Monday, December 6, 2010

Fall 2011: A few more new public school enrollment changes, courtesy of tonight’s PPS-SF workshop

As advertised earlier today on SF K Files, PPS-SF held an enrollment workshop tonight at the Sunset Branch library. The room was full, with most in the audience wearing that slightly anxious “Cramming for a pop quiz” look that we all seem to get when contemplating the new assignment system.

Most of the information covered by PPS-SF program manager Vicki Symonds touched on essentials that have already been discussed on this blog (neighborhood assignment boundaries, list as many schools as you'd like, get your application in by February 18). But compared to a presentation I saw Symonds give earlier this fall, more details are available, so I thought I’d post a few updates:

  • The school district has now provided an “all in one map” that shows CTIP1 areas, neighborhood boundaries, and district pre-K’s and CDC’s all in one view. The latter is important in knowing whether the schools you’d like have a pre-K or CDC feeding into them, which can affect one's chances of getting in. So far, I've only seen this true "all in one" map on paper, and district offices and PPS-SF have copies. Online, you can find a map that shows neighborhoods boundaries, city-wide schools, middle schools, high schools, and CDCs/Pre-K's (but no CTIP1 areas, at least for now). You’ll find a copy here.
  • After the first round of assignments in March, the old “waitpool” and “Round II” processes have been replaced by what’s now called “placement periods,” which seems like an elaborate way to say “further rounds of the lottery.” According to the school district website, these additional placement periods will probably be run in May, mid-August, shortly before school starts, and after school begins. Participating in each placement period requires its own separate request. The August placement period seems to have a couple of unique features, such as requiring that participants give up a previous school assignment to try their luck should they win a higher choice school and want to accept it in that round of the lottery.
  • The placement periods seem to use the same tie-breakers, and ONLY the same-tiebreakers, as the main lottery. Some of the priorities from the old system no longer matter, such as having gone 0/7, 0/15, or 0/whatever number of schools you put down in on your initial application.

Thanks to the parents who represented their schools – New Traditions, Jefferson, Argonne, Creative Arts, and Sunset. Your presentations were not only helpful, but provided a welcome reminder that yes, believe it or not, we’ll eventually be on the other side of this process and be in school.

And a personal thanks to Vicki Symonds, whose ran tonight’s discussion without the private school swipes I’d seen at the forum earlier this fall. Tonight, when a mom in the audience commented that she was trying the lottery again for first grade after landing none of her choices last year and opting for private school, I winced on her behalf, expecting a lecture. Instead, Symonds listened empathetically and wished the woman good luck this year. Thank you for a helpful, informative workshop that made room for everyone, regardless of where we’re at in this process.


  1. "Luck" still being the operative word in this assignment system, as Vicki inferred. The diversity index may be gone, but the process is still a lottery and it is still fraught with complexities. It is not a simpler process nor is it going to inspire confidence in neighborhood placement or school choice as was advertised. In other words, it is the worst of both worlds.

    The quaint notion that we will be on the other side of this next year is silly. First of all, they had to delay the MS process so we won't even begin that until next year. And when have any SFUSD student assignment systems of recent years been well understood and received?

    This new SAS has so many problems it will be years before they are fleshed out. With the budget woes and cutbacks there has never been a better time than now to go private if you can afford it.

  2. Is there a way to block certain people's comments?

  3. Why? No one really knows how this new system is really going to work. I figure I have a 50/50 chance of getting my neighborhood school.

  4. I'm pretty new to this blog, and don't know much about this Don guy, except that he always seem to think that everything is about him. Which, newsflash, it's not.

    I was also there last night. The people who attended were families who were looking for K. The parents who spoke gave me the same thought -- cool, we'll be in kindergarten soon too and have some kind of school. For us, it might be a private school, but we'll have something. This was discussion about K, not middle school and the middle school process.

    For me and my friends, the idea that we'll be on the other side of finding a school next year is not quaint or silly. We will have found one. Might be here in town, might be public, might be private, might be in another city, but we'll have found one. Nothing silly about that. Jeez.

  5. I didn't go to the workshop, but the article doesn't say it is not only about kindergarten. I would also add that I agree with Don's take on this new assignment system and his comment made no reference to himself whatsoever. 11:34, you may have some problem with Don but don't make stuff up. The comment is there in black and white to see.

    The way I see this new system is that SFUSD tried to give something to everybody and avoided making any grossly unpopular decisions. This may be good politics, but it could turn out to be bad public policy.

  6. I'm confused -- that "all in one" map doesn't show CTIP boundaries, just attendance area boundaries, CDCs, and whether the school is city-wide or not. How hard is it to tint the CTIP1 areas?!!

    And whose brilliant idea was it to make people give up their current assignment before entering the lottery again? You could, in fact, lose in Round 2 or 3 and end up with nothing. Is this supposed to make people too afraid to give up a mediocre school?


  7. Oh, I mean lose in the August round. But still, same thing. I have a friend who got Flynn GE, not bad, but was really holding out for an immersion program. She got one in the first week of school. Under this new system, she'd have had to give up Flynn to go into that last round, and given that not every English speaker gets immersion, could have ended up at a worse GE? Ridiculous. Or am I misunderstanding something here?

  8. "Requests to participate in the August Placement process will mean that the student will relinquish their previous assignment to accept the higher choice school. There will not be an opportunity to decide between a previous and the new placement."

    I think this means that you agree to relinquish your previous assignment if you do get your higher choice.

  9. when I toured Grattan they said that attendance at the CDC preschool on its site does not count for the lottery tie break for Grattan, because it is not an SFUSD preschool.

    But the CDC preK is on the map

    True or not?

  10. What do you mean not everything is about me? It isn't that I don't love the attention, it's just that other people keep bringing me up.

  11. Thanks, 2:15. That makes more sense.

  12. 2:37 yesterday,
    I would be shocked if Grattan's CDC does not count as a tiebreaker.

    As you mentioned it is on the map, and it is listed on the SFUSD website. I live in the Grattan attendance area so I have spent some time researching this issue. Also, I have had a number of conversations with members of PPS-SF and the BOE and no one has corrected me on this issue.

    That being said it may be possible that there are very few children at the CDC that actually live in the Grattan attendance area and thus would not benefit from the tiebreaker.

    Regardless, sifting through conflicting "facts" is the most unfortunate and painful part of this process. I believe the district has completely failed to make the process more transparent, one of their primary goals in creating the new assignment system.

    Good luck.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. I have a question about the CTIP1 areas. We are looking at houses to buy in a few CTIP1 areas; but how sure is they will STAY CTIP1 areas? Is it possible they will be CTIP1 areas now, but in two years be considered CTIP2? We're mostly looking near Alamo Square at in the Lower Haight.

  15. Thanks, all, for questions and comments.

    Re. the August phase of the lottery, yes, it's confusing. My original post reflected the consensus that a few of us baffled parents came to while chatting after the workshop. After seeing the questions here, I got in touch with the EPC, who said the correct answer is closer to the feedback provided by 12/7 2:15. Thanks to 2:15, and I've updated the post.

    Re. middle schools and the new middle school assignment system, that hardly came up during the workshop at all. At the end, the parents from Sunset brought up the topic briefly, saying that the middle school system was changing, a feeder system was being discussed, and more would be known later. Otherwise, the rest of the workshop was all about the elementary school process. Not saying middle school isn't important -- it just didn't come up.

    Re. the "all-in-one" map, there is unfortunately a discrepancy between the online version and the paper version, which was available at the workshop. The paper version shows the CTIP1 areas highlighted in beige. The online version doesn't (sigh). I was working off the paper version. Apologies for the confusion, and I've updated the original post.

    And lastly, I'm with 11:45 in terms of how I think about being on the other side of this process right now. Next fall, my daughter will be in a school. Could be a public school here in SF, could be a private school, or could be a school outside the city. We have all three processes actively in play right now.

    Over these last couple of months, I've definitely developed opinions on the new assignment system and its "simplicity," but am withholding them for now, until I finish all of our tours in January and get a couple of questions answered by folks at the EPC.

  16. Hi 1:40,

    It's my understanding that it will be possible for the CTIP1 areas and how they are used to change over time. The latest online CTIP1 map, at, includes text that says that the superintendent can recommend changes to the Board of Education.

    But to find out for sure, contact the EPC.

  17. The Grattan CDC is pretty tiny. I would imagine the number of pre-k kids who live in the attendance area is negligible.

  18. Seattle, when you said - "Could be a public school here in SF, could be a private school, or could be a school outside the city"- did you mean to let on that you would be using a fake address to get into a school outside your real district of residence? I suppose that is a rhetotical question.

  19. Hi 7:37...

    Nope, nothing that dramatic! We may move out of the city, and are looking at other school districts as part of our search. If we find one we like a lot, and the public/private process in SF doesn't seem promising, we'll move this coming spring. We are trying hard to stay here, but other realities (school, we both work in Silicon Valley most days and are commuting a lot right now) may intervene.

  20. Seattle,

    It must be wonderful to have so many options from which to choose. The rest of us peones will be stuck with whatever the establishment forces upon us.

  21. Ya, blame the rich. Off with their heads.

  22. Seattle has taken her time to help others with her informative articles. If she can afford to pay for private school more power to her. I don't think it is her intention to cast her own family's fortunes against those of others.

  23. Seattle has taken her time to help others with her informative articles. If she can afford to pay for private school more power to her. I don't think it is her intention to cast her own family's fortunes against those of others.

  24. 10:18 - you have options too, you do not have to stay and put up with the SF schools process. You could move to Albany, Marin, Millbrae, or any other place in the Bay Area with good schools and rent or buy a place for the same or less than in SF. Choosing to live in SF is a very pointed choice, normally driven by the parents' desire to be in the city, and is by no means a requirement. You can also leave.

  25. Progressive minded people believe that they have a right to live in this city and that the city should accommodate to them. Getting a school that sucks is the end result of years of one party rule. 10:18 is a victim of her avowed and victimized group mindset.

  26. 9:22 AM: Um, can I say this ONE MORE TIME? Not everyone can afford to move. People in Section 8 housing, people who bought a long time ago and don't have the income for the property taxes on a new place or even, in some cases for rent, people who depend on extended family for childcare/income/shelter, cannot just up and move because they don't like the SF schools. Not to mention that most people are stuck with the jobs they have right now, in this economy. This idea that San Francisco is a "lifestyle choice" is so offensive I don't even know where to begin.

  27. Wrong. It is a choice. "Cannot" only means you value other things (for example, money, or free childcare) more than the perceived value in the improvement of the education.

    Nothing wrong with that, especially if the perceived improvement is minor.

    By the way, "people who bought a long time ago" definitely can afford moving.

  28. 10:40am

    Hi .. We also live in Grattan.

    The issue as we saw it is that anyone in a CPT1 gets first choice regardless of attendence area.

    In order to get into a CDC, you have to be at poverty level. At Grattan, only 6 families are not at poverty level.

    So it doesn't matter if you are in CDC and not in attendence area because the chances that you are in CPT1 are about 90%.

  29. 3:17 .. there are around 60 kids in the CDC at Grattan and they said about 20 for pre-k.

    They have to hit the poverty level in order to get in. So they will get into Grattan either CPT1 or CDC.

    If they are already trekkin' to Grattan for CDC .. then they will surely come for kindergarten.

    I think people with Grattan are screwed because it is already oversubscribed just by the neighborhood boundaries. If you put cpt1 and cdc ahead of neightborhood. It WILL NOT be a neighborhood school only primarily "bused" in kids.

  30. Hi again...

    For us, moving would indeed be a choice. Here's a little bit of background on what frames that choice (I've said most of the following in other blog posts, so apologies to anyone whose heard this before).

    In many ways, we'd like to stay in the city. We're looking extensively at public schools (my tours won't be done until next month), and have seen many we like and admire. But liking a school and getting in are two very different things.

    We have also toured private schools. Here, we've also seen some we've liked. But there's that pesky admissions issue. And we can't afford private school without significant financial aid. I posted some thoughts and questions on financial aid last week, at

    Moving is definitely not for everyone, and I completely understand why so many families stay put. For us, the idea is driven by a couple of things. We both have jobs that require us to be in Silicon Valley most days of the week. The commute is draining and eats up time we could spend with our kids. If we worked in the city, we'd stay in the city. We also have a lot of family and friends south of the city, in communities stretching from San Mateo to Mountain View.

    If we move, we'll rent. It'd probably be something small and more affordable, but we are city people, after all -- no need for a McMansion.

    I do indeed feel fortunate, in this economy, to have a job and be able to make choices. I also feel especially fortunate to have sounding boards. The SF K Files community can have sharp edges at times, but there is plenty of wisdom out there, even in the criticism. And outside the city, friends and family are providing invaluable guidance in terms of neighborhoods and school districts.

    To the Grattan folks, I hope it all works out! I have to confess that this is an issue where I don't know much. I've heard great things about Grattan, and under the old system, I would have toured the school. But it's not our assignment boundary school, and under the new system, I figure we don't have a prayer of getting in. So I haven't learned more about the particulars.

  31. Seattle,

    Having a kid in K, I would say the best thing you can do for your kid's education is to live close to work.

    Less commute time means more time for the family (and kid) and more time for yourself. Happier parents are more important than better schools.

    And what's the point of a great school with involved PTA if you cannot attend any of the meetings or events? It is much easier if the school is close to work. Get involved, take a couple of hours off to help in the classroom, or even the lunch hours. Arrive to school a little bit earlier after work to socialize with other parents and kids. That's what makes a school great, not just some scores.

  32. People in Section 8 housing? They can live in Section 8 housing outside the 2nd most expensive city in the USA.

  33. I agree completely with 9:05am.

    If my partner and I worked on the peninsula, I'd move, no question. There are some terrific public schools in Burlingame and Redwood City, for example, and I doubt the system is as crazy as SF.

  34. 3:50 pm. For most people, and especially those reading this blog, of course San Francisco is a lifestyle choice! if you bought a long time ago, wow, that is incredibly lucky and you can move anywhere, heck why not sell and buy a couple of houses in Portland or Austin with the tax-free profits on your house sale? What's a higher property tax when you have no mortgage? And I wonder how many of the people on SF K Files live in Section 8 housing. I'm willing to bet almost none, since if you are living in abject poverty in the most expensive city in US, you probably don't read blogs about school issues. The only people I imagine being really stuck are people who bought in 2006 at the top of the housing market and are likely underwater on their houses. I say this as a family in SF, with kids in public school. But I'm more and more realizing we made our lives much more difficult by staying in SF. We're facing middle school now and it's stressful. I wish we had moved when they were entering K.

  35. I'm not going to explain why moving is not an option; it's none of your business. But I think telling people to "just move" is offensive. This city should have better schools, period. Go off to your gated community or whatever it is you need-- and I'm not talking about Seattle here, who seems very levelheaded--but don't tell people who are, indeed, stuck here to move.

  36. You're only stuck if you've convinced yourself you're stuck. Don't tell me you don't have options. Are you in prison? Are you being held hostage? Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and take responsibility for your life. Really truly sickening.

  37. 4:46
    I searched this page. The only time "just move" shows is in your post.

    Nobody said you "just move". It is just an option.