SF Board of Education Approves New Student Assignment Policy for Elementary Students
San Francisco (December 10, 2020) - The San Francisco Board of Education approved a new, zone-based student assignment policy for elementary schools that supports the Board’s goals of diverse school enrollment, and predictable school assignment within reasonable geographic distance to where families reside.
Under the new policy, families will choose from the elementary schools in the zone that they live in. Each zone will have choices of K-5 and K-8 schools, language pathways, and special education programs. The policy will consider the demographic characteristics of each child’s immediate neighborhood when assigning students to help ensure that every school reflects the diversity of the zone it's in. Younger siblings, students who reside in Federal public housing or in historically underserved areas of San Francisco, and SFUSD PreK students who wish to continue in TK or K at the same school would all receive a preference in the assignment process.
The Board approved the new policy in a 6-1 vote on December 8. Staff have proposed an 18-month timeline for implementing the new policy, meaning the new policy will not take effect until the 2022-23 school year at the earliest.
The policy includes guidelines for drawing zones and rules for assigning students to schools, though it does not include actual zone boundaries, the assignment algorithm, or diversity categories. Developing zones, an equity tiebreaker, and the diversity categories will be established as next steps.
“Facilitating community engagement and building public confidence and support for the student assignment process are critical to successfully implementing our new student assignment policy,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “We know that families are busier than ever given the pandemic, so we will not launch our next phase of community engagement until the fall of 2021. In the meantime, we will continue to plan for the engagement and systems and share more information with the community about the new system.”
In December 2018, the Board passed Resolution 189-25A1 “Developing a Community Based Student Assignment System for SFUSD” to address concerns that the current district-wide choice school assignment system has not reversed the trend of racial isolation, is complicated for families to navigate, and is not sufficiently predictable or transparent.
Since then, the Board engaged in a two-year policy development process which has included 11 convenings of the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment, 12 community workshops to gather public input, 4 virtual community information sessions, dozens of additional conversations with San Francisco families and community groups, case studies from other districts, and policy simulations conducted by Stanford researchers.
“One of the things we've seen in our current elementary school assignment system is that choice has led to increasing levels of segregation. Parents regularly complain about the burden of comparing and evaluating schools, and the lack of certainty that comes with a choice process. I've also become increasingly concerned that our current policy sends the unintended message that the schools in some neighborhoods are not quality schools,” said Board of Education Commissioner Rachel Norton, co-author of Board resolution “Developing a Community Based Student Assignment System for SFUSD” and Chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Student Assignment.
“I believe the new policy will make the process of enrolling a child in elementary school simpler and more predictable, and better support diverse school enrollments. San Francisco's kids and families deserve high quality schools in every neighborhood, and the district's enrollment policy should support that vision, rather than conflict with it. I'm very proud of the rigorous process the Board followed to craft this policy - reviewing historical data, learning from other districts, simulating many possible outcomes, and gathering input from the community,” Norton said.
Read the full policy.