Thursday, August 5, 2010

New student assignment system: An update from Rachel Norton

SFUSD board member Rachel Norton provides a helpful update regarding the new student assignment system on her blog. Here's an excerpt:

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from parents on the new assignment plan, mostly centered around the planned release of the new attendance area boundaries and middle -school feeder patterns next month. In a recent meeting with district staff developing the new plan, I received some further information about how the review process for the new boundaries and feeder patterns will work:

  • The proposed list of citywide schools, draft attendance area boundaries and draft feeder patterns — as well as a proposed transportation policy — will be formally released to the public on August 18, the date of the next Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment.
  • After that meeting, members of the public will have several weeks to comment on the proposed citywide schools list, the draft boundaries and feeder patterns as well as the proposed transportation policy. In addition, these proposals, draft boundaries and draft feeder patterns will be further discussed by the Board at a yet-to-be-scheduled Ad Hoc Committee meeting in early-to-mid September.
  • The citywide schools, attendance area boundaries and feeder patterns will be finalized after taking into account any public comment and Board discussion; the final version of the boundary map and feeder patterns will be released by September 28.
  • The Superintendent’s proposed transportation policy will be formally presented to the Board as an action item for final adoption at that September 28 meeting.
Read the full post here


  1. Since Elementary schools A,B, and C feed into Middle School 1 and Elementary schools D, E, and F feed into Middle School 2, the actual shape of the assignment area for a middle school will be of little importance. Why even bother with assignment areas for the middle schools? Leave middle schools citywide, subject to the feeder patterns from elementary school to middle school.

  2. Weirdness. We got a letter from SFUSD on transportation options. "Uh-oh, I thought, they're gonna eliminate the buses."

    But no. For our school, the buses are going from four (two in the morning, two in the afternoon) to six (four in the morning, two in the afternoon, with the afternoon buses having more convoluted routes.)

    I thought that we were cutting back on transport - but got a letter from SFUSD . Now, as the school is in the West of the city and buses come as far as the Bayview, this reduces the early-morning ride, but still thought it was odd to go from four buses to six. Maybe quirks of logistics make it possible.

  3. The upshot is this - the outreach concluded that neighborhood proponents dominated the community opinions. The administration came up with a proposal that incorporated those opinions into policy, by and large, assuming that the boundaries have geographical integrity. Then the BOE slipped in CTIP1 before all neighborhood residents except those that happen to be siblings or are in the CDC. So after siblings, CDC and CTIP1 come the rest of the neighborhood kids.

    In high demand schools neighbors will be lucky to get seats considering the preponderance of preferences. The BOE didn't listen to the people. They went with failed former policy and its ideological trappings that have failed miserably in the past to diversify.

    I suspect that the new SAS will have many unhappy neighbors. But since when has that made any difference to the Board?

  4. The new SAS will likely create more concentrations of neighborhood kids in ours schools than in the current system. The CTIP1 will create an outlet for determined families but I highly doubt it will reach the 20% mark allowed for, especially with buses being cut.

    Don is comparing this new system, which is by far more neighborhood-friendly than the current system, to some kind of "ideal" in his world in which it is entirely based on where people live. Public feedback was much more mixed, actually, than he is suggesting here--people wanted more certainty, and many people wanted guarantees of a closer school--especially those on the west side of town. People also wanted some element of opportunity for the poorest kids, who are mostly in the southeast part of town. Many people spoke against segregating kids--and neighborhood assignment would do that. Not surprisingly, many of these comments came from the southeast part of town.

    So the new SAS moves the system significantly in the direction of neighborhood assignment, while providing an out for enterprising parents on the southeast side.

    I'm willing to give the new system the benefit of the doubt, but I think it is important to point out that it is likely to resegregate our system more (based on residential patterns) rather than less; and that it is a big victory for advocates of neighborhood schools and especially for west side parents. West side schools are basically all high-scoring. There are few citywide schools out there (K-8s and language programs) compared to the east side. And I really don't think they need to worry too much about being overrun with kids from the Mission and BVHP.

    We'll see, of course. Maybe we should all wait and see how it plays out.

  5. "Don is comparing this new system, which is by far more neighborhood-friendly than the current system, to some kind of "ideal" in his world in which it is entirely based on where people live."

    This is not based upon my own fictional ideal. Neighborhood placement is the public school standard throughout most of the USA and the world even if you believe that it is not.

    Yes, the new SAS is neighborhood friendly on paper and the media has certainly bought into the idea. But will it actually pan out? As you said, we'll see. But even on its face it is clear that the billing of this new SAS is suppose to mollify neighborhood advocates who dominated the opinions.

    But for balance the new CTIP1 concept is suppose to create choice for those that live near underperforming schools and promote district diversity. Unfortunately it is very much like the zip code preferences tried in the 90's which where quickly scrapped.

    Regarding community outreach, Orla O'Keefe reported to the Board the strong preference for such policy from all geographical areas. People want good schools in their own neighborhoods. That should be the focus of the district, speaking of ideals. What a concept - academics is more important than diversity. That is to say scholarship cannot take the back seat to socialization.

    Also, a neighborhood system is likely to increase diversity. For example, BVHP is one of the most diverse districts in the City.

    If you want to keep SFUSD from becoming a district that does not serve the middle class you have assure people they can live in a neighborhood and go to an assigned neighborhood school. If they do not want that school they then enter the lottery for an alternative all choice school, not another neighbor school where they displace the local residents.

    If children really do learn more in diverse environments than SFUSD has to stop driving the diversity out of the district . The new system is unlikely to rectify that. What is quite clear is that there is little clarity in terms of placement. The Board has expressed very clearly that the new system is a giant question mark.

    At this juncture there are just too many variables to give people assurance. SFUSD cannot improve academically or diversify demographically unless it seeks to attract SF's middle class which has and continues to abandon SFUSD. I see this first hand at Alamo with families leaving in mass after being sent to schools across town. The new SAS policy of sending overflow applicants from one school to the next closest school is an operational disaster in the making. I hope this proves untrue.

  6. The way I understood the new process is that at the beginning you get a school assignement. Most likely your neighborhood school (unless it's full, then you get something else). If you don't like that school, you can then enter the lotto for immersion, K-8, or a spot at another neighborhood school. Then if you don't get any other school in the lotto, you know you still have a place in your assigned school.

    This is a big improvement b/c of the added certainty. You may not like it, but at least you know going into the lotto what you are working with.

  7. 7:29
    I believe you are asking if, at the beginning of the process of applying for kindergaten, whether the school district will tell you what your assignment area school is, if you got in there, and, if not, what other somewhat nearby school they are placing you into. You want this information before deciding on how to indicate your choices for K-8, immersion, and other schools.

    I believe that you have to provide your address information and you choices about schools at the same time, at the very start of the process. I believe you do not know what seat the district will initially give you because the district does not even know who the kindergarteners are.

    It is only when elementary school feeds into middle school, that there is an initial automatic assignment made.