Five years after San Diego Unified made quality neighborhood schools its No. 1 priority, those schools aren’t holding on to any more kids than they did when the effort began, a new report shows.
The San Diego Unified school board set a goal in 2011 that would come to define its big, overarching vision for the decade: By the year 2020, every neighborhood will have a quality school.
One way to measure that: More students would choose their closest neighborhood schools instead of opting into schools in other neighborhoods. The district would not end the choice program, which allows students to attend schools farther away from their homes. Rather, neighborhood schools would become so attractive that parents would want their kids to attend.
That was the hope. But a new study from University of San Diego’s Center for Education Policy and Law shows 42 percent of parents across the district choose to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhoods. That’s about the same percentage of students as 2011.
Meanwhile, a growing number of families have opted instead for charter schools. This year about 18 percent of the district’s students attend charter schools, according to the study, and that number has steadily risen in the past five years. (Charter schools are not considered neighborhood schools, though they can serve kids living in the surrounding neighborhood.)
Now the school board and district staff members are devising plans to reverse the trends. They’re looking to spend bond money building new schools, renovating old ones and adding more online courses to capture a growing share of the market.
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San Diego Unified should be doing a scientific survey of why parents choose not to send their children to SDUSD neighborhood schools - whether that means choicing them into another school in SDUSD, sending them to private school or moving to another public school district. It may be because parents think the teachers are better in another school. It may be because another school offers advanced classes. It may be because they want their children to have more economically advantaged peers. It may be, as the current school board seems to think, that they want a better facility. Until we collect the data, we don't know. And any money spent trying to reverse the trend, is probably wasted.
I'm going to go out on a limb again on this forum and say ... if your neighborhood school has figured out how to attract its residents then it is successful. When I first started as principal at Birney most of our residents who wanted to leave the area did - I even encountered a parent who told me that we would never get kids back from Benchley or Grant. But 14 years later we did indeed attract a lot of resident families back to Birney, we are a success story, we are nipping at the heels of Grant, our science scores are up among the highest, and we don't even look at Benchley because it is not even relevant. I am not a fan of the neighborhood schools movement, but I do believe that if every neighborhood school offered art, music and PE, along with a viable curriculum similar to our IB PYP curriculum, families would opt in to their neighborhood school. It's a no-brainer!
In any segregated city, neighborhood schools mean segregated schools--by class, race, etc. Honing in on the small picture misses the big one. Any society writhing in inequality, commonly color coded, and promising the world perpetual war is going to make seemingly peculiar demands on schools. In WWI, a top general called for schools as human munition factories. Today?
@Kathy S Thank you. Very interesting.
Doing some quick math using the data you provided, the number of students located near high schools with at least 73% of the residents attending* is ~13,000 students.
On the other hand, the number of students located near high schools with less than 73% of residents attending is ~25,000.
So, you have twice as many students at "out-flow" schools than at "in-flow" schools.
I don't see how you can "spread out" two thirds (2/3) of the students to one-third (1/3) of the school capacity. It does not add up.
You need to fix the schools that are not performing to the satisfaction of their residents. That is, you need to increase the supply of schools that are performing well.
Interestingly, you already have many schools (I count six) with 1/3 or more of the student body coming from outside the neighborhood. I am not sure how much higher you want to push that percentage. I note that the in-flow for U. City seems to be over 50%. Wow.
(*or more inflow than outflow - see U. city)
School Resi Attend Not Att Enrol Perc Inflow In/Out
La Jolla 1060 974 86 1590 92% 616 716%
Scipps Ranch 2300 1859 441 2238 81% 379 86%
Serra 1197 955 242 1763 80% 808 334%
MIRA MESA 3011 2344 667 2456 78% 112 17%
Point Loma 1791 1387 404 1897 77% 510 126%
University City 963 720 243 1763 75% 1043 429%
Henry 2183 1588 595 2448 73% 860 145%
Mission Bay* 536 342 194 1109 64% 767 395%
Morse 3218 1629 1589 1825 51% 196 12%
Madison 1220 606 614 1165 50% 559 91%
Kearny Complex 2421 1077 1344 1504 44% 427 32%
Clairemont 1161 486 675 1071 42% 585 87%
HOOVER 4422 1774 2648 2036 40% 262 10%
San Diego High 4662 1678 2984 2428 36% 750 25%
Crawford 3043 1079 1964 1165 35% 86 4%
Lincoln 4730 1384 3346 1530 29% 146 4%
It would be interesting to analyze the demographics of SDUSD over last 20 years including parental income and education. It would also be interesting to know the percentage of the "out-of-area" students at each high school as well as the demographics of those students.
In the end, shuffling students around won't do much if your base population is disadvantaged. And while you can say we need to give the disadvantaged a hand-up, that is easier said than done, particularly when the number of disadvantaged students is overwhelming (which I don't know if it is, but I would like to find out.)
Maybe parents would be delighted with their local schools if new lighted stadiums with artificial turf were built at all the schools in the city including elementary and junior high schools.
Oh.. by the way... BayView Terrace closed and re-opened. SDUSD took a school with low test scores; one that was perennially avoided by many local students (inc. the military families which live adjacent to the school) and revamped the entire program.
When SDUSD closed the original Barnard ES and sold the property, they close BayView Terrace and re-opened it under a new name. This re-branding may seem shallow, but it was not. It enabled the following:
* All classified and certified teachers were released back into the labor union pool, enabling the new Barnard to hire a new staff or move its staff from the old campus to the new campus.
* It enabled re-tooling the curriculum and centering it around Chinese language immersion; a unique offering that created a new image of the school. By the way, there were very few Asians in that PB community.
* It augmented the IB pattern in the cluster by focusing another school on cultural diversity
This is a decade long problem at SDUSD. For the last ten years, more than half the students travel to a school other than one within walking distance. What does this really mean?
Does it mean that SDUSD has unique opportunities in various neighborhoods and we should celebrate student / parent choice? Doesn't seem like the BoE / Superintendent agree since they renamed the CHOICE office to the Neighborhood School's office.
Does it mean that students / parents are afraid of their neighborhood school? Does it mean that they are leaving based upon facts? rumors? real perception? misconceptions?
The reality is that nobody at SDUSD knows for sure. Few students / parents are ever polled on this subject. Why? Maybe it is a costly and painful answer that nobody really needs to know. If that is the case, perhaps SDUSD needs to be a lot more cautious regarding its investments. Why did SDUSD invest +$140M in Lincoln HS only to have it at low capacity? Why did SDUSD invite the closure of Mission Bay HS and consolidation with Pacific Beach MS only to see attendance rise?
Perhaps what we really know is what we don't know. Maybe schools should not be closed because we cannot predict demographic trends and student / parent choice. Maybe it means creating x16 unique campuses with different emphasis in each is really strength in diversity. Maybe one size fits all (one curriculum fits all) is not a very good strategy. Perhaps we should celebrate a creative arts school, IB school, business school, science school and encourage families to attend a school that emphasizes their desires for education.
I'd love to know the answer why all these families feel the desire to drive to school (it certainly adds to congestion that I'd like to avoid), but maybe it doesn't really matter?