Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reducing HS' Class Size the Old Fashioned Way

I live in San Francisco. My wife and I have a two year old son, and are expecting a baby daughter in seven weeks. Already, we're stressing about schools. I'm most anxious about our local secondary schools. Beyond the expected pre-school enrollment woe, my real concerns are actually projections based on current facts. We console ourselves for the time being by looking at the elementary years as one would ordering an omelette at a diner: safe to order cuz you can't possibly fuck that up. It's a whole other story when it comes to middle and high schools.

Out here, we have so-called 'School Choice.' Does this mean that parents can choose where their kids go to school? Sorta. You make a ranked list of seven, then the district does its best to assign you to one of your top three. It sorta works. It's sorta been called fatally flawed by a civil grand jury a few days ago. Persistent overcrowding, even with perennial declines in enrollment (thus state/local funding), and incredible amounts of public frustration with a pathetic, desperate method of selection make the whole process feel like I'm back in Cuba. Sure you can vote, but there are no opposition candidates, just a slate o' shit. Just like every other urban school system, there are 1-3 notable high schools (in NYC: Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvessant. in SFO: Lowell, School of the Arts) with the rest being an utter crapshoot.

The selection method relied on by SFUSD is a six-factor "diversity index." Given that our high schools are diverse only in the sense that every culture but 'Anglo-American' (White) is represented in spades; given that 'White flight' begins rising sharply as kids near middle school (@ 34% of school aged kids in SF attend private schools, more than 10% above the state's average); given that longitudinal studies forcefully show that the worst place for African-American males to go to school is beautiful San Francisco; given that the new Superintendent had to hire an 'Equity and Social Justice' administrator to the tune of over 200K per year, I'd say the District, were it a diner, truly fucked up this omelette.

SFUSD's reducing HS' class size the old fashioned way, alright: through bungled policy, a lack of predictability for parents, mediocre schools, and attendant declining enrollments.

Are we, as the new-ish Superintendent has said, "stuck on stupid?" Should my wife and I be worried.

I'd say yup."

Leaving for Hawaii (just vacation!),

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