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San Francisco District Shake Up of School Assignments Starts

The San Francisco school system is in for major changes in the way that students are placed in elementary and middle schools. School officials are now planning to send students to those schools closer to their homes, rather than basing the choice of school on socioeconomic class or home language, something it has used for years.

school_bus%20double.jpgThe Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified School District met to discuss possible options. Staff presented a number of options including those that would use academic performances and the student’s home location to determine where the student went to school. Board recommendations are still being submitted and a final vote is scheduled for March 3 on all the options available.

Options include:

Parent Selection
One of the options presented is to allow parents to select the school that the child attends, up until the school is full. At that time, all names of remaining students would be placed in a lottery system to determine which school the child will attend. However, the difference here is that the lottery would also take into consideration academic performance of the student to get an aggregate of low to high performing students in each school. In addition, such a lottery system would also factor in the location of the student’s home.

Closest to Home
Another option is to simply send the children to the school that is closest to their home. Parents could still make a choice in which school to send their child, but they would be allowed to choose other schools outside of their closest school only if there was availability at that school. This makes the school assignment far more predictable.

Racial Diversity
The goal of the school board, however, is to create more racial diversity within their schools. Neither of the thus far proposed options offers any type of benefit to racial diversity. The school officials are hoping to find another solution that will give them more ability to reduce the number of racially isolated schools in the community.

The Parent Advisory Council and Parents for Public Schools both came together to talk about the school assignment system. These groups will not support any system that takes the parent’s right to choose a school. The group believes that if the school district ensured that all schools offered the same benefits that people would not care as much about their child’s assignments.

A history of the San Francisco Unified School District’s school assignment system may be found by clicking on the following link:

History of San Francisco Unified School District’s school assignment system:

1978: The NAACP files a lawsuit against San Francisco Unified School District and the state on behalf of a group of black parents whose children had been assigned to racially segregated schools.

1983: The lawsuit is settled with a consent decree, or court order, which mandates reforms SFUSD must make to improve academic achievement and desegregate schools. The district implements racial caps at schools that limit the number of students of one race to 45 percent.

1994: The families of several schoolchildren file a class action lawsuit against the state, the school district and the NAACP challenging the consent decree as a denial of their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

1999: The class action lawsuit is settled with an agreement that race will not be used in deciding school assignments.

2001: The consent decree is extended until Dec. 31, 2005, and a new assignment system is created that uses a “diversity index,” which considers six socio-economic factors – not including race – when assigning students to popular schools.

2005: SFUSD’s Community Advisory Committee on Student Assignment releases recommendations for improvements to the student assignment process.

2005: A UCLA report on SFUSD’s assignment system concludes that there maintains “a pattern of continuing resegregation at close to half of the district schools since 1999.”

2005: The consent decree is closed Dec. 31 by the decision of a federal judge.

2008: The San Francisco civil grand jury recommends dismantling the current enrollment lottery system and reverting to offering families preference at neighborhood schools while redrawing school boundaries.

June 2009: The Parent Advisory Council and Parents for Public Schools make recommendations for changing the student assignment system after surveying parents and other stakeholders.

Above history provided compliments of the San Francisco Examiner: