Today was the annual enrollment fair. It’s a kind of amazing, only-in-San Francisco event designed to help parents find a public school for their child. What a scene it is! Every school staffs a table, and most of them have elaborate photo displays, banners and brochures on hand to represent the school’s unique identity. The district’s Educational Placement Center organizes workshops helping parents to understand how our complex enrollment process works; and other agencies and organizations that serve families and children are also on hand.
The first enrollment fair was organized by PPS-SF back in 1999 2000, and it was an astounding success when over 1,000 people attended. Now, the attendance at the annual fair is easily four or five times that 7,000 people or more. And it’s going to sound mushy (and kind of enrage people who hate our current enrollment process), but I love the fair every year! There is a tremendous positive spirit in the room, filled with people who want our schools to work and who are for the most part volunteering their Saturday to send the message that they are working for many children.
Like the annual Support for Families Information and Resources Conference every spring, this event is a great time for me to catch up with friends at schools across the district, and make some new ones. I had a great conversation with one of our newer principals about the way his staff are using data to identify which instructional strategies are working and which are not. I met many prospective Kindergarten parents and a number who were looking for high schools and middle schools.
Now, I know that the complexity and uncertainty of our assignment process is the underlying reason why we have an Enrollment Fair in the first place. And that the expense and effort of organizing and hosting the fair every year wouldn’t be necessary if our system were less complex and more certain. I also know that the current assignment process needs to change, because it is not accomplishing our district-wide goals of closing the achievement gap, and providing access and equity for every child.
All of that said, I still think it is such a positive experience to see so many hundreds of parents, teachers and principals ready to spend an entire Saturday talking about all the good things that are happening in our schools. I wish very good luck to all of the parents who attended today’s fair, and want to assure you that in the end, you WILL find a good public school for your child in San Francisco.