Slowing down the CTIP proposal

Earlier this week, Board leadership and Superintendent Carranza made the decision to hold the CTIP resolution in order to further investigate the impact of leaving our current policy unchanged, the impact of implementing the CTIP proposal, and the impact of other changes to the student assignment policy that might bring us closer to our original goals of:

• Reversing the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school;
• Providing equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students; and
• Providing transparency at every stage of the assignment process.

I agreed to accept this decision because it was very clear after the August 11 committee meeting that a majority of the Board did not support the proposal. Had the proposal been brought to a vote on the 26th, it’s hard for me to see how we could have gotten four “yes” votes, given the questions and concerns Commissioners raised about whether the proposal had been adequately communicated to the public or vetted by staff.
At the end of the day, had I insisted the proposal come to a vote at either the August 26th or even the Sept. 9 meetings, we would have risked triggering a provision in Board rules that — if the proposal lost — would have prohibited us from bringing it back for reconsideration before August of 2015. This timeframe would again bring us right back up against the deadline for beginning the annual enrollment cycle, and could again trigger objections that we weren’t giving families enough time to comment on and understand the proposal before application time rolls around.

Instead, the proposal is far from dead. It will remain under active consideration in the Student Assignment Committee, which I chair, and I am already formulating a list of questions I’d like the staff to examine. These include:

  • More data on families who request their attendance area schools and what the outcomes of those requests are, in order to better examine and evaluate Commissioner Wynns’ assertion that the relatively low number of families requesting AA schools is evidence that families prefer choice over predictability.
  • The feasibility of means-testing families utilizing the CTIP preference. Free- or reduced-price lunch eligibility is a good proxy to weed out more privileged families taking advantage of the preference, but we don’t currently have a good way to discover and verify that eligibility for new K applicants. There may be some ways to develop this kind of means testing but these ideas need more analysis from staff.
  • Current economic characteristics of residents of CTIP  census tracts, and whether there is a way to define smaller sub-areas of these tracts to receive the preference, in order to weed out blocks with higher income residents or those that are rapidly gentrifying.

In addition, Commissioner Haney will take up some of the more programmatic ways to address desegregation and make our racially-isolated schools more attractive to a broader variety of  families.

Finally, I’m reserving the right to bring back the current proposal or an amended version for a vote next spring, in more than enough time to be implemented before taking applications for the 2016-17 school year.

This was never about “returning to neighborhood schools,” or other sweeping claims that have been made by those who support or oppose our proposal. It has always been about making our system work better for more families, and about remaining true to the original three goals we set at the start of the redesign process in 2009, and which I quoted at the top of this post.

I’m still not happy that we have a system that tacitly tells some families that the schools in their neighborhoods are inferior, and then institutes a “survival of the fittest” process to let the savviest and most advantaged residents go elsewhere. But the tea leaves indicate I haven’t convinced my colleagues that we can do better.

I’m glad that we started the discussion and I’m glad this discussion will continue, even if the underlying issues will take a lot more work and examination to resolve. I’m also excited about some new ideas that have come out of our discussion about desegregation efforts at Willie Brown, which will reopen in August 2015  after the district has spent millions to rebuild and reprogram the school. On the 26th the Superintendent will share some of those ideas

A challenging discussion

I’ve been surprised at the level of controversy our CTIP proposal has generated since it first appeared in the Chronicle in early June. Honestly, since the very beginning President Fewer and I have seen it as a “tweak” that encourages people to take another look at their attendance area schools by placing very modest limits on the currently very strong preference enjoyed by residents of priority census tracts.

Tonight the Board had a deep, substantive discussion of the proposal. It was a challenging discussion for me, because (as often happens when you put forward a legislative proposal) the longer and harder I think about the issue, the more convinced I am that we are right: the current strength of the CTIP proposal represents a perverse disincentive for families in certain census tracts to select or even consider their attendance area schools (you could even call it a hard shove away from those schools!).  What happens instead? “The Same Starting Line: Erasing the Opportunity Gap Between Poor and Middle-Class Children,” a report by the Appleseed Foundation on how school boards can promote educational equity, puts it this way:

The most active voters and most vocal stakeholders routinely live in and send their kids to school in more middle-class neighborhoods. Their political activism, coupled with a Board’s likelihood to follow previous resource distribution practices, works to the comparative disadvantage of people in poor neighborhoods. Teachers may transfer to progressively more middle-class schools as they build seniority, forsaking schools in tougher neighborhoods perceived as less safe or desirable. When permitted, some of the most ambitious and well-prepared children from higher poverty neighborhoods leave their own community to attend the higher-wealth schools, leaving behind an academically struggling population with various out-of-school challenges as well.

My Board colleagues are proving a bit harder to convince. There were concerns raised about the amount of time and community engagement we’ve put into this proposal (some think not enough, even though we eliminated two priority CTIP census tracts last summer without even a vote of the Board and barely got a peep) and also whether it will do enough to reverse our trend of racially-isolated schools and an achievement gap between students of different races. My personal feeling is that our proposal will not, on its own, either reverse the trend of racial isolation nor reverse our achievement gap, but I do think it might provide a slight nudge in a different direction. I am also hoping that if our proposal passes, it will increase faith in the transparency and predictability of the system — I hear complaints about those two things a lot.

What I know is that our current policies aren’t pointing us in a good direction, and I think our currently strong CTIP preference isn’t helping. There are some pretty staggering statistics when you look closely at the data the Board reviewed tonight. For example: On page 26 of the most recent annual report on student assignment, there is a chart showing the 20 schools that received more than 15 first choice requests from residents of CTIP1. Those requests listed in that chart represent 529 of 829 total first choice requests from residents of CTIP1, or about 64% of all first choice requests from residents of CTIP1. Of those requests:

  • 177 requests, or 21 percent of total first choice requests from CTIP1 residents, were for K seats at citywide schools. These requests would not be subject to our proposal.
  • Another 167 requests, or 20 percent of total first choice requests from CTIP1, were for K seats in citywide programs. These requests would not be subject to our proposal.
  • 51 first choice requests from CTIP1 residents–6 percent of total requests–were for attendance area programs with more than 60% African American, Latino or Pacific Islander students. These requests (based the race of the requesters and the racial makeup of the programs would not add to the diversity of the programs.
  • Overall, of those 20 schools receiving the bulk of requests from CTIP1 residents, 8 are more than 60 percent African American, Latino and/or Pacific Islander, and another one or two are very close.

This document, showing first choice CTIP requests, by race, for non-citywide programs, shows the self-segregation perpetuated by our CTIP program clearly. The key for the tiebreaker abbreviations is as follows:

AAP- Requests from students who live in the same attendance area of the school and are also enrolled in an SFUSD PreK or TK in the same attendance area.

AA – Requests from students who live in the attendance area of the school requested.

PK-Requests fro students who attend an SFUSD PreK or TK program at the citywide school they are applying to.

S - Requests from a younger sibling of a student who is enrolled in and will be attending the school.

CTIP1 – Students who live in areas of the ciy with the lowest quintile of average test scores.

One of the other arguments from this evening is that this change doesn’t do enough to either address segregation or the achievement gap. Well, yeah. It’s a very modest change, because this was about all President Fewer and I thought the system could handle. And yet, the level of pushback we’ve received makes me realize we may be — for now – stuck with a system that doesn’t work and doesn’t meet our goals, because no one can agree on what might work better.

UPDATE: I have a question. One Commissioner raised the relatively small number of families who list their attendance area school first as evidence that most families don’t actually want the closest school — that they would actually rather choose a school and that predictability and proximity are less important to families. If you support this proposal, but didn’t list your attendance area school first, I’d like to know why, and what your reasons were. Leave me your answer in the comments.

Board to discuss CTIP resolution tomorrow (Aug. 11)

At a Committee of the Whole tomorrow evening (Monday, August 11 starting at 6 pm in the Board room at 555 Franklin Street), the Board will discuss the resolution put forth by President Fewer and I that would modify the order of preferences in our Student Assignment system starting in the enrollment cycle for the 2015-16 school year.

Staff has provided some data (not all of what I requested, but I’ve asked for some additions) so I thought I’d share what the Board will be looking at. (I anticipate Commissioners will have a lot of questions so there may well be additional data that will be provided ahead of the anticipated Board vote on August 26):

  • A spreadsheet showing first-choice requests, by race, by residents of CTIP1. I had also asked for the data to break down programs as well as schools, and also to indicate which CTIP1 residents requested their attendance area school as a first choice. We know, for example, that Charles R. Drew ES in the Bayview is the most requested school by African American residents of CTIP1. How many of those requesters already have an attendance area priority? It would be interesting to know. The spreadsheet does breakdown the current demographics of each school so that we can see whether the requests are adding to diversity or not.
  • A presentation from a Stanford researcher simulating changes to priority in school assignment (there are two versions – a longer, more complex description of the simulation and a highly simplified one). Basically, the simulation finds a very small increase (n=1) in the number of schools that are segregated* if you increase the strength of the attendance area preference (our proposal), or eliminate CTIP altogether (which we are not proposing). I have a number of questions about these findings –including whether the projection is statistically significant. Also, these are 10-year projections based on current choice patterns — 10 years is a long time in such a rapidly changing City.

*In the analysis, a segregated school is defined as a school that is more than 60 percent of any single race. In making this proposal, President Fewer and I are primarily concerned with the schools that are more than 60 percent African American, Latino and/or Pacific Islander (see below; and read this post from 2009 on why these schools are of particular concern).

President Fewer and I have also made some changes to the original resolution, so we will be requesting the Board consider an amendment by substitution. The amended resolution is here.

Finally, I just want to reiterate some facts about this proposal:

  • We are not proposing to eliminate the CTIP preference. Under this proposal, residents of CTIP1 would retain their current priority for Citywide K seats, which represent about one-third of SFUSD K seats overall. (Right now the proposal specifies Kindergarten only, but the question has been raised about families who transfer in other elementary grades. We’ll have to discuss whether to expand the proposal throughout K-5).
  • The proposal does not apply to middle school or high school enrollment. The current preferences for these school levels would remain unchanged.
  • The proposal is a minor modification of current policy, and we do not expect it to have drastic changes. We proposed this change because we believe that increasing the number of children attending their attendance area elementary schools would specifically decrease the number of schools that are more than 60 percent African American, Latino or Pacific Islander. Research has consistently shown that high concentrations of these students in schools has a negative effect on student achievement due to high concentrations of poverty, less effective or experienced staff, and fewer resources overall.
  • We also believe that choice is over-prioritized in our current system for elementary school enrollment, and we see this as a small course correction. Choice is, by its very nature, most beneficial to families with the wherewithal to choose: those families with childcare, flexible schedules and transportation. While I personally have no issues with families being able to choose programs that work best for them, I have also come to see that there are also some negative effects to the high prioritization our current system gives to choice. Some neighborhoods (Bayview is a case in point) are much more diverse than the schools they contain. The effect that the CTIP preference has in “bleeding off” the most involved and engaged families to attend programs in other neighborhoods has a directly negative effect on Bayview schools. I don’t think the Board believes that our Bayview schools are “bad” schools — I think we believe they are racially isolated schools with a high concentration of the district’s neediest students — and that their academic results demonstrate this. Why then, do we have a system of preferences that perpetuates that isolation?
Video

Occupy Kindergarten

Kindergarten has changed in the last 30 years, not kindergarteners. Thought-provoking TEDx talk from a California Kindergarten teacher. Hat tip to Miss Susie, the Kindergarten teacher I wish I’d had, who teaches lucky children at Yick Wo Elementary.

Considering changes to student assignment

As reported in yesterday’s Chronicle, Board President Sandra Lee Fewer and I are working on a proposal to change the student assignment system — really, to tweak it — by reordering the preferences for Kindergarten admissions.

After reading and absorbing the 3rd Annual Report on Student Assignment outcomes last month, I became more convinced than ever that the relatively high power the current system gives the CTIP (Census Tract Integration Preference) was not having the effect we’d hoped in terms of desegregating schools. In addition, putting CTIP so high in the hierarchy of preferences (coming just after siblings and children enrolled in and attending an SFUSD Pre-K program in the same attendance area) is clearly having an effect on some specific attendance area programs, to the disadvantage of residents of those attendance areas.

The board continues to believe strongly that diverse schools are better for everyone, and President Fewer and I have not abandoned the idea that we should continue to work on desegregating our schools where students are “racially isolated.”  (Read this post from 2010 about academic outcomes in our schools where more than 60 percent of students are either African American, Latino or Samoan for more discussion on this issue.)

It’s important also to say that at the time I said I didn’t think CTIP would affect attendance area residents’ ability to attend their local schools.  Now, I obviously think I was wrong, at least in a few cases like Clarendon and perhaps Grattan. (I just read back over a number of my posts from January – March 2010 and it’s interesting to do if you would like to know more about how we got to where we are today).  Anyway, I’m increasingly uneasy when people tell me that they plan to “rent in a CTIP zone” for K admissions, then move to a different neighborhood (this has happened to me a number of times); when I hear from homeowners in CTIP zones that they have received calls from real estate agents who say they can cash in on their “golden ticket” status;  when I see the data showing that residents of the Clarendon attendance area have pretty terrible odds of attending their local school because of demand from siblings and CTIP.  It’s clear that it’s time to make a modest adjustment that will still preserve some expanded choices for areas where there are concentrations of lower-achieving children.

The fact is, no neighborhood in San Francisco is very affordable anymore for either middle-class home buyers or renters.  All over the City, there are people who — thanks to either rent control or getting in to the real estate market early — can afford to live here but can’t afford to move (I’m one of them!).  Any system that offers its primarly benefit to people who can afford to choose whatever San Francisco neighborhood they live in or move at will is not one that benefits the neediest and most struggling San Franciscans.

Anyway – there will be plenty of time to debate, dissect and discuss this issue this summer – our proposal will be submitted for first reading on June 24 and will not be discussed in any detail by the Board until the August meeting of the Student Assignment committee. I expect the proposal to come back for a final vote in late August and — if it passes — to take effect for enrollment for the 2015-16 school year.

* * * * * * * *

Tuesday night the Board will consider the 2014-15 budget proposal and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) detailing how we will spend our new Local Control Funding Formula dollars from the state. The draft budget books and draft LCAP are available for download on the district’s web site, here, here and here (warning: the budget books are a big download – don’t click on the first two links from your phone).

* * * * * * * * *

School’s out, happy summer! President Fewer wrangled the Board and senior district staff and created this goofy fan version of the hit “Happy” by Pharrell. It’s a little embarassing, but it’s cute:

 

3rd annual student assignment report is final

Download it here– hot off the presses. A draft of the report was shared with Commissioners in February – this final draft takes into account comments and questions from that discussion.

Meeting recap: April 22, 2014 – teachers rally, QTEA, and a-g

Big raucous rally by UESF members at last night’s meeting. Our teachers, paras, nurses, counselors and security guards are worried — as many San Franciscans are–about the City’s growing income inequality and cost of living. The past five years of budget cuts were very tough on our school employees and last night they let us know  that they need a raise.

The Board and the Superintendent agree — our employees need and deserve a raise. Negotiations are ongoing and I have no doubt that we will be able to come to an agreement that is fair to our employees and is within our means.

We also heard a report from the QTEA (Quality Teacher and Education Act, otherwise known as the Prop. A  2008 $198 parcel tax) oversight committee. This committee serves as the taxpayers’ representatives in overseeing expenditures of  QTEA revenues ($35 million in fiscal 2013, according to the audit we received last night).  The vast majority of those funds go each year to some form of teacher compensation: sub days for teachers and paras receiving professional development, retention bonuses and bonuses for teaching in hard to staff subjects and schools, tuition reimbursement and coaching for teachers seeking to improve their skills, and much more.

The oversight committee reported on these and other uses of the QTEA funds and expressed satisfaction that more funding has gone to professional development in the most recent budget. They continued to express concern about the Board’s decision in 2010 to use the last half year of funding under the tax (payable 20 years from now) in 2010 to defer teacher layoffs — while the oversight committee agrees that the use of the money was appropriate they are concerned that it will represent a “double-dip” over the long term.

Finally, the Board heard a report on the progress of the Class of 2014 towards meeting the a-g graduation requirements. Graduates in 2014 are the first to be expected to meet the UC entrance requirements, otherwise known as the a-g course sequence. Since the Board passed the more stringent graduation requirements in 2010, we have been monitoring the progress of these first graduating classes — 2014 and 2015 — towards meeting it.

While we have made a good amount of progress — especially considering the dismal predictions early on about whether our students would be able to meet the more rigorous standard–there are still a lot of students in the class of 2014 who are not on track to graduate. First, the good news: more than half of the class met the entry requirements  for UC (meaning a C or better in a-g classes) this fall, and another third will likely meet those requirements by the end of this school year. Three-quarters of current 12th graders will meet the requirements to graduate.

The bad news is, of course, that half or more of some subgroups (African American students) are not on track to graduate. It was the right thing to do to increase the rigor of our graduation requirements, but the data for this current class shows the price we have paid for that decision: this class represents, as the Superintendent asserted last night, the most prepared class we have ever graduated from San Francisco Unified. And at the same time we must recognize that this class represents a group of  students who were largely unprepared by our schools for the requirements we are now saying they must meet. I do have every confidence that we will get more of our students over the line by the end of the 2014 school year and in subsequent school years, but at the same time it is important to pause and absorb where we are now.

The crux of the data for the Class of 2014, a snapshot as of February 7, 2014, is here, and here.