SF school leaders still want to diversify enrollment after assignment changes fail

The assignment process that has determined where students attend public schools in San Francisco for the past five years will not change anytime soon, but the conversation of how to ensure schools are more racially diverse is just getting started.

A year after a proposed change was introduced, the Board of Education on Tuesday voted 4-3 in favor of continuing to use the San Francisco Unified School District’s current school assignment process, which gives enrollment priority to kindergarten students who live in neighborhoods with the lowest standardized test scores.

Board President Emily Murase — along with commissioners Sandra Fewer and Rachel Norton, who authored the resolution — voted for the policy change. Vice President Matt Haney and commissioners Jill Wynns, Shamann Walton and Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell were the dissenting votes.

Though the resolution did not garner enough votes to pass, the board members all agreed that the district needs to get better at diversifying its schools.

The policy had sought to give precedence to kindergarten students living in attendance areas of the district’s 72 elementary schools, noting that the existing policy that took effect in 2010 to reduce the academic achievement gap actually isolates students based on their race.

The argument, according to the resolution, was that residents of areas with higher-demand schools might have less access to educational opportunities than families living in Census Tract Integration Preference areas, which for SFUSD represent the 20 percent of census tracts in San Francisco with the lowest average score on the California Standards Test.

“The board approached it with really a desire to improve the system and make it work better,” Norton said. “I just think it’s disappointing we couldn’t come to more consensus about what really needs to happen to improve the system.”

But the debate to change the school assignment process is far from over.

“I am already actively in conversations with Commissioner Fewer about how we could reintroduce a different proposal that might address some of the concerns that were brought up in this discussion in a way that will garner the support we need to get it enacted,” Norton said.

“I don’t know what shape that will take yet, [but I] definitely don’t intend to drop it.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a plan to teach computer science to all students, from preschool to 12th grade. It is believed that the SFUSD will be the first district in the U.S. to implement such a widespread computer science curriculum.

Currently, there are 28 computer science courses offered at 10 high schools, which reach just 5 percent of The City’s high school students. Two middle schools offer computer science electives, impacting less than 1 percent of all sixth- through eighth-grade students. There are no computer science courses taught in elementary schools.

“There has been incredible support in the community to rally around how we implement this and, just as critical, how we fund this,” Superintendent Richard Carranza said in a statement. “We want our students to be able to live, work and thrive in San Francisco. This is part of what it will take to make that possible.”

The computer science curriculum is still under development and will be phased in over the next several years, district officials said.

Bay Area NewsBoard of EducationeducationSan Francisco Unified School Districtschool assignment process

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