Saturday, September 11, 2010

SFUSD press release: Superintendent Proposes Adjustments to New Placement Policy: Phasing in middle school feeder patterns

September 10, 2010 (San Francisco) - On Monday, September 13 at the Ad Hoc Committee of the Board of Education, the Superintendent will be recommending that the district move forward with the elementary and high school placement policy and take another year to further develop the middle school placement changes, which would mean postponing the decision on elementary to middle feeder patterns.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia says “We are still committed to enacting the new placement policy in its entirety. Next fall we will have even more opportunities for middle school students and their families than those currently available and we’d like to get those in place before we institute the feeder patterns.”

More Opportunities at Middle Schools
The superintendent said that the district needs to provide families with specific school level details about the new school improvement initiatives before the district rolls out the feeder patterns. There are many new initiatives that are in their infancy, including:

• Special Education redesign – The district commissioned an independent audit which is forthcoming regarding Special Education programs and has a new highly qualified leader of Special Education who will help shepherd improvements in these services.
• Lau plan – The district is in its 2nd year of implementing a comprehensive plan for serving English Learners (EL). As part of rolling out this plan, program options will be expanding for both EL students and other students as more language pathways between elementary and middle schools are developed.
• SIG Magnet grants– Horace Mann and Everett, two middle schools in the Mission district, will be receiving millions annually starting this fall to drastically accelerate student achievement. The district is awaiting information about whether or not Horace Mann and Everett will also be receiving funding to develop magnet programs.

Community Feedback
The district has sought out and received input from community members over the past few weeks and for several years preceding the new placement policy.

Special Assistant to the Superintendent Orla O’Keeffe says that while accepting the initial assignment offer for a feeder middle school would be optional for families, some parents are concerned that their options for other middle schools would be limited.

“In the past few weeks we have heard from parents who are excited about the proposed feeder schools and parents who are very concerned about it – the concern is primarily based on whether or not currently enrolled elementary parents perceive their proposed feeder middle school as one where they would want to send their child,” states O’Keeffe.

“Given the mixed reactions we have heard, we acknowledge that postponing the implementation of feeder patterns will be disappointing to some parents and welcome news to others,” she continues.

Proposed Revision to the Placement Policy
The Board will be reviewing a revised policy proposal that states that for the enrollment year 2011-2012 the middle schools choice process will give preference to applicants in transitional years (i.e., students transitioning from fifth to sixth grade) in the following order:
1. younger siblings of students who are enrolled in and will be attending the school during the year for which the younger sibling requests attendance;
2. CTIP1
3. all other students

Students who are not assigned to one of their choices will be assigned to the middle school closest to where they live that has openings.

Last March, the SFUSD Board of Education approved a redesign of the district’s student assignment system which will take effect with the incoming classes of kindergartners, sixth and ninth graders in the fall of 2011. Now the Board of Education is considering recommendations for new attendance area boundaries, elementary to middle school feeder patterns, and a new transportation policy.

This is the first time in over 30 years that the boundaries for most San Francisco elementary schools have been fully revised. Attendance areas are geographic borders drawn around most elementary schools throughout the district (58 of the 72 elementary schools). The district created attendance areas so there can be a system of helping elementary students get placement in their attendance area school if they wish. Families are not required to choose their attendance area school, nor can they be guaranteed a placement at their attendance area school.

Also, for the first time, SFUSD will be creating a Kindergarten through eighth grade assignment option for families, what is called “feeder patterns.” Fifth grade students will get an initial placement offer based on the elementary school they attend, regardless of where they live.


  1. Wow. This is a major reversal. If SFUSD was satisfied with the plan that the Board of Education approved after mare than two years in development and during which time millions of dollars costs were expended, then they would not be proposing a delay now on the eve of implementation.

    There is no doubt that placement needs for immersion, special ed and ELL students were not fully conceived and those serious issues make a delay necessary. (One has to wonder how, after such extensive efforts, so much was overlooked.)

    But in addition to those obvious oversights, some vocal outcry from choice and diversity driven advocates has made the natives restless downtown. If this continues it is only a matter of time before the left in SF starts accusing the district of being racist for moving oh-so-modestly in the direction of neighborhood schools.

    Thus begins the retreat by SFUSD from anything remotely resembling a neighborhood schools plan. The battle lines are being drawn and sides are being chosen. Mr. Garcia is moving back in line with the far left that picked him for the job.

    The hue and cry over loss off choice and the specter, real or perceived, of lessened diversity could make publicly elected Board members more than a little antsy. With the blow up of the Balanced Scorecard and the strategic plan after intervention by the California Department of Education, I think Mr. Garcia needs to shore up his base.

  2. The Board of Education could still approve this plan, Carlos Garcia is just suggesting that they don't.

    Then, if the BOE does approve it, and there are problems, Carlos Garcia can wave his hands and say "It is their fault, not mine."

    They don't appear to have any idea about what they are doing down at central office, do they?

  3. I don't think it was just the far left that were concerned with feeder patterns. Presidio for example was getting all the best schools feeding into it. It's one "bad school" the dreaded Cobb has a great schools rating of 5 now! While Roosevelt was getting a 4 and 3 feeding into it. Plus two up and coming schools one without a rating because it's so new and the other with a 6 rating . Is that right? considering the relative distance of all these schools?

  4. My impression from attending several meetings that the goal of the plan was to increase racial diversity without using any one child's race as a factor. So it may be that these feeder schools accomplish racial diversification, but not socioeconomic. It's tough to do either one, and even tougher to do both, without complicated gerrymandering which will have everyone up in arms.

  5. Give Don a break. All he wants is his Presidio to remain white and fed from only API 850+ schools. What's wrong with that?

  6. How they thought the middle school feeder plan would be embraced by all is beyond me. Now they've made everyone mad. First of all, by creating "have" and "have not" middle schools the "have not" group was understanably upset. The "haves" thought the plan was fair and should be implemented next year. Now that has been taken away from them and they are gonna be mad also. Now everyone is angry and SFUSD has lost any trust from the public that it may have had.

  7. 9:35 Do you think that Presidio and Hoover will be racially diverse then? You have seen the new neighborhood maps correct? Have you seen Cobb's new attendance area? I realize that most parents in that area send their kid to privates. If they do choose public Cobb will be a VERY different school in a few years.

  8. I think you're over-stating it, Don. It is a partial reversal, but the neighborhood idea for elementary schools is still 100% there and the citywide high school is also untouched. The problem was that the middle school plan was totally half-assed. The priority was on minimizing transportation costs and nothing else. This left the language and special ed programs totally secondary and created truly "have not" schools in the southeast. Of course, the plans for elementary and high schools were always pretty clear, but the fact is that this draft for middle school feeders came out way too late to not shock and surprise people (combined with the fact that it's got major, major problems).

    So yeah, it's a reversal, but an appropriate one. I imagine we'll see a better, reworked feeder plan before December, and it'll be approved for Fall 2012 kids.

  9. Don, you did 't read the letter correctly. Go back and read it again, slowly. This delay does not impact the elementary school lottery proposal, which should proceed as planned, only middle schools. And contrary to what you wrote, middle schools have not been under discussion for years.

    Elementary school neighborhoods have been drawn and presented with relatively little fanfare. No surprise, since the district has been discussing this lottery for 2 years, with many public forums. Amen.

    High schools, well, yawn, yawn.

    The concept of Middle school feeder schools caught everyone by surprise last spring. The whole concept came out of nowhere. We all thought that we were "fixing" the elementary school lottery, emphasizing neighborhood choice. The middle schools surfaced WITH NO DETAILS, except to say a proposal would come out in August. When the proposal came out, it was incomplete (no special Ed, no immersion) and clearly had created "advantaged" and "disadvantaged" school, with a 30-day publi comment period. Hello!

    So it is not surprising that there has been an uproar, and it is not surprising that Garcia will delay implementation of the middle school feeder proposal, until they can fully articulate what they are going to do with fairness to all.

  10. The feeder school pattern did come from nowhere, catching everyone by surprise. The most Orla O'Keefe would say about middle schools was that the attendance areas for the middle schools would not necessarily be contiguous, while the attendance areas for the elementary schools would be contiguous. So I was expecting non-contiguous attendance areas for the middle schools.

    Instead, we got feeder patterns that look at were you went to 5th grade and not attendance areas that look at where you live. I guess the district did not want to get into the address fraud quagmire again for middle schools. And I have to say, "Good call."

  11. The feeder plan did not come out of no where. It's been the plan for months. Somehow we all knew about it and were making guesses about where we'd be fed based on the hints that geographic proximity and increased diversity would guide the plan. The final map is new, but that's about it.

  12. The feeder plan did not come out of nowhere--todsy. We have known there would be feeders for months. Prior to several months ago, however, we did not know middle school assignment would be based on the elementary school you were attending. That was the surprise and it took place several months ago. I don't think there were any press releases or SF K Files discusion about feeders as recently as last year, 2009. This is what I am talking about when I say feeders came out of nowhere.

  13. What is important is to have MS policy get fixed so that the affected programs have a proper pathway and continuity of instruction is preserved for the affected students. Getting everyone to like the MS feeders is clearly impossible. But if anything, SFUSD seems to have alienated the maximum number of people possible with the rollout of the SAS, and this delay only makes it worse by highlighting the incompetence employed (so to speak).

    How these programmatic oversights happened is secondary to the needs of the children affected at the moment. But don't hold your breath waiting for accountability from SFUSD. In a Utopian world a review should be conducted after the problem is fixed. That said, the Board passed the plan and they are accountable only to the people. The solitary recourse is to replace the Board. Garcia should clearly be booted since it was his responsibility to provide the Board with a working proposal and this bonehead foul-up is inexcusable. The millions spent on administration should be money well spent, despite the poverty of the classrooms.

    In the meantime, the same administration hired seven more highly paid "executive directors" for the superintendent zones. More layers of bureaucracy between the principals and their bosses, the Ass. Supes - this while students go without counselors and classes grow out of all proportion. I guess money isn't as short as they say.

    To briefly answer a couple criticisms:

    1. The article was about MS feeders and that was what I was referring to - not the entire SAS. That seemed obvious.

    2. Though it has been talked to death I contend that the ES policy is not neighborhood friendly given the preferences. Enough said.

    3. Regarding Presidio, the school is in a corner of the city. Unless there is serious gerrymandering, without such wholesale manipulation of zones how could the Presidio zone be made more inclusive? If they go with non-contiguous zones, it invalidates a feeder system.

    In the meantime, no one is discussing the Balanced Scorecard anymore. It was an irrelevant political concept that never addressed the academic needs of students in the first place. It was intended to catapult SFUSD and Garcia onto the forefront of the social justice stage while everyone one else, including the federal government, had their eyes on student achievement and rightly so. It pays to keep up with the times. So the fact that the BSC has wilted on the vine is no loss. Everyone was trying to run their schools and didn't have time to play Mr. Garcia's social justice word game.

  14. Really Don- Cobb 3.1 miles from Presidio, Rosa Parks 3.4 miles from Presidio. New Traditions 2.8 Miles from Presidio.

    Peabody .05 miles to Roosevelt.

    It wouldn't take much "Gerrymandering" to change it now would it?

  15. Cobb IS in Presidio's zone. Did you not look at the map? Are you suggesting that Roosevelt be an island zone inside Presidio's zone? Presidio is a peripheral location with mostly high performing Asians in the nearby neighborhoods. Why don't you put the school on wheels and drive it down Geary?

    I suggest that you have a chip on your shoulder.

  16. Don,

    My advise to you... ignore the nonsense like the last comment. Your points are good but they are also inflammatory to some extent. This makes it appear at times as if you're grandstanding.

    Do you post in your real name and if so why do you do that?

  17. I want to focus on the most striking aspect to the sup's annct. For fifth graders, middle school placement now will have no relationship to neighborhoods at all, unless you happen to be in the small tip 1 areas. For the rest, it is a pure lottery. All it says is that if you don't get one of the middle schools you picked, you will get assigned to the nearest middle school. It doesn't say proximity will count at all. So, a family that lives across from, say, horace Mann will have as good a shot at getting into presidio as a family that lives across the street from presidio. Of course depending on their luck. Am I missing something?

  18. Let me play it out even further. For fifth grade families, a kid at rooftop whose family wants to take a stab at presidio has just as much chance of getting into presidio as a family whose kid is in fifth grade now at, say, McKinley. Again assuming neither is in a ctip1 zone. Is that right?

  19. 10:15,

    Your comment is truly revolting. How easily you take to race baiting. Don got you right.

  20. Yick Wo should go to Francisco.
    Parks and Tenderloin should go to Marina.
    Cobb, Peabody, McCoppin, New Traditions, and Muir should go to Roosevelt.
    Grattan should go to Presidio or Roosevelt.
    Miraloma and Feinstein should go to Hoover.
    Serra, Sheridan, and Flynn GE should go to Aptos.
    All Spanish Immersion to one school, perhaps Lick.
    All Chinese Immersion (Mandarin, Cantonese) to one school.
    Both Japanese JBBP/FLES programs to one school.

    Language immersion schools should offer GATE courses and school-wide electives in the target language: drama, chorus, band, etc.

    The SE should hire lawyers or take over the school board in the next election (seriously).

  21. PS Treasure Island to one elementary school and one middle school to keep the small community together and to economize on transportation.

  22. Yes, keeping communities together IS a good idea. It is a good idea everywhere, not only in Treasure Island.

  23. The reason SFUSD took so long (and is still not done) putting together the SAS is because this student assignment process is what they are all about - placement, not instruction. If they spent half as much time talking about achievement we might not have to spent twice as long and ten times as much figuring out whether to cut the baby in half side to side or head to toe.

    The diversity versus neighborhood argument goes round and round ad infinitum here on SF Kfiles. What is more unfair, going to a school you don't like near home or going to a school you don't like far from home? Apparently some people actually cogitate over this conundrum. All things being equal, greens should be firmly against commuting to school.

    But in all seriousness, while parents bicker over who gets to go to the good schools, they take their eye off the ball and let SFUSD off the hook for the real work they are supposed to be doing. The real issue isn't who gets to go where. The real story is why did it take the federal government to give SFUSD a kick in the pants to take school turnaround seriously. Caroline will probably come on here and say "no urban school district has ever replicated successful reform models district-wide". Ya, so just give up and play musical chairs with the students instead. That is exactly why people bail out of public or create charters, which she is also against.

    Even if they are not successful let's see some pedagogical innovation and union reform. But SFUSD needs the unions to fight its election battles so it colludes with them against the better interests of students. And this what passes for a school district.

    SFUSD is still trying to implement its failed policies of the consent decree era, just in disguise. They need to get off their ideological bandwagon. Even Castro recently admitted that communism is a failed model.

    If they cannot figure out that an elementary Sped student might need continued sped instruction once at middle school, how much do you think they care that a gate student doesn't get AP instruction?

    One other thing - only the term "feeder schools" was new. It is code. The idea of is very old. It is called neighborhood schools, a term that that our school district doesn't like to use. Contrary to most districts that employee feeder schools(neighborhood schools), SFUSD doesn't guarantee placement into the local school, therefore, with the MS policy, they by the same token do not guarantee placement of neighbors into the middle school either.

  24. "Serra, Sheridan, and Flynn GE should go to Aptos."

    I'm glad they are giving more time to thinking this through--for language pathways, articulating changes at currently unpopular schools, and revisiting the feeder map. The feeder concept, which gives top priority to the sending school, and less priority to CTIP1 status and (at least for current 5th graders), has had little time to be discussed by the parent community compared to the elementary-level changes.

    Re the suggestion above, I'd do it differently if I were in charge (I'm not!). I'd send Hillcrest to Aptos, because they are already sending cohorts of Latino kids. Plus it would make more sense than Flynn GE in terms of public transport--easy access to Balboa and K line via the J or up the hill on Monterey via the 23. There is a logic to sending Glen Park, Sunnyside and Hillcrest altogether.

    I would also send Starr King, all of it, to Aptos and provide a bus--there will need to be several buses from the far east side anyway. Starr King MI can then hook up with JOES Mandarin. And Starr King GE will provide some diversity.

    I'd send Flynn GE to Hoover and keep the existing bus. Plus it makes more sense that kids who stay late for sports and such can hop the 48 bus home if need be.

    I'd consolidate the SI programs (yes, split the ES feeders) at Lick and Everett. Maybe make Lick all SI if need be.

    Rosa Parks to Hoover to combine with Clarendon JBBP and lend diversity along with one of the Bayview schools.

    Create a strong GE magnet program at Horace Mann with ER Taylor, Moscone (both very strong schools), JSerra (decent school), and Alvarado GE as anchors, perhaps along with non-SI qualified kids from either CChavez and Bryant--the other goes to Hoover along with Flynn GE.

    Totally rework the Roosevelt and Presidio feeders to make them more equitable in terms of academic achievement feeding in. Send Grattan to Roosevelt and replace it with CIS to hook up with West Portal at Hoover for Chinese immersion.

    There are still issues in the far south with Visitacion Valley and Denman schools. Not sure if Willie Brown is even possible. And ISA? If they really do IB then okay, and Flynn will have to figure that out....

    But there is a way to make this system more

    1) equitable in terms of feeding schools API;
    2) diverse;
    3) make sense in terms of transport patterns with a combo of school buses and MUNI--something many middle school kids can handle so neighborhood is less of an issue IF the transport makes sense and is mostly one bus (like the 48 from Hoover to the Mission or the 38 Geary for Cobb.

    The current proposal was a FAIL in terms of the first two.

  25. I like the alternate plans that are being proposed. Yes, Grattan to Roosevelt. Yes, consolidate the SI programs at one school, like Lick. Also, preference to consolidate the Mandarin and Cantonese Immersion programs (CIS, West Portal, Starr King, JOES) at one school, with some sort of shared activities with AFY to build camaraderie among the two schools (dances, field trips, etc). GE programs could go to different middle schools, separate from the Spanish and Chinese immersion strands.

  26. I just posted this on Rachel Gordon's blog. Given that fifth grade parents are now losing their guaranteed slot at a middle scool, I believe it is only fair to give some preference to those of us who are in a K through 5 SFUSD program right now (as opposed to those who are outside the system or at a K through 8 SFUSD) for middle school placement. The preference would come after the sibling and CTIP 1 preferences. In other words, those who do not have a guaranteed sixth grade slot and who have demonstrated a commitment to SFUSD (their kid is enrolled in a fifth grade SFUSD K through 5) should get some kind of preference in the lottery system that is about to happen. Doesn't this make sense?

  27. Rachel Gordon???

    Do you mean Rachel Norton?

  28. Rachel Gordon covers city politics for the SF Chronicle.