Thursday, July 3, 2014

San Francisco may re-emphasize neighborhood schools in their school choice plan

From the SF Chronicle: Plan's goal: Get S.F. families into neighborhood school

"Unlike families who live in the suburbs, San Francisco residents don't automatically get assigned to the school near their homes.

"The system is built on decades of desegregation efforts and the idea of equal access to all schools.

"It requires families to submit a list of schools that they want their children to attend. If a school has enough spots for the families who want in, there are no issues. But if a school has fewer seats than families who listed it, a complicated tie-breaker system kicks in.

"Siblings of students get the first available seats. Then, families living in census tracts where students post the lowest test scores - which the district calls CTIP, for Census Tract Integration Preference - get second priority. Those in the school's attendance area are third, followed by everyone else.

"Schools like Clarendon, with high test scores, low student poverty and experienced teachers, fill up with siblings and CTIP families, leaving few or no seats for students who live in the neighborhood.

"Norton and Fewer want to flip things so attendance area comes before CTIP, giving higher priority to families who live nearby than to those living in presumably disadvantaged neighborhoods.

"The CTIP tie-breaker, introduced three years ago, was supposed to help diversify schools without specifically using race.

"It didn't work.

"All the board members appreciate diversity and want to eliminate racial isolation in our schools," Fewer said. "We just don't know if the CTIP preference is doing this. It's time to revisit it."

"Data from the past three years show 28 schools - a quarter of all campuses - are still racially isolated, meaning that 60 percent of enrollment is a single ethnic group.

"Instead of creating a big melting pot in schools, a CTIP address has become a golden ticket for families who wanted to attend the city's most popular schools, Norton said. It has also created demand for housing in CTIP areas, with real estate agents promoting those neighborhoods and people lying about their address to get an advantage.

"And even if a family living in a CTIP area were wealthy, it would not matter - they would still get the same high-priority status as someone living in poverty.

"There was no means test, said McCarthy, whose children were assigned to Sanchez Elementary, more than 2 miles from home.

"Someone that makes half a million a year that just bought a $2 million home in the Mission" has a better chance at Clarendon, she said. "That's unfair that they can kind of trump us."

"The CTIP wasn't intended to give an unfair advantage or attract people to buy or rent in certain neighborhoods, Norton said.

"People are making really big life decisions so they can be in a CTIP zone," she added. "That makes me very uneasy."

"In addition, African American and Latino families are less likely to participate in the first round of the school assignment lottery than white or Asian families, which again raises the question of whom the CTIP preference is serving."

Background material: from SFUSD (San Francisco Public Schools).  Student Assignment and Enrollment Reports

No comments: