Author Archives: rpnorton

Video

Occupy Kindergarten

Kindergarten has changed in the last 30 years, not kindergarteners. Thought-provoking TEDx talk from a California Kindergarten teacher. Hat tip to Miss Susie, the Kindergarten teacher I wish I’d had, who teaches lucky children at Yick Wo Elementary.

Considering changes to student assignment

As reported in yesterday’s Chronicle, Board President Sandra Lee Fewer and I are working on a proposal to change the student assignment system — really, to tweak it — by reordering the preferences for Kindergarten admissions.

After reading and absorbing the 3rd Annual Report on Student Assignment outcomes last month, I became more convinced than ever that the relatively high power the current system gives the CTIP (Census Tract Integration Preference) was not having the effect we’d hoped in terms of desegregating schools. In addition, putting CTIP so high in the hierarchy of preferences (coming just after siblings and children enrolled in and attending an SFUSD Pre-K program in the same attendance area) is clearly having an effect on some specific attendance area programs, to the disadvantage of residents of those attendance areas.

The board continues to believe strongly that diverse schools are better for everyone, and President Fewer and I have not abandoned the idea that we should continue to work on desegregating our schools where students are “racially isolated.”  (Read this post from 2010 about academic outcomes in our schools where more than 60 percent of students are either African American, Latino or Samoan for more discussion on this issue.)

It’s important also to say that at the time I said I didn’t think CTIP would affect attendance area residents’ ability to attend their local schools.  Now, I obviously think I was wrong, at least in a few cases like Clarendon and perhaps Grattan. (I just read back over a number of my posts from January – March 2010 and it’s interesting to do if you would like to know more about how we got to where we are today).  Anyway, I’m increasingly uneasy when people tell me that they plan to “rent in a CTIP zone” for K admissions, then move to a different neighborhood (this has happened to me a number of times); when I hear from homeowners in CTIP zones that they have received calls from real estate agents who say they can cash in on their “golden ticket” status;  when I see the data showing that residents of the Clarendon attendance area have pretty terrible odds of attending their local school because of demand from siblings and CTIP.  It’s clear that it’s time to make a modest adjustment that will still preserve some expanded choices for areas where there are concentrations of lower-achieving children.

The fact is, no neighborhood in San Francisco is very affordable anymore for either middle-class home buyers or renters.  All over the City, there are people who — thanks to either rent control or getting in to the real estate market early — can afford to live here but can’t afford to move (I’m one of them!).  Any system that offers its primarly benefit to people who can afford to choose whatever San Francisco neighborhood they live in or move at will is not one that benefits the neediest and most struggling San Franciscans.

Anyway – there will be plenty of time to debate, dissect and discuss this issue this summer – our proposal will be submitted for first reading on June 24 and will not be discussed in any detail by the Board until the August meeting of the Student Assignment committee. I expect the proposal to come back for a final vote in late August and — if it passes — to take effect for enrollment for the 2015-16 school year.

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Tuesday night the Board will consider the 2014-15 budget proposal and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) detailing how we will spend our new Local Control Funding Formula dollars from the state. The draft budget books and draft LCAP are available for download on the district’s web site, here, here and here (warning: the budget books are a big download – don’t click on the first two links from your phone).

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School’s out, happy summer! President Fewer wrangled the Board and senior district staff and created this goofy fan version of the hit “Happy” by Pharrell. It’s a little embarassing, but it’s cute:

 

3rd annual student assignment report is final

Download it here– hot off the presses. A draft of the report was shared with Commissioners in February – this final draft takes into account comments and questions from that discussion.

Meeting recap: April 22, 2014 – teachers rally, QTEA, and a-g

Big raucous rally by UESF members at last night’s meeting. Our teachers, paras, nurses, counselors and security guards are worried — as many San Franciscans are–about the City’s growing income inequality and cost of living. The past five years of budget cuts were very tough on our school employees and last night they let us know  that they need a raise.

The Board and the Superintendent agree — our employees need and deserve a raise. Negotiations are ongoing and I have no doubt that we will be able to come to an agreement that is fair to our employees and is within our means.

We also heard a report from the QTEA (Quality Teacher and Education Act, otherwise known as the Prop. A  2008 $198 parcel tax) oversight committee. This committee serves as the taxpayers’ representatives in overseeing expenditures of  QTEA revenues ($35 million in fiscal 2013, according to the audit we received last night).  The vast majority of those funds go each year to some form of teacher compensation: sub days for teachers and paras receiving professional development, retention bonuses and bonuses for teaching in hard to staff subjects and schools, tuition reimbursement and coaching for teachers seeking to improve their skills, and much more.

The oversight committee reported on these and other uses of the QTEA funds and expressed satisfaction that more funding has gone to professional development in the most recent budget. They continued to express concern about the Board’s decision in 2010 to use the last half year of funding under the tax (payable 20 years from now) in 2010 to defer teacher layoffs — while the oversight committee agrees that the use of the money was appropriate they are concerned that it will represent a “double-dip” over the long term.

Finally, the Board heard a report on the progress of the Class of 2014 towards meeting the a-g graduation requirements. Graduates in 2014 are the first to be expected to meet the UC entrance requirements, otherwise known as the a-g course sequence. Since the Board passed the more stringent graduation requirements in 2010, we have been monitoring the progress of these first graduating classes — 2014 and 2015 — towards meeting it.

While we have made a good amount of progress — especially considering the dismal predictions early on about whether our students would be able to meet the more rigorous standard–there are still a lot of students in the class of 2014 who are not on track to graduate. First, the good news: more than half of the class met the entry requirements  for UC (meaning a C or better in a-g classes) this fall, and another third will likely meet those requirements by the end of this school year. Three-quarters of current 12th graders will meet the requirements to graduate.

The bad news is, of course, that half or more of some subgroups (African American students) are not on track to graduate. It was the right thing to do to increase the rigor of our graduation requirements, but the data for this current class shows the price we have paid for that decision: this class represents, as the Superintendent asserted last night, the most prepared class we have ever graduated from San Francisco Unified. And at the same time we must recognize that this class represents a group of  students who were largely unprepared by our schools for the requirements we are now saying they must meet. I do have every confidence that we will get more of our students over the line by the end of the 2014 school year and in subsequent school years, but at the same time it is important to pause and absorb where we are now.

The crux of the data for the Class of 2014, a snapshot as of February 7, 2014, is here, and here.

From tonight’s meeting: English Learner achievement

At tonight’s meeting we heard a fascinating presentation of the results of the district’s research partnership with Stanford. Specifically, the partnership has looked at longitudinal data on English Learner achievement in several pathways — English Plus, Bilingual/biliteracy and Dual Immersion (full descriptions of each of these pathways are here).

I’ll post the presentation as soon as I have an electronic copy, and it’s pretty straightforward to understand. But basically, our concern as a district has been that we didn’t have solid data supporting the big investment we’ve made in dual-language immersion as a strategy to support the achievement of English Learners. (And in addition, until the last two years, we didn’t have accurate data on the English proficiency/background of all the students enrolled in our language pathways).

Dual-language immersion–offered in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean– is wildly popular among English speakers and was designed to support both the English language instructional needs of target language native speakers as well as their content instruction needs.  These programs have exploded throughout the district and have been one of the district’s key strategies over the past decade for integrating schools (look at Bret Harte, Fairmount, Monroe, James Lick, DeAvila . . . the list goes on).

There is some data — not unique to our district — indicating that English Learners who are educated in dual-language classrooms (the ideal ratio is debated but generally held to be 2/3 English Learner/bilingual with 1/3 English native speakers) are slightly more likely to be reclassified English proficient by middle school than English learners educated in other environments.  Still, the sample sizes of the existing studies are small and the data they generated hasn’t been regarded as definitive (though to be fair it is considered “promising”).

But the Stanford longitudinal results are  much more robust and definitive than past studies, and I have to say that I was relieved when I saw that they basically support the earlier studies and our general approach up till now.

Essentially: students in English Plus programs (where they are immersed in content instruction in English much of the day and pulled out for specific English Language Development for a certain number of minutes per day) become English proficient faster and achieve at a higher level  in the earlier grades, but students in Bilingual and Dual-immersion pathways eventually catch up by middle school.  The takeaway is that it doesn’t really matter what pathway you’re in by the time you reach middle school.

The down side is that there is still a significant gap in achievement and overall English proficiency between students whose first language is Spanish and those whose first language is Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin).  And an additional down side is that all students — whether their first language is English, Chinese or Spanish — are not achieving at an acceptable level in math by middle school.  So we have a lot of work to do.

Also from tonight’s board meeting:

  • We reauthorized charters for Gateway High School and Life Learning Academy;
  • We heard public comment from community members at the Claire Lilienthal K-8 Korean Immersion Program, the Filipino pathway at Bessie Carmichael K-8, and Hunter’s View residents advocating for the district to refurbish and reopen the Hunter’s Point Youth Park;
  • We celebrated 33 teachers who achieved the rigorous National Board Certification this year — bringing the number of district teachers who have achieved this professional honor and badge of achievement to 239! Congratulations!

Quick update – new math sequence to be voted on tonight

Tonight the Board will vote on the new math sequence I posted last week. I’ve read the research paper, which I think is quite clear and well-written, and I think the main question to be answered is: is the rigor students need going to be represented in the new course sequence?

The impression from parents who have commented here is clearly no — mainly I think because there is a lack of trust in the district’s ability to differentiate instruction for students with high math ability.

Anyway, the discussion should be interesting tonight. The meeting will be very long — I’m expecting a lot of general public comment as well as lots of speakers on the Solutions not Suspensions resolution from Commissioner Haney — so I don’t know what time the topic will come up. But I do intend to ask the above question about rigor.

The presentation that will accompany the discussion tonight is posted here: Board Presentation 2-25

School funding and fundraising: your opportunity to weigh in!

Later this morning (Friday, February 14, 2014) I will be a guest on the Forum show on KQED radio (88.5 FM in the Bay Area). Do you have thoughts on school funding and fundraising? This is your chance to call in. The topic of the program is a recent series of articles by the SF Public Press on disparities in PTA fundraising in SFUSD. The series is extensive and worth reading, but the gist is that the paper’s analysis found that a handful of SFUSD schools more than made up for budget cuts through parent fundraising during the budget crisis over the past few years.

I don’t dispute that finding, generally, though I do have some issues with the analysis (it’s not clear, for example, whether the reporting took centrally-funded services like special education teachers and aides, social workers and nurses into account). I think the article is an important opportunity to look, in general, at education funding in California and to have a discussion about what educational elements are essential for every child in our community?

On February 14, 2014, you will be able to call in to the Forum program at 1.415.553.2227 or 1.866.SF.FORUM (1.866.733.6786) or email forum@kqed.org to have your thoughts registered in the discussion. You can listen live at 88.5 FM or at this link. After the program has aired, you will be able to listen to archived audio.

Update – new math course sequence proposed

At last night’s meeting, the Superintendent proposed (for first reading, which means it hasn’t been discussed or acted on by the full Board yet) a new math course sequence to better align math instruction in middle and high school with the Common Core.

A graphic showing the proposed new course sequence is here: math core sequenceA paper explaining the rationale behind the proposed new sequence is here. The proposal was discussed at the Curriculum committee earlier this month, and will return for second reading on Feb. 25.

What’s happening – January 2014

Apparently feeling guilty about not posting does not actually result in an actual blog post. So now I am trying another tactic: actually sitting down to post. Here we go:

  • First – January Board meeting recaps. Our first meeting of the new year occurred on January 14. The Board elected new officers, voting Sandra Lee Fewer as President and Emily Murase as Vice President. I enjoyed being President — it is a very interesting and information-packed position — but it is also very time-consuming, so I was also not sorry to hand over the mantle of responsibility to others. The Board voted unanimously to support the Superintendent’s proposal to create a district-wide and world-class arts education hub at 135 Van Ness Ave (which would also involve moving the Ruth Asaway High School of the Arts to the Civic Center arts hub). Finally, the Board also voted to endorse, 5-2 (Mendoza-McDonnell and Maufas voting no), the sugary beverage tax that Supervisors Wiener, Mar, Avalos and Cohen will introduce at the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 4.*  On January 28 (full disclosure: I did not attend the meeting due to a bad cold), the Board voted to accept the Superintendent’s spending plan for $50 million in Public Education Enrichment (Prop. H) Funds for 2014-15 – not much else of note was on the agenda and the meeting was over within 90 minutes (nice going President Fewer!).
  • Surplus property presentation at Board of Supervisors Select Committee, Jan 30: Conventional wisdom says that SFUSD has lots of property that it is “hoarding” to the detriment of the City and kids everywhere. No offense, but WRONG. This presentation, delivered by SFUSD Facilities Director David Goldin at the request of Supervisor Jane Kim and members of the City-School District Select Committee, shows that most of the properties previously-declared surplus by the school district are very much in use today. A few, like the lots at 7th Ave. and Lawton St., 200 Middlepoint Road in Bayview-Hunters Point, or the Principal’s Center on 42nd Ave., have development potential. Most, however, are either serving an educational use or generating revenue — $7 million anticipated for the 2014 calendar year.
  • Stanford Longitudinal Study on efficacy of SFUSD programs for English Learners:  I haven’t heard the commentary on this data so I am simply posting the summaries I’ve been given by staff; the Board will receive a briefing sometime soon on this study and after that I will have more observations. My initial sense, in reviewing these summaries, is one of relief. I have been quite worried that we have invested too much in programs with  limited efficacy for English Learners. This data — at least as summarized here — indicates that those concerns might be misplaced. I want to see more and hear from the researchers before I can say for sure. Until then, you know what I know:

That’s about it for now. An outstanding issue concerns the district’s plans for spending funds allocated by the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and our work to implement our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).  Districts are required to hold public meetings as part of the LCAP implementation, and I’ll update the blog as soon as I know what those plans are.
In the meantime, the Budget & Business Services Committee meets the first Wednesday of every month (next meeting scheduled — not confirmed — for Feb. 5).  Attending the monthly committee meetings is the best way to keep up with what is happening with the LCAP and the school district’s budget planning.

 

 

Giving: way more fun than shopping

Today at my office, we are celebrating Giving Tuesday — a movement created last year to encourage people to give amidst the orgy of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday shopping. (Don’t get me started on the rather repulsive trend of stores opening on Thanksgiving to push people to shop instead of celebrating family and other blessings.)

NorthridgeYouthI gave $25 towards the San Francisco Parks Alliance’s Giving Tuesday goal to raise $2,000 for its Action Grant program. The Parks Alliance launched Action Grants last spring, donating a total of $25,000 to promising park projects that needed some “seed money” to get off the ground. My favorite, the Northridge Community Garden, was started by Mishwa Lee, a school district retiree and sometime substitute paraprofessional. Mishwa and her fellow Northridge residents have built an amazing garden and gathering space in their Bayview housing complex — producing food, community and youth development opportunities for all residents.

I also gave $25 to what might be my favorite nonprofit in the City (though there are so many that do amazing work!). The Arc of San Francisco holds a special place in my heart because of their work ensuring that adults with developmental disabilities lead productive, independent lives. I was honored to be interviewed for their annual fundraising video this year, which I think sums up their work perfectly:

The Arc’s holiday giving drive provides $25 gift cards to their clients who might not otherwise get any gift this year.

These are just my suggestions for making a gift — of whatever size — this Giving Tuesday. Give to whatever cause is most meaningful to you today – it feels amazing!

unselfies