Friday, March 18, 2011

SF Families Receiving School Assignments

Press release from SFUSD:

Most Applicants’ First Choice for Schools were Located Outside of their Neighborhood

March 18, 2011 (San Francisco) - A month ago, 14,347 families submitted applications for public schools in San Francisco and, starting today, they will be receiving their assignment offers in the mail.

This year SFUSD saw 229 more kindergarten applicants than last year, a five percent increase.

The district analyzed the requests from applicants and found one result particularly surprising - less than 25 percent of kindergarten applicants requested schools closest to home as their first choice.

“Over our years of gathering community feedback, we heard from the majority of parents that they wanted to be able to choose the schools they felt would be best for their child,” said Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh, who oversees the district’s Educational Placement Center. “This year, as with previous years, parents overwhelmingly chose schools based on multiple factors, with proximity appearing to be less important than other school offerings.”

For kindergarten applicants, there was high demand for K-8 schools and schools with language programs. More than one third listed a language program as a first choice.

Student assignment has been a widely discussed topic in San Francisco and in urban districts across the nation. After years of reviewing data, hearing from the community and national experts on the topic, the San Francisco Board of Education adopted a new student placement policy in March, 2009.

“Today is a milestone – it marks the first cohort of families to have their choices run using this new assignment system,” said Board President Hydra Mendoza. “We’re happy to see that demand is up - there is more interest in our schools overall. “

One of the district’s concerns about maintaining a student assignment system driven by parent choice was that choice creates a disadvantage for families who don’t apply on time. Historically, fewer African American and Latino families were applying on time and therefore most high-demand schools were fully enrolled before families applied. The district and partnering community organizations put concerted effort into outreach to encourage families to apply on time. This year, the African American on-time applicant pool grew 20 percent (from 293 applicants to 352 applicants) and the Latino applicant pool grew 17 percent (from 961 applicants to 1,122 applicants).

Four out of five applicants received one of their choices.

Darlene Lim, Executive Director of the Educational Placement Center, reviewed the most highly demanded schools and illustrated how demand exceeded capacity at many of the most highly requested schools - 14 schools were listed as a first choice for 50 percent of kindergarten applicants.

“The system is designed to accommodate as many people in their first choice as possible,” said Darlene Lim. “We’re seeing the similar percentages of families getting their top choices as we did in previous years.”

The next step for families is to enroll at their assigned school by April 15. Additionally, they can submit an amended application by the same date.

More information on

SFUSD March 18, 2011 Enrollment Highlights

· More interest overall in SFUSD

o 4,930 kindergarten applicants, which is 229 more than last year (5% growth).

o This year’s kindergarten pool has 900 more applicants than 2005 (22% growth).

o 3,131 6th grade applicants, which is 211 more applicants than last year (7% growth).

o We predict middle school enrollment will grow 31% by 2018.

· More African American and Latino on-time kindergarten applicants

o African American applicant pool grew 20% (from 293 applicants to 352 applicants).

o Latino applicant pool grew 17% (from 961 applicants to 1,122 applicants).

· Low demand based on closest school or attendance area school

o 23% of kindergarten applicants listed their attendance area school as a 1st choice; 24% listed a city-wide school, and 53% listed another attendance area school as their 1st choice.

· The % ranged across attendance areas from 2% to 59%.

· The majority of attendance areas (42 out of 58) had fewer than 30% of students list their attendance area school as a first choice.

o 24% of kindergarten applicants, 28% of 6th grade applicants, and 26% of 9th grade applicants listed the school closest to where they live as a 1st choice.

· High demand for K8 schools

o 20% of kindergartners listed a K8 school as a 1st choice.

· High demand for language pathways

o 39% of kindergarten applicants listed a language pathway as a 1st choice.

· Demand outpaces capacity

o First choice requests for:

· Chinese immersion are 219% of capacity;

· Japanese foreign language in elementary school are 174% of capacity;

· Spanish immersion are 147% of capacity; and

· K8 schools are 206% of capacity.

o 14 schools were listed as a first choice for 50% of kindergarten applicants.

o There were 11 requests for every opening at these 14 schools.

o 74% of 6th grade applicants listed six out of 13 middle school options as a first choice: Giannini, Presidio, Aptos, Hoover, Roosevelt, and Lick.

o 80% of 9th grade applicants listed five out of 15 high school options as a first choice: Lowell, Lincoln, Washington, Balboa, and Galileo.

· Percent who get choice similar to prior years

o Four out of five applicants received one of their choices.

o 75% received their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice.

o Kindergarten: 74% received 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice (81% received one of their choices).

o 6th Grade: 85% received 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice (86% received one of their choices).

o 9th Grade: 84% received 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice (86% received one of their choices).


  1. "Percent who get choice similar to prior years."

    So, they redesigned the assignment system and nothing really changed??

  2. Impressive. Make the system "easier and more transparent" but the same number of people get screwed.

    Time to improve ALL of the schools, SFUSD.

  3. From the numbers in the district's highlights report:

    * 81% got one of their choices.

    * But 26% percent of all applicants were siblings requesting an older sibling's school.

    Unless I'm missing something, that looks like only 55% of non-sib applicants got one of their choices -- and about 45% of us are hosed and will have the joy of finding out as much by mail tomorrow.

  4. 66% of kindergarten applicants are in the high density category. Lot of good that tiebreaker is.

  5. Your math is a little off, 3:17 (no worries, this comes up every year). Once you subtract the 26%, you have to make the new ratio as the # of remaining applicants over the number of remaining seats.

    So the % of non-sibling applicants who got one of their top 3 choices is about 66%, about the same as in past years.

    Not suprising at all. A super-majority of parents have always chosen schools outside their neighborhoods in the past--why would that change, unless the schools themselves, or perceptions of them, change?

    The only thing that has changed is is more likely not to get a spot. Whereas before it was spread fairly evenly around all non-poor families (who didn't have the diversity index points), now it advantages far-west-side families, e.g., Alamo applicants, as there is not much CTIP competition over there, and concentrates pressure on more mid-town families. Just moving the chess pieces around.

    Lots of schools did improve under the "pull" formula of choice. Will be interesting to see if this new system has that effect, or not.

  6. Right, how would a new assignment system change where parents want to send their kids? It simply re-allocates how families are chosen to fill all those over-subscribed schools. It doesn't make the less popular schools more popular. No matter what all those neighborhood school advocates kept saying.

    So the numbers are the same. Why did anyone expect it to be different?

  7. Point of clarification, 3:33. 66% of the non-sibling applicants received any of their choices, not just top 3. That means a whopping 34% of non-sibling applicants didn't receive any of their choices.

    I've got a bad feeling about the contents of our envelope.

  8. 4:37, this is 3:33 again.

    It was my impression reading the material put out today by SFUSD that they were counting getting a "choice" as getting one of the top three. Of course, I could be wrong.

    Good luck!

  9. It seems unfair to blame SFUSD, if they were responding to people who said they wanted neighborhood schools - and then people 1) didn't request their neighborhood school and 2) all asked for the same 14 schools.

  10. I'm one of those parents that picked a K-8 over my attendance area school.

    Why? My attendance area school is housed in a sad looking 50s era box surrounded by an equally sad looking blacktop and surrounded by a sad looking chainlink fence. A block away from the sad 50s era box is a K-8 housed in a building that looks welcoming and does not make me feel as if I would be sending my child to a sad sad place.

    I'm pretty sure we won't get a spot at the K-8 and if we get sent to the sad little box, we'll enroll and it will be fine because its about the teaching and kids don't care about the building blah blah blah. But if you someone gives you the option to choose . . . why wouldn't you pick the nice building where you get 3 extra years before you have to enter the lottery again?

  11. It was SFUSD who doesn't really take a look at what is happening under the hood - if they had, they would know that it isn't the majority that want neighborhood schools.

    Also, simple as it sounds, if all the energy put into student assignment were put into improving schools, we could ensure all schools are top notch.

    Student assignment receives too much energy and resources - as is this ridiculous middle school proposal fiasco (another example of having their finger on the wrong pulse.)

  12. I don't blame SFUSD....other than for listening too much to a vocal minority. Drilling down into prior stats it should have been obvious that most parents chose the same 14 schools before, not their neighborhood schools, and would likely do the same after.

    They could have avoided literally years of discussion and money put into changing the SAS, made it a simple choice with CTIP1 priority like there is for high school, and the results would have been similar (perhaps a slightly different set of winners and losers, but overall the same). And they could have put that same energy into something else, like building out more magnet programs (immersion, science/math).

  13. I voted for neighborhood schools. But of course, after the attendance area boundaries were drawn and re-drawn the closest school near my house is not in my attendance area. So I chose a school that is not in my attendance area even though it is actually in my neighborhood.

    I'm sure things like that would skew the numbers.

  14. 4:55 - Nah...people would still complain about the school they were assigned to, and feel screwed by SFUSD.

  15. Some of the statistics in the report are extremely interesting, particularly the demographics of the students assigned to a school. They also refute the notion that the assignment system is somehow weighted against some families.

  16. I wonder if the district is going to publish demand data, as they have done in the past? Some of the tables in the document on the website are interesting, but I wanted to see a spreadsheet for all schools like in years past.

  17. Here's the link to the full report with much more complete info.

  18. "I voted for neighborhood schools. "

    ??? Huh? It's never been on the ballot, so what are you talking about?

    Besides, voters cannot vote in school district policies.

  19. Thanks for the link, Don, but I was actually looking for something with even more detail. Check out the table on p. 16 -- I would like to see that for all schools. And in the past, they've had demand data for different strands in the same school. They keep talking about all the requests for "Clarendon," but there are actually two strands at Clarendon, and sometimes there are more who apply to one program there over the other.

  20. They usually put out the long table of school data a few days later after.

    While I'm firmly in the "choice" camp and the press release seems to focus on how many families didn't choose their neighborhood school, I was surprised to see that there was a 16% increase over last year of families that chose their neighborhood school - and that this is 2% more overall than any other year going back to 2005.

    It may be people still have to get used to the new system and trust that they can go to their neighborhood school - OR - that people want and prefer choice across all grade levels (sure seems to be the latter.)

  21. When education issues come up we always say everybody, young, old rich and poor have a stake in the outcome. Then, when we put a measure on the ballot with over 13,000 citizens signing on, the same people say that the voters should have no say in it because they don't represent the parents. These voters are the same ones that consistently pass school bonds and pay for every dollar the goes to our kids, even if not enough of those dollars actually get to where they need to go. Ah waste and abuse..., but that's another story.

    Yes, the Quality Neighborhood Schools For All measure is non- binding, but it will tell us a lot about what the people of San Francisco wish and it can go a long way to press for change.

    As far as the results posted here, I was quite surprised to see that such a high percentage did request their local school, given the sheer number of citywide and/or language pathway schools. The Students First measure supports school choice for citywide schools. It's the right thing to do.

  22. But Don, it seems your measure goes completely against what people are choosing for schools. Why force the issue?

  23. If you really want people to pick their neighborhood school, then you need to limit their choice for the first round to just one school.

    If we're allowed unlimited choices, how many of us picked our neighborhood school AFTER picking the high demand ones? I did.

  24. I think that people were allowed to be more honest this year. I am not surprised that many people did not get there first choice. After all, in past years you had to be strategic and try to pick a school that was not actually your first choice in order to get assigned there. Now at least you can try for your first choice without being at any disadvantage.

  25. What a wealth of data! The District has presented a thorough and thoughtful first pass (although our hopes for Aptos admittedly grow dim…). Nonetheless, I hope that the District will drill down in the assignment data to analyze their proposed K-8 feeder patterns.

    For example, it would be useful to present the following spreadsheet with student choices and outcomes for every K-5 elementary school:

    ** How many students got their first choice middle school (#/total, AA%)?

    ** What middle school received the majority of first choice requests (#/total, BB%)?

    ** Where were the majority of students assigned (#/total, CC%)?

    ** How many students put the proposed feeder middle school as their first choice (#/total, DD%)?

    ** How many students put the proposed feeder middle school as one of their choices (#/total, EE%)?

  26. 33 attendance areas are considered high density. Doesn't seem to make sense that we have neighborhood preference and have so many areas that have more students than there are spaces. What's the point of having attendance areas then?

  27. I was mystified by the density tie-breaker data. I always expected it to be more than 50% of the areas, but the description of how they calculated it and the actual list of schools was surprising. What of Taylor and several schools in the SW and NE?

    Here's the description:

    For each attendance area we calculated the number of kindergarten applicants who live in the attendance area (regardless of the choices they listed on their application form) as a percent of seats in the attendance area school. While 100% of kindergarten applicants live in an attendance area only 84% of kindergarten seats are in attendance area schools; the remaining 16% of seats are in city-wide schools. Therefore, if the percent of applicants in an attendance area was equal to or greater than 116% of capacity all elementary students (K5) who live in the attendance area got the density tiebreaker for all of their requests.

    That doesn't make any sense and it leads to a pretty random selection of attendance areas. I thought density would mean an area where local demand exceeds supply and I can't get that out of the definition above or see it in the list of attendance areas SFUSD has selected.

  28. Well, my neighborhood is "high density", but less than 10% of K applicants listed our attendance area school as their first choice. So high density doesn't always mean that you can't get a spot at your neighborhood school, but it does get us an extra tie-breaker for our first choice schools.

  29. The problem is twofold. Schools are less integrated partially because so many white and Asian parents in areas with less popular schools try to go to school on the West side, making their schools less integrated. I think they should try to diversify the schools, but everyone who puts their neighborhood school first should have a guarantee. Remember, many San Franciscans don't have cars or have 2 parents working and an elderly immigrant grandparent taking the kids to school. You need to at least offer neighborhood guarantees so we can get parents to stay and move into SF, knowing if they move into a certain area, that gives them a certain school if they choose it. You need certainty to attract people who have options and will donate, volunteer and improve the district either here or in suburbia or private, so let it be SF and public. I'm voting for the Neighborhood Schools Measure. It's the right thing to do. This new system didn't change anything. They say 81% got a choice, but that could be a 7th choice, and it's probably lower for parents on the West Side. We need to keep our families here by prioritizing neighborhood. We could make our schools more diverse and guarantee neighborhood schools simply by requiring anyone who comes from another area and displaces a local resident must be a student who would diversify that school by doing so, meaning African American, Latino, Native American or Samoan. If you are white or Asian, by displacing a family on the West Side, you also make your local school less diverse. Look at James Lick, 15% white in a 99% white area, most of the residents go to Hoover, Aptos, Giannini, which makes our schools less diverse, not more.

  30. A song to help through the stressful weekend ...

  31. I love the following quote about school "choice" on the redesigned SFUSD website. 

    "Keeping it simple:
    The new student placement policy is about the rich diverse cultures of the San Francisco community. And it’s about choice, because we’ve consistently heard from our communities that parents want choice.

    We are committed to keeping school choice simple. To apply, tell us where you live and what schools you want.

    Consistent. Clear. Fair.
    The new placement policy aims for every student’s top choice, and we believe in meeting as many top choices as possible for all San Francisco families."
    So explain to me again why middle school assignment will not remain a "choice" lottery?????  Their philosophy appears completely contradictory to their K-8 forced feeder proposal, which is neither simple, consistent, clear, nor fair.

  32. Wow there will be lots of unhappy Clarendon attendance-area parents! only 10% of spots were given to attendance-area applicants

  33. Whew! We got into our 1st choice and attendance area school - Miraloma.

  34. Appendix E in that report has some really indicative numbers. Non-neighborhood, non-CTIP1, non-sibling applicants got as few as 5% of slots at popular schools.

    Maybe they'll install neighborhood-only drinking fountains next.

  35. THe statistic that Id like to see is of the 60% who listed immersion and k-8s as their first choice, how many listed their neighborhood school as their first choice out of the attendance area schools they listed. Basically, how many people took a shot on immersion or k-8, but opted for a neighborhood school if that didn't pan out. My guess is that would be high, but who knows!

  36. Floyd Thursby: I believe the 81% number (for all applicants including siblings--or 66% if you exclude siblings) refers to the # that got their top THREE choices, not 7.

    KWillets: You are correct. As many of us predicted, the people who get screwed in this system are the non-CTIP1 families who really don't want their neighborhood schools. There are pockets of this city that are non-CTIP1 whose schools have been designated as failing (I'm not talking about middle-level test scores or hidden gems with good leadership like JSerra). In the old system, these families would have been in competition with non-poor families from around the city for alternatives, especially ones accessible to the east side of town. Now families on the far west side of the city are fairly protected.

    What this new system did was shift the risk from a large group to that group in particular. It does have the effect of lowering the volume of complaints I suppose.

  37. The new SAS has served its purpose, not if more people got their first choice, but, rather, if fewer people got an unacceptable last choice. That unacceptable last choice would have been a low scoring school all the way across town. If we have avoided the worst of the mismatching in terms of location and academic achievment for that school, then we have eliminated the worst feature if the old SAS.

  38. I just got the letter from SFUSD and I haven't got any of my choices for public schools! :-(

  39. We got West Portal, our neighborhood school. Guess the new system really did change things, at least in some areas. Of all the kids on this block, I can think of only one other kid who has gotten in over the past few years. Good luck, everyone.

  40. Can anyone explain why the Choice Offers on Page 28 do not add to 100% for the popular schools. This makes no sense to me as the spots should be taken by CTIP, Attendance Area and Siblings for schools that don't have Pre-K. For example, the most popular school Clarendon adds up to 91% for Siblings, CTIP1 and Attendance Area kids. Who are the other 9%?

  41. Don't get too distracted by the ins and outs of the new assignment system. The fact the 14 (out of 70) elementary schools were 1st choice for 50% of the K apps shows how badly choice has failed the system.It shows the incredible disparity between programs and facilities and staff. Don't blame people for choosing the obvious best schools when you tell them they have choice.

  42. Is anyone trying for a language pathway transfer to a different school for first grade in this lottery? Is anyone trying for a non language pathway transfer for first in this lottery to a trophy school?

  43. Aptos!!!! "No. 1" is extremely excited. Hoping to hear from friends, Donna

  44. 6:02pm said, "Besides, voters cannot vote in school district policies."

    Technically speaking that is not correct. You need a charter amendment which requires something like 50,000 petition signatures and a win to go over the Board.

    6:55pm said: "But Don, it seems your measure goes completely against what people are choosing for schools. Why force the issue?"

    3/5th of all applicants put down a language pathway school or a K-8 first. Over 25% of first choicer is sibling. Given what's left, neighborhood choice is a lot higher than 25%, although ascertaining the exact number is difficult without more specific data. And I should mention that some areas have no true neighborhood school.

    6:55, no one is forcing the issue. The measure is an exercise in democracy. The measure supports school choice for citywide schools. And SFUSD needs more citywide schools designated for these large numbers of language and K8 applicants.

    Why is SFUSD boasting about what they are trying to portray as low neighborhood school choice, when they promoted the elementary school plan as neighborhood friendly in the first place? What an about face.

    The emphasis on the 25% number is just SFUSD doing free publicity and campaigning against Students First since they are barred from actively campaigning against it - so they are spinning the numbers.

  45. Congratulations, Donna, and a big welcome to Aptos!