- Diversity Index Not Diversifying, Report Says
- Proposal Would Add Race/Ethnicity as a Factor
- Community Input Gathered for Long-Range Plan
Diversity Index Not Diversifying, Report Says
As the Board of Education considers changing the method of assigning students to schools, including adding race as a factor, it met as the Committee of the Whole last night and heard a presentation from the staff about segregation in the district.
The school choice process by which families list their seven most desired schools was meant to provide equal access to the best schools for diverse groups of students. However, data staff presented revealed troubling issues related to race.
The numbers of families who chose to participate in the choice process varies significantly by ethnic group. Five percent of Chinese-American students don't participate, compared to 15 percent of white students, 32 percent of Latino students, and 50 percent of African-American students.
In addition, the schools families chose varies by ethnic group. The most requested elementary school for African Americans is Drew; for Chinese Americans, Lawton; for Latino, Buena Vista; and for Caucasians, Lilienthal. Not one of the most requested elementary schools is common across all racial and ethnic groups.
The result, district data showed, is that the applicant pool for each school is not racially and ethnically diverse.
- 44 percent (43 schools out of 97) of the schools had applicant pools of more than 45 percent of any single ethnic group. The district considers any school that has more than 45 percent of any single ethnic group to be segregated.
- 22 percent (21 schools) had applicant pools of more than 60 percent of one racial or ethnic group.
"The diversity index is not designed to optimize racial/ethnic diversity and it doesn't, especially when the applicant pool already has high concentrations of single racial/ethnic groups requesting specific schools," the staff report stated.
The report also noted that 17 percent of the students who apply in the first round of the process do not go on to become SFUSD students, even though half of these students received their first-choice school. Attrition rates are highest among white families: 36 percent of white families participating in the first round did not go on to enroll in SFUSD.
Proposal Would Add Race/Ethnicity as a Factor
The meeting was called in part to discuss a board proposal to modify the student assignment method that would, among other changes, include race a factor. The proposal was withdrawn from the agenda at the last meeting because some board members felt further discussion was needed. At last night's meeting, Commissioners Eric Mar and Eddie Chin voiced their support for the proposal and urged that it be introduced at the next regular meeting, on December 12.
"This may not be perfect, but we have to move as quickly as we can and see if we can put ethnicity back in student assignment," Chin said.
The proposed resolution directs the district to take steps including:
- Add race and ethnicity as a factor in the student assignment lottery
- Create a working group to recommend changes to the admissions process for Lowell High School and SOTA High School that would ensure equitable opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds to attend the schools and increase the diversity of the enrollment
- Work with the Omega Group, a consulting firm, to examine current attendance area boundaries
- Review and revise the transportation system in a manner consistent with the goals of the student assignment method
Community Input Gathered for Long Range Plan
As part of its comprehensive plan to revise student assignment and stanch declining enrollment, the board initiated a community engagement effort headed by the Parent Advisory Council to gather input from stakeholders. The PAC reported last night on the results of its efforts thus far.
The PAC will continue to hold community meetings through December and January. It will analyze the findings and prepare a final report by early March. The staff will present a long-range plan to the board sometime later that month.
So far, the PAC has held 50 meetings, and spoken with 500 community members, including 100 youth. PAC members said it was premature to offer detail on the opinions they were hearing. They did report, however, that community members wanted a say in the process but that many people were skeptical their input was going to be used.
The meetings are small groups of about 10 people and involve concentrated, detailed discussions of what people want from schools and how people make decisions regarding which schools to attend. The groups have included parents of school-age children, including those who go to private or charter schools; parents of preschoolers and toddlers; teachers; youth; and San Francisco residents who are not parents.
The meetings will continue to be held for the next two months. Those interested in participating may contact any of the following people:
- Gentle Blythe, director of the Office of Public Outreach, at (415) 241-6565 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ruth Grabowski of the Parent Advisory Council at email@example.com
- Katie Albright of the San Francisco Education Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org