Navigating the system: San Francisco
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Learn more on what to look for when touring schools in these videos:
Video: How to find a middle school
Video: A guide to private schools
By GreatSchools Staff
Neighborhood elementary schools
For the first time in 20 years, elementary schools have new "attendance areas" that will factor in to a child's placement. If your neighborhood school is your top choice, and the number of applicants does not exceed the number of kindergarten spots, your child will be assigned to your local school, although you must still request it. The problem is when your top-choice school has more applicants than spots. In this situation it's possible for your child not to get into the neighborhood school. The new policy for assigning the vacant spots ranks applicants based on the following tiebreakers, in the listed order:
The younger siblings of students who are enrolled in and will be attending the school during the year for which the younger sibling requests attendance (highest preference).
2. SFUSD PreK
Applicants who live in the attendance area of the school and are also attending an SFUSD PreK program in the same attendance area. No doubt some parents will apply for SFUSD preschool programs to ensure their child a better chance at their neighborhood school.
3. Test score areas
Applicants who live in areas of the city with the lowest average test scores. Ostensibly, this will help equity issues by offering children whose neighborhood test scores are in the lowest quintile (bottom 20 percent), special priority at any school. However all families in the zip code, regardless of race, income, or individual test scores, receive this higher ranking.
4. Attendance area
Applicants who live in the attendance area of the school. Check here to view attendance-area maps for schools.
5. Dense-population areas
Applicants who live in attendance areas that do not have enough space to accommodate all the students living in the attendance area.
6. Other applicants (lowest preference, decided by lottery).
Whether this policy will prove more popular than the previous system is yet to be seen. For parents adamant about going to their neighborhood school it won't be a panacea, but it may cut down on the cross-town bussing and carpooling so common in the current system.
Middle and High schools
The new policy originally envisioned each elementary school feeding into a designated middle school, but the feeder patterns are still under review. For the 2011-2012 school year, middle school assignments will be based on choice, with three tiebreakers:
The younger siblings of students who are enrolled in and will be attending the school during the year for which the younger sibling requests attendance.
2. Test score areas
Applicants who live in areas of the city with the lowest average test scores.
3. All other applicants (chosen by lottery)
High schools have no preferential attendance areas, and applicants are assigned according to their ranked choices, with over-subscribed schools allocating spots by lottery. The two exceptions are top-ranked Lowell High School(GS rating 10), which bases admission on GPA and test results, and the School of the Arts (SOTA), which bases admission on talent as demonstrated in an audition or portfolio review. Both of these schools have separate applications in addition to the general SFUSD form.
Under the new assignment policy, all K-8, language immersion, newcomer (English immersion), the SF Public Montessori, and all middle and high schools are designated city-wide schools, meaning they have no attendance areas. Kindergarten applicants are assigned to these schools using the same tiebreakers as at neighborhood schools, but without the assignment area preference. There are fourteen schools in this category, including:
- Alice Fong Yu (K-8 Cantonese immersion school, GS rating 10)
- Bessie Carmichael (K-8, GS rating 4)
- Buena Vista (Spanish immersion school, GS rating 5)
- Chinese Education Center (newcomer, GS rating 3)
- Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (Cantonese immersion school)
- Fairmount (Spanish dual immersion school, GS rating 5)
- Lawton (K-8, GS rating 9)
- Claire Lilienthal (K-8, GS rating 9)
- Marshall (Spanish dual immersion school, GS rating 4)
- Mission Education Center (for recent immigrants, GS rating 1)
- Paul Revere (K-8, GS rating 1)
- Rooftop (K-8, GS rating 8)
- SF Community (K-8, GS rating 6)
- SF Public Montessori School