Tag Archives: attendance areas

Oh, so many questions!

Updated 10:30 p.m. August 20  — I really do need to get a good night’s sleep tonight, but I’m trying to answer all the questions I’m getting and sort out for myself what issues really need addressing by the staff and which are just issues that are bound to arise because some people feel they “won” while others feel they “lost” when they saw the attendance area maps and feeder patterns.  Here’s my working list of questions I am filing away to ask the staff at my next opportunity:

  • Language programs and pathways – lots of questions here about why some pathways are separated and others are merged — why wouldn’t it make sense, for example, to have both of the Japanese language/culture pathways (one at Clarendon and one at Rosa Parks) go together to the same middle school? Why did we feed the two very small Mandarin pathways (Starr King and Jose Ortega) into two separate middle schools rather than bringing them together?
  • Child development programs – the explanatory materials for parents need more explanation of our Child Development Programs, how to apply and a map of where they are located.
  • Middle school capacities vs. likely enrollment year one: the McKinley parents have complained that it looks like too few schools are feeding into Everett Middle School, but that seems to be the case for most of the middle schools. See this comment thread for more info.
  • Should we tweak the west side feeder patterns? I love that Cobb is feeding into Presidio and the 1-California and 38-Geary bus lines are a straight shot from Lower Pac Hts to the outer Richmond. But I wonder if perhaps Peabody or McCoppin should also feed into Roosevelt to boost the school’s neighborhood draw and keep the school socioeconomically diverse. Both schools are much closer to Roosevelt than they are to Presidio.
  • “Placeholder” pathways for Flynn and John Muir into ISA — IB programs are sequential and are not fully built at the elementary schools. Until they are, students feeding into ISA will not be getting IB in any form — why make them travel so far until the program options are in place?
  • (Added Aug. 20) GATE – some middle schools have honors programs; others take a differentiated approach with high-achieving students. This is an enormous hot-button issue, as some people think the answer is to eliminate the remedial track altogether and instead educate everyone to a higher (i.e., college-ready) standard. Others think that the equity issue is that there aren’t honors tracks at all schools.   Historically, the “honors” track was really the “college-prep” track, but now everyone is supposed to be on the college-ready track. Most people will probably agree that there isn’t much place for a remedial track at middle and high schools, but some will insist that a high-achieving track should still exist. My question is — how many students are truly gifted and how many are happily yet appropriately on-track for college? This distinction has gotten blurry over the decades and there are big fireworks to come on this issue.  

Attendance areas and feeder patterns

As promised, tonight district staff unveiled the draft maps of attendance areas and middle school feeder patterns. I don’t have electronic copies of the maps, but they should be posted at the following site by tomorrow: www.sfusd.edu/Enroll
Tonight’s meeting was televised, and while you won’t be able to make out the teensy tiny maps on from the telecast, there was some interesting discussion and public comment.

Generally, I didn’t feel there were many huge surprises, or attendance areas that felt terribly “gerrymandered.” Parents from McKinley Elementary were on hand to protest the proposal that their school would feed into Everett Middle School; another group of parents pushing for a neighborhood-only school assignment scheme also came to speak for public comment.

The McKinley comments were difficult for me, because it’s a community I feel very connected to. My own daughter attended a pre-K class at McKinley for two years; more recently I have been honored to be a judge at McKinley’s last two DogFest fundraisers (a lovely and fun annual event). I also try to never miss the school’s annual Junior Olympics celebration, which manages to be adorable, fun and uplifting all at the same time.  I understand that parents at McKinley have worked tremendously hard to boost enrollment at their school (a few years after my daughter went on to Kindergarten, McKinley ended up on the district’s dreaded closure list and had to “prove” it could attract more students in order to get off the list — thank goodness we don’t have a closure list anymore!).  I also understand that Everett Middle School is on the state’s own dreaded list of persistently underperforming schools, so for many parents enrolling at Everett represents a leap of faith — trust that the school district can and will turn the school around.  On the other hand, the whole reason we wrote middle school feeder patterns into the new assignment plan was to give families the reassurance that their child’s peer group would remain stable during the transition to middle school. As Commissioner Wynns said tonight, “Everett will be McKinley,” if students follow the feeder patterns. (Note to the neighborhood schools people: Everett is McKinley’s neighborhood school, less than three-quarters of a mile away according to Google Maps).

I didn’t like hearing McKinley parents classify Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy (another elementary school designated to feed into Everett) as “low-performing” — its API has steadily risen in recent years and is now at 783, up from 768 last year.  (McKinley is at 810 this year — up from 786 last year. Does that mean that last year McKinley parents thought their school was low-performing? I doubt it).

I also didn’t like hearing some McKinley parents advocating for other high-performing schools to be sent to Everett — either instead of or alongside their own children.

Finally, Everett has an enormous opportunity in the next few years that is represented by SFUSD’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding request poised for approval by the State Board of Education next week. SFUSD’s SIG grant originally asked for $48 million in funding for SFUSD’s 10 persistently underperforming schools; we are likely to be granted $45 million, with well over $3 million of it going towards our turnaround plan for Everett in the next three years.  I understand that people are worried and distrustful that SFUSD can turn around an underperforming school — but more expertise, focus and MONEY is going into Everett this year, and I do believe it will make a difference.

Anyway, it’s late and I’m tired, and there will be many more opportunities to respond to the draft attendance areas/feeder patterns — several community meetings are planned and there is also an online survey (staff asked for people who fill out the survey to be very specific in their feedback, naming schools and street names if at all possible, so that the feedback can be more easily compiled). Once the enrollment web site is live, let me know your thoughts in the comments.