Stanford Impact Lab on Equitable Access to Education

Equitable Education Access in San Francisco

San Francisco introduced district-wide school choice in 2011 to reduce racial and socioeconomic segregation between schools and help students from across the city access better education. Instead, school segregation by race and income increased. As an example of how this occurs, when asked to rank programs for student assignment, white and Black families rank on average 15.9 and 3.4 programs respectively. The problem of school choice exacerbating school segregation is not limited to San Francisco; it’s present in other large school districts including in New York City and Boston that use lottery-based school choice.
The Stanford Impact Lab on Equitable Access to Education is a partnership between the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and Stanford education and management, science, and engineering scholars. Together, they will design tools to assess the district's new zone-based student assignments where families choose from a set of schools close to where they live (rather than through a city-wide lottery). The team will observe families’ interactions with the school assignment process, and capture unintended consequences of zone-based school assignment policies on gentrification. One community reviewer of the lab’s proposal said “I can’t think of any other decisions that SFUSD is making that will have more impact on schools 10 years from now. 
Early work was supported, in part, by the Stanford Impact Labs Design Fellowship that Stanford assistant professors Irene Lo and Francis Pearman participated in during the 2020 – 2021 academic year. The lab, which now has start-up funding from Stanford Impact Labs, can build on the earlier work and SFUSD's commitment to design simple, transparent schools zones that achieve the district's goals of diversity, predictability, and proximity. Through the process—and with more evidence and experience—the lab hopes to develop a method that San Francisco and other districts can use to improve equity in school assignment policies and practices.


For more information, please contact:
Irene Lo at

Irene Lo: Designing School Choice for Diversity in the San Francisco Unified School District