Monday, January 14, 2008

San Francisco Unified School District

If you have small children, and specifically one who is currently pre-school age, you have just gone through the difficult process of selecting your top seven public schools. For those of you who are not familiar with the San Francisco Public School system, here is an overview.

San Francisco uses a "school choice" system, which means that you can send your child to any public school in the city regardless of which district you are in. While it is nice to have options, especially for those living in less desirable neighborhoods, this freedom of choice does come with some disadvantages. The largest being that your child will not always get into your first school of choice.

There are approximately 80 schools in the San Francisco Public School District. From these 80, you will choose your favorite seven and list them in order of preference on your child's entrance application. If there is room at your first school of choice, then bingo, your child will get in! If there are more applicants than seats available, the "diversity index" lottery system kicks in.

This is not based on race, but rather the parent's education levels, family income, and English proficiency of the child. There is also preerence given if your family has an older sibling who is currently enrolled in the school. The district tries to keep your order of preference in mind, and they also take into consideration proximity to your home.

It sounds overwheling, and of course feels that way while you are in the process of choosing. The good news is that for the 2007-2008 school year, 87% of all applicants did receive one of the schools on their list. 67% received their first choice. The wonderful thing is that there are many great schools to choose from including the seventeen schools with language immersion programs.

There are school enrollment fairs and tours at each of the schools to help you get better acquainted with them. Also, if you have just turned in your child's kindergarten application or will be doing so in the next couple of years, have a look the The SF K Files, an informative and popular blog that follows a San Francisco mother of two through the trials and tribulations of choosing a school list. She has just done so and did post the outcome as the application date was January 11th. I have applied for my son as well.

Many young families and couples who are thinking of having children in the future are interested in the public school system when searching for their home. As mentioned earlier, neighborhood is not as important as it is in the suburbs where your child is simply assigned to the school down the block. You will, however, take location into consideration when choosing schools. It is important to know that you will have desirable options when that time comes. You can begin your research at the district's website where they have detailed profiles on all of the schools.

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