In San Francisco, kids don't automatically go to their neighborhood school. The education system is set up to try to create diverse and equally excellent schools.
The Student Assignment System is a ranked lottery system that allows you to PICK YOUR TOP SEVEN SCHOOLS. According to statistics collected by the San Francisco Unified School District (which you can access yourself at sfusd.edu
) 82% of children are assigned to one of the schools of their choosing, and 63% of those are assigned to their first choice.
It used to be that placements were partially determined by race in order to fill quotas for each school, but now it's only parents' choice and school capacity that are considered. (As well as Sibling Priority, and Medical and Family Hardship Appeals, which will be addressed in a later step.) Some activists within the city have called for the reinstatement of race-related policies in order to stop rapidly increasing self-segregation, which, among other things, may increase the presence of structural violence and neglect to certain communities. But for now, race is out of the Assignment picture.
With all that said, your new freedom to choose could feel overwhelming at first. Don't fret! Here are a few easy ways to go about narrowing down your choices:
1. LOOK AROUND YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. As San Francisco parent Peter Cohen says, "Neighborhood schools are no longer really part of the neighborhood." Let's change that! Start with you local schools. Aside from being perhaps the most easily accessible to you (don't underestimate the importance of this!), sending your children to your community's school will further invest you in your neighborhood. Now imagine if everyone did that. It's a great place to start.
2. TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS. Where do they send their kids to school? Are they satisfied with their choice? These people will have a lot to tell you about specific schools as well as the process of Assignment in general. It's also worth considering where your neighbors and friends send their kids if you're looking to share transportation responsibilities or start your child with a built-in network of friends.
3. GET IN TOUCH WITH THE DISTRICT. Start with the District's Official website
and move along from there. Their Enrollment Guide
is packed with official information. The website also lists addresses and contact info for every single school and you can search by grade level or by special program (like Alternative Grade Span, Charter, and County). Each school then lists a downloadable PDF that packs a lot of info about current enrollment and curriculum, a general Profile, the Academic Plan, as well as Historical Data so you can see how each school has changed. Some of it is rather dense and table-heavy, but you can't complain about the District not making their statistics public. These listings may be most helpful once you've narrowed down your choices to a handful or so.
The District's Education Placement Center can provide counseling and can, as they say, "help you with the entire enrollment process whether your child is new to SFUSD or already attending an SFUSD school". They're at 555 Franklin Street, Room 100.
The District also has an annual Enrollment Fair once a year where you can talk to someone from every single San Francisco public school all in one place if you really want to.
4. CHECK OUT SOME WEBSITES. Parents for Public Schools
has an extremely informative site and offers all kinds of support from their own list of tips, to counseling, to information sessions, to translations (in Spanish and Chinese) of important literature. Their Parent Ambassadors can also offer their thoughts on specific schools as current parents.
Here's a list of a few more to get you started:www.greatschools.netwww.thebeehive.orgwww.sfkids.orgwww.commonsensemedia.org
5. TALK TO YOUR CHILD. Maybe your three year old won't have that much to say about their preference for hands-on experiences that best suit their tactile learning personality, but listening to them talk about what they like and dislike will give you a good idea about what to keep in mind when choosing for them. Do they like to draw a lot? Look for a school with a strong art program. Do they want to read a hundred books every night? Look for a school with a strong reading program. Don't forget that it's THEY who will be going to this school five days a week for the next handful of years, not you.