Thursday, September 9, 2010

SF Examiner reporter wants to hear from parents

My name is Andrea Koskey, I’m a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. I’m working on a story about the San Francisco Unified School District’s announcement that parents on the wait list for schools will now have to hold off until next week to find out if spots will open for their children at their preferred school. I would like to talk with a parent who is still on that wait list or have not yet received a school assignment, which I can imagine would be very frustrating. I can be reached at 415-359-2753.


  1. I'm confused. Isn't this the same announcement that was made last week, that they are holding the waiting pools open to allow for private school movement to open up some spots for families still waiting?

    I realize this is disappointing for some who are hoping for spots that may become available on the "open market" once the pools are shut down. But for parents who are actually still in the pools this is good news. Frustrating to have to wait, to be sure, but it means that if a spot at, say, Jefferson becomes available because someone moved to SF Day or something, that the family that has been waiting in that pool will have a chance at the spot, and not the person who walks in off the street that day.

    Also, I do believe they are calling as spaces become available. EPC is not holding them back until some later date. It's just that the churn is slow. There was a spate of CIS spots offered last week, which opened up spots elsewhere (I heard of one at Rosa Parks JBBP), and on it goes....

    I can see how some folks are not happy with this, but overall, isn't this extension a benefit for remaining waitpool parents? So what is the story here?

  2. I'm sure the reporter just doesn't quite understand the details or the nuance of how this is good for some and bad for others. Maybe the whole crazy process is the story.

  3. There's no story when kids are going to school and learning.

  4. At this point the vast majority of school-age kids are going to school and learning. There are some very unlucky outliers, a handful of especially picky parents who won't accept less than Clarendon et al., and some families that wish to trade up to a school that is more convenient or desired.

    This is all pretty normal for a diverse urban district--see New York, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles for their versions of this same story. I do feel for the remaining parents in the pools, but as for the story, it's been done to death (see CW Nevius just a week ago) and there are bigger issues to write about re schools. It would be nice to see more in-depth reporting on curriculum, on teacher development, on funding issues, on the uses of the SIG money, on arts education--you name it, just not another article on how upper middle class white people get screwed in the assignment system. We know, we know, we know. It's built into the system in a big city like ours that there are not enough good spots to make that crowd happy.

    Sorry if this is offensive--I do feel for the individual families, just tired of how the discussion dominates.

  5. This story needs to be done over and over and over and over again until the SFUSD fixes the assignment process and the underlying problem of poor schools.

    A main reason the problem continues is that each year it involves a new crop of parents and there is no ongoing political pain for decision makers. Parents and kids that get screwed by the process move, go private, or simply settle on their bad luck and get fed up with fighting an illogical system.

    There are more than a few kids that are stuck without an acceptable school. And, not because the parents are holding out for a "trophy."

  6. Sometimes I wonder if the district could relieve a huge amount of stress by just releasing a document with all open seats at this point. I imagine there are a number of families sitting in a waitpool now who would take a "lesser" spot if they knew it was available now.

  7. Why doesn't EPC create a website where parents could post their current assignment and their desired assignment, and then let parents hook up for exchanges?

    For example, a parent at McKinley posts that they want Sunnyside.  If a parent at Sunnyside wants to switch to McKinley (because they live across the street and listed McKinley as first choice but didn't get it), then they could hook up and go to EPC together and make the switch.

    Or a parent at Clarendon wants Fairmont (yes, for real), and they find a parent at Fairmont who wants Clarendon, and so on.

    I could even foresee a ménage a trois!   A parent at Grattan wants Sunset.  A parent at Sunset wants Alamo.  A parent at Alamo wants Grattan.  Voilà!  Three happy families hook up and make the trade at EPC.

    Because, isn't this essentially what wait pools are all about, people trading schools, just very inefficiently?   That's why the deadline needed to be extended (yet) again.  The process of calling families and moving children one at a time is laborious.   Every phone call opens up another spot, which needs to be filled, on and on.  

    Not that this hasn't happened every year, and not that EPC didn't have the institutional memory to set a reasonable date (like 30 days AFTER the last private school start date).  Ha!  That would have actually required brains and initiative, two things that seem to be lacking at SFUSD and EPC offices.  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

    Did no one see the train a-comin'?

    There's your story...

  8. This story needs to be done over and over and over and over again until the SFUSD fixes the assignment process and the underlying problem of poor schools.

    If there were a magic pill to do this, and a patent on it, someone would be very rich. Suggestions for how to do this?

    Point is, the story isn't the assignment system. It's the uneven school quality. Which has complex roots and is not easily solved. It's an issue, the issue really, faced by all diverse urban school districts.

    Why doesn't EPC create a website where parents could post their current assignment and their desired assignment, and then let parents hook up for exchanges?

    For two reasons, one understandable and one bad. The bad reason is that EPC is in no way that efficient. The understandable reason is that there are people in the waitpool who lack internet access and net savyy and that this suggested process would disadvantage them. The district as a whole does not look like this blog.

  9. "Point is, the story isn't the assignment system. It's the uneven school quality."

    And the people MOST disadvantaged by the uneven school quality are not the harried waitpool families from the middle+ classes--as stressful as this is for them, and it is. Because their kids will ultimately be just fine. The people most disadvantaged by uneven school quality are the kids, mostly already very disadvantaged, who attend the lowest-performing and most under-resourced schools. That is the story. Even though, yes, it is hard to be sitting in a waitpool--you'll find a way out. Many of these kids won't. Will the Examiner write that story, interviewing people, meeting folks from poor communities and low-performing schools? Somehow I don't think so....

  10. 12:56 AM "The district as a whole does not like this blog"

    I completely agree with you. We ask for more transparency and they treat us like mushrooms (keep us in the dark and heap s*&t on us). They make, break and change rules whenever they feel like it and don't want any accountability. They hide behind "rules" (that they change when it suits them) and ignore common sense (when it can really help keep a family together). For example, the inane bureaucracy that kept the twin family from getting their desired school for the kids...together.

    The system is broken and unfortunately, we have 1 year of disgruntled parents. And they eventually get what they want, settle, or give up and move out of the system. Next year, it happens all over again with a new batch.

  11. 12:56 AM "The district as a whole does not like this blog"

    Um, 8:40am, this is a complete misquote! The person who wrote at 12:56 ACTUALLY said:

    "The district as a whole does not look like this blog."

    Quite a different concept! The person(s) at 12:56 and also 1:02 were suggesting that there are people not even posting on this blog who may be facing much bigger problems than ending up in a waitpool. People here go through a lot of stress, but their kids end up okay, educationally. There are families who remain in the "scorned" schools who don't have the savvy or the means to get out. That is a much bigger story than the travails of the small numbers of families left in the waitpools now--as difficult as that may be (and it is, I know). Yet almost all the focus on this blog, and in the Examiner story probably, will be on the travails of the more privileged set in dealing with the (unquestionably) frustrating and obtuse bureaucracy. But it isn't the biggest story!

  12. I think the story should be on how the EPC sets up a system and then changes it a will.

    There is no way to please everyone, BUT if everyone knew what was going on and there was transparancy, it would be a lot easier.

    Why can't I, as a tax payer in SF and a mother of a student, look at class enrollments at the schools today? Why do I have to go down and ask for individual schools, etc. Yeah, I realize an opening at school with a wait list isn't 'available' to anyone, but to know what movement is going on would be helpful and stress relieving and I don't see how or why it would hurt anyone.

  13. "And the people MOST disadvantaged by the uneven school quality are not the harried waitpool families from the middle+ classes . . . because their kids will ultimately be just fine. "

    I do wish people would stop repeating this as if it were an absolute truth. It may be statistically probable, but there are no guarantees. Motivated independent learners or kids whose parents have the time and inclination to be highly involved are indeed likely to "ultimately be just fine" in most public schools. Some upper middle class kids struggle in school without being technically learning-disabled, and some upper middle class families want the school to deal with it rather than try to deal with it themselves. For them, just any old school isn't going to cut it.

  14. A new student joined my daughter's Spanish Immersion Elementary kinder class yesterday, Thursday, Sept. 9th, so obviously that family received a notice and was placed.

  15. 1:04, good point, it's not absolute truth and some middle class+ kids will certainly need a greater share of parental attention and advocacy to succeed. However, I bet most kids whose parents post here will get that attention whether they need it or not. Those who for some reason do not will be outliers.

    I think the original poster's point is likely statistically valid: that the children who are most disadvantaged by uneven school quality--and I would add opportunities that vary across schools and tend to track parent affluence or lack of it--are low-income kids whose parents tend not to be here on this blog. Thus we hear a lot about the problems of middle class+ and white or Chinese parents here, and yes the problems are real, but it moves the conversation onto the topic of waitpools and the perilous journey to finding a school with favorable demographics, and away from the much bigger problem (yes it is bigger, in terms of discouraging outcomes and absolute numbers of kids) of persistent low achievement among low-income kids, especially Latino, African American, and Samoan kids.

  16. 1:02am
    I totally agree. I was telling my neighbor the something similar a few days ago

  17. how many Samoan kids are there? I keep seeing this ethnicity thrown out there, but I don't see any % for Samoan in the district?

  18. 1:55, it's a small # but statistically valid. Samoan kids live in the SE and SW part of town.

  19. 1:59 - they have to be a certain percentage to be reported as statistically valid. I cannot find any breakout of "Samoan" so are these kids truly under-performing or is this just something that everyone states as fact? I am not trying to disservice anyone, but are there statistics that back this up because they do not seem to be a large enough population to be statistically reported out on their own which is why I asked the question in the first place.

  20. I believe Samoans are officially listed as "Asian-Pacific Islander" in the data.

  21. Rachel Norton published some stats re Samoan students on her blog as part of a discussion of the achievement gap. I don't have time right now to find it, but it is there somewhere....