looking at the schools' locations, it's striking to see that the schools are mainly in crime and poverty stricken areas such as lower haight/western addition, the mission, silver terrace, visitacion valley, and the bayview/hunter's point. no failing schools in pacific heights, the sunset, or russian hill here! currently, sf doesn't have a neighborhood-centric public school system; we have a points-based school assignment process that confuses the hell out of people, and looking at this map, it seems to point (pun only slightly intended) to the current system as not being much of an equalizer; the equalizer component only comes into play if there are more applicants than spaces at a particular school.
basically, the way school assignment works is that families rank their school choices from 1-7. then, a computer system takes a bunch of factors like language spoken at home and mother's highest education level, and creates some formula which desegregates school choice. something like 50% of a school can be filled with neighborhood students and the rest are supposed to come from the rest of the city. you can see a description of the 5-year sfusd school choice demand here, which is pretty interesting, especially seeing how many families chose failing schools as their #1 pick. also to note is how some failing schools have more seats than demand. if this is the case, the assignment system doesn't come into play. sfusd says, "Whenever requests are greater than the number of seats available, SFUSD uses a process called the Student Assignment System to determine which students get an assignment offer. The Student Assignment System is a formula, made up of five race neutral factors, that calculates the probability that in a given grade randomly chosen students will be different from each other based on the five race neutral factors."
now, many families, when sending their kids to school (even public school), have to worry about things like transportation, time, and costs. and who would these issues affect the most? ding ding ding--the families who live in public housing or the lower income areas like the western addition projects, parts of the mission (not the hipster mission, mind you), and the southeastern section of the city: those who have the failing schools.
something needs to be done here. perhaps the school board, in their school assignment revision process, will take this under consideration. it's be nice if they just threw the whole thing out the window and worked on improving all schools, but that may be wishful thinking.
View SF Failing Schools 2010 in a larger map