This from Rachel Norton of the S.F. Board of Education in her blog:
At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Board members were thrown a little bit of a curve ball as part of a progress report on the work to rethink and redesign elementary to middle school feeder patterns.

Regular readers of the blog might recall a major kerfuffle last fall when parents of children enrolled in dual-language immersion programs and parents in southeastern neighborhoods reacted strongly to the district’s first pass at elementary t0 middle school feeder patterns. As so often happens when redesigning complex systems, what initially seemed a straightforward change took on many unanticipated and unintended consequences. So staff, with the Board’s agreement, decided to go back to the drawing board and re-think the implementation of the middle school portion of the new student assignment policy. A working group made up of middle school principals and key central office staff, with input from PPS and the Parent Advisory Council, has been delving into the problems identified last spring, and tonight was the first public peek at where they are going.

Some of the new directions are surprising, and the budget and program implications are complex. The presentation shown to the Board tonight began with a striking overview of capacity and demand data — specifically, that we are expecting a 39 percent increase in middle school enrollment in the next three to five years based on current elementary school enrollment trends; also that almost 50 percent of SFUSD middle school students are enrolled in just four of our 15 middle schools: Aptos, Presidio, Giannini, and Hoover. Finally, five schools are operating at less than 50 percent of capacity (Willie Brown, Everett, ISA, Horace Mann, and Visitacion Valley)...

The staff floated some trial balloons for how a new middle school assignment system could work — none of which sounded particularly simple to navigate or easy to understand (originally a major goal of the new assignment plan). I’ll quote directly from the Powerpoint we saw tonight:
  • Option 1: Build feeder pattern based on proximity and capacity with language pathways as a “city wide choice option.”
  • Option 2: Assign elementary schools with language programs based on proximity, capacity, and school readiness, and then assign the remaining 27 elementary schools based on proximity and capacity, with mitigation for specific equity challenges. (Editorial comment: what?)
  • Option 3: Build language pathways over the next five years and allow feeder patterns to emerge as enrollment grows in middle schools. (Editorial comment: what?)
So how did Board members respond to all of this? Most of us voiced some concerns about the idea of merging immersion and bilingual strands into generic “dual language” strands; we also felt the options presented by staff represented “outside the box” thinking but needed more time and reflection. Personally, though it’s not my first choice, I am wondering whether our stated goal of supporting dual-language proficiency for all students is at odds with the idea of middle school feeder patterns.

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