Friday, May 24, 2013

What is a trophy school?

By reader request.

This was originally titled "Round 3" and has been renamed to reflect the comments below. A new "Round 3" post has been created.

37 comments:

  1. When can we stop saying "trophy schools"?

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  2. Since the term seems to rub some people the wrong way - what exactly are trophy schools? Basically, they are the 14 to 15 schools that collectively get more than 50% of the first choice applicants. And what else do they have in common? On average, they each have less than one-third of the black and Hispanic demographic. So a trophy school is a highly requested school with much fewer non-Asian minorities than the district average. In a few words, they are high performing segregated schools. And if you "win" the lottery, you get the trophy. That's why people don't like the term.

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    1. Isn't Rooftop, the archetypical SFUSD trophy school, also considered to be one of the most diverse in the city?

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  3. 7:13 here. I didn't mean to hijack this thread and suspect this tangent will be deleted soon. Perhaps the moderators can start a "What is a trophy school?" thread as I think this is an important discussion. My point was just that the term is "loaded" and it might be better for all to just avoid it when possible.

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  4. Our kids go to Sherman. I think it is highly requested because it has high test scores, a very active parent community, and fundraises enough money to support some amazing enrichment programs.

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  5. The "Trophies"

    CLARENDON, ROOFTOP,GRATTAN, LAWTON, W.PORTAL, LILIENTHAL, ALICE FONG YU ,SUNSET ARGONNE ,MIRALOMA, JEFFERSON ,ALAMO, FEINSTEIN, PEABODY, SHERMAN

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    1. Is there anything not directly related to demographics (I.e. test scores, parent involvement, fundraising) that makes a school a "trophy"?

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  6. Those schools average about 10% non-Asian minorities while the district average is mid-30s.

    Peabody is a school with a 924 API and receives $30K TIIBG. Yet, the Targeted Instructional Improvemrnt Block Grant is intended to be used to improve achievement at schools with underserved minority students. Peabody has neither low achievement nor many non-Asian minority students.

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend and don't forget those that have sacrificed to preserve our freedoms.

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  7. They say it's a lottery. I don't think so. Not for me. We played the lottery and lost in Rounds One and Two. Some of the applicants with whom we competed won and many of them are CTIP One. They don't have to play the lottery. They automatically get in. That's why I say this is not really a lottery. Al least not for many. If you're looking to win a trophy school the odds are stacked against you without a preference. A trophy is not really an appropriate metaphor for a lottery. Prize or grand prize schools would be a more appropriate name.

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  8. A trophy school is a school that gets a lot more first-choice requests than available seats. Trophy schools are characterized by high-fundraising PTAs, lower percentages of students in poverty, sometimes language immersion, and central, Sunset or Richmond locations. I guess Lilienthal is in Presidio Heights, but not too far from the Richmond, and Sherman is in Cow Hollow. I would add the Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila to the list of trophies posted on May 25 at 12:14. It's new but the principal is strong, the PTA hit the ground running and STAR results are some of the strongest in SFUSD. I would also add Alvarado in Noe Valley to that list.

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  9. This blog is almost impossible to follow as so many posts seem to be deleted, and there are all sorts of spats between people who seem to know who is posting even though they are posting as "anonymous" (other than Don).

    I think the original topic was "What is a trophy school?" and some talk about whether the term is useful or not. I found that topic interesting but after reading through the posts I'm disappointed (and increasingly disinclined to spend my time reading this blog).

    As to the original topic, from what I can tell "trophy schools" are the ones where the parents are most engaged and support the school both with volunteer/community efforts and financially. Unfortunately, the list of them is generally the same which makes identification as a "trophy" school self-reinforcing. I know parents whose kids don't go to "trophy schools" who are quite happy, largely because they connect with other parents at the school and support it. Although the supportive and engaged parents are not the majority (or even close) the ones that are engaged make a huge impact, particularly if they make a point of reaching out the less-engaged parents (who, after all, love their children as well).

    I've often thought that if the parents who are so disappointed with their assignments just communicated with one another they could have a huge impact from Day 1 of kindergarten. Then they could reach out (down?) to the next incoming class, etc. I know that's much easier said than done, but it does happen (which is how "trophy schools" became what they are). I know it's tough to be a "pioneer," particularly when it involves our children, but it seems more productive than so much teeth-gnashing. And for those lucky enough to get into a "trophy school" it would be nice if they did their best to share what goes on at their school with others at schools not considered to be in that category.

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    1. My kids are at a school with very engaged parents. Not sure it makes the trophy list, but there's still the kind of energetic involvement associated with trophy schools, whatever that term means. One thing I note is the abundance of socializing opportunities for the parents and families. There are many, many ways to get together in ways connected and less connected to the school. What this does is foster community, which then spurs more involvement back at the school. If those that throw themselves into school aiding activities really like the people they're working with, they tend to do more of them. The school becomes a hub of community. It can be gathering at a park; it can be directly helping at the school; it can be helping offsite in a project that benefits the school; it can be a camping trip very loosely organized and not officially connected to the school; it can be a soccer team coached by a parent for a grade at the school. Do what you can to be part of the social aspect of being part of/helping a school and you'll find a more multi-layered, more mutually beneficial kind of school involvement.

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    2. I am the person who posted at 11:21 above. I think you expressed what I was trying to say far more eloquently than I could have.

      As for Don's post below, I guess he is saying that the school district should do something differently, but I can't really decipher what that is from what he wrote. Don's posts might be more useful if he told us exactly what he thinks should happen within the bounds of what is actually feasible and not divisive. In the meantime, I'll take the thoughts and suggestions of the poster at 5:08.

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    3. I do need to provide a solution to the problem and thank you for pointing that out. Of the different problems being discussed here I think the one I raised regarding funding at trophy schools is, in my opinion, an important one. The District is squeezing the trophies to make them less desirable. Backroom decisionmaking at 555 withdraws funding for various programs at higher API schools and that money is used for Superintendent Zone schools.

      To resolve this here in SF and elsewhere there should be a minimum per pupil allocation mechanism, as has been suggested by the Public Policy Institute to prevent overzealous public officials from using money from one student to fund another student's service needs, (based upon the idea that some needs are more important than others). This issue surfaced when billion in restricted monies became unrestricted such that they were no longer tied to certain programs.

      Right now it is not fashionable to put funding into honors. SFUSD would like to end it entirely at all middle schools and if that happens it will really downgrade many of the so-called trophy middles schools - exactly what SFUSD intends by the action. That will likely result in fewer people seeking the top middle schools. iIn SFUSD the leaders see accelerated students as the winners, but they are the ones who attend some classes at schools like Presidio with up to 40 students while students at some lower API schools have 10 to 15 in a classroom. That is not to say lower API school don't need more to educate with the challenges they face. But at present there are no limits on how much SFUSD is willing to starve out west end schools. Every student deserves a bill of rights that includes a minimum funding requirement based upon each district's general fund.

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  10. As one parent put it on the thread above:

    "Why would I need or want to send my kid to a school that needs me to turn it around?"

    Generally in the past the public expected the employees of the school to do the job. But now it has become customary to assume that the good schools are good because of parent involvement - that the total parent effort at the school is the deciding factor. This isn't true per se. It is far more nuanced. Parents who can put in the time at school and can be there for their children after school as well are also the parents of children who need fewer interventions compared those of lower SES children. So even if they didn't volunteer the school would still have higher achievement. But the district sees that parents make a difference and so they withdraw services from those schools and give them to the other schools. And the parent find themselves donating money and time to make up for the losses.

    PTA and the like find themselves in a difficult situation because the more they give, the less they get with the district looking for any opportunity to grab funding to support the Superintendent Zones which are losing their primary source of funding at the end of this school year.

    So trophy schools are in a bit of a bind. They tend to have larger class sizes and need to keep the money coming in to support their programs.

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  11. I am so tired of the term trophy school too....and my kids go to one. When I tell someone in SF where my kids, people say congratulations. I guess because we "won" the lottery and got into a trophy school. It has not been that great of experience. There is a ton of bullying, very weak administration, and the after school program and the PTA is a mess. New creative ideas of parents are not welcome. Next year, when my youngest does the K process I am thinking about taking the spot with sibling priority then entering round 2 to try to swap it for a spot at my AA school, which is Peabody. It is a small high functioning school with less drama. Does anyone know if this would work?

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    1. Actually, I would try for Peabody in Round 1 (and possibly round 2) to see if you can switch the older over if you get in (assuming that's the goal - to have both kids in one school). You are almost guaranteed a spot at your older child's current school in round 2 or later as a sibling.

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    2. Thanks for your reply, but my older 2 kids will be in 6th and 8th (at a K-8 trophy school) so out of Peabody's K-5 range so they will be at different schools for a few years. But we live so close to Peabody I will make it work.

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    3. If Peabody is your top choice, list it first in Round 1. The lottery has changed; you keep your sibling priority at your K-8 "trophy" school even if you list other schools higher. If there are other schools you like better than Peabody, you also keep your AA preference even if you don't list Peabody first.

      As for the swap, it's part of every round including Round 1: first everyone gets tentatively assigned a school, then the algorithm looks for people who can swap.

      Muppet recently posted about playing the new lottery system at "SFUSD Lottery - Lessons Learned". I also had an earlier more technical post with links to the algorithm, but I like Muppet's explanation better.

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    4. But GeekMom, what usually happens is that at your current kids' school (if you have a younger one entering) before the lottery, the administration sends out a letter to all the people with incoming K assessing who's coming in. They get your names in the hat first. This seems to happen before the regular lottery. Maybe it's just to give the school an idea of what to expect.

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    5. I think if you get your first choice in Round 1, then SFUSD considers you to be done with the process so it would be risky to put the school you don't really want as your first choice as it might then be difficult to enter Round 2.

      If Peabody is your AA school then you actually have a decent chance of getting it in Round 1 or Round 2. It does get a lot of sibling requests but it is a school which typically has fewer AA applicants than it has seats and (I think because of location) it doesn't get a lot of CTIP1 applicants.

      Anyway, I would think you are better off listing the school you really want as your first choice in Round 1. But I would also recommend talking with PPSSF or with a counselor at EPC as few of us SFKFiles commentators have the depth of knowledge on the enrollment process that they do.

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    6. There in lies part of the problem. We have a process that is so complicated at times that the average family has to speak to counselors to understand it. A process that needs to be explained to those that depend on it over and over again is usually one that usually ends up with frustration.

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  12. SFGeekMom, maybe I'm not understanding the situation exactly, but this is what it says on the SFUSD website:

    "Younger siblings can be assigned to their older sibling’s school if the older sibling will still be attending during the upcoming school year, and if space is available. If placement in the older sibling’s school is desired, we strongly recommend that you list the older sibling’s school on the application form as your first choice. If you do not list the older sibling’s school as the first choice, there is a possibility that the student will be placed in a different school. We also recommend that you list other schools also in the event there is a lack of space in the older sibling’s school."

    From the sound of that it would seem the applicant should write down as first choice the sibling priority school. If that isn't the case, has SFUSD changed the policy and where do you see that change on the web site?

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  13. Make sure you always double check for accuracy any information you glean from a blog. Perhaps the policy was recently changed and the information posted by Don has not been updated. It would be good to know. A call to EPC to confirm or deny is in order.

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  14. The questions I have is for families that have been attending any of the so-called "trophy" schools. Are you happy? What if anything is lacking even a these "trophy" schools? Are the schools that have been given this status of "trophy" years ago still worthy of the "trophy" title?

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  15. beentheredone itJune 7, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    I think it depends on the trophy school's culture. Many consider Grattan a "trophy" and it certainly gets a lot more first-choice requests than it has available seats. Although we are not at Grattan, several friends are, and it seems like a nice, fairly chill community, well able to engage kids who need a challenge, performing well academically overall, but not a pressure cooker. Some parents want hard-core academics in elementary school, and it's great that's available for them at a place like AFY. But different "trophy" schools are popular for different reasons. I don't think it's wise to assume they're cookie-cutter identical to each other.

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  16. There's a reason why SFUSD continues to struggle with its mantle of largest achievement gap district among California urban school districts.

    The only reason we have the so-called trophy schools is SFUSD's history of school choice assignment instead of neighbor assignment. When everyone is allow to choose the same schools you creating a bidding war. If all this student assignment energy went to building up the neighborhood schools there would be more middle class applicants in more local schools, a larger number of higher performing schools and a great deal more goodwill overall - instead of a small contingent of stellar schools with mediocrity and failure the rule. SFUSD wants underperforming students to perform a sort of diaspora across the district, but the fact remains that most people of all kinds simply don't want to do travel far from home. SFUSD calls that a lack of effective outreach because it simply can't come to terms with the idea of people preferring to stay closer to their neighborhood communities.

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  17. I think the fear is that in a neighborhood school scenario parents who live in a less "desirable" zone would choose private or relocation before attending their neighborhood school. Isn't this now happening with parents who don't get into a "trophy?" I think we've seen we'll enough on this board the vitriol of families who don't get what they want or feel is owed to them.

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    1. Curious if you got an assignment that works for your family? Or are you faced with a cross town commute, with a late start time to a poor to mediocre performing school like many of us? I don't think we were OWED anything. I would, however, appreciate a process that might result in less families being in our boat. No process is perfect. But some are far less ideal than others.

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  18. Well, our assignment did work for our family, at a school that 98% of the people I know and the people in the neighborhood found unacceptable. I didn't mean to imply that the system now was working for everybody. CTIP1 has created a big mess that angers me very day. Just addressing that the pool of acceptable schools has been very small for many.

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  19. Can you be more specific about the problem you have with CTIP?

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    1. Absolutely! That parents of equal SES and opportunity displace others closer (often next door) to a particular school because of where they live. And that many have chosen to live in a place that gives them an advantage over others who 5 years ago moved to a particular neighborhood to go to a particular school when their children come of age. Overall I like the IDEA of CTIP but without scrutiny I'm afraid most using the advantage are not the ones the advantage was meant for.

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  20. If anyone moved to a neighborhood to go to a particular school (in that neighborhood) they were highly misinformed about the diversity index assignment system at the time. Yes, the system assigned to the closest school, but ONLY AFTER seven other parameters were met. Getting in based on proximity was not a likelihood at all.

    I agree that CTIP1 is faulty for the reason you mentioned. But it is also faulty for another more important reason. Most low SES applicants simply don't use the advantage because they do not want to attend schools outside the neighborhood. SFUSD should be getting the applicants within neighborhoods to attend including middle class applicants, rather than basing an entire assignment system on the the pessimistic notion that only by allowing people to leave the neighborhood will the school district improve.

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  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  22. 12:10 - Apparently you don't understand that the District is barred from using race as a factor in student assignment. Like always you just paint a black and white picture of a multifaceted issues. It isn't a matter of saying CTIP1 is good but only for African Americans and Hispanics. It is illegal for the District to do that.

    So low performing areas are used as a proxy instead. Why not use low SES without the census tracts? Because many low income Chinese would qualify, but they are high performing. And that would make the assertions that "the predictive power of demographics" is just so much nonsense. Culture is everything. If low performing cultures had an equally rigorous culture akin to that of the Chinese, we wouldn't have SFUSD playing this game of revolving chairs.

    By the way, 12:10, people can decide for themselves if I'm right or wrong. Asserting one way or another doesn't change a thing.

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  23. But cultures are different.

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  24. And that's why trophy schools are trophy schools.

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