In San Francisco, White and Asian students academically outperform their counterparts of other races, particularly African-Americans and Latino students. This phenomenon is not unique to our City, but the gap is particularly pronounced here and we must urgently address it as a community. To address this goal, in my first term on the Board, here are the actions the district has taken:
- Upgraded the district’s graduation requirements to align with the University of California/California State University’s A-G requirements. Implementing this policy has been complex for the district, requiring re-alignment of many courses at many high schools, updating data systems and better tracking of students’ D and F grades from 9th grade on.
- Created the Superintendent’s Zone to focus resources on the district’s lowest-performing schools. All of these schools have high percentages of African-American, Latino or Samoan students — those most affected by the so-called achievement gap (or perhaps more accurately described, “opportunity gap”).
- Applied for– and received — $40 million in School Improvement Grants from the state and Federal government. These grants had very strict and prescriptive requirements for the 10 schools that received them, and implementing them has not been easy. The “SIG” schools, however, have shown gains. SIG schools are a subset of the Superintendent’s Zone — most are in the Mission District.
I also believe it is important to give every child access to a high-quality curriculum that is differentiated to his or her specific needs. High-achievers need more challenges; children with learning differences need to access information that is tuned to their developmental level or optimal learning style.
The district’s strategic plan, now in its fifth year, calls for reducing “the predictive power of demographics” in student outcomes. We have taken a hard look at the way we distribute resources and set priorities throughout the district, trying to be sure the district’s resources and priorities are aligned with best practices in education. We began this conversation with the passage of Proposition A in 2008, an initiative which addressed the problem of recruiting and retaining new teachers in our most challenging schools by allowing the Superintendent to establish two dozen schools as “hard-to-staff,” and offer teachers additional pay and professional development to teach in them.