Important changes to the student assignment proposal

UPDATE: Here is the presentation from the Feb. 24 meeting and an updated version of the Superintendent’s proposal for a new student assignment system.

At tonight’s meeting of the student assignment redesign committee, several important changes to the Superintendent’s proposal were suggested and accepted by Commissioners in attendance (committee members Wynns, Mendoza and Kim, and invited Commissioners Norton, Yee and Maufas. Commissioner Fewer was absent). These changes are:

  • The Superintendent suggested an amendment to the proposed policy to introduce a one-month public comment period on the proposed attendance area maps before they are accepted by the Board and implemented as part of the new student assignment policy. This would give community members a chance to see the maps and comment on them before they are formally incorporated into the policy. No timeframe for the maps to be released was specified, but the policy must be fully implemented by November 2010. Presumably, the maps would be available for public inspection by September at the very latest.
  • The Superintendent also proposed amending the CTIP definitions as follows: CTIP 1 would now comprise the 20% of census tracts with the lowest average scores on the California Standards Test (CST); CTIP 2 would comprise the 80% of census tracts with the highest average scores on the CST. A map of average CST scores, by census tract, appears below (the dark green areas are the new areas proposed for CTIP 1, and the light green areas PLUS the dark green areas are the PREVIOUSLY proposed CTIP 1 areas. Dark purple, lavender, and light blue are CTIP 2 areas; the new proposal would add the light green areas to CTIP 2. To make this crystal clear, download this larger image, containing a key (and also Treasure Island, which I cropped from the image below):
  • The final change was proposed by Commissioner Wynns and found acceptable by Board members in attendance.  For elementary school, CTIP 1 preference would now come higher than local preference, and the policy would also contain language establishing a reciprocal preference for residents of CTIP 2 areas who want to attend CTIP 1 schools.  Board members liked this approach, after assurances from Orla O’Keeffe that flip-flopping CTIP 1 and local preference in the policy proposal would have little effect on school composition, but would give residents of the most underserved areas additional preference to attend higher-performing schools. In combination with the above proposal (to shrink the CTIP 1 preference area to the lowest performing 20% of census tracts), Board members felt the adjustment would better align the policy with what we heard from the PAC and Parents for Public Schools during the community engagement effort.

We also had a lengthy discussion about special education. It continues to frustrate me that the staff is talking about “service areas” and creating a parallel system for students with disabilities. The law is clear: whenever possible, students should attend the schools they would have attended if not disabled; if their individual needs can be served more appropriately at another school, then the district may offer them another placement. In any event, the district is obligated to offer students with disabilities a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) — defined as: receiving an education, to the maximum extent appropriate, with nondisabled peers and remaining in  regular classes unless, even with supplemental aids and services, education in regular classes cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

The problem is that the district is maintaining that putting special education students through a “separate but equal” kind of lottery is adequate to meet these legal requirements. I disagree, as do most other special education parents and their advocates. In other school districts, offers of placement are generally made at IEP meetings (an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, developed by a team of general educators, special educators, parents and any other persons knowledgeable about the child’s educational needs — the “IEP team”).  In San Francisco, parents receive a “program” offer — e.g., inclusion or a special day class — and then an opaque and highly secretive school district process determines the actual school where the program is delivered.

I am instead advocating for a simple sentence to be included in the district’s new student assignment policy under the “Special Education” heading: For students in special education, school and program placements will be determined by the IEP team. 


36 responses to “Important changes to the student assignment proposal

  1. Dear Rachael,

    Are the ctip1 & ctip2 areas set in stone? Do you have a clearer map of version of this map with street markings. I can barely read the keys

    – AJ

  2. Thanks ooeygooey – this will be helpful to folks.

  3. Here’s a link to the census tract map with streets labeled:

    Click to access CT06075_A02.pdf

  4. “What is your position on student assignment? Could you cover the middle school situation with in detail?”

    We’re in a K-8, so I don’t know what the neighborhood MS’s are for the SE.

    The lottery system seemed to work best for the Middle schools, so I’d tend towards “why fix it” and make it city-wide like the High School level.

    But I do like the idea of feeder schools, which would keep kids from the same elementary together in MS, which might make the whole MS experience a bit more bearable and less chaotic.

    So I’m undecided. I’d have to see how it works out in practice.

  5. “Your situation illustrates why all census tracts that border on CTIP1 should be treated like CTIP1.”

    And then you’d have to expand to those jsut outside the borders of the new CTIP1, etc., ad infinitum.

    Any neighborhood system is going to have winners and losers, and lines that have to be drawn. And they’re not equally distributed. In the lottery system, at least the winners and losers were by luck rather than what neighborhood you could afford to be in.

    “You have gotten a very raw deal in the current proposal.”

    That’s the case for us in the SE. I refi’ed my house before the hit in property values came. I expect I’ll lose some neighbors too.
    However, Forest Hill looks peachy now: Clarendon a neighborhood school!

  6. At the middle school level, what if Hoover or Aptos, or both were made citywide schools and not attendance area middle schools? I don’t see it as absolutely necessary that every middle school must be an attendance area school. We allow K-8’s to be citywide. Let’s be open to citywide schools at the middle school level as well.

  7. Leslie: To answer your questions, if I was in charge, once you are in your school and move in SF, you would stay in your same school. In a truly neighborhood system, it would make more sense to require you to move, but in this hybrid system there will be many students at the school who aren’t from the neighborhood, so it doesn’t make sense to require a neighborhood student who moved to change schools. I assume that is the situation but I haven’t seen it written anywhere. The other scenario, where you apply while you are in one neighborhood area and move before you start school is a closer call. I think that should raise a red flag for the school district to investigate, but ultimately if you have a legitimate reason for the move (like I do, to buy a house) that has nothing to do with school assignment, then I think you should stay in the neighborhood school you were assigned to you when you applied.

  8. Dear On the fence,
    Your situation illustrates why all census tracts that border on CTIP1 should be treated like CTIP1. You have gotten a very raw deal in the current proposal.

  9. Dear Bernal Dad,
    What is your position on student assignment? Could you cover the middle school situation with in detail?

  10. Dear Bryan,
    If you were in charge, how would you handle those scenarios? What would be fair? I don’t believe anything specific had been proposed yet.

  11. On the fence

    As someone who was CTIP 1 but is now CTIP 2 under the new proposal, I guess I am concerned because the new plan disadvantages me now, and parents like me who live in the light green areas. Not only do I not live near a good neighborhood school, but now I am lumped in with everyone else in the top 60% who lives near a good school?

    My tract is in the bottom 20-40% of scores. My neighborhood school is one of the worst 10% performing schools (John Muir). I suspect that most of the students at John Muir are from a CTIP 1 tract, but the school gets assigned to me because I am physically close to it and live in a CTIP 2 tract? And now parents in my CTIP have the same odds of getting into a city-wide school as 80% of the population who live in best neighborhoods do, BUT we don’t have the cushion of a good (or even decent) neighborhood school to fall back on?

    If the attendance area map draws a line around the bottom 20% of schools that corresponds to the CTIP 1 areas, then this might be more fair. But I can’t imagine that happening. So parents in my area will be assigned to John Muir. And good luck with the lottery. Great.

    I prefer the current system, where at least I felt my disadvanatge was for the advantage of “less diverse” folks. Now I am at a disadvantage to people in better neighborhoods with better schools nearby. I own – and if I knew what the maps were 3 years ago, I can assure you it would have influenced my decision on where to buy. 3 blocks away and I am in CTIP 1 with a great shot at getting any school I want. And that is the same neighborhood I live in now essentially, but evidently it is a different census tract. My bad luck, huh?

    I know the line has to be drawn somewhere. Someone will complain. But this particular plan seriously disadvantages people (even “diverse” people like me from a trans-racial family) living in the light green CTIP districts that are now CTIP 2, but who also have neighborhood schools that are seriously underperforming.

    IF we have to go to this neighborhood plan idea, I am strongly in favor of the 40-60 split for the CTIP tracts. BUT, I much prefer the choice system overall – I think it was referred to as option A in an earlier incarnation.

    I am also strongly in favor of releasing the attendance areas maps for public comment in advance of making this plan final. The notion that it is better to hide the map from parents or the public because that will make it is easier to hide future changes to the map from the public in the future is offensive. The SFUSD needs to be transparent, even if that makes life more difficult. And home prices will be affected one way or the other once the maps come out. Time for public comment will not matter – all that matters is that a map is final, and whether living in one area places you at an advantage (or disadvantage) for a great school.

  12. “CTIP1 might be 20% now, but the camel’s nose is under the tent. When the integration numbers don’t come in, CTIP1 will be dialed up to 30% and 40%. ”

    Leslie, I can’t see how you can make that assertion based on the fact that the proportion of CTIP1 has moved *down* in the past few weeks, which signals that the board *really want to focus* on the lowest quintile. And I can’t see how expanding CTIP1 is going to do that much to enhance integration, based on the map, to be frank.

    Please cool your head. You neighborhood school advocates won over those of us who want choice. Do a victory lap.

  13. Why are we doing what we are doing?

    I can understand bringing back neighborhood schools in the face of severely limited transportation resources.

    I can understand dividing the city into CTIP1 and CTIP2 to address the issue of over-concentrations of African American, Hispanic, and Samoan students. The status quo of an academic achievement gap is not acceptable.

    I can understand promoting diversity in the student body, as an independent issue outside of the achievment gap. A diverse educational experience is part of what defines a quality education.

    I support voluntary desegregation, but I do not argue for voluntary desegregation because of any perceived resegregation in the schools. All the desegregation that has taken place in San Francisco has been tainted by discrimination against Chinese Americans. I was frankly shocked when the school district could not come up with any defense of race based integration in the Brian Ho case.

    The aftermath of the Brian Ho case, the era of the Diversity Index, to me, represents diversity as a proxy for race, and hence discriminatory as applied. As long as the use of race was not justified, the use of proxies for race were also also not justified. As a practical matter, however, the Chinese American parents in the Brian Ho case would agree to the implementation of the Diversity Index while the school district would agree to stop using racial and ethnic caps. Kind of the situation we have now with Prop 209: use anything you want except race, even if we know it is all about race.

    The numbers show that the schools have resegregated. The numbers are invalid, because the numbers are the result of discrimination against Chinese Americans. It is wrong to say that the current choice system has resulted in more segregation. The desegregation numbers that San Francisco has had were never legitimate in the first place, because of the discrimination against Chinese Americans.

    We go forward with voluntary desegregation, first, for the interest of diversity of the student body regardless of any achievement gap, and, second, because there is an achievement gap to be addressed. This is why we are doing what we are doing.

  14. CTIP–new name contest–partner preferences and partner areas

    The Census Tract Integration Preference is about partnering areas of the city that usually do not mix. We partner CTIP1 with CTIP2. We could refer to Partner Area 1 and Partner Area 2. We could talk about local preferences and partner preferences instead of local preferences and census tract integration preferences.

  15. I have a question for Rachel or anyone else that knows the answer. My daughter will be enrolling in kindergarten in the first year of the new assignment system and we are planning on moving in the next year to another neighborhood in SF (and the move has nothing to do with school enrollment). We will most likely move from one local neighborhood assignment area to another. Assuming we are assigned to our neighborhood school for kindergarten, will we need to change schools after we move or can we stay at the same school ? What if we live in one neighborhood when we apply and another neighborhood on the first day of school?

  16. Bernal Dad,
    CTIP1 might be 20% now, but the camel’s nose is under the tent. When the integration numbers don’t come in, CTIP1 will be dialed up to 30% and 40%. I prefer to start, now, with sharing between local preference and integration preference, instead of making corrections later on. I prefer a balance between voluntary desegregation and a neighborhood school system.

    Freedom to choose is not desegregation. The all choice/lottery system that we have had cannot be maintained because of lack of money for transportation.

    However, if there is money for transportation at the middle school level, the school district would then have a lot more explaining to do about why middle school assignment is not being treated like high school assignment. The case for neighborhood schools is weaker at the middle school level, and weakest at the high school level, which is why choice survives at the high school level.

  17. “LocSet an initial goal of one half local and one half non-local.”

    Leslie, I suspect this system would be less efficient as the CTIP1 kids who didn’t get into School A in Pool 1 would get shunted to their second choice school B, where they’re displace some other neighborhood kid. Essentially, you’d have less chance of giving the CTIP1 kids their first choices.

    Look, this is a lot closer to a neighborhood school system than what we have now. As someone who liked the choice/lottery system, I view the radical reduction in choice in the new system as a shame, but a neighborhood school enthusiast like yourself should recognize a good deal when you see one; only 20% of kids in the city are going to be CTIP1 and can bump a local. For the rest, it’s going to be neighborhood or alternative school, with a very few CTIP2 kids going to an attendance area school that’s not their local one.

  18. “Thanks, Rachel. You may also want to reconsider putting sibling preference ahead of CTIP1 and attendance area for MS, as it is for ES.”

    Agreed. Sibling preference should outrank CTIP1 and CTIP2.

  19. Thanks, Rachel. You may also want to reconsider putting sibling preference ahead of CTIP1 and attendance area for MS, as it is for ES.

  20. SFMom22, the I believe proposed priority right now is still 1)local preference, 2)siblings, 3)CTIP 1 but based on the discussion we had Wednesday night, I’m wondering as well whether the Board will want to flip CTIP 1 and local pref. It’s a question I’ll need to ask next week at the final meeting. Thanks for bringing that ambiguity to my attention.

  21. What about Middle Schools? Will the priority order also be 1) siblings, 2) CTIP1, and 3) attendance area? Will more MSs be designated city-wide than is currently the case?

  22. Local preference and integration preference can stop fighting and start sharing.

    An example might best explain. Suppose that sibling preference applies first and only 100 slots are left available at Alamo (actually any school, but I’m using Alamo because Alamo starts with an ‘A.’)

    Divide the 100 available slots into two groups of 50. One group uses a local prefernce trumps integration preference protocol. The other group uses an integration trumps local protocol.

    CTIP2 student Mary, who lives in the Alamo assignment area, misses out in the first lottery, where local preference ranks over integration preference. There were just an overwhelming number of applicants from the Alamo assignment area.

    Mary still has a second shot, in the other group of 50 available seats where intergration preference beats local preference. Mary has to wait for CTIP1’s to get the first chance at this second set of 50 slots. Mary and all other CTIP2 applicants, whether in or out of the Alamo attendance area, must give first dibs to CTIP1. It is not hard to share. It is, in fact, quite sensible.

  23. Marnie Dunsmore

    Thanks for sticking up for disabled kids so that as much as possible they will be able to attend a school of their choice.

    It is a terrible thing to isolate disabled children from other children.

    Having had an aunt who was a polio survivor, I can say that what disabled people want is to be treated as much as possible like other people. They do not want to be isolated or treated like they are dumb or inhuman.

    It is true that there are real costs involved, but to separate disabled children from the main population is to turn the clock back to a sad and dark time.

    Thanks for sticking up for the disabled and for their right and need to be one with us.

  24. Disagree. There may be an affluent block or two in the dark green Potrero tract, but not many. And don’t forget — CTIP will be based on a moving average of CST scores (I’ve been told three years, but that isn’t set in stone). Maybe a few families in Potrero will get a few years of preference they don’t deserve, but over time, their affluence should affect their CTIP status. By and large, the dark green tracts correspond beautifully with low-income neighborhoods.

  25. Scorecard—Feb. 24th’s changes: the right hand gives and the left hand takes away

    CTIP2 areas gained by shrinking CTIP1 to the bottom 20% instead of the bottom 40%.

    Then CTIP2 areas lost by having integration preference trump local preference at elementary schools. (The lottery to go out of one’s area would have been meaningless if all the available slots were taken up by local kids.)

    What we have is an invitation for Bayview kids to flee to the greater Mission area for school assignment. I believe Jed Lane correctly asks “if we will end up closing schools in CTIP1 areas. “

  26. I don’t understand why the new proposal moved from individual family characteristics (qualifying for free/reduced lunch, living in subsidized housing) to CTIP, when CTIP can be “gamed” much more. For example, there are some families living in Potrero Hill (CTIP1 according to the map) who own million dollar +homes. They, along with renters with the means to move to CTIP1 zones for a year, will essentially get their choice of schools (both citywide and now neighborhood schools), and these families are not the families the school district is trying to target as families who are disadvantaged. If people are going to get bumped from their neighborhood schools by families living in CTIP1 areas who get higher priority than those living in the neighborhood, I would want to make sure that those families are the disadvantaged families, not the advantaged families who happen to live in the CTIP1 zones.

    Thanks, again, Rachel, for posting all of these details. I really appreciate your summaries and look for them right after the board meetings.

  27. “At the elementary school level, why can’t local preference and integration preference learn to share? Why does one always have to get priority over the other, first local over interagration, and now integration over local?”

    Because you have to decide whether Student A gets in over Student B. Allocating quotas risks having one pool oversubscribed and another undersubscribed.

    Your other ideas seem to be adding unnecessary layers of complication. The “perverse incentive” to do badly in exams you mention neglects that there’s different actors in those sitting for the exams and those applying for entry.

    On reading the map, try opening it with a Google map of SF nearby. Many of the CTIP boundaries are major streets & highways (like, the long line going E-W in the middle of the city is Army Street.

  28. Special Ed Parent

    I just want to say how grateful I am, Rachel, that you are standing up for special ed kids. I know we do not number many and perhaps a more cynical board member might find it convenient to let the SFUSD staff have their way with special ed. I commend you for sticking up for us. Just some more ammo for you: some programs are at such a limited number of middle schools that staff”s proposal would lead to the creation of bizarrely arbitrary maps that literally chop the city into extremely large “areas” — nothing that evenly remotely passes the laugh test. This is particularly true in middle school Inclusion — 76% of the Inclusion seats are at just three schools — Hoover, Giannini and Roosevelt. What is the point of splitting the city into three for that program? It is much better, as you propose, that placement be decided at the IEP meeting. Special ed kids are simply too unique to be grouped like the District is proposing.

  29. CTIP–new name contest

    The school district has been divided into two areas: Sunbelt and Fogbelt. We have used census tracts and standardized exams to identify the Sunbelt and Fogbelt. The district favors voluntary integration by promoting a mixture of Sunbelt students and Fogbelt students in our schools. This represents a geographic and academic integration preference in student assignment. A local preference is also involved, through school assignment areas.

    The former terminology was CTIP. Translate CTIP1 to Sunbelt. Translate CTIP2 to Fogbelt.

  30. okay, maybe i’m just an idiot, but that map isn’t crystal clear to me! particularly in the green/light green areas where i live. i can’t tell what streets are what nor whether i’m in green, light green, or maybe another area… maybe i can find another map to overlay… i’m excited to see the map, but isn’t there anything with actual street names on it? maybe if i could read the numbers in the census blocks i could get more info on what the addresses are, bordering streets, etc., but whatever is in the little white blocks is not clear either… any help???

  31. 1. At the elementary school level, why can’t local preference and integration preference learn to share? Why does one always have to get priority over the other, first local over interagration, and now integration over local?

    Set an initial goal of one half local and one half non-local. It was an empty promise to CTIP1’s that they could lottery out of their area into a CTIP2 school if all the locals in that CTIP2 area took up all the slots. Similary, it is a raw deal to CTIP2 students who share an assignment area with CTIP1 students to have CTIP1 students from outside the assignment area bump them out of their local school. Share. One for you. One for me. One for you. One for me…

    2. Redefine CTIP1 to the bottom 20% plus all the census tracts that physically border the bottom 20%, no matter the actual academic acheivement level of the border tracts.

    At latest revision, CTIP1 was the bottom 20%. CTIP2 was the top 80%. All of the CTIP2’s that border a CTIP1 should be treated like a CTIP1. Call these border census tracts CTIP3, if it helps.
    So CTIP3 plus the current CTIP1 would make up the new CTIP1.

    Why expand CTIP1 in this odd fashion, instead of a straightforward redialing of the percentages from 20% up to 30% or 40%? I take seriously the incentive to do poorly and get into or stay into CTIP1 status, which would jeopardize the integrity of standardized exams. I do not want to see a race to the bottom. I remember very well how professional basketball teams would try to lose games at the end of the season in order to get the number one draft choice in the NBA draft.

    Why expand CTIP1 in this fashion rather than just increasing

  32. “I feel, after reading this post that the parents in the low performing census tracts who DO NOT request admission to out of area schools are going to be the uninvolved parents who just don’t care. ”

    But why shouldn’t the CTIP1 parents (or any parents, for that matter) who care about their kids education, not have the ability to pick out schools that might suit their kids better, rather than being forced into their failing local school, and excluded from the spiffier schools in the more expensive neighborhoods?

    Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here.

    “What steps will be taken to attract CTIP2 area students to the schools that the involved parents in CTIP1 areas are trying to avoid?”

    Well, there’s the immersion programs, of which some are in the CTIP1 areas.

    “Will we end up closing schools in CTIP1 areas and place all children in schools in CTIP2 areas?”

    I’d hope that the threat of closure would still be there, to drive new thinking and innovation; like, say, the drive to introduce a Spanish immersion program in CTIP1.

  33. “The public schools are in competition with the private schools for students. I endorse K-8 as citywide alternative schools for that purpose.”

    Meh. The rate at which kids go to private schools varies radically across the city – 17% in the SE to ~50% in the Richmond and Sunset and maybe 90% in Pac Heights.

    After the dust settles and we recover from budget cuts, I’d expect more in the Richmond and Sunset attending SFUSD schools . Maybe a few less in the Catholic schools in the West and more in the Catholic schools in the SE. As there’s few independent schools in the SE, I wouldn’t expect many more opting for the independent privates in the SE.

    I’d see citywide schools as giving folks in the 40-80% percentile somewhere to go if they don’t like their local school, rather than as competition for the privates.

    The new system probably means a net gain in enrollment, IMHO. Which means more $$ for the district in the long run. I’m not sure about city-wide middle schools; either make them all city-wide or none of them.

  34. Rachel, those changes to the CTIP to make it more focused and having priority over neighborhood preference are good things and brave to do. Bravo. However, given that the Excelsior is going to be made worse off, would hope we might increase the number of city-wide schools to 30% of elementary capacity to give those in the 60-80%tile more choice.

    Don’t like the one month comment period on the school boundaries AT ALL. Would far rather have the process done by staff fiat with a straight up-or-down board vote.

    We’re already seeing attempts to pull up the drawbridges by neighbors near Claire Lilienthal trying to convert it to a neighborhood school.

    If one of the variables you want to tweak is the school boundaries as you adjust the system to get better outcomes (more efficient and more equitable), then don’t cut a rod for your own backs by making one of those variables harder to change. Because if you’re having public comment on boundaries now, you’ve set a precedent to have it two years down the line when you’ll have to adjust boundaries given new information on how the new system performs.

    Making the boundaries at SFUSD’s sole discretion with no public comment would also reduce the effect on house prices, as the new system will cause effects on house prices according to how desirable the neighborhood school is. If that’s changeable, the effects should be (somewhat) diminished.

  35. I feel, after reading this post that the parents in the low performing census tracts who DO NOT request admission to out of area schools are going to be the uninvolved parents who just don’t care. I believe that without parental involvement no school can succeed in its mission of educating students. The ultimate effect will be that the CTIP1 area schools will continue to fail. What steps will be taken to attract CTIP2 area students to the schools that the involved parents in CTIP1 areas are trying to avoid? Will we end up closing schools in CTIP1 areas and place all children in schools in CTIP2 areas?

  36. The public schools are in competition with the private schools for students. I endorse K-8 as citywide alternative schools for that purpose. I endorse a few middle schools as citywide alternative schools for the unmitigated purpose of competition with the private schools. I understand Hoover and Aptos would be good candidates.