The problem with the Students First initiative

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I'm not surprised that there's an initiative in circulation that would set this as city policy:

The proximity of a student’s home to the assigned school should be the highest priority in San Francisco Unified School District’s student assignment system.

For those of you who are new to San Francisco: To enroll a child in a San Francisco public school, parents apply to seven schools and then pray their child gets into one of them. Unless a child has a sibling at a particular school, he or she will be assigned based on a secret algorithm created by monkeys throwing darts (or something like that).

Actually, most people (about 80 percent) get at least one of their school choices. And yeah, the algorithm is a bit complicated. But there's a good reason why:

Many San Francisco neighborhoods are still racially segregated. Which means if everyone goes to his or her neigborhood school, we will have some schools at are 70 percent black, some that are 70 percent white and some that are 70 percent Asian. And that's a bad idea.

San Francisco fought for years to comply with a 1983 consent decree in a lawsuit filed by the NAACP. THe idea was to desegregate the schools; part of the process that was developed involved giving parents a choice (which many want) over where to sent their kids -- and a system for maintaining some degree of ethnic balance in the school. Subsequent litigation has made it almost impossible to use race as a factor in placing kids, so now the district uses a different system. Since we've stopped using race, the federal monitor reported five years ago on

the increasing resegregation prevalent in the District since 1999, and the parameters of an achievement gap that only became apparent over the past few years.

 

The district's making progress on a lot of fronts, but the achievement gap and segregation are still serious issues in the district. The other serious issue is resources: In an era when there's no public money, kids who go to schools where most of the parents are rich get better educational services. The parents raise money to pay for libraries, special classes, music, art, enrichment programs etc. Schools that have a demographic base that doesn't allow for extensive fundraising can't offer those programs to the students.

So ideally, you'd have a mix -- poor kids and rich kids in the same schools. Some of that has happened at McKinley Elementary, where my daughter is going into third grade and my son just finished fifth. There are better-off families who contribute and raise money, people with financial connections who get grants etc. -- and that benefits the majority of the kids, who come from lower-income families.

Actually, ideally you'd have fair property taxes, and every kid in every school would get enough tax money to thrive. But you get the point.

So this "neighborhood schools" rhetoric sounds good. But until we desegregate the neighborhoods -- and change the distribution of wealth -- it just ain't gonna work. The system we have is imperfect -- but it's certainly better than what it could be if we just send everyone to school where they live.

Comments

Students First is not responsible for the opinions of every person that supports our measure for neighborhood schools. We are just a grass roots parent run organization. If some make unsupportable statements like those of Jason, there is little we can do about it other than to distance ourselves from those who want to distort the facts to suit their our particular point of view. I would hope that people acquaint themselves with the student assignment system and make an informed decision whenever this measure comes up for a vote.

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 10:47 am

In my opinion based on talking to people this is correct I got over 150 signatures at 3 locations. Many parents told me they wished to stay here but were moving or chose private school. This makes it hard to raise kids here, when your kids lose friends entering middle school, or going from pre-school to elementary. The block near a school should have 5 families going to that school who know each other, not 5 going to 5 different schools. People don't want to leave a community but don't care if they leave an amalgam of disorganized, cross-commuting individuals.

I met doctors who said they would move to the suburbs because they don't have time to fight the system and live near a good school. We want these people in our City. They are people who work hard and play by the rules and take ownership of their success rather than blaming others and raise their kids to do the same. Their kids will study, not make excuses They are winners. They will tell their kids test scores and grades are important, take pride in your achievement, try to do great on the tests to make the schools rank higher when the scores come out, etc. They will volunteer and donate. This is but one example. I estimate based on people I know that 40-50% of those who go to private school would be in public school, and 33% of those who move to suburbs when their kids get older would have stayed in SF till their kids graduated from high school. I have friends who work for the district who tell me the same thing. Mothers walk up to them and ask questions about the school, are enthusiastic, some volunteer to clean and build things, then they see them when their kid turned 5 saying we didn't get in, we are moving.

I had one parent near Hoover say they wanted to get their kids into Lowell but were sent to Horace Mann and simply couldn't handle the drive for 3 years, thought they'd lose their job if they tried. We will see far more families in SF as a result of this.

OK, why does watching TV lower test scores so much? Because it's bad for the brain, but also because it's time spent not studying. So is commuting. Parents are less likely to be involved and kids are not studying when they're on a bus or in a car. If they study 1/2 of the time they are not commuting, if you cut a daily commute from 40 minutes to 10, that's 15 minutes studying, or 1:15 a week, or over 200 hours in a school year. That alone will increase test scores. Our SAT and STAR averages will rise.

We will also see more Miralomas. Right now, if parents transform a school, soon people won't be able to get in. With neighborhood schools, groups of parents can move to an area, improve the school and then see their property values go up as a result of their volunteering, and the school and neighborhood will become more desireable as people will be able to move there and plan their childrens' future. The Excelsior is a neighborhood that could benefit from this, not too expensive and decent, though not great, schools. Parents can volunteer and make them better and create a community. Parents can help parents whose kids aren't succeeding to do what it takes to help the school. If you see a kid who's 4 and doesn't know the alphabet, you can talk to that mom, give her flashcards, ask her to teach the kid, knowing that kids' test scores in a few years will affect your community, the pride in your schools' test scores and values of property. This is what happens in Burlingame, where I grew up. I remember once 5 moms had an intervention with one who wasn't doing anything and would have sent her daughter to kindergarten without knowing the alphabet, and she learned it.

We all as a community determine how good our schools will be. I live in the Mission now and hope to stay here and help my neighborhood improve. I know other parents who feel the same. I will send my daughter to a school here and try to improve it. I will help tutor the kids of parents who don't speak English, knowing that it will improve my community.

Posted by Effie McLaren on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 11:29 am

But the fact is that in real life here in the real world on Planet Earth, schools like Miraloma stayed stuck in the doldrums when we had mandatory neighborhood assignment to those schools, with very limited options for those who didn't want them. And those doctors and other families were even more upset at being assigned to a school they didn't like, with very limited options, and were even quicker to flee SFUSD then.

The fact is that in real life here in the real world on Planet Earth, that started to change when SFUSD switched to an all-choice assignment system. Middle-class families started looking much more seriously at SFUSD schools; started viewing private schools as a second-rate backup (instead of the default choice that they were under the mandatory neighborhood assignment system); and started returning to SFUSD. And a huge number of previously downtrodden and unpopular schools soared, becoming successful and in high demand.

Whatever we think in theory, we can't ignore what happened in reality, and that's what happened in reality. The backers of the so-called Students First measure are choosing to ignore reality for inexplicable reasons.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

Just for starters, Jason is apparently unaware that SFUSD DID have a guaranteed/mandatory neighborhood assignment system in place through the '90s. When he talks to families who fled the public schools and went private or moved to the vast suburban wasteland, he's talking to many families who made that choice BECAUSE they were assigned to a neighborhood school they didn't want, and were told they basically had no option. So his entire viewpoint on this is based on a Roseann Rosannadanna-like misconception. That's likely to be true of many voters, too, if this silly and pointless measure makes it onto the ballot.

If voters understand that the all-choice assignment process that has been in place for the past several years has correlated with a big surge of new interest in SFUSD schools by middle-class parents who could afford private or he 'burbs -- and with an explosion of schools that were formerly considered failing and are now successful and popular -- they will really wonder what all this is about. Jason acknowledges that he's aware of the schools that were previously considered failing and have turned around, but misses a point. As I posted previously, I live around the corner from Miraloma Elementary, but it was a struggling and unpopular school when my oldest started school. At that time, our mandatory assignment was to our neighborhood school, with the alternative being fighting for a very-hard-to-get-into alternative school. We did the latter, but families with less fortitude and determination (and more money) just gave it right up and went private. If we had been forced to go to Miraloma, we would have probably found a way to go private or move.

Miraloma turned around after it got a new principal AND after the all-choice assignment process was in place.

As I posted previously, LAUSD and Oakland Unified have mandatory neighborhood assignment, and they are far less successful school districts than SFUSD, with far more struggling schools and lower achievement overall. What is with people who can see that in front of their faces but continue to insist that mandatory neighborhood assignment will magically transform schools? I truly don't get it.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 11:34 am

Comparing LAUSD and Oakland Unified to San Francisco is a fallacy of the highest order. Or maybe it's correct - thanks to the Diversity Index SFUSD is starting to resemble those two gems more and more every year.

(cue Caroline's immediate rebuttal and defense, claiming she knows more and is more accurate than any other commenter.)

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

Why is it a fallacy, Lucretia Snapples? Why is it not valid to compare SFUSD to other diverse urban school districts? In fact, the supporters of the so-called Students First measure do it all the time, except that they just make up whatever they want when they do so.

Again, SFUSD's achievement has been increasing steadily year by year. I'm not sure in what way you claim that SFUSD resembles LAUSD and OUSD more every year, but it continues to outperform both districts.

The reason I bring up LAUSD and OUSD, again, is that they have neighborhood assignment, and they have poorer achievement than SFUSD, less diverse schools than SFUSD, and a much wider gap between struggling schools and successful schools than SFUSD.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 5:58 am

I spent 8 years working 70 hour weeks and saving half my income to buy a home near Alamo in 1999. Then in 2002, they changed the system and tried to send my daughter to Treasure Island Elementary School. I moved to Marin. My daughter is in the 98th percentile on STAR tests. I was born here.

Why did they not let my daughter into Alamo a block away? I don't know, but I went and saw several families who were illegal immigrants. So you drove away a guy raising 2 kids at the 98th percentile and kissed up to and kept kids of people who had no legal right to move here. My parents moved here legally and waited 8 years to do so. These people just came, and were rewarded. Simply because they were poor, they were rewarded, and they had no legal right to be in this nation. I know one teacher there and she said these kids got horrible test scores. Good job SFUSD. Way to improve the City.

Posted by Lawrence Wong on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

Don: Of course, it's about education. And if Californians were willing to pay the level of taxes required to fund quality education for all, we wouldn't be having these kinds of arguments; every kid would have a good neighborhood school.

But we aren't, so school districts have to look seriously at how to best ensure that every kid, no matter how rich or poor, has a shot at a decent education. In a city that has a huge chasm between the rich and the poor, at a time when education is, in fact, a major factor in future economic achievement, it's imperative that public policy is aimed at narrowing the educational gap.

And guess what? Diversity helps educational quality. Education is not just about math and science; it's about relating to and understanding a complex world that's full of people who don't look or think or experience things the same way you do. The earlier that process starts, the better.

Posted by tim on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

I thought education was about teaching fundamentals of things like language, math, science and reading along with history, art, physical education and more. When did it become a social laboratory for the unfulfilled wishes of societal reform advocates? And even if the desire to promote a certain aspect of "diversity" were laudable how much of the entire education mission should be spent on that goal? Because right now, with the lottery, it seems that's pretty much the entire focus of the SFUSD - diversity at the cost of quality education and strong neighborhoods.

If the wish of the "diversity" crowd was every school representing a broad cross-section of society, with all students a gorgeous rainbow of colors and identities, then they've failed. Because the SFUSD is poorer and less ethnically diverse than ever.

It's still hard to understand why mandating the same spending on every pupil in the SFUSD isn't an answer to the problem you keep pointing to as the reason for the lottery. It's also difficult to understand why The Guardian is such a loud and proud proponent for neighborhood-based services and control in everything including elections to the Board of Supervisors, EXCEPT for school assignments.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

Lucretia Snapples, I have been correcting your misinformation rather gently, but it's time to call you out as a brazen liar. If you win this campaign with lies, so be it, but that certainly taints the community that you profess to care about.

SFUSD is not "poorer than ever." Our schools' achievement has been steadily rising year by year. It is really immoral for you to promote your idiotic campaign with lies and unfounded disparagement of our schools and our kids. We of course don't know your real identity, but it taints your entire campaign, which presumably includes some non-liars as well. Sleazy and dishonest campaigning on a community issue -- especially when it involved falsely attacking our schools and our kids as failures -- hardly creates strong and healthy neighborhoods. Shame on you.

A number of SFUSD schools are indeed less diverse than they were in the past, and for a clear-cut reason: The court in the Ho decision threw out the system of racial quotas that used to limit school enrollment to 35 or 40% (it varied depending on the school for complex reasons) of more than one race. Once there were no longer racial quotas, many schools' enrollment actually became MORE reflective of the neighborhoods in which they were located. Neighborhood-based enrollment systems in a city with some segregated neighborhoods will, obviously, result in less diverse schools. That said, SFUSD actually has many schools that are far more diverse than schools in other high-poverty, high-minority urban districts; and our most segregated schools are still more diverse than other districts' most segregated schools.

Also, by the way, SFUSD schools are officially considered "segregated" if they are >60% of one ethnicity. (This was part of the consent decree that ordered SFUSD to implement diversity-based assignment processes to begin with.) A mere 60% of one ethnicity would be considered fabulously, admirably diverse in any private or suburban school. Our district is held to a much higher standard. Just pointing that out.

Here are some more points on issues that have surfaced in this discussion.

-- The reason different students get different amounts of funding is that some subgroups of students cost considerably more to educate. Special education students, English language learners, educationally disadvantaged (very low-achieving) students and very low-income students with high needs due to the lack of a social safety net all tend to cost a lot more to educate than my relatively advantaged middle-class child. Should a school that happens to enroll a lot more of those high-need students who cost more to educate suffer by not receiving funds commensurate with those extra needs? Well, I suppose the coldhearted and mean might say sure -- screw 'em -- but at least this explains the concept that decent people generally support.
-- Once again: Regarding the notion that everybody is just dying to get into their neighborhood schools, the reality is that families who live near desirable schools certainly tend to be dying to get into them, but families who live near less-successful, more-poorly-regarded schools want a wider choice.
-- Regarding the notion that sending everyone to neighborhood schools will miraculously turn them all into high-achieving schools, this is magical thinking that is belied by reality all over the country, and by past reality here in SFUSD. I can't figure out if those who are parroting here actually believe it or if they're just willing to make **** up to promote their cause.
-- The reality is that schools that cope with a critical mass of high-need, at-risk, low-income children from unstable and stressed family backgrounds become overwhelmed. That's one argument for a diversity-based assignment system -- schools can cope with a certain number of high-need, at-risk, low-income children and still function well -- if that number falls short of the critical mass.
-- In general, it's not usually regarded as lily-livered commie socialism to believe that children who face the most challenges in life -- those who live in poverty, in unstable and high-stress homes and communities, coping with violence and deprivation -- should get some boosts that might help them reach success in life. That concept, applied here in SFUSD, has meant that low-income children are offered priority access to schools their families choose, should they decide to avail themselves of the offer. Not all that many low-income families DO make the choice, which is sad, but they are offered it. That doesn't sound so outrageously pinko-subversive to me.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

"In my opinion based on talking to people this is correct I got over 150 signatures at 3 locations."

Don't you know how many signatures you got? How come you have to ask other people how many signatures you got and where you were when you got them? You lost me.

But I agree that neighborhoods has been hurt by the lottery system. Some of the anecdotal information you provided makes sense.

You also said,

"I had one parent near Hoover say they wanted to get their kids into Lowell but were sent to Horace Mann and simply couldn't handle the drive for 3 years, thought they'd lose their job if they tried. We will see far more families in SF as a result of this."

I have to ask you, Effie, if the SFUSD really sent your daughter to Horace Mann, which is a middle school, when she was going into high school? What's up with that? And why would you say we will see more families in SFUSD as a result of sending kids across town, when you seem to be espousing the exact opposite? You lost me again.

I have to talk with these petition gatherers.

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

OK, they couldn't wait 3 years through a middle school half way across town when their daughter could have walked to Hoover, so they moved rather than wait the 3 years it would have taken for their daughter to go to Lowell, which is far and away the best high school public or private in Northern California but requires nearly straight As. She's got straight As and could have gone, I was told. I spoke with this father for 10 minutes. Lowell is a high school, yes, and Horace Mann and Hoover are middle schools. She wanted her to go to Hoover, then Lowell. However, it was 6 hours a week driving, time they didn't have, both were super busy, and Horace Mann was a worse school than Hoover. They got upset and left, so we lost good, successful people with a daughter who would make SFUSD's test averages look good, represent SF well, to attract someone to Hoover from another neighborhood to drive across town and pollute our environment. It adds traffic and pollution. They decided, sadly, that their dream of their daughter going to Lowell had to be sacrificed as they were afraid one would be fired for the lack of time, and she's a doctor and feared if she were sleep-deprived due to the forced driving she could make a mistake and get sued.

Posted by Effie McLaren on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

Effie McLaren, it's really quite easy to get into those large middle schools like Hoover in the second lottery round if you are one of the quite small number of families who don't get them initially. A family that moves rather than trouble to learn that and pursue it clearly didn't want to stick around in any case. In addition, there are definitely opportunities in the assignment process to choose a less-oversubscribed school. Aptos Middle School, which both my kids attended, is increasingly popular but still not oversubscribed, and it's a 7-minute drive from Hoover. They could undoubtedly have gotten their child into Aptos, even if Hoover had really and truly not opened up.

So they just chose to leave town rather than even taking a cursory look at their options? Didn't that commute, from whichever suburb, take them longer than the drive to Horace Mann would have taken? (I would have been wary of Horace Mann myself, but I'm just sayin' that it doesn't sound very credible that the drive was actually their problem.)

So did they move out of SF for middle school and then come back later, or did you happen to bump into them when they were in SF though they live in the 'burbs?

The bigger question is: If they had lived near Horace Mann (a low-performing school that's on the SIG "failing schools" list), would they have wanted to go there rather than high-performing Hoover? Or would Hoover have magically not been so far away then? As noted, it's the families who live near popular schools who are so deeply invested in neighborhood schools.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

Tim, if it were as easy as you make it out and all we had to do was fund education at appropriate levels, than DC at 25K per student would be one of the best instead of one of the worst districts in the country. While I will grant you that the socialization component of education is an important one, I would venture to say that it has in many cases trumped academic achievement. And no wonder considering the vast amount of time and resources SFUSD spends on promoting diversity and how little time is spent discussing academic achievement. Well, that’s the teachers’ job. SFUSD has more important things to consider – the careers of their leaders, like Garcia and T. Smith who jumped ship as soon as he could snag a superintendent position and left SFUSD in the lurch and with their pants down on their Balanced Scorecard/equity agenda that has fizzled in his absence. An agenda which, by the way, was supposed to grab national headlines and instead is now the deranged kid locked up in the closet. That is to say and as I mentioned before, SFUSD isn't even bothering with the charade that is the Balanced Scorecard, though they certainly haven't been willing to publicly admit as much despite all facts of the matter.

OK, Caroline, you know that the neighborhood assignment system in the 90’s was far from a true NS policy, as SFUSD was under the 1983 consent decree and had to assign seats to create diversity of race at that time before Ho – the result being that many neighborhood families got bumped from their school, just as they will be again under the new system. Also I don’t think it is appropriate to make it out as if the idea of neighborhood schools is some kind of outlier case. Check out the report below:

Demographic Analyses and Enrollment Forecasts
San Francisco Unified School District
Report
July 2002
Executive Summary

“In most districts, where students live is by far the dominant factor in determining school enrollments. Not so in SFUSD. Student assignment policies greatly influence school enrollments. For example, 25 percent of students attend alternative schools and another 31 percent attend a regular school not in their attendance area. The lack of consistency between where students live and where they attend school makes it difficult to accurately forecast enrollments at the school level, particularly when school assignment policies are changing.”
Caroline, this report also went on to say that, “Overall, about 25 percent of San Francisco’s school-aged residents attend private schools. This compares to a California average of about ten percent, and to 11.3 percent nation-wide.3”

Caroline, I will reiterate. neighborhood schools are by far the dominant factor. You know that private school enrollment is at approximately 35%. It has gone up during choice and gone up dramatically.

As far as OUSD and LAUSD, you also know very well that their demographics is far different than that of SFUSD and that it is the high Asian population that accounts for the few percentage point difference – a performance difference that is widely publicized in the media when referring to the SFUSD achievement gap.

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

Of course, Don, you mention Washington DC, which is the one exception to a pretty clear, straight-line rule. Washington has all sorts of complex problems, but if you take that one district out of the picture, you will find that the quality of public education kids get -- by any measurable standard -- almost always goes up if you spend more money on it. I agree with Caroline -- the SF public schools are good, the best urban district in the state. My two kids are in public schools, and they're getting an excellent education. But if we spent more money, a lot more money, the schools would be better for everyone.

Posted by Tim Redmond on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

Tim,

No way would I argue against better funding for public education that actually gets into the classroom or against putting those funds to some reasonable degree where they are most needed, as long as the needs of children of all abilities are adequately met. I'm all for corporations paying their fair share and getting rid of the giant loophole in Prop 13. Any reasonable person would be, but not Meg Whtman.

What I am speaking to is the notion that money alone will solve the achievement issues in the "underserved" areas. (This is kind of a worn out area of discussion.)With the exception of the last couple of years, education has continued over the last 4 decades to take a larger proportion of the revenue pie and yet the achievement gap is not improved. That is because money when provided in sufficient amount is not the key to turnaround, only part of the equation. It is far deeper societal issue than a simple matter of adequate funding. Then there's the problem of how much actually gets to the classroom. Unless we can revamp our system so that more money is spent for kids and education, the public is not going to tolerate unfettered bureaucracy and increasing pension entitlements that impoverish classrooms.

My kids are getting a good education and I'm glad to hear your are too. But that doesn't make me complacent about SFUSD. I think you would find my story of interest about the usurpation of parent voice in school governance. It tells you a lot about SFUSD's culture of unaccountability and disregard for parents and community. I would like it if we could speak personally about this and I can also talk with you about Students First..

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

Also, Tim, it isn't a straight line rule. We are at or near the bottom in terms of spending with only Utah lower, last I heard. But when our high standards and curriculum are factored into achievement data, the general rule is that we are somewhere in the middle among states and not at that foggy bottom,too.

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

Well, Don, I'm going to bring up a dicey issue, but here it is: If you were white, you were pretty much guaranteed your neighborhood school of assignment under the 35-40% ethnicity caps in the '90s. That's because the percentage of white students in SFUSD hovers around the 9-10% range. And the subgroup fleeing the district in such numbers has consistently been middle-class and upper-income white families. So that rebuttal is irrelevant and invalid. I would have pre-emptively pointed that out, because it was predictable that it would come up, but it DOES sound squirrelly. It's true, though. A small number of trophy alternative schools may have been affected by a 40% cap on whites, but definitely no neighborhood schools.

Don, where did you get the false notion that the private school rate has gone up during choice? That's absolutely not true. I was on an SFUSD committee in 2002 (one year into the choice process, i think), and a demographic research firm had done a study of demographics in SFUSD going back 20 years prior, which they presented to our committee in detail. The private school rate had hovered at 33-35% that entire time, 1982-2002. It hasn't visibly changed yet so far as I know (though I actually don't know the current figures) -- but from the attitudes now being widely expressed by high-net-worth parents, I guarantee that it's going to -- the bulge has just entered the snake. It's clear that the widespread view is now that private school is a second-rate backup for those who felt it was too hard to get their favored SFUSD schools. These are parents of kindergartners or maybe at the oldest first-graders -- the generation like blogger Amy Graff, who dithered about accepting Marin Country Day when it was offered and then chose Jose Ortega, from which middle-class parents would have fled screaming in horror only a couple of years earlier. (I believe Amy's neighborhood school is easily accessible Glen Park, by the way, but she wasn't interested in it.)

The other piece about the '90s assignment design is that it included satellite zones, so that your "neighborhood" school of assignment might be a school truly across town, to which all the kids in your immediate area would be assigned. Aha, you say! I knew it! Yes, but... Those zones were in effect in neighborhoods that ALSO were part of the zip code preference of the same era. The zip code preference was so powerful that it outweighed everything else in the process, even if you were Bill Gates. So, for example, you live in the Bayview in a satellite zone designated Miraloma A, so that Miraloma ES in my 'hood, Miraloma Park, is your default assignment. And you want your nearby school. Well, no problem, because your Bayview zip 94124 is a preference zip and you can have any school you want -- Bret Harte, Claire Lilienthal, just name it.

And here's another tidbit that you may not know. Just prior to the year we first applied ('96), there had been another hurdle in the process. After you were assigned to your attendance area school, you had to be RELEASED based on your ethnicity before you were free to apply to any other school. If you were one of the 10% white kids in the district, there was a shortage of your ethnicity and you had no prayer of being released at all. I think that at that time, the only families who even got into alternative schools either had older sibs who had gotten into the schools before that requirement, or else they lied about their race, as many families I know used to do.

So that policy REALLY drove families away -- and note that what they were fleeing from, again, was mandatory assignment to their neighborhood schools.

You all really need to pay attention to this history. It's not smart or productive to run an entire crusade based on lack of knowledge of the history and facts.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

Oh, I just realized that you were also quoting a 2002 demographic study, Don. Well, I don't know what gives, but the study I was involved in definitely had the private school rate at 33-35%. I've been quoting a 1/3 figure since that time, due to that study for that reason. If you research, I'm sure you'll find 1/3 consistently used going back to 2002 and 20 years before that too. Who knows what's with the one you're quoting, but it's out of sync.

And by the way, I'm not complacent about SFUSD. I just am well aware that the notion that mandatory assignment to neighborhood schools is a solution or even an improvement is unfounded. And also, I'm well aware that there are major challenges facing our schools that go beyond the need for more funding. But the lack of funding and support compounds them.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

Don't assume because my last name is Krause that I am not Chinese. That would be politically incorrect.

Yes, the whites got in, but not so the Chinese leading up to the Ho decision.( See Lawrence's Wong's comment.) And then if you happened to live in the SE you watched the schools go down hill and disappear as people of all tints sought refuge in cheaper real estate there, coupled with a promise to escape via school choice.

Caroline, do you think that almost all the rest of the country has it wrong and that SFUSD's now defunct SAS was just the right fix for schools? Because if so, why was the SAS abandoned? Out of ignorance? Why did SFUSD want to bring back NS, the phony version that it is? And why aren't more school districts going the choice route instead of turning towards neighborhood schools, a phenomenon that has been growing stronger across the country over the last ten years?

SFUSD is not so unique that only a singularly individualized assignment policy will do like Diversity Index with its arcane and hidden trappings that only some could understand or perhaps appreciate. Just the name itself sends shudders. Many communities across the nation are just as diverse as we are. We are not special here in SF. But school choice is a fading commodity and Diane Ravitch doesn't seem to be changing her mind on this one.

If parents can band together to build up a school outside their neighborhood as many did under your beloved and now obsolete version of choice, wouldn't it be even better if they applied the same energy and commitment inside their neighborhood?

When you say NS isn't a solution, which problem are you referring to? Because it certainly cannot be argued that NS isn't a solution to convenience, time- saving, environment and so forth. I never made a claim that the SAS is a solution to achievement.The choice SAS surely was not a solution to achievement in the areas that seem to need those achievement gains the most. But choice IS responsible for creating an absence of public schools in the SE.

And the widely accepted myth that low-achieving students do better in high achieving schools has not been much a success. Had it been we would not be where we are today as a city, state or country - with the same achievement inequities. We wouldn't be having this conversation at all. Our children would be ideally mixed and most non racists would want it so because all would be thriving socially, emotionally and (let's not forget) academically.

We spoke about this before if I recall correctly, but if all subjectivity was removed and the only consideration was which system retained the greatest number of middle class students (based on the diversity paradigm that the more able pull up the less able, a highly questionable phenomenon) than would choice or NS retain more of the middle class? Perhaps the evolution through choice and the build up of more good schools will provide furtile ground for NS to nurture that seed crop. We need to spread the wealth.

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

I think this is more like a one-on-one discussion, Don, but: Your race has no bearing on my comments that the ethnic caps didn't impact white families. The facts are the facts no matter whom I'm talking to. There are certainly a number of Chinese families choosing private schools, but Chinese flight from SFUSD schools is overall not a big issue.

Well, you're kind of right in blaming the choice system for struggling schools in the SE, Don -- but what that shows is that middle-class and other involved families aren't that impassioned about getting their neighborhood schools. The SE schools got badly messed up by the idiotic zip code preference of the mid-'90s. Pretty much all the well-informed families grabbed the opportunity to seek out the schools they felt were the best, abandoning their neighborhood schools when they had the choice. Clarendon and other popular alternative schools practically became the Bernal Heights neighborhood schools, for example. That's the reason Paul Revere and Junipero Serra continued to struggle even as Bernal became increasingly upscale.

I've said repeatedly that I don't think the Diversity Index system was ideal -- too confusing and off-putting, without a commensurate benefit. I think a pure lottery would have been better. But no matter what anyone thinks of that system, the fact is that many schools improved significantly during its time, and the attitudes of middle-class parents toward SFUSD schools transformed. As I've said about 20,000 times, I can't say there was causation, but the correlation is undeniable. The schools improved greatly under the Diversity Index, after being much more troubled under the previous neighborhood-no-choice system.

The issue regarding offering disadvantaged families access to higher-performing schools isn't some simplistic belief that low-income students do better if they sit next to high-income students, but just the basic issue that low-income kids should get a boost in life, and access to higher-performing schools is such a boost. The counter attitude is to in effect tell disadvantaged children: "Screw you, stay in your place, you're s*** outta luck," which of course is what this campaign is really all about.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 6:13 am

Caroline, forgot to say - if this measure is as you believe - silly and pointless, why did you not come out just as vehemently against the new assignment system that is supposedly a neighborhood based school system? Our measure, if you boil it down, basically just says that you should be assigned by proximity and that choice should be maintained as a side by side system, ( and I recognize that one affects the chances of the other.)

I can't say I know all of what you may have uttered about this new SAS from SFUSD, but I sure don't recolllect any real vocal opposition on your part. So I just wonder if this doesn't have more to do with the idea of non parents becoming empowered in the district through the ballot box. You have stated before that people w/o PS children should not be allowed to weigh in on policy for those with public school children. I remember reminding you that everyone supports the schools, just as they do so with other public services.You seem to go along with the neighborhood schools from the BOE, yet you outright reject a NS coming from a grassroots group of parents. Enlighten me.

Posted by Don on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

It's crazy that they almost intentionally drive whites out of the district while claiming they support diversity, and are indifferent to trying to attract them and do what it takes to be competitive with where the whites are moving. Gifted programs are attacked, families they know will leave due to this are told they have to drive 4 miles each way each day in favor of people who are not legal U.S. Residents, and we're told that you can't suspend violent kids because that's racist. Diversity means being competitive and helping all people have a decent life and a good school. I know many whites put DS because they fear being known as white, and the word is if you're half white, put the other race, even if it's Asian. I know people who are afraid to be marked as white so put DS.

If we want diversity, we need all groups, and we need to make SF competitive with Marin, Orinda, anywhere. We have the same average income but drive families out by saying if you're white and not poor, you are are last priority, in fact if you're any race and not poor. I know successful blacks who moved due to this. We can afford to offer them as good a deal in public schools as Burlingame or Marin can in a much more interesting and diverse city. People deserve to get something for their hard work, you can't have government take every dollar extra you make as a reason to take something away from you to even it out, then we'd all do nothing.

Now I go to PTA meetings and see the donations, it's mostly whites, my son goes to James Lick and it's 15% white and the PTA is over 80% white, as are the donations. If you can attract more of them, they will donate and volunteer and help the other kids a lot more than if you drive them out. In fact the schools were more diverse before 2002. I love diversity, and chose to live here because of it. I didn't even try for higher rated middle schools because James Lick has a strong gifted program, feeds smart kids to Lowell and is less than 4 blocks from my house. I didn't want my kid on a bus 90 minutes a day The Mission is great, but the current system causes many friends to leave before they get to middle school. However, maybe if we were more than 10% white in the schools and more than 13% Republican and more than 16% kids, one of the lowest in the nation, that would be more diverse, I want my kids to hear a diversity of opinion. And I say that as a guy who took a month off work to volunteer for Obama (who has awesome ideas on education) and has voted Democrat every time, but we needn't drive out everyone who isn't like us. We want all people in this City. You can't overestimate how many people leave due to the drive, it puts so much stress on hard-working people with jobs requiring long hours.

Posted by Jonathan O'Leary on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 2:02 am

It's off-topic, but holy jeez, Jonathan O'Leary, do you really support Obama's godawful education platform? It has teachers and public school supporters tearing their "Yes we did" stickers off their cars at a furious rate. I guess reasonable people can disagree, but it's really, really hard to imagine someone who actually has experience with public schools supporting the test/punish/privatize philosophy. Please, please, please read Diane Ravitch or at least Google her and read up on her.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 6:17 am

The new is a SAS is called a neighborhood schools policy. Not bloody likely!

Isn't SFUSD transparency wonderful?

Preferences:

1st In elementary we typically have a quarter or third of K seats go to siblings.

2nd Two-thirds of elementary schools (I believe that is about the number) have CDCs associated with them. As the second preference, the low income zone residents at those centers will get all the seats they want. Very tricky SFUSD. Which begs the question - if this new SAS is a neighborhood schools policy why do some neighbors get preference over others? And as I said in an earlier comment, SFUSD would only build that 2nd CDC preference in if they knew that they were not going to accommodate large numbers of neighborhood residents. I don't have the figures ( no one really knows yet) on how many CDC kids will get K spots, but it is easy to imagine that families would want to continue on at the elementary school, particularly if it is one of the better ones. This could easily take up most of the remaining spots as CDC centers are often at least as populated as kindergartens.

3rd Then we have the CTIP1 preference which allows students in the areas of the lowest quintile in achievement to take how ever many seats they need or remain.

4th Neighborhood -not bloody likely

5th everybody else - not bloody likely

So where do the neighborhood students who are NOT low income fit into this assignment scheme? Doesn't sound like a neighborhood policy to me - just one in name only. That is why we need this measure.

Caroline, what have you to say about my previous comment that Chinese lost out big time under what you called the neighborhood schools policy of the nineties? The new SAS though crafted differently, will in effect be a rerun of that policy.

There is no amount of monkeying and tweeking that will create just the right mix. There will always be winners and losers in any new SAS unless there are more good schools to go around in every neighborhood. The education bureaucracy in conjunction with the unions has proven over decades that it cannot fix the system where the fix is most needed. Only a revival in neighborhood activism and support for education can turn those schools around. The four turnaround models are just recycled bilge. The only and last remaining chance for low performing schools is that we repair our broken funding mechanisms and that we have grassroots efforts to rebuild schools and communities one by one. And nonprofit and accountable charters schools should not be taken off the table as a means of providing alternatives to the current 9am-3pm traditional option.

We can overcome.

Posted by Don on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 9:09 am

Caroline, "If your POV is so popular then why are you so afraid of allowing the citizens of SF to vote on it?"

If I understand Caroline correctly the stakes are too important, the ideas too complicated and the learning curve is too high to allow the uninformed (read ignorant) electorate to have any say in the matter of student assignment. Though she didn't say it, I maintain that this is just another way of saying that the electorate should just pay their taxes, shut up and let more knowledgeable people decide what is right or wrong for their kids, and this includes all the kids who are in private or left SFUSD as a refuge from the progressive politics that drives out the very diversity that is needed. Oh , but what diversity?

Posted by Don on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 9:27 am

Don, using your technique (just characterizing my opinions however you want), I could say that your entire motivation is actually to keep black kids out of Alamo. I mean, I don't actually think that IS your motivation (anyway, there aren't any there now, so it really would hardly be worth your trouble). But that would be as valid as your just going all over the place about your interpretation of my opinions. But who else cares how you interpret what I'm saying anyway? Just make a case for your cause.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

That seems to be what they're saying, let's drive out people who work hard and play by the rules, as Don noted. Really, if you work hard and stay married or even together (I'm all for Gays and Lesbians adopting or having kids if they are willing to stay together long term and put the children as a priority over their own interests, as most are) and work hard, pay attention in school, you will not have a low enough income to go to a neighborhood pre-school. So siblings first, big families getting favoritism, then the poor of a neighborhood, then the poor of another neighborhood, mostly single parents or those who didn't move here legally or people who dropped out of school. Then last is a few spots for those with a college degree who are a couple, almost ensuring most such people will end up leaving or going private, the exact people we should be begging to go to public school here and who join PTAs, donate, and teach their kids to be a good student and example and work hard. Look at Palo Alto, one of the best school districts around because almost everyone is married with degrees.

If you work hard and play by the rules, we don't want you in our public school system. We will treat you worse than someone who moved here illegally or wouldn't stay together for the kids despite stats that show kids with 2 parents are twice as likely to graduate college as those with one, someone who put short-term fulfillment over their child's best interests. So we're saying if you graduate college, stay married, do the right thing for your children, teach them to study hard, we want you to leave. Well average test scores will go down if you do everything to keep kids who will score the worst while at the same time doing everything you can to drive out people who work hard and play by the rules and prioritize their children.

Jane Kim said on PBS this isn't a place to raise a family in the middle class and that diversity was more important than achievement, but it isn't diverse when you drive out people with degrees. Over 50% of San Franciscans have degrees, but a far lower percentage of the parents of SFUSD kids due to this policy. College educated people with a single child are the worst off. That's what I am, my wife and I graduated college and we have one kid, so we're last. I only get what I worked for if I move. Maybe I will. I hope I get lucky but who knows? There are more whites in private than public in SF due to this misguided policy.

Posted by Pat Buford on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 11:26 am

Tim, It is as clear as the day is long that you know jack about education.

Posted by poppycat on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 11:48 am

You can't diversify by this when people have options. If those who have means can move or go private and do better, they will. This is a socialist city in the midst of a capitalist, democratic, choice-based society. If you want educated, hard-working, family-dedicated people to raise their children in San Francisco, you have to offer them better than what the admittedly boring suburbs offer. I was not offered this. I love SF, will probably move back as soon as I can, maybe even try to get my kids into Lowell as that's by merit, but I couldn't send them to a bad school when I lived near a good one. I'm a consumer and made a choice.

In a vacuum, it could have worked, but only if you can force everyone to stay and go public. But you get educated flight, and that makes it less diverse, so you make people suffer and actually do nothing in the process to help the poor, as we have a huge achievement gap. I sold a house and thereby lowered property values when I left, and deprived the district of two high-achieving kids. I really didn't want to do so, but did out of desperation. San Francisco preferred illegals over me. My teachers taught me to work hard as a kid, as did my parents, and as an adult I was punished for it, or my children were, so I didn't accept the punishment and moved. I am a consumer with free choice in the greatest nation on earth. The choice you made me make made SF worse and San Rafael better, as my kids work many hours on school and will raise the scores of any school district they're in.

Posted by Lawrence Wong on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 11:48 am

The main argument against neighborhood schools says that a child should not be deprived of opportunity to a good education because of his or her address. The arguer solves this problem by allowing students any number of different mechanisms to enroll in schools outside of the address area. Over time as we can observe here in San Fran, that results in fewer schools and less opportunity for students that choose to attend school within the under performing areas. I conclude that under school choice to provide opportunity for the one the school district must deny opportunity to the other. That will remain the case until the school district can offer more viable choices in every neighborhood. As long as you underfeed the fish in the pond, the stronger fish will survive.

Posted by Gil Pannisouli on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

Finally even you SF liberals are getting the idea that the guy living in the White House is a stooge. They're tearing off the those bumper stickers all right. "Yes we can and we wish we didn't."

Posted by Hallie on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 1:32 pm

I'm writing from London as I like to keep up with SF politics. What I couldn't figure out in my time in San Francisco was why they spend so much money on public housing. People commute into SF from Tracy because they can't afford it, but these people have jobs, have a work ethic. Then they provide a certain percentage of new complexes and huge housing projects to those with no work who often stay 50 years. The kids in these projects generally make any school they go to worse, because they have irresponsible parents as an example, usually no father, etc. As far as I'm concerned, it is inefficient. They should have housing projects out in Tracy, not damage the environment by having people commute in while housing those not working, who could equally live anywhere. They should also spend 30k a year if needed on the schools in Tracy or wherever these projects are, and not invade Iraq for no reason, put Americans in jail for pot or stupid rubbish, and truly focus on transforming the work ethic of these children, convince them to study hard like Asians do so you can break the cycle.

I lived in San Francisco for 2 years and my kids went to public school, and the kids from the projects ruin a good school for what are mostly decent kids. Many good families live in the Mission, but the schools get dominated by a few bad kids. They should tear down all public housing and stop requiring a low income % of new condos, let people who can't afford SF live far away, and truly spend a lot of money to transform them, hire Tony Robbins or someone like that to run everything. San Francisco naturally attracts many smart, successful people but often drives them away while spending huge resources to maintain residents who hurt others. It would be one thing if those in projects were appreciative and did their best to move up a class with the huge resources they're given (free libraries, schools which they complain about but which Asians manage to do quite well in, free parks). But for the most part, they are resentful and ruin the school for the people they should be thankful are going to school with them.

Posted by Jeremiah Churchill on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

I don't understand your article Mr. Redmond. You lead off saying...

"I'm not surprised that there's an initiative in circulation that would set this as city policy:

The proximity of a student’s home to the assigned school should be the highest priority in San Francisco Unified School District’s student assignment system."

Then you say 80% get one of their choices. So why are you not surprised? I would think it would be the other way around.

There's not much question that the way the school district assigns children makes a lot of people angry. So I agree with you. I'm not surprised that there's an initiative in circulation that would set this as city policy...

Posted by Adrienne on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

Caroline, you have expressed that the SAS ought to be the result of the work of professionals and consultants at SFUSD in conjunction with the Board - or something to that effect. Did you not?

These professionals held community outreach meetings to engage the public and obtain their input. The input was received and, according to testimony before the Board, the public in communities across the city expressed their overwhelming support for neighborhoods schools. The administration then modified and consolidated some of the six existent proposals before the Board in an effort to integrate the NS preference and create an new more fully developed option. The Board eventually voted to accept the administration's proposal, but not before it made modifications of its own that thwarted the overwhelming will of the public. Given that those Board members who voted for this SAS (and all did) are the elected representatives of the people, they ought to listen to their constituents. In lieu of doing so, we need to speak louder and with greater force of will via the electorate. Maybe then the BOE will take heed of those that they serve.

Regarding your attempt to use the race card via a hypothetical back door, black children attend Alamo in extremely small numbers. Every year more AA children start at Alamo, but soon move to school elsewhere. The general explanation that I have heard for this phenomenon is that kids from Western Addition don't want to go to the Richmond to attend a school far from home. Ot so the story goes.

If I have misunderstood your POV on how an SAS ought to be developed, please correct me. I apologized if I misread your take on it.

Posted by Don on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

I don't think I've ever specifically said how the SAS should be developed. I do think it should be developed by the well-informed. The reason I think that a ballot vote on it is silly and pointless is that an election does use resources. And sure, people who know nothing about it and have nothing at stake should have the right to weigh in, but is it really worth the use of resources to let them do that? There are confounding issues that cause ethical and intelligent people to go "oh, gosh, I never though of that..." -- such as the obvious one that families living near struggling schools get the short end of the stick if they are required to enroll in those schools and only those schools.

If people are told that their neighborhood schools will magically improve if neighbors are required to enroll, of course they're like to vote yes, if they're uninformed and gullible to believe that. Unfortunately, that's bull****. So, should people be offered the change to weigh in, based on the hope that they'll believe lies and hooey? I guess that's democracy.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 9:53 am

Caroline you keep saying this - you're concerned about the "resources" used on this measure and any campaign around it should it make it to the ballot. To what "resources" are you referring? Parents lifting their arms to sign the measure to get it on the ballot? A person checking the "yes" or "no" mark next to the measure on election day? What huge drain of resources will occur if this measure makes it to the ballot?

I'm genuinely confused about this resource deficit which you keep mentioning.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 11:18 am

If nothing else, Lucretia Snapples, the personpower going into collecting signatures and campaigning, and whatever is spent on fees and campaign funding. That time and money could be put into something productive. Instead it's being spent just telling lies to the community, for no reason whatsoever. And in my opinion, telling lies to the community has its own negative impact.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

for those who consider the policy a failure. You're not one of those. But it's strange to consider those who are opposed to one's own beliefs and are involved in activities to further what they believe in, as "wasting resources." Isn't a diversity of opinion important to the city's intellectual health and vigor?

It's a sad by-product of our current society that those with beliefs opposite of other people consider the civic involvement of those they oppose as "wasted resources." If only each of us spent all our time thinking and acting in the same manner as everyone else then this world would be a much better place.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

So, make your choice. School segregation and unequal outcomes based on neighborhood economics and neighborhood schools, or a system of choice which leaves many feeling screwed and having to schlep their kids. Is a "neighborhood-based" system in which rich kids go to rich kids' schools really how the public school system should be? Is a choice-based system where people game the system and where "losing" families have long commutes and are frustrated how the school system should be?

If I have to choose, I choose the choice-based system, where, even if I can only afford to live in a bad neighborhood, my kids might be able to go to a good school (and, if I'm really committed, I can probably work through the system to get them into one of my preferred schools). A better approach (though not addressing segregation by ethnicity) would be to make all schools equally good, so folks would want to go to their neighborhood school. SFUSD would have to somehow do away with the school-by-school fundraising to make this happen. I can't see that happening.

And I really don't see all of those parents who are "forced" to send their child to private school choosing not to in a different system. Yeah, the ones who live next to Clarendon but didn't get in might not make that choice, but they'd be replaced by the ones who live across town and whose kids DID get into Clarendon.

Yes, Matlock, the choice system segregates based on parents who care (and have the means to make that caring come to fruition). Is segregating based on neighborhoods preferable? What aspect of the choice system is "progressive make believe"?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 08, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

One correction on your comment, Guest, is that lots of families are vigorously seeking schools that are not close to their homes. So it's very definitely not just the "losing" families that have long commutes. Tons of families wind up with long commutes to schools that they sought out and "won."

I'm speaking as a parent who fought to get my children OUT of an assignment steps from my house and into a school that's a 15-minute drive -- and I know many, many, many, many parents who chose schools a lot farther from their homes than that. How about my Bernal friends who opted out of Paul Revere, 2 blocks from their home, and chose Claire Lilienthal? Or for that matter my Outer Richmond relatives who opted out of Lafayette, 5 blocks from their home, and paid to schlep 3 kids to an unaccredited private school in Mission? I could keep going on and on listing examples. That's what I mean about people needing to understand how it is in the real world.

Posted by CarolineSF on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 10:00 am

I was at those meetings and it's true, most parents wanted Neighborhood Schools. The environment is important, and we should give neighborhood the highest priority simply to help ease pollution. The board ignored parents, really wasn't listening. The truth is they want middle class whites and Asians out of this City in favor of 5 yuppies sharing a place and paying higher rent and therefore property taxes. They don't like families who teach their kids to work hard, they prefer the hippy crowd who says you are wonderful and your SAT score and grades are no reflection of how wonderful, you are just wonderful, do what you wish, and if you succeed it's due to luck and fortune, and if you fail it's due to poverty and oppression. They teach the poor are particularly oppressed, not that they are incredbily lucky to have such an opportunity and have their kids in a school with striving immigrants who routinely make it to the UC system, free housing in a City that takes in many workers from long commutes who contribute far more to the economy than they, free libraries and good teachers. My wife comes from the Phillipines and is often amazed how unappreciative many people here are of their opportunities considering how greatful people back home would be to have such a chance to make good, and we used to live in a suburb of Dallas and she noticed this of whites as well as blacks who would complain of a lack of opportunity.

This is the district which has the best high school in the northern half of the state and then most teachers will try to tell parents Lowell is no better than any other school, I've heard Lowell (#28 in the U.S. according to Newsweek, and higher if you go by average SAT Score) treated as no better than Gateway or Washington.

I do feel the schools are pretty equal. Teachers are pretty good in every school and of similar passion and skill. The difference is between students and peer groups. Teachers are afraid to tell kids they need to study hard to have a good future and that grades are important. They don't want to offend anyone. They need to offend people. They need to say look, no matter how poor you may be, there are poor kids from immigrant backgrounds who are getting into Lowell, getting into UC Berkeley, and thriving. You can do so too. Class means nothing. Work ethic means everything. You're ruining your life if you go around speaking slang and blowing off homework, and building a great future if you turn off the TV and study hard each night. They don't credit the sacrifice good students make, just assume they somehow have it easier.

This is what's hurting the schools. Yes, most teachers are good, but no, they do not provide students with a realistic overview of how competitive San Francisco really is once you get out of college and how much you need to prepare if you want to be able to afford to stay here and live a good life. No one wants to rock the boat.

The kids who are at the bottom of the achievement gap now had grandparents who were bused in the '60s. It has failed for 50 years. Yes, it's great to have different races in school together, but only if teachers help them learn from one another and focus on what leads to success. It doesn't work if they just stick to their own and keep up bad habits and nothing changes. No one is learning from anyone in SFUSD. Kids are just ignoring each other and forming segregated peer groups.

This is America, the land of opportunity, and immigrants are proving it can be done. And I say this about whites as well, whites' performance in California is dismal compared to Asians with far fewer advantages. We all need to learn what works, and what doesn't, and push that work ethic and belief in America and meritocracy. What's causing kids to suffer isn't who's sitting next to them. It's who's teaching and raising them and with what values. It's how many hours they dedicate to studying.

This isn't blaming the victim. It's saying the only way a victim can become a nonvictim is by taking ownership of their success. Busing has driven many out, and has achieved absolutely nothing in terms of equalizing society. Tony Robbins could do more in a weekend for SF than SFUSD did in 50 years.

Posted by Jeremy Siebert on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 12:51 am

Sometimes you think you hit the nail on the head only to realize that warm feeling is the blood pouring out of your thumb.

The choice is not a dialectic as you put it. First, Guest, you must realize that there are hardly any rich kids in our district. My god my good man, do you bloody think the leisured classes would consort with the public school masses?

You like Tim seem unaware that the social engineering experiment, the very idea of which Rachel Norton calls "silly", is a total failure, despite attempts to educate. the ignorant on which schools would best suit their needs as deemed by SFUSD. We have plenty of segregated schools right now under the system you would support. No one is crying foul except potentially you and Tim and neither of you have even know it. Most people are passed it and not hanging onto worn out civil rights era political correctness. The diversity index was as much a charade in principle as it was mathematically.

You may also not know as Tim didn't that the Supreme Court has weighed in many times in the last few years and it is decidedly not the legal mandate of a district to engineer diversity simply where residential segregation exists, unless it is to undue engineered segregation. . Think forced marches.

So the system you support is the one by your own admission that you can game to get what you apparently deserve more than those that can't game the system as effectively. Origin of the Species is not all that old and we haven't come that far, "evolutionarily" speaking. Of course the survival of the fittest goes way back. More power to you. Don't lose any sleep.

To address the rest of your shot out of the park, private funding for schools comes no where near the state and federal compensatory education funding to the tune of many tens of millions of dollars - money that go almost exclusively to underperforming schools. That's what they are for - to address those needs. And that is not including the millions that also come in from private foundations. All in all they dwarf the assets that come through private fundraising at school sites. What makes those rich kids' schools so great is the volunteer efforts of the community along with the culture at home.

There is plenty of make believe to go around. Perhaps if we didn't have an Education Code that no one understands we could make some sense of it all.

It isn't a choice between neighborhood schools or busing. We can have a happy medium over time.

Posted by Don on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 10:13 am

I would just like to say that I have enjoyed this back and forth more than any other I have read in quite some time.

Posted by Edward on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 11:02 am

from my local school. Some one tell me why my child should not go there? Why it is that someone who lives ten miles away should go there instead? You can deconstruct and reconstruct this over and over, but no one has ever made a good enough case to convince me that I should gladly spend my time and money to go across town and the district should spend its time and money to send some students over here. Why not focus on making the school better?

Posted by poppycat on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

They lose this argument constantly when good families leave our City or go private, we give up millions of dollars that would spark our economy (money coming from Sacramento and freeing up money going to ps tuition would mean more money spent). We do stimulate the oil companies, but I'd rather have more families going to neighborhood restaurants and businesses and having just as good a school. We add pollution and lose money, but the powers that be don't care that they lose this argument. I do, I want us to convince locals to stay and raise families here, it's not good for a City to have 16% children when the state has 26%, we need to be truly diverse and that means children, adults, all people in a diverse community.

Posted by Jeremy Siebert on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

Jeremy or whatever your real name is,

Are you on stimulants? I came late to this conversation, but one person is saying the same thing over and over under different names. Why do you want to convince locals to stay? People come and go in America. San Francisco has always been a city of short timers. What do you care? If you can't get into an acceptable public school and you can't afford private, leave. That's life. I did. We have much better schools here. Plus we don't have to fight the wackos that want to tell people how they should live.

Posted by walnutcreekdude on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

Jeremy - When you say "good" families what you mean is nice middle class white people. You don't mean the hard working blue collar Latino or African American that cannot afford to leave and is stuck with whatever is thrown at them. Why don't you pick up and go somewhere else and make room for less opinionated types unlike yourself.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

By good families I mean families of all races and income levels who prioritize their children and help them achieve their potential, take responsibility for their success and help their children to do well in school and achieve their potential. Obama's family is a wonderful family, as are many families of all races. I resent that you say this is a racial thing.

We shouldn't drive out good families, because their kids will do well and this will help us get higher test scores. The main purpose of SFUSD is to prepare children and the goal is to have the highest average test scores we can possibly have by properly educating our children and giving them the support at school and at home to attain those ends.

We're driving out many good, hard working Latino and black families, many of whom I know and was sad to see leave. My kids are half Latino. I didn't mean what you said I meant.

And sadly, black and Latino families are leaving too much, SF was once 18% black and is now 6, going on 5. I am sad about that, not happy.

Posted by Jeremy Siebert on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

I just want to throw an idea out there that could fix this. Now Don mentioned the rich go to private school, and this hurts the public schools by depriving them of the most motivated parents who are able to donate and volunteer. Even the far left Carol has family friends who believe in private school. When you do this, you are educating your kid by hurting the kids who are isolated by class, remember 1954 Brown v. Topeka said separation causes some to feel unequal. I disagree with some of what Don said in that I know many upper class people in public schools, but it is true a high percentage of the rich in SF go to private school.

For 45 years, the burden of equality has been on the better off public school parents to equalize things, but not on private school parents at all.

Why don't we have a policy where we charge the same tax as the current sales tax on private school tuition. 8.75% I believe. Public school parents are charged 3-5,000 in the cost of driving, and more if you include time as a value, per year. Private school parents have contributed nothing to the poorest and most vulnerable children in our community.

So why don't we have a tax and have all of that money go to the bottom third of San Francisco Public Schools, not into the general fund but to pay for tutors, academic summer camps, Kumon, Sylvian, things like that. I think it would be fair for private school parents who don't really believe in equality of educational opportunity and believe in class segregation to fund equalizing things for a generation, as the better off public school parents have done for 45 years.

Now this tax wouldn't be exhorbitant by any means, only making up for the fact that they get out of sales tax. It would be not much more than poorer public school parents are hit with when they are told they have to drive 4 hours instead of .25 miles, 4 times, daily. Also, if you could show it is a burden to some, maybe we could have an exemption for families under 100k who struggle to pay the tuition for religious reasons, and maybe only 5% if you make 100-150k, so that this would truly only be a tax on those who can easily afford it and who are causing much of the current race and class segregation of schools in our City.

Wouldn't this be more fair than the current SAS which is a hidden tax on the unlucky and moderately successful?

Posted by Robert Mendohlson on Jul. 09, 2010 @ 4:38 pm