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Parents protest new way of assigning students to schools

Parents let San Francisco Unified School District officials know they don’t like the new way students will be assigned to schools beginning next school year.

At a community meeting Tuesday night at Everett Middle School, more than 50 parents expressed their dissatisfaction with the new plan. The plan aims to go to a neighborhood-based way of selecting students for area schools. Elementary and middle schools will be linked geographically, sending students to specific predetermined middle schools that are close. 

This is a big change from the current system in place, which also faced criticism from parents. The New York Times reported in February that parents fill out an application for their children to attend kindergarten and list seven schools throughout the city they prefer. Factors such as socioeconomic status and English-language proficiency factor into a “lottery” known as the Diversity Index. This helps spread students out.

From this index, a profile is built for the child. This profile will determine what schools the child will be eligible to attend from elementary through high school. The child is then placed in one of their seven schools with classmates whose profiles are as different from theirs as possible. But there is no guarantee students will get into one of their seven schools. When this occurs, students are offered spots in schools that have openings.

The new system focuses more on geographic location of the student in proximity to schools. For high schoolers, test scores and siblings already attending high school will replace the Diversity Index in determining where students will be sent. Parents are unhappy with this, arguing it gives them less choice on where to send their children.

The district has assured parents that middle schoolers will still be able to participate in a “choice process” to change the middle school they would be assigned to geographically. But parents have already raised concerns that it won’t matter since students who get in based on geographic proximity will have priority.

Some parents asked the district to delay implementing the plan to allow further time to study its effects.