Thursday, December 13, 2012

Throwing in the towel

I'm done. I can not look at another school. Here is our list (not in order of preference).  SF K Files readers please share your two cents.

Daniel Webster Immersion
Flynn Immersion
Starr King Mandarin Immersion
Juniperro Serra
ER Taylor
Alvarado Immersion
Jose Ortega Immersion
Commodore Sloat
West Portal Immersion
Clarendon Japanese Bilingual Bicultural
Rosa Parks Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program
Monroe Spanish Immersion
SF Community
Glen Park
New Traditions Creative Arts

Rooftop & Clarendon(swap value only)

Creative Arts Charter

SF Friends
Live Oak
Synergy School


  1. Out list is somewhat similar but we only have 9 options and they're all public. And then we're also including one charter (TECA).

    We toured Taylor but didn't like it and were told by someone that a principal at another school to maybe take Serra off our list since they had hired a teacher from Serra who was very critical of the school. We're also including Guadalupe, which I don't see on your list.

    Did you actually tour all of them? That's quite an effort!

  2. Thanks for sharing your list and posting. You've done an amazing job!
    Also, you are smart to list so many publics. I've heard that it's best to list over 20 publics because of the "swap"; the more schools you list, the more chance you have of swapping up to a school higher on your list. I know a few people last year who all got one of their top three choices (and they did not have any preferences or tie-breakers) and they all listed at least 25 schools on their form.
    Let us know how it pans out and break out the champagne bottle.

    1. thanks for the kind words. we do have an extensive list buts its definitely broken down into a few tiers
      A) we will be so excited break open the bubbly
      B) we are satisfied and lets open a nice bottle we have lying around the house and maybe explore round two
      C)OK - a little bummed but still feel OK. Perhaps a shot or two followed by a cheap bottle from the corner store. Definitely pursue a round two.

  3. Guadalupe, Longfellow and Bret Harte (immersion) are ones that I would like to tour to possibly add (but just havent).
    If anyone has any strong opinions about this - please share?

    Intersting re; Serra - thank you.

    On our list I did not tour: Clarendon, Jose Ortega or West Portal.

    I did tour a few schools that didnt make the list (Sanchez, Paul Revere and De Avila). De Avila was only because of location and K-4, it might still make it back on in a very low spot.

    1. I'm surprised you don't have Rooftop in there - just to throw into the mix. I know they don't have language which seems to be a priority for you but it might be good to add in for "swapping."
      I really liked DeAvila - I thought the principal was great - but that might be another good one to put low on the list for swapping...

  4. Just curious, you don't have to answer this, but what were your top 5 immersion programs and why? You don't have to list your order of preference but since you looked at some many schools, what really made an impression on you and why?

  5. Thanks for sharing your list. You said it's not in order of preference. Do you know which might be the top three or four? And it's probably just a typo, but I don't think New Traditions is a charter.

    1. I fixed the new traditions typo - thanks. I'll add my top five below

  6. We toured Guadalupe and were sort of underwhelmed by it. It seemed fine but there wasn't a whole lot of enthusiasm from the tour guide. We were the only ones on the tour and they actually seemed surprised that we were interested. The principal never showed her/his face, even. It was all just weirdly bland. However, I've come to think that might have just been the tour guide and maybe it doesn't reflect on the school. A friend knows a teacher who retired from Guadalupe recently and she had good things to say about it. Also, the principal I mentioned above suggested we reconsider adding it back our list since he thought it was a good school.

  7. Could someone speak to the point about having a longer list to provide swapping potential? I understand the swap thing but the advantage of having a longer list may not be entirely clear. Most of the schools that we're really interested in aren't super high demand, mostly due to geography. However, I was thinking that I would put a few of the high demand schools (Miraloma, etc) down at the bottom of our list to provide potential swapping leverage. Under the extremely unlikely scenario that we got one the high demand schools, which was low on our list, hopefully we could trade it with someone else who really wanted it but got one of our mid-demand schools. Is that the same thing as having a long list? Should we put everything under the sun at the end of the list just to provide swap potential? Is there a downside that I'm missing?

    I'm prepared to go through multiple rounds if necessary to get one of the mid-demand schools that I want.

    1. The way I understand it is making your list longer, especially with high demand, city wide programs will increase your odds of getting one of your mid-demand schools in round one. My understanding is ... if in the lottery run you get Alice Fong Yu but it's only 12th on your list and Sunnyside is 6th on your list, and someone else gets Sunnyside but it's only 10th on their list and Alice Fong Yu is 1st on their list, the algorithm which runs the lottery will switch so you get Sunnyside and the other person gets Alice Fong Yu. The system is trying to make everyone happy - or - at least, somewhat happy.
      So the more schools on your list, the more you swap up in the lottery process. This is why some people ended up not getting their neighborhood schools last year. So basically, I think the idea is to list your top ten schools in the order you want them - no matter what the schools are - and then pad out your list with other options.
      I know some people that listed only 10 schools on their list and didn't get anything on their list. Obviously, that is not great data but compared with the results of people listing over 20 and getting one of their top 3 choices (primarily mid-demand top 3 like Sunnyside, Glen Park, Sloat, McKinley), it seems to be worth listing the extra schools.
      Also, if for instance you got into Miraloma on round one and you enrolled and then resubmitted a list of your same mid-demand schools in round two, the system would probably find a place for you in one of your mid-demand schools because so many people would want a spot at Miraloma.
      For more complete information on the swap, I would contact Parents for Public Schools. But that is my general understanding of it.

  8. Here's a list of the most requested SFUSD elementary schools from last year. If you want to pad out your list for swap purposes, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to pad it out with some of these schools.
    This information is on the SFUSD website at
    under "Highlights of March 2012 Assignment Run"
    Here's the list of the most requested:

    1. truly, I had not given much/any thought to the padding for swap. And, partly because of geographics I have stayed away from these schools (for the most part) because I dont want to deal with round two or beyond. I just want to be done in march.

      but, great, great, idea. thanks.

    2. If I understand correctly, unless you are CTIP1, only citywide programs or your own neighborhood school really provide you with a swapping advantage. Basically, in the first assignment of the system, you (living in Bernal) won't get a Sunset or a Miraloma in their lotteries because you don't have one of the tiebreakers (CTIP1, sibling, neighborhood). So you won't have that to swap up in the swap part (this is all in Round 1). If you are lucky enough to get Rooftop in its lottery but have it low on your list and someone else got Fairmount, but had Rooftop higher than Fairmount on their list, that's when the swap would come into play. But maybe I'm missing something??

    3. I believe there is some aspect to it where if someone puts their neighborhood school low on their list and someone else has that neighborhood school high their list a swap up can happen where someone outside of the AA gets the spot. I think that's what happened last year when some people didn't get their neighborhood schools even when they had them on their list - low on their list, but on their list - i.e. someone else listed the neighborhood school higher and swapped into a spot as someone from the AA swapped up to a citywide program. Maybe a question for Parents for Public schools. ...

  9. Top Five Immersions (as you can see they are all spanish as this is our top immersion for our daughter).

    Marshall - please see my review

    Flynn - I really liked the whole school in general. I met the K, 1 and 2 Spanish teachers and got a good feel. the classrooms were great.great hours and great proximity.

    Fairmount - seemed like my daughter would do best here. looked very diverse. very active PTA with a lot of $$$

    Alvarado - definitely seemed like most well oiled machine. also seemed a little big for us and the start time is not great for us

    Daniel Webster - small school. really like the K classe I saw. feels very neighborhoody and has an active PTA. is advocating for a K-8.

    Others: Starr King and De Avilia

    1. At this same URL system.html
      In the Requests PDF, you can see how many people applied to each school last year to give you a sense of what your odds are in terms of your top choices. It seems that you'd probably have a fairly good shot at one of the SI programs. It's harder with immersion because only 1/3 of the incoming spots are reserved for English speakers. But since you're open to a variety of schools, you might have a pretty good shot. Good luck!

    2. I almost hate to ask this but is there a strong reason BVHM isn't on your top 5 list? We've been debating where to list it, before seeing it it was our #1, we had a dissappointing tour, and are trying to work out where to place it on our final list (we live just down the street and the times, K-8, etc are ideal). Would love your thoughts as we try to work out our (complicated) feelings about this school!

  10. We live across the street from Paul Revere. It kills me that it's not really considered a good school bc it is so convenient. I will still tour it. Care to offer up your thoughts (briefly)?

  11. I just emailed Carol at Parents for Public Schools re; swap - Ill report back

  12. good luck on getting an explanation for the swap. i honestly believe no one really knows how it works. actually, i think EPC uses it to adjust enrollment demographics as they see fit. we were swapped out of our neighborhood school last year (at least we assume it was a swap out, EPC would not explain what happened to us). tons of non tie breaker non AA people got in but we didn't.

  13. SWAP: I just heard back from Parents for Public schools

    QUESTION: I have my list of schools that we are applying to and someone suggested I add the more popular schools like clarendon, rooftop, alice fong yu, miraloma for potential swap value. I had not thought of this and am wondering if you feel that it’s a good strategy to do so.
    ANSWER: This is a personal decision. Some put the popular schools down in hopes of getting one of them and having “trading value” to getting what they really want. The question for you is what if you don’t get any of the ones you really want and got one of the popular schools? Are you okay with that? If yes, then put them down. It doesn’t hurt.

    QUESTION: Is it true that unless you are CTIP1, only citywide programs or your own neighborhood school really provide you with a swapping advantage
    ANSWER: NO, this is completely wrong information

    QUESTION: If the first assignment of the system, I (living in Bernal) won't get a Sunset or a Miraloma in their lotteries because you don't have one of the tiebreakers (CTIP1, sibling, neighborhood).
    ANSWER: NO, this is completely wrong information. It all depends on how many people apply and if the seats are taken up by the tie-breakers. Some years there may be lots of siblings and other years, a lot less. Same with people in the attendance area. So in a year when there are few siblings, few people living in the low test score areas wanting that school, and fewer attendance area kids, families outside the attendance area have a good shot at getting a school on the first pass. Some years, even siblings can’t get in much less the other tie-breakers (yes, it has happened there were more siblings than seats).

    She also added: Keep in mind that there are enough seats for all the people that apply. And if by chance there happens to be a baby boom and all seats are full, they open and add new K classes to accommodate everyone. There may be 500 applying for Clarendon, 500 applying for Rooftop, 500 applying for Sunset, 500 for Miraloma, etc. but it may also be the same 500 families, not 2000 families

  14. The other thing that people need to keep in mind is that each student is thrown into each individual school lottery. This can mean that any seats not taken up by siblings are open for a lottery spot. Every student (in theory) has the same chance of getting a spot by lottery. This can mean that only a small percentage of CTIP 1 or neighborhood kids "win" the individual school lottery spots while a large number of kids "win" a spot in that particular neighborhood school.
    Only after there are spots chosen by lottery does the algorithm go through the preferences of CTIP 1, neighborhood which can mean that CTIP 2 and non-neighborhood kids could hold spots in that particular neighborhood school. The thing with lotteries is that it is all chance so putting as many choices that one could "live with" helps mathematically increase your chance of "winning" a spot in a school of the many choices that you place on the form. "Winning" a spot also gives you a chance to "swap" with another lucky person who also got a spot. There is still the chance that putting in over 20 choices would mean that one could "win" no individual school lotteries. I know a handful of people who put in very practical and modest choices of over 15 schools and were assigned to faraway and very low demand schools not on their lists.
    Noone really knows how the algorithm works as EPC will not release it. In the proposed form, getting into more than one school lottery means that the computer would place the student in the highest ranked choice and then the swaps would occur to make the most number of people more satisfied. It is conceivable that a child who lives in a neighborhood school did not "win" a lottery spot so never even got a chance to use his/her neighborhood preference.
    What I find interesting about the unknown algorithm is that I have no idea how CTIP 1 and inclusion works. I have not heard of any students who are CTIP 1 get zero choices of the schools placed on the the application. If the system is a true lottery, then it seems that there are going to be some CTIP 1 applicants who get zero of their choices just based on mathematical probability. Same with kids in inclusion programs. In any case, I do have suspicions about the lottery system as another poster mentioned and the way that the algorithm is being used.
    I initially resisted putting in so many schools as I felt that EPC would be happy to make my kid a statistic of one of the ones who got into "a" choice of school on my application but then realized that, mathematically, I had to increase the chances of getting any school that worked well enough for us to perhaps swap. I did pad our list in case we needed a chance for a swap.

  15. Well, I thought I understood the swap, but now I am confused! Here's my confusion:

    1. For 7:58, I thought you couldn't get swapped *out* of your neighborhood school to a lesser choice (as you suggest happened to your child). I thought if you won a spot in your neighborhood school's lottery (not the Lottery, but the individual lottery for each school the computer runs as a first pass among all the people who put the school anywhere on their list), then you could only swap *up* to a school you had listed above your neighborhood school (I assume that didn't happen to your child because then you wouldn't have been looking for an explanation from the EPC). But maybe I just totally don't understand the swap.

    2. I'm surprised that Carol says it's totally wrong information to suggest that a high demand school like Sunset or Miraloma wouldn't fill in the first pass (before algorithmic swapping, I don't mean in Round 1) with siblings, CTIP1, and attendance area folks. Really? I looked at the numbers from last year: Miraloma has capacity of 60 for K. It says there were 18 siblings. That leaves 42 slots for non-siblings. There were 661 requests. Of those, we know 18 were siblings, so that means there were 643 non-sibling requests. For Carol's suggestion that you living in Bernal (not CTIP1) would have a chance at winning the individual Miraloma lottery *before* the swapping part of the algorithm goes into effect, that means that fewer than 42 of those 643 non-sibling requests were either CTIP1 or in the Miraloma attendance area. That would mean that every single family in the Miraloma attendance area (assuming they all would be okay with Miraloma) would be satisfied as long as they put their local school on their list because they would either get Miraloma or swap out to something higher on their list. Not bad! But I know many people in the Miraloma attendance area who put it on their list and didn't get it so it just doesn't seem possible that the next year, there would suddenly be so much less demand. And how does Carol know that happens some years, I thought the school district wasn't releasing any information about what percentage of people put their neighborhood school anywhere on their list? Also, I can see from the School District's boundary map analysis that they say the Miraloma attendance area has more residents than available seats at Miraloma, so again, it just seems unlikely to me that anyone from outside the neighborhood would get a spot BEFORE the swapping algorithm kicks in (and that's the only scenario where listing a high demand school that you don't actually want would confer a swapping advantage, which is the whole reason we're talking about this).

  16. Anonymous 10:04:
    I'm not sure what you say is correct in terms of the lottery and tiebreakers. I thought that it worked as follows:
    1. Determination of # of K spots for yesr
    2. Assignments of students with tie-breakers in order of priority
    3. Determination of # of K spots after all tiebreakers are assigned
    4. Lottery to assign all remaining K spots to everyone without a tiebreaker
    5. Swaps

    This could lead to the following scenario:
    A. If there are, say, 40 K seats available and there are 10 siblings who have the school as preference #1, there are 30 seats available to the other tiebreakers.

    B. Then if there are 5 students enrolled in the pre-k program who have the school as preference #1, they get placed, leaving 25 seats left.

    C. Then if there are 10 CTIP1 students requesting the school as preference #1, they get placed leaving 15 seats left.

    D. Then, if there are 5 AA students requesting the school, they get placed, leaving 10 seats remaining.

    E. 10 seats are subject to lottery.

    However, if there are 20 AA students requesting the school in step D then then those 20 are subject to lottery for the 15 seats, shutting out 5 of them. Rachel Norton explains this in her own comment on her blog post ( Scroll down to 11:31 pm for her comment.

    But all the tiebreaker placements occur before the lottery.

  17. Arabelle, I thought whether you put the school as preference #1 or #10 didn't matter?

    1. It definitely matters what order you put the schools in since the algorithm supposedly tries place you into your highest ranked school possible between the lottery and any subsequent swaps.

    2. Right, I agree with what you're saying. But I don't understand why you talked above about people putting a school as preference #1. From what understand, that shouldn't matter. As I understand it, when each individual school lottery is run, and the computer does run a lottery for each school, it doesn't matter if I put the school as #1 or #10, I get an equal shot at the lottery. If only ten people list a school (anywhere on their list) and there are 60 spots, all 10 get in. If 100 list a school (anywhere on their list), that's when tiebreakers take effect.

    3. Yes, I think that's true. If you put a school on your list, you will be in the lottery for that school and everyone who is in the lottery for that school has an equal chance (supposedly) of winning a spot in any of the seats left over after the tiebreaker seats are assigned. You could win a spot in more than one school's lottery and then the algorithm looks at all of the seats you won and selects which ever school is highest on your list. That's where the order matters.

      Whether you have a specific school in the first slot or the 10th slot, you have an equal chance of winning that school's lottery. But your assignment still takes into account the order in which you listed them in cases where you won more than one school's lottery. (I'm leaving swaps out of this example).

  18. This is my understanding
    Imagine 100 buckets representing each school
    For each school you put on your list your name goes into the bucket

    Then, they first take out siblings, then CPT1, then neighborhood, then everyone else.
    SO, for example if you there are 66 K spots in a school minus 15 siblings minus 10 CTP1 minus 10 neighborhood that leaves 31 spots for the others. This is for a school with three kinders.
    If your name gets picked for neighborhood and luckily others, you will get the one that is the highest ranked. Then, after that’s all done, the computer will swap meaning if you have my number 1 school (but its your five) and I have my number five (but its your one), it will swap and we will both end up with our number ones.

    1. That's the way I understand it, too. What 10:04 was saying, from what I could tell, is that AA and CTIP1 priorities were taken into consideration AFTER the lottery among all non-sibling students.

  19. 1:31 is exactly right. we live in bernal and were placed at one of the highest demand schools in the city - got in our first round.

  20. OUR lists are almost exactly the same!!!
    Good luck!

  21. This may be a silly question, but how to you put 20 schools on your list? I only see 10 spots of the form. Do you add for an additional form? Are most people parents listing more than 10 school options?

  22. There is form available online for any choices above 10:

    I think SFUSD data shows that most parents only list a very small number of choices.