Front page of Issue 16

The winter 2015 print edition is in stores now. Special report on the persistence of segregation in local public schools. Plus: 24-page insert commemorating the now shuttered weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian, produced by the newspaper’s former staff.

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Civil & human rights

As Courts Flip-Flopped on School Integration, Diversity Has Remained Elusive

Sanne Bergh and Paul Lorgerie, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 5 2015 - 4:26pm

By 2005, when a federal judge lifted the most recent desegregation orders, San Francisco Unified School District had been trying for more than three decades to make its schools more racially and socioeconomically diverse, starting in 1971 with forced busing. San Francisco schools no longer exhibit the level of racial isolation they once did, but they are now resegregating, as are many others across the country. In 2013–2014, in more than one-quarter of city schools, 60 percent of the students were of one race. That is a far cry from 1966, when more than one-third of the schools had student populations with 80 percent or more belonging to a single racial group. (In 2014, just three schools were segregated to that degree.)

As Parents Get More Choice, S.F. Schools Resegregate

Jeremy Adam Smith, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 2 2015 - 8:40am

Each January, parents across San Francisco rank their preferences for public schools. By June, most get their children into their first choices, and almost three-quarters get one of their choices. A majority of families may be satisfied with the outcome, but the student assignment system is failing to meet its No. 1 goal, which the San Francisco Unified School District has struggled to achieve since the 1960s: classroom diversity. Since 2010, the year before the current policy went into effect, the number of San Francisco’s 115 public schools dominated by one race has climbed significantly.

San Francisco Schools’ Changing Demographics

Paul Lorgerie and Jeremy Adam Smith, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 2 2015 - 8:39am

Over five decades, San Francisco saw a demographic transformation in its public school system. In 1969, white and black students together were the majority, as in most of the rest of the United States. Since then, San Francisco public school enrollment has fallen by 39 percent, and almost all the missing faces are white or black. But the two groups have not disappeared in the same way.

Isolated Schools Clustered by Test Scores, Family Income

Jeffrey Thorsby, Emily Dugdale and Paul Lorgerie, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 2 2015 - 8:39am

If one looks at the San Francisco Unified School District as a whole, a clear pattern emerges: Schools with the highest level of achievement tend to have the lowest levels of family poverty. And schools that are identified as “racially isolated” are visibly clustered by both income and achievement. This plot shows the base Academic Performance Index for each school in the district for which data are available, as well as the percentage of students poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, which are used as a proxy for measuring poverty.

Ranking Schools by Diversity

Jeffrey Thorsby, Emily Dugdale and Paul Lorgerie, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 2 2015 - 8:38am

Schools across San Francisco show markedly different levels of racial and ethnic diversity. Increasingly over the last five years, schools are dominated by one racial group. With mathematical tools, it is possible to measure which schools are the most and least diverse. We chose to rank schools using a formula that economists use to tell whether an industry is dominated by monopoly ownership, the Herfindahl-Hirschman index, also known to ecologists as the Simpson diversity index. The idea is the same: Sum up the squares of all the fractions of your sample. The higher the number, the lower the diversity.

Transportation Challenges Complicate School Choice for S.F. Students

Rebecca Robinson, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 29 2015 - 1:05pm

While San Francisco’s school assignment system has benefited families with the means to transport their children to schools with the most desirable programs, it creates dilemmas for more disadvantaged students who must travel long distances to school, often without the help of their parents. Many lower-income students must choose between long commutes on unreliable public transit and attending lower-performing schools closer to home. This may help explain why San Francisco public schools, like those in many cities nationwide, are increasingly resegregating as decades of court-ordered diversity measures recede into history.

Data Confirm Link Between Parent Fundraising, Student Achievement

Jeffrey Thorsby, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 28 2015 - 1:52pm

Last winter, the San Francisco Public Press published a detailed, data-rich narrative showing how private funds have saved a few schools from the ravages of years of budget cuts, but ended up exacerbating educational inequality within the San Francisco Unified School District. As a researcher for the project, I assisted the team in scouring through mountains of public documents, including budgets, California Department of Education data reports, hundreds of parent-teacher association nonprofit tax returns and statistics from other state and local agencies.

Traumatized by the Streets: Illustrated Report on Finding Housing in San Francisco

San Francisco Public Press — Jan 5 2015 - 4:14pm

As seen in our fall issue, this illustrated report tells the true story of two individuals as they struggle to find housing in San Francisco. Follow the different paths of David and Laura as they navigate the city’s supportive housing system.

Click through to view the full story.

Sentencing Reform Side Benefit: Behavioral Health Court Expansion

Sanne Bergh, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 25 2014 - 9:45am

A state law approved by voters on Election Day will reduce tough sentences for some felonies. But it could also provide a financial windfall to local community courts, which divert people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.

KQED Tackles Junction Between Homelessness, Mental Illness

Emily Dugdale, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 10 2014 - 4:44pm

KQED Public Radio’s “Forum” hit the airwaves this morning with a conversation with Robert Okin, the former chief of psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital, who recently published a new book on homelessness and mental illness. He said the common belief that the homeless choose to reside on the streets, from his experience profiling them, is false.

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