School choice in San Francisco was once determined by an open lottery system in which the school you selected (or were ultimately assigned) had nothing to do with the neighborhood where you lived. However, beginning with the 2011 school year, all that has changed.
The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) conducted an extensive analysis of the old system, and devised a solution to give families greater say in the selection process, keep kids a bit closer to home, and also attempt to keep the student population diverse at each school.
The new system, officially announced in March 2010, now designates boundaries for schools in San Francisco. There is greater priority given to residents within a given boundary area if they select their neighborhood school. However, like the old open lottery system, there is still no guarantee of placement at the neighborhood school. Location is just one of the factors considered in student placement. In fact, proximity is #4 on the list of factors taken into consideration. Higher on the priority list are students who attended preschool in the boundary area and students who reside in "low-scoring census tracts." To complicate things still further:
So, now what?
Well, first, you're in the right place to start your school search. There are many sites that offer slices or snippets of school information. To get demographic info about the teachers or student body, you need to visit the district site. To get a description of the school, you'd need to then visit the individual school site. To get the most recent Academic Performance Index (API) scores and the California Standardized Test (STAR) results, you'd have to visit the California Department of Education. To find out about immunization rates for kindergarteners, you'd even have to visit the Department of Public Health website.
Fortunately, we wrap it all neatly together in one place. We've done all the research, aggregated all the data, and put it together in simple, easy-to-read profiles. What's better than that? It's searchable. Search by grade range, school type, proximity to an address, or even enter keywords like "language immersion,” "girls only,” "nonsectarian" or "French" and find just the schools that match your needs.
Private school is a choice that many families do not think twice about. But some agonize choosing between the two. Again, weighing the pros and cons... How much tuition are you willing to pay and for how many years? Families who apply may be looking for a rich foundation in a specific area that only a private school can offer. There are schools that provide extensive arts programs, small class sizes, project-based curriculum, religion, all girl/all boy populations, etc. There are over 100 choices in private schools here in the City, both parochial and independent. In many private schools, volunteerism and fundraising may be required of families in addition to paying tuition. Consider all of your options before applying; tuition plus added costs (financial aid may be available in some schools), school environment, diversity, extended care, tutoring costs, technology, etc. Many families in San Francisco also consider applying to both private and public and then accept their favorite offer.