So it seems like a good time to herd together some of those “Elephants in the Room” – big, uncomfortable questions about the proposed system that I’ve asked myself, discussed with friends also gearing up for the kindergarten search, or read in snatches elsewhere on SF K Files. There are probably enough EiRs to fill a novel, but I’ll stick to five for now:
- EiR1: End racial isolation? Really? The new neighborhood-focused kindergarten system will definitely boost predictability and convenience for lots of families. But one of the stated goals of the new program is to end patterns of racial isolation at certain schools. Given the neighborhood focus, that one seems kind of head-scratcher. Yes, CTIP1 households have a golden pass to just about any school, but will substantial numbers of families from areas such as Bayview or the Tenderloin want to send their five-year-olds clear across town to Clarendon or Peabody? Will this plan really make schools such as Alamo or Malcolm X look all that different in five years? What am I missing here?
- EiR2: Where do you really live? There’s always address fraud in any public school system. But between the new neighborhood weightings and the CTIP1 golden key, the new plan seems primed for lots of funky residential claims, whether it’s using a grandparent’s address or worse. What will the district do about that? Is the current system of checking address fraud enough?
- EiR3: Just ‘cuz you live there doesn’t mean you’ll go there. Living in a school’s assignment area gives you added weight in the lottery. But that doesn’t mean living near Grattan means going to Grattan. Between siblings and CTIP1, there may not be enough space left for the whole neighborhood. If you don’t get into, say, Grattan, you’ll be assigned a school relatively nearby…like, say, John Muir. Which brings me to…
- EiR4: Will the plan fill the “empties”? The district has centrally-located, under-enrolled schools it wants to revive and fill, including Muir and Cobb. Will the new neighborhood assignees take a look this time and show up? I’m particularly curious about Muir, which has a new principal who had a good track record of turning around Starr King. What will he bring to Muir to increase its appeal? Language immersion? A science and environment program, in keeping with the school’s namesake? It may not happen in this next year, but something interesting will come to Muir (or should, if they want more families to consider it).
- EiR5: Why do Tourpalooza? Last year, on the radio, I heard a board member sum up the new system succinctly – “more predictability, less choice.” Yo, other kindergarten questers, is it really worth following the habits of past years and touring like crazy? My family lives kinda northwesternish (hence I’m blogging for SFK Files under the name Seattle), but I’m seriously rethinking plans to visit all of the schools in our area when we probably won’t get in. Maybe a few for points of comparison with our assigned school (not saying what it is for now, on the advice of others who've blogged for this site before), and some city-wide programs, but maybe that’s enough? What are others going to do? Stay on -- or get off -- the tour bus?
Folks, thoughts? Any big elephants I missed?