Two relatively overlooked San Francisco public schools gained a prestigious state honor on Tuesday as they were among the 5 percent of elementary schools statewide named “Distinguished Schools.”
While Sunset and Lafayette elementary schools score high on state standardized tests, they get considerably fewer applicants during enrollment season than some of the more well-known schools in the district.
Sunset Elementary, for example, received a state score of 833 — on a scale of 200 to 1,000 — on the state’s school ranking system known as the Academic Performance Index. An 800 ranking is considered very good by the state.
Only 145 parents requested the school last year in the school district’s enrollment process, however, compared to the top choice, Rooftop Elementary School in Twin Peaks, which had an API of 818. Rooftop was requested by 819 parents.
The other Distinguished School designee, Lafayette Elementary, earned an 808 API score in 2005, up from 798 last year and a 771 in 2000. Due to its rising test scores, in recent years the school has been considered a hidden gem. About 150 parents requested the school last year.
Lafayette Principal Ruby Brown, who began at the Richmond District school as a teacher in 1984, said the school’s academic achievement was not aimed at winning awards.
“We know we’re distinguished, now I guess we’re no longer hidden,” Brown. said. “We do it for ourselves, but it’s nice to get some recognition.”
Although 30 of the San Francisco Unified School District’s elementary schools were eligible to apply for theaward, according to Chief Development Officer Matt Kelemen, only seven went through the process. Of those, only Sunset and Lafayette won the state’s distinguished designation. Only 5 percent of California’s public elementary schools were chosen, according to state education officials.
Brown said Lafayette might not have taken the time to fill out the complex application for the award due to staff resources. However, two of the school’s parents volunteered to shepherd the application through the process.
“Our teachers do such hard work, we’re focused on the classroom,” Brown said. “They [the parents] kept us on track.”