Thursday, February 18, 2010
At the latest public meeting of the San Francisco Board of Education (last night, Wednesday, Feb. 17), the commissioners and the public were engaged in a detailed discussion of the algorithms and priorities being proposed for the new school choice system.
Muriel Niederle explains and answers questions about the new Assignment with Transfers school choice plans being proposed (with variations for elementary school, middle school, and high schools). She comes on just after minute 36 of this video of the 3 hour meeting, and her presentation, interspersed with questions and answers, continues for a little over an hour (to minute 1:39), although she's back answering questions at the end again. Also presenting the general plan and answering questions is Orla O'Keefe, the SFUSD official leading the effort to design the new school choice system.
There's something very encouraging about seeing the public policy discussion focusing on choice systems that are non-wasteful (Pareto efficient, for you economists), strategically simple for parents (so that truthful preference revelation is a dominant strategy), and flexible (so that the school board can tweak the system in years to come without harming the first two properties). The 'political' issues are the priorities that different children have at different schools.
Another attractive aspect of the proposal (discussed by Ms. O'Keefe following Muriel's presentation) is that data would be collected each year for continual monitoring of how the choice and assignment system is working.
The discussion touches on a number of interesting questions. (Even if the algorithm makes truthful preference revelation the best strategy, there are still issues of checking e.g. addresses in any system in which priorities at schools depend on home address...). But it looks like SF is well launched on adopting a sensible, workable, well thought out and flexible framework.