Tidbits from Round I data

It’s now been a week since the Round I assignment letters went out, and depending on where you look, parents of students applying for 2009-10 are either happier or more furious than their counterparts a year ago. I have been mining some of the data we’ve been given on Round I application patterns, and thought I’d share some interesting tidbits:

  • A significant number of people still list far fewer than seven school choices. For Kindergarten: 1 choice — 17 percent; 2 choices –8 percent; 3 choices — 9 percent; 4 choices — 7 percent; 5 choices — 6 percent; 6 choices — 5 percent; 7 choices — 47 percent. Overall, just 23 percent of applicants for grades K, 6 or 9 took advantage of their ability to list 7 school choices.
  • Applicant pools are less diverse than ever. At 47 schools, applicants for K, 6th or 9th grades were more than 45% of a single race or ethnicity:   African American — 4 schools; Chinese — 16 schools; Spanish speaking — 15 schools; Other White — 12 schools.
  • Enrollment will almost certainly go up between now and the first day of school, even though almost 3,100 students district-wide did not receive an assignment to a school of their choice in Round I. Last year, the number of students actually showing up in the first 10 days of school was 103% of the number of applicants for seats in Round I.  This means our schools will actually be a bit fuller come September than they are right now. That’s a striking piece of data when you consider the numbers of students “designated” (i.e., assigned without choosing) underenrolled schools.
  • Underenrolled schools are not so underenrolled, at least at the moment. Virtually every seat in the district is full, except for a handful of classrooms. In fact, based on historical enrollment patterns (e.g., the “yield” of students who actually enroll after being assigned to a particular school), some of the less popular schools have been significantly overenrolled because the district expects a certain amount of attrition as families exercise their right to seek other options.  One of these schools has 44 Kindergarten seats and currently has 122 students assigned to it — 116 of whom did not request the school. If, as expected, we continue to get more applicants who didn’t apply in Round I, this year could be the “game changer” for many schools that have been spurned by families in previous years.
  • Formerly “hidden” gems continue to pick up applicants. Elementary schools to watch: Cobb, Garfield, George Moscone, Rosa Parks (general ed or JBBP), Paul Revere (a K-8! Spanish Immersion!), Sanchez, and Daniel Webster.

I was in D.C. this week learning all about the stimulus package and the unprecedented amounts of Federal money on the table for innovative educational programs — I’ll post about that tomorrow.


6 responses to “Tidbits from Round I data

  1. Lucille Cuttler

    Let’s use stimulus funds t o follow the recommendations of neuroscience and start literacy education in Kindergarten. Let’s consider a fresh start, initiating new classes taught by teachers trained in using methods recommended by NIH and the Reading Panel Report 2000. This instruction in the formative years is known to develop essential literacy skills, thus reducing “learning disability assignments” to special education classes. Currently learning differences account for about 70% of special ed seats. Ultimatel this lowers the dropout rate. We would save money, deliver what schools promise to do: provide a good education by building upon a firm foundation. Are skyscrapers built on on sand? I don’t think so. Why do we accept less than a firm educational foundation for our children? What are we waiting for?

  2. The lottery is really two lotteries: one for sibs and one for everyone else. The fact that this data has to be “teased out” is a part of the big problem that the process has: lack of transparency.

    When the district announces that 80% of families got one of their top 7 choices, but it later comes out that it was only 55% if you exclude the “sibling lottery,” it kills any confidence SF parents have in the school district.

    The first question when seeing any SFUSD lottery data has to be “are siblings included.” (And notice that it was the first question here.)

  3. The thing to remember is that the amount a school is “over-enrolled” with designated assignments is directly related to its yield from previous years, because parents are more likely to enroll at some schools than others. So this particular school has a low yield and therefore received more assignments in hopes that enough people will accept to fill the school. You also need to realize that schools that always in the past received designated assignments (i.e., schools that were offered to people which did not request them) got enough first round requests to fill up. Examples of this include New Traditions and Sunnyside. So either we had to send letters to people saying, “Sorry, you didn’t get a school,” or offer them seats in a school where we reasonably think there will be space for them. But realistically, we also know that many people receiving those offers will not accept them — which leads to higher over-enrollments. Finally, the odds of getting a choice (given that the vast majority of choices submitted were clustered among the top 25 to 30 schools) were simply much more difficult this year than in any other year in recent memory.

  4. “One of these schools has 44 Kindergarten seats and currently has 122 students assigned to it — 116 of whom did not request the school.”

    My bet is that this school was John Muir. This to me is both insulting and incredibly cynical. Instead of trying to solve a problem, the District found an out by over enrolling a worst performing school, knowing full well that John Muir’s scores (the lowest in the district with API’s of 1 form the last three years) and its complete lack of diversity (2% A/8% W/34% AA/45% H) would ensure enrollment attrition from the first round pool.
    In fact, this HAS to happen or the school has created an even bigger problem of where to put all those families who historically enroll in John Muir after not participating in the R1 or R2/Waitlist process.

  5. Good point — that hadn’t actually occurred to me but you are probably right that the vast majority of people listing only one choice were siblings. I would like to coax the siblings data out of EPC but I am trying to be sensitive to the fact that they are really busy right now.

  6. Very interesting information. Is it possible that the 17 % who put down only one choice were siblings, who are all but guaranteed a spot if they choose a sibling’s school?