Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kindergarten assignment: the sibling effect

(originally posted on the blog of Rachel Norton, commissioner on the SF Board of Education)

I keep meaning to post this data, which I asked for ages ago and never seem to have on hand when someone asks me about the issue of including siblings in the statistics showing how many families receive their first choice. In enrolling for 2009-10, for example, 80 percent of families requesting a Kindergarten seat received their one of their choices, with 64 percent receiving their first choice (see highlights of 2009-10 enrollment here).

For years, people have complained that these two statistics are inflated because they include siblings, who receive preference at an older brother or sister’s school — and there is a difference, primarily in whether families get their first choice or no choice at all — but I don’t think it’s as significant as people think it is:

* As I said above, 80 percent of all applicants to K in 2009-10 received one of their choices; and if applications submitted by younger siblings are excluded from this statistic, 74 percent receive one of their choices — a difference of six percentage points.
* In looking at the number of 2009-10 K applicants who received their first choice, there’s a drop of 11 percentage points if younger siblings are excluded (from 64 percent to 53 percent). This isn’t particularly surprising or damning, considering that sibling preference only kicks in if you list the older sibling’s school as your first choice.
* Finally, the number of families who get none of their choices increases about 6 percentage points if you exclude the applications of younger siblings from the statistic. In other words, about 20 percent of all families didn’t receive a choice in Round I last year; that figure increases to 26 percent if you exclude younger siblings.

Of the 947 families who did not receive any of their Round I choices last year, almost 800 listed one of these high demand schools as their first or second choice:

* Alamo
* Alice Fong Yu
* Alvarado
* Clarendon
* Grattan
* Lawton
* Lilienthal
* Miraloma
* Rooftop
* Sherman
* West Portal

The way I interpret this data is that people are focusing a bit too much on how the statistics are developed and not enough on the choice patterns for high demand schools — I find the list above to be stunning. If you have your heart set on one or more of these schools for Kindergarten next year, you may have to settle in for the long haul, because a lot of other people have their hearts set on them too.

—Rachel Norton

99 comments:

  1. Oh no, Rachel, it's not that I applied to a school that hundreds and hundreds of others also wanted; it's that the district unethically and illegally discriminated against me as a white person who takes home a six figure income when it didn't give me one of these choices you listed. ;-)

    ***
    in all seriousness, thanks for the post--I'm sure it will get cited endlessly ....

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  2. Interesting, but what about all the people like myself, who listed none of those schools, made a point of a broad list that is near our home, that seemed a match on many points and got an arbitrary assignment, not one of our choices. In our case, the same school, two years in a row ?! (our kid has a late Nov bday) Not that there's anything wrong with the school we got assigned to, but whats the point of making us think we have a choice?

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  3. 8:17: it's possible you did a lot to maximize your odds and that you just got unlucky. It's also possible that your "broad" list isn't as broad as you might have thought, albeit not wildly popular (you can check this on the 5-year demand list). Unfortunately, folks on the west side have a hard time because pretty much all the schools over there are at least moderately popular. That means if you want to increase your odds to be pretty lottery-safe, you might have to look farther afield geographically if you live out there.

    In any case, I'm sorry that you went 0/7.

    It's not at all strange that you got the same default school twice in a row, since they try to assign the nearest school that has openings. In some neighborhoods, that would mean only one or two options, since all the rest fill up in Round 1.

    Still it is VERY interesting that you are in such a small minority in the 0/7 group for 2009 in not having put any of those most-popular schools. You are in the exception that proves the rule, no?

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  4. What do all or most of these schools have in common?

    Good language immersion programs and a broad academic curriculum, including math, science and languate arts. An invested PTA.

    So what happens if you live in Noe, Glen Park, Bernal or the Excelsior, where the vast majority of new families took up residence a few years ago? What happens if you're not seeking an Asian language immersion program?

    There seems to be a split between what the school board wants these families to do, and what the families want.

    The middle class families want language immersion and an academic curriculum.

    The school board wants the families to sign up to existing schools that do not exactly have strong academic programs.

    I don't see the immersion + academic curriculum programs popping up like roses to keep people in public.

    It is easier for many families to head for the private schools.

    The school board will only move so far in meeting parent demand. Parents have only so much patience and will comprimise only so far before heading for private, parochial or out.

    Alas, the public schools may gradually improve, but not before it splits the city into rich and poor, private and public, black, brown and white. So much for social cohesiveness.

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  5. I found that list incredibly helpful and cheering, since it represents all the schools about which I thought with a snowball's chance in heck, why bother? Doesn't mean I won't be disappointed, but it's good to know I might not be.

    I'm a recent convert to the lottery, too. It may very well do me wrong as a person (let's wait and see), but that doesn't mean it isn't fair. I'm constantly having to explain to my 3 kids that not getting what you want does not equal "not fair." Can we not deal with that as adults? Even though of course, of course, a thousand times of course, every school should be able to offer children equal resources. The fact that they can't because our country/state lacks the political will to change our tax system is the crime, not the lottery.

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  6. I don't see the immersion + academic curriculum programs popping up like roses to keep people in public.

    I don't know about that. Maybe it's not fast enough, but since we played in the first diversity index lottery in 2001 it seems to me that there are many more programs and choices along these lines to choose from. See Marcia Brady's reviews of Bernal's Flynn (immersion plus developing academic IBO program for BOTH strands)--which has come up in the last five years or so. Or check out her review of Potrero's Webster, where the immersion program is two years old. Look at Sunnyside, up the hill from Glen Park, which has come up in the last two or three years. Revere has added an immersion program in Bernal too. Monroe SI program in the Excelsior is a few years older, but wasn't around when we were applying. I think Fairmount's started that year, but I can't remember. Then there's Starr King and Ortega with Mandarin, one in the SE and the other in the SW. More recently, De Avila in the Haight-Ashbury, where Grattan has emerged as a star in the time since we applied, as has Miraloma up the hill from Glen Park. I could only WISH for these options back when.

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  7. "So what happens if you live in Noe, Glen Park, Bernal or the Excelsior, where the vast majority of new families took up residence a few years ago? What happens if you're not seeking an Asian language immersion program?"

    You go for Fairmount, Flynn, Ortega, Starr King, Webster, Revere, Monroe, Moscone, Taylor, SF Community. The weaker schools are concentrated in the SE, but that doesn't mean there aren't still good and promising schools there. There's a reason why the immersion schools are predominantly in the SE, to draw parents into schools that would otherwise be overlooked.

    "There seems to be a split between what the school board wants these families to do, and what the families want."

    What the school board wants you to realise is that it can't fit a gallon into a pint pot. You might want Alvarado, but there's maybe four times (forget exact number) the number of people putting it as their first choice as there are spaces. Not everyone's going to get in.

    "The middle class families want language immersion and an academic curriculum."

    The curriculum just doesn't vary that much school to school. The test scores do, but there's less variation when you control for demographics. Two years ago, Asian kids in Monroe were scoring above Asian kids in Rooftop.

    Listen to what the statistics are telling you. If you're fixated on the trophy schools, you're gonna have to either be lucky or ready to be in for the long haul, and not flip out if you go 0/7 and get assigned to an unpopular school (because that'll be all that's left).

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  8. Hi 9:38PM,

    A very small number of schools that you mention combine a strong adademic program with immersion.

    Apart from Alvarado, I don't see a single Spanish language immersion program with even fair test scores.

    Evidently, by the application numbers, other parents see that too.

    Flynn? Compare test scores of Flynn immersion with Alvarado and tell. Something does not add up.

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  9. "So what happens if you live in Noe, Glen Park, Bernal or the Excelsior, where the vast majority of new families took up residence a few years ago? What happens if you're not seeking an Asian language immersion program?"

    You go for Fairmount, Flynn, Ortega, Starr King, Webster, Revere, Monroe, Moscone, Taylor, SF Community. The weaker schools are concentrated in the SE, but that doesn't mean there aren't still good and promising schools there."

    And think about it: this vast majority of "new families" in the southeastern neighborhoods are predominantly middle- and upper-income families, often with one powerhouse non-working parent who wants to use (usually her) professional skills and education in a context that involves their child. That is why you see these schools coming up so rapidly...it's like alpha-mom central over there, and I mean that in a good way. Some of the schools that people like 9:48 stick their noses up at will be untouchable in 3 years.

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  10. Alas, the public schools may gradually improve, but not before it splits the city into rich and poor, private and public, black, brown and white. So much for social cohesiveness.

    Seriously? SFUSD is already segregated, and the data suggest it's been getting worse every year since the end of the Consent Decree. The lottery system sure isn't helping, but none of the options the District seems to be pursuing are likely to change that.

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  11. "A very small number of schools that you mention combine a strong adademic program with immersion."

    I don't understand what you mean by "strong academic program". If you mean "superlative test scores", yes. But the point of introducing an immersion program isn't to make Grattan or Miraloma even more ridiculously popular than they are now. It's to draw applicants to relatively unpopular schools with lower test scores and high %ages of low-SES students, so those schools can at some stage in the future get their test scores up in the Alvarado range.

    "Flynn? Compare test scores of Flynn immersion with Alvarado and tell. Something does not add up."

    Ten years ago, no-one in Alvarado's neighbourhood wanted to send their kids there because it was considered a failing school. I'd bet that Flynn takes the same path, as will Fairmont. Monroe is a bit further along that path.

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  12. "And think about it: this vast majority of "new families" in the southeastern neighborhoods are predominantly middle- and upper-income families,"

    Often taking advantage of the easy commute to South San Francisco or further down the peninsular.

    "Some of the schools that people like 9:48 stick their noses up at will be untouchable in 3 years."

    I'm chuckling at their snottiness to Flynn, 'cos I remember when my kid was a year old driving past Flynn and similarly turning my nose up.

    Four years later, despite having a kid with some facility in Spanish, and Flynn Immersion being our first choice and in our attendance area, we couldn't get in. We got another choice we were happy with in Round 1, so no hard feelings. But I remember the shift from "I'll never send my kid there" to "I hope to God my kid gets in there" being swift.

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  13. "SFUSD is already segregated, and the data suggest it's been getting worse every year since the end of the Consent Decree." "The lottery system sure isn't helping,"

    Well, the lottery system is specifically prevented from using race as a criterion.

    "but none of the options the District seems to be pursuing are likely to change that."

    I'll agree with that.

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  14. To me it seems the sib/non sib statistics are only part of the picture. Leaving out siblings altogether, I am curious to know how many applicants applying for 2009 claimed to speak a different language at home. How many of those applicants got their first choice in round 1? How many got one of seven?

    How many claimed that they didn't go to preschool? How many of those got their first choice? How many got one of their seven choices?

    How many Section 8 housing applicants got their first choice? (I'm pretty sure they all do. I hope so.) Etc. etc. You get where I'm going.

    And how many applicants who didn't claim an index factor got their first choice? How many got one of their seven?

    These are relevant statistics that could offer a better picture of one's odds depending on what index group you're in. Perhaps knowing them would make those of us with no index points feel better about this so-called 'lottery'. Perhaps they'd make us feel worse.

    I'd just like the opportunity to compare the different groups. It's hard to think about something analytically (not my strong suit) when so many cards are held so closely in this process.

    I know the index process is more complicated than the sub-groups I mentioned. (Understatement.) But when every person you know who happens to speak another language well enough to get through a screening also happens to get their first or second school choice, it starts to seem a little surreal.

    If it's a computer that ultimately decides who gets assigned to which schools, I would think the computer could also share ALL of the information from round 1. Quite frankly I'm surprised no one has demanded it through a lawsuit. Shouldn't this be public information, and if not, why isn't it?

    Apologies for the long-winded post.

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  15. Jane, you'll get no argument from me. Nor, I think, from most people at PPS. I have thought for a long time that the district/EPC/we are strangely protective of data. It's a culture thing, in part, and in part a reflection of the fact that EPC doesn't have the staffing to generate every possible slice of the data that we might want.

    But in the end, now that we are working on changing the system, does fighting to air some of the data you suggest really matter? I would say, sadly, no. One thing I think everyone loses sight of is that participation in the lottery is not equal or equitable. So looking at what people who fit one set of demographic criteria get vs. what people of another criteria get is really not instructive at all.

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  16. Rachel - Since you are here - Can you talk about the new system? All I hear are rumors - about zebras...
    Thanks!

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  17. Rachel - It's instructive if you want to understand your odds and choose accordingly.

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  18. Hi Jane--

    I'm very much for sunshine and putting all the info out there. Both for reasons of transparency and because I like stats :-). So as with Rachel, no arguments from me.

    However, I don't know if having all that information would be as helpful as it might seem for prospective parents. Even if 100% of the 0/7s were of a particular index, it wouldn't tell you about your odds unless you did a whole other level of cross-tabbing of where those 0/7 families applied and how over-subbed they were, and how over-subbed they were for families with that index profile, and what the index profile was of the school when the computer began its calculations.

    I'd bet that those schools Rachel listed are particularly over-applied by parents with one or two index profiles--that also, as Rachel mentioned, happen to be the same folks who participate in the lottery at a high rate.

    I think the answer for prospective parents is pretty easy if your priority is not to go 0/7. Not necessarily what everyone wants to hear though. Basically, consider not including those schools on your list, especially #1 or #2. Definitely include schools that are at most moderately popular and ideally one or two that are even fairly easy odds.

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  19. Rachel, Thanks for this helpful information. You answered one of our questions, here is our other - how much of a role does the "attendance area" play? My impression from reading the sfusd website is that it can play a big role in popular "attendance area" schools, but there is information on this blog and from the PPS that says otherwise.

    Specifically, the sfusd website makes it clear that for schools with an attendance area (vs. an alternative school), the lottery is first run for those students who listed that school as one of their seven choices. Here is the quote from the website:

    "3. The system divides the students who have requested the program/grade into two groups: students who live in the schools’ attendance area and students who live outside the schools’ attendance area.

    4. The system selects students living in the attendance area and assigns the student whose profile is the most different from the base profile in the grade/program.

    5. The base profile is recalculated, to include the profile of the student just assigned.

    6. The system recalculates how many seats remain for assignment, and the process is repeated until students from the attendance area no longer contribute diversity to the base profile or no more seats remain for additional placements.

    7. When students from the attendance area no longer contribute to the diversity of the base profile, all students who requested the grade/program are considered for assignment."

    My reading of this is that for a high demand "attendance area" school (think West Portal, Miraloma, Grattan, etc.), one's chances of getting in when you are not in the "attendance area" are low. At least for those families who are a lot like the other families who are applying (i.e., likely do not have a single "diversity factor", or if they do, it is the "speak a second language at home" diversity factor).

    Finally, one rumor that is out there is that this "attendance area" consideration only applies to families who rank their attendance area school as their first choice. I have found nothing to support this on the sfusd website. This is a particularly important question to us, as we area debating whether to rank our attendance area school first or second.

    I appreciate your response to this post.

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  20. "I know the index process is more complicated than the sub-groups I mentioned. (Understatement.) But when every person you know who happens to speak another language well enough to get through a screening also happens to get their first or second school choice, it starts to seem a little surreal."

    What you're seeing is probably actually an effect of the lottery working as it was intended. Schools like Miraloma, Grattan, have high monoglot English non-Hispanic white populations and fewer low-SES kids . If a school is low in kids from non-English speaking homes, then a kid with a non-English home language or mix of English and non-English is going to get and a monoglot English speaker isn't.

    That's part of the point of the lottery, to try to mix the schools up.

    However, being bilingual isnt' going to be an advantage where the applicant pool has a high percentage of kids with non-English home language, like say E.R. Taylor or Marshall.

    About 45% of SFUSD students have a home where English either isn't the home language or isn't the sole home language. So overall, it's a wash whether you're monoglot English or otherwise.

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  21. This is a cut and paste from a comment on Rachel's blog. I think it's an important point on the numbers from someone who is better at statistics than Rachela nd me! "you are 30% more likely to not get one of your choices if you have no sibling preference."

    "However, I just wanted to clarify one thing in your post. The difference between 80% and 74% is 6 points, however that represents a 7.5% difference in likelihood of getting your choice.

    This statistical idea is more important when looking at those who got none of their choices. The difference is again 6 points (20% vs. 26%). However, this means that you are 30% more likely to not get one of your choices if you have no sibling preference.

    With that said, you are absolutely right to stress the importance of looking beyond the most popular schools."

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  22. "It is easier for many families to head for the private schools."

    The above comment could only be written by someone so wealthy that he/she can afford to be oblivious to the $15,000-$30,000 annual cost per kid of private schools -- or by a preschool parent who hasn't clicked into that fact yet.

    It also ignores the fact that private schools assess your child and your family, and if your child or you are found wanting, you're rejected based on that close assessment of your personal failings. If you and your child are dynamos who make a positive impression at all times, of course, that's not an issue.

    But a chipper comment that "it's easier" to make a choice that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars vs. an alternative that's free overlooks reality for most families.

    And a reality check here too:

    "Alas, the public schools may gradually improve, but not before it splits the city into rich and poor, private and public, black, brown and white. So much for social cohesiveness."

    Actually, SFUSD schools have been rapidly improving over the past 10-12 years. Other posters describe schools that were formerly scorned and are now popular and successful. There are many schools in that category -- even, dare I say, dozens.

    And while our schools are more segregated than they were under the former system that used racial quotas, it's still important to note that they're far less segregated than schools in other major U.S. cities, where schools that are 95%-100% African-American or Latino are common. And the definition of "resegregation" used for SFUSD schools is >60% of one ethnicity. Well, in any private or suburban school, or any of those cities where 95-100% black or Latino schools are common, a mere 60% of any one ethnicity would be viewed as wonderfully diverse.

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  23. 12:25 AM - I am pretty sure that to get any attendance area preference, you have to list your attendance area school first. In any event I would not consider the attendance area preference a "big" advantage in any case, but I suppose in the case of very popular schools, it does give you an edge.

    11:59 - Tune in tonight to SFGTV; the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment is meeting at 6 p.m. and the meeting will be streamed online and broadcast on Channel 26 or 78. I think you will get a much clearer idea of where things stand after this meeting.

    8:57 am - thanks for posting that comment here (I admit - I'm no statistician!). I agree that the statistical perspective is eye-opening; but again, don't lose sight of the fact that the other reason your chances of going 0/7 increases with no sibling is that people who go 0/7 are more likely to list the same popular schools as their top choices!

    I'm with 12:23 AM, who said:
    I think the answer for prospective parents is pretty easy if your priority is not to go 0/7. Not necessarily what everyone wants to hear though. Basically, consider not including those schools on your list, especially #1 or #2. Definitely include schools that are at most moderately popular and ideally one or two that are even fairly easy odds.

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  24. "The above comment could only be written by someone so wealthy that he/she can afford to be oblivious to the $15,000-$30,000 annual cost per kid of private schools -- or by a preschool parent who hasn't clicked into that fact yet."

    Please be mindful before you make these sweeping generalizations.

    My husband and I made the very considered choice to have one child.

    We both drive small, inexpensive, cars. Until recently, my husband drove a care with 350,000 miles on it - an 1990 Acura for anyone who is interested in junker cars that can go the distance.

    We live in a small house in the south side of the city.

    My husband and I both spent years in school. In ninth grade public school, when it asked the question, advanced math and academic track, we both checked yes. Surprise! We both have highly employable, well paid skills.

    Neither of us got help from our parents to attend college. We slogged it, either on scholarship, or by working our way through.

    We would very much have liked to have our child attend public school. We went through the process. Because our own experience reflects the great value of attending a school with an academic college track education, many but not all of the schools on Rachel's list appeared on our list.

    Of course, we went 0/7.

    We could not afford to have me stay at home to build up a school that might improve by the time our child left for middle school. I know a few moms that have attempted to do this. They are exhausted.

    Now in private school, we meet many parents like ourselves who benefitted from excellent public school education. Wealthy and oblivious would not describe them. Socially conscious, hard working, dual income professional and 0/7 on the lottery would.

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  25. I think the answer for prospective parents is pretty easy if your priority is not to go 0/7. Not necessarily what everyone wants to hear though. Basically, consider not including those schools on your list, especially #1 or #2. Definitely include schools that are at most moderately popular and ideally one or two that are even fairly easy odds.

    There is a tension here though. Is it "worth it" to go 0/7 to get priority in the wait pool? It's hard to know what to do. I think the District could reduce some of the tension for the families that participate in the lottery by putting families that get their last choice in to the 0/7 cohort (and 0/7 and 0/6-last choice cohort). I saw this idea posted in a comment here, and I think it would encourage more parents to put a lower-demand school as their #7 while still giving them a chance in the wait pool. The kindergarten admissions process doesn't end in Round 1.

    But the whole system will just be thrown out for next year instead.

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  26. From Rachel - "12:25 AM - I am pretty sure that to get any attendance area preference, you have to list your attendance area school first. In any event I would not consider the attendance area preference a "big" advantage in any case, but I suppose in the case of very popular schools, it does give you an edge."

    12:25 here again - What am I missing here? "Attendance area" seems like a big deal to me, and to no one else. The lottery for "attendance area" schools is first run for those in the attendance area. For "attendance area" schools that are popular amongst the folks who read this blog (i.e., no diversity factors or only the second language at home factor), this likely means that spots at these schools for students that match our diversity profiles are filled by the attendance area portion of the lottery. This means that if you do not live in the attendance area you have a zero chance of getting into that school. Thus, while "attendance area" might not give you a big advantage at your attendance area school, it could mean a big disadvantage at a popular "attendance area" school that is not your "attendance area" school. I wonder whether anyone who has one of these two diversity profiles that does not live in the attendance area of a school such as West Portal or Miraloma gets in. Am I wrong? Please, someone tell me. It seems like no one talks about this, yet it strikes me as a big deal or at least worthy of consideration.

    Also - Can anyone provide a cite or source for this ongoing rumor that you must list your attendance area school as your first choice in order to be considered in the "attendance area" round of the lottery. I can find no support for this statement, yet again, we have someone in the know (Rachel), who "pretty sure" that this to be true, but provides to definitive answer.

    Thanks everyone!

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  27. 12:23 am wrote: "I think the answer for prospective parents is pretty easy if your priority is not to go 0/7. Not necessarily what everyone wants to hear though. Basically, consider not including those schools on your list, especially #1 or #2. Definitely include schools that are at most moderately popular and ideally one or two that are even fairly easy odds."

    In other words, aim low for my child and get over it? "Choose" schools that are farther away and less desirable in terms of what they offer simply because the schools that are closer to our flat are oversubscribed by families like mine?

    You are right. It's not what I want to hear.

    Rachel wrote: "But in the end, now that we are working on changing the system, does fighting to air some of the data you suggest really matter?"

    It matters in that it will effect choices people have to make for next year.

    And 7:27 wrote: "What you're seeing is probably actually an effect of the lottery working as it was intended."

    My point was that the lottery isn't working when it is exploited by middle to high income families that happen to speak a second language at home. (Bi-lingual, not ELL) The lottery 'intends' to create a socio-economic mix, but it has a lot of people, (people I know!) benefitting from a system that was not designed with them in mind.

    This is especially the case at the trophy schools mentioned in Rachel Norton's post, which, ironically, are now oversubscribed by the very types of families (socio-economically) that helped make them so great.

    If we were to put the trophy schools in our neighborhood down as top choices, it would look like a seriously dumb move. If our friends who can claim another language put those same schools down, it seems like a good idea. It's all anecdotal, or course, but then again, it's all I have to go on in the absence of any real data.

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  28. "Aim low for your child and get over it."

    I think this should be SFUSD's motto. Nice one, Jane.

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  29. Being able/willing to pay $15,000 to $20,000 per year for private school does not necessarily make you "wealthy." For a family like ours, we can't afford for me not to work because my husband's career is all-consuming but his income is completely unpredictable. When I do work, I make enough to cover private school for our one child who is still school age. We are luckier than a lot of people--we (well the banks) own our condo, we eat healthy food, we have medical insurance, we have a pet, we have a car--so I am not poor-mouthing, but I would not call us "wealthy." Our condo is ugly and needs a lot of work, Pasta Pomodoro is a wild night out for us, and our travel is limited to visiting relatives unless DH has a good year. Our private school provides so much for our child that would not be available to him in a public school without a lot of effort on our part. We don't have time to make that effort, nor do we have grandparents or friends in a position to help us out, but we do have the money to pay for his school and all of its extras, so that's what we've determined is the best use of our resources. That does not make us either "wealthy" or "oblivious."

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  30. But it does really stink if one of those super schools is directly behind your house. And your kids two best friends, who have another language in the home (but are upper middle class European bilingual), both got that super school.

    My list wasn't entirely made up of these 'shoot for the moon schools', just one of them, which would have made the best sense for my family. I kind of resent getting statistically lumped in with the shoot-for-the-moonies.

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  31. 12:25, that does stink. I'm sorry. In my comments at least, I have tried to talk in statistical, pragmatic terms, not blaming ones. I think parents should know what the odds are, and it is very interesting to know that so many, a huge majority, of those who went 0/7 were folks who put those schools #1 or #2 on their lists.

    Hopefully knowing this provides families with clearer choices. Folks that really really don't want to go 0/7--can't do private or parochial, don't want the stress of waitpooling--may choose not to list one of those schools, especially in the top 2 slots. Someone like you, who has important reasons for listing one of those schools as a top choice, may choose differently, even knowing the risk of going 0/7 (and hopefully there is a backup plan in the works). It's a valid choice either way.

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  32. 12:25 - where did you land? Curious - did you go through the waitpool process?

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  33. "In other words, aim low for my child and get over it?"

    There's nothing stopping you from applying to the trophy schools. But understand:

    1. SFUSD can't fit all the applicants who want those schools into those schools. If Clarendon is getting 4x its capacity in first choices, not everyone is going to get Clarendon, no more than SF Friends on the private side can let in all the 300 applicants for its 22 slots.

    2. There are 25 schools in SFUSD with a "similar schools" ranking of 8 or more. That's 25 schools which are superlative in test scoring given their demographics. (Just for reference, Miraloma's 2008 similar schools rank was 3, Grattan's was 2, and Alamo, West Portal, and Lillenthal's were 7). So about half the trophy schools on Rachel's post aren't in that 25.

    Leave out the 6 trophy schools ranked 8 or more, listed by Rachel, and you still have 19 excellent schools to choose from, and probably have a 90% chance of getting into. Those are pretty decent odds, as commented above.

    Do your homework and broaden your perspective before getting excited about a perceived injustice to your good self.

    ReplyDelete
  34. "

    "Aim low for your child and get over it."

    I think this should be SFUSD's motto. Nice one, Jane.

    "

    I'll second it!

    ReplyDelete
  35. "My point was that the lottery isn't working when it is exploited by middle to high income families that happen to speak a second language at home. (Bi-lingual, not ELL)"

    Yeah, but the number of white non-Hispanic Caucasian's who are bilingual is going to be what - 10% or so of the 11% non-Hispanic Caucasians? So you're talking about 1% of the applicant pool. Enough to piss one off, but not enough that If They All Went Away there'd be places aplenty for everyone in the 11 trophy schools. It's too small of the intake for that.

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  36. "Do your homework and broaden your perspective before getting excited about a perceived injustice to your good self."

    Did homework. Broadened our perspective and decided that contrary to our initial intention and social inclination, we needed to apply to private school.

    Sense of injustice about this isn't that we will pay big $$$ for private.

    Sense of injustice comes from the non disclosure and wasting of parents' time(mostly mothers') selecting a school for their children.

    Blanket statements about 'white' people from a minority don't help.

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  37. I can't dispute anyone's individual judgment, but I believe there is a subset of schools that are quite decent, doing really wonderful things really, that are not on that list of 11 schools posted by Rachel. It's not like there is cliff between those schools and the set of 15 or so that are commonly cited here as "my child got into ___ and I would NEVER send her there!" Again, these may not be your choices, but lots of families are finding joy at places like Daniel Webster, Sunnyside, Monroe, Peabody, Stevenson, Parks, and on and on. There are lots of reasons to like many of these schools. I don't consider these aiming low. In fact, I prefer many of these to several of the options on the trophy list, including AFY and Clarendon (for different reasons).

    ReplyDelete
  38. I keep hearing about blanket statements about white people, but mostly I see on this list an attempt to grapple with the effects of a diversity lottery that doesn't consider race but rather socio-economic factors. I'm just not seeing it here in the comments.

    ReplyDelete
  39. "If we were to put the trophy schools in our neighborhood down as top choices, it would look like a seriously dumb move. If our friends who can claim another language put those same schools down, it seems like a good idea."

    It really depends on the school. The district is 31% ELLs. For schools with high ELLs, being monoglot English is an advantage. West Portal's ELLs are 44%, so for that school it's either a wash (if the district isn't normalizing relative to the average %age ELL: i.e. setting the target %age ELL/bilingual to 31%) or a disadvantage (if the district is normalizing to the district's average ELL).

    Those schools with high ELLs will tend to have lower APIs, but some are stronger on the "similar schools" rankings, which are a better reflection of the strength of the school than the unadjusted rankings.

    ReplyDelete
  40. "Blanket statements about 'white' people from a minority don't help."

    As there were statements on upper-middle class bilingual Europeans getting an advantage on the lottery, I was trying to get a feel for how many of these folks there are. My estimate is that there aren't enough of them to significantly chew up capacity at the trophy schools. I made the assumption most upper-middle class bilingual Europeans would be non-Hispanic white in trying to come up with an estimate. If you've got a better estimate, come up with it.

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  41. "Did homework. Broadened our perspective and decided that contrary to our initial intention and social inclination, we needed to apply to private school."

    When there's 50 schools ranked higher than Grattan and Miraloma based on their test scores?

    ReplyDelete
  42. "Sense of injustice comes from the non disclosure and wasting of parents' time(mostly mothers') selecting a school for their children."

    I keep hearing this stuff about non-disclosure and I can't fathom it.

    I can download data on the number of applications/slots from the district, or get a handy-dandy spreadsheet from PPSSF, all already filled out for me.

    By contrast, to get the kill ratio of applications to acceptances from the admissions director at CAIS took me ten minutes of interrogating the guy at an enrollment fair until he gave me the number (just to get me to go away so he could talk to someone less annoying).

    I have a hard time believing transparency is the issue here.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi 1:18,

    Please read the statement below carefully.

    "Yeah, but the number of white non-Hispanic Caucasian's who are bilingual is going to be what - 10% or so of the 11% non-Hispanic Caucasians? So you're talking about 1% of the applicant pool. Enough to piss one off, but not enough that If They All Went Away there'd be places aplenty for everyone in the 11 trophy schools. It's too small of the intake for that."

    This person is making the assumption that only 1% of the applicant pool to the public school system are bilingual Caucasians.

    Let's talk about the potential applicant pool.

    I am sorry, but do we not walk around in the city and hear the many languages being spoken? The languages I hear do not narrowly fall into the category of Asian and Spanish.

    Many bilingual or multilingual speakers have come here to work at UCSF or SF General or in other fields of technology. The city is bending over backward to get a biotech industry established in the city. California's economy depends upon being part of the international research community.

    Many researchers from the international community come from Europe, Canada, India and Asia. A small number come from Latin America and Africa.

    The number of Caucasian American, European, Canadian, African and Indian bilingual and multilingual speakers in the city is likely to be far larger than 1% of the city's population.

    If we want to prosper as a city and a state, then we might want to think about retaining these researchers, regardless of their racial profile.

    That doesn't mean that we necessarily need to create even more immersion programs. But it does mean that we need to have our public schools meet an international standard such as the one in Canada and Europe.

    In general, schools in San Francisco do not meet this standard.

    If we want to prosper and have a vibrant economy for everyone, we will have to move beyond thinking like:

    Aim low for your child and get over it, and

    The 1% of bilingual Caucasian speakers are too small an intake to be bothered with,

    paraphrasing from above.

    ReplyDelete
  44. "I am sorry, but do we not walk around in the city and hear the many languages being spoken? The languages I hear do not narrowly fall into the category of Asian and Spanish."

    Yes we do hear a lot of languages being spoken. And yes, there are a lot of researchers drawn to here. But European bilingual globe-trotters are not a significant proportion of the intake to SFUSD, or at least not enough to justify the complaining on this blog about Euro-trash snaffling up all the places in the trophy schools. It's people grasping onto anecdotes rather than grappling with the numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "That doesn't mean that we necessarily need to create even more immersion programs. But it does mean that we need to have our public schools meet an international standard such as the one in Canada and Europe.

    In general, schools in San Francisco do not meet this standard."

    I haven't heard of Mountain View or Sunnyvale having trouble attracting & retaining highly skilled & educated immigrants, and, if you believe Greatschools.net's rankings of school district, SFUSD is on par with Mountain View and has the edge on Sunnyvale.

    I'd suspect the availability of H1-B extensions and green cards is the limiting factor rather than the schools (speaking as a former H1-B peon)

    ReplyDelete
  46. 2:19 PM:

    The valley's job situation is a little different from the city. More semiconductor jobs and fewer biotech jobs in the valley; hence more Asians and Indians.

    I guess you know that since you were an H1B sufferer. Me too.

    Silicon valley has lost a lot of talent in the last few years. I can't tell you the number of Singaporeans, Chinese, Indians, Canadians, and Koreans I know who have gone home. Many of them had citizenship or a green card, but they got tired of the high cost of living and limited education possibilities for their kids. The shaky job situation and threat of outsourcing didn't help.

    Have you driven around in the valley recently. There are miles and miles of empty offices that haven't been occupied in years.

    We regularly get emails from recruiters that say "Great IC design opportunity in . . . " fill in blank: Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore . . .

    Anyway, in terms of public schools, it isn't such an easy situation in Mountain View or Sunnyvale either. Many people I know have scrambled to get into Cupertino, Los Gatos, Los Altos or Menlo Park schools.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I'm 9:15, who said that anyone who thinks it's easier to do private is oblivious to the cost.

    To those who responded, of course I understand that not everyone who can afford private is wealthy, and non-wealthy people make it happen.

    But anyone who thinks it's EASIER to make that choice and can afford not to take into account the fact that one choice is $200,000-$300,000 per kid and the other is free is by definition wealthy. It's the phrasing "it's easier" that prompted my comment.

    ReplyDelete
  48. 3:00 PM

    Thanks for your response.

    It is wife of junker driving husband here.

    We have made the calculation. Had we gotten into one of Rachel's listed schools, we might have given up on our hope for French immersion and not be out $250,00.
    We'll, maybe not, but you never know what will happen with the high schools, even if you get into one of these very good public schools.

    We're happy with our choice, but concerned for SF public schools. Having both benefitted from public schools, my husband and I think the current situation is saddening.

    ReplyDelete
  49. 3:00 PM

    Thanks for your response.

    It is wife of junker driving husband here.

    We have made the calculation. Had we gotten into one of Rachel's listed schools, we might have given up on our hope for French immersion and not be out $250,00.
    We'll, maybe not, but you never know what will happen with the high schools, even if you get into one of these very good public schools.

    We're happy with our choice, but concerned for SF public schools. Having both benefitted from public schools, my husband and I think the current situation is saddening.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I really disagree that the current situation is "saddening," and I'm a veteran parent of (calculating...) 23 kid-years so far in SFUSD.

    Far more SFUSD schools are viewed as desirable and successful than was the case in the recent past, and the number continues to increase. Most indicators are that our district is becoming more successful even in the economic disaster that is our state funding system.

    $250,000 so your child can learn French is your choice, and I'm glad it's working. That money would buy a lot of private tutoring and/or travel, but to each his own.

    ReplyDelete
  51. To the poster asking about attendance area - it does matter. More than people think. You have to read that 14 page white paper ( which sounds like you have) to dig out the info. Here are some good notes from last year's posters. I, like you, have found no info to suport the rumor that you have to rank your neighborhood school #1 in order to get the bump.

    "(1) the algorithm calculates the diversity index profile of the incoming class (the siblings); (2) next the algorithm fetches the applicant *within the assignment zone* who differs the most in terms of diversity index features, no matter what number that applicant ranked the school; (3) the algorithm recalculates the profile of the class; and (4) fetches the next applicant who adds the most diversity to the class, and so on. If the class reaches equilibrium (meaning there are no more applicants within the assignment zone who would improve the diversity profile of the class), but there are still spots, then the algo looks at applicants outside the assignment zone for diversity-contributing applicants. Those who are in the attendance area still have a shot, but now they have to compete with those outside. (although attendance zone kids always win ties). At this point, the algorithm will continue to fill seats based on who improves the diversity score the most (or hurts it the least). So it never goes into a pure random mode as long as there are choices which have a different effect on the diversity score or have other tie-breaking factors.

    This is one of the reasons why, if you have a good school in your assignment zone, you should rank it first, because you'll be in the preferred cohort.

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

    ReplyDelete
  52. "To the poster asking about attendance area - it does matter. More than people think. You have to read that 14 page white paper ( which sounds like you have) to dig out the info. Here are some good notes from last year's posters. I, like you, have found no info to suport the rumor that you have to rank your neighborhood school #1 in order to get the bump."

    Thanks for diggin this out, but I think before relying on it you'd have to get the skinny from PPSSF. It was only last year that thanks to Vicki Symonds of PPSSF sitting down and going through the code which whoever runs the algorithm at EPC that we found out that ranking of the school in your choices was used as a tiebreaker. Which makes a frickin' huge impact on one's strategy.

    I suspect that if EPC had made this known years ago, you'd have seen the patterns of applications be very different, with the "safety schools" rising in popularity relative to the trophy schools as more people took the safer bet.

    ReplyDelete
  53. "Anyway, in terms of public schools, it isn't such an easy situation in Mountain View or Sunnyvale either. Many people I know have scrambled to get into Cupertino, Los Gatos, Los Altos or Menlo Park schools."

    Los Gatos has 3% receiving free or reduced lunches. SFUSD has 45%.

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  54. "Los Gatos has 3% receiving free or reduced lunches. SFUSD has 45%."

    Uuuh? Is this a set up for:

    "There is no free lunch?"

    Good. So I'll be paying $250,000 over the next 12 years for all those free lunch people since there really is no free lunch.

    True, it could have paid for a lot of vacations and slacking off, but I guess I'll just have to spend the next thirty years doing what I was trained to do and love doing instead of playing PTA mom.

    Enjoy those free lunches!

    ReplyDelete
  55. That is a false dichotomy:

    - Work full-time and send kid to private OR be a full-time PTA Mom.

    You could write the PTA an incredibly generous check for $2,000, still save nearly $20,000 and make an incredible contribution to the school. $2,000 goes a LONG way in a public school (even if it is just a rounding error when estimating a private school's endowment). ANd yes, those $18,000 you save could be spent on travel, enrichment classes, private tutors, anything!

    ReplyDelete
  56. (The free lunches -- which are only worth $2.00/per child -- are paid for by the Federal gov't, btw.)

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi 12:44 PM, it is 12:25 here -- we landed at Creative Arts Charter, which we wound up loving. And yes, we did the waitlist and never got the call. A CACS classmate got in to our waitlist school in week six and I was terribly jealous (even though we love it at CACS).

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  58. Hey guys, pardon me for laughing.

    I realize that kids really do need those lunches and we should all be glad that there is such a program.

    However, with the juxtaposition of the comments about the wasted$250,000, the lost vacations, the PTA moms and then the "free lunch" comment . . . well, I just had to laugh.

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  59. OMG, is 5:14 the kind of parent you meet in private school? I'd pay $25K/year NOT to have my kid in school with his/her kids and NOT to have any contact with him/her myself.

    ReplyDelete
  60. I know, 6:32. Some of these private school parents aren't coming off very well, are they? I'm glad I know many lovely and generous-hearted and caring private school parents in real life so I don't think they're all so selfish as to resent paying for a basic meal so that our neediest children have a shot at learning.

    ReplyDelete
  61. "Thanks for diggin this out, but I think before relying on it you'd have to get the skinny from PPSSF. It was only last year that thanks to Vicki Symonds of PPSSF sitting down and going through the code which whoever runs the algorithm at EPC that we found out that ranking of the school in your choices was used as a tiebreaker. Which makes a frickin' huge impact on one's strategy."

    Can someone explain this in more detail?

    ReplyDelete
  62. "Good. So I'll be paying $250,000 over the next 12 years for all those free lunch people since there really is no free lunch."

    "True, it could have paid for a lot of vacations and slacking off, but I guess I'll just have to spend the next thirty years doing what I was trained to do and love doing"

    Oooh! Oooh! I'll guess - you're a social worker, right?

    Anyone else want to guess Ms. 'I-hate-poor-kids-getting-free-lunches' occupation?

    ReplyDelete
  63. "Can someone explain this in more detail?'

    Up until Vicki found this out, it was thought that the ranking of your choices only mattered if you were picked for more than one school while the algorthim ran.

    i.e. the algorithm is looking at the pool of people who've applied for School A with a certain diversity profile it needs. Let's say there are 16 kids in that pool with the same diversity profile. It was though that the algorithm picked kids from that pool randomly irrespective of how school A was ranked. Ranking of your choices only came in if your kid was also placed in School B. If that was the case, then the algorithm would give you the school you ranked higher (say school B), and then release the slot in the one you'd ranked lower back into the available places. So there was thought to be no strategy in how you ranked your choices - you were supposed to rank them in the order of your preference. How you ranked your seven choices wouldn't affect your chances of getting one of your choices, just which of those choices you were more likely to get.

    It turns out that that's not the case. If there are 16 kids in the pool of candidates with the needed diversity profile, then the kid with the school ranked the highest on their choices is the one who gets chosen.

    So there are issues of strategy in the ranking that in fact make a difference, e.g,, there's no point putting a school which has historically received more first choices than slots less than first place unless you think you have a different diversity profile than the median intake.

    ReplyDelete
  64. In the interest of full disclosure, Vicki thinks I'm wrong, that where you list your attendance area school doesn't matter. We need to get a definitive answer from EPC, so stay tuned.

    R

    ReplyDelete
  65. 9:37 PM

    "Anyone else want to guess Ms. 'I-hate-poor-kids-getting-free-lunches' occupation?"

    You are putting words in my mouth and I really have to correct you.

    I am not at all resenting the feeding of starving and neglected children.

    The point is that the free lunch kids do go to the front of the lottery line, along with the ELLs and the immersion native language speakers, etc.

    I am not making a judgement call on any of this, just ironically observing that since I didn't qualify for any of the above, I ended up at the back of the lottery line.

    Just laughing at the irony and the stark directness of "there is no free lunch". . . the sudden self realization that someone has to lose in the lottery . . . our family.

    So please don't put words in my mouth or speak for me about my sentiments toward starving and neglected children.

    ReplyDelete
  66. 11:00

    The poorest kids and ELLs go the front of the line at the schools to which they offer diversity. Probably that does include certain "trophy" schools, but it's probably a wash at some other moderately popular ones that attract a mix.

    Your family didn't have to lose. You either played long odds or you got unlucky. I'm not throwing blame down, either; lots of families choose to play the long odds, and that's a valid choice to make. But it's not like you are a target for losing in the lottery. It's pretty frickin obvious that if your profile is an exact match with hundreds of others who are likely to apply for a school that your chances are slim. You were most likely in competition with the folks who are like you, not poor, etc.

    Think of it this way: if all those poor kids actually got into Clarendon in huge numbers, the lottery profile would flip. The problem for you in the lottery isn't them, it's all the folks with your profile listing the same schools over and over. This is not the lottery's fault.

    ReplyDelete
  67. "The point is that the free lunch kids do go to the front of the lottery line, along with the ELLs and the immersion native language speakers, etc."

    Right. Let's take Clarendon as an example. It has 11% free lunch, 12% ELL. Compare this to the district average of about 45% and 31%, respectively.

    It's not the underprivileged kids or the ELLs who crowded your kid out of Clarendon (making the assumption Clarendon wasnon your list). They don't deserve your resentment.

    ReplyDelete
  68. 11:37 PM

    Thank you for the carefully considered explanation.

    I don't really know how the lottery works. It seems from this thread that we are all still struggling to figure that out. The fact is that disadvantaged kids should go to the front of the line. I don't know if they do, but I think it is the intent of the lottery to try to not put them at the back of the line.

    My husband was one of the kids that benefitted from a very good school system in Philadelphia in the seventies. He was from a poor immigrant family and sometimes his mom would forget to feed him. His teachers didn't figure out that he wasn't a native English speaker until he was in grade three.

    When I look at the test scores of so many of our schools, I have to say to myself that there are not enough very good schools to go around. We're not in Philadelphia in the seventies anymore. Not in Bernal, Noe, the Excelsior, and the Mission, anyway. We can debate that all day, but it doesn't look like these kids are going to be acing algebra anytime soon. I can see that in the test scores and I also hear it from the parents who have kids in fourth and fifth grade in these schools.

    So, there are not enough good schools to go around. There are not enough dollars to make all the schools good.

    Pardon me if I took a moment to see the irony and realize starkly that if we want a very good school for our child, given our current circumstances, statistically speaking, we need to pay for private school.

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  69. 12:32 (was 11:00)

    I also lament the fact that we underfund our schools quite shamefully, and that there are not enough wonderful schools for every child.

    I just don't think it is as stark a picture in SF as you are painting. That's not to knock your choice to go private; many parents do. I just think it's not those eleven schools or the pits. There are some schools off the radar, yes including ones with dicey test scores, that are quite good.

    It might help to remember that test scores are complicated. They are not without value in assessing a school, but you have to read them right. Raw overall test scores reflect demographics--how challenged is that population. In SF, our Chinese kids tend to confound the notion that low-income kids and ELLs score poorly, so that has to be taken into account. Most helpful is trend data for all sub-groups, which can tell you if the school is meeting or beating the demographic expectations or not, and if it is improving. If the school is in turn-around mode, you might have to disregard the upper grade test scores because they do not reflect new programs or teaching approaches.

    I also have to disagree that there are not good schools in Noe, Bernal, Excelsior, the Mission. Have you seen the scores at E.R. Taylor lately, which exceed the predictors related to demographics? What about Moscone? Have you read the reviews and mini-reviews here on Flynn, Webster, Revere? What about Monroe and SF Community? Marshall? Harvey Milk over the hill from Noe? Starr King in Potrero? Fairmount? None of these were part of the "list of 11" so many 0/7-ers had in common last year.

    Regarding algebra, soon all 8th graders will be required to take it and most schools are ramping up for this.

    ReplyDelete
  70. "I don't really know how the lottery works."


    "When I look at the test scores of so many of our schools, I have to say to myself that there are not enough very good schools to go around. We're not in Philadelphia in the seventies anymore. Not in Bernal, Noe, the Excelsior, and the Mission, anyway."

    Well, to be blunt with you, independent privates are thin on the ground in the SE too - Live Oak, Synergy, SF Friends. There's several good parochial schools also, however.

    "We can debate that all day, but it doesn't look like these kids are going to be acing algebra anytime soon."

    "I can see that in the test scores"

    If you're concerned about raw test scores, Moscone has an API of 840, Taylor an API of 860, McKinley 810 Monroe 803, Sunnyside 810, Visitation Valley 823, Yick Wo has good bus access from Bernal and has an API of 871.

    All of these are in the range of the trophy schools of Rooftop (877), Grattan (822) and Miraloma (851).

    I'll note that when we toured Taylor and Moscone, we were one of 3 parents on the tour. And one of those was a friend we'd dragged along. Compared with 80+ at the tours of Rooftop.

    In addition, you have immersion programs concentrated in the SE with Starr King in Potero, and Ortega very handy down 280 (both Mandarin), and Spanish Immersion programs at Flynn, Fairmount, Marshall, Buena Vista, Revere, and Monroe, as well as of course Alvarado. But understand that the immersion schools, because of higher ELLs and also their placement as magnet programs, are going to have lower raw API scores.


    "and I also hear it from the parents who have kids in fourth and fifth grade in these schools"

    Schools that have high percentages of ELLs and high %ages of low-SES students are going to have lower scores. You need to look at the test scores of the kids by demographic.

    How things are when you get to the 4th and 5th grade and the class sizes increase, I don't know. But you can certainly save yourself some $$$ for a few years.

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  71. "In addition, you have immersion programs concentrated in the SE"

    8:00 am again. Just wanted to add that immersion programs are an area where SFUSD is really outstanding. They've been doing immersion for a long time (West Portal is the oldest immersion Chinese program in the U.S., and AFY the oldest dedicated Chinese immersion school). You've got more choice of programs (as oppposed to 5 or 6 in the privates).

    The teaching of the target language is also lot more aggressive than in some of the suburban immersion schools, some of which (like in San Mateo) only do 50/50 rather than the 90/10 split that we do in here. [I don't know what split FAIS, CAIS, Lycee and the Russian-American school use.]

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  72. It seems so counterintuitive that putting a dream school as a first choice (but very safe schools 2-7) is a bad strategy. That is what all the posts above seem to imply, unless I am interpreting things incorrectly. I wonder if the SFUSD should consult with the national medical residency match program to create a system that makes more sense in this regard. With that system, the preferences of the applicant are given priority over the preferences of the institution, so that where you rank something doesn't matter.

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  73. 10:33

    This is one of the problems that the redesign committee is trying to address. From Rachel Norton's summary of last night's meeting:

    "The researchers also recommended the Board strive for “simplicity” and “non-wastefulness” in any assignment system. Simplicity means (duh) avoiding complexity, and creating systems where it is always in the best interests of parents to just rank their choices truthfully. Anyone who has ever agonized “I love School A but think I’ve got a better chance at School B, so maybe I should rank that one first,” should truly relate to this."

    Thanks to Rachel for getting the summary posted so quickly.
    www.rachelnorton.com

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  74. 10:33 AM

    Great suggestion! It shouldn't matter so much about the order of school preferences. Most parents are not going to have time to parse the details of weighted ordering of their school picks. It shouldn't matter so much.

    I get the feeling that it is a small committee of school board insiders dreaming up how to fine tune the lottery computer program, with one guy occasionally tweeking some line of code.

    That is probably why we can never figure out how the algorithm works. It is probably pretty difficult to get code guy to sit down and explain what he or she is doing.

    It has probably gotten so complicated with all the hacks that probably nobody, not even code guy, knows how it works anymore.

    Kind of a strange way to make diversity happen.

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  75. Hi 1:13 AM and 8:00AM

    Was 12:32. Thank you for your comments about Bernal, Excelsior, and Noe schools.

    Yes, I know there are some up and coming schools in this area. E R Taylor is particularly encouraging. We didn't know about it last year, or we probably would have had a closer look.

    We wanted either French or Spanish immersion. We did look hard at all the Spanish immersion programs in the area. Admittedly, Alvarado was on our list. I will be frank and say that, apart from Alvarado, I couldn't reconcile the math test scores of these Spanish immersion programs with my own expectations.

    I know some of them are up and coming, but I would have expected to see an up tick in performance. I didn't.

    By the way, I look at CST scores, not API scores. The CST looks at the number of students who are "proficient" which I like because there is some latitude. The test is not measuring a right answer for every question, just proficiency, breadth if you will, on a subject.

    I've talked to many parents who are comfortable with poor performance in an immersion program. They argue it is due to the inability to map concepts kids have learned in another language onto the test. Or they argue that learning will lag for a number of years due to language acquisition.

    I don't see these arguments being made in the private immersion programs.

    In any case, Buena Vista, Flynn and Fairmount are over subscribed by a wide margin. Just being realistic, not defeatist, we probably would not have gotten into these schools either.

    By the way, we did tour West Portal and put it on our list. Another school on Rachel's don't apply list.

    Thanks for your comments. They will likely be very helpful to us parents here in the SE side of the city.

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  76. 11:49 claims that "[parents who] are comfortable with poor performance in an immersion program ... argue it is due to the inability to map concepts kids have learned in another language onto the test. Or they argue that learning will lag for a number of years due to language acquisition."

    Those flowery interpretations don't jibe with reality.

    In SFUSD's two-way Spanish immersion programs, half the students are native Spanish-speakers learning English. The vast majority are Mexican/Central American/maybe South American, many/most of them low-income and the children of parents with little education.

    English-language-learners, overall and on average, tend to score poorly on tests given in English.
    11:49's interpretation of that is rather mocking, but it shouldn't be. How would you do on a test given in a language that you hadn't mastered yet?

    Three other demographics that tend to score less well on tests, overall on average, are Latinos, low-income students and students with less-educated parents.

    So two-way Spanish immersion schools tend to enroll a large number of students who are statistically likely to score less well on tests.

    Schools that enroll a large number of students who are statistically likely to score less well on tests tend, by definition, to have overall lower test scores.

    That doesn't mean that your individual child won't do as well in that school as in the top-scoring trophy school.

    11:49 says: "I don't see these arguments being made in the private immersion programs."

    You're not getting it. There are no private immersion programs that enroll low-income Latino English-language-learners with poorly educated parents. (Well, maybe one rare occasional such student lands in a private immersion program somewhere in the world every so often -- I challenge anyone to find a real live example.)

    SFUSD's Chinese immersion schools have very high test scores. Chinese students, overall on average, confound the statistical probabilities by tending to score high academically even as low-income English-language learners.

    In other words, the test scores reflect the demographic makeup of the students who attend the school.

    By the way, you have no way of knowing how private school students do, generally speaking. Private school achievement figures are not publicly available for comparison.

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  77. Thanks 12:20 for your comments.

    11:49 here again, in South Bernal.

    "In other words, the test scores reflect the demographic makeup of the students who attend the school.
    "

    Yes, I know that. I have piled throught the CST by subgroup data for all the schools in Bernal, Mission, Noe.

    The spanish immersion school CST data by subgroup data is often not available for non-Latino children. (It is for Alvarado.)

    Anyway, the CST scores for the general population in Fairmount, Flynn and Buena Vista is very, very low. That means that a child is unlikely to do well in these schools, regardless of their race.

    Anyway, more than half the kids in these immersion programs are not proficient in language arts or math. Call me snobby, but to me that is not an acceptable standard.

    I'm highly aware of the results for Asian kids. As an electrical engineer, I've worked with my Asian engineering buddies for years. They are the ones that tell me how shocked they are with the standards in our schools.

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  78. From 9:28 AM: The teaching of the target language is also lot more aggressive than in some of the suburban immersion schools, some of which (like in San Mateo) only do 50/50 rather than the 90/10 split that we do in here. [I don't know what split FAIS, CAIS, Lycee and the Russian-American school use.]

    FAIS has a model similar to the SFUSD immersion and ELL/bilingual schools, with a 90/10 split in K-2 moving towards 50/50 for 3-8. The Lycee does 90/10 from K through high school (only English language arts and US and California history are in English). Don't know about the others.

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  79. just wanted to point out a couple of factors vis-a-vis test scores:

    1) comparing all "immersion" schools to each other is often apples vs. oranges. some schools have two strands (imms and gen ed) and very different demographics. for instance, fairmount, where my daughter started as a first grade EO this year, is now immersion-only (the last gen ed class will graduate out in 2012, i believe). but that doesn't mean that half the incoming class's students are white, middle-class native english speakers with hyper-educated parents! far from it. my daughter's class this year, which is out of language balance because of last year's data entry debacle -- her teacher says she has about 12 sp and 7 en with a handful of balanced bilinguals -- is predominantly latino (judging by appearances and names only). as a previous poster pointed out, latino kids here in SF, whether they're english-speaking or not, are often (though certainly not always) struggling with stuff that could hold them back academically. but this does NOT mean they are not "contributing." case in point: one day, my kid cried in my presence at school -- i was there volunteering -- because she had to miss recess and be the first ELL in her class to take the CELDT test with a stranger who came to pull her out (bizarrely, she is labeled an ELL in the system because her dad is french). all the latino kids, especially the girls, immediately gathered around her, stroking her hair and back and whispering words of comfort. it was one of the sweetest things i have ever seen. what a blessing that my self-centered, entitled little bourgeois could see what real sweetness and generosity of spirit is like! how lucky that she gets to go to school with kids whose culture (appears) to value caring over cutthroat competitiveness. (in any case, hopefully, the dual immersion model will help struggling populations advance.)

    2) how important you personally make schoolwide academic performance is a philosophical decision. certainly those of us from education-oriented (obsessed?) backgrounds operate on the basic assumption that a minimum level of competence is necessary for our kids to thrive. interestingly, as we've watched our children grow and attend school, i have started to demote this factor in favor of others like:

    does the school enable kid to interact with people from different backgrounds than her own? (i believe this fosters strength of character, confidence and greater adaptability that will serve her well in life.)

    does the school teach what real "community" is? (like, not private-school style, where they salve their egos with charity work and tokenism, but, rather, by working alongside each other to solve real problems, day after day.)

    let me give you another example: last weekend, my kid attended a birthday party for a girl in her class (her family kindly invited the whole class. they speak spanish at home and live in a shabby apartment, though not terrible, in ingleside.) afterwards, my kid said she'd had the best time she'd ever had at a party, bar none! why? because it was different and enticing -- so much food, so many relatives of the birthday girls (twins), live birds in a cage, different traditions around the pinata (high tolerance for crazy shit), a nicaraguan abuela who told us her life story and how she ended up in america raising her grandchildren (very moving story even first graders could grasp).

    anyway, very long story short, i am convinced that these contacts have real value to all the kids. these are the kinds of experiences that cannot be viewed through the filter of test scores. but these are the kinds i value most as a parent.

    harvard can kiss my ass...at least until my kid's 17.

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  80. Kim, pointed, hilarious and awesome. Thanks. You have just echoed our experience but it is hard to translate what this rich experience is like to anxious parents who keep talking about bullies and low test scores.

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  81. Hi Kim,

    Enjoy Fairmount. I'm glad you found your way there and I am sure your family will have a great experience.

    12:45

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  82. 1:30

    I didn't talk about bullies, just low test scores.

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  83. Hey 1:35, 1:30 here. I actually didn't mean you. Just that if one's kid is in a school with lots of low-income kids, one hears a lot about those topics from prospective parents. It's hard to paint a word picture of how it works in reality. Kim did a good job to start.

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  84. Kim, stop with the Harvard bashing. It discounts everything else you post.

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  85. um, pretty sure she meant it humorously.

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  86. OK 2:38 PM.

    Yes, I liked Kim's comments too.

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  87. "Anyway, the CST scores for the general population in Fairmount, Flynn and Buena Vista is very, very low. That means that a child is unlikely to do well in these schools, regardless of their race."

    Err, no. E.g. check the delta between Monroe's general scores and the Asian-subpopulation at Monroe.

    If you want to do the longhand calculation, you can find the API for the general population, the API for the low-SES population, and then knowing the numbers in the two groups work out range the API would be for the non-low-SES population.

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  88. "Yes, I know that. I have piled throught the CST by subgroup data for all the schools in Bernal, Mission, Noe."

    Then you should have seen several of the schools I've mentioned pop out. If you're not interested in immersion, then I've posted several schools you can check out.

    Tour them. You might be surprised what you see on the walls and the kids learning, or E.R. Taylor's principal's emphasis on drilling "you're going to college" to her first- and second- generation immigrant students.

    It compared more than well with what I was taught in my European education.

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  89. "Anyway, more than half the kids in these immersion programs are not proficient in language arts or math."

    And half of them are non-native English speakers. Think that might be related? Remember, for those kids immersion is replacing a bilingual program, and, IIRC, two-way immersion programs have an edge, albeit only a slight one, on separate bilingual streams.

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  90. Ms. No-Free-Lunch here.

    I think we are rehashing the same stuff.

    No argument that E R Taylor is the school to watch in Bernal-Noe-Mission-Excelsior. It wasn't on my radar last year. I don't remember Kate or anybody else ever doing a review of E R Taylor last year. Do you? Again, it is kind of difficult for parents to know about these up-and-coming schools before they are up-and-coming.

    I thought I'd made a huge discovery when I came across West Portal and Sunset. Alas, it was for not!

    I don't look at API scores. For some reason that I don't understand, there is a discrepancy between API scores and CST scores. The CST specifically indicates proficiency of the California curriculum for the tested grade. That is what we want to know, isn't it?

    You can see my comments above regarding various Spanish immersion programs with respect to their CST scores. I'm sticking with my view that only Alvarado SE currently meets an academic standard wrt the CST for SE schools.

    Again, yes I am aware that Latino english language learners generally do poorly on the CST (although not at Alvarado.) Even accounting for this, I can't reconcile the low test scores at most SE schools. If you can, spell them out. How about those SE math scores? Anything out there looking like E R Taylor?

    All these SE schools are pretty hard to get into, so even if I'd only listed non-Alvarado SE schools on my application, it is unlikely that we would have gotten into any of them, given whatever way the wind was blowing for the school board computer guy when our application got crunched through.

    Finally, having been exposed to a number of language acquisition methods myself, I'm pretty much convinced that the 90/10 split for multiple numbers of years is the only way to go. So which public schools do the 90/10 split?

    People who have learned English as a second language may disagree with this, but they always forget how difficult it is for an English speaker to get someone else to stay in the target language. Everybody speaks English, after all.

    Best of luck everybody with your quest.

    I have to go read "Billy Goat Gruff" to my daughter.

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  91. "It seems so counterintuitive that putting a dream school as a first choice (but very safe schools 2-7) is a bad strategy."

    It's not a bad strategy, but a more risky strategy; probably the difference between a 95% chance of not going 0/7 and a 75-80% chance of going 0/7. You might get the Number 1, or you might get number 2 or 3, or go 0/7. It's success would be highly dependent on what you listed as Number 2 and 3. If you listed, say, Alvarado SI 1 and Flynn SI 2, you'd have a good risk of going 0/7. If you listed Alvarado SI 1 and Revere SI 2, you'd be a fair bit safer.

    If you're going to have a private or parochial Plan B, you may be comfortable with takin gon more risk.

    "That is what all the posts above seem to imply, unless I am interpreting things incorrectly."

    "I wonder if the SFUSD should consult with the national medical residency match program to create a system that makes more sense in this regard. With that system, the preferences of the applicant are given priority over the preferences of the institution, so that where you rank something doesn't matter."

    The difference is that in the case of the lottery, the institution isn't ranking the candidates, just choosing within a subset of kids with whatever of the 16 possible diversity variables combination thatit needs at that time.

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  92. "Finally, having been exposed to a number of language acquisition methods myself, I'm pretty much convinced that the 90/10 split for multiple numbers of years is the only way to go. So which public schools do the 90/10 split?"

    All the immersion programs do 90/10. Don't know the split with the Japanese bilingual/bicultural programs at Clarendon and Rosa Parks.

    "How about those SE math scores? Anything out there looking like E R Taylor?"

    To be honest, I didn't go into the CST scores in the same way you did, going more by the aggregrate API. Also, I wasn't that fussed about math - I'm an engineer too, and figure I can give my kid math, but I can't give them a foreign language.

    But looking at Moscone, the Math CST scores are in the ballpark of E.R. Taylor, varying between 70 and 85% proficiency. You might also compare stats for the GATE students to see what level they're performing at, and how many GATE students are at the school.

    What I'd do if I were you, given that te: List Alvarado SI or GE, then E.R. Taylor or Moscone. I'd throw Ortega MI in there if it won't totally mess up your commute. After that, if you think other schools in SE might still do, list them, otherwise fill out your application with trophy schools so that if you don't get Alvarado or Taylor or Moscone, you'll go 0/7 and be in the higher priority waitpool for whatever school you decide to waitpool.

    For Plan B, consider some of the parochials like St. Philips or St. Pauls or Epiphany as well as Synergy and Live Oak.

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  93. Thanks 8:48 AM,

    Very well considered plan.

    I would add that for anyone thinking about putting Alvarado on top of their list, you would need to find out the impact of not getting your first choice.

    I mention this because I have run into two moms, both native Spanish speakers, who applied to Alvarado SE and did not get it. Granted, both are professionals, but that might tell you how tough it is becoming to get into Alvarado.

    Just make sure that applying to Alvarado doesn't mess up your other picks.

    8:48, very helpful suggestions.

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  94. "No argument that E R Taylor is the school to watch in Bernal-Noe-Mission-Excelsior. It wasn't on my radar last year. I don't remember Kate or anybody else ever doing a review of E R Taylor last year. Do you?"

    We looked at it back in 2007 (we started a year early in 2007, even though our kid didn't enter kinder until this Fall).

    I was interested in the school at first because it was close to Bernal. Then I met the principal at the big School Fair near City Hall, and she was so low-key I kinda wrote the school off.

    Then I looked at the test scores, and at the demographics, and realized I'd made a mistake.

    DS toured the school, liked the focus on college, but felt it was a shade too big and didn't like the aesthetics of the school (in retrospect).

    We didn't list it on our 7 picks, as we were focused on immersion programs, but I thought of Taylor as a R2 option if we went 0/7.

    "Again, it is kind of difficult for parents to know about these up-and-coming schools before they are up-and-coming."

    Well, I'd say Taylor isn't an up-and-coming school: it's already arrived.

    It's not like Miraloma, where it was discovered, and then had 3-5 years of lowish test scores before seeing a rapid increase (Miraloma had an API of ~720 two years ago, now it's at 850) as as the culture and demographcs of the school change.

    Taylor is *already* an excellent school. Just there's been no buzz about it, probably because the principal isn't a natural marketer, but (from the scores of the school) is a natural educator.

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  95. Regarding Miraloma test scores 3 years and more back: Miraloma had low average test scores for years, but when you looked at the subgroup breakout you'd see it was the classic achievement gap issues: Asian and White kids were scoring in the upper 800s and the African American and Latino kids averaged in the 600s or below. You'd also see a similar discrepancy by socioeconomic group - so that the school average was in the 600-700 range for a long time.

    While Miraloma test scores have definitely increased due to the 'filling in' of more Asian and Caucasion famlies, the school has worked very hard to ensure growth among all groups - and has done this.

    Also, it should be underscored that before Miraloma became popular, it had an enrollment of 245 kids - it was 'filled in' with parents that made the choice to got there and that tended to be middle class (but still diverse - lots of Brazilian, European, Middle Eastern, etc. - but it looks like a giant "other white' increase.)

    All this to say: no one was pushed out, test scores rose due to a change in demographics AND a redoubled focus on academic performance across all groups.

    As a, now, more experienced parent of a 7th and 5th grader, I feel more and more that my kids would do great anywhere as long as I, as a parent, focused at home on enforcing high expectations (and scores of research studies bear this out.)

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  96. 12:18, I'm also an experienced SFUSD parent of a 7th and a 5th grader, and I agree with you.

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  97. 8:48 here again. Just wnated to suggest that two other schools in the SE with good test scores are SF Community and Longfellow.

    However, I'd agree with 12:18, your kid will probably do well wherever. There's one study showing that when you control for socioeconomics, publics do slightly better in math than privates.

    If I thought my kid was in the low-middle end of the pack (like 20th to 40% percentile) in ability I'd consider doing independent private, as that level of ability probably would benefit most from lower class sizes, but to be honest I think pre-K and K is too early to make that assessment. Below that percentile range, I'd think they'd either do better in public (given the resources there to kids with learning disabilities) and above that range they'd do fine wherever they go, given enough parental encouragement.

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  98. 3:48 PM

    I think you are right. A motivated kid will do well in a good public school. Yes, you can always make the choice to switch a child to private, if necessary.

    Just as a heads up about language immersion programs: some schools do not let you switch into the school beyond kindergarten unless your child is fluent in the target language.

    It is very hard to get into CAIS (Chinese American International School) beyond Pre-K.

    If you are set on language immersion in a private, inquire early.

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  99. "Just as a heads up about language immersion programs: some schools do not let you switch into the school beyond kindergarten unless your child is fluent in the target language. "

    Don't know shan't the practice is in the privates, but SFUSD won't admit kids into immersion programs past the first grade unless they're fluent in the target language.

    And yes, CAIS has at least a 10-1 kill ratio for kinder admissions - I managed to wrestle that out of the AD at an event last year.

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