Monday, January 4, 2010

Hot topic: Student assignment system update

This from an SF K Files reader:
Are there any news on what is happening with the lottery redesign process? What are they talking about with the option that would strive to increasing diversity based on academic achievement? Would it simply mean weighting parents' educational level higher? What redesign option seems most likely to be selected?

121 comments:

  1. More information on the options the Board is considering is here:
    http://portal.sfusd.edu/template/default.cfm?page=policy.placement.assignment

    As far as academic diversity goes, there are some interesting ways of doing this that should be presented in more detail at a future meeting. I've been briefed on some of these ideas but am not familiar enough with them to represent them accurately here.

    The best way to follow along with the policy development is to come to the monthly student assignment committee meetings:

    • Monday, January 25, 2010 (6pm)
    • Monday, February 17, 2010 (6pm)
    • Monday, March 15, 2010 (6pm)

    Meetings are held in the Board room at 555 Franklin St. and are usually televised and streamed online at SFGov TV.

    In addition there are town hall meetings this month:

    January 7 (Thursday), 6 pm to 8 pm
    Drew Elementary School, 50 Pomona Avenue (Bayview)

    January 14 (Thursday), 6 pm to 8 pm
    Francisco Middle School, 2190 Powell Street (North Beach)

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  2. The way I see it the board will not move to a local assignment system. If they did, the high API schools would fill-up first, leaving no choice for students living in BV/Hunter's point/Vis Valley.

    This would be in conflict with their #1 priority of "reversing the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school"

    In my opinion, the new system will be much like the old, with new "diversity" criteria. As you know there is "attendence area" preference in the current system. So, in the current system, diversity first, then attendence area.

    Below are the board's priorities.

    Rachel - can you comment on how the board arrived at these priorities? I find the "racial isolation" term to be a bit loaded.

    The Board’s Priorities: 1) Reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school; 2) provide equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students; and 3) provide transparency at every stage of the assignment process

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  3. "3) Transparency at every stage of the assignment process."

    Wow, I can't believe my eyes. That would be AWESOME.

    There is a major lack of transparency in the current process, which I must say seems deliberate on the part of the school system.

    For instance, we don't know how many kids are in each of the 16 pools. (4x4) All we know is that the current algorithm tries to balance these pools 50/50 in Round 1 at each school, even though this in no way mirrors the actual numbers in the population of entrants.

    We don't know how many kids are applying to each school from each pool, so we can't know our odds with regard to other kids applying from our specific pool. (Last year's numbers would provide helpful insight.)

    We don't know how many siblings are signed up for each school.

    We've all had to spend hours and hours and HOURS trying to grasp the endless nuances of the current system. Two examples: how ranking your school plays into your odds (tie breaker), how your attendance area affects your chances (still not exactly quantifiable), how living in a 'no attendance area' neighborhood means your first choice at a non-alternative school makes it your attendance area. (Head hurt yet?) It's enough to make a perfectly sane person CRAZY. (Me.)

    Who decided all of these confounding rules???

    Yes, transparency would be a welcome thing in any process. I hope they can walk the walk with the next assignment system and stop blaming 'lack of resources' as a reason for so leaving us all in the dark.

    I do applaud Rachel Norton for shining some light on current trends; for instance, how many families who went 0/7 in round 1 put the same 11 schools at #1 and #2. That's helpful information.

    Regarding the #2 priority, "provide equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students". I'm not sure how you do this in a budget-strapped environment where some PTAs raise gobs of money for those very opportunities and others don't. (Unless you force schools to all contribute to a community pot and then split it up equally, which doesn't seem fair, either.)

    Last but not least, I truly hope they remove the 'home language' distinction from the lottery system once and for all. There are so many families in San Francisco that are bilingual, (but the kids are perfectly proficient in English) and these families are continuing to play the language card as a diversity indicator - and the current lottery system continues to view it as a disadvantage, which it IS NOT.

    True, ELL students are at a disadvantage, and this does place a burden on teachers if they have a class heavily weighted with ELL kids. Kids who are fluent in English should not be placed in this category, and yet, they are. And don't tell me that this adds diversity to a classroom any more than the fact that my kid is Catholic adds diversity. It's BS and there needs to be more transparency about how it all works.

    All of these things (and plenty more) should be on the minds of those designing the system. I know it's no easy task, but the simpler, the better. It's only fair to parents in San Francisco.

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  4. Rachel - can you comment on how the board arrived at these priorities? I find the "racial isolation" term to be a bit loaded.

    Essentially, "racial isolation" means an increasing number of schools that are racially identifiable -- e.g., more than 40% of a single ethnic group. In the old days, when we had a cap of 40% on any one group at a school, our schools were less racially segregated.

    Terms like "segregation" and "racial isolation" do feel somewhat uncomfortable, but it's important to recognize that the racial makeup of our schools DOES play a role in the academic achievement at those schools. (See my post here for more discussion of our data on this point: http://rachelnorton.com/2009/12/14/committee-on-student-assignment-1214-recap/ )

    In the end, the evidence has convinced every board member that a focus on diversity does have a place in a sound assignment policy. At the same time, it's clear that for pragmatic reasons, diversity can't trump everything else. What I have told the staff is that our new assignment system can only be one part of the solution. I want our assignment system to support the goal of diverse schools (which it does not right now, even though it was designed with diversity in mind), but it increasingly appears to me that it's not even the biggest part of the solution. PROGRAMS are the biggest part of the solution - creating attractive, high-quality programs in places where parents are choosing out of their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, that's much harder than creating a new assignment system.

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  5. <>

    And why is this not fair? Some districts do exactly that. What isn't fair is defunding the schools and thus privatizing them by forcing parents to fill in the financial gaps, leading to unequal opportunities in schools where there isn't a critical mass of middle class parental energy.

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  6. Oops, it left out my quote. I am referring to the comment above that it doesn't seem fair to orce schools to all contribute to a community pot and then split it up equally.

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  7. I posted that "it might not seem fair" to force PTAs to contribute to a community pot. Actually, I agree with you, the way it is now is not fair. It's like some public schools are now 'privatized' with funds raised to add what the public system can't provide, thus creating major inequities between schools. I don't know the answer. It's a conundrum.

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  8. However, if you tell people that they can work hard to earn money through the PTA, but then it'll be taken away and distributed to other schools where they'll have no control over how it's spent, well, that'll open up a whole can of worms...

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  9. "The Board’s Priorities: 1) Reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school;"

    Underserved by whom? Are the teachers and principles worse at "bad" schools? Is the government giving less money to "bad" schools? If the status quo is not meeting the needs of a particular population then try changing the status quo instead of the population.

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  10. Underserved by whom? Are the teachers and principles worse at "bad" schools?

    Broadly, no. The principals and teachers at "bad" schools are just as good if not better than teachers at "good" schools. I am quoting Delaine Eastin's blog on the Chronicle here. She is using data from a Jumpstart study:

    1. 63% of the population did not know that poverty is the best predictor of whether or not a child will achieve in school.

    2. 53% of the population is unaware that nearly one-half of children from low-income communities start first grade up to two years behind their peers.

    3. 73% of Americans wrongly believe that if children enter kindergarten unprepared, they will catch up in elementary school. So it is pay me now or pay me later.


    Her focus is different, but the data get to a key point. School success is highly correlated with poverty (also with race and zip code). It's not the teachers. Nor do I wish to blame children and their families. We have some kind of problem here, though.

    (Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/deastin/index?#ixzz0biEV5oNi)

    Is the government giving less money to "bad" schools?

    Yes, because Title One schools do not receive adequate money to obtain the support they need. For instance, some schools in SFUSD have a significant population of students with major trauma - family violence, food insecurity, etc. I think we can all agree that those students need extra services. Do they get them? Not always. Do their teachers get support to work with traumatized students, or help building the resiliency they need to avoid secondary trauma? Rarely, if ever.

    If the status quo is not meeting the needs of a particular population then try changing the status quo instead of the population.

    Personally, I think a massive cash infusion to high-needs schools would make a difference. But when some schools are taking a huge portion of high-needs students, those schools are in a bind. There is a point where a school has more high-needs students than it can serve without imploding. That fails everyone at the school, and our District as a whole.

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  11. Rachel, You wrote, "PROGRAMS are the biggest part of the solution - creating attractive, high-quality programs in places where parents are choosing out of their neighborhoods."

    Fair enough, but I do have a question... If that is true, why did the board create CIS DeAvila? It seems like you should have spread those three immersion threads among several undesirable schools. Instead you created yet another Asian/White school (like AFY, West Portal, etc). Can you offer some insight into how this fits with the board's priorities?

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  12. It is so wonderful that we have a board member like Rachel that is willing to comment on this blog. I applaud her for doing so and being so open with parents. I've been in the "system" for five years and I can remember the frustrations attendant with going through the K "diversity index" lottery. So I can understand some of the angst in the questions posted here. My concern from the get-go was with transparency -- I felt and still feel that the endless twists and turns of the current system fail because of a fundamental lack of transparency. But I also profited from the ability to choose a school outside my neighborhood. And, no, I didn't get my kid into a trophy school -- we ended up at a second-tier school that has, with some ups and downs, remained decidedly a second tier school. At the same time, it has worked for us and it is something I don't want to lose. My question for Rachel is --why can't we just have a straight lottery system: everyone pick their seven ranked choices, and then are given slots on a purely random basis. No preference for diversity; no perference for language; no preference for neighborhood. Completely transparent. Completely based on luck. So long as this program is based on making sure everyone had an equal chance to go into the pure lottery (you know, extensive outreach to communities who are late in putting in their applications (and maybe with such an easier system, you could push the deadline to March 1, so that more parents would have the time to put in an application), I bet you you'd end up with more diversity and more happy parents.

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  13. 10:02, I love your approach. I would feel a lot better about the lottery system if it was just a straight lottery and everyone had an equal chance. Camp Mather is a good example of such a system. There would be a lot less fretting. It would be more fair to more people. You could still add programs to schools in less desirable areas to attract families who might not otherwise consider going there.

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  14. Camp Mather favors people who live in SF. It's a neighborhood system and people game it, use their business address on their application, etc. But, I am for neighborhood assignment schools and then city wide draw for language programs and alternative schools. At least with that there would be some predictability and a less cumbersome process for the district and parents.

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  15. "It's a neighborhood system and people game it, use their business address on their application, etc. But, I am for neighborhood assignment schools and then city wide draw for language programs and alternative schools."

    If people game the system using a fake address for Camp Mather, they'll game the system by faking addresses for a place at Grattan.

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  16. I've been involved with the district a long time, and the current system, as crazy-making as it is, has the least amount of gaming the system of any that I have seen. (Maybe because everyone, including the would-be cheaters, are confused by its complexity.) Sure, a few get by, but the opportunity seems much less. Under OER, a whole lot of generally upstanding folk understood that the very game was to make up a good-enough "medical" or other excuse to get the kid out of one's undesirable assigned school and over to one of the half-dozen or so acceptable alternatives. It wasn't cheating, it was what you did. Ah, the good old days ;-).

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  17. 10:02 again -- none of the two earlier postings in any way undermines my arguments for a pure lottery system. And with all due respect to the last poster, I disagree -- I think a pure lottery would in fact be less likely to be "gamed" than the current system as there would be no preferences for anything someone could fake (language, free lunch qualification, etc.) Everyone gets an equal shot at every school and every program and then it is just the luck of the draw and how skillfully one puts down their seven choices. It seems to me that it has the beauty of being completely transparent. I also think it has the potential for increasing diversity. Parents will know that if they put down the same trophy schools everyone else is putting down, they are going to be in for a rough ride so they'll put down different schools, kind of like what goes on now.

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  18. " think a pure lottery would in fact be less likely to be "gamed" than the current system as there would be no preferences for anything someone could fake (language, free lunch qualification, etc.)"

    It's pretty hard to game being in receipt of public assistance. I know the language question is resented, but not having the language question would also lead to more uneven distribution of ELLs across schools. Rephrasing the questions may make it more clear that ELL status is the aim of the home language questions.

    "Everyone gets an equal shot at every school and every program and then it is just the luck of the draw and how skillfully one puts down their seven choices."

    I think there's an illusion amongst upper-middle class parents in SF that the reason one's kid has a low chance of getting into e.g. Clarendon or Miraloma is because of kids in other diversity categories, and that this is unfair, blah blah blah. But you just have to pull up the stats for those schools to find out that the %ages of kids receiving free school lunches or are ELLs are far lower at Miraloma, Grattan, Lilienthal, Rooftop than the SFUSD average. It's not low-SES kids and ELLs that make the odds of getting into Clarendon or Rooftop so miserable. It's all the other upper-middle class families choosing them.

    There are only so many bodies that can fit into the trophy schools. The district can ration them by lottery, neighbourhood allocation or some mixture of the two. I prefer a lottery system as it's fairer to lower-income families, and also means that a school where the principal and staff are doign good things can see rapid recognition in the form of increased demand. The fact the district uses a lottery system which tries to mix up the socioeconomics somewhat is a good thing, in my mind.

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  19. The reasons behind creating DeAvila were twofold: first, we needed additional K seats, FAST, and DeAvila was vacant and centrally-located. Second, we really needed a program that would accommodate Cantonese-speaking ELL children from all over the district. This is not a "nice to have" kind of decision -- it's a legal requirement under the Lau decision regarding the education of English Language Learners.

    By making that program immersion, rather than bilingual, and putting it in a centrally-located, racially-diverse part of the City, it was hoped that over time we would achieve diversity in that program while supporting the urgent needs of our Cantonese-speaking ELL population.

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  20. One more thing, about a "pure" lottery - that's certainly an option, and has the advantage of being more intuitive than the diversity weighting we use now. But people do need to remember the second point - it's not the weighting of the diversity factors that is causing people to not get what they want: it's that too many people of similar diversity profiles (e.g., not in public housing, not eligible for Cal Works) are choosing the same schools.
    Also, the previous poster is correct that the language spoken at home question became a way for people with otherwise middle-class diversity profiles to game the system: we've largely closed that loophole because every child claiming a language other than English is undergoing language testing.

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  21. 10:02 again -- Rachel, I hear you about how a pure lottery system won't necessarily make a middle class parent more likely to get into a trophy school, but I think it will dispel the terrible misperception that I hear from many middle class parents now -- namely, why bother going through the lottery when it is already stacked against you. And to reiterate what I said earlier, I am not a fan of the neighborhood school idea -- I really don't see any intrinsic reason why we should be limited to schools in our neighborhood and lots of reasons why folks should be able to choose wherever they want to go. And what I'm starting to get worried about is that middle clas parents are so down on a lottery system that is weighted against them that they will embrace a neighborhood school system that will make things even worse -- again, for the reasons you point out that many of the trophy schools are in good neighborhoods and we will have the same rationing problem. However, now with a suggestion that there's racism going on to boot because the trophy schools are generally in the white/Asian neighborhoods. That's why I think the pure lottery system is really the best compromise here.

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  22. The thing is, middle-class people assume that if you work hard, do the research, go on the tours, care a lot, look after your own, etc., you will get what you "deserve" (the correlate being that people who are disadvantaged "deserve" their troubles or didn't do these things). A pure lottery would drive us even more nuts. What has always amused and appalled me about the existing lottery is that there is NO guaranteed middle class advantage. So middle-class people flock to the schools that appear to have the advantages bought with middle class parental labor.

    Did anyone catch the NPR "Tell Me More" broadcast this afternoon about the ridiculousness of the volunteerism expectations now placed on mothers? But it works -- defund the schools, tap into people's need to feel good about doing things for others, and voila! A recipe for perpetuating existing inequalities.

    A pure lottery might not solve all this, but it is an interesting idea.

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  23. I would still like to see:

    1. Special needs placed first.
    2. Siblings placed second.
    3. city-wide lottery for alternative schools (immersion, academic magnet, year-round calendar like Argonne) with proportionate spots given based on poverty factors (e.g., 1/2 to low-income, 1/2 to non-low-income)
    4. every non-alternative school being given an attendance area, with lottery preference for those who live in the area as long as there is a balance of low-income/non-low-income students that reflects the city-wide percentage, with people requesting the school brought in from outside the area only as needed to achieve that balance.

    The only time you would have an unbalanced school is if not enough "balancing" people request it.

    Outside the Chinese population, poverty or lack thereof seems to be the biggest single indicator of school failure or success. It follows (doesn't it?) that balancing poverty/non-poverty would be the best way to promote equity. If the balance is too high towards high-need children, the school is likely to have have too many side issues on its plate to succeed. (Not always, I believe Moscone is quite successful despite a high-need population, but I'm talking in generalities here.)

    It's short-sighted to ignore the environmental impact of encouraging people to travel far from home for school.

    I do not believe it's possible to achieve ethnic diversity in schools to the degree desired by the board without de-segregating neighborhoods to the degree desired by the board. Unless I'm misreading the statistics, the biggest populations at the most segregated schools reflect the populations of the neighborhoods in which those schools are located. Attractive programs like language immersion help but they won't solve everything.

    Here's a question for Rachel (and I echo the appreciation for your good sense and willingness to share information with the city's parents): In looking at the re-design, has the board considered whether students in highly segregated schools have been requesting other less-segregated schools and not getting spaces, or are they choosing schools in their segregated neighborhoods for convenience, community, or other reasons? If people choose segregated schools, how does the board anticipate that any "choice" system will make them more diverse? And if a "choice" system will not achieve diversity, how would you achieve participation in a "forced" system among all but the most disenfranchised without driving unhappy people to the suburbs or private schools?

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  24. Rachel, I would like to hear more about how the 'home language' distinction has changed this year to "close the loophole". Does this mean that if your child is deemed fluent in English after his/her evaluation, that he/she will not be put into a separate pool than an 'English only' child? If the goal of the school district truly is to create socio-economic diversity in the classroom, this would seem to make sense, as knowing a second language in no way indicates that a family is low income. Please elaborate if you have the time.

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  25. 5:49, you've hit the nail on the head. Within our already somewhat segregated housing patterns in SF, families are using the choice process to further segregate themselves. Let's use Charles R. Drew Elementary in the Bayview as an instructive example. It is the most requested elementary school among African-American families (and indeed its enrollment reflects that - 79% African American), but if it drew more families from its surrounding neighborhood it would be far more diverse. So no, in my opinion choice as a mechanism is never going to desegregate our schools (choice may have other benefits to recommend its use, but the experience in our district and others is pretty clear that desegregation is not one of them).

    7:28 - I think I know the answer to your question but I need to check with EPC so I can be sure.

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  26. 7:28

    This is from Vicki at Parents for Public Schools - from an earlier thread... If you read the manual - language assessments run through February

    1. If you list anything other than English on the home language survey your child will be asked to come in for a language assessment. You will need to do so for your application to be considered complete.

    2. The first assessment is for English proficiency. If your child is determined to be English proficient (whether they are bi-lingual or not) - you go home. If your child is not English proficient then a native language assessment is done followed by a counseling session on your ELL options.

    3. If your child is considered English Proficient they are not considered an English Language Learner (ELL). They will be assigned a diversity value of "0" in the lottery.

    4. Language Assessments were done much more consistently in years past, last year they were done sporadically. This year 100% of those who list a language other than English will be assessed.

    5. The primary purpose of the assessments is to identify our very many ELL families. There are many programs for ELL families and the goal is to give them the appropriate counseling so they can make a more informed decision.

    6. Yes, at the same time it does close a loop hole by making one of the diversity factors in the lottery a factor that is not self-reporting. However, this was not its primary purpose.

    7. Being an ELL is not necessarily an advantage in the lottery system. The goal is 50% ELL and 50% English proficient. Our district is greater than 50% ELL.

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  27. Vicki, thanks for the thorough explanation.

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  28. "5. The primary purpose of the assessments is to identify our very many ELL families. There are many programs for ELL families and the goal is to give them the appropriate counseling so they can make a more informed decision."

    Vicki, given that the immersion programs have a target of 50% proficient in the target language, will English-proficient but bilingual kids also be assessed for their proficiency in Spanish/Cantonese/Korean, and then be placed in the target-language proficient cohort for immersion programs?

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  29. "So no, in my opinion choice as a mechanism is never going to desegregate our schools (choice may have other benefits to recommend its use, but the experience in our district and others is pretty clear that desegregation is not one of them)."

    Rachel, is the view of the Stanford academics consulting on the allocation redesign that a more neighborhood based system would decrease segregation?

    Also, do they think that a neighborhood system would increase public school participation by families in the North and West of the city (where there are high rates of kids going to private schools - up to 50% in some areas).

    From a revenue/number of schoolkids point of view, I can see that making families in the N and W happier with their public options could draw in more students to SFUSD.

    By contrast, the public schools have a high rate of participation in the SE (much lower %ages of kids in private schools), and there's much less private school capacity in the SE for parents to opt out to.

    So from a revenue standpoint, if the redesign favors families in the N and W (but disfavors families in the SE), the district would probably see a rise in student numbers: families in the SE have fewer non-SFUSD options.

    I'm a parent in the SE, so have no joy in stating this.

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  30. question for rachel or vicki: if our kid was enrolled prior to language testing for english proficiency -- or in the year or years when EPC dropped the ball on testing -- should we do something to ensure their status within the system is correct?

    i ask this because my daughter has been given the CELDT test the past two years. i was told that it costs SFUSD upwards of $10/kid/test to administer (a horrifying waste of money). does this mean she is labeled an ELL (when in fact she is not; she is just bilingual in english and one other language, like so many SF kids, and the original enrollment form and home language affidavit were simply poorly worded, so they did not elicit a useful response)?

    for the record, i do not think this conferred a diversity point on her during the 08 enrollment year, because we went 0-7 in round I (although i cannot be sure, of course; maybe we could have anyway???).

    it strikes me that paying for the resources to test every kid with a language other than english -- both at enrollment and every year thereafter -- is not the most cost-effective way to tackle this. they just need to change the questions on the application and affidavit to ascertain whether the child is proficient in english or not.

    CELDT info:
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/el/

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  31. Rachel, I'm 5:49 from yesterday and thank you for your honest assessment of the ability of a choice system to racially integrate schools.

    An earlier poster commented that the re-design is unlikely to go to a local assignment system because it would leave no choice for people in HP/Bayview/Vis Valley. "This would be in conflict with [the board's] #1 priority of "reversing the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of under-served students in the same school."

    There are actually two components of the school board's stated # 1 objective: (a) reversing the trend of racial isolation and (b) [reversing the trend] of the concentration of under-served students in the same school."

    If Rachel's example of Charles Drew reflects a common reality, MOST people in neighborhoods with under-performing schools actually prefer and choose those schools under the current choice system, even though the schools are racially isolated and have low test scores. It therefore seems questionable whether a neighborhood assignment system would affect outcomes significantly. It's not that people in BV/HP/VV don't have choices. It's that they don't make the same choices that a parent in Noe Valley or the outer Richmond would typically make.

    Realistically, high-performing public schools tend to be in heavily Chinese or more affluent neighborhoods. Under-performing public schools tend to be concentrated around public housing and in less affluent areas. People living in neighborhoods with under-performing schools tend to be disproportionately affected by poverty and have enough hassles in their lives without getting up an hour earlier every morning to get their kids on a bus to a school across town where they will likely have difficulty participating in the school community due to time constraints, cultural differences with the dominant parent culture, or both. Charles Drew may have lousy test scores, but I expect it's convenient and comfortable for the families whose children attend. Much as well all like to talk a good game, an awful lot of parents, both public and private, maybe even most of us, are looking for comfort and convenience as much, if not more, than "top academics."

    We know forced busing has been ruled unconstitutional. We know the school board can't move people into different neighborhoods. We know that if we assign students to schools their families really do not want, unhappy families who have the means will leave the system rather than being social engineered too far beyond their comfort zones. So really, hasn't the school board set itself up to fail in designating "reversing the trend of racial isolation" as a component of it's number 1 goal? Isn't it a basic tenet of strategic planning to set attainable goals? There is no point setting, much less giving such high priority to, a goal that the school board has no direct power to achieve.

    The best the board can hope for is that putting specialty programs into schools will attract populations that have not traditionally wanted to go to those schools. Even then, they're still a lot to surmount, not just to get the white folk out of Pacific Heights, but to get the black folk out of the Bayview. A Pacific Heights family with a nanny and an SUV might easily say, "Oh, how wonderful, my kids can be bilingual global citizens, I'll have Griselda drive them over to the Spanish immersion program at Daniel Webster." A Bayview family with no car might be a little less excited about getting their kids over to Claire Lilienthal for Korean.

    Instead, it would seem prudent for the school board to focus on the second component of the number 1 goal, reversing the trend of isolation of under-served students in the same schools. Making sure that every school in the city has the faculty and staff training, support and other resources to raise the performance of all schools is within the board's power and job description to achieve.

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  32. "MOST people in neighborhoods with under-performing schools actually prefer and choose those schools under the current choice system, even though the schools are racially isolated and have low test scores."

    IIRC from Georgia O'Keefe's presentation that 70% of BV/HP families attend a school other than their neighborhood school as first choice, higher than the 49% district-wide.

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  33. I would have to agree with the last poster. The school district is going to either alienate middle class families to move out of the city or go private or it is going to fail at remedying what it perceives to be racial isolation. That's why the most important issue to me is the lack of transparency in the current assignment system. Remedying that is at least attainable. I think, if I read the tea leaves correctly, that the board is going away from any notion of transparency -- it is going to introduce even more convoluted preferences that will, misperceived or not, give people the sense that the assignment process is neither transparent nor fair. And that frankly is not going to help anyone. That's why I'd rather the school district just do a pure lottery and instead spend its money (1) educating poor parents about their options; (2) moving the deadline for applying into early March/late February so more do apply; and (3) then aggressively going door to door in poor neighborhoods to get them to actually apply by the deadline.

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  34. "I think, if I read the tea leaves correctly, that the board is going away from any notion of transparency -- it is going to introduce even more convoluted preferences that will, misperceived or not, give people the sense that the assignment process is neither transparent nor fair."

    I agree with you that the new system will likely be as complicated as the old, just in a different way.

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  35. If families with the privilege of choosing private school or leaving San Francisco choose to do so because of the school redesign system, well then - goodbye!

    I think the size of this population is not anywhere as large as people in it perceive it to be. Moreover, I believe that the first priority of SFUSD must be to provide each and every child with an excellent education. That needs to start with underserved students. Wealthy white children are not underserved in this District. They are over-represented at Clarendon, Lilienthal, in immersion programs, at Rooftop, and so on.

    I suspect that no program SFUSD alights on for enrollment will change the state of resegregation in the city's schools. I think a better answer would be to admit this honestly and then fund accordingly by adjusting the Weighted Student Formula. Schools serving largely high-needs students are not made equitable by the STAR program. Significantly increased funding for the arts, mandated class-size reduction K-8, etc. would make a difference.

    This will never happen, of course, and if it did I'm sure that the phantom of many wealthy families leaving the District would come up again and again.

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  36. "If families with the privilege of choosing private school or leaving San Francisco choose to do so because of the school redesign system, well then - goodbye!

    I think the size of this population is not anywhere as large as people in it perceive it to be."

    Well, it's around two-thirds of Caucasian kids in the K-12 age range. Looking at the presentations prepared by the Stanford experts the focus group on student allocation has posted on the SFUSD website, as much as 50% of students in some neighbourhoods (like the Richmond) are going private, even more in the Marina.

    These students are revenue for the district, they're PTA dollars, they're loss of political clout for education in the city, and they're also kids who don't have as many external stressors in their life as the low-SES kids. The lower the concentration of low-SES kids in the classroom, the fewer kids in one class going through an external crisis that is going to stress them out and disrupt their education, and the less a teacher has to be a social worker and more an educator. Test scores jump for all students if the %age of low-SES students in a class drops below 50%.

    It's more of an issue than you credit it.

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  37. 9:13 am -- thank you for the thoughtful response to 9:22 pm. I would also add that 9:22's assertion that Clarendon and Rooftop are majority Causcasian is also belied by the statistical facts. Unfortunately, 9:22's views represent what is perhaps a large chunk of the thinking at SFUSD right now. As you point out, the problem is that the public school system in SF, despite some huge efforts, is still alienating families that it needs to be successful. Yes, we need better diversity, and, yes, we need better success rates with low-income kids. But for good or for worse the money for doing that is not going to come from the state, it is going to come from the wealthier parents fundraising for the schools. And I'm afraid that this assignment redesign is just going to end up further alienating the families that we desperately need to be in the public school system.

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  38. "As you point out, the problem is that the public school system in SF, despite some huge efforts, is still alienating families that it needs to be successful."

    No, my point wasn't that the public school system is alienating families. It's that it would be stronger with more participation of the upper-middle class who are currently defecting to the privates, so I'm not inclined to say "screw 'em" as per 9:22 pm.

    I actually *like* the public school system here. There's a tremendous amount of innovation, and everyone I've dealt with in my school or at SFUSD have been competent and professional.

    I'm a supporter of the lottery, and actually think the reverse of what many here think: I think the lottery *encourages* interest in public schools, because it rewards those who go and seek out the "hidden gems" (who'd heard of Sunnyside two years ago?). Further, it makes people value the schools they get into more, because of the process they went through during enrollment: because you're not guaranteed a slot, you value what you get more when you get it.

    My point was that there is a cost to the public school system of people opting out of it.

    I don't believe this is the fault of SFUSD to any significant extent. I view the high %ages of people going into the privates as partly them lacking informing themselves on the many good public options out there, partly guilt feeling that they should pay 'for the best' for their kid, and possibly some feeling of pressure from peer, and/or wanting to social climb or give their kid a more elite social network.

    I also believe there is a lot of price-gouging by the independent privates, given the rapid rate of increase of the price of private school over the past decade and the high cost of independent privates in SF compared to the suburbs. I think the independents taking advantage that there are a lot of affluent people in San Francisco, and exploiting the fact theat parents are willing to sacrifice a lot for their kids, even if their anxieties are misplaced.

    I don't send my kid to a public because of ideology: I send him to a public because that's my best choice as a consumer. In addition, I send my kid to an immersion program, and SFUSD is so far ahead of the privates on language immersion it's not even funny.

    And I evangelise about the public schools and strategies for the lottery because I believe that it's the best-value option for most parents in San Francisco, as education consumers.

    (Despite that, I'm a fan of the parochials, who offer quality education at a much cheaper price than the independent publics.)

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  39. January 7, 2010 1:05 PM

    I'm one of those parents who last year ended up doing her homework on the public schools, tried to seek out "hidden gems" and still ended up going private because we bombed out in Round I, Round II and the Waitlist. We bombed out of Sunset on the waitlist, not Clarendon or Lilienthal or West Portal.

    After a half year in private, I would say that we are getting our money's worth. Here's what we are getting:
    - balanced and excellent arts/science/math program
    - K-12 language immersion
    - great before and afterschool care

    The closest I can think of in public is Alvarado or Alice Fong Yu. We would not have a chance of getting into either of these programs.

    So I really dispute the notion that people are sending their kids to private school because the "haven't done their homework and feel guilty about sending their kids public."

    We decided to give the publics a shot again this year. Note that we're not applying to public language immersion because all of the good public language immersion programs would never be available to us.

    Here is our list:

    R L Stevenson
    E R Taylor
    Clarendon - Gen
    Miraloma
    New Tranditions
    Peabody
    Grattan

    I am entirely expecting to go 0/7.

    With the exception of children who speak an immersion target language, the school options available to non poor, non ESL kids in this city do not at all match the options available in parochial or private school.

    Actions do speak louder than words. The actions of the SFUSD indicate that they do not want to attract non poor, non ESL kids into San Francisco schools.

    My take on it is that there are simply too many disadvantaged children in the city to lessen "racial isolation." The closest I've seen to "non isolation" in a good school is E R Taylor. They have an 60/30/10 split between Asian, Latino and Other kids. However, that school has a number of sources of additional funding and an exceptionally dedicated staff. However, even in this school, it is odd to talk about dealing with "racial isolation" when you see so many ESL kids segregated in language programs. At ER Taylor, more than half the kids are in either chinese or spanish immersion in extremely non-diverse class rooms. I'm not saying this is wrong, but it sure flies in the face of the notion that the SFUSD wants to eliminate racial isolation.

    Nope, it ain't a lack of homework or guilt on the part of the middle class that is pushing us out of the city or into private schools.

    The choice of magnet programs, Spanish or Asian language immersion, doesn't help to decrease racial isolation.

    The refusal to verify the residence requirement makes the city a magnet for poor non-resident kids.

    The middle class do not have access to the limited number of schools that would begin to offer them the same education value that private and parochial schools provide.

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  40. To 2:05 pm -- I hear your frustrations. I actually think your list for this year gives you a good chance, certainly if you move during the wait list -- putting Stevenson first is a savvy choice as it truly is a good albeit VERY hidden gem. So don't give up yet!

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  41. "I'm one of those parents who last year ended up doing her homework on the public schools, tried to seek out "hidden gems" and still ended up going private because we bombed out in Round I, Round II and the Waitlist. We bombed out of Sunset on the waitlist, not Clarendon or Lilienthal or West Portal."

    OK, you're the exception.
    The fact is that, according to Rachel Norton, of the 22% who went 0/7, four-fifths had one of the 11 trophies at #1 and/or #2.

    All in my social circle of 40+ families, save one, got into a public school they wanted either in Round I or off the waitlist. One got into Clarendon six weeks into the school year. It was, frankly, far better than what I'd expected; the previous year was a lot worse.

    That's a good list you compiled, although I'd move Peabody up to #3. I'd expect you get either Stevenson or E.R. Taylor. Taylor has high ELL and kid w/public assistance, so I think you'll be moving from CAIS or FAIS (whichever you're in) to one of those.

    " At ER Taylor, more than half the kids are in either chinese or spanish immersion in extremely non-diverse class rooms."

    E.R. Taylor does not have immersion programs. It has *bilingual* strands for Spanish and Cantonese speaking ELLs.


    "The refusal to verify the residence requirement makes the city a magnet for poor non-resident kids."

    I don't understand this. I had to show four pieces of documentation (ID, birth certificate, and including two proofs of address) to submit my application. I'd brought more than two proofs of address, which was fortunate because the EPC rejected one proof of address as being inadequate. What exactly do you mean by "verification" aside from this?

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  42. Easy 10:52. 2:05 was sharing their experience and their sense of defeatism after "sticking with the process".

    After all is said and done, some people end up with nothing.

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  43. I am 9:22.

    I did not say Clarendon et al. are majority white. I said they don't reflect SFUSD's demographics. This is true.

    AND since they over-represent the wealthy and white, other schools are further imbalanced (become less wealthy and less white). Of course, if the assumption is that the cohort selecting these trophy schools moves to Palo Alto rather than suffering through a non-trophy education, there is no way to ameliorate this. Which is part of the reason that I find making plans for this small and vocal demographic useless.

    I dispute the idea that some wealthy parents giving money to some schools is lifting all boats, which appears to be the assumption here.

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  44. 4:52 and Rachel Norton

    Has anyone done the math surrounding the current racial mix that is currently attending SFUSD?

    I mean - What is the ideal racial mix at a SFUSD school? Are there enough white and asian students to shuffle around to meet your racial mix objectives?

    Perhaps your consultants could run these models. I'm being serious - What would need to happen to bring those "racially isolated" asian, latino and african american schools under 60%?

    Also - Why does anyone care if a school is "racially isolated" as long as it is over-performing i.e., Moscone (latino)? Why would you want to make any changes to such a school?

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  45. 2:05 here regarding the residency requirement.

    "I don't understand this. I had to show four pieces of documentation (ID, birth certificate, and including two proofs of address) to submit my application. I'd brought more than two proofs of address, which was fortunate because the EPC rejected one proof of address as being inadequate. What exactly do you mean by "verification" aside from this?"

    My response:

    A one time showing of ID during the kindergarten application process is a very weak standard for demonstrating residency.

    First of all, many people have relatives or friends in the city who are more than happy to lend out their address to non-resident parents.

    A stronger demonstration of residency should be required, such as yearly tax records. If these are not available, a school guidance councillor should be physically verifying residency.
    That's what happened when I was growing up. If you weren't living in the district, you had a year to move to another school.

    In San Francisco, residency is supposed to be checked every year. Non-residents are apparently meant to go to the back of the application pool. This does not happen. People move out of the city but keep their kids in San Francisco schools for years.
    Nobody checks.

    San Franciscans pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, but their children, for the most part, do not have access to even mediocre schools.

    Meanwhile, many out of city residents (Daly city, Richmond) who pay much lower tax (directly or through rent), gain access to our schools. Often, because they indicate that they qualify for free lunch, they have priority access.

    I am not making this up. I know of quite a few out-of-city families who are using the address of a relative to send their kids to our schools.

    I would estimate that the number of out-of-city kids attending our schools is greater than ten percent.

    It is obviously deliberate that the SFUSD is not checking this.

    Fine, but there is really no point to talking about racial isolation when the the doors are thrown open to every family within driving distance of the city. There is then no matching of taxes paid to services rendered. No one should be crying about underfunding of our schools. Think about what would happen if we were instantaneously able to increase school funding by ten percent.

    It is a fait accompli.

    All the window dressing in the world won't fix this.

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  46. 2:05 here again.

    I anticipate that someone will say that it doesn't matter that out-of-city kids are getting into our schools. They will say that funding comes from the state.

    This is effectively untrue.

    We do get funding from the state for each child attending school in the city. That is true.

    However, that state funding comes from state income tax. San Franciscans pay a larger than average amount into that state income tax. So indirectly, it is out-of-city residence who are riding of the backs of the high income tax paid by San Francisco residence. (It costs more to live here, hence you must have a higher income.)

    Additionally, many school programs are paid for directly from city property taxes. The increases due to Prop A are paid for from city property tax, as is the Rainy Day Fund. School facilities are paid for from city property tax. Many other services rendered in the schoools come directly from city property taxes.

    Out-of-city residents who have their kids in our schools really do get a great freebie at the expense of San Franciscans.

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  47. 4:52 am -- you are completely wrong. Right now, wealthy white and Asian and latino and African-American families are lifting the boats of poorer families attending Clarendon, Rooftop, Lillienthal, Miraloma, etc, etc. The practical problem is that, right now and despite the efforts of PPS and the addition of attractive programs at poorer schools, the district is not attracting enough of these families to spread around to all the schools. And a huge part of the reason for that is the nontransparent lottery process currently in place. Whatever you may think about them, many middle class parents think the process is stacked against them. Changing the system to make it even more obtuse -- putting in "academic diversity" preferences and income preferences -- is just going to put them off for good.

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  48. Good point 3:30 - Does the district even have enough "low needs" students to spread around?

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  49. Self-funding certain schools does not fund all schools. While I do not expect you to agree with me, I do expect you to take the time to read what I write before disagreeing with it. Of course the funds wealthy parents give to their schools benefit all of the students at that school. And equally obvious is what I stated: those funds don't benefit any child not at that school, and those children are disproportionately poor children of color.

    Honestly, I doubt the ability of SFUSD to create any enrollment scheme that would destroy the perception that wealthy white parents are the targets of 'reverse racism'. These attitudes are persistent in American culture no matter what one does or says to question them. On this very blog, I have seen pseudoscientific pathologizing of non-white cultures, persistent belief that SFUSD somehow secretly uses race and zip code in the enrollment lottery (directly as opposed to by proxy, mind you), and all kinds of research-lacking explanantions as to why schools are segregated.

    And again: I don't think this is a very large cohort, just a very vocal one. I am far more interested in the education of the children who make up the majority of SFUSD.

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  50. 2:05, from January 7th, again:

    "Of course the funds wealthy parents give to their schools benefit all of the students at that school."

    I would agree that although affluent parents do help fund a few select schools in the city, the emphasis on magnet programs to attract these parents into public schools is broken.

    The effect of having a few good schools that have managed to attract a demographic mix is limited.

    The vast majority of San Franciscan children are left in the cold, poor and middle class, alike.

    The current enrollment process puts ELL and poor children at the front of the line. Legally, the school board must provide access for poor children because of the Consent Decree and for ELL kids because of the Lau Decision.

    Both of the decisions are morally reasonable.

    As structured, the lottery heavily favors ELL and poor families in the enrollment process.

    Where it gets weird is when you are not ELL and not poor. Then you are in trouble.

    There is a huge gap between poor and what would allow a family to comfortably send two kids to parochial schools in this city. I would say that the comfort zone for parochial school starts at a salary of about $200K per year with two kids. In effect, you have to be prepared to buy the equivalent of a car every year.

    So that leaves a huge gap between poor and $200K per year. Families that fall into this gap are either forced to move or forced to send their children to a poor or very mediocre school. This is unjust.

    Note that the Lau Decision and the Consent Decree were enacted at a time when there were many more affordable alternatives to public school.

    The Lau Decision was also enacted at a time when most immigration to this country occured legally. The children of most immigrants until about 1980 did learn English. We did not have a preponderance of "immigrants" who continued to not be able to speak English even into the third generation.

    I believe that the Lau decision was meant to protect poor ELL children.

    Henry Kissinger was an ELL kid. He immigrated here when he was in his teens. Einstein, Werner Von Braun, Audrey Hepburn and Madeleine Albright had to learn English as a second language. The vast majority of children less than about twelve years old can completely master a second language if they are well taught or are from an educated family.
    It is, by and large, only poor children from families with little education that have a problem learning a second language.

    In intent, the Lau decision is correct. However, I don't think this law was ever intended to allow the creation of the Mercedes and BMW crowd at West Portal, Alice Fong Yu and, insult on injury, De Avila. The fact that this has happened is ridiculous and unjust.

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  51. 2:05 from Jan 7th, continuing:

    12:04, Let's talk about those race issues. (Actually, I don't think there is an such thing as reverse racism. We are all equally capable of narrow mindedness, it seems.)

    We currently have a system in the city that attempts to help the poor, but not very well. The system certainly helps Asian families. They are a protected class and merit the creation of all kinds of immersion language programs. It helps about 25% of white families who manage to waitlist their way into Clarendon, Alvarado, Miraloma, Lilienthal, Grattan and a few others. The rest go parochial or private. Actually, it probably helps less that 25% of white families because so many of them leave the city, so are not counted in the 75% of while families that end up in parochial or private.

    The system doesn't really do a good job of helping Latino families, either, except at Alvarado, Moscone and E R Taylor.

    Does the system help black families? Maybe a few, but judging by some of the comments regarding the recent Cobb flab, I would say that the African American community is up in arms regarding schools.

    How about other ethnic minorities like the Asian Indian community? Yes, that is what it says on the school enrollment form: "Asian Indian" . . . well OK, but genetically speaking, Indians are Caucasian. Anyway, the few Indians I know in the city are either in private, Miraloma or Grattan. So maybe we can lump them in with the Caucasians, after all.

    How about all those Middle Easterners? This city really does need a few more falafel joints.

    Oh, and the Africans? Italians and Greeks? Apart from a few high end restaurants, and Cafe Triete, I guess we have to go to Berkeley and Burlingame for good ethnic food. (I did stumble upon an Indian food joint on Parnassus near UCSF the other day. Oh, and Kasa on 18th. But pretty slim pickings, for the most part.)

    All I can say is Thank God! that the French subsidize education for their foreign nationals in this city. Otherwise, our city's international flair (food and otherwise), would consist of mostly Asian and Mexican influences. Not that that is bad, but it pales in comparison with the kind of cultural mix you would get in New York or Boston.

    "And again: I don't think this is a very large cohort, just a very vocal one. I am far more interested in the education of the children who make up the majority of SFUSD."

    From the parents at Cobb, to the Latina mom who I saw rag out Carlos Garcia at a Parents for Public schools meeting a few years ago, to me, 0/7-whitie mom, we are all fed up.

    The Notorious 11 + E R Taylor + Peabody + Stevenson + Moscone, good or exceptional schools, serve only a small fraction of San Francisco kids. (Sure, go ahead, all the one or two more that you can honestly think of.) The rest of us are left out in the cold. That's a large number, not some tiny vocal minority.

    I'd like to know why non poor ELL speakers are put to the front of the lottery line.

    I'd like to understand why we pursue language immersion programs when so many of them are not helping our kids learn to read or do math or science.

    I'd like to know why we throw our doors open to out-of-city kids when we already have 60% of our kids on free lunch.

    I'd like to know why more than half the kids in the city are flunking math and english language arts by grade five.

    Once we get to the down and dirty about these, then maybe I'll be a little more inclined to feel like paying for all those school funding increases that will be on the ballot next fall.

    I'm not holding my breathe.

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  52. To borrow one of my very favorite quotes:

    "The plural of anecdote is not data".

    I don't like the lottery system either, because it doesn't seem to provide any benefit other than an enrollment list for each school (and not always that).

    My point is that there is no solution that will please all stakeholders, unless that solution is "Every student will be enrolled at his or her top choice and be provided with a free pony!"

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  53. There is a solution.

    Through exceptional teaching and great leadership, raise the test scores at every school until the majority of kids pass the the CST in every subject.

    Cut ESL for non-poor kids. Actually, cut language immersion altogether until the majority of schools have the majority of kids excelling in English language arts, math and science. The goal should be to get kids fluent in English and achieving in math and science first. A second language is a wonderful thing, but we do not have the resources at the moment to do it well.

    OK, so there are some awesome language immersion programs in the city public schools. . . AFY, West Portal and Alvarado come to mind. Fine, but I think, out of fairness, affluent Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Spanish immersion families should have to contribute to a fund that helps other less monied schools, not just their own child's school.
    The tax could be assessed based on income or home value.

    Check residency each year for each kid so that taxes paid more closely match expeditures. Our schools are crushed under the weight of so many high needs kids.
    We should first help those who live in the city.

    Until we accomplish this, we will have most parents in the city scrambling over each other. It is unacceptable.

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  54. Regarding the out-of-school comment, check out the Tiburon/Larkspur school district website's warning about residency requirements. EVERY YEAR, yes folks every year, parents with kids in grades 3 through 8 MUST produce evidence of residency in the relevant neighborhhoods. This is just a sample of the strict rules that other school districts employ to show that students' families are within district. Why doesn't SFUSD do this?

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  55. Thank you Jan. 9th at 2:30 -- I think you've really nailed the precise problem on the head. This city is already so expensive, and then for anyone with more than one kid, you are exactly right that you need to make $200,000 upwards to do private school. Some of it has to do with the shocking increases at private schools. Just five years ago, there were "pretty good" low-priced privates like Discovery School and Synergy that were at the $10,000 or less range. (My hairdresser -- no wealthy woman -- sent her kid to Discovery and was very happy.) Now Synergy is sniffing $20,000 and Discovery is effectively gone. The only reasonable privates left are the ones run by religious groups that just don't match the majoritarian SF family values. So you hit the problem on its head. We've got two in public school and occasionally look at private as an option. And each time we recoil from the sticker shock.

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  56. "Where it gets weird is when you are not ELL and not poor. Then you are in trouble."

    If you look at the 64SFUSD elementaries for which there are the "similar schools" API rankings for 2008, they break down as follows:

    Rank 9 & 10 (highest): 19
    Rank 7 & 8 (very good): 14
    Rank 5 & 6 (good): 7
    Rank 3 & 4 (fair): 5
    Rank 1 & 2 (low): 19

    In other words *half the schools in the goddamn district* are very good to excellent: the distribution is bimodal: there's a lot of very good & excellent schools, a fair number of bad schools, and not many in the middle. Further, many of the schools lower in the APIs are schools with immersion programs like Flynn, Fairmount, Marshall, Revere: ones that have magnet programs to draw in parents and make those schools less heavily segregated by race & class.

    The idea that a middle class parent can't find a good school for their kid amongst the 70 public in the district is not even close to true. I've been on tours of Rooftop where there were 80+ parents.

    Moscone gets similar test scores to Rooftop, but when I've toured Moscone there were only two other parents, one of whom was a friend I dragged along. A shrewd punter would list Moscone, not Rooftop.

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  57. "Sure, go ahead, all the one or two more that you can honestly think of.)"

    SFUSD elementary schools with 2008 similar schools API rankings index with scores of 7 or more:

    Alamo
    AFY
    Alvarado
    Argonne
    Claire Lillenthal
    Clarendon
    E R Taylor
    Garfield
    Peabody
    Moscone
    Glen Park
    Gordon Lau
    Harvey Milk
    Jean Parker
    John Yehall Chin
    Jose Ortega
    Junipero Serra
    Lafayette
    Lawton
    Longfellow
    McKinley
    Rooftop
    Stevenson
    Sheridan
    Sherman
    Spring Valley
    Sunset
    Ulloa
    Visitacion Valley
    West Portal
    Yick Wo

    That's 32 schools punching well above their weight for their demographics. If you haven't heard of many of them, ask yourself why. You'll also notice certain trophy schools don't show up in the list.

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  58. "There is a solution.

    Through exceptional teaching and great leadership, raise the test scores at every school until the majority of kids pass the the CST in every subject."

    This is an aspiration, not a solution.

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  59. "Oh, and the Africans? Italians and Greeks? Apart from a few high end restaurants, and Cafe Triete, I guess we have to go to Berkeley and Burlingame for good ethnic food. (I did stumble upon an Indian food joint on Parnassus near UCSF the other day. Oh, and Kasa on 18th. But pretty slim pickings, for the most part.)"

    Y'know, this is your image of diversity - it's a touch of the exotic for service of your palate, but essentially decoration.

    But you're not in touch with what the true face of the city is. The district's students are 41% Asian, 24% Hispanic. All those Spanish and Asian immersion and bilingual language programs you see as frivolrous, are reflecting the linguistic and cultural reality of the city. Because your kid is the token minority, not them.

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  60. "Actually, cut language immersion altogether until the majority of schools have the majority of kids excelling in English language arts, math and science."

    The problem with that is that (1) Immersion education is shown to have a slight but non insignificant edge on standard ESL bilingual education. (2) Under a choice/lottery system, language programs are a way for the district to turn around failing schools. Alvarado was not a desirable school 10 years ago, nor were Flynn or Monroe or Fairmont. Look at the rise in popularity of Marshall, Webster, Revere.

    Those parents willing to take a risk on a magnet language program in schools with historically low APIs are parents who otherwise would be competing with you for spots at Clarendon, Rooftop or Grattan.

    The district is big enough to experiment with a range of different programs, within the constraints of NCLB and the state curriculum, to suit different tastes and philosophies. The lottery system aids this.

    Removing the lottery would increase certainty but radically reduce choice and experimentation.

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  61. 10:36

    Experimentation? Do the parents realize that these programs are experiments or do they believe that these are tried and tested?

    I have posted before on this topic... Why do we need experiments when we have successful models like Moscone and ER Taylor that do a good job teaching students - even a majority of high need students?

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  62. "But you're not in touch with what the true face of the city is. The district's students are 41% Asian, 24% Hispanic. All those Spanish and Asian immersion and bilingual language programs you see as frivolrous, are reflecting the linguistic and cultural reality of the city. Because your kid is the token minority, not them."

    One of the reasons that the city is 41% Asian is that Asian speakers have priority school enrollment through immersion and ELL. Actually, we are referring largely to Cantonese speakers, not Asian languages in general, if you want to get down to statistics.

    English language speakers do not have ELL and immersion to get them into good schools and are forced to move out of the city. That is why the population of English language speakers in the city continues to decline.

    So, please!, don't tell me you are interested in diversity! We are on our way to having 50% of San Francisco children come from a small part of Southern China.

    Could you tell me, please, where that Russian, Hindi, Portuguese, Japanese, German, French and Vietnamese language immersion program is? With the exception of Alvarado, where are all those the top notch Spanish immersion programs? All of these languages have sizeable communities in the city, and more speakers worldwide than Cantonese (see below), but do not rate an immersion program.

    What gives?

    Oh, and by the way, our family speaks Greek and English. (We didn't try to shoe horn our way into the lottery with Greek.) It is true that we may be a "token minority" but if that is true, so are the Tagalog speakers who just got their own immersion program. I guess you are just ignorant of the long-standing contribution of the Greek community in this city. Not suffering from cultural and linguistic isolation, are you?

    This from http://www.nicemice.net/amc/tmp/lang-pop.var

    "Number of speakers
    source: Ethnologue on Tue 21 Oct 1997

    "The data comes from the entries in the ethnologue itself, not from the Top 100 list, whose numbers differ from those in the entries.

    ("1st" means native speakers; "1st or 2nd" means all speakers.)

    language speakers (1st) (1st or 2nd)
    ---------- ----------------- ------------
    (top 98:)
    Mandarin 885 million
    English 322 million 470 million
    Spanish 266 million 362 million
    Bengali 189 million 196 million
    Hindi 182 million 418 million
    Russian 170 million 288 million
    Portuguese 170 million 182 million
    Japanese 125 million
    German 98 million 121 million
    Wu 77 million
    Javanese 76 million
    Korean 75 million
    Telugu 73 million
    French 72 million 124 million
    Vietnamese 67 million
    Cantonese (Yue) 66 million
    Marathi 65 million
    Tamil 62 million 69 million
    Turkish 59 million
    Urdu 57 million
    Min Nan 49 million
    Gujarati 44 million
    Polish 44 million
    Egyptian 43 million
    Ukrainian 41 million
    Italian 40 million

    ReplyDelete
  63. Vicki from PPS and/or Rachel Norton can you please clarify about the language tests. I know two separate families that recommended lying on applications to game the system claiming languages that they believe will not be tested. Both of the children in question are fluent in English. In one case the child really doesn't even speak a second language at all. So you're saying that they will not get the leg up that they are counting on? I cannot tell you how much it irks me that people would lie, but I do think that the questions are poorly worded on the form making it easier for people to "rationalize" that they are just stretching the rules. I also appreciate the input from knowledgeable sources. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  64. "Experimentation? Do the parents realize that these programs are experiments or do they believe that these are tried and tested?"

    West Portal was the first Chinese immersion program in the country. AFY was the first Chinese immersion school in the country.

    How do you think those experiments have worked out?

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  65. "One of the reasons that the city is 41% Asian is that Asian speakers have priority school enrollment through immersion and ELL."

    The district is 41% Asian in part because Leland Stanford decided Asians were better and cheaper workers building the Railroad than the Irish, and they stayed here despite Chinatown being burned down three times, and xenophobic laws discouraging Chinese from merging their families or bringing over their wives.

    "It is true that we may be a "token minority" but if that is true, so are the Tagalog speakers who just got their own immersion program."

    There's no Tagalog immersion program. There is a bilingual ESL program at Bessie Carmichael, which has been in place since 2000. BTW, Philipinos are 8% of SFUSD intake.

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  66. Both AFY and West Portal are racially and socioeconomically undiverse compared to the population of San Francisco.

    Immersion necessitates 50% native speakers. In both these cases, 50% Cantonese speakers. By necessesity, that creates an undiverse community.

    What is worse, especially in the case of AFY, the community is both racially and socioeconomically isolated.

    These schools act as intended as a magnet, but mostly for affluent Cantonese speaking families. However, they do very little of the heavy lifting of an ER Taylor, Stevenson or Moscone.

    So I don't think they can be held up as a shining beacon that shows that immersion has helped close the diversity gap.

    AFY stats:
    ----------

    This school State average
    Asian 66% 8%
    White 10% 28%
    Latino 5% 49%
    AA 4% 7%
    Filipino 2% 3%

    Free or reduced lunch:
    25% 51%

    ELL 19% 24%



    West Portal:
    ------------

    This school State average
    Asian 68% 8%
    White 14% 28%
    Latino 3% 49%
    AA 2% 7%
    Filipino 3% 3%

    Free or reduced lunch:
    37% 51%

    ELL 44% 24%



    This school State average
    Asian 66% 8%
    White 10% 28%
    Latino 5% 49%
    AA 4% 7%
    Filipino 2% 3%

    Free or reduced lunch:
    25% 51%

    ELL 19% 24%

    ReplyDelete
  67. The problem with AFY in particular is that it allows a concentration of non-poor Cantonese speakers, which is at odds with the goal of socioeconomic and racial diversity that the school board apparently says it wants to create.

    I am well aware of the immigration history from many parts of Asia to the West Coast of North America over at least two centuries. I am not trying to diminish the significance of that sacrifice, but I don't think that bequeathes "special status" on the Cantonese community. Perhaps you could inform me of a legal decision beyond the Lau Decision and the Consent Degree that gives special status (and extra-ordinary access to schools) to the Cantonese community in San Francisco.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Jan. 11 at 11:55 am's list of the most widel spoken languages is really wrong -- Arabic should be much higher on that list. This is a link to one website on this issue:http://www.photius.com/rankings/languages2.html. Another commenter came up with this list:

    Mandarin Chinese (1.1 billion)
    English (330 million)
    Spanish (300 million)
    Hindi/Urdu (250 million)
    Arabic (200 million)
    Bengali (185 million)
    Portuguese (160 million)
    Russian (160 million)
    Japanese (125 million)
    German (100 million)
    Punjabi (90 million)
    Javanese (80 million)
    French (75 million)

    Anyway you cut it, it does serve as a sobering reminder of how SFUSD's immersion choices are colored by not just the number of native children speakers here, but also by local ethnic political power. For example, Russian is fairly high up there, but there's no Russian immersion program at all, other than some light Russian language stuff at one Richmond elementary school. Italian is nowhere on that list, but there's an Italian program at Clarendon. Korean is nowhere on that list, but there's the Lillienthal program.

    ReplyDelete
  69. 2:28, thank you for another language list. Sorry that I dropped the ball on Arabic. Like I said above, "This city could really use a few more falafel joints."

    (Just being stupid and frivolous.)

    ReplyDelete
  70. "Immersion necessitates 50% native speakers."

    AFY is a one-way Cantonese program. There's no 50% requirement of Cantonese speakers in the intake.

    I'm getting tired batting down the misinformation here.

    ReplyDelete
  71. "Anyway you cut it, it does serve as a sobering reminder of how SFUSD's immersion choices are colored by not just the number of native children speakers here, but also by local ethnic political power."

    According to the U.S. Census, there are 195,000 speakers of Asian and Pacific Island languages in SF. According to UCLA, there's 180,000 Cantonese speakers in SF, so that number of Asian language speakers is overwhelmingly Cantonese. Similarly, there are 88,000 Spanish-speakers in SF, according to the U.S. Census.

    All other Indo-European language speakers are 48,000, and other non-Indo-European language speakers amount to less than 5,000.

    The reason why there are a lot of immersion and bilingual ESL programs in Spanish and Cantonese is because there's a shedload of speakers of those languages. So there is a need and opportunity there that is far less than for other languages.

    The reason there's not immersion programs for Arabic, for instance, is *because not a lot of San Franciscans speak it*.

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  72. "Why do we need experiments when we have successful models like Moscone and ER Taylor that do a good job teaching students - even a majority of high need students?"

    Open your enrollment guide. Look up the entries for Taylor and Moscone. Look at the "SB" and "CB" initials for those schools. Google or look up in the index what those stand for.

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  73. 3:14,

    You are confirming what has already been said.

    It is true that most Asian language speakers in this city are Cantonese speakers.

    There are not may Arabic speakers here in the city. Arabic and Persian speakers live in the Central, South and East Bay. By second generation, they mostly speak English and are looking for access to excellent schools, something they have a difficult time with here in the city.

    Most speakers of an Indo-European language, other than English, would likely have children who would test as being fluent in English. They would therefore not gain priority access to San Francisco schools by saying their children are English Language Learners.

    ReplyDelete
  74. "By second generation, they mostly speak English and are looking for access to excellent schools, something they have a difficult time with here in the city."

    I've posted 32 in this thread with similar schools ranks of 7 or above. The district overall is ranked the same at Mountain View and Alameda, and above Sunnyvale, for example, to take a few South and East Bay communities at random.

    ReplyDelete
  75. 3:19:

    SB and CB stand for Spanish Bilingual and Chinese Bilingual.

    I have toured E R Taylor.

    Specifically, the SB and CB classes are open only to ELL Spanish and Cantonese speakers. English speaker who are interested in taking Spanish or Cantonese cannot take these classes. The goal of these programs is get kids fluent in English by grade 5. In the Cantonese class, the focus on Cantonese is minimal. The Spanish biligual kids do get some instruction in Spanish, but again are targeted to learn English by Grade 5.

    So these classes amount to English Language Learner classes.

    They are not immersion classes.

    ReplyDelete
  76. "Bengali (185 million)
    Portuguese (160 million)
    Russian (160 million)
    Japanese (125 million)
    German (100 million)
    Punjabi (90 million)"

    This is true but irrelevant. We'd have a hard time setting up a Bengali or Punjabi immersion program: we're not Tower Hamlets or Bradford in the U.K.

    ReplyDelete
  77. "Specifically, the SB and CB classes are open only to ELL Spanish and Cantonese speakers."

    3:10 again: then why the screeching about the injustice of special programs for Cantonese and Spanish speakers, when 2/3 of Moscone, held up as a model school, is *given over to special programs for those speakers*? Doesn't that tell you something about the intake in SFUSD, and the relative difficulty of setting up Spanish or Cantonese immersion programs versus Arabic or German?

    I'm well aware that they're not immersion: I asked the principal of Moscone, and her view of her charter is that those programs serve the community, and they didn't have programs getting sufficient applicants to, so there was no need for them to convert their bilingual programs to immersion to get the punters.

    Flynn, Starr King, JOES, Revere, Marshall, Webster weren't in that position. So to pull in the applicants, they introduced immersion programs.

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  78. "I've posted 32 in this thread with similar schools ranks of 7 or above. The district overall is ranked the same at Mountain View and Alameda, and above Sunnyvale, for example, to take a few South and East Bay communities at random."

    It is not acceptable to have 30% of a class failing the CST. Many of the schools you list as being acceptable have a "pass" rate for the CST in the 70% range. If 30% of the class is failing in grade 5, what do you think is going to happen in grade 9 or 10?

    I would not want my child at such a school.

    I keep hearing our schools compared to those of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. I don't care about Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Most of the parents putting Alvarado, Alamo and Clarendon don't care about Mountain View either.

    A school with a 30% rate of failure in grade five is not likely to help a child get into the UC California system.

    By national and international standards, and against its own curriculum, SF schools with a CST scores below 70% are doing poorly.

    Why is that so difficult to understand?

    ReplyDelete
  79. "Many of the schools you list as being acceptable have a "pass" rate for the CST in the 70% range."

    Miraloma ES has a pass rate of 60% in Grade 5 for Math. Why's it flavor du jour and, say, Yick Wo not?

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  80. 12:25

    Agreed that the form has been poorly worded.

    However, if you or anyone puts down that your child speaks another language at home--whatever this means to you--then your child will be tested. They are testing 100% of these applicants this year. If that child tests as proficient in English (totally apart from whether that child demostrates proficiency or not in a different language), then that child will NOT be receiving a diversity point/value for ELL.

    Not having this diversity point is probably a negative at Miraloma but a positive at Moscone and ER Taylor, btw.

    But to answer your question--these people you know who intend to game the system by claiming the child speaks Klingon or some other obscure language will not be gaining any advantage after all, and they will have put their child through an unnecessary test.

    When I went through the line at EPC the other day, I heard over and over that they were scheduling the language tests based on what people put on the forms. If a visual/aural "read" is to be trusted, it was mostly Cantonese- and Spanish-speaking families getting asked to make an appointment.

    The only reason that proficiency in another language matters is for inclusion in a dual-immersion language program. AFY is not a dual-immersion program, btw, although most of the Spanish ones are. They are hoping the Mandarin ones will be, but in practice they are more like one-way immersion like AFY.

    ReplyDelete
  81. "3:10 again: then why the screeching about the injustice of special programs for Cantonese and Spanish speakers, when 2/3 of Moscone, held up as a model school, is *given over to special programs for those speakers*? Doesn't that tell you something about the intake in SFUSD, and the relative difficulty of setting up Spanish or Cantonese immersion programs versus Arabic or German?"


    I'm fine with a school like E R Taylor that has, as its goal, teaching English to mostly poor ELL kids.

    I'm not fine with a school like AFY that allows racial concentration of most non-ELL, non-poor kids.

    Of course, there are many flavors in between, but the continued pursuit of more AFYs (De Avila) is really a problem.

    Also, the school board does really need to get on top of test to see if a child is really an English Language Learner.

    The while ELL think is really out of hand when it comes to the school enrollment process.

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  82. "Many of the schools you list as being acceptable have a "pass" rate for the CST in the 70% range."

    Including E.R. Taylor, which has a pass rate for English in Grade 5 of 75%. You've held up E.R. Taylor as a paragon (which I do to), but there's a limit to using absolute (versus relative) rankings here. Would you turn down a place at E.R. Taylor if given it?

    Rooftop is in the same order of magnitude for CST results in Grade 5 as E.R. Taylor: is Rooftop failing? Would you turn down a place at Rooftop, if offered it?

    ReplyDelete
  83. 3:51

    My children have attended schools with not-stellar (but improving) CST scores. I too would be concerned about this if the CST scores were basement low and also not improving, but I have come to understand that much of this has to do with demographics.

    As long as there has been a critical mass of kids working at my kids' levels in certain subjects, say 4-5 kids per grade in a class of 22, then they have received the extensions they needed to work and grow at their own pace. A school that was completely overwhelmed wouldn't have been the right fit. But we didn't need a school that was completely demographically favorable either. My kids will absolutely be ready for UC Berkeley despite this 30% that you seem to see as somehow contaminating. It's not. It's a bonus to attend a school that is truly diverse.

    Look, no WAY a newly arrived ELL kid tests well on the CST, okay? Question is, can the school help the kid improve from one year to the next? It's not all about my kid only. My kids are fine. They get good teaching, good peer support, and they get to see other kids' gifts and talents in a variety of settings.

    If test scores are your thing, though, then I too question the wild focus on Miraloma over Yick Wo and several others that get very little buzz but have better quantitative results.

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  84. 4:04

    This year the EPC *is* on top of testing for language proficiency. As has been mentioned about a million times on this blog.

    AFY is one-way immersion. Anyone may apply. Granted that not everyone will apply given its inconvenient location that is far from the east side of town (and most of the children in SFUSD). How are wealthy people being privileged in the AFY lottery, exactly?--other than through the choice aspect of the applicant pool? Given the demographics there now, I assume that most who qualify as extremely poor, low SES, etc. will garner a spot almost immediately when the computer starts running the algorithm.

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  85. "I'm not fine with a school like AFY that allows racial concentration of most non-ELL, non-poor kids."

    After the Lau decision, what do you suggest to avoid racial concentration? I'm all ears.

    Also, you might have noticed that the lottery tries to spread out kids in receipt of public assistance as evenly as possible. This is getting criticised in other threads, so you might pop over there and defend it.

    On AFY's low-ELLs: AFY was actually set up as an Alternative shcool *requiring English proficiency*, so that may have an impact on the %age of ELLs in the upper grades.

    Also, what you say of AFY is true of, say, Clarendon: 12% ELLs, 11% free/reduced school lunch. Or Grattan: 9% ELLs, 21% free/reduced lunch. Should those be criticised too?

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  86. "After the Lau decision, what do you suggest to avoid racial concentration? I'm all ears."

    As mentioned above, the only kids that should qualify for special consideration as English Language Learners are those that really are ELL and are also poor.

    I've known quite a few kids who have learned English without any special intervention whatsoever.
    Even my friend who immigrated from Iran at the age of 11 managed to
    fully master English without any special training apart from being a hardworker.

    Kids aren't learning English here in San Francisco because they are surrounded by an environment of non-English speakers. Some of the schools don't do a very good job of teaching even native English speaking kids to read. No surprise that the ELL kids are struggling. That should be dealt with before we carry on with even more immersion programs.

    Also, we should examin the goal of these immersion programs. Is the goal to teach ELL kids to learn English? Is the goal to teach ELL kids to learn English and their native language? Is the goal to teach English speakers to speak a foreign language.

    The best ELL and immsersion programs seem to have a clear vision of which of those questions they are trying to answer. The floundering programs don't seem to answer any of these questions very well.

    In any case, it is imperative for all kids in San Francisco to learn English by grade 5. There are no or very few middle school programs that would allow a child to learn if they still cannot speak English.

    That doesn't seem to be happening right now, which is why it is so terrifying to contemplate that the Board wants to create even more magnet immersion programs.

    "Also, you might have noticed that the lottery tries to spread out kids in receipt of public assistance as evenly as possible. This is getting criticised in other threads, so you might pop over there and defend it."

    Fine by me, but there is the geographic and logistic limitation of that. The schools in the West and North of the city, and their political constituencies, have a very different experience from those in the rest of the city.

    "On AFY's low-ELLs: AFY was actually set up as an Alternative shcool *requiring English proficiency*, so that may have an impact on the %age of ELLs in the upper grades.

    Also, what you say of AFY is true of, say, Clarendon: 12% ELLs, 11% free/reduced school lunch. Or Grattan: 9% ELLs, 21% free/reduced lunch. Should those be criticised too?"

    Yes, I believe that some of these top scoring schools (the Notorious 11 +) should ask their families to pay into a fund to support the other schools into the city. It would level the financial playing field between private and public schools, while providing funds to build more good schools. In the long term, it would broaden the field of good schools.

    If I had my child in a say, Clarendon, I wouldn't mind paying into such a fund. I'm just not into paying for more school props when our family has to fork out $$$ for private school tuition.

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  87. By "build more good schools" I mean teacher and pricipal training, programming, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  88. "As long as there has been a critical mass of kids working at my kids' levels in certain subjects, say 4-5 kids per grade in a class of 22, then they have received the extensions they needed to work and grow at their own pace."

    Kids do tend to glomb together based on sex. There is increasing evidence to suggest that girls tend to be more subject to peer pressure than boys when it comes to learning subjects like math and science. Just my guess, but I would think that you would need a cohort of 4 or 5 girls interested in math or science to take this on.

    Here is an article about this:

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/math-gender.html

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  89. "How are wealthy people being privileged in the AFY lottery, exactly?--other than through the choice aspect of the applicant pool? Given the demographics there now, I assume that most who qualify as extremely poor, low SES, etc. will garner a spot almost immediately when the computer starts running the algorithm."

    I guess the filter is that poor, low SES kids don't want to go to AFY. They likely are both intimidated by the amount of homework and also do not see the efficacy of expending many years learning Cantonese. BTW, Cantonese is considered to be very difficult to learn, even more difficult than Mandarin.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Regarding E R Taylor vs. Rooftop CST scores:

    Rooftop is on the Notorious 11 list, isn't it? Also, Rooftop has something like 30% of kids on Free or Reduced Lunch, whereas, E R Taylor supports a community of kids where more than 60% are on F or R Lunch. It also has many more ELL kids than Rooftop.

    The raw scores at E R Taylor are also higher, even with the much more challenged student group.

    I'm not putting down Rooftop. The CST scores there do seem to have improved there this year over last.

    ReplyDelete
  91. "Also, we should examin the goal of these immersion programs. Is the goal to teach ELL kids to learn English? Is the goal to teach ELL kids to learn English and their native language? Is the goal to teach English speakers to speak a foreign language."

    I think there's a couple of aims for immersion education. There's teaching anglophone kids a target language, there's teaching ELL kids , there's maintaining bilingualism in kids who have a facility in both languages. Also, Prop 227 tried to do away with bilingual ELL education.

    Also, from a school administration point of view, there's an advantage to going immersion programs are an option to (say) integrate a school with a GE and a Spanish Bilingual and/or Cantonese Bilingual core into a single immersion program (like has occured at Fairmont and Marshall) instead of having separate strands.

    AFAIK, the research indicates that there's a small positive effect on the non-English speaking kids by transistioning from on test scores in English by Grade 5, but that their facility in their native tongue is increased. For the Anglophone kids, there's a more marked increase in test scores in later years. There's a transistory drop in test scores in Grades 2-4, though.

    "Even my friend who immigrated from Iran at the age of 11 managed to
    fully master English without any special training apart from being a hardworker."

    Iran is actually very diverse - ethnic Farsis are only 50% of the population: there's Turkmen, Kurds, Lurs, and a host of others. So your friend may have had a first language that wasn't Farsi, or had to learn one, plus he would probably have been exposed to Arabic at a very early age. As the neurological research indicates that bilingualism prevents the facility which enables us to pick up language rapidly as a child from atrophying in adulthood, your anecdote kinda proves the point.

    ReplyDelete
  92. "I guess the filter is that poor, low SES kids don't want to go to AFY. They likely are both intimidated by the amount of homework and also do not see the efficacy of expending many years learning Cantonese."

    I'm puzzled by this too. There are a lot of low-SES Cantonese-speaking kids: e.g. at E.R. Taylor or Moscone or Visitacion Valley, so you'd expect AFY and West Portal to pick up more of them. Either there's a geographic sorting (maybe Inner Sunset has fewer poor Cantonese-speaking kids than Portola or Vis Valley or the Excelsior), or else it's a first-generation/second-generation immigrant difference: poor first-generation immigrants may be less prone to choose Cantonese immersion as they prioritize their kids learning English, and second-generation immigrants who've only limited proficiency with Cantonese really want their kids to learn to speak with Grandma.

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  93. "Yes, I believe that some of these top scoring schools (the Notorious 11 +) should ask their families to pay into a fund to support the other schools into the city. It would level the financial playing field between private and public schools, while providing funds to build more good schools. In the long term, it would broaden the field of good schools."

    I wouldn't have a problem with a 20% tax on PTA funds to a central non-profit.

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  94. To Jan. 7, 2:05 pm: why are you entering the lottery? Since your child attends a private school, you can go to EPC today and get a public school assignment immediately. Based on your list, you will most likely get your choice.

    I know that mid-year transfers are not ideal, but they happen all the time, and the kids do fine. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for.

    Our children attend Miraloma. We have had a steady stream of new students all year.

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  95. 7:27 AM:

    Thanks so much for your thoughts on bilingual education. It is interesting that Marshall and Fairmont integrated their immersion strands. That's quite different from E R Taylor.

    Fascinating about the neurological research on language, isn't it. (that if you are exposed to different languages at a young age, it pushes out the age threshold where you will have more difficulty learning a new language.)

    Just a hunch, but I think that also pushes out the age threshold for other subjects, like math, as well. Still, in the end, you have to learn one language well and in this country, and many others, that language is English, for better or for worse.

    I'm not trying to be a dogmatic monster here. My husband's parents were very determined that he only speak Greek at home. However, at some point, about eight-years-old, he declared to his parents that he would only speak English. It is this decision that allowed him to excell in school and master English without an accent. Some of his Greek immigrant peers to this day still speak English with an accent and are not fully comfortable in the language.

    7:34am:

    The Cantonese programs at AFY and E R Taylor are very different in their goal. The E R Taylor program does teach kids some basis Cantonese writing and speaking, but the primary goal is to teach English by grade 5. This would of course be attractive to first generation immigrants. I believe that AFY is focusing on Cantonese. This is probably not as attractive to a first generation Cantonese speaking families. Of course, there is also the geographic factor. Frankly, AFY is not anymore difficult to get to than Clarendon, so I wonder how much the geographic thing plays into it.

    "To Jan. 7, 2:05 pm: why are you entering the lottery? Since your child attends a private school, you can go to EPC today and get a public school assignment immediately. Based on your list, you will most likely get your choice."

    Hmmmm. I will have to check this out. I wasn't aware of this. Thank you for this information.

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  96. January 12 at 7:34 am -- There is most definitely something going on in the pattern of Chinese families choosing schools in the district. I'd be interested if any Chinese parents would care to comment on it. My guess is that there is a divide between parents who want to emphasize getting their kids "Americanized" versus ones who want their children to keep going in their home language. There's also the issue of busing in the city -- I know at least one far Western school that gets lots of (mostly poor) Chinese kids from the SE simply because the school district runs buses between the two locations. As other posters have noted, the Chinese community here spans the spectrum from very wealthy to very poor, from parents who are highly educated to those who are not, and from those who have recently immigrated to those whose families have been here for generations, and everything in between. But one can see a definite divide between the Chinese families at a school like, say, Stevenson or Francis Scott Key, from a school like AFY or West Portal.

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  97. As mentioned above, the only kids that should qualify for special consideration as English Language Learners are those that really are ELL and are also poor.

    I believe this is exactly what is happening this year, in effect: the kids getting the lottery point for ELL status are highly likely to be poor.

    Why is this? Because EPC [as has been said umpteen times here on this blog] is 100% testing this year for claims of English non-proficiency. That means that even kids who speak another language at home, but who are proficient in English due to a second parent, or preschool, or whatever, are NOT going to qualify for ELL status.

    Most middle/upper/affluent families who speak another language are also exposing their children to English. Europeans and South Asians, especially ones with work visas, tend to speak English. The largest group of linguistically isolated families in our city will be Cantonese speakers and Spanish speakers who are also low-income.

    I think one can attack the lottery as too complex, or too confounded by geography/choice (which to me explains why AFY and Clarendon are higher-income than average). But this year, not because of high-income families claiming ELL status. I suppose a few, whose children are so newly arrived they really have not heard a lot of English, may get through this way, but not too many I would bet. I've heard even the bilingual kids are being coded as English for the immersion spots this year--so no privileged entry for any but those who are truly isolated linguistically (and therefore likely low-SES as well).

    I also echo the other poster's suggestion that if you are in private school now it is worth checking with EPC about openings, and keep checking. It would be a more productive use of time than complaining about all these high-income ELLs that denied you a spot at your favored schools.

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  98. 11:12:

    OK. Shalom.

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  99. 12:26 - Let us know what happens!! I have loved reading your comments on this thread. There is so much more going on than most people realize.

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  100. I find it highly dubious that the district has the resources to test 100% of these kids. And there could be different standards applied by the different staff assessing students. The number of ELLs at some of the most sought-after high schools is mind blowing. Check out the stats at Lincoln and Washington.

    What I find interesting is the box the application where you can check off if your family is eligible for the free/reduced lunch program. The district doesn't provide any income standards for this, so people can interpret this however they want. You can be eligible for this program without being in public housing. As folks may recall the SFUSD stood to loose several millions of dollars recently due to its oversight of the free/reduced lunch program - essentially becuase they didn't have documentation to back-up the level of participation at the schools. Geez, makes me worry even more in the ability of the SFUSD to police its own system, to garuntee that folks that are truly poor are getting a fair shake as opposed to folks that are being less than honest.

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  101. "Thanks so much for your thoughts on bilingual education. It is interesting that Marshall and Fairmont integrated their immersion strands. That's quite different from E R Taylor."

    I won't swear that was the case of conversion of SB strands to SI, but that's what I believe happened. Think it was also the case at Flynn and Revere, but parents there can set me straight on that.

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  102. "To Jan. 7, 2:05 pm: why are you entering the lottery? Since your child attends a private school, you can go to EPC today and get a public school assignment immediately. Based on your list, you will most likely get your choice."

    Helpful, useful, actionable advice is not permitted on this thread, only pointless flamewars. This is a violation of the terms of use.

    Seriously, 2:05. let us know what happens with EPC. It's hard to eat a year of tuition, but worth making the transfer if you can get a good assignment.

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  103. "I find it highly dubious that the district has the resources to test 100% of these kids. And there could be different standards applied by the different staff assessing students."

    It's a standardized test.

    My kid went through a similar test last year for Spanish proficiency (which he bombed, despite having good aural comprehension). They tested 100% last year for all those who indicated non-English languages spoken.

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  104. 2:05 wishing you all well, and yes I will pass along an update at some point.

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  105. "Thanks so much for your thoughts on bilingual education. It is interesting that Marshall and Fairmont integrated their immersion strands. That's quite different from E R Taylor."

    They're in different situations. In general, the SI programs have been used to increase the popularity of schools that had falling enrollment, e.g. Revere, Webster, Flynn

    E.R. Taylor didn't have that problem, nor does Moscone, so they don't need to introduce immersion programs; if it isn't broke, why fix it?

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  106. To 2:33 - is the test the same for both students trying to gain entrance to a bilingual/immersion program and for ELLs? How do they do it for kids entering kindergarten, who may not be able to read? And is there the ability to question the testing results. Most small children have never been tested for anything before, so I can imagine it would be harder to really assess kids language abilities/or issues if they've faced down such a situation before.

    The application asks for questions about language, and all of them relate to the parents spoken language at home, and not to the child's current capablities to speak/read either their home language or English.

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  107. The number of ELLs at some of the most sought-after high schools is mind blowing. Check out the stats at Lincoln and Washington.

    Lincoln has a smaller percentage of ELL kids than the statewide average--23%, which is low for the district overall. Lincoln is 62% Asian and 16% Latino. These are the two largest groups in the school--78% of the total. That not quite one-third of these might have qualified under previous testing regimes as ELL is not surprising. I can assure you that the number of English learners at Mission and O'Connell is much higher. I know some of these kids; they really are struggling with learning proficient English both spoken and written. Have you been to any of these schools, ever?

    But. I'm not sure what ANY of that means in terms of this year's testing regime for incoming students. In the past few years there was perceived to be a loophole through which middle/affluent bilingual kids got a "point" for entry into low-ELL, so-called "trophy" schools, or into popular immersion programs. Due to popular protest, this loophole has been closed this year.

    You may not want to believe it, but it is true that 100% of those who claim ELL status on the form are being tested. The EPC intake staff were trained to schedule the appointments for testing as they processed the forms; they are scheduling the tests as matter of course (ever seen a bureacracy in action? the rule comes down, and you'll never, ever be able to sweet-talk the front desk out of imposing that rule).

    The test is for ENGLISH proficiency. Target language proficiency also coded for dual-immersion applications. Kids who are bilingual--say, French-English, German-English, Hindi-English--will end up coded as English speakers. As noted above, most middle/affluent families from Europe or South Asia will be giving their children access to English. The target here is the children who are isolated linguistically. There is a strong correlation between linguistic isolation and low-SES status. These kids are largely not the competition of you and me in the lottery at Clarendon, Miraloma, or even AFY.

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  108. "Frankly, AFY is not anymore difficult to get to than Clarendon, so I wonder how much the geographic thing plays into it."

    IIRC, the odds last year were slightly less ludicrously awful for AFY and WP Cantonese (in terms of overall applications) than for Clarendon GE, Rooftop, Lawton and WP GE. Similarly, I think odds for Claire Lilienthal Korean Immersion were a bit better than for CL GE, and the same was true for Clarendon JBBP versus Clarendon GE. However, AFY had the most parents who listed it #1.

    Here's the stats (slots/first place applications/total applications):

    CL GE: 66/232/803
    CL Korean Imm: 22/42/143

    AFY: 66/284/641

    Clarendon GE: 66/178/1028
    Clarendon JBBP: 44/145/552

    WP GE: 66/112/986
    WP Cant.Imm: 34/76/446

    Rooftop: 66/197/1086

    Lawton: 66/215/951

    Miraloma: 60/116/582

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  109. "How do they do it for kids entering kindergarten, who may not be able to read?"

    It's an oral test.

    "And is there the ability to question the testing results."

    No. There was one case that really broke my heart, a kid at our preschool who came one point short (out of 100) of being assessed as Spanish proficient. If she'd been assessed as proficient, she'd have been in the Spanish-proficient cohort and had a better chance of getting in the SI programs. As it was, she went 0/X (her mom didn't list seven choices).

    They got into a private they're happy with, but I wish they'd gotten into an immersion program.

    "Most small children have never been tested for anything before, so I can imagine it would be harder to really assess kids language abilities/or issues if they've faced down such a situation before."

    It was stressful for the kids: they were talking about it at the preschool playground (the preschool was Spanish immersion, but most of the kids were Anglophone). And a lot of the parents were surprised how high the bar for proficiency was; I'd say half regretted putting their kids through it. Most did eventually get into immersion programs though, even those that were not assessed as Spanish-proficient.

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  110. "To 2:33 - is the test the same for both students trying to gain entrance to a bilingual/immersion program and for ELLs?"

    Last year, the kids I knew were being tested for proficiency in the target language: they were mostly kids who'd went to one or other language immersion preschools. I don't know what they were doing for ELLs that year.

    This year, it sounds like the testing is primarily to identify ELLs.

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  111. "2:05 wishing you all well, and yes I will pass along an update at some point."

    2:05 - a word of advice as you're a two-job family: some of the public afterschool programs have limited afterschool space, so either call around the schools you're interested in to see who has space in their afterschool program, or ask EPC when they give you an assignment if they can hold it open a day or two while you check if the afterschool care situation is going to work for you. Some schools have buses which transfer students to afterschool programs at other schools or other locations, so check that option as well.

    Good luck.

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  112. is the test the same for both students trying to gain entrance to a bilingual/immersion program and for ELLs?

    There is a test for English proficiency. This is the test for whether or not a child is considered ELL (both for the diversity index and for receiving special services once attending school).

    There is a test for proficiency in the non-English language of a dual-immersion program. This determines whether a child is eligible or not for "target language" spot. If the child is proficient in that language, he/she will be eligible for such a spot--still competing in the diversity index lottery with all other applicants who are eligible for that spot.

    Truly bilingual children who speak English are thus labeled non-ELL but are also coded positively for appropriate immersion programs. 3:10 is wrong on this little point, though right on the larger point that there is 100% language testing, and that most if not all ELL kids are low-SES. Even if the middle class or affluent bilingual families get coded for proficient Spanish or Chinese language, they still have to get through the diversity index at relatively affluent schools like AFY and Alvarado .... so it's not that unfair. They will likely get a spot, though, if the Spanish or Chinese spots are going begging, so it is a leg up in that sense.

    PPS did good legwork looking into all this.

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  113. AFY is a one-way immersion program. I don't think that ELL are admitted to AFY. It is the only school in the district that requires full English proficiency. Children who speak Cantonese fluently but have not mastered the English language are not admitted, or they asked to leave if admitted and then found to be deficient in English language skills. Unlike other immersion programs, the goal at AFY is to teach Cantonese (and later Mandarin) to English-predominant students; it is NOT intended to teach English to ELL. This distinction partly explains the affluence of the AFY parent population.

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  114. "AFY is a one-way immersion program. I don't think that ELL are admitted to AFY. It is the only school in the district that requires full English proficiency. "

    This might have been true back in the old OER/alternative school days, but it's not true now. There's ~20% ELLs at AFY now.

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  115. 2:05 here, thank you all for your suggestions, including aftercare programs.

    Best to you all.

    Very saddening about the Haiti earthquake.

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  116. If the SFUSD steals the money I raised for my child's school, I will stop raising it.

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  117. "The Board’s Priorities: 1) Reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school;"

    WTF?

    Academics? Safety?

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  118. Don't know if anyone is still reading this thread. I, "2:05", did manage to find two hours this morning to go down to Franklin street. There are no openings in any of the schools on my list:

    R L Stevenson
    E R Taylor
    Clarendon - Gen
    Miraloma
    New Tranditions
    Peabody
    Grattan

    A number of other schools also did not have openings.

    I suppose I could check every week for a school opening, but I would suspect that openings in popular schools are filled internally.

    Glad to see 8:36's happy comment about not wanting contribute to other schools.

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  119. 2:05, a poster called "Daddums" mentioned on this immersion school thread a few posts up that there was an opening in Alvarado GE. The comment was dated Jan 11th.

    Also, if Peabody works for you, would Sutro? I have friends who send their kids there and are very happy with it.

    Apologies if you already tried these during your visit and got shot down.

    Good luck. I'm really saddened that SFUSD handed you a turd sandwich again, especially after we all got your hopes up; I hope another try does the trick, but understand that this (and the smugness of us public school boosters) must be frustrating infuriating for you. I hope it works out in the end.

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  120. I find it highly dubious that the district has the resources to test 100% of these kids. And there could be different standards applied by the different staff assessing students. The number of ELLs at some of the most sought-after high schools is mind blowing. Check out the stats at Lincoln and Washington.

    It's not particularly expensive to test language proficiency. I'm more surprised that the district is organized enough to get it done.

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  121. 2:15 PM:

    You are very kind.

    One of the reasons I've taken the time to write down our family's experience is that I know that many other families experience the same thing.

    Beyond the schools that we were shooting for, I know that many families would also be happy at a Buena Vista, Rooftop or Fairmont, or Moscone. However, my experience is that those schools are also pretty tough to get into.

    There is this notion that if only families would consider applying to schools that are not on the Notorious 11, all would be well.

    I don't think I am alone in finding out that that is not the case.

    It is my thinking that we need more schools in the city that can deliver on a broad curriculum of language arts/social studies/history/music/math and science.

    I hope that we can gradually work toward this, with great teaching, with business sense, with pragmatism, and with selflessness.

    No less than our polis (πόλις), in other words, the political, economic and cultural life of our city, is at stake.

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