Yes, this is the week

On Friday, letters for 2011-12 assignment will be mailed (the lucky ones will receive those letters on Saturday; some will have to wait for Monday or even Tuesday if the mail is very slow).  And for those who don’t already know, I am waiting for one of those letters to tell us my younger daughter’s middle school assignment.

Like most people who have been watching and thinking about this issue for years, Friday’s letters will mark a major shift in the reliability of the data we have about choice so far:  for one thing, it should tell us, far more reliably, what people really want, since the system is supposed to work best when people are honest about their true preferences. If applicants truly want the schools closest to them, we should be able to see that from the data. If applicants truly want something else, we should be able to see what that “something else” is.

Preliminary data will be released at a press conference on Friday; in the ensuing months we should receive more analysis about how well the process worked and how demand and assignment patterns changed between the old and new systems.


    7 responses to “Yes, this is the week

    1. Katie Russell

      Won the lottery for Gateway. Thanks Rachael for voting to approve their middle school charter.

    2. The district’s press conference announcing the results will be at 11:30 a.m. in the Board room; after that I will post some data.

    3. Like many, I am anxiously awaiting the lottery/match results. SFUSD has an updated website and will reportedly post preliminary info at 5pm here:

      Perhaps Rachel will beat them to the punch?

      Good luck everybody.

    4. @Antun makes an interesting point – some schools feel like they are 90% one group – (even if on paper they say 70% or so), and if you are not a part of that 90%, you may not feel that comfortable for your child to join that school and be in a vast minority. I don’t know if there’s really anything the district can do about that though – I don’t think people like being bussed and forced into situations – they will simply opt out. Or, if they could be somewhat guaranteed to get an assignment area school – they might move to that assignment area.

    5. Antun Karlovac

      @Rachel: I think you’re only looking at the number of children _in SFUSD_ right now, as opposed to strategically. As a parent of an incoming kindergartner, I am literally watching parents “drop like flies” as they move out of the city. There may be 55% free/school lunch in the system _now_, but that would change dramatically if the city could retain those parents who leave.

      Moreover, a number of private schools (particularly secular ones) in San Francisco are able to charge as much as $24,000 a year in tuition. That means that there are parents willing and able to pay that much. Having toured the preschools for some of these – just to satisfy my curiosity; not because I could afford it 😉 – I’ve personally seen just how much demand there is for these. When I look at historical data of private tuition costs in SF, they have *massively* outpaced inflation. That would also suggest that the private schools can afford to increase fees in the face of huge demand.

      From where I stand, there are a lot of rich parents that leave the city (either at preschool or at kindergarten stage) rather than join the public school system. That’s bad, not only because we know that performance is directly correlated to demographics, but because those same parents would be able to contribute game-changing amounts of money to help their local public schools.

    6. @Antun, one of the problems with your suggestion is that even if we did want to adopt a highly restrictive placement system like the one you suggest (a placement system that would require a more expensive transportation system than we have currently), there simply aren’t enough middle-class kids in the district to constitute anything close to 70 percent of every school. I’m not sure there are that many middle-class kids in the whole city, but that’s another question.
      SFUSD is 55% Free/Reduced Price lunch. That means in order to equally distribute low-income kids, you would have 55% low-income kids at every school.

    7. Antun Karlovac

      I can tell you we put the closest school to us down as the first *two* choices, in our son’s kindergarten application. (It has an immersion and a GE program, and they were our top two choices). We didn’t really need to put any further choices on the list down, because it’s unlikely we won’t get either of those two, but we did put one additional choice down – a school we liked and was reasonably close.

      In your post you suggested that parents might want “something else” – other than the school closest to them. I would suggest that the “something else” that parents – especially middle class ones – want is that their child attend a school that is filled with demographically similar kids to their own.

      Parents won’t put it that way, of course, but that’s really what they’re looking for. That’s why so many leave our wonderful city – and go to an even more expensive suburb – in order that their child might go to a school that is filled with kids from a similar socioeconomic background. That’s why so many parents put the same schools down as their top choices when submitting their applications. It’s not because they are looking at the test scores. (Some parents I’ve spoken to even think schools are officially ranked from from 1-10, instead of numbers in the hundreds).

      My own belief (which I’ve posted on your blog before) is that to keep both sides happy, San Francisco should practice hard paternalism with at-risk children. That is, identify children who are likely to do poorly (e.g. use the 5 questions, or some other means), and assign and bus them to schools to ensure that no more than a certain percentage of any school is made up of children who would struggle to perform well at school. (e.g. Ensure that all schools are 70%+ middle-class/rich kids). For the remainder, allow them to go to their local school. In theory, the rich parents would be satisfied, since their local school would be what they call “good” (i.e. demographically similar to them) and – crucially – more rich parents would stay in the city. This is a positive-feedback loop. Eventually there would be a greater percentage of rich parents in SFUSD, adding to PTO coffers, further bringing up the standards of all schools.

      Just a disclaimer: Our local school is historically not a highly-preferred school at all – especially the general education program. We’re excited about our choice and about being part of improving it.