Students can stay closer to home 

For the first time in decades, The City’s schoolchildren could be automatically enrolled in their neighborhood public schools.

On Tuesday, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia proposed a radical shift away from the current, convoluted school lottery. He offered a new scheme that would bring back neighborhood options yet still allow parents to choose other schools if they want to. It also will modestly improve schools’ diversity, which the old system aimed to do but never accomplished.

The current school-selection method was put in place in 2001 and was the latest in a line of systems that all took a crack at diversifying San Francisco’s long-segregated schools. It placed students in schools using a complex lottery system.

In the end, despite its best intentions, the system not only failed to desegregate schools, but angered parents who wanted more say in their child’s education.

In 2008, the SFUSD launched a public process to overhaul that system. The district finally pared down the options to two: One favored sending students to the school nearest their home, and the other was a simplification of the current lottery system.

On Tuesday, Garcia offered a proposal that is a combination of those two options. It would only apply to elementary and middle school students; high school students would retain the ability to choose whatever school they want.

Some elementary and middle schools also would be 100 percent choice, such as immersion schools. But most would turn into regular neighborhood schools filled with students in their attendance area, which will be determined by a map the district would devise.

If parents don’t want their child to go to a neighborhood school, they could request others. In schools where there was more demand than space, students would be entered into a lottery.

That is where the latest attempt at diversifying schools would come in, Garcia’s proposal states. Students from census areas that typically have lower test scores would be given more weight in the lottery than their peers from neighborhoods that typically have higher test scores.

Both the public and the Board of Education will be allowed to respond to the proposal at a board meeting  next Tuesday, followed by a public hearing Feb. 17. The board could vote on the proposal as soon as March 9, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.


Proposed new rules

San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia advanced a new school-assignment policy Tuesday. The plan, which still must be approved, would take effect for the 2011-12 school year.

•Elementary and middle school students will receive an initial enrollment offer for their neighborhood school.
•If parents prefer another school, they can apply for enrollment there.
•If there are more applications than seats, there will be a lottery, with siblings of current students given preference, followed children who have been enrolled in a preschool program in the neighborhood, then students living in census tracts that have low test scores.
•High schools would continue to be all-choice, meaning students can apply to any school they choose. When there are fewer seats than applicants, a lottery will be held, with younger siblings of enrolled students given preference, followed by students who live in census tracts with poor test scores.
•Some schools will be designated as citywide, including language-immersion programs, Lowell High School and School of the Arts. These will remain entirely choice schools, with similar lottery preferences as other schools.

Source: SFUSD

Assistance for LGBT students approved

The Board of Education unanimously approved an anti-discrimination program aimed at supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

The program aims to reduce the harassment, depression and increased suicidal tendencies those students face.

The board also heard a proposal to dissolve Newcomer High School, which serves students who are new to the country. School district officials say students who attend the school, located in the Inner Sunset district, tend to later perform worse than peers who enroll in regular schools.

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