San Francisco School District Releases Boundary Map and Delays Middle School Feeder Plan

The public hearings are over, the feedback has been heard, and all that is left is final approval to the  school assignment  changes on Tuesday September 28th.

From Jill Tucker at The San Francisco Chronicle

How students are assigned to schools is historically the most controversial issue related to the city’s public schools, and this new plan is no exception.

Parents for years have called for a replacement for the current system, one that would be easier to understand and give them a fighting chance to get in the school down the block or to one attended by an older brother or sister. The new plan was a compromise that will to do just that.

It also will provide a greater opportunity for children living in census tracts where test scores are lowest to attend a high-performing school. At the same time, district officials hope that eventually it will increase diversity in schools in a city with stark residential segregation. [More…]

So, how’s it going to work?

Assignments to high-demand schools would be determined using this  order of preferences:

Elementary schools

— Students with older siblings in the school.

— Students who attended a San Francisco Unified School District preschool in the school’s attendance area.

— Those in census tracts where test scores are low.

— Those in the preferred school’s attendance area.

— Those in attendance areas where the number of students exceeds space in schools.

— All others.

Middle schools*

— Students with siblings in the school.

— Those in census tracts where test scores are low.

— All others.

High schools

— Students with siblings in the school.

— Those in census tracts where test scores are low.

— All others.

*For those participating in choice process

I know what my friends and clients are saying, they are concerned about the middle school feeder program (which is being postponed for a year) they worry about keeping their children in the same schools, and they wonder how this will affect their property values.  Certainly in other areas, values are affected by what schools the area feeds into and how those schools perform. There is also a concern about fairness.

Some say the school boundaries are unfair; others complained that the system still fails to guarantee access to their neighborhood schools; still others say the system will actually increase segregation.

Parent John Somoza said he doesn’t think it’s fair that some families assigned to a low-performing school will have a greater chance of getting into a better school than others who live perhaps a half-block away.

Somoza lives within the Cesar Chavez Elementary attendance zone. But his is the only census tract in the school’s area where the children don’t post low test scores. That means Somoza and his nearest neighbors won’t have any priority if they want their children to attend other schools, like everyone else assigned to Chavez, which is among the lowest-performing schools in the state.

“It has some of the lowest (test) scores in the city,” said Somoza, who has a 2-year-old son. “But it’s also just a matter of fairness that everyone else in that attendance area can leave and we can’t.”

That might not seem fair, but district officials said they applied consistent strategies in creating the attendance zones. Even so, they said, trying to balancing high- and low-scoring census tracts couldn’t be done given residential housing patterns.

Instead, district officials considered student population in neighborhoods around schools as well as topography, highways, bus routes and parks, said Orla O’Keefe, the superintendent’s special assistant for student assignment.

Will this cause parents to be more active in their children  school, to work for improving the individual schools?  I wonder.  But the lottery system has been hated by many for so long, it will be interesting to see how this plan plays out.

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