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Meeting Student Needs
We are committed to providing excellent educational opportunities that are open, accessible, and welcoming to all SFUSD students.
Contact: Multilingual Pathways Department
The San Francisco Unified School District is committed to ensuring that English Learners acquire high levels of English and home language proficiency (where available), academic achievement and skills that will lead to success in the 21st century. As such, we provide various educational programs and language pathways for students who are English Learners. This section provides a general overview of the enrollment process for English Learners. For a complete description, see the English Learner Program Guide, available though the Educational Placement Center or on the English Learner Family Guides page.
Who is an English Learner?
Your child is classified as an English Learner (EL) if when you filled out the “Home Language Survey” on the SFUSD Enrollment Application, you answered at least one of the following questions with a language other than English:
- What language did your child first learn when s/he began to talk?
- What language do you use most frequently to speak with your child?
- What language does your child use most frequently at home?
And if at grades Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and above, your child did not receive an overall score of “Initial Fluent English Proficient” on the Initial English Language Proficiency Assessment for California (ELPAC) or your child has not yet been reclassified as an English-proficient student by SFUSD.
If my child is an English Learner, how do I enroll them in school?
Students who speak a language other than English and list a Language Pathway as a school choice may be assessed for their current language skills to evaluate a child’s proficiency in the pathway language before they can enroll in school. Parents/guardians should submit their child’s enrollment application early to meet with an EPC counselor and complete the necessary language assessments.
Where does my child take the assessment test?
Due to COVID-19, all assessments will be conducted remotely. Staff from the Educational Placement Center will contact families to schedule and conduct assessments prior to families receiving a school assignment.
More details on eligible programs for English Learners and classification requirements can be found in the English Learner Program Guide, available at the Educational Placement Center and online on the English Learner Family Guides page.
What happens after the test?
Once the test is completed and scored the parents/guardians speak with a counselor at the EPC to discuss test results, program options, and support services. Parents will have the opportunity to change the school or program requests on their child’s application if they so choose and/or if their child is not eligible for a selected language pathway.
What are the language programs available for English Learners?
SFUSD provides 6 programs:
- Dual Language Programs
- Biliteracy Programs
- Secondary Dual Language Programs
- Newcomer Programs
- World Language Programs
- English Plus Programs
We encourage parents and guardians to learn more about how each program can help English Learners academically succeed.
Where can I find more information about these programs?
See more information about Language Programs in the English Learner Family Guides.
Reclassification for English Learners
English Learners can be reclassified as Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) students after meeting linguistic and academic criteria set by the state and district. The Multilingual Pathways Department regularly distributes a list of students who potentially qualify for reclassification to schools. Schools are responsible for starting the reclassification process for each student. When a student is reclassified, the student’s academic progress must be monitored for two years.
Special Education for English Learners
Information on Special Education Services for English Learners with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) is available at www.sfusd.edu/sped, and in the English Learner Program Guide, available online at English Learner Family Guides and at the Enrollment Placement Center, 555 Franklin St. (room 100) in San Francisco.
Contact: Refugee and Immigrant Supports in Education (RISE-SF)
Phone: Susana Rivero, (415) 919-8184
RISE-SF supports all refugee and immigrant families at SFUSD, with a focus on newcomer immigrants and those who undocumented. We can support families in: Getting oriented to SFUSD policies and expectations; Building relationships with their school site staff; Understanding their rights and the immigration processes; Getting connected to community resources.
Any child whose parents/guardians live in San Francisco is guaranteed access to a free public education in SFUSD. Students will not be denied access to school because of their immigration status and may apply through the regular enrollment process.
Students Receiving Special Education Services
Contact: Special Education
Children identified with a disability that affects their education may be eligible for special education services and an Individual Education Program (IEP). For more detailed information on the types of support SFUSD provides please visit - www.sfusd.edu/types-student-support.
Need help with special education enrollment?
Special Education placement counselors at the EPC are available to assist with enrollment. Appointments are recommended but not required. Set up an appointment.
How do students with special education needs apply for school?
Students with an IEP may be required to submit an enrollment application if they are new to SFUSD, entering a transitional grade (TK, kindergarten, sixth and ninth), applying for Access/Transition Services, transferring to another school, or if there are changes to their special education needs. The same SFUSD enrollment application is used for all students. Families should attach their student’s IEP (if available) to their application in ParentVue and meet with a Special Education placement counselor if they have questions.
Most students with disabilities can attend a school of their choice. Although certain highly specialized services for disabilities are only available at specific schools, all schools have some special education services available. Families should complete the enrollment application and list any school preferences by the specified enrollment deadlines to receive their child’s school choice.
Outside of the regular enrollment period, the Educational Placement Center (EPC) will assign students to schools that meet their educational needs and have seats available. Students with special needs or mobility, vision or hearing impairments and who request to be in the same school as their siblings will receive a sibling tiebreaker preference as long as their selected school also provides the special education services required in their IEPs.
You can use the SFUSD School Finder to discover the special education programs at school sites. The SFUSD Schools section in the guide (starting on page 22) and the sfusd.edu/sped website list what special education services are offered at each school. Special education services at schools are subject to change. For the latest information, talk with your case manager or a special education placement counselor before completing your application.
Does your child need special education services?
If you think that your child may need a special education assessment, you can find more information about the process and who to contact on the SFUSD Screening and Assessment website.
Types of Special Education Supports Available in SFUSD
General Education with Supports (TK-12)
General Education-based services are available at every TK-12 school. This service offers the necessary accommodations, modifications and supplementary aids and supports designated in a student’s IEP. Students are assigned to the general education classroom for the majority of the school day.
Related Services (TK-12)
Related Services are available at every TK-12 school. Related Services provide specific and specialized instructional supports that increase access to core curriculum and grade-level peers. Students requiring only Related Services are assigned to the general education classroom for most of the day. However, Related Services may be delivered in a separate education setting per the student’s IEP. Related Services are:
- Speech and language services
- Audiological services
- Augmentative and alternative communication
- Orientation and mobility
- Vision services
- Adaptive physical education
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Assistive technology
- Counseling and mental health services
- Vocational education and career development
Resource Specialist Services (TK-12)
These services are available at every TK-12 school for students with disabilities and assigned to the general education classroom for most of the school day. The services focus on accessing grade-level content with grade-level peers, as well as individualized instructional supports. Each student is assigned a special education teacher (also called an Education Specialist), who is the student’s case manager. Resource Specialist services may be provided in the general education classroom and/or a separate setting as indicated in the student’s IEP. Students with low incidence disabilities may receive all, or a portion of their instruction, in a regular class and/or may also be enrolled in a separate class to receive specialized academic instruction as indicated in IEP.
Special Day Class (SDC)/Separate Class (TK-12)
Special Day Classes are for students who require separate class instruction and a smaller class size for the majority of the day. These classes are offered at select SFUSD schools. Students in separate classes for the majority of the day are assigned to a multi-grade classroom with a special education teacher. Instruction focuses on students accessing common core standards through accommodations, modifications and specialized academic instruction. SDC classrooms are assigned additional adult support.
Access - Adult Transition Program (ages 18-22)
Students eligible for Access, the Adult Transition Program, are on track for a Certificate of Completion at the end of 12th grade. Access programming includes post-secondary education, employment, and independent living skills. Individual student needs, strengths, preferences and interests inform IEP services for instruction, related services, community experiences, employment development, and other post-school adult living objectives. SFUSD students on IEPs are eligible for special education services through Access until they are 22 years of age or complete a high school diploma.
Contact: Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program (FYSCP)
The San Francisco Foster Youth Services Coordinating Program (FYSCP) strives to address the unique educational needs of foster youth by working collaboratively with youth, caregivers, schools, placing agencies, and other service providers. Our website is a resource for collaborative partners to support the academic achievement of foster youth; enhancing their overall success.
FYSCP supports any child or youth who the dependency court has taken jurisdiction over and declared to be a dependent of the court due to the presence or risk of abuse or neglect.
Who qualifies as a foster youth?
- Children/youth who are dependents of the Dependency section of the juvenile court
- Children/youth residing in out of home placement as ordered by the Delinquency section of the Juvenile Court,
- SFUSD will enroll a foster child immediately even if the foster child is unable to produce records or clothing normally required for enrollment, such as previous academic records, medical records, proof of residency, other documentation, or school uniforms.
- To ensure a student’s appropriate school placement, we encourage all relevant documents be provided at the time of enrollment.
School of Origin Rights
- When a home placement change occurs, a foster child is allowed to remain in his/her school of origin while under the jurisdiction of the court.
- If a foster child exits foster care mid-year they are allowed to remain in his/her school of origin for the duration of the school year.
- High school students whose court jurisdiction terminates while they are in high school, can remain in their School of Origin through graduation.
- If the home placement is out of county, an inter-district transfer is required; however school placement will not be delayed.
Students Experiencing Homelessness
Students Experiencing Homelessness
SFUSD ensures educational rights and protections for students experiencing homelessness or students in transition who lack a fixed, regular, adequate nighttime residence. SFUSD students, prekindergarten through 12th grade, will have equal access to public education and educational resources deemed appropriate for their individual needs.
Who Qualifies As Students Who Might Be Homeless?
According to the McKinney-Vento Act and per SFUSD policy, children and youth who “lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” This includes the following situations:
- Children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.
- Children and youth who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters, or awaiting foster care placement.
- Children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
- Children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
- Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above.
Contact: Educational Placement Center
Phone: (415) 241-6085
Living in San Francisco and applying to another district
Parents/guardians must submit an interdistrict permit to the Educational Placement Center (EPC) if he/she lives in San Francisco and wants their child to attend a public school outside of San Francisco. Verification of the San Francisco home address is required. Students receiving Special Education Services must also submit a copy of their Individualized Educational Plan.
Interdistrict applications are reviewed weekly and forwarded to the requested district. Final approval is made by the requested district. Students who request interdistrict transfers cannot be guaranteed enrollment in SFUSD. Interdistrict permits must be applied for annually.
Living outside San Francisco and applying to SFUSD
Students who do not live in San Francisco but want to apply for an SFUSD school should enroll in the school district where they live as a precaution in case they are not assigned to an SFUSD school. SFUSD grants interdistrict transfers if seats are available.
Students living outside San Francisco applying for interdistrict transfer permits will not be assigned an SFUSD school through the regular student assignment process. Instead, the EPC will begin reviewing requests five weeks before school starts. School assignment offers will first be made to students living in San Francisco.
Applying for interdistrict transfer permits
Students living outside of San Francisco who want to attend a SFUSD school must apply for an interdistrict transfer permit from the school district where they live. If the student’s district of residence approves the permit, it will be forwarded to the SFUSD EPC for approval. Students must submit a SFUSD enrollment application with their out-of-district address, and the documents needed for SFUSD enrollment.
Students who need special education services and want to attend a SFUSD school must have their interdistrict transfer applications approved by the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Director or the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Services before students will be placed in a school.
Interdistrict permits must be renewed for students each school year. Students also must maintain satisfactory standards of academic progress, behavior and attendance for interdistrict transfers. School assignments are made in the order that the applications are received.
Approving interdistrict transfers
Interdistrict transfer requests will be approved on a case-by-case basis. SFUSD reserves the right to limit the number of incoming students and establish priorities according to types of requests.
Interdistrict transfers will not be granted for high-demand schools, which are schools filled to capacity at the end of the first placement period. The requests also are not granted for Lowell High School and Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.
Potential reasons for interdistrict transfer permit approvals
Students who are victims of bullying at the school district where they live will have priority for interdistrict transfers under any existing interdistrict transfer agreements the student has, or will be given additional consideration for an interdistrict transfer agreement.
- To meet the child care needs of the student
- Because the parent/guardian is employed in San Francisco
- Because the student has a sibling attending school in the requested district
- To allow students to complete a school year if their parents/guardians moved out of the SFUSD boundaries during the school year
- When there is a valid interest in a particular educational program not offered in the school district where the student lives
Foreign Exchange Students
Contact: Educational Placement Center
Phone: (415) 241-6085
Students with J1 Visas
Approved J1 student exchange organizations must contact the SFUSD Educational Placement Center (EPC) when requesting placement of a foreign exchange student.
J1 visas are issued to students attending cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States through programs overseen by the U.S. State Department. J1 students will be assigned to an SFUSD school if space is available.
Students with F1 Visas
SFUSD does not participate or issue the federal Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-20 form for potential F1 students (international students with an F1 visa attending an academic program or English Language Program at a school in the United States).