At a Committee of the Whole tomorrow evening (Monday, August 11 starting at 6 pm in the Board room at 555 Franklin Street), the Board will discuss the resolution put forth by President Fewer and I that would modify the order of preferences in our Student Assignment system starting in the enrollment cycle for the 2015-16 school year.
Staff has provided some data (not all of what I requested, but I’ve asked for some additions) so I thought I’d share what the Board will be looking at. (I anticipate Commissioners will have a lot of questions so there may well be additional data that will be provided ahead of the anticipated Board vote on August 26):
- A spreadsheet showing first-choice requests, by race, by residents of CTIP1. I had also asked for the data to break down programs as well as schools, and also to indicate which CTIP1 residents requested their attendance area school as a first choice. We know, for example, that Charles R. Drew ES in the Bayview is the most requested school by African American residents of CTIP1. How many of those requesters already have an attendance area priority? It would be interesting to know. The spreadsheet does breakdown the current demographics of each school so that we can see whether the requests are adding to diversity or not.
- A presentation from a Stanford researcher simulating changes to priority in school assignment (there are two versions — a longer, more complex description of the simulation and a highly simplified one). Basically, the simulation finds a very small increase (n=1) in the number of schools that are segregated* if you increase the strength of the attendance area preference (our proposal), or eliminate CTIP altogether (which we are not proposing). I have a number of questions about these findings –including whether the projection is statistically significant. Also, these are 10-year projections based on current choice patterns — 10 years is a long time in such a rapidly changing City.
*In the analysis, a segregated school is defined as a school that is more than 60 percent of any single race. In making this proposal, President Fewer and I are primarily concerned with the schools that are more than 60 percent African American, Latino and/or Pacific Islander (see below; and read this post from 2009 on why these schools are of particular concern).
President Fewer and I have also made some changes to the original resolution, so we will be requesting the Board consider an amendment by substitution. The amended resolution is here.
Finally, I just want to reiterate some facts about this proposal:
- We are not proposing to eliminate the CTIP preference. Under this proposal, residents of CTIP1 would retain their current priority for Citywide K seats, which represent about one-third of SFUSD K seats overall. (Right now the proposal specifies Kindergarten only, but the question has been raised about families who transfer in other elementary grades. We’ll have to discuss whether to expand the proposal throughout K-5).
- The proposal does not apply to middle school or high school enrollment. The current preferences for these school levels would remain unchanged.
- The proposal is a minor modification of current policy, and we do not expect it to have drastic changes. We proposed this change because we believe that increasing the number of children attending their attendance area elementary schools would specifically decrease the number of schools that are more than 60 percent African American, Latino or Pacific Islander. Research has consistently shown that high concentrations of these students in schools has a negative effect on student achievement due to high concentrations of poverty, less effective or experienced staff, and fewer resources overall.
- We also believe that choice is over-prioritized in our current system for elementary school enrollment, and we see this as a small course correction. Choice is, by its very nature, most beneficial to families with the wherewithal to choose: those families with childcare, flexible schedules and transportation. While I personally have no issues with families being able to choose programs that work best for them, I have also come to see that there are also some negative effects to the high prioritization our current system gives to choice. Some neighborhoods (Bayview is a case in point) are much more diverse than the schools they contain. The effect that the CTIP preference has in “bleeding off” the most involved and engaged families to attend programs in other neighborhoods has a directly negative effect on Bayview schools. I don’t think the Board believes that our Bayview schools are “bad” schools — I think we believe they are racially isolated schools with a high concentration of the district’s neediest students — and that their academic results demonstrate this. Why then, do we have a system of preferences that perpetuates that isolation?
I’ve spent the last two weeks researching the issues and evaluating the data. I thought I would offer up some additional analysis to spur an informed debate in advance of the Aug. 26 Board meeting.
1) More than 22% of applicants would prefer to attend their areas school
Parents of multiple children have no choice but to send their kids to the same school. Dropping kids off in different parts of the city is not an option. Based on data from 2011, 20% or 980 kindergarten requests were to follow a sibling out of an attendance area school. Perhaps the first siblings requested but was not placed in an area school because of the current CTIP1 priority. If the CTIP flip resolution passed we may see a significant increase in requests to attend area schools assuming that more first children were able to attend their area attendance school. Siblings will follow.
Parents estimate that their child has a low probability of securing a seat at an attendance area school, so they chose non-attendance area school even though they would prefer otherwise. The parents who do their research can easily learn which schools are impacted. For example, I would prefer my son attend Alvarado but given the low probability, I may request a 1st choice at a school that he has a better chance of getting into. For example, the 2011 request numbers don’t look good for Alvarado attendance area kindergartners. We had 115 attendance area residents, 44 general education seats, 44 immersion seats with no area attendance tie-breakers. There was 195 first choice requests, 8 request from siblings in the attendance area, 22 from siblings not in the attendance area, 38 request from CTIP1, 30 from AA and 99 from other. Depending on whether siblings and CTIP1 residents applied to the general education or immersion program that leaves 20 to 0 openings for 30 AA requests. If the CTIP flip passed, then at least 14 of the 30 AA request would be granted and perhaps more. So I realize that the 3% denial rate of AA residents for AA schools does not apply to me since I live in an impacted area.
My fear, unfounded or not, is that we will not be able to get our son into an acceptable school. Since we have two kids, we could not afford to send both to private school. So we are faced with moving out of the city. My wife and I love San Francisco and have called it home for almost a decade. But we do not love San Francisco more than our children. We believe that securing a good education for our children is more important than where we would prefer to live.
The current choice patterns are a result of current assignment policy. If the CTIP1 policy changed so would choice patterns. It seems like most parents would prefer to have their children attend acceptable schools that are near rather than far.
2) Perceptions of gaming the system for a CTIP1 golden ticket undermines the trust of the public school system.
My graduate school classmate, Kevin, moved his family to the Mission because he knew that his kids would have a better chance of getting into a good school. Once his first son was accepted to West Portal for kindergarten, they moved to the Richmond District. Given the sibling preference in school assignment tie-breakers, his two younger sons will get preference over kindergartners in the West Portal attendance area. Kevin and his family are affluent, well-educated and not in need of any special policies.
Of the 329 CTIP1 tie-breakers, 143 were from non-African-American and non-Latino students. It’s impossible to know whether these students were low-test score students but it’s probable that a portion of the 329 students were not in need of CTIP1 preference. Further, given the sibling preference, CTIP1 gamers would perhaps double the amount of spots not available to area attendance residents in future years. While gaming is hard to quantify, we could ask for data on how many CTIP1 applicants move out of CTIP1 areas after receiving their school assignment placement.
Moving to the Mission for CTIP1 preference is a common conversation in social circles. I can’t fault these parents for wanting to get their kids into the best schools possible because that is a universal desire for any parent. It also makes financial sense to move to CTIP1 areas because sending kids to private school in San Francisco could cost $20-40K.
I estimate that gaming of the system will grow in the future because there are more affluent people moving into CTIP1 areas like the Mission. The commuter shuttles and the new high priced condos in the Mission are just a few signs that the demographics of the Mission are changing.
It seems like we could develop a more effective assignment policy that eliminates gaming based on geography and focuses resources on the kids who need it most. Mexico City uses income as a criteria to spur economic diversity in its schools. We could use the test scores results of second and fifth graders in school assignment decisions. The new state of California local control funding formula is a step in the right direction in directing resources to disadvantaged students.
I am very encouraged to see this discussion. This gives me hope to really remain in the SFUSD system. One of the top criteria for us is to be able to send kids to a good neighborhood school close to home rather than having to shuttle them 15-30mins across different part of the city. Current assignment is too uncertain where we have to evaluate about each and every school in City because we don’t know how the assignment would play out.
that is a good question. I think a bit of both.
Hi Rachel – Thank you for clarifying. I am wondering why you can’t just put a 40% cap on CTIP1 seats at all AA schools. As it seems that Grattan and Clarendon Second Community are most impacted by CTIP1 applicants and a cap would help families in those AA while offering a fair amount of choice to CTIP1 families. I also think you would get a lot of support if the district created a city-wide K-8 school focused on math and music in the Bayview. I’m sure that school would bring in many residents from the Bayview and all over San Francisco. We have many great music and math resources in San Francisco such as the SF Jazz center, the symphony, and the conservatory. We also have great math resources from SF State to UC Berkeley to Stanford. The school could have an extra period each day. Three of the extra periods would focus on small math groups and math games. Two could focus on music. You could have an enriched math sequence in middle school with the goal of students completing calculus by senior year in high school. It seems that the district could find a foundation to partner with to develop this type of program. And I believe with the amount of children in the southern part of San Francisco, the city needs to develop more schools in the Bayview and Mission. Thank you for your work.
Hi Rachel — “The effect that the CTIP preference has in “bleeding off” the most involved and engaged families to attend programs in other neighborhoods has a directly negative effect on Bayview schools.” So does this sentence indicate that these involved and engaged families are now taking advantage of the CTIP preference, and the proposal would reduce their ability to do that? Or is there a way it would reduce their INCENTIVE to do that?
Alex – thanks for your comments at tonight’s meeting.
Hi KH – Well, under the current wording it actually seems to say that the “flip”–a cutesy phrase I did not coin–would apply for K but the current policy would be unchanged for grades 1 -5 (higher CTIP, lower AA). When I drafted it, I meant “elementary school” but wrote “Kindergarten.” A sharp-eyed parent pointed that imprecise phrasing out to me so in order to make the preferences apply uniformly for grades K-5 we would have to amend out “Kindergarten” and instead say “elementary school” or “K-5.” We could not propose amendments because a Committee of the Whole cannot take action. (All this might be moot as I am not sure the resolution will pass based on the Board’s discussion tonight).
Rachel – I am a little confused. Under your resolution, would CTIP1 have no preference after kindergarten until middle school? If a family moved into a CTIP1 area for second grade would they have no preference within the lottery for second grade.
Thanks for the clarification.
Thank you for your leadership in improving the school assignment system. Please let us know what we (parents with two young children) can do to support this reform effort.
Hi Christine! Thanks for your support. I hope to have a good discussion at tomorrow night’s Board meeting and win over one or two of the fence sitters so that we can assure the proposal will pass.
Hi Rachel — I’ve emailed you before about this. I continue to strongly support this proposal. More predictable neighborhood school assignments is, I believe, going to pay huge dividends in drawing more people into the system rather than opting for private in light of the uncertainty of the current system. Thanks for your leadership. – Christine V.