Parents, students cross their fingers, hoping to get into school of choice

Parents will find out this weekend whether their children got into the public school they most wanted.

The San Francisco Unified School District will send out 13,250 letters Friday to parents who were told they could apply for up to seven ranked school choices. Though many kids will likely wind up placed in one of their parents’ top picks, according to school assignment data from recent years, hundreds of parents will not receive one of their preferred choices.

Last year, 87 percent of kindergarten applicants, 93 percent of sixth-graders and 94 percent of ninth-graders got into one of their top seven schools in 2007, according to district data. New data for the 2008-09 school year will be released Friday, according to district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

“No matter what [grade] level you’re looking at, it’s always stressful,” said Elly Rossiter, program director for Parents for Public Schools. “You always get your heart set on something.”

That’s exactly what happened to Marina district resident CeCe Kaufman last year when she picked schools for her daughter, who was entering kindergarten. She toured 13 schools and picked two, Sherman and Argonne elementary schools, and didn’t get assignments for either. In the end, her daughter got to go to Sherman because another parent decided to decline the offer, she said.

San Francisco assigns students through a formula that incorporates such factors as socioeconomic status, home language and academic performance to create diversity. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that districts can not use race in assigning schools.

The uncertainty created by the current school assignment system has made it unpopular with many parents, some of whom have advocated for a school placement system based on a family’s neighborhood. The district board is also wrestling to find ways to increase the diversity within each school, according to Blythe, although there are no plans to change the system in the immediate future, she said.

“We’ve seen an increase in schools that have more than 60 percent of one race,” Blythe said. “It’s a balancing act between parent choice, having cohesive communities and also creating diversity.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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