Sunday, August 28, 2011

Messages from SFUSD EPC

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO FAMILIES WHO HAVE SUBMITTED CHOICES FOR THE AUGUST PLACEMENT PERIOD

If you have submitted a request for an assignment for the August Placement Period and have not yet received a telephone call or an assignment letter in the mail, your requests will stay active until September 9.

If your child is able to receive an assignment into one of your requested schools at any time between now and September, your child will lose his or her present assignment of a school and must switch schools immediately. There will be no opportunity to return to his or her present school assignment.

If you are satisfied with your present school, and do not want to make a change, or do not want to participate in the August Placement Period, please contact the Educational Placement Center to cancel your request by e-mail by sending a message to EnrollinSchool@ sfusd.edu to cancel your request. You may also FAX in a written cancellation to 415-241-6087. Do not cancel by telephone. Please include your child's name, birthdate, grade and present school in all requests.

76 comments:

  1. I gleened this from an SF Gate article this morning "
    Joanna Rees running, riding for SF mayor's office"

    She sent her children to pricey private schools, but said she'll focus on improving the public schools by encouraging philanthropists to help fund them and pushing the school district to adopt an entirely neighborhood-based assignment system.


    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/08/28/BAEO1KQTF6.DTL#ixzz1WQzWvO94

    I'd like to know what all the mayoral candidates stance is on this topic.

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  2. Does it really matter where they stand? The mayor is powerless to tell the SFUSD what to do and how to do it.

    It's the BOE and superintendent who decide things. They have made quite clear that so-called "social justice" is their number one priority.

    Joanna Rees is just making comments she knows will resonate with the segment of the electorate with kids in public schools. She knows and probably cares little about the frustrations we have with the assignment system. Her kids were too good for our public schools yet she plans to "fix" them?

    She truly is the SF Meg Whitman (she also doesn't bother to take 15 minutes of her busy important schedule to vote in elections like Meg)

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  3. It's a facile argument to say that she doesn't care about the public schools just because her kids went private. Rachel Norton has a child in private. You may be right about her, but you're taking a cheap shot. Everyone has a stake in public education and everyone pays into it. Her having opted out doesn't mean, in and of itself, that her views are tainted or somehow less important. At the same time there is much to be said for the cache one earns by walking the walk. In her particular case do you know what her reasons were for going private?

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  4. Where did anybody say she doesn't care about public schools "just because" her kids went to fancy private schools.

    She's not running for BOE, so I couldn't care less where her kids went to school.

    She seems to be completely clueless on SFUSD current events. I've had the opportunity to speak with her campaign people. When asked to identify the composition BOE; she could not. When asked to approximate the % of SF kids in public schools; she could not. When asked if she could demonstrate any interest or involvement with SF public schools prior to running for mayor; she could not.

    These things coupled with the fact that her kids were too good for our public schools tells me she only "cares" about them to the extent the electorate thinks she cares about them.

    Again, the mayor has no say on how the BOE or SFUSD does its job...so her campaign pillar of fixing public education is just talk designed to hoodwink voters who take everything candidates and politicians say at face value.

    In her case, the fact that she rarely bothers to even vote is enough for me not to vote for her. I'm kind of tired of aspiring politicians who are too lazy and/or apathetic to vote yet suddenly feel elections are worth something if they are in them.

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  5. The obvious inference from your comment is that she doesn't care about public schools and you may be right. I don't know anything about her and just because she supports neighborhood schools as do I is not a reason for me to vote for her, particularly when the mayor has little to do with SFUSD. I think she is using the neighborhood schools measure to run on. On the other hand she is perfectly within her right to do so.

    I was confused by your comment because you said you talked to her campaign people, but then that SHE was unable to answer questions about recent events. Was it her or was it the campaign people who couldn't answer? Anyway, a lot of people can't answer those questions, however if you're running for major and you raise these issues you damn well better be able to answer basic questions.

    From what I've heard you're probably right about her lack of real interest in schools. I just like to be fair about it. What do the other candidates know? Precious little I suspect.

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  6. In general, what mayoral candidates know about the public school milieu in SF is not a something to make an issue about -- until such time as they make fixing our "broken public schools" a/the major centerpiece of their campaign.

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  7. But as was said, the mayor has nothing much to do with the public schools in SF or with fixing them. If you want change the Board is the place to start.

    If long shot candidate Rees wins and really truly wants to focus on education - more power to her. But when it comes to philantropic (ie corporate) public/private efforts, that hasn't always worked out so well.

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  8. For those of us still waiting to hear about a new placement, with a kid two-plus weeks into kindergarten, this threadjacking is a bit annoying.

    Anybody still getting called about placements? Anybody have luck talking to EPC to find out where they are on waitlists? We're starting to question whether changing schools makes sense any more, but what's really hard is having no idea if we'll get a call and where we'll wind up. any insight at this point is appreciated.

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  9. To 8.44:
    I got this email today. You may want to contact this lady and see what they are up to.

    Good luck!!!

    *********************************

    Hello Parents

    Do you not have a school for your child yet? Or are you frustrated by the hoops you have to jump through to get a school? Not getting any help from the SFUSD. Tired of the disasterous SFUSD?

    My child does not have a kindergarten yet. The District has not been helpful. It is time for this to end.

    A few parents and I are going to stage a protest at the SFUSD in front of their office. Hopefullly it will garner political and media attention.

    Whether or not our children have a school by then we are still going to have the protest because it is our belief that is one child is doesn't have a school - The whole system has failed.

    If you would like to have more information about the protest details
    Please email me at LRAVANO@AOL.com

    Thank you
    Linda Ravano

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  10. You are prohibited by law to protest within a certain distance of 555 Franklin St., unless it is an education protest organized by SFUSD, then it is encouraged.

    You are right about the thread hijacking. I was responding to what others said and no one had really commented on the issue anyway.

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  11. The problem with the protest is that SFUSD will point out that the parents have been offered spots, through open enrollment, in schools such as Sheridan, Redding, Jose Ortega GE.

    If you look at their test scores, these are not failed schools. In some cases, they have better test scores than other schools that are quite popular with parents. They are also located in various sections in town, not only in the far SE corner (e.g., Redding). In several cases they have nice amenities, such as a nice campus in the case of Sheridan, experienced teachers and an art program in the case of Redding, and a beloved principal, art program, and growing PTA in the case of Ortega.

    I don't question any parent's individual judgment about why they are not taking these spots, and there is no doubt that dealing with EPC is .... frustrating .... but the district has a case to make that the children still out have been offered spots in various kindergartens that are by most objective measures, acceptable.

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  12. Jose Ortega = API of 811, and met all sub-group targets, which is impressive (not just relying on changing demographics to lift scores). In any case, the MI program is still largely concentrated in the lower grades so isn't fully affecting the test scores anyway compared to the GE program.

    Sheridan = API of 825, similar schools rank of 9.

    Redding has a lovely arts program that includes professional artists.

    None of these would be a bad place to go to kindergarten, even if one wanted to try to move for first grade for whatever reasons.

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  13. For what it is worth, I asked Bevan Dufty whether his daughter is going to public or private school, and he said public. She just started kindergarten I believe. And from our conversation, he has a very detailed understanding of the assignment system, so I think he at least is aware what is going on.

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  14. 11:57 here again. I just wanted to add that I believe that protests by parents of middle school kids without a school are more on point. The only school on offer as far as I know is Visitacion Valley, which is not a reasonable commute for many kids. It's actually an interesting school in some ways, but way, way out of the way by MUNI, even for kids in the Mission let alone the north side of town.

    There are more open options for elementary. Don't know who the protesters are, but they should be prepared to say why they won't send their kids to open spots in elementary schools with API scores over 800.

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  15. 2:16 Bevan Dufty's daughter got a nice placement because he used his CTIP address even though the child's mother lives at a non-CTIP address--presumably splitting time btwn both. This is totaaly legal under this year's rules, but yeah, I'd say Bevan understands how to work the assignment system. He doesn't exactly feel our non-ctip pain though. And, people, neither the mayor nor the board of supes has control of any sort over the school district. That is the Board of Education and no one except existing public school parents seem to learn about and vote in those races which is why we end up with such poor representation.
    And, back to the original thread, we have no K assignment and haven't heard from the district since the Aug 19 robocall.

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  16. "Jose Ortega = API of 811, and met all sub-group targets, which is impressive (not just relying on changing demographics to lift scores). In any case, the MI program is still largely concentrated in the lower grades so isn't fully affecting the test scores anyway compared to the GE program.

    Sheridan = API of 825, similar schools rank of 9.

    Redding has a lovely arts program that includes professional artists.

    None of these would be a bad place to go to kindergarten, even if one wanted to try to move for first grade for whatever reasons."

    Sheridan's got an API of 793 *in it's English Language Learners* for chrissakes. That's stellar.

    However:

    Sheridan: 76% free/subsidized lunch
    Redding: 84% free/subsidized lunch.
    Jose Ortega: 63% free/subsidized lunch.

    You've got your answer why even though JOES, Redding, and Sheridan are good schools, there's still spaces there not being picked up: there's a lot of (unjustified) aversion by middle-class parents to going to a school with a low-SES population, even if that school is punching above its weight academically given its demographics. But I agree, these are great schools: I personally love JOES.

    For those looking for a 6th grade spot, the frustration is understandable Vis Valley is hard to get to if you're not in the SE, and the API is a weak 691: so it's understandable that a long schlep for a weak school is not appealing.

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  17. Please, it's very easy to say "oh, those middle class parents are unjustly ignoring Ortega, Sheridan and Redding because they don't want their kids to go to school with any poor kids."
    How about the fact that none of these three elementary schools is conveniently located for the majority of families who don't have an assignment (the families that live in the general Alvarado/Clarendon/Grattan/etc neighborhoods who were disproportionately blocked out by the CTIP1 kids)? Location matters, especially when making a commitment for the next 5 years. Also, most of these same parents are making decisions based on something more than simple API scores.

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  18. Hmm... from Bernal, Ortega is 43-51 minutes by MUNI, Sheridan is 37, and Redding is 47. That's a huge trip for a little kid. Driving is much better, but only if you can park where you work.

    I do think some parents are rejecting these schools because they don't want to go to school with "those kids," but some of it is not wanting to commit to a long commute or a whole bunch of driving for the next 6 years.

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  19. Sure, location matters, and it has an impact on family life, and of course most of these families understandably want a great, and also local, school.

    That said, two thoughts:

    * for most families, perception of school quality will trump, always, the location issue. Parents are generally willing to drive if they can and if they can get the kid into a perceived-to-be higher-quality school, especially if the local school is perceived in the opposite way. No doubt, there are many families in the Muir and Chavez attendance areas (to use two schools that were on the "failed schools" list from last year that are in reconstitution mode) who would be very, very happy to drive across town to Clarendon or Miraloma if choosing between local vs. "quality." So while I think it is an issue, I don't think it is the overriding one, based on application and attendance patterns. If you look at the SFUSD maps, you see a massive shift of eastern neighborhood kids to midtown and westside schools.

    * Is going to JOES or Sheridan or Redding really a worse option than not having a school for kindergarten? And can a family really say they haven't been offered something at least decent? It's not that far to JOES or Sheridan by car from Noe or Miraloma, especially via the 280....fifteen minutes or so in my experience. And Redding is close to major bus lines on the north side, and close to downtown, not so hard to get to from the Panhandle or Cole Valley areas via major commute routes like Oak.

    I get it, not ideal, but would it be so bad to go to one of these and then re-apply for first grade to a more favored school? That's what I don't get. I'm sure there are lots of reasons that people have, but I hope it is not the schools themselves, which are doing a good job. Yes, JOES is very sweet.....

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  20. "Hmm... from Bernal, Ortega is 43-51 minutes by MUNI, Sheridan is 37, and Redding is 47. That's a huge trip for a little kid. Driving is much better, but only if you can park where you work."

    AFY or Clarendon or Lillenthal are an even bigger schlepping, but something tells me if I offered Bernal parents places there I have no shortage of takers.

    I fact, I know it: because back in the late '90s when Bernal was lumped in with the Mission when they had a zip-code based preference system, Bernal parents took full advantage to send their kids out of the neighborhood to choice schools. Flynn, Serra and Revere are still recovering from the damage that did. Even now 70% of Bernalites go out of neighborhood.

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  21. That's the perverse effect of the system aimed at promoting diversity. If they really want diversity, they need to say if you're white or Asian and in Bernal Heights, you get lowest priority to go to a mostly white/Asian school in the Sunset or Richmond. In fact, some of them are displacing people who have the same demographics, when by going to their own neighborhood school, they would make the school more diverse. If these schools got all the middle class people in the neighborhood, they'd improve.

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  22. 8:13, in Bernal, a mixed-income neighborhood if you include outer Mission and Alemany families, that may well be true. But income and SES status is still lumpy throughout the city. Pure neighborhood assignment would leave highly segregated and concentrated (by SES status) schools, and also unhappy families. It would have a huge effect on property values too, as has been pointed out.

    The only thing that has ever worked, and it is a painfully slow process, is the creation of magnets such as language immersion, or pioneer families willing to give a school a shot (Miraloma, Sunnyside, Aptos, Balboa, more recently Serra) for those that are not immersion. Not clear to me that works as well without some kind of lottery/choice system, because middle class parents will tend to buy or rent into perceived higher-value school neighborhoods well ahead of time. Cases in point, Oakland, New York City. (And then they scream when the neighborhood zones fill up, cases in point, Oakland and New York City.)

    Bottom line, no easy solutions--certainly neighborhood assignment would not solve many issues and would create new problems too.

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  23. "If they really want diversity, they need to say if you're white or Asian"

    The Ho decision means you can't use race as a factor. Using proxies for income (as the old system did) didn't work because there's a wide range of income in the Asian and Hispanic demographics (which are 66% of the SFUSD students), so you had schools like AFY or Alvarado being diverse in SES intake but not in ethnicity.

    So hence the reason for going to census tracts for determining CTIP1.

    As 10:28 pm pointed out, one of the better solutions (and one where the district has really shined) is developed magnet programs like immersion. You can see the effect that it's had on the perception of Flynn, Jose Ortega, Daniel Webster, etc., and that goodwill spills over to the GE programs also, as families interested in the immersion programs visit the school and become interested in the school overall. But that takes time, and most people here (understandably) want a solution right now for their kid, and aren't interested in hearing that there were 7 trophies five years ago and now there's 20 trophy schools and how that's progress. They just want to get into a trophy right now. But it seems there are still hidden gems overlooked even at this late stage.

    A pure neighborhood assignment seems attractive, but I've lost a neighbor because of the new more neighborhood-based system, and I wouldn't have lost them if we had the old system.

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  24. Hmmm...

    Can someone tell me what it means to say a school is "sweet?"

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  25. 9:38, for me "sweet" usually implies smallness and warmth. For example, both JOES and Serra known to have warm principals who know all the kids' names, both have a strong sense of community, and they are relatively small; also, the results of arts programs and various attempts at beautification and greening have warmed up the schools in recent years.

    Whereas, you wouldn't say that Clarendon or Alamo (good as they are) are "sweet" .... mainly because they are larger and perhaps for that reason they lack that warm quality (as a matter of degree). Not that I wouldn't send my child to Clarendon or Alamo, but sweet is not the charism of either one. So if you want a smaller, warmer place, look to a place like JOES or Serra, both "hidden gems" to use a cliched phrase, but true in these cases.

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  26. Actually Alvarado is diverse if by that you mean that there is no racial group greater than 50% (which is a much, much higher standard than any private school could ever hope to obtain--I've heard admissions directors talk proudly about their 20% kids of color rate, which is kind of a yikes in a city as diverse as ours).

    Anyway, Alvarado has 46% Hisp/Latino, 27% white, 7% African American, 6% Asian, 2% Filipino, 10% multiple or no response, and a handful of other categories <1%. The school actually mirrors state demographics if not the city's (which would skew more Asian, obviously). And there is an still an income range at the school--41% free/reduced lunch, lower than the district to be sure, but still significant, and 38% English language learners.

    Alvarado is not as diverse as Harvey Milk down the hill, with four racial groups in double-digit percentages, but it's not bad. The immersion program requirements pretty much guarantee that there is SES diversity at Alvarado (by design)--this is a school that got pretty balanced in SES terms through the choice/lottery system, though in recent years, as the school reached trophy status, it became more and more middle/upper-middle class (after being scorned and avoided for years).

    Will be interesting to see what the new system does to the demographics of the GE program. Fortunately, it can draw from both higher and lower incomes based on where it is located.

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  27. Sunnyside has nice ethnic diversity. No one group dominates.

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  28. In the interest of having constructive discussions, can anyone point me to the research that shows that being in a school of all the same SES is detrimental to educational results? I'm serious. I went to all of the Student Assignment board meetings and the only research presented was on the detrimental effect to AA and Latinos of being in a school with more than 60% of their own race. Our hearts may jump immediately to saying we should mix up the SES, but as far as I know, there is no research to support that being effective at helping kids be able to read, write and do math and science and think critically enough to participate in democracy. And at this point in the SFUSD's 80% of schools not meeting federal criteria, I think they need to be focusing on things that have been proven to matter rather than things that our gut tells us should matter. We're talking getting kids the basics.

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  29. 11:48, there is lots of research showing that high concentrations of poverty in a school have a serious and lasting effect on the educational attainment of the students. It is hard enough to help kids overcome the effects of poverty, but there seems to be something about concentrating those poverty effects that is overwhelming to those efforts.

    I don't have time to give you a comprehensive bibliography, but why don't you start here, with a brief put out by the Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina, which has worked on these issues for years. They include a bibliography and lit survey:

    www.wcpss.net/evaluation-research/reports/1999/9920_poverty.pdf

    This issue is huge for San Francisco. 56% qualify for free & reduced lunch--and you have to be pretty low-income to be eligible. 31% are English language learners. These are markers for a host of risk factors.

    It wouldn't hurt our higher-SES kids to be concentrated together (other than in life skills, perhaps, in not learning how to navigate the diversity of SF and CA). But it surely hurts our lower-SES kids to be concentrated together. That is why the efforts to mix up the kids.

    Hope that helps.

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  30. The Wake County School system differs from SFUSD in several ways:
    1) significantly lower levels of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch (34% vs 56%), so less movement of students is required over all
    2) buses move students to distant schools, making being assigned to a distant school less problematic in terms of logistics
    3) desirable magnet schools that draw students in are placed in the regions where the free/reduced lunch populations are most highly concentrated

    Given that SFUSD can't change the demographics and can't afford buses, the only thing that can be done is to develop desirable magnet schools.

    SFUSD has effectively used immersion schools as magnet programs at the elementary level. There is clearly high demand for immersion programs, and more should be started. But SFUSD hasn't used the draw of immersion to target students to undersubscribed schools at the middle school level. Perhaps this is because other programs, like GATE or a well established music/theatre program become more important to the high SES population at the middle school level.

    An alternative would be to develop a science, arts or performing arts magnet middle schools that would draw students in. Equivalent high schools will probably also be required once the boom finishes middle school and moves onto high school.

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  31. OK. The principle of diversity is good without question. So then someone tell me why the Board of Education, which focuses the bulk of its energies on its diversity agenda, is willing to allow a school like Lowell to exist - a school which removes about 20% of of highest achievers from the rest of the total high school population and, as a result, makes those other high schools far less diverse?

    The answer is they are not willing to take on the political and economic forces that Lowell can muster. So much for principles.

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  32. just got a robocall. Must cancel amended choice by tomorrow, otherwise it's possible you could be placed in a higher choice school.

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  33. Thanks for the links, 12:07. It will take more digging into the source research to understand causation vs. correlation--the Wake County brief is research distilled into bullet points as interpretted by school district staff. Still, the attitudes and work ethic of the kids who make up a peer group obviously matter. Here's the problem, though, even assuming that you could raise poor kids' scores by upping the SES of their classmates, with 56% free lunch in SFUSD, you can't mix that away to less than a majority no matter how much shuffling you do--the math doesn't work. Given a high poverty population, what is the best way to support good outcomes if you can't change the mix? The SES mixing argument says that you need my high SES child in the system to improve the performance of the other 56% of children, yet the district's actions are driving us out of the system, further weighting the entire system to low SES. The board needs to look at the actual effect (based on data) of the decisions they make. So if you take the perfect-world solution off the table, what's the next best, most likely to actually be effective solution instead of continuing to assign high SES kids to Chavez (beautiful facility, dedicated teachers but API 1, ELL >60%) and wondering why they don't show up to change the mix.

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  34. "Actually Alvarado is diverse if by that you mean that there is no racial group greater than 50%"

    Sorry, I was trying to think of the Hispanic equivalent of AFY or West Portal for Asians in terms of popularity.

    "(which is a much, much higher standard than any private school could ever hope to obtain--I've heard admissions directors talk proudly about their 20% kids of color rate, which is kind of a yikes in a city as diverse as ours). "

    That might be true of the independent privates being mostly caucasian, but not true of the Catholic schools, based on my tours.

    But yeah, it's like the flipside of the SFUSD ethnically.

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  35. This is 12:07 again.

    Yes, it is true that the numbers in Wake County and San Francisco are different. As is the geography, and the current level of funding compared to this report from 2001.

    And it is also true that when "mix 'em up" programs are implemented that some middle and professional class parents do leave the system. In San Francisco as well as infamous Boston, white parents of all incomes fled the public school system when race-based busing was implemented under consent decree. It is one of the legacy reasons why so many white (and also middle/upper class) kids in SF go private today....that has been the pattern since the dawn of busing. There will always be some leakage there, even in the most intelligently designed program (which busing was not).

    All that said. The percentage numbers are not that bad in San Francisco, because it really doesn't need to be exactly a 56% low to high SES mix....because we have the confounding factor of our low-income Chinese American kids. For various reasons, despite their poverty, they are not the kids largely at risk. High concentrations of low-income C.A. kids in Chinatown have not led to terrible outcomes--quite the reverse, actually. What we are really talking about is the impact of concentrating the kids on the wrong side of the achievement gap, which is largely the kids in CTIP1 areas.

    And yes, I know that CTIP1 drives a lot of people nuts, because it captures about a hundred or so families that are not low SES. The Board did it that way to get beyond the old system of verifying income, free-lunch status, CalWorkds, Section 8, etc. Verifying an address is a lot easier to do (and they are doing it). So there are cost savings for the district there, in doing it by census tract.

    Anyway, it should not be that hard to figure out how to de-concentrate the kids from these areas, the kids who are at risk. They have tried through the lottery, and through magnet programs to pull higher SES kids into schools like Alvarado, Flynn, etc. They are now using CTIP. It's a tough balance, to preserve a measure of parent preference while still moving toward that mix that they know will help mitigate that effects of concentrating poverty.

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  36. "So if you take the perfect-world solution off the table, what's the next best, most likely to actually be effective solution instead of continuing to assign high SES kids to Chavez"

    There's no particular intent to assign high-SES kids to Chavez. It's just that as Chavez is not popular, it's where the spaces for those unlucky enough to not get one of their choices.

    There was a plan in the early stages to give CTIP2 families preferences to CTIP1 schools, but that got ditched as it was realized it wouldn't actually make much difference to diversity based on the limited demand for CTIP1 schools from CTIP2 areas.

    "yet the district's actions are driving us out of the system, further weighting the entire system to low SES."

    Given the district's been seeing 3-5% gains in lottery applications and is now hitting MS capacity issues 2 years before they anticipated, they may be skeptical about whether the old (and new) system is driving away parents. I think that the lower level of "churn" in placements (and hence more parents still waiting for a phone call from EPC) suggests there's less dropping out from SFUSD than in the previous years.

    Whether that's because of the poor economy and fewer going to privates or being able to move, or because the new system is doing a better job of satisfying the ~80% of families that *did* get a choice, or a combination of the two, we don't know yet.

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  37. " The percentage numbers are not that bad in San Francisco, because it really doesn't need to be exactly a 56% low to high SES mix....because we have the confounding factor of our low-income Chinese American kids."

    Which is why you have the paradoxical result that SFUSD does better than the state average for low SES kids, but ethnic achievement gap is larger : whites and asians in SFUSD do better than the state average, and AA's and Hispanics do worse. So there's a larger "achievement gap".

    Now, there are possible explanations outside of SFUSD's power to fix: haven't checked the data, but I'd think in the AA and Hispanic populations in SF you'd see a higher level of poverty than the state average and more ELLs in the Hispanic population in SF than the average, given we have a lot of newcomer immigrants. But it'd be useful to check the crosstabs to see why the achievement gap is larger here than statewide.

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  38. "It is one of the legacy reasons why so many white (and also middle/upper class) kids in SF go private today"

    I'd have thought the high Italian/Irish population historically to SF also meant you have a large Catholic school sector. I mean, there are *a lot* of Catholic schools here. (Although many are a lot smaller than they used to be, or have merged with each other.)

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  39. On the desirability of schools' location point, I would just note that one thing that I never factored in was how difficult it is to pick up by car at a school in a heavily urbanized neighborhood. Our kid now goes to Gateway Middle, which is currently housed in John Muir's elementary school campus. Parking is nonexistent there and many of the streets feed to the highway (or are big crosstown streets), making picking up a real challenge. Furthermore, while our kid is a middle schooler, the size of his backpack (and some nervousness about his maturity) currently makes Muni a non-alternative for us. For K-aged kids, Muni is really not a practical alternative. Up til now, we have only been at elementaries in (relatively) residential and less-congested neighborhoods. I wonder if this explains some of the reluctance of families to go to schools like Muir. Just thought I'd point that out.

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  40. Yes, 4:08, that is true as well (and in Boston too), and there are many Latinos and Filipinos today who also do the Catholic school thing for religious and cultural reasons.

    AND--it is also true that there was significant, documentable outflow of white families from SFUSD in the years immediately following the implementation of the consent decree. It wasn't because there was a sudden rise in Catholic families in the city.

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  41. "...because we have the confounding factor of our low-income Chinese American kids. For various reasons, despite their poverty, they are not the kids largely at risk."

    Exactly. Which means poverty is correlated with performance but not by itself the cause of poor performance. Interesting that all of the great movies about educational triumphs (okay, I know they are Hollywoodized) never feature just shuffling some at-risk kids into a school in a better neighborhood.

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  42. 3:59 "Given the district's been seeing 3-5% gains in lottery applications and is now hitting MS capacity issues 2 years before they anticipated, they may be skeptical about whether the old (and new) system is driving away parents."
    Lottery gains are irrelevant--matriculation is the data that matters, if they publish it.
    So maybe we are the only family that has been driven out of the system this year... except just off the top of my head I know 6 other families, but maybe we are the only 6 families--all of my friends who happen to live in CTIP or on the west side are happy enough. So maybe a system that shuts out 6 families is okay, and maybe SFUSD will close the achievement gap and get more than half its students to perform at proficiency level from k-12. And maybe everyone who is left doesn't mind a system that requires weeks of effort to get your child into a school and involves hours of transit. For the sake of all the children who we hope to save from low achievement, I hope that's true, but I am still sad/frustrated/angry and equally bewildered to see a system based now on reverse discrimination be defended so heartily (I'm curious what schools the defender's children attend) as if this is the only possible solution. It doesn't have to be a zero sum game.

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  43. SFUSD, as a system, is trying to work with the majority of its students, many who are poor and many who are English language learners. Middle class families are not the majority in the system. If you want "the system" to work for you, you need to be in the majority. That's why middle class people like suburban school districts. The suburbs are economically segregated and the school systems reflect the needs and demands of the students enrolled in their schools. A school system, such as SFUSD, is constantly fighting an uphill battle to retain funding, meet test scores, and educate students from a myriad of backgrounds. SFUSD does not build policy to attract and retain middle class families because middle class students are in the minority and when they are present in the system do not negatively impact test scores. The student population the system is trying to retain are working and immigrant Chinese as this is a population which is both poor and brings test scores up. As Chinese families move into Vis Valley and Bayshore, SFUSD is building policy to retain those students within those local schools. In 15 years, Vis Valley middle school will probably have a larger Chinese student body than Latino. A recent article in the Potrero View discussed the changing demographics of the southern part of San Francisco. In terms of percentages, the African American population is decreasing and the Chinese and Chinese American population is increasing.

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  44. 10:05 pm -- I think many would find your view very cynical, but I have to say it explains a lot of things. It explains why sfusd seems to challenge every kind of racial isolation EXCEPT Chinese majorities in the westside schools. It explains in many ways the middle school feeder system, which seems to be penalizing the non-Asian schools like Miraloma, while leaving alone many westside schools. It explains some of SFUSD's bizarre decisions, like opening Cantonese immersion programs.

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  45. Quote: "It explains some of SFUSD's bizarre decisions, like opening Cantonese immersion programs."

    I'm not sure why you consider opening Cantonese immersion programs is a "bizarre" move. AFY and West Portal CI were two of the most impacted schools in the city. So, obviously there is a need. It would be nice to have more Mandarin immersion, since it might be more useful in the long run to non-Chinese families (since those with Chinese background might have other reasons beyond having their kids become bilingual, such as giving their children a sense of pride in their roots, which can be helpful when encountering racism and prejudice when growing up, or better communicating with older family members), but SF just doesn't have the number of native and bilingual Mandarin speakers to fill a third Mandarin immersion program. Studies have shown that bilingual education, no matter the language, has shown a number of social and cognitive benefits for children of all backgrounds. Despite high levels of English learner kids, these schools score high (CIS' numbers just got published online; the school has an API of 944). Non-Asian families are very welcome at CIS, they are vital part of what makes this school great.

    So, to me opening CIS was one of the rare reasons, where SFUSD is working towards a need of parents and students rather than trying to force some lofty social agenda onto them.

    Maybe I'm overly sensitive (I'm European-American, but married to a man with a Chinese background), but somehow your post rings racist to me... just saying...

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  46. Socio-economic level and parental education greatly impact a child's performance in school. If a parent is illiterate, they will not be able to support their child in school. If a parent is not educated, they will not be able to help their child with good study habits, negotiating the classroom, and setting realistic goals. If you want to help children born into poverty escape the cycle, you must work with the whole family and start from the time the child is born. By the time they reach kindergarten, children born into high poverty in a family with high illiteracy rates will be far behind children born into families where both parents are educated. My friend taught within SFUSD for many years. Now she teaches in a suburban school and was shocked that all the children could write their names and knew the alphabet the first day of school. At the schools she taught at in San Francisco, the first half of kindergarten was learning the alphabet. If we want to break the cycle of poverty and under-education, we must commit to both the child and their family to ensure the child has support both inside and outside the classroom. Teach a parent to read while their child is a newborn and toddler. Teach a parent math while their child is in elementary school. Free, quality childcare for all working families living in poverty. Social workers for families with histories of drug or alcohol abuse or a history of domestic violence. Group therapy for families with members in prison. To concentrate education on the isolated relationship between the child and the teacher, is to follow a dead-end road.

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  47. Not at all surprised to see the great numbers at DeAvila CIS. Their principal rocks, the PTA hit the ground running, and the combination of location and program draws a mix of high performing populations-- educated Upper Haight/Cole Valley families who were crowded out of Grattan and Clarendon and the high-performing Chinese population. Way to help SF keep the crown of "best performing urban district in California." It was interesting that SFUSD chose to open a new K-5 school that could hardly have been better designed to appeal to resourced families, especially given the political composition of the BOE.

    If SFUSD wants to see more engaged families enter the district, they need to have more programs targeted at high-performing populations. I would love to see more general ed and non-language magnet programs on the west side. West side parochials have a high number of non-Christian Asian families and a fair number of non-religious white families who I bet would happily go public if there were more public schools that they felt met their academic needs. But those families are not going to haul their kids over the Mission or the Bayview or Vis Valley in the name of social justice. They want reliable, convenient schools with orderly classrooms. Friends of ours just went parochial for middle school because their public assignment was not acceptable either logistically or academically. It's really kind of sad and strange to me that parents submit their children to religious education that means nothing to them (or to which at least one of the parents actively objects, as is the case with our friends) just because there are not enough spaces at acceptable public schools.

    I would assume that opening more public schools targeted at serving educationally advantaged populations would drive revenue to SFUSD while being relatively low-maintenance. But it does nothing to address the achievement gap. Is opening schools designed to attract resourced families a good use of SFUSD's resources?

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  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  49. "Way to help SF keep the crown of "best performing urban district in California." "

    I agree with just about everything you said but I would like to pipe in on the above comment. There is no earned achievement on the part of SFUSD for having the largest Asian population by percentage of any urban district and it is the average achievement within the dominant Chinese population that is 100% responsible for SFUSD nominal outperformance. In fact, without this demographic peculiarity SFUSD would significantly underperform other districts. SFUSD starts every report on its test results with this same old refrain - highest performing district. We have eight times the number of failing schools compared with the state average as a percentage of student population. Don't buy into the hype.

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  50. 10:53, good question. I do believe the answer was addressed by 10:05 pm. CIS works for SFUSD because it keeps the local, resourced community happy but mostly because it addresses the impaction of Cantonese language schools, thus serving the Cantonese ELL community. Chinese Americans are the strongest base of SFUSD. I believe they are in the majority by 11-12th grades.

    Don, re the hype, I'm no fan of the publicity dept of SFUSD either, but let's be fair. If we are to point out the demographic anomaly of our high-scoring but low-income Chinese American population, it also has to said that our San Francisco groups that are on the bottom side of the achievement gap (African Americans, Latinos, and Samoans) are also more poverty-stricken than is the average for their racial/ethnic group statewide. In other words, there are more middle-class Blacks and Latinos in some other areas. As someone else said, you have to look at the crosstabs before either accusing or lauding SFUSD of doing better than one would expect for the demographics. School performance is tied to both race and class, in confounding ways.

    The only interesting thing about API scores is when districts or schools either beat those demographics or do worse than expected). If Lafayette District schools in the East Bay dropped below 900 API that would be pretty shocking, but the fact that they get over 900 is old news, what with their 2% rates of both free lunch and ELLs and numerous other factors. They could have a terrible teacher in the 4th grade classroom and those kids would still score advanced on the CSTs. API either means either (or both) affluent parent index or Asian parent index. It doesn't say much more than that, unless it is out of whack with expected performance for the socio-economic status of the students in question.

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  51. Great point 12:14:
    African Americans, Latinos, and Samoans) are also more poverty-stricken than is the average for their racial/ethnic group statewide.
    ----------

    We have lost almost all middle class African Americans from SF. I work in a youth nonprofit and work closely with City of SF employees across a wide swatch of departments - and I have yet to meet a single African American who sends their kids to SFUSD. Most choose parochial or else move out of the city to send their kids to suburban public schools.

    I was in a recent demographic presentation and heard that something like 7 out of 10 African American kids in SF live in public housing or with housing assistance! Based on what I see from my own program, I believe it.

    What does this mean for SFUSD? As black flight occurred, just keeping academic performance sustained at the same level is a challenge as the base of kids included is more and more distressed.

    I'm amazed that I don't hear more discussion of this.

    Certainly, addressing the needs of families (jobs, housing, health care, child care, mental health...and on and on) should be a bigger part of the discussion for both SFUSD, DCYF and the City.

    Yet on both a national and local level, these things don't ever seem to be discussed in the same conversations.

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  52. What specifically is the SFUSD Central Office doing to make our schools better that would, in your opinion, account for any accolades it may acquire as the highest performing urban school district?

    Your point is valid that we have a slightly higher percentage of low SES minorities, but LAUSD and SDUSD have higher percentages of minorites, Asians excepted. And we do need to except them because they don't need a financial rationale for their achievement. That's because they know that whatever great excuse they may have, whether it is the projects they live in or the low wages they earn, in the end, these excuses do nothing to help get an education. But excuses, when people buy into them, do help SFUSD to make its leaders appear to be doing a good job. This is the modus operendi of the entitlement state.

    So tell me what leadership has done to make your school a better place for your child? Is it the one million they saved by raising class sizes or the 2 million pissed away on National Urban Alliance to train teachers that got leaid off? is it the millions spent on training for the Balanced Scorecard that no one cares about and is a standing joke among staff or is it the cafe conversations and fishbowl sessions among administrators that have increased student achievement?

    What concrete reforms has SFUSD implemented?

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  53. 5:40 am -- this is 12:16 am. What does it mean to say a certain population is "impacted"? That's your word for why it makes sense to open a school teaching a language that is universally recognized as one with limited general application. You are just using jargon to say that the Cantonese population in sf is politically powerful and that's why DeAvila is teaching it. And how dare you use the charge of racism against me? My point is the obvious one: mandarin is the emerging language that will equip ALL kids to compete better in the future. And that's the conclusion of EVERY Chimese friend I have talked to about this. They are appalled that SFUSD opened a Cantonese school instead of a Mandarin one. You have a thin skin! Interesting that you don't respond to my other points. Why is the middle school feeder program negatively impacting schools with large non-Asian middle class populations (miraloma) while leaving alone majority Asian middle class schools like West Portal. Why has nothing, and I mean nothing, been done to address the westside schools with 70 plus percent Asian populations? I think the conclusion is there: Asians are politically powerful but has significant low income percentages; SFUSD is committed to helping low income kids; so helping Asians is a win-win for SFUSD.

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  54. Hey, 8:24.

    You are correct in pointing out that the Chinese community, led by Rose Pak, who is supporting Ed Lee for Mayor, is behind much of the pro Chinese political emphasis in the city. That is the reason for the proliferation of Chinese and Mandarin language programs in the city, at the expense of other language programs.

    If you want something different, don't vote for Ed Lee for mayor.


    If you want to get a feel for how strong the Asian lobbby in the city has become, try Googling "chinese newcomers preschool san francisco" or "chinese house hunter tour tours".

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  55. I think most of the Immersion programs transition to Mandarin in the upper elem grades. I always assumed that Cantonese was the jumping off point for immersion in SF because historically there are more Cantonese speaking immigrants and for two way immersion to work you need the native speakers/and at the same time serve their ELL needs through the immersion model. I don't think the goal is to have the Chinese immersion programs producing kids who speak Cantonese in the end.

    Can anyone at Starr King, Jose Ortega, W Portal, CIS, or AFY shed some light?

    And honestly, Ive read so many comments that give so little credit to District Admin staff. They don't always get things perfect, but I don't think they are as mentally incompetent as some make them out to be. Its a difficult, no-win job to have to address the needs of the wide spectrum of students and family needs within the District. And with scarce resources that are a disgrace to the state and our legislators.

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  56. "Chinese house hunters tour US in search of sweet deal"

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/2009-02-10-china-foreclosed-us-houses_N.htm

    "More than 40 affluent house hunters from across China will begin a trip to Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles on Feb. 24 in search of cheap homes to buy. Their goal: to find investment property and housing their children could use when they go to the USA to study or work."

    "Shen, who already owns four houses in Beijing and Shanghai and who hasn't been to America, says he wants to take a future Soufun.com house-hunting trip to the United States and spend up to $500,000 for a house."

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  57. Imagine his surprise when a) he cannot find a house for $500,000 in a major city and b) he finds the U.S. educational system completely gutted.

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  58. In fact, you can buy a house in Vis Valley, the Bayview and the Excelsior for less than $500,000 and many Chinese nationals are doing exactly that.

    Some appraisal companies, run by these Chinese "touring" companies, are deliberately depressing home prices by coming in with below market appraisals. Some home owners who need to sell are then selling well below market, even if a foreclosure is not in play.

    Mandarin and Cantonese speakers have no problem getting access to a good school in this city. Look at E R Taylor, De Avila and all the 70% Chinese schools on the west side. No shut out there. In fact, we're rolling out the red carpet for these Chinese speakers. Often, after these home purchases, the primary breadwinner continues to work in China, with his family installed here. They also hide their true income and don't pay income tax in the US.

    That is partly the cause for all these "poor" Chinese speaking kids pulling up to school in Mercedes.

    It's a great deal for them. No need to deal with any diversity issues, as they hide behind language and have a strong lobby in the city. The desire to evade the China one child policy gives them added incentive to put up with some of the inconveniences of San Francisco school.

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  59. My child attended a very expensive program in the Slingerland method last summer. At the same site was a free summer school program for the needy. Every time I went to pick him up I couldn't park in front of the school because of all the Mercedes and BMWs that were there for pick for the free summer school program. There are the truly impoversished and then there are the legions of people who are just scamming the system and bleeding it dry.

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  60. "Which means poverty is correlated with performance but not by itself the cause of poor performance."

    No, it means poverty is a contributing factor to poor performance (compare low SES with non-low SES kids in any school) but other factors weigh in: e.g. strong extended families, focus on academics, level of ELLs.

    Disruptive events in the home life interfere with learning.

    I'll take my own experience as an example: Because of mental illness in my family, I spent six weeks in the care of social services when I was the second grade. When things settled down, I'd lost a lot: I was being sent to first grade classes part of the time because I was so far behind. It took two years for my academics to completely recover. And I was a kid who loved learning and went on to a university ranked in the top five worldwide, earning three postgrad degrees. Plus I had the advanatage of a huge stable middle-class extended family, and the fact that social services then were much better funded than now and there were plenty of skilled professionals to intervene and help.

    If two months of family disruption hammered a kid like me so badly, how much more is it going to hit a kid with less resources, with a less stable family, and with social services and school counselors cut back the bone?

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  61. "Lottery gains are irrelevant--matriculation is the data that matters, if they publish it."

    If Vis Valley is the only MS with vacancies right now, they've hit capacity. Horace Mann merging with Buena Vista took some capacity out of the system, but not *that* much. Similarly with the elementary level: there's a lot more people stuck than in previous years, and it's not 'cos EPC is suddenly much worse at its job compared to last year. My guess is that there's a lot more people in the system this year, and that we've actually seen less places being dropped between the offer letters going out and the start of the school year.

    "So maybe we are the only family that has been driven out of the system this year... except just off the top of my head I know 6 other families, but maybe we are the only 6 families--all of my friends who happen to live in CTIP or on the west side are happy enough."

    Yep, the pain from the new system is mostly felt by SE non-CTIP1 families.

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  62. I am a parent of a high school student who wanted to go to Balboa HS - historically an under requested school. Of my student's friends who requested it as their first choice, only 1 of the dozen or so that I know of got it the first round. The rest of us were spread around assigned to Philip & Sala Burton, Thurgood Marshall, John O'Connell. Only one family of this dozen got into Bal - and this through a medical appeal. At this point, I still haven't heard of anyone who got in off the waiting list, despite just about everyone I know staying on it.

    As for us, we jumped and went private. Best parenting decision we ever made - even with the significant impact on our finances. I never allowed myself to *look under the hood* at privates. There is no one size fits all school, but keep your options open. I wish we would have looked around a lot more at the parochial and independent HS (we put 5 SFUSD HS on our list and did not include Lowell or SOTA - but still couldn't get any of our choices.)

    All this to say that trends definitely changed this year. For many of us that historically chose the less popular schools, those schools are now on everyone's radar - Balboa especially (2.5 x more 1st choice requests than there were freshman spots - with almost nil movement off the waitlist in any subsequent rounds.)

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  63. " Of my student's friends who requested it [Balboa HS] as their first choice, only 1 of the dozen or so that I know of got it the first round."

    That's interesting. It feels like there's been a real squeeze on capacity at the 6th grade level: interesting that it's also felt at 9th grade.

    Also, it seems like there's been a lot less 'churn' in the system after Round 1.

    I'd hypothesize that there's more folks, particularly on the West side of the city, getting what they want in Round 1, and not opting for privates later on, so there's less people exiting the system and hence less vacancies for those unlucky in Round 1. [Most of the private school capacity is also on the West Side, so it'd be interesting to know if the privates have seen a dropoff in enrollment.]

    Either that, or more people are staying in the publics because of the economy, or not moving out of the city for the burbs.

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  64. 8:56 Your experience seems to support that it is other factors besides poverty that cause poor performance. Those other factors just happen to be more prevalent in poor populations.
    Poverty itself is challenging but in and of itself does not cause poor performance. Until the school district (and all us do-gooders) get more specific about what the causes of poor performance are and what can reasonably be done to either prevent or mitigate them, we will not make progress on closing the achievement gap. Unfortunately, everyone seems a little uncomfortable saying anything more specific than low SES.
    I grew up dirt poor in a fairly poor community. Life was hard. However, my parents were very involved in our school, committed to education and sent us to school ready to behave in class, respect our teachers and learn. Most of my classmates parents also knew and were known by the school staff. All of my four siblings went to college--two of us graduated from Ivy League schools. The kids who dropped out, got pregnant or otherwise struggled were most often the kids whose parents, for a variety of reasons, weren't involved or set a bad example of disrespect for school and education. It is my experience that causes me to find the notion of solving the achievement gap or helping low SES kids merely through the assignment system so offensive.
    Poverty alone makes school life challenging in a few ways: not having enough to eat (hence the free breakfast and lunch programs), not having supplies, feeling awkward and self-concious about not having the same clothes as everyone else, mental distraction because of worrying about how your family is going to pay bills or stay housed, insecurity, lack of confidence, inability to participate in extracurricular/enrichment activities because the child has to work. None of these can be addressed just by letting a child have preference to a school in a better neighborhood. The even bigger contributor to poor performance is lack of parenting, abuse, chaotic homelife -- these are even less relevant to the student assignment system. A myriad of solutions and supportive programs are needed ot address these ills--I'm just saying the continued social engineering efforts of the assignment system feels a lot like putting a bandaid on the elbow when the it is the leg that is broken and then patting ourselves on the back about how good and liberal and concerned we are.

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  65. "None of these can be addressed just by letting a child have preference to a school in a better neighborhood."

    No, but having only 1-2 kids experiencing those challenges in a class means less disruptive behavior than if you've got 5-6 experiencing those stresses from low income.

    On the "it's just a band-aid" argument. We have a national politics that worships the rich and shows contempt for the poor, seeking to reduce the laughably low portion of GDP we spend on welfare and Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. So there's not exactly much that SF can do on its own for the welfare of families as a whole. It is hard to make headway when there's such a lack of solidarity between different income groups, it's true.

    But we can try to ameliorate what it can for the kids of those families by giving them better educational opportunities than they'd get under your conventional neighborhood system where the poor families get priced out of the areas with good schools. You've arleady pointed out the multiple ways in which poor kids can start with a disadvantages. Doesn't that make it more of a moral imperative to try to level the playing field, in our own self-interest so as not to develop a permanent underclass?

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  66. "Doesn't that make it more of a moral imperative to try to level the playing field, in our own self-interest so as not to develop a permanent underclass?"

    Believe me, I don't think having a permanent underclass is in any one's best interest (although the short-sighted don't yet know that)and certainly creates an unpalatable society, but the playing field will never be level--that's just a fact and that's okay. The question is, how much of an unlevel field we are willing to tolerate as a society. The moral imperative is to do something to prop up the playing field that is effective versus doing a bunch of things that makes us feel like we're doing something but have very little effect on the big picture other than to drive moderates and pragmatists crazy and lose any broad support for change. One example of a useful and effective policy that supports low SES kids in this district is the prevalence of school uniforms in the elementaries. That's one of the smartest things they do here, removing one of the seemingly superficial but real challenges to kids being able to focus on learning at school. That solution didn't come out of vague discussions about SES but about a concrete understanding of what it is like to be a poor kid.
    If neighborhood schools are really so repugnant, then the system should at least be a straight lottery with no preference for anyone. There would be a lot of geographic self-selection and we would at least all feel like it was equitable. As soon as they start tweaking different orders to the lottery, you lose equity and earn the claim of social engineering.

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  67. As for finding out about after-care, yes you have to call each school separately and get the number for the provider of their after-school program, then call them directly. Each program should be able to tell you your chances of getting into the programs, costs, # of spots for low-income families etc. We found prices vary from around $250 a month up to $800 a month. The cheapest are the SF Parks and Rec "Latchkey" programs, where kids are dropped off by the SFUSD bus at local playgrounds. But no one is sure what will happen to the buses that drop off at the Latchkey programs and the JCC, because next year the SFUSD buses will likely be gone. Hope that helps!

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  68. "If neighborhood schools are really so repugnant, then the system should at least be a straight lottery with no preference for anyone."

    Which is more like what we had, although there were tweaks to try and get some income diversity in schools.

    However, given that there was a push to neighborhood schools by Westsiders, and a desire to reduce transportation, and the evidence that the choice system was somewhat better than a neighborhood assignment system but not markedly so, the board had to come up with a system to not totally screw over those living in the catchment areas of the weaker schools. Hence CTIP1.

    As for writing off the school assignment system - SF has a higher test score than any other major California school district. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the SAS as a factor in that. In fact, the previous citywide system I think accelerated change. SFUSD rolled out a lot of immersion programs very rapidly in response to parent demand and these programs appear to have changed the trajectory of many SE schools (e.g. Monroe, Marshall, Alvarado, Webster, Flynn, Starr King). Rapid change like you've seen in Webster is a direct response to enabling parents to choose.

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  69. "SF has a higher test score than any other major California school district."

    Sorry, that should have been "higher test score than any other major California *urban* school district."

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  70. "Believe me, I don't think having a permanent underclass is in any one's best interest (although the short-sighted don't yet know that)and certainly creates an unpalatable society, but the playing field will never be level--that's just a fact and that's okay."

    I sense some is/ought to be confusion here.

    "The moral imperative is to do something to prop up the playing field that is effective versus doing a bunch of things that makes us feel like we're doing something but have very little effect on the big picture other than to drive moderates and pragmatists crazy and lose any broad support for change."

    I'm also sensing a 'poverty is not the only variable and so poverty doesn't really matter' confusion here. We know from research that overall test scores of all students decline with increasing concentration of low SES students. So having high percentages of poor kids leads to adverse academic outcomes. We know this. We implicitly acknowledge this when we applaud the district bringing in magnet programs in schools with historically high percentages of low SES kids, like the immersion programs at e.g. Fairmount, Flynn, Starr King.

    But if we try bump up the low-SES mix at Clarendon up from ~15% compared to the district's ~50% low-SES, there's a freak-out and cries of social engineering, because of trying to give a
    poor kids only part of the advantages of a middle class kid. But controlling them, sticking them in uniforms, and pointing the finger at their parents as an excuse for inaction is just dandy.

    I don't fault the district for social engineering. That's What We Pay Government To Do. When Piedmont seceded from Oakland USD back in the day to form their little Bantustan in the hills, or Alameda writes a ban on multi-unit housing into their city charter, they're also doing social engineering by exclusion.

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  71. "As for writing off the school assignment system - SF has a higher test score than any other major urban California school district. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the SAS as a factor in that."

    SFUSD's enrollment is over 30% Chinese--statistically the highest scoring ethnic group across income lines. Most public schools in the NW and NE of the City have plurality or majority Chinese enrollment. Those kids are not being bused or driven to the north side schools from the SW and SE, they live on the north side. (Remember many whites on the north side of town attend privates.)

    Compare SF to Los Angeles Unified, with 73% Latino enrollment and 6% Asian enrollment total (they don't break down into Chinese, Korean etc. the way SFUSD does) or San Diego Unified with 46% Latino enrollment and 8.5% Asian enrollment total (they break it down into "Indo-Chinese" and "Asian"). LA and San Francisco have comparable percentages of white students (11.3% for SF, 10% for LA) while San Diego has 24% white enrollment. I could not find data for Sacramento or San Jose.

    Maybe I wouldn't dismiss the role of the SAS in SFUSD's relatively high test scores entirely, but I suspect the SAS's role in higher test scores is trivial compared to the impact of Chinese student enrollment. I say "relatively" high test scores because by 8th grade, 42% of SFUSD students are NOT proficient in English and 64% of students are NOT proficient in math. Sad to say, SFUSD is above state-wide averages in both categories.

    I'm not advocating for the position that test scores are the be-all and end-all of educational quality, but I do think it's important not to give the SAS more credit than is due.

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  72. I keep reading these posts that seem to imply that the positive effect on learning culture that hardworking Chinese-American kids contribute to the schools they attend doesn't really count. When Caucasian kids score high, they are seen as achievers, who can provide inspiration and a good example to the lower scoring kids. When Chinese-American kids score high, they are often seen as whipped to performing well by their "Tiger-moms" and distorting the statistics.

    The other day I was walking through our school (CIS, with a high percentage of those pesky, school-flooding Asian kids) and kept noticing that each classroom was quiet, focused, and there was learning happening. No teacher had to fight kids with behavior problems, or if there were any, they had obviously been dealt with effectively. It was a beautiful sight.

    Do non-Chinese-American parents feel encouraged by high-scoring non-Chinese kids and threatened by high-scoring Asian kids? If yes, why is that so? The vast majority of Chinese-American kids are not that different from other American kids. Their parents are second or third generation U.S. citizens, and their Chinese ancestors would scoff at how "westernized" they are. But it seems as if some of the cultural imperative that schooling is important and needs to be supported by parents has been preserved throughout the generations.

    Why is that not seen as an asset but as a threat and annoying distortion of district statistics?

    And, please don't give me that "I have some Asian friends, I can't be racist"-line...

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  73. I'm not seeing anybody saying that the contribution of diligent Chinese students to the learning atmosphere in classrooms "doesn't count." Of course having a classroom environment where learning is valued and teachers can focus on teaching rather than behavior management benefits most students in the room. I think the point people are trying to make is that SFUSD's touting itself as "highest performing urban district in CA" based on overall test scores needs to be taken the context of its student population. Based on historic statistics, SFUSD's higher-than-other-urban-districts test scores are to be predicted NOT because SFUSD's schools are inherently better than LA or San Diego, but because the cultural composition of SFUSD's student body is different, and historically performs better on standardized tests, than the other districts.

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  74. Frankly, I am sick to death of having to talk about how this ethnic group is superior or more worthy than that ethnic group. It seems that every immigrant group that comes here thinks that they are more worthy than everybody else.

    Bottom line is that we can't easily integrate the large number of newcomers who have come here in the last twenty years or so. For various reasons, including inability or unwillingness to pay tax in proportion to the resources consumed, state finances have been heavily impacted.

    Those budget triggers are coming and we are all going to pay the price.

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  75. "30% Chinese--statistically the highest scoring ethnic group across income lines."

    Funnily enough, when you cross the Bay into Oakland USD, the API scores of Asians (mostly in the flatlands) median API scores drop 70 points and they score less than the Caucasians in Montclair & Trestle Glen. Do Asians in Oakland have a worse work ethic? Fewer Tiger Moms there?

    I'm gonna invoke what a lecturer on Business & Public Policy told me: the thing about invoking culture as an explanation for some phenomenon is that it can explain everything and nothing.

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  76. I suspect that one reason for the low average Chinese API test scores is that a lot of high performers leave the OSD as explained in the following link:

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2010/12/13/oaklands-middle-school-brain-drain/

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