Student assignment: report from committee

UPDATE: My friend Teri Olle, who was in the audience at Monday’s meeting, posted her own notes on the PPS/sfschools list. I’m reposting them here.

Mary over on the sfschools list wants to know: “Is the BOE also looking to move towards a system that emphasizes neighborhood schools rather than parental choice?”

Not to speak for my colleagues, but after listening and participating in tonight’s discussion (at the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment) I don’t think the BOE as a body has at all decided where to fall in the choice vs. neighborhood paradigm. The dialogue centered much more on equity, transparency, simplicity, predictability — things like that.

Professor Goodwin Liu of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law school gave us an overview of the intersection between achievement and school desegregation. Orla O’Keeffe, former head of the EPC who is working with us to manage the design of a new assignment system, summarized the work thus far (not much) and listed a number of questions for the Board to answer (what are the guiding principles in designing a new plan? what should be the status of Alternative schools, if any? etc.) in order to move the work forward.

We asked for a number of pieces of data to review at the next meeting, and also for the staff to begin running various simulations like: what would current school enrollment look like if we had a neighborhood based system? Is it possible to draw assignment zones (for individual schools or more likely clusters of schools) that are racially balanced? What would the fiscal impact be of a system that bused children from one neighborhood to another? Where are the “outliers” in terms of the widest and the narrowest achievement gaps at district schools?

Members of the public, mostly parents of current students or very young children who have not yet enrolled in SFUSD, spoke during public comment and urged that the board focus on transparency, customer service, and gathering the broadest slice of public input possible. One speaker urged that we take the discussion out to the schools in order to be sure we’re hearing from everyone; another referred to the voluminous amounts of community input and data we’ve already commissioned on this topic since 2003.

In all the meeting lasted almost three hours, and the scope of work is only just now beginning to be defined.  Upcoming meetings are listed below. These meetings will be held in the Board room at 555 Franklin St. beginning at 6 p.m.:

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