Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Geeky Kindergarten Lottery List

I heard a rumor that EPC will not schedule a language proficiency assessment for immersion programs until you submit your list, and there are only 3 dates left for language assessment by EPC: 1/19, 1/26 and 2/2. So I went to EPC today and submitted my list. 

Standing in line at EPC was like getting a snapshot of the diversity of SFUSD's families. Two families speaking in Spanish, a boy from a Cantonese-speaking family was playing with another boy in line who looked South Asian, a women in a headscarf holding her baby, two African American moms behind me.

I was a little awed and envious of how every year, EPC staff get to see the full diversity of San Francisco, as every family enrolling in SFUSD comes through their doors. EPC staff may not feel the same way, but they were patient and efficient despite it being closing time.

Here's the list. Your comments and perspectives are appreciated.
  1. Claire Lilienthal - Korean Immersion
  2. Cantonese Immersion at DeAvila
  3. Alice Fong Yu
  4. Clarendon JBBP
  5. Clarendon General
  6. Peabody
  7. Miraloma
  8. Grattan
  9. Sherman
  10. Sunset
  11. Rooftop
  12. Starr King-Mandarin
  13. Jefferson
  14. Lafayette
  15. West Portal-Cantonese
  16. Ortega-Mandarin
  17. Feinstein
  18. Parks JBBP
  19. West Portal General
  20. Sloat
I haven't toured any of the neighborhood schools, not even my own, just 8 city-wide programs. Perhaps a mistake, but you can only take so much time off work. 

Here's how I decided what schools to list:
  1. Language immersion schools I'd liked a lot:
    Claire Lilienthal, CIS at DeAvila, and Alice Fong Yu, in that order. 
  2. Students who look like my child: I set the bar at 15% Asian (including Filipino), based on 2011-12 enrollment for grades K-2. Buena Vista (0% Asian) and Alvarado (8% Asian+Filipino) didn't make the list.  This also eliminated most  schools in the Mission and Southeast.
  3. Students who don't look like my child/Not racially homogeneous: I excluded schools that were above about 60% of one race, except for language immersion schools, which are set up to be 66% of one ethnic/language group. Schools near me like Alamo, Sutro, Key, Ulloa, and Lawton didn't make the list.
  4. Location: This ended up being a lot more important than I expected. Looking at the SFUSD elementary school map helped me realize that commuting to Chinatown, then back to my workplace during rush hour would be crazy-making.  I made exceptions for schools that had something else going for them: Starr King for Mandarin, Parks for JBBP, Sherman for high test scores and swap value, but they moved down the list. Lafayette, an otherwise great school, moved way down the list because it's the opposite direction of my commute.
  5.  CST scores: I compared school CST scores for subgroups relevant to my child: Asians, Asians who aren't poor, and children of parents with a graduate degree. Jefferson, Feinstein, and Sloat and West Portal went to closer to the bottom of my list because they underperformed SFUSD for these subgroups.  Lakeshore dropped off the list completely because it was consistently well below the SFUSD average for all these subgroups.
Please share your lists, and your methods behind the madness!


  1. I am so impressed by your thoughtfulness and the objective nature of your list. Many times families begin with criteria but end up falling in love with a school or schools just because they "felt right". I also really like your comments about EPC. The system itself does feel crazy to most of us. But at the end of the day, I really feel that the people working at EPC day-in, day-out are trying to do the right thing and trying to help people find a good school for their family.

  2. Thank you so much for your comments. It's great to see how you used the available data to meet your own objectives and needs. It's cool to see someone really use the information that is out there in a personally productive way. Let us know how it turns out in March!

  3. Again, I want to point out that you are over-focusing on test scores. The notion that West Portal, Sloat, Feinstein, and Jefferson are somehow "failing" a certain group of students while Clarendon, Miraloma and Claire Lillienthal are somehow not failing those students is completely absurd. Test scores can vary -- particularly for a subgroup -- by such things as a few students getting colds during the exams. Also, some subgroups tend not to self-identify, and that can vary between schools. I think your analysis is really destructive for the reputations of these schools.

    1. I don't think the poster is saying that WP, Sloat, Jefferson, etc. are failing any students. I simply think she is comparing like data and in any comparison, some schools will rank higher than others. She is simply making a list using the same set of numbers. That's her method. Everyone has their own method; some parents decide on feel, some parents decide on arts programs, some parents decide on aftercare, some parents decide on gardens. Everyone has their own criteria. I think Geek Mom is very clear about her perimeters, but by no means, do I think she is saying anything negative about any of the schools. Test scores are test scores. They vary year by year. And yes, they can be thrown off very easily because the numbers tested are small. How many non-economically disadvantaged Asian with parents who have graduate degrees are in any K class? Two, six, ten, twelve? Yes, the data pool is probably very small so it's going to vary largely if there are any sick, sleepy, or distracted non-economically disadvantaged Asian with parents who have graduate degrees on test day. None-the-less, it is data and we can use it to make comparisons. The poster did not use the word fail or failing in any of her comments. All in all, I think she is simply showing us how she made her list.

  4. If you are looking at West Portal and Sloat its worth considering Lakeshore which offers Mandarin or Cantonese 5 days per week, before or after school. (Its a 9:30 start so morning language starts at 8:15 and is reasonably priced.) The school is also very diverse, the most diverse in the city this year according to SFUSD and certainly no one group is 60% of the population.

  5. Why not Alamo? Alamo is statistically better than Lafayette. Why?

    1. I excluded racially homogenous schools without language immersion programs, using a cutoff of about 60%. Alamo's 2011-12 K-2 enrollment was 64% Asian.

      The rest of Alamo's 2011-12 K-2 enrollment was 17% White, 9% Latino, 1% African American, 5% Multiracial. The rest of Lafayette's K-2 enrollment was 40% Asian, 33% White, 10% Latino, 3% Black, 10% Multiracial.

      Also, Lafayette's 2012 CST scores were significantly higher than Alamo's for children of parents with graduate education--20 points higher in English, 35 points higher in math. For what it's worth, these scores represent about 90 test-takers at Lafayette vs about 70 at Alamo.
      In fact, Lafayette had the highest average CST scores of any school for children of parents with a graduate education. The CST scores at Lafayette were impressive: 24 2nd graders averaged over 500 on the Math CST. Grade level performace is 350-414, and the test only goes up to 600. Not too shabby!

  6. This is more of an admistrative question. You have 20 schools here and the application has 10 slots available. Did you attach your list on a separate sheet? When you submitted the application, was this a problem? Thanks!

  7. SFUSD allows you to add a second sheet of additional schools. Scroll down to the "Additional School Choices Form" here:
    There is space for an additional 110 schools!

  8. Okay here is my question -- can you just print out and use the form at the sfpd url for extra schools, or do you have to get an old-fashioned triplicate form somewhere (if so where) just as with the regular application. Does anyone know the answer to this?

  9. I printed out the form from the website at home, filled it out, and brought it in along with the standard in-triplicate form for the first 10. It was totally fine to submit the form as printed from home. I'm not sure if there even is a triplicate version of the additional schools form.

    I just handed mine in last week so it shouldn't be a problem.

  10. Thanks so much, that is a huge help!

  11. Thanks for this post!

  12. Any follow up? How did this list work out? I keep hearing about schools people got assigned but knowing the list going in would be interesting.