Pause for amendments

Well, there will be no Equity in Student Assignment vote tomorrow. At the Student Assignment Committee on April 13, Commissioners asked for amendments that would underscore our commitment to improving conditions in schools that have concentrations of underserved students and are located in CTIP census tracts.

We circulated a draft amendment but it needs more work. Commissioner Walton in particular is watching this keenly and I welcome the opportunity to work with him on wording an amendment that gets this support across.

(Thanks to Parents for Public Schools-San Francisco‘s Miranda Martin for the Board Watch notes linked above).

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13 responses to “Pause for amendments

  1. Rachael,

    Shifting the discussion from diversity to what constitutes a good school is encouraging. I like Lori’s comments.

    This posting is redundant but the finding in the annual report that the Attendance Area priority caused less diversity bothered me. I dug deeper into the data. The numbers don’t add up.

    The Attendance Area priority simulation caused 10 fewer African Americans and 15 more Whites. The report did not define diversity or explain how 15 more Whites made any of the nine schools less diverse. I have difficulty conceptualizing how 1 or 2 more or less students of any race at a school with 400 children could alter the school’s complexion. That more Whites and fewer African Americans means less diversity is a value judgment not a fact.

    There are two SFUSD definitions of diversity. No more than 45% of one race at a school defines more diversity. 60% or more of one race defines isolation/segregation (less diversity). The report did not show that Attendance Area priority decreased the number of Diverse Schools or increased the number of Racially Isolated schools.

    The majority of K-5 schools, 84%, did not use the CTIP1 tie breaker. It is not possible for CTIP1 priority to have had any impact on the majority of K-8 schools. The nine schools where the CTIP1 priority was used are not representative, they are 38% White compared to 16% for all schools and 13% for all schools minus the nine.

    The nine schools added 140 more White students between 2012 and 2013; there were 33 White CTIP1 applicants versus 19 African American CTIP1 applicants. For all nine schools combined the percent of White enrollment increased from 35% in 2012 to o 37.8% in 2013. That 2.8% difference is significant, not likely due to reporting error as a result of the unreliable race reporting system. However, that difference occurred using the CTIP1 Priority tie breaker. Using the Attendance Area tie breaker White enrollment was 38.2%. That 0.4% difference is not significant.

    In a few of the nine schools there was more or less diversity between 2012 and 2013. Going from 51% of one race down to 45%, going from over 60% of one race to less than 60%, going from less than 45% of one race to more than 45%. However those changes occurred irrespective of the priority method used; CTIP1 or Attendance Area. The difference between CTIP1 priority and Attendance Area priority was not significant.

    The belief that more Whites means less diversity has an element of truth. But in that regard more Hispanics also means less diversity. Fewer African Americans and Asians means more diversity.

    The annual reports suggest that parental choice is the primary cause of less diversity. If parents select schools based on race or language, then a decline in the total number of that race would increase diversity, and an increase in the numbers of that race would decrease diversity. In fact, that is shown to be true for K-5 schools.

    Between 2012 and 2013, African Americans at K-5 schools declined by 357 students, down from 10% to 8% of enrollment. Hispanics increased by 361 students up from 26% to 27% of enrollment. Asians decreased by 140 students from 35% to 34%. Whites increased by 294 students from 15% to 16%.

    Fewer African Americans between 2012 and 2013 caused more diversity, one less African American isolated school: Caver. More Hispanics caused one additional isolated school: Flynn, and eliminated two Diverse Schools: Muir and Guadalupe. Fewer Asians caused four fewer isolated schools: Garfield, Alamo, McCoppin, and Jefferson, and caused two additional Diverse School: Argonne and Yick Wo. New Traditions, went from diverse to a White majority. Another Diverse School, Peabody, lost its diversity status with the increase in White students.

    Neither the CTIP1 priority nor the Attendance Area Priority is likely to make any difference. The other factors such a parental choice overwhelm any impact either priority may have. And diversity does not define good or bad schools.

  2. Sorry for the grammar errors (than vs. then.) It was late (for me.)

  3. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to this. I love this conversation because, although it stems from the Student Assignment discussion, it is actually about the big picture (which you, Rachel, so clearly state that Student Assignment is only one piece of the puzzle.)
    Yes, I do believe that a simple statement about it being difficult to make every school a good school is loaded with subtext. It is crying to be scrutinized. I worked at a school where test scores were low and parent involvement was low. Yet the teaching and learning was phenomenal. Students did grow academically and social-emotionally. Incredible student growth!!! Was this not a good school?
    I send my kids to a school where the principal has changed 5 times in 8 years and where leadership is questionable. Parent involvement is strong but often at odds with the district and school personnel. Test scores are fine. Is this not a good school?
    I work at a small school with a strong arts program, strong parent involvement, and consistent ,though not supportive, leadership. Test scores are good. The staff morale, though, is low – nearly toxic. Is this not a good school?
    All these schools, like many in the district, have a disparity in test scores for the significant sub groups. Are they all “not good schools?”
    If we are going to talk about “not a good school” it would be best to have parameters for that so we all know what we are talking about (whether we agree or not.)
    And, maybe, what I really think we should talk about is progress. Whatever we talk about and pay attention to that is what will grow. I’ll make an analogy to trying to get rid of a bad habit. If a person constantly is thinking about not doing something, giving it plenty of mind space and attention, it is highly likely that the habit will continue. On the other hand, if, whenever the person is tempted by the bad habit, the person begins to think about a replacement activity, the bad habit is more easily expelled.
    I believe that if the conversation shifts to all the work that is being done and the progress that is being made and the next steps that are being proposed than that is the work that will grow. If we continue to talk about “not good schools” than “not good schools” will grow.
    And, unless the school district has some magic bullet to solve poverty in San Francisco, we better keep talking about what works and keep innovating and thinking out of the box to find what it is that supports all the students in all their diversity.

  4. I agree with Carolinesf. The issue is poverty. In San Francisco, where income inequality is well documented, poor children are born into families with significantly less resources and then attend public institutions that have been radically underfunded for the last decade. If we want to help close the achievement gap, we need to support poor and working families with policy. That means higher taxes on the extremely wealthy, funding public institutions, and making the public sector rich with resources. We should start with pre-natal care, universal childcare and universal pre-school in CTIP1 areas for all families with gross family income under $65,000 per year. We need to reinvest in our public services and institution to balance out the resources between the rich and the poor. The wealthy in San Francisco have access to health care, child care, and exceptional schools. Poor and working class families have a mishmash of services which have all been in decline, in terms of funding, since the 1980s. Accounting for inflation, SFUSD schools are not even funded at pre-recession levels even though we are in the midst of an economic boom.

  5. i am a parent downtown living in a CTIP 1 area – upper tenderloin. I do question whether public housing is a good way to determine a family is disadvantaged. Many families in the tenderloin live in small private apartments: studios and 1-bedrooms. With the new possible amendments to CTIP 1 many of these families would be overlooked.
    With the recent increasing in housing prices, I don’t see a way out of the upper tenderloin. We just can’t afford much more money dedicated to housing and we own our place.
    I would like my child to go to school outside our area so he sees a part of the city without drug dealers and homeless people on every corner and surrounding all of his local playgrounds. Where a walk home from school does not involve side stepping adults arguing and possible violence. Is this too much to ask for?

  6. I looked at the nine schools used to conclude that the flip would decrease diversity. These are popular schools where CTIP1 priority was implemented. These nine popular schools tend to have more Whites and fewer economically disadvantaged students.

    Under the current CTIP1 priority system, these nine schools enrolled 140 more Whites and 19 fewer African Americans between School Year 2012-13 and 2013-14. CTIP1 Applications to these nine schools came from 33 Whites and 20 African Americans. If more Whites than African Americans is interpreted as less diversity, then less diversity is occurring with the CTIP1 priority. This suggests that lowing the CTIP1 priority would have little do to with more or less diversity.

    Of the nine schools, four are diverse with three of those four having Asians as the largest group. Four of the remaining five are White majority or near majority; one is majority Asian.

    However, as a result of the simulation one of the diverse schools, Argonne, lost its diversity rating. So in this case the claim that the flip would mean less diversity is true but not meaningful. Argonne went from 44.9% to 45.1% Asian, just exceeding the 45% threshold. This came at the expense of Whites going down from 31.3% to 30.8%. None of the other schools had any change in classification.

    Under the current CTIP1 priority system one school, Alvarado is in danger of losing its diverse classification. It is now 43.4% Hispanic. Of CTIP1 applications to the nine schools, 60% of the CTIP1 Hispanic applications want to Alvarado. Under the simulation the Hispanic percent was lowered to 42.8%; Asians increased from 4.2 to 4.4%. In this school, lowing the CTIP1 priority could increase diversity by increasing underrepresented Asians.

    As can be seen by the almost imperceptible changes, using the simulation to suggest lowering the CTIP1 priority would cause a meaningful change is ludicrous. It will likely have no real effect one way or the other. The changing City and neighborhood demographics is the driving force.

    The CTIP1 priority systems has accomplished nothing. It has been a waste of time, not worth the angst it has caused. The entire program should be scrapped. However, if it must be tweaked, then giving higher priority to the Attendance Area could change application priorities and attract Whites and the middleclass back to public schools making public school more diverse.

  7. I tend to look skeptically at statistical studies done by persons with strong beliefs. There is the danger of confirmation bias. Also, policies should be based on observations not speculative simulations. Look at what has actually happened, not at what might happen.

    The finding that simulations show decreasing diversity needs further discussion. Where are the details? How was diversity defined? Did any of the 9 schools fall above or below the no more than 45% of one race criteria when the simulation was applied?

    Where are the facts showing that if families made decisions based on info other than school achievement there would be a decrease in the achievement gap?
    What is the significance of declining Black and Asian numbers and the increasing of White and Hispanic numbers? Since Whites are underrepresented in the public schools, increasing Whites should improve diversity.

    The finding that White families select schools with higher academic achievement should not be confused with the primary reason why they select those schools. There is probably a minimum threshold but academic achievement may not the driving force. Higher school achievement may be the effect not the cause.

    Dr. Carter is a true believer. Should diversity be valued over academic achievement? I think many would disagree. The Board should be sending the message that it values academic achievement. Which K-5 schools are high and low quality and how.

    Dr. Kurlaender supports strengthening neighborhood schools. One of the rationales for bussing was that it would bring middleclass families and their resources to poor schools and thereby improve those schools. It didn’t work then and it is not likely to work now. Students may gain from diverse classrooms but looking at K-5 academic performance in San Francisco, diversity makes no difference. However, I would guess getting a bright African American child out of a bad learning environment into a better learning environment would help.

    I liked most of Fewers’ comments but she may be confusing cause and effect. Racial isolation is not the cause of adverse effects; or for that matter, in the case of Asians and Whites, the cause of good effects. For K-5, there is no difference for African American math proficiency in Isolated/majority African American schools compared to diverse schools.

    Since the Bayview is the only diverse (the 45% rule) family neighborhood in the City Commissioner Walton’s desires are spot-on. If only all residents of the Bayview would apply to schools there. It is a big if.

    I am not sure what Walton saw at Starr King. African American math proficiency at diverse Starr King is 32% versus African American math proficiency at Majority African American Carver which is 65%. However, the socioeconomic profiles of African American students at Starr King may be different than African American Students at Carver even though they are not all that far apart geographically. I don’t for a minute believe diversity was the cause of the lower scores at Starr King.

  8. The issue is poverty. Overall on average, low income correlates with low academic achievement and many other problems associated with poverty. A school that serves a critical mass of impoverished students becomes overwhelmed and struggles, and these are the schools we harshly attack as “failing schools” (a cruel label that shouldn’t be used). There are outliers (many individuals and a few schools that break out of this mold), but overall, this is the situation — worldwide, not just in S.F. or the U.S. No one has ever found a solution that’s “scalable” — that can be expanded to solve the problem on a large scale.

  9. LInda, the African American distance thing may be a function of where most live. Didn’t the report find that the majority of those who live in the Bayview apply to schools outside the Bayview? I suspect if you compared the Distance that Asians in the Bayview travel from home it may be higher than for African Americans. It is not a matter of being attracted to a school farther away as it is avoiding a school close by. If you look a African Americans who live in the southwestern part of the City I doubt you would find a difference.

    What is the definition of a “good” school?

  10. @Linda and @Lori – remember that these are notes taken by a PPS-SF employee and not verbatim comments. I provided them simply as some context as I just cannot keep up with recapping meetings now that I’m working full time. So while they looked accurate to me, I can’t vouch for every single word. I think the comment about choices made by African American families is simply meant to be factual, not characterizing distance from home as a desirable quality but instead remarking on an observation.

    @Lori – I remember Commissioner Wynns saying something like that and I think she meant that making every school a good school is difficult. Every urban district in the country is trying to make every school a quality school and I don’t know of one that has achieved it, though some are much further along than we are. I don’t really know what you mean about “deconstructing” that. Do you think there was a subtext in her comments? What do you think it was?

    @Karen – staff is supposedly working on some solutions to the Clarendon AA problem, but I don’t know exactly shape those solutions will take. My understanding is that they will be bringing us a recommendation but moving programs and redrawing lines is incredibly complex. For example, if you redraw one set of lines you are actually redrawing every contiguous attendance area, which then might neccessitate further adjustments, setting off a chain reaction.

  11. Is there any update on a solution to the Clarendon AA issue? What solutions are being considered now as it sounds from the discussion notes that moving JBBP out of Clarendon is not being considered. How about redrawing the attendance area for Clarendon? I live closer to Jefferson than I do Clarendon and yet I’m in the Clarendon AA and am basically dead last in consideration for any school in my area within a three mile radius.

    I know another family a few houses down from me who are in the same situation as me whose child got assigned to the same low performing school over three miles away and they are absolutely distraught to the point of selling their house and moving out of SF. We’re real people living here too. We’re not all rich and able to afford private school. I live paycheck to paycheck, pay my taxes and want to be treated fairly too.

  12. “African American families select schools farther from home” What? This is true? That doesn’t sound like a helpful defining characteristic. What do those schools have in common? I don’t think your average African-American parent is thinking “Gee, how far can I travel with my kid today?” I mean, isn’t some other quality, other than distance, attracting these parents to particular schools?

  13. Hi Rachel,
    I read the PPS Board Report that you linked to in your post. I am wondering if you could say more about commissioner Wynns’ comment that making every school a good school is really hard. I think folks in and out of the field of education would be interested to hear this statement deconstructed from the board’s point of view.
    Students do this work in the classroom. They read complex text and then they deconstruct it in order to aid comprehension. Though on its face the comment “making every school a good school is really hard” is not “complex text” I do believe that there is subtext that needs to be unpacked. Subtext is what, I believe, Superintendent Garcia is referring to when he says (in the same PPS Board Report) “I’m chuckling because we are getting to the real stuff.”
    Does that make sense? Would you be willing to deconstruct/ unpack “making every school a good school is really hard.”?