The current student assignment system has three goals:
- Preserving parent choice and input into the assignment process: The system attempts to balance the right to the closest school with the ability to choose a school that works better for your family — but because certainty and choice are opposing forces, it doesn’t make everyone happy.
- Enhancing diversity in every one of our schools: I firmly believe in the benefits of kids of all different races, abilities and backgrounds learning together; student assignment is not the sole answer to the overall problem of inequality between schools and gaps in achievement between different groups but it is part of the solution.
- Maintaining equitable access to options: Every child in San Francisco has the right to a quality education. Until this ideal is realized, we need to ensure that all families have equitable access to quality schools.
Like everyone else who pays attention to SFUSD student assignment policy, there are things I like and things I don’t like about our assignment system. I closely monitor choice and enrollment patterns, looking for changes as a consequence of the system (put in place for the 2011-12 school year) and advocating for improvements or adjustments where warranted.
In June 2014, Commissioner Sandra Fewer and I proposed changing the order of preferences for elementary school enrollment to what the Superintendent originally proposed — so that siblings and attendance area come first, then the “CTIP” (Census Tract Integration Preference). After a year of debate in the Student Assignment Committee, the proposal was defeated in early 2015. Since then, I believe the trend of re-segregation has only accelerated. I also believe that the “golden ticket” of CTIP is demonstrably hurting some of our most vulnerable schools, so I have not ruled out trying again to make this change in our system. The Superintendent recently told the SF Chronicle that making student assignment work better is one of his top goals, and I’m excited to work with him on that goal.
I also believe it is absolutely essential for the school district to continue to share as much data as possible about those choice and enrollment patterns, as it has been obvious to me that there is a high level of interest among some segments of the community in how the new system is working. Parents must trust that the district is sharing pertinent information and following its published rules and procedures when assigning students — a continued commitment to fairness and transparency will help build this trust.
I will continue to post all data and analysis I receive using a “student assignment” tag so that interested members of the public can more easily follow this issue.
I’m absolutely not against diversity. Unfortunately, the CTIP preference isn’t as yet providing the diversity we hoped it would, and there’s evidence that the relatively high power of the preference under the current system is disadvantaging residents of some attendance areas. People eligible to use the CTIP preference will still have preferential access to citywide schools and any attendance area school after siblings and attendance area residents are placed, and before applicants without a CTIP preference. Given that CTIP doesnt’ seem to be as yet the best lever for desegregating schools, this seems a fairer way of achieving the Board’s goal of providing equitable access to options across the district.