4th annual student assignment report is out!

The 4th annual report on student assignment outcomes is out and the “Equity in Student Assignment” resolution I authored with  Commissioner Fewer is a major focus of the analysis. Our resolution will also be the main topic of Monday evening’s meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment, 6 pm on 4/13 in the Board Room at 555 Franklin St.

I’m looking forward to a great discussion. In the meantime, you’ll find me poring over the many pages of data in the latest report.


16 responses to “4th annual student assignment report is out!

  1. Don E: So first the problem was “contradictory” statements, then the problem is “inconsistent or misleading” statements, now the problem is lack of citation?

    The quote comes under the heading, “Following up on his findings from 2013, Mr. Kasman conducted a series of simulations in 2014 to explore policy conditions that might produce better results.” I suppose they don’t publish the extensive results of Mr. Kasman’s testing, but at least they reference the source of the data.

    And while they don’t make this abundantly clear, I believe the relevant data appears on page 33-34, as you have guessed. Although the results were not only applied to Clarendon but nine schools in all. Clarendon itself gains 8 Asians, losing Hispanic, African American and White numbers.

    I think the broader point is not about “diversity” but the effect to the access of those groups who are hit hardest by racial isolation. The CTIP1 flip has minimal effect on a district level, but it does take away access to schools like Clarendon from disadvantaged groups. And it’s not really fair to look at the numbers from one year as an accurate percentage change over a school’s overall enrollment. One must assume a similar trend over the 6 years of students at any given school.

  2. Hi Commissioner Norton.
    We live in Lower Haight (Buchanan/Herman, Muir is our AA school); didn’t get any of the 10 schools in our first round Kindergarten application and included 23 schools in our R2 application. As it turns out, our census tract was changed to CTIP3 from CTIP1 in 2013, something we didn’t check last Fall but should have. In classic ‘gerrymandering’ style, the demarcation lines zig zag right around our house.

    Can SFUSD provide more transparency into how the census tracts were scored/adjusted, including child density, test score trends, etc.? This methodology was alluded to but not explicitly defined. Is there any correlation between the school selection/assignment trends and test scores as well? For example, partner with the SF Indicator Project (see http://www.sfindicatorproject.org/) to do some simple Google spreadsheets that aggregate/cite research data in the public domain for filtering, sorting, and also discourse among parents in the community? Fundraising and parent participation also need to be seen side by side with enrollment and test score data. If SFUSD has a rationale for NOT sharing data/being transparent, can you be explicit about that?

    I can see a lot of different types of questions from different parents; all of these should be much easier for SFUSD (or parents) to answer if the big data is there. It’s 2015, not 1985.

    One more question: John Muir Elementary hasn’t updated their schoolloop.com homepage since before the 2013-2014 school year (almost 2-years ago). Is there a minimum set of things a school should be doing to share information with parents of its current/prospective students, PTA/volunteers or not?

    Thanks in advance for reading through the forum comments and questions.

  3. Jim C: The problem with the statement that ranking the attendance area priority higher than the low test-score priority resulted in a decrease in racial diversity, is the lack of a citation. There are no data to support that claim. Nor does the report define diverse. Without that information it is a misleading statement that could be used to reduce support for the proposed flip. Who would vote to decrease diversity?

    In previous reports diverse is defined as no more than 45% of any one group. But there could be other definitions; the percent of that race districtwide or the percent of that race in the population. The problem with the districtwide definition is that Whites are underrepresented compared to the city’s population.

    The only reference in the report regarding more or less diversity might be the model as applied to Clarendon. It showed that the flip would increase the number of Whites at Clarendon by 15 students. Currently Whites are 31% of Clarendon’s enrollment. Adding 15 White students would raise it to 33%.Compared to the 45% definition Clarendon would continue to be diverse. Compared to the general population data Whites would still be underrepresented. If anything adding more Whites to Clarendon would increase diversity.

    An interesting observation about Clarendon: The Black language proficiently is 93%. That is higher than for Asians at Clarendon. The next highest percent for African American children is 60% at Alvarado. The African American average for all schools is 31% or 32%. Clearly Clarendon is an outlier. Is Clarendon’s score an error? Is there something different about Black children at Clarendon? Or does Clarendon have a policy or procedure that should be shared with other schools. They may have a best practice that will solve the gap problem. Someone should be looking.

  4. Steph — I think your suggested change is a pretty good idea, but I think the “first choice” side of it should be removed. What happens to families who really want a language program like Clarendon JBBP, Alice Fong Yu, or Alvarado ahead of Clarendon GE, but put Clarendon GE 2nd or 3rd? Should they be penalized for not wanting Clarendon GE first? Better perhaps to say that if you didn’t get into your AA school or higher you get a tiebreaker at an adjacent school.

    That said, it’s possible that the algorithm as written couldn’t do this. For example, if the algorithm hasn’t yet determined who got in where when the tiebreakers are applied then how can it know who to give this new tiebreaker to? As I understand it, the algorithm doesn’t care about your ranked choice until after it’s already placed you in whatever schools have room in them… only then does it look at rankings to know which one you’d want to keep.

    Don E — I still don’t find anything inconsistent or misleading in the district’s report. They are trying to make sense of a assignment patterns over a large district with a wide variety of groups applying to a wide variety of schools. Of course there are going to be contradictory patterns (such as diversity and segregation existing in the same system). There is no one size fits all answer.

  5. I’d also like to suggest an algorithm change to address all attendance areas that do not have enough seats for residents who make it their top choice: For anyone who requests their attendance area as first choice and doesn’t get it, they get a preference for attending any other adjacent neighborhood school (just behind attendance area preference), and a preference for any citywide school in their attending area’s footprint.

    Redrawing districts may make sense, but it won’t change the fact that there will likely always be a few students who will not get into their neighborhood school even if they list it as their first choice. Creating a preference that allows more students to attend an adjacent school, without displacing children in the adjacent school’s attending area, could mitigate this problem.

  6. Thanks for sharing this informative report! I’m the parent of a preschooler in the Clarendon attendance area, and by day I’m a policy attorney in a different field, so I’m both personally invested in finding a workable solution and sensitive to the need to balance a range of concerns.

    Unfortunately, I missed the meeting on April 13. I’d love to hear your thoughts on which Clarendon solutions the board is leaning towards.

    Also, did you consider giving an attendance area preference for seats in the Clarendon and Alice Fong Yu language pathways? Like many in my neighborhood, I see these language pathways as a great plus. Adding an attendance area preference for these programs could be a win-win and allow us to side-step choosing between cutting back on language pathways or ensuring that children have access to the schools in their communities.

    Of course, giving Clarendon folks more attendance area options could make it really complicated to figure out their odds of getting into a school if the computer algorithm continues to focus on their first choice. I’d also be interested in whether a computer algorithm could guarantee that every Clarendon applicant could be guaranteed a spot in at least one of the several excellent schools in the neighborhood.


  7. Jim C: I should have said inconsistent or misleading. Policy guidance should be based on apples to apples. Speculating that the flip could decrease “diversity” is misleading. The policy issues are reducing the number of racially isolated schools and increasing the number of diverse schools. The prediction model did not address those policy questions. A currently diverse school that increases the number of Whites will continue to be diverse. The flip will not likely change number of diverse schools.

    The prediction model that the flip will decrease diversity is speculative. The report points out that the literature on school choice makes it clear that changing information will alter decision-making. The flip may very well change how applicants list priorities. And the flip could also change who applies. It could attract underrepresented Whites and affluent applicants back to the public schools. It could also attract affluent Black and Hispanic families who now send their children to private school back to public schools.

    I was guessing that Black children at Clarendon have different socioeconomic profiles than children at isolated schools. That guess was based on the consistently high education level of parents and the low percent of economically disadvantaged at Clarendon as well as Miraloma and Grattan. It would be interesting to see how many come from public housing. The central location of Clarendon may be a factor, but will priority for public housing mean more Blacks and Hispanics at these schools?

    The report says families tend to select schools with higher proportions of students of the same race. The report also says that first choice assignments (alone) would result in more racially isolated schools. But then goes on to say that increasing choice has a positive impact on racial diversity?

    The report may confuse cause and effect. The fact is that White and Asian families select schools with higher average achievement than African American and Hispanic families. And it is a fact that White families tend to apply to schools with higher achievement levels and lower economically disadvantaged. However, those factors may not be the cause of the decision as the report suggests. White families like others may be making the decision based on race.

    On the discussion about a neighborhood priority leading to less diversity may be true. Most San Francisco neighborhoods are not diverse. The only diverse family neighborhood in the City is the Bayview where residents tend not to apply to schools there.

  8. Don, actually, the two statements about diversity that you cite aren’t contradictory.

    The first one compares the previous (pre-2010) assignment system to the current one, finding that the number of schools with 60%+ of a single ethnicity has grown from 24 to 30 schools under the present system. It’s worth noting that the majorities in question identify themselves as Asian, Hispanic or African American; none are 60%+ white.

    The second statement is about tweaking the CTIP1 priority under the *current* system, finding that the proposed “CTIP flip” would slightly decrease diversity at some broadly popular schools. In this case, it’s talking about schools which are currently fairly diverse but would lose African American and Hispanic enrollees under the proposed flip, becoming more white.

    So really, apples and oranges. It’s true that the district has schools at very different ends of the spectrum — some very diverse schools and some very monoethnic/monoracial. But these statements each focus on a different end of that spectrum.

    Meanwhile, I disagree that one can’t make predictions about choice behavior post-CTIP flip because “models reflect the current choices based on the current system.” There would be no incentive to change one’s listing priorities post-CTIP1 flip. CTIP1 residents would still have a better shot at Clarendon than most people. And anyway, the system doesn’t penalize applicants for placing unattainable schools at the top of their list; in fact many people already do so.

    One last sticking point: you suggest that African Americans at Clarendon, Grattan and New Traditions are generally from higher income/education families, and question how many of these enrollees come from public housing. Since there is no data to back this up, I assume you base your assumption on the fact that low income/education families would not have the resources or impetus to trek across town for a highly touted school. Not an unreasonable assumption, but Clarendon has a bus that goes through CTIP1 zones, and New Traditions has a CTIP1 zone itself and also borders 3 heavily African American AAs.

  9. Making public housing and foster youth the tie breaker from CTIP1 areas makes sense. Or even better, make it the tie breaker no matter the area. And the suggestions for Clarendon make sense. My guess is that the JBBP parents would object to moving, however.

    It is also my guess is that Black children from CTIP1 areas who attend Clarendon and Grattan are from families with higher income and education compared to other Black families. It is interesting is that Whites from CTIP1 areas outnumber Blacks applying for Clarendon (9 Whites versus 6 Blacks) and Grattan, (9 Whites versus 0 Blacks). How many of the Black children at Clarendon, Grattan, and New Traditions live in public housing?

    The report seems to have contradictory statements: “Overall, the number of schools with more than 60% of a single race/ethnicity has grown from 24 to 30 since we implemented the new student assignment lottery in 2010.” “Ranking the attendance area priority higher than the low test-score priority, and/or eliminating low test-score priority from the assignment process, resulted in a decrease in racial diversity . . .” The problem with concluding that diversity would decrease with attendance area priority based on the models is that models reflect the current choices based on the current system. Also the model assumes reasons for choice that may not be true. As in any model it is GIGO. I hope your proposal passes.

    The report says many isolated schools are in isolated neighborhoods, but it seems obvious that language pathways play a role in racial isolation. In West Portal Asians are around 30% of the population but West Portal School is 64% Asian. What if you looked at the racial breakdown of students enrolled in general education only; would it show more or less racial isolation? However, if language pathways have merit then racial isolation may a good thing.

    The new Willie Brown School is held up as an example of how programs can achieve greater diversity. According to a newspaper article I saw the percent of Asian applicants was significantly lower than the percent of Asians in the area.

    It is clear that Whites are underrepresented and economically disadvantage overrepresented in the public schools. SFUSD enrollment does not reflect the City’s socioeconomic diversity. According to the report, Whites tend to leave the public schools if they don’t get their choice. Does that concern the Board?

  10. Is there any information on the high school results? cant tell you how disappointing it is to have recieved an assignment of Thurgood Marshall High School for my daughter when we live about 10 blocks from Washington High School. Really? 1hr+ on two buses to get to school? Really SFUSD?

  11. Is the report with more detailed data available? Specifically the break-down for each school with how many requested the school and how many were assigned? City wide school included?

  12. If I’m reading it right, it seems like this report indicates that your “Equity in Student Assignment” resolution would increase the number of racially isolated schools, albeit marginally. What’s your take on that?

  13. Thanks for posting this. I find this report particularly insightful, even more so than those that preceded it. All the data collected comparing different models and hypotheticals is particularly interesting to me. The additional research you and Commissioner Fewer instigated has been really worthwhile.

    It seems clear to me from this that CTIP1 is marginally helpful, but flipped or not, a different tie-breaker would be ideal. I liked the suggestions about tiebreakers for public housing or foster youth replacing CTIP1. I also agree that “value-adds” in the Bayview and other isolated schools could be very beneficial for enticing families to choose those schools.

    This report also reinforces a suspicion I have about racially-based preferences in SF public schools. I suspect that Asian and Hispanic families self-segregate due to language needs and/or cultural preferences.

    To this end, language pathways and immersion schools are contributing to the segregation in SFUSD. I am not trying to knock these programs; in fact my child just started at an immersion school and we are very happy about it. But the unfortunate thing in my mind is that, while immersion provides added value that boosts the popularity of a school, the benefits are mostly shared by Asians, Hispanics and Whites.

    African American families are cut out of the mix, because they don’t prefer immersion for their own children (according to enrollment stats); and generally-speaking they bring no non-English language to the table (for example, I doubt we have the same number of native Spanish speaking black people in SF as in East Coast cities). Meanwhile these programs likely entice Spanish and Asian families away from neighborhood schools, sometimes leaving more African American families behind.

    Again, this is not meant to knock a very successful and growing movement towards language immersion, which SFUSD should be proud of. But it is something to consider when planning next steps to combat segregation.

    One last point I want to make is about the stated importance of diversity amongst SFUSD applicants. The report analyzes the responses school applicants gave about the relative importance of diversity. But I wonder what “diversity” means to respondents. For example, does diversity mean “the existence of minorities?” Or does it mean “the existence of racial groups *other* than my own?”

    This is not a trivial distinction, because even within racial groups you can imagine how the word can be viewed differently. Do African American families value diversity because they value inclusion, or because they are disinclined to choose a racially isolated school? For that matter, a white family might *value* diversity because it means not being sent to a non-white racially isolated school, or might *not* value diversity because it’s almost a given at SFUSD schools that their children will encounter a healthy number of non-white children.

  14. Interesting read. Thanks for posting!

    I do think that some of the request patterns are likely skewed by sibling requests. I think siblings generally make up (give or take) in the region of 30 to 35% of the total requests for Kindergarten and choice patterns for those families are likely to be quite different than for new applicant families. For example, we live in the New Traditions AA. New Traditions is a great school and was high on our list when we applied for Kindergarten for my oldest child. But New Traditions wasn’t on our list at all for my 2nd and 3rd children. We (like many other families) wanted all our children to attend the same Elementary School and, with sibling priority, we knew we only needed to list that one school. I would suspect that at least some of the numbers which seem to suggest that people don’t want their AA schools are being driven up by the sibling factor.

    Similarly, I would love to understand how many of the AA residents who were assigned schools such as Clarendon/Grattan/New Traditions etc actually got in because of sibling priority rather than AA priority.

    Thank you again for sharing this information and for all that you do for our city’s public schools.

  15. Thanks for including this in this … now if only SFUSD adhered to the law 🙂

    —> “SPECIAL EDUCATION The Individual Education Program (“IEP”) team will determine appropriate placement for special education students.”

  16. Thank you Commissioner Norton. I can’t say how much I appreciate the fact that you regularly share information with families about what’s going on at the BOE. I’ll be very interested in seeing the results. 🙂