Student Assignment Process

  • The process for assigning students to schools is not working; parents don’t understand the system and it has not resulted in more racially diverse schools.
  • We need a new system which is simpler and more transparent for parents, and which does not leave some students without a school assignment until August or beyond.
  • The Educational Placement Center (EPC) must strive to complete student assignments more quickly; the time between placement rounds should be shortened.
  • The discussion about “neighborhood” schools and school choice has raged for years in San Francisco with no possible resolution that will please all sides; we need to start a new conversation.
  • Community commitment to diversity and de-segregation must not be allowed to be pitted against the best interests of children and families.
  • Rather than focusing on the old rigid assignment areas, we should be looking at giving weight to proximity, allowing those who live closest to schools to have priority, while still preserving choice for those coming from farther away.
  • The EPC must improve its customer service, responding to parent questions more promptly and ensuring that all of the information it gives out is accurate and consistent.
  • SFUSD should be working towards ensuring that comprehensive childcare on a sliding scale is available at every school.


[dropcap style=”font-size: 40px; color: #9b9b9b;”]T[/dropcap]oo many families feel that the current lottery system doesn’t give them enough of a chance for a school which feels right for their child and their family. The student assignment process of spring 2008 was riddled with both human and computer errors, further eroding parent confidence in the assignment system. Some parents who followed all of the conventional wisdom about visiting many schools, seeking out less popular programs, and applying to a broad range of schools, still ended up getting none of their choices. The process must improve before the next round of student assignments in spring 2009, to rebuild the community’s confidence in our schools.

Ironically, more students than ever applied for Kindergarten in spring 2008, reversing a trend of falling enrollment. Some schools which had struggled with low enrollment for years were overwhelmed with requests. A static assignment system which is not nimble enough to adjust for these kinds of changes does not serve our parents or our schools.

“Just make all the schools great schools” is often touted as the solution, but schools are only as strong as their leaders. Hiring qualified teachers for every school, recruiting and training the best Principals, and providing extra resources for schools serving low income students help level the playing field, but nothing is more appealing to parents touring schools than seeing an active parent body engaged in working for the benefit of their school and its students. We must make every effort to ensure that every school has something to entice parents in the door, whether it is a special program like language immersion or Montessori, or extended childcare, or additional arts and enrichment, or partnerships with local museums and cultural institutions. Different models for language immersion should be added to existing models to expand the availability of these popular programs to the large number of English-only applicants.

No family should feel that they must move out of San Francisco in order to be assured of a good public education for heir children. Strengthening public schools in San Francisco is a key requirement to the future of our community.