Enrollment changes afoot

The Board of Education has set a March deadline for a long-sought change to San Francisco’s controversial public school assignment system so members can focus on other issues.

More than 600 people have filled out an online survey and hundreds swarmed public hearings in the past two months to give the board feedback before it changes the decade-old system.

“We have to vote in March,” board member Rachel Norton said. “There’s no perfect solution, but I think we will be able to up come with a system that’s better, and it will be good enough.”

The current system allows families to pick up to seven schools, but also bases admissions on a lottery that incorporates socio-economic factors, home language, prior academics and other aspects. This year, the district reported that 22 percent of families didn’t receive any of their choices.

The system grew out of a former federal mandate, due to a lawsuit, to integrate schools without using race as a factor.

The system also was meant to help close achievement gaps, but Board of Education members agree it has not worked. That determination was highlighted by voluntary research from Stanford University presented to the board Monday.

The research came to three main conclusions: A higher concentration of minority students is related to lower average school performance; the achievement gap for historically underserved students is widening; and racial concentration also is related to other school-quality factors.

“The Stanford researchers sort of reinforced our own findings,” board member Sandra Lee Fewer said. “Now we’re also looking at where we place programs, and we realize it isn’t all just about student assignment.”

The board has six alternative options on the table that include completely controlling where students attend school based on location or other factors and only allowing minimal control from the district.

 

What’s next

The school board aims to make a decision about overhauling campus assignments by March.

Jan. 7: Town hall meeting at Drew Elementary School
Jan. 11: Town hall meeting with United Educators of San Francisco at district headquarters
Jan. 14: Town hall meeting at Francisco Middle School
Jan. 25: Ad hoc committee meeting on campus assignments; Stanford’s simulation of six options
Feb. 2: Proposed special meeting of full board
Feb. 9: Board of Education regular meeting; Superintendent Carlos Garcia expected to unveil resolution for alternative assignment system
Feb. 17: Ad hoc committee meeting on campus assignments; school board members expected to consider resolution and make recommendation to Board of Education
March 9: Board of Education regular meeting; members expected to consider recommendation, vote on resolution for alternative system

Source: Board of Education

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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