Category Archives: BOE

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?

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.

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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).

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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.

From tonight’s meeting: English Learner achievement

At tonight’s meeting we heard a fascinating presentation of the results of the district’s research partnership with Stanford. Specifically, the partnership has looked at longitudinal data on English Learner achievement in several pathways — English Plus, Bilingual/biliteracy and Dual Immersion (full descriptions of each of these pathways are here).

I’ll post the presentation as soon as I have an electronic copy, and it’s pretty straightforward to understand. But basically, our concern as a district has been that we didn’t have solid data supporting the big investment we’ve made in dual-language immersion as a strategy to support the achievement of English Learners. (And in addition, until the last two years, we didn’t have accurate data on the English proficiency/background of all the students enrolled in our language pathways).

Dual-language immersion–offered in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean– is wildly popular among English speakers and was designed to support both the English language instructional needs of target language native speakers as well as their content instruction needs.  These programs have exploded throughout the district and have been one of the district’s key strategies over the past decade for integrating schools (look at Bret Harte, Fairmount, Monroe, James Lick, DeAvila . . . the list goes on).

There is some data — not unique to our district — indicating that English Learners who are educated in dual-language classrooms (the ideal ratio is debated but generally held to be 2/3 English Learner/bilingual with 1/3 English native speakers) are slightly more likely to be reclassified English proficient by middle school than English learners educated in other environments.  Still, the sample sizes of the existing studies are small and the data they generated hasn’t been regarded as definitive (though to be fair it is considered “promising”).

But the Stanford longitudinal results are  much more robust and definitive than past studies, and I have to say that I was relieved when I saw that they basically support the earlier studies and our general approach up till now.

Essentially: students in English Plus programs (where they are immersed in content instruction in English much of the day and pulled out for specific English Language Development for a certain number of minutes per day) become English proficient faster and achieve at a higher level  in the earlier grades, but students in Bilingual and Dual-immersion pathways eventually catch up by middle school.  The takeaway is that it doesn’t really matter what pathway you’re in by the time you reach middle school.

The down side is that there is still a significant gap in achievement and overall English proficiency between students whose first language is Spanish and those whose first language is Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin).  And an additional down side is that all students — whether their first language is English, Chinese or Spanish — are not achieving at an acceptable level in math by middle school.  So we have a lot of work to do.

Also from tonight’s board meeting:

  • We reauthorized charters for Gateway High School and Life Learning Academy;
  • We heard public comment from community members at the Claire Lilienthal K-8 Korean Immersion Program, the Filipino pathway at Bessie Carmichael K-8, and Hunter’s View residents advocating for the district to refurbish and reopen the Hunter’s Point Youth Park;
  • We celebrated 33 teachers who achieved the rigorous National Board Certification this year — bringing the number of district teachers who have achieved this professional honor and badge of achievement to 239! Congratulations!

Quick update – new math sequence to be voted on tonight

Tonight the Board will vote on the new math sequence I posted last week. I’ve read the research paper, which I think is quite clear and well-written, and I think the main question to be answered is: is the rigor students need going to be represented in the new course sequence?

The impression from parents who have commented here is clearly no — mainly I think because there is a lack of trust in the district’s ability to differentiate instruction for students with high math ability.

Anyway, the discussion should be interesting tonight. The meeting will be very long — I’m expecting a lot of general public comment as well as lots of speakers on the Solutions not Suspensions resolution from Commissioner Haney — so I don’t know what time the topic will come up. But I do intend to ask the above question about rigor.

The presentation that will accompany the discussion tonight is posted here: Board Presentation 2-25

What’s happening – January 2014

Apparently feeling guilty about not posting does not actually result in an actual blog post. So now I am trying another tactic: actually sitting down to post. Here we go:

  • First – January Board meeting recaps. Our first meeting of the new year occurred on January 14. The Board elected new officers, voting Sandra Lee Fewer as President and Emily Murase as Vice President. I enjoyed being President — it is a very interesting and information-packed position — but it is also very time-consuming, so I was also not sorry to hand over the mantle of responsibility to others. The Board voted unanimously to support the Superintendent’s proposal to create a district-wide and world-class arts education hub at 135 Van Ness Ave (which would also involve moving the Ruth Asaway High School of the Arts to the Civic Center arts hub). Finally, the Board also voted to endorse, 5-2 (Mendoza-McDonnell and Maufas voting no), the sugary beverage tax that Supervisors Wiener, Mar, Avalos and Cohen will introduce at the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 4.*  On January 28 (full disclosure: I did not attend the meeting due to a bad cold), the Board voted to accept the Superintendent’s spending plan for $50 million in Public Education Enrichment (Prop. H) Funds for 2014-15 – not much else of note was on the agenda and the meeting was over within 90 minutes (nice going President Fewer!).
  • Surplus property presentation at Board of Supervisors Select Committee, Jan 30: Conventional wisdom says that SFUSD has lots of property that it is “hoarding” to the detriment of the City and kids everywhere. No offense, but WRONG. This presentation, delivered by SFUSD Facilities Director David Goldin at the request of Supervisor Jane Kim and members of the City-School District Select Committee, shows that most of the properties previously-declared surplus by the school district are very much in use today. A few, like the lots at 7th Ave. and Lawton St., 200 Middlepoint Road in Bayview-Hunters Point, or the Principal’s Center on 42nd Ave., have development potential. Most, however, are either serving an educational use or generating revenue — $7 million anticipated for the 2014 calendar year.
  • Stanford Longitudinal Study on efficacy of SFUSD programs for English Learners:  I haven’t heard the commentary on this data so I am simply posting the summaries I’ve been given by staff; the Board will receive a briefing sometime soon on this study and after that I will have more observations. My initial sense, in reviewing these summaries, is one of relief. I have been quite worried that we have invested too much in programs with  limited efficacy for English Learners. This data — at least as summarized here — indicates that those concerns might be misplaced. I want to see more and hear from the researchers before I can say for sure. Until then, you know what I know:

That’s about it for now. An outstanding issue concerns the district’s plans for spending funds allocated by the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and our work to implement our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).  Districts are required to hold public meetings as part of the LCAP implementation, and I’ll update the blog as soon as I know what those plans are.
In the meantime, the Budget & Business Services Committee meets the first Wednesday of every month (next meeting scheduled — not confirmed — for Feb. 5).  Attending the monthly committee meetings is the best way to keep up with what is happening with the LCAP and the school district’s budget planning.