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Hi - We live in Oakland, work FT in SF, and our daughter has been in daycare/preschool in SF since she was 5 mo. We are now at the cusp of K, and pursuing a transfer to SFUSD. First, have other people on this list done a transfer, adn what was is your experience with school in one city, living in another? Also, I'm wondering if people have information about SF schools, in particular: Spring Valley Elementary; Sherman Elementary; Cobb Montessori; Rosa Parks JBBC. anon
Check out SFUSD's Educational Placement website for schools with openings that will become available on June 1st (open enrollment). Also check out the blog ''SF K Files'' for info on specific schools. Also, Parents for Public Schools is a great organization with a website and listserve. We've already gone through two rounds of placement lottery (listed 7 top schools each time) and in addition waitlisted our top choice school. After the second lottery round we were placed at our waitlist Spanish immersion school. Quite a process! Next year SFUSD is primarily switching to a neighborhood based assignment system. Future SFUSD Family
I have a child who will be entering kindergarten in the Fall of
2008. We are considering moving to San Francisco before then,
and I have many questions about the SF public school system.
Can anyone recommend good resources to learn about SF public
schools? I've found nothing online like BPN, and I have no way
of knowing how to evaluate the schools besides test scores and
basic data. I'm looking for parent reviews of schools, some
kind of ''inside scoop'' that will help me determine how likely
it is that I can get my child in a school that feels right, and
which schools or neighborhoods we should consider. Without
more infomration the process is totally daunting and
overwhelming, and school assignments seem to be completely
random. Is there more hope than that? Are there good schools
in SF, and where are they?
Thanks for your insight and info!!
I'll post in two parts -- the info and the informed rant! First, you should check out Parents for Public Schools -- www.ppssf.org/ -- they are an active and and well-informed organization that can help dispel some of the misinformation about schools here, namely the idea that there are a only handful of schools worth considering and the rest are disastrous. You should also do a search at sfgate.com for articles on the SFUSD. There are some encouraging stories about Mandarin bilingual education there, for example. I would also take a look at individual school info on greatschools.net.
I don't know much about the middle schools and high schools, except that the selective (?) high school Lowell is highly competitive, whatever that means in terms of the HS application process.
I can also tell you that we have decided to leave SF once our first son is school age primarily because there are essentially no neighborhood schools here. So there's little point your considering where in SF to move based on which schools are nearby. Kids are assigned to schools based on a number of categories that are weighed to ensure racial, linguistic and socio-economic balance among the student body. Parents can nominate up to seven schools they would like their child to attend. All families then wait for the March assignment results to find out where they get in. Around 85% of kids get into ONE of the schools on the list parents submit (i.e., it could be No. 7 on the list). Fewer get into their top pick.
The problem is, while there are more than a few ''good'' elementary schools, there ARE still vast differences in the test scores between schools, which means that some schools receive WAY more applicants than others, which are considered only by families who live nearby and consider a school close to home the most important factor in their decision.
There is also a sense among some parents that ONLY X or Y school is good enough for their child, which further increases the fierce competition for a just few schools among those parents who have the time and resources to research their options. Not to mention the lying and cheating on applications by parents desparate to get their child into the ''perfect'' school (which, sure, I know occurs elsewhere, too).
Call me a cynic, but even if you go in with an open mind, no matter how much research you might do, uncovering so-called ''hidden gems'' that you think will be great matches for your kid, there is (1) no guarantee you'll get into any of the schools of your choice and (2) even if you do, you might find your child having to travel across the city from where you live. We are among the 70% of SFans who rent and had originally thought we would shoot for a school we were happy with and then move -- rent or, god forbid, buy -- close by. But we decided this was too stressful for all of us and are instead going to move to the East Bay, where we know neighborhood schools are the norm. Also, while the bitter rancor between the school board and the former school supe has eased, and the new interim supe is great, there is still some tension between the two. And the school board, voted in by this vastly childless city, can sometimes get bogged down in issues that are more ideological than practical, which doesn't help. Anon
My sister has 2 children in SF Public Schools (elementary and middle school) and they have been happy there. When her oldest was assigned to elementary school, it was not one of the ''favored few,'' but it was (and is) a lovely school. Since they have gotten involved in the school, it has become quite popular. From what I hear, there are many, many wonderful SFUSD schools. Check out your options, get involved, and help make your public school assignment the school you want it to be. My sister and I were raised in a suburban district with ''supposedly great schools'' in the '70s & '80s and we often compare notes about our own education vs. the education our children are receiving in SF and Berkeley today. We feel the curriculum is better, the teachers are, for the most part, much better, and we value being part of diverse communities. Tricia
My husband and I are currently considering leaving the area due to the astronomical cost of living and apparent negative consensus regarding the Oakland public schools -- at least at the middle and high school levels, anyway (and we don't want to move to either Berkeley or Albany). Before we leave our beloved Bay Area, however, we were wondering about the SF public school system. Would it be worth it to move across the Bay, sacrifice home owernship, fight for parking, put up with the fog, etc.? Are there many quality schools at all levels or are there just a couple of desirable schools? How does the system work in terms of getting the school you want? Is that a realistic expectation or is it a huge hassle? Of course, all I can really recall having seen on TV are interviews with disgruntled parents(-: Totally ignorant of such things, we now have a 2 year old and realize that we need to start figuring this out ASAP...they really *do* grow up fast!! Thanks in advance for your help.
I don't think there is a consensus that the Oakland schools are bad. I know you mention middle and high school but that really is a long way off. Are you really willing to give up home ownership for something that's 10+ years off w/ no guarantees? You can't predict the state of either school district over that length of time. There are quite a few good elementary schools here. There may be some great choices in the SF schools for bilingual programs etc. but there is no guarantee that you'll get your choice. We didn't. And if you think Oakland is expensive...
There are some very good schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels. However, your child is not guaranteed a seat at your neighborhood school, even if you live across the street from one of these schools. You must participate in the enrollment process where you ''choose'' several schools and wait to be assigned to one of them. However, you may not be assigned to any of them because many parents are choosing the same schools and the most popular schools cannot handle the demand. Instead, you will be assigned to a school which could be across town. At that point, you get yourself on a waiting list and/or enroll in a private school. I believe I've read that 50% of white (read: middle class) families in SF send their kids to private schools (which is just above 40% of similar families in Berkeley where you will find a similar enrollment system). Good luck!
In short, this school district uses a lottery system to determine where every student will attend school. As of this year, a family ''selects'' 7 schools on the application. Using a complex formula, which is based on multiple criteria (such as address, family income, mother's education level, etc.), a computer program basically decides where your child will go to school.
I have heard countless horror stories from friends who have unsuccessfully gone through this process. For example, our friend's daughter (who will be entering kindergarten in the Fall) did not get placed in ANY of their 7 selections. A different school, which they did not select, is the school their daughter is required to attend. Another friend's child was told he would need to attend an elementary school that would require a 30-minute commute across town, which, again, was not at a school they had selected.
My advice is that you should thoroughly research this school district's enrollment process and policies by getting info from the district, looking up newpaper articles about the subject, and talking to families who have children enrolled in the district, before you start packing your bags. Good luck!
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