME yahoo group, which includes folks who have been building the Mandarin programs of late.

    Re Italian, there are enrichment programs at Clarendon and an extracurricular one at Aptos that is sponsored by the Italian consulante. Perhaps a French or German immersion program could attract start-up funding from one of those consulates.

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  136. 6:44, correlation does not equal causation. Check out the post quoting Rachel Norton that Kate posted tonight. The vast, vast majority of those who went 0/7 in the lottery put one or more of the same 11 uber-popular schools as a first or second choice. Many of those schools are in or are not far from Noe Valley, and have a higher percentage of white kids than most. Lots of Noe families apply to these same popular schools. Is it surprising then that they went 0/7? It's not a glitch in the lottery, it's that so many families from the same neighborhood, which happens to be a very white neighborhood, applied to the same ultra-oversubbed schools.

    As for being assigned to John Muir, the lottery assigns families to the nearest school that does not fill up. So of course many Noe, Castro, and Haight families ended up there rather than Sheridan across town. Bernal families get Malcolm X and Hillcrest for the same reason.

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  137. Well I'll say this. We didn't cheat and went 0/7 and got assigned John Muir. No way that was happening and we ended up sending our girl to Hamlin. I don't feel bad about it at all. I tried, I lost in the lottery and yes I picked good schools. Was I supposed to pick schools that I didn't like? She loves her school and I can't think of one thing bad about it. For those who are going to ask, yes we easily can afford it and yes we volunteer a lot at the school. I realize that we could have had an impact at Muir but while I want to help the other children, I'm not sacrificing my kids education for it and I won't apologize for it.

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  138. "These programs do give an immediate "in" to native speakers."

    Well, because it makes a humongous frickin' difference to the absorption of the target language by the Anglophone kids. Really. Even AFY, which is supposedly one-way Cantonese immersion, probably has 20-30% of the entering kindergartners fluent or proficient in Cantonese

    " We currently have immersion programs in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog?, Korean, and Spanish."

    The tagalog program at Bessie Carmichael is bilingual for ELLs, not immersion.

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  139. "I would be curious to know why there are so many Asian language immersion programs and so few Indo-European ones (with the exception of Spanish.)"

    Because the intake of SFUSD is
    41% Asian and
    23% Hispanic,
    12% AA, and
    11% non-Hispanic whites
    6% Filipino,
    5% decline to state, and
    ~2% others.

    There's just not a lot of Indo-European language speakers to build a set of immersion programs around. You could argue that the Asian languages are actually getting short shrift relative to Spanish.

    One of the benefits I've found from the lottery is that it made me realize that San Francisco is diverse. Not token diverse, but "your white non-Hispanic kid is, on average, going have one other kid from a non-Hispanic white in their class" level of diversity. "45% free or assisted school lunch level" of diversity.

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  140. "1:24AM, rather than waging a war against frustrated parents who went 0/7 in the lottery, why not pressure the school board to disclose the lottery application data with and without the sibling numbers"

    Done. Read Rachel Norton's blog. The figures were: 74% got (which was better than the back-of-an-envelope estimate of 68% I'd come up with). Of the 26% who wend 0/7, 80% had a trophy school in first and/or second place in their application.

    There aren't enough places at the trophy school for everybody, folks.

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  141. So, math majors, please help me out here. Is this right:

    * If 26% of non-sibling-preference families went 0/7;

    * and 80% of them put at least one of 11 "trophy" schools as their #1 and/or #2 picks (see Rachel's blog or post on this blog for the exact list);

    * 80% of 26% = 21%, so approx. 21% of non-sibling-preference families who went 0/7 put "trophy" schools as #1 and/or #2;

    * 26% - 21% = 5%. So only 5% of non-sibling preference families who went 0/7 did not put one of those schools as a #1 or #2 pick (we don't know the composition of their lists otherwise);

    * 100% - 5% = 95%.

    In other words, if you didn't have sibling preference last year, you had a 95% chance of not going 0/7 if you didn't list one of those 11 schools as a #1 and/or #2 pick.

    95%.

    seems like very good odds to me.

    Presumably the sibling-preference families were 100% (I've never heard of any sib that didn't get in R1).

    No guarantee year to year as odds change with the popularity of schools. But it sure seems like good information.....

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  142. "The district has suggested that the numbers of French and German ELLs just are not there. Yes, there are strong communities, but nothing like the Chinese! It may be that there are large enough communities of Russians and Vietnamese to give a try. Remember that ideally these programs would be stocked every year with kids who speak the French, the German, etc. Would there be enough demand, year by year? If you can prove that there would be, then you have a case to make. I urge you to try. Talk with the AME yahoo group, which includes folks who have been building the Mandarin programs of late."

    "Because the intake of SFUSD is
    41% Asian and
    23% Hispanic,
    12% AA, and
    11% non-Hispanic whites
    6% Filipino,
    5% decline to state, and
    ~2% others. "

    I'm going to speak for the International French speaking or Quebecois community for a moment. Pardon me if I over step!

    In order for French public school immersion programs to be initiated, the school board would have to become a bit of an advocate for French, rather than forcing the communities to justify their existence against the current 'white' enrollment numbers in the city.

    Please remember that many native French speakers are not 'white', an assumption that has been made in one of the above statements.

    I know of a large number of Quebecois who have returned to Quebec because they could not afford to send their kids to the Lycee or FAIS here in the city. Others have moved to the pennisula or Marin to take advantage of the immersion programs there. Unlike French citizens, these French speakers do not get a subsidy from the French government to help them send their kids to a French private school. They would probably be more open to taking on the work of building a French immersion program. Given the fact that Quebec has been at the forefront of second language immersion since the sixties, Quebecers may be uniquely qualified to establish a public school French immersion program
    here in the city.

    The city would have to take somewhat of an advocacy role to attract these French speakers back into the SF public schools. Unfortunately, the current approach of lumping all European languages except Spanish into the 'white' and privileged category works against the possibility of public school French immersion.

    What is lost?

    Here is an example. A couple that were friends of ours left the city about a year ago. The husband was an AIDS researcher and had done years of research on public health approaches to reducing the spread of AIDS. He had done his PhD at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris and had moved to San Francisco to take a position at SF General. She was also a researcher in biotech. Her area of research was on respiratory diseases. Because his area of research was not immediately of interest to biotech companies, he worked as a post doc, which meant his salary was not high enough for them to seld their child to private school. Highly employable in Quebec, they moved there. Their child now attends a very good public school in Montreal where she will learn both French and English.

    Quebec and San Francisco are both biotech powerhouses in North America. I don't think the above situation is that uncommon.

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  143. "I'm going to speak for the International French speaking or Quebecois community for a moment. Pardon me if I over step!"

    Well, yeah. Give the numbers. The question was why are there so many Asian and Spanish immersion programs. The answer is: because that's what the demographics of the city make it most feasible to do.

    You have two private French immersion schools, one of which is subsidized by the French government to its citizens. So that drains off the prospective pool of applicants to a public French immersion program. There's also Notre Dame des Victories, which has an hour of French/day.

    The topic's been discussed on the SF AME board, but my feeling was that German or Russian had more traction than French, despite Russian having two private schools were instruction is partially in Russian.

    "Quebec and San Francisco are both biotech powerhouses in North America."

    The whole of Quebec employs 2,300 biotech employees, one-sixteenth the biotech employees in the Bay Area alone, and an eighth of that of San Diego.

    Shanghai has 20,000 employees in Biotech/pharma. Maybe we should be more worried about whether we need to teach Wu dialect than French, if the idea is to attract & retain international biotech talent?

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  144. 10:23 PM

    We do already have a number of Asian language programs in the city. I wasn't arguing against those programs. Some of the Mandarin immersion programs are rather slow to fill up, given how few slots there are for good schools.

    My comments above regarding Quebec had largely to do with the feasibility of having enough native French speakers to establish a public school immersion program. It wasn't my point to argue about the relative size of the biotech industry in China vs. Quebec.

    Canada and the EU present very large trading blocks with various engineering and science efforts.

    It would seem appropriate to offer French and German immersion in San Francisco public schools.

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  145. "We do already have a number of Asian language programs in the city."

    We have 6 immersion programs (3 Cantonese, 2 Mandarin, 1 Korean), not counting the Cantonese bilingual programs. But Asian kids are 40% of SFUSD's intake. If you give me an estimate of the %age Francophone kids in SF (my guess would be <<1%), then we can maybe have a conversation whether SFUSD can (1) get a critical mass of Francophone kids to have a 2-way immersion program, (2) attract enough native speakers or fluent speakers of French who are also qualified teachers and who are going to stay here for several years, bearing in mind that French citizens in SF are probably going to go the Lycee anyway.

    "Canada and the EU present very large trading blocks with various engineering and science efforts."

    And most of the EU doesn't speak French. The Dutch and Nordics speak English better than most native English speakers, and for Central and Eastern Europe, either English or German is going to be the Lingua Franca. In the Middle East or Francophone Africa, French can be an asset, but GDP of those countries tends to be small.

    I liked French. I took five years of it, and could probably still read a copy of Liberation if I tried. But I'd rather my kid learn an Asian language or Spanish, they'll have more opportunity to meet native speakers of it here to practice.

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  146. 9:43 AM

    You're certainly entitled to your own language preferences.

    Again, my point is that there are enough French speakers in the city, and probably enough German speakers in the city, to start immersion programs in both.

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  147. There are more people on the planet who speak Spanish, English, Mandarin or Cantonese than there are French speakers.

    And if you are French or Francophone, you can get a scholarship at the Lycee or FAIS. You don't need to attend an SFUSD school.

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  148. Can you guarantee that there would be at least 20-30 French-speaking kindergarteners EACH YEAR who would be disadvantaged if they didn't have the opportunity to learn in their own language?

    What kind of practical advantage would English-speaking students gain from learning French that they would not gain from learning a more popular language?

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