Meeting recap: November 13, 2012

In November, the Board routinely cancels the second meeting of the month due to the Thanksgiving holiday; agendas tend to be short this time of year anyway.  Tonight’s meeting was over by 7:30 p.m., with a few items of note:

– A proposal from the Superintendent, introduced for first reading, which would allow the district to exempt students under certain circumstances from physical education if they do not pass the required four semesters by the end of 10th grade.  This is one of a number of components of the district’s action plan to address the fact that large numbers of the class of 2014-15 are not on track to graduate with the required A-G course sequence. Exempting students from P.E. after the 10th grade would free up space in their schedules and allow them to re-take other core courses required for graduation. The proposal will be discussed at the Rules committee on November 14 and then return to the full Board for a vote on Dec. 10.

–The Superintendent’s Thoughts for the Evening, which stressed the district’s commitment to providing every child with a well-rounded education. This commitment has been a topic of discussion recently, after claims in the press that some schools in the district–at least one in the Superintendent’s Zone– were teaching only English and math — “no science, no social studies, no art, no music.”   Based on my discussions with the Superintendent, I have no doubt of his personal commitment to providing every child in SFUSD with a rich, broad curriculum featuring art, social studies, science and music as well as math and English.  But I’ve also reached out to teachers, and to their union, United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), which has a more skeptical view.  And over the weekend, after I was quoted in the Chronicle article asking for evidence of the narrowing curriculum, I met with two longtime educators in our district. While they didn’t completely agree with the characterization that no science was being taught in our classrooms, they did stress–strongly–that teachers are not receiving enough support for teaching science and that many are scared to veer too far from literacy instruction to teach truly hands-on science lessons.  UESF officials, who also met with me this week, underscore this point. But UESF has refused to identify specific schools named in the reports  they have received from members, citing fears of retaliation (I know of one school, but I have not yet revealed the name to anyone because I am also concerned about maintaining the anonymity of the people who spoke with me).  UESF plans to conduct a survey of its members to determine how widespread the problem is but declined my suggestion that they work with district staff to come up with specific questions.

–Also tonight, Board members accepted the annual required Williams Settlement report certifying that students at the 28 lowest-performing schools were enrolled in classrooms with adequate staffing and instructional materials and housed in facilities that meet basic standards of cleanliness, maintenance, heating and cooling.

Finally, there were several commendations recognizing the 25th anniversary of the  Omega Boys’ Club, an amazing organization that mentors students and encourages them to dream big for their futures;  the Indian Education Program on the occasion of Native American Heritage Month; and the Lowell HS JROTC cadets who competed (and won) a national academic competition for an unprecedented fourth year in a row.

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6 responses to “Meeting recap: November 13, 2012

  1. Good question, EH. Honestly I don’t know. I’ll ask.

  2. I know middle school Algebra 1 and Geometry fulfill two of the three years of required high school math (if the student passes the courses and scores Proficient or Advanced on the Star tests for those subjects), but do they also count towards the 230 credits required for high school graduation? (So… 220 credits remaining for those entering 9th grade who have fulfilled the Algebra 1 requirement, and 210 remaining for those who have met the requirements for both courses?) Thanks.

  3. KH – NO. The Common Core actually has a much better approach at least to science, from what I’ve been told. What E Rat means is that we have not integrated the Common Core into our district’s social studies and science curriculum frameworks. We’ve focused instead on ELA and Math. Eventually we’ll get to Science and Social Studies — we’re required to have this done by I think 2015 — but we started with ELA and Math.

  4. Rachel,
    Does Common Core really eliminate teaching science and social studies? Please explain as I’ve been on several school tours where principals have mentioned the Common Core as a curriculum being implemented in all SFUSD schools by the district.

  5. Bernal school mom

    That was definitely not a news article. It was not written by a journalist but someone who obviously has a bias. A bunch of broad claims is not “news” but are we not teaching a well rounded education in SZs? Maybe. My child goes to a SIG school and has a lot of language arts and math and yea, it’s been a concern there is little art time, but he is definitely doing very well in math. My biggest complaint is that the kids do not write enough and on the other hand are not recieving technology education below 4th grade

  6. That the District’s stated commitment to well-rounded education and its delivery of such to students are not aligned shouldn’t be that newsworthy. There are obvious data points readily available. For instance, the District is out of live animal cards for butterflies. Observing the life cycle is part of the 2nd grade science kit; unless teachers collect and maintain caterpillars themselves they’ll have to skip this unit. The science curriculum is six years old; there have been no opportunities to refurbish the “non-consumable” items in the kits (and after six years, some of those non-consumables are indeed consumed or destroyed). This information is telling, I think, and doesn’t require surveys or confidential information to suggest science isn’t getting its due.

    Curricula narrowing is widespread. There’s a lot of discussion of the Common Core adoption, but since it lacks science and social studies standards all of the new alignment will skip these areas. Similarly, there are content standards for art and I found an ancient curriculum on the topic in my classroom, but I suspect many teachers and schools are unaware of them and feel too overwhelmed by ELA and Math to teach them.