Ten Things to Know About the San Francisco School District

San Francisco Housing Blog
Ever wonder how the public school system in San Francisco works?  Here are ten things to get you started, and a link to a website where you can get lots more details about the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD): where the schools are, how they rank in terms of academic achievement, and how to get your child into the school you want—among many other things.

  1.  What the District calls “assignment”—which schools are open to which students—is complicated. These complications stem from an effort to ensure that all District schools have a mix of ethnicities and incomes in their student bodies. Consequently, that the fact that your house is two blocks away from the school does not mean your child will be allowed to go there.
  2.  As of 2011, after lots of outrage from parents, proximity now factors into which schools a student may be accepted to, but it has very little effect.  In fact, proximity is only fourth on the list of factors taken into consideration.
  3.  Competition is tough, especially for schools considered especially desirable. Some schools may receive 20 applications for every spot available!
  4. Exactly how the SFUSD proximity criterion is weighted is still not completely clear, as the school district is still working to make the process function properly.
  5.  Some schools are designated “City-Wide” and don’t take proximity into account at all.  These schools include: Alice Fong Yu, Buena Vista, Bessie Carmichael, Chinese Education Center, Chinese Immersion School, Fairmount Elementary, Lawton Alternative, Claire Lilienthal, Marshall Elementary, Mission Education Center, Paul Revere Elementary, Rooftop Alternative, SF Community Alternative, and SFUSD Public Montessori.
  6.  For some families, private school becomes the best available option, particularly once they begin to understand how the system works in San Francisco. Of course, cost plays a factor in this decision—though many of “the independents” offer scholarships. There are also the Catholic schools, overseen by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which cost on average about half what independent schools do. (Your child does not have to be Catholic to attend.)
  7.   API and STAR stand respectively for Academic Performance Index (API) and Standardized Testing and Reporting (the collective name for the suite of K-12 content-knowledge tests from the State of California).  Together, results from these two sets of tests are supposed to indicate how well a school is performing.  Much more about these tests, including the knowledge they’re supposed to assess (the California Content Standards) can be found at the California Department of Education website.
  8.  Do you have a preschooler? To find out about immunization rates for kindergarteners, visit theDepartment of Public Health website.
  9.  Click here to see a list of San Francisco schools.  Click on any school link and find the school’s student demographics, how the school ranks in terms of test scores, and lots of other interesting information.
  10.  If you’re getting a knot in your stomach just thinking about where your child will be educated, don’t despair.  It will take some effort, but many parents and their kids have a wonderful experience with the San Francisco public schools.  As with so many things, what you get out depends on what you put in.  Get involved!