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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

SFUSD Kindergarten Lottery Misperceptions

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

The SFUSD school assignment process is quite complicated, so many misunderstand some key facts. For a more detailed description of the of the SFUSD Lottery, see my SFUSD lottery explanation

  • Question: Does listing a school lower affect my chances at winning it? In other words, say you love a really popular school, should you instead list a less popular school first? Answer: No. Each school lottery is run independent of where you list it.

  • Question: If I live in a CTIP1 zone, am I guaranteed my first choice? Answer: No. It is a tie breaker that can be very helpful, but there are others that may be higher. For instance, the top tie-breaker for language programs is attending an SFUSD preK for the same language. Similarly, schools with an onsite preK or TK will have a tie breaker for this. 

  • Question: Does my child need to speak a foreign language to enter a language program, or what are the programs they can apply to? Answer: Dual language immersion programs typically reserve ⅔ of spots for kids who pass the oral language test, and ⅓ for those who do not, except for Alice Fung Yu, which does the reverse. Biliteracy programs are reserved for those whose parents speak the language, and do not require a language test to enter. Japanese Programs reserve 10 of 44 seats at each school for those who pass the oral language test.

  • Question: Does my older child get a sibling preference? Answer: No. Sibling preference is reserved for younger children and multiples (twins etc). 

  • Question: How does middle school feeder work? Is it a guarantee? Answer: Attending the middle school feeder is the second highest tie breaker, after siblings, most of which by now are also from the feeder schools. Likelihood of assignment at your feeder is very high, and rare not to receive assignment by the first week of school, whereas assignment at a popular middle school that is not your feeder is low.

  • Question: What are the tie-breakers for foreign language programs? Answer: The top tie breakers are for children who attend an SFUSD preK in the same foreign language. Next, are siblings who are not in the SFUSD language preK, then children at an onsite preK or TK, then CTIP1, and finally those without tiebreakers.

  • Question: My neighborhood school is a 1/10 in Great Schools. What should I do? Answer: Tour the school and consider the proximity, as well as any extra resources it receives from the school district. Great Schools is the enemy of diversity; it heavily weights test scores, which are highly correlated with parental income. Even math can be depressed in English Language Learners because of the word problems. The site gives highest ratings to schools without enough diversity to have any subgroups that are large enough to disclose any subgroup test scores.

  • Question: Can I use a private school as a backup? Answer: Yes, but it may cost you a full year of tuition. Most contracts specify that the full year is due before SFUSD round 2 results are out. If your goal is to attend public school, a better strategy is to list a public school that usually has no wait pool, for less risk, higher likelihood of success, and much less effort on your part.


Need more help?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco. Email to learn more about her services.

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