Descriptive Title: Quality and distance weighted elementary school seats within one mile, adjusted by residential density.

Geographic Unit of Analysis: Intersection (point)

Quality and Distance Weighted Elementary School Seats within One Mile, Adjusted by Residential Density (2010)
NeighborhoodAverage Access Score
Bayview/Hunter's Point 20
Bernal Heights 21
Castro/Upper Market 21
Chinatown 16
Excelsior 35
Financial District/South Beach 15
Glen Park
Golden Gate Park NA
Haight Ashbury 21
Hayes Valley
Inner Richmond 34
Inner Sunset 54
Lakeshore 38
Lincoln Park
Lone Mountain/USF
Marina 16
McLaren Park
Mission 14
Mission Bay
Nob Hill 15
Noe Valley 24
North Beach 25
Outer Mission 28
Outer Richmond 36
Pacific Heights 12
Potrero Hill 17
Presidio 30
Presidio Heights 20
Russian Hill 19
San Francisco 30
Seacliff 31
South of Market 6
Treasure Island 0
Twin Peaks 61
Visitacion Valley 35
West of Twin Peaks 52
Western Addition 8

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Equitable distribution of high performing public schools is an important component of a healthy city. Academic performance is one of multiple indicators of school quality. Academic performance is related to educational achievement, which both predicts positive health outcomes directly as well as the effects of education on lifetime earnings.a

Research on travel mode choice also shows that when schools are located closer to home, more children walk and/or bicycle to school and vehicle pollution emissions fall.b Walking to school can be an important source of physical activity to help prevent chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Nationally, less than 15% of children aged 5 to 15 walk to school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long distances to school are a primary barrier to walking to school. Danger from traffic was the second most important barrier.c Decreased vehicle utilization can help reduce rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases as well as decrease rates of pedestrian/traffic injury. Additionally, shorter commuting times provide students with more free time, which can be spent on homework, participation in extracurricular activities, employment, sleep, etc.

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

This indicator’s map demonstrates that there is a higher concentration of seats at high performing elementary schools per housing unit in the Outer Sunset, Inner Sunset, West of Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks, and Diamond Heights, and Inner and Outer Richmond neighborhoods. Neighborhoods on the eastern side of the city have fewer seats per housing units at high performing elementary schools. San Francisco has a choice based school assignment system, meaning that families can apply to any public school/program with openings in the city.  There is no guarantee that a student will receive an assignment to any particular school, but if after applying there are enough spaces at a school to accommodate all students who want to attend, all applicants will receive assignment offers.

However, in 2011, 14 out of 70 elementary schools were selected as a first choice by 50% of kindergarten applicants. The majority of these top choice schools are in same neighborhoods with the highest school access indicator scores. The 2011 SFUSD School Assignment Report also illustrates that school attendance areas with the south eastern part of the city generally had a lower percentage of kindergarten applicants listing their attendance area school as their first choice. Thus, youth on the eastern side of the city may be choosing to travel further in order to attend a top school, thereby reducing their ability to walk to school and increasing their time in transit.


To calculate the Quality Elementary Education Access Scores, the distance from each residential intersection (intersections within 100 meters of residential lots) to each public elementary school within 1 mile of the intersection was calculated. A distance of < 0.25 miles was given a score of 1, while distances between 0.25-0.49 miles were given a score of 0.9 and distances between 0.5-1.0 miles were given a score of 0.75.

Each school was given a score based on its 2010 Base Academic Performance Index (API). Scores were as follows: API > 879 = 1; 825-879 = 0.8; 780-824 = 0.6; 730-779 = 0.4; < 730 = 0.2. API score ranges were based on statewide quintiles for 2010 Base API scores.

Enrollment numbers for each school for the 2009-2010 school year were gathered from state records.

For each intersection the distance scores were multiplied by the API scores for each school within 1 mile of the intersection. This product was then multiplied by the 2009-2010 enrollment for each school to calculate "quality and distance weighted seats." The "quality and distance weighted seats" for all schools within 1 mile of each intersection were then summed to calculate the total number of "quality and distance weighted seats" within 1 mile of each intersection.  The total number of "quality and distance weighted seats" within 1 mile of each intersection was then divided by the total number of housing units within 1 mile of each intersection to estimate the total number of "quality and distance weighted seats" per housing unit. This number was normalized to a score of 100.


While school API is an important and commonly used measure of school performance, it is important to remember that there are many measures of school quality including:  availability of books, supplies and other resources; physical and social structures of the school; actual and perceived safety at the schools; proximity to green space; training and experience of teachers and staff; involvement of parents in children’s education; opportunities for extracurricular activities; whether the school is used as a multi-use facility in the afternoons, evenings and weekends; existence of afterschool programs; etc.

While proximity is considered in this indicator because of its value in allowing youth to walk or bike to school and have shorter commute times, it is important to note that geographic integration of youth through SFUSD’s school assignment polies also has value, by reducing ethnic and socioeconomic segregation that has resulted from a strict neighborhood school policy. Additionally, many parents appreciate having the choice to send their child to any of SFUSD’s schools because of the range of special programs, including language immersion, that they offer.

One last caveat to our analysis is that housing units, rather than number of children were used as a denominator. While using the number of children within 1 mile of each intersection may be a good indicator of current accessibility for San Francisco’s youth population, housing units provide a more objective measure of whether the current school distribution suits current residential development trends. It provides better guidance for urban development, as demographic distributions can shift, while housing stock generally stays the same or increases.

Data Source

2009-2010 student enrollment, California Department of Education. Accessed:  July 2011. Available at:   

2010 Base Academic Performance Index, California Department of Education. Accessed July 2011. Available at:  

San Francisco street intersections (published May 4, 2010), San Francisco Department of Public Works. Accessed July 2011. Available at:

2010 US Census.

Map and table prepared by City and County of San Francisco, Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section using ArcGIS software.

Map and table data are presented by planning neighborhood.

Detailed information regarding census data, geographic units of analysis, their definitions, and their boundaries can be found at the following links:

Interactive boundaries map

  1. Backlund E, Sorlie PD, Johnson NJ. A comparison of the relationships of education and income with mortality: the National Longitudinal Mortality Study. Soc Sci Med. 1999;49(10):1373-84.
  2. Ewing R, Forinash CV, Schroeer W. Neighborhood Schools and Sidewalk Connections. What are the impacts on travel mode choice and vehicle emissions. Transportation Research News. March-April 2005 pp 4-10.
  3. Dellinger A, Staybtib C. Barriers to Children Walking and Bicycling to School. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2002;51:701-704.