Slowing down the CTIP proposal

Earlier this week, Board leadership and Superintendent Carranza made the decision to hold the CTIP resolution in order to further investigate the impact of leaving our current policy unchanged, the impact of implementing the CTIP proposal, and the impact of other changes to the student assignment policy that might bring us closer to our original goals of:

• Reversing the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school;
• Providing equitable access to the range of opportunities offered to students; and
• Providing transparency at every stage of the assignment process.

I agreed to accept this decision because it was very clear after the August 11 committee meeting that a majority of the Board did not support the proposal. Had the proposal been brought to a vote on the 26th, it’s hard for me to see how we could have gotten four “yes” votes, given the questions and concerns Commissioners raised about whether the proposal had been adequately communicated to the public or vetted by staff.
At the end of the day, had I insisted the proposal come to a vote at either the August 26th or even the Sept. 9 meetings, we would have risked triggering a provision in Board rules that — if the proposal lost — would have prohibited us from bringing it back for reconsideration before August of 2015. This timeframe would again bring us right back up against the deadline for beginning the annual enrollment cycle, and could again trigger objections that we weren’t giving families enough time to comment on and understand the proposal before application time rolls around.

Instead, the proposal is far from dead. It will remain under active consideration in the Student Assignment Committee, which I chair, and I am already formulating a list of questions I’d like the staff to examine. These include:

  • More data on families who request their attendance area schools and what the outcomes of those requests are, in order to better examine and evaluate Commissioner Wynns’ assertion that the relatively low number of families requesting AA schools is evidence that families prefer choice over predictability.
  • The feasibility of means-testing families utilizing the CTIP preference. Free- or reduced-price lunch eligibility is a good proxy to weed out more privileged families taking advantage of the preference, but we don’t currently have a good way to discover and verify that eligibility for new K applicants. There may be some ways to develop this kind of means testing but these ideas need more analysis from staff.
  • Current economic characteristics of residents of CTIP  census tracts, and whether there is a way to define smaller sub-areas of these tracts to receive the preference, in order to weed out blocks with higher income residents or those that are rapidly gentrifying.

In addition, Commissioner Haney will take up some of the more programmatic ways to address desegregation and make our racially-isolated schools more attractive to a broader variety of  families.

Finally, I’m reserving the right to bring back the current proposal or an amended version for a vote next spring, in more than enough time to be implemented before taking applications for the 2016-17 school year.

This was never about “returning to neighborhood schools,” or other sweeping claims that have been made by those who support or oppose our proposal. It has always been about making our system work better for more families, and about remaining true to the original three goals we set at the start of the redesign process in 2009, and which I quoted at the top of this post.

I’m still not happy that we have a system that tacitly tells some families that the schools in their neighborhoods are inferior, and then institutes a “survival of the fittest” process to let the savviest and most advantaged residents go elsewhere. But the tea leaves indicate I haven’t convinced my colleagues that we can do better.

I’m glad that we started the discussion and I’m glad this discussion will continue, even if the underlying issues will take a lot more work and examination to resolve. I’m also excited about some new ideas that have come out of our discussion about desegregation efforts at Willie Brown, which will reopen in August 2015  after the district has spent millions to rebuild and reprogram the school. On the 26th the Superintendent will share some of those ideas

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16 responses to “Slowing down the CTIP proposal

  1. If you were running I would vote for you. I will not vote for the board members that failed to support your proposal. I hope to persuade others who do not generally vote in school board elections to vote in this one.

    That publication you cited was prepared by advocates. It reads more like sales brochure than an objective academic study. The first reference to support the argument that black children do better in diverse schools was to another sales brochure type report published by the Center for American Progress. To support the argument, that publication cites a study done for the Supreme Court case in 1954. I am looking at the situation is San Francisco today, not the consequences of government forced segregated schools in the South 60 years ago.

    Regarding studies, the Government very often first establishes a policy and then pays for studies to support the policy. For an emotionally charged issue with entrenched beliefs, confirmation bias is common problem.

    Parents who believe their child will perform better academically simply by attending a high performing school may be deluding themselves. Most schools, middleclass and poor, high and low performing, have equally good teachers and their child’s performance is likely to be the same at both schools. In that sense there would be no benefit and no harm.

    But I can think of a scenario where I would agree with Jill that the best thing you can do is send a poor child to a middleclass school. A bright low-income child in a class made up of unsocialized slow learners would be harmed educationally. He would benefit by attending a middleclass school. However, if the middleclass child he displaced were sent to the school where the low-income child came from, that middleclass child would be equally harmed as the child he replaced. That was the point.

    The issue often raised is that a middleclass white child attending a school where he is in the extreme minority will be culturally isolated and harmed academically. If that is true then a low-income black child attending a middleclass school where he is in the extreme minority would also be culturally isolated and his performance would suffer. Parents who value diversity but reject a school if their child’s ethnic group is significantly underrepresented may have a point.

    Looking at the K-5 data from 2011-12, there is a positive correlation between percent white enrollment and white API scores. There is no correlation between black enrollment and black API scores. Interesting however, is a positive correlation between black enrollment and black math proficiency. Also if you look at schools that have very few black children their academic performance is lower. There may be a threshold below which there is a negative impact on academic performance.

  2. Don, just because the issues seem simple to you doesn’t mean that they are. You have clearly gone through a lot of the district data and formed a lot of conclusions — some of them I agree with (including that as the percentage of AA and Latino children in a school increases, academic performance tends to decrease) and some of them I don’t (that middle class children will be “harmed” by attending a school where low-income students don’t post strong academic results). It’s less about the quality of the schools and more about the concentrations of poverty and other issues that are highly correlated with race.

    FYI, the document I pointed you to cites much of the research in support of diverse schools.

    And voting only for candidates who support neighborhood schools is absolutely your right. I tend to take a more nuanced view of the issue of school assignment, based on years of monitoring the assignment system, talking to thousands of parents across San Francisco and reviewing research and the experience of other school systems. Based on that experience, I tend to support candidates who are thoughtful on the issue of student assignment, who are willing to review data and balance the very complex and sometimes competing needs of our diverse City and its children.

  3. One other point about the finding in the study you summarized that all students at isolated schools regardless of race perform lower. I looked at performance in K-5 schools with the highest percent (highest quartile) of economically disadvantaged students compared to schools with the lowest percent of economically disadvantaged students. I found the same thing as the study you cited. Very clearly all students of all races at poor schools do not perform as well as students at middleclass schools. Whites and Asians at poor schools have significantly lower academic outcomes. If a middleclass child is denied access to his neighborhood school and is offered enrollment in a poor school, wouldn’t it follow that we are harming that child? How is that equitable? Of course in the real world, most middleclass children will not go to the poor school, his parents will send him to a private school, or they will leave the City. And that is the nub of the problem. The current system is harming SFUSD and the City. That’s why I will be voting only for school board candidates that support neighborhood schools.

  4. That publication, an advocacy document not am objective scientific study, is not representative of the situation in San Francisco.

    The discussion here was for application to K-5 schools. I would have a different policy for high schools. I would get older youth out of their poor neighborhoods. It would give them a different perspective that would be motivational. Also I have no problem giving low income parents access to schools outside their neighborhood, provided it does not harm other families by denying them access to schools close to home.

    The publication makes reference to Brown v. Board. I heard Brown’s daughter speak on a panel. She is a teacher at a minority school. She pointed out that the issue was never about the color of the students sitting next to her.

    I repeat, there is no evidence that poor students in San Francisco K-5 middleclass schools do better than poor students in K-5 poor schools. A policy that harms families without very clear evidence of a benefit is not justified. The benefit should outweigh the harm.

    The publication advocating diversity mentions teacher quality as an argument for diversity. In SF K-5 schools, teacher quality is the same for poor and middleclass schools. The education level of teachers in poor schools may even be a little higher. For K-5 schools there is no correlation between years of experience and percent race of students. Miraloma and Feinstein have some of the least experienced teachers. Cobb, Malcolm X, and Cesar Chaves have some of the most experienced teachers. In addition, there are fewer students per teacher in poor schools. That is also true for black and Latino schools.

    The advocacy publication also cites curriculum quality as an argument for diversity. If there is a difference in curriculum quality, that can be rectified by improving curriculum in poor schools not by sending young children across town. How is the curriculum different in Drew than in middleclass schools?

    For K-5, there is definitely a negative correlation between black and Latino academic performance and percent black and Latino enrollment. As you increase the percent of black and Latino enrollment, the academic performance of the school goes down. You can improve a school’s outcomes by enrolling more white and Asian students but that would not necessarily improve performance of black and Latino students at that school. Again we should have clear and convincing evidence of the benefit before causing harm to families.

    KH makes a good point that we are not dealing with the core issues. Adjusting the demographics of schools for greater diversity will not help. We can lower the percent of low-income African American and Latinos below 60% in any one school. That could give that school better performance numbers. Unfortunately, it is not likely to improve low-income African American and Hispanic academic performance.

    I agree with KM, but why not just give preference to low-income children no matter where they live? That should satisify Wynn’s desire for equity.

    Regarding DC’s issue, your proposal won’t affect Rooftop. While Rooftop may have “too many” white children, white children are underrepresented District wide. The current assignment system has driven them away. Rooftop’s White enrollment is down to 21.3% last year compared to 23.9% the year before. Rooftop has a comparably low percent of economically disadvantaged students, 31.9% last year compared to 37% the year before. Rooftop’s parent education level is very high. I would guess that the average African American or Latino child at Rooftop does not have the background KH describes. I doubt you will find very many students at Rooftop from housing projects in the Bayview or Poterero Hill. Nevertheless, African American scores at Rooftop are considerably lower than other groups at Rooftop. They have not solved the gap problem.

    I have read comments by parents who value diversity. Despite giving lip service to diversity they tend to reject a school if their race/ethnic group is significantly underrepresented. The Stanford study showed that parents tend to apply to schools where their race/ethnic group is well represented. That may have something to do with language pathways. Language pathways is one cause of racially isolated schools. Eighty percent of racially isolated schools have language pathways. SFUSD could reduce the number of isolated schools by eliminating language pathways at isolated schools, if reducing the number is more important than anything else.

  5. Don E said: “There is no evidence that poor students do better in middle class schools,” actually there are countless analyses that show this.Download this report, jointly produced by the College Board and National School Boards Association, which provides an excellent roundup of current and historic research on the topic, and suggests policy directions for school boards: https://diversitycollaborative.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/document-library/educexcellenceforall_printfriendly.pdf

    the other research I cited, about schools that are more than 60 percent African American, Latino and/or Pacific Islander, was conducted for us by researchers at Stanford, and summarized in this post: https://rachelnorton.com/2009/12/14/committee-on-student-assignment-1214-recap/
    DonE said ” If self-segregation is the problem, then Asian isolated schools should also have lower academic performance.” No, read the post at the link above and you will see that assumption does not hold true. Segregation and the problems that result from it are multi-dimensional. While there are clear benefits for a middle class child attending an integrated school, there are also real and measurable negative effects for children of color when they attend racially-isolated (by that I mean schools that are more than 60 percent African American, Latino and/or Samoan students) high poverty schools (with a few outliers, but they are the exception rather than the rule). This is very true in SF and in most other urban school systems.

    So: Its completely understandable and laudable that up to now our assignment system has focused on providing access to middle class schools for low income children of color (to the extent we can be race conscious). The problem is, we’re trying to accomplish that purely through a full choice system, that helps some kids and leaves a lot more in racially-isolated schools. I think we can do better, which is why I’m suggesting tweaking the system to encourage more diverse schools in low-income neighborhoods in SF (increasingly populated by middle class families who cant afford to live anywhere else). Our proposal would still preserve a healthy amount if choice as well, since I also believe that families have all manner of needs, from start time to language to proximity to work or home or transportation lines.

  6. Rather than using census tracts, how about just giving preference to all kids who are in the attendance areas of the lowest performing schools, say 1-2 API rank? One of the areas that lost CTIP1 designation is in the attendance area of Charles Drew Elementary, which is the lowest performing school in San Francisco and the ONLY regular school with an API rank of 1. The vast majority of kids attending this school do not live in the AA. How can the district force kids to be assigned to such a low performing school?

  7. I am really curious if DC lives in a rich enclave of the city. People in areas with great schools are concerned that their high performing school is not diverse enough (I wish we had that problem). Meanwhile communities trying to make a difference in their local schools are struggling to get the community to engage because their is no guarantee that if they put forth all this effort to improve the school that their child will get in.

    I think we are making very marginal improvements with the lottery system and all these attempts to create some utopian school system are unobtainable. I would argue that all efforts should be made to get the middle and upper class to reengage in the SFUSD so we can significantly increase this group… the only problem is I don’t see how you can do this without removing the lottery system, Anecdotally, this is number one reason why people I know choose to avoid SFUSD.

  8. Hi Rachel, It seems that instead of changing the demographics of a school to improve test scores it might have more useful to the students and families in low-performing schools to actually address their learning environment needs. Low income children and families have many stresses which may impact a child’s ability to learn such as food instability, housing instability, a parent who is not literate, a non-English speaking parent, a parent in jail, an absentee parent, and parents who may have to work multiple jobs. In addition, research has shown that middle class children are more prepared for kindergarten when they arrive on the first day of school with more exposure to the alphabet and a larger vocabulary. I know that SFUSD works with many agencies but why not create a comprehensive program that includes universal childcare for poor and low-income families in CTIP1, universal preschool, parent-child literacy classes so parents could develop their ability to read with their infants and toddlers, lunch programs for low-income families with children under 5. The SF Recreation and Parks department has lots of early childhood recreation classes; why not team up with them and offer a daily program for low-income infants and children with their care-giver which includes lunch and teaches care-givers about resources and answers questions about parenting? Universal childcare for all families living in CTIP1 (who are income qualifying) would probably be a huge help in supporting families. The city could work with City College, the Recreation and Parks Department, and local churches to find locations for childcare programs. The Mission Cultural Center is a huge space and largely vacant during the day. In addition, you would start to mix communities of different families in CTIP1 in childcare which might translate to more diverse schools later on. Part of the childcare program could include resources for parents and families. If you read about Mark Zuckerberg’s more of less failed experiment in impacting the New Jersey school system in the “New Yorker”, you might have noticed they concentrated on children already in school. In contrast, there was NPR story about the success of simple support interventions with parents and their very young children. There is a lot of evidence to support the benefit to children if their families receive help before the children are five. As the district’s goal is to close to the achievement gap, maybe they should start earlier than later. Instead of reworking the assignment system to create diversity and raise test scores, prepare poor and low-income children so they can succeed in school when they arrive. We will never be able to address the achievement gap unless we address the early childhood gap in terms of parental and family resources. If we want poor and low-income children to succeed in school like middle-class children, the state will have to give poor children a middle class childhood.

  9. Rachel, I have not seen the research you cited but a school’s performance can diminish or increase without affecting the performance of African American or Latino students. Can I see that study? Drew has recently fallen out of isolated category. Has African American performance increased?

    If self-segregation is part of the issue then Asian Isolated schools should also have lower academic performance. I would guess that middleclass African Americans perform better than poor African Americans. You could test that hypothesis.

    There is no evidence that poor students do better in middleclass schools. You can also test that hypothesis. How many poor African American children from the Bayview attend middleclass schools? How do they perform academically compared to poor African American Children who go to poor schools? The example of Starr King seems to show the opposite.

    I have looked at academic performance of K-5 racially isolated versus diverse schools. There is no difference in academic performance if you compare performance by race. Racial isolation is not the cause of low academic performance and diversity is not the cure.

  10. One more thought. More data on who requests AA schools and why would be useful. Up until recently Drew Elementary was a racially isolated school. It has just fallen below the 60% benchmark but is still a majority African American school. Drew, a Preparatory Academy, offers quality education programs. Drew is in a census tract that is over 40% Asian. Yet, less than 1% of Drew’s enrollment is Asian. Why aren’t Asian parents in the neighborhood applying to Drew?

    Also why not use means testing alone rather than CTIP1 as the basis for priority consideration?

  11. Actually, segregation is part of the issue — the research we reviewed while redesigning the student assignment system in 2009-10 clearly showed that when schools reach <60 percent Latino/African American/Pacific Islander, academic performance diminishes. Why? Probably because schools with high populations of these students tend to be more affected by poverty and other social issues.

    The point is — racial makeup matters, just as socioeconomic makeup matters. If what we were accomplishing today with the relatively high CTIP preference was integrating schools in middle class neighborhoods while not changing the racial and socioeconomic makeup of schools in poorer neighborhoods, I would probably be fine with it. But we're not — we're accomplishing a drop in the bucket at middle class schools while negatively affecting schools in the Bayview, particularly. If more Bayview residents attended Bayview schools, they would be much more Asian and a little more middle-class. That in itself–based on the research–would probably accomplish a bump in academic achievement for all students at those schools, regardless of their race or socioeconomic class.
    My quarrel with Commissioner Wynns' comment is not that poor children do better in middle class schools — they do. But as Don E pointed out, we don't currently have enough middle class kids to make every school a middle class school. So our current system awards lucky families who are able to take advantage of the choice system, and leaves kids whose families can't or won't (for whatever reason) take advantage of choice to languish in schools made up of only low-income students who look like them.

  12. Segregation isn’t the real issue. Poor performing schools are. If Bayview residents had an amazing school close to their homes, why shouldn’t they want to send their there? Making families travel 2 hours/day just to get to school is unduly burdensome, especially for working class folks. It’s no wonder most people in lower-income neighborhoods choose their neighborhood schools. So let’s do the right thing and focus on making all neighborhood schools better instead of coming up with ever more complex ways of making families have to criss-cross this city just to go to good schools.

  13. Wynn believes the best thing you can do for a poor student is to send them to middleclass schools. That may or may not be true, but under the CTIP1 system, few poor families in the Bayview apply to middleclass schools. Most are across town.

    What about the opposite? Is the worst thing you can do for a middleclass student is to send them to a poor school? That also may or may not be true but many middleclass parents believe that and will leave the public school system if assigned to a poor school. Losing the middleclass decreases socioeconomic diversity and the number of middleclass schools. It also lowers overall academic performance of SFUSD.

    What evidence is there to back up that belief that middleclass schools are good for poor students? What makes a middleclass school middleclass? How would a poor student benefit? How are middleclass schools better than poor schools? If poor students are given priority for middleclass schools, wouldn’t the middleclass schools become poor schools?

    Looking at K-5 schools with the highest percent of economically disadvantaged students compared to schools with the lowest percent, there are obvious differences for parent education, race, and academic performance. However, poor schools have fewer students per teacher (smaller class size). By that measure poor schools are better. The teachers at both have the same years of experience and have the same additional certifications. However, more teachers at the poor schools have advanced college degrees than teachers at the middleclass schools. If having a graduate degree is any indication of quality, poor schools are better.

    It could be that sending poor children to middleclass schools harms them. One example is Starr King. Starr King is in a CTIP1 area, although there is an affluent middleclass enclave nearby. It is not among the schools with the lowest percent of economically disadvantaged but it is close with only 45% economically disadvantaged. Based on the education level of parents it would be considered a middleclass school. African American children who attend poor schools in the Bayview, (Malcom X, Carver, and Drew), have better API academic performance than African American Children who attend Starr King. Of particular note is that 45% of African American children at Drew and 65% at Carver are proficient in math compared to 39% at Starr King.

    Regarding isolated schools, the number of isolated schools could be reduced by eliminating language pathways. Looking at K-5 schools, 80% of the racially isolated schools have language pathways. Of course, language pathways serve a good academic purpose so eliminating them is really not an option. And there is no evidence that racial isolation is the cause of low academic performance. The policy to reduce the number of isolated schools is not supported by any facts.

  14. Giving everyone that lives within a CTIP1 boundary priority status is no different than an AA advantage. Actually it is “more powerful” because we are giving all CTIP1 residents a “mega” neighborhood advantage since anyone that lives within one of the CTIP1 “neighborhoods” can choose almost any school in the City (aka cut the line). If the goal is to try and make more schools socioeconomically diverse…. the CTIP1 advantage should be reserved for families that are truly economically disadvantaged.

  15. Hi Rachel –

    I do appreciate the openness and engagement with which you’ve approached this issue. As exactly the kind of family who would benefit from the proposed “flip” – that is, an upper-middle-class white family with a terrific, oversubscribed neighborhood elementary school – let me say that I am *against* your proposal and I hope you will reconsider it carefully.

    The principal of our terrific neighborhood school has lamented privately to me and my wife that the incoming classes have gone “almost entirely white” in recent years. According to him, this trend has been caused by a combination of the existing neighborhood preference and the lack of busing funds to make it practical for kids to attend schools outside their neighborhoods. Whatever the cause, the outcome is clear: the neighborhood schools are becoming more segregated already, under the current lottery scheme.

    Props for including the Stanford simulation in your prior post, but the fact that your proposal increases both the number of segregated schools and the “near-segregated” schools indicates that you’re moving in the wrong direction. Diversity is good not just for lower-income students but for the higher-income students as well. You need to revise your proposal until the Stanford quants can show a *decrease* in segregation.

    For our family’s part, we didn’t move to San Francisco to barricade our children in a rich enclave. Despite having a tie-breaker at our terrific neighborhood school in last years’ lottery, we ranked it 2nd, and instead we’re thrilled to be sending our daughter to a school that combines diversity with excellence: Rooftop. May the rest of the SFUSD system aspire to the same dual goals.

  16. Hi Rachel, Thanks for the update. I’m wondering if you could have a parent survey included with the 2014-2015 application which included a few questions about how parents made their list and their feelings about their AA schools: If they would go to their AA school if assigned; If they felt that they had a good chance of getting into their AA school; If they did not list their AA school, why not (older sibling, start time, after-care option, preference for language immersion). It seems from the responses on your blog that there are many factors which go into parents’ lists on their application. It might be helpful to get insight into parents’ processes.