Tag Archives: recap

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!

Proposed changes to the A-G graduation requirements

Tonight the Board had a good discussion on the Superintendent’s proposal to modify our A-G graduation requirements to address concerns that students in our Court/County or Continuation schools will not achieve a diploma under the new, more rigorous requirements.
Longtime readers of this blog will recall that in 2009, the Board voted unanimously to change the district’s graduation requirements, starting with the class of 2014, to align with the entry requirements for the UC/CSU system — known as the A-G course sequence.
Since that time, the Board has monitored the new policy with trepidation, noting that large numbers of African-American students, Latino students, students with disabilities and students who are English Learners were not on track to graduate.  Tonight, the Superintendent presented data on the progress of members of the class of 2014 towards graduating under the new requirements. Here’s a snapshot (complete data in this Excel spreadsheet):

2014 and 2015bwThe very good news is that 91 percent of the class is either fully on track, or on on track in credits but missing one or more required classes (Algebra 2 in many cases, or a semester of P.E., or for English Learners, a required additional English course).  Currently, 920 students at comprehensive high schools (e.g., Lowell, Washington, Lincoln, Balboa, etc) or continuation high schools (Ida B. Wells or Downtown) are OK with credits but missing a course, and that situation is fixable. Counselors have already met with each of these students and their families, and developed individual plans to make sure these students can make up the necessary courses and graduate on time or over the summer.

The bad news is that as you can see above, 262 are at least a semester off track, and 97 are severely off track — more than a year behind. Still, even as recently as last spring, the Board and staff thought we might be looking at numbers that are much worse.

So: what are we going to do about it? In addition to existing supports like improved communication of student-level data to sites (to identify and work with struggling students earlier), stepped up counseling, individual academic review plans, credit recovery options like summer/night school or Cyber High, the Superintendent tonight proposed the following important changes:

  • Presenting a “seal of College Readiness”  to each graduating high school student who completes the required A-G course sequence with a grade of “C” or higher; and
  • Create new graduation options for students in County/Court schools and Continuation schools.*

Essentially, the Superintendent’s proposal would allow students in County/Court or continuation schools to graduate with 220 rather than 230 credits, and waive one year of world language as well as the requirement for Algebra 2. Commissioners had a lot of issues with that recommendation tonight, noting that a good number of our students in these schools — despite being our most disadvantaged in many cases — have managed to meet the requirements up to now.  The counter argument is that under the current policy, there are a lot of students in the class of 2014 who would qualify for a diploma under the previous requirements (which didn’t include Algebra 2, for example) but not under the new A-G requirements.

San Francisco USD is unique because it is both a county system and a unified school district — no other district in the state has that dual role. And so we are also the only county school system that is currently requiring all students to graduate having passed the A-G course sequence. Other unified school districts require A-G for graduation — San Jose, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego, to name a few — but they also can refer students to separate county systems with less rigorous graduation requirements. Under our current policy, San Francisco does not have that “loophole” or “escape valve” (what you call it depends on your point of view).

Based on tonight’s discussion, it appears that the Board would rather see a one-year waiver of the requirements for members of the class of 2014 who attend Court/County or continuation schools (so that they could graduate with the previous graduation requirements if necessary), and for the district to continue to push for universal A-G completion in future years.

A final vote on the proposal is scheduled for Dec. 10.

*(County/Court schools serve students who are incarcerated, on probation or otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system, as well as students who have been expelled or had other disciplinary issues. The county also maintains Hilltop HS, a school for pregnant or parenting teens.  The school district’s continuation high schools serve students who are age 16 and over and severely behind in credits).

A recap, some data and more data

First, a recap: We had a Board meeting last night, August 13. Not much actually happened but we had some very good conversations and comments. Rev. Amos Brown of the NAACP came to remind us that the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech will occur on August 28 (read full text here and video appears below):

We introduced the negotiated Project Labor Agreement for first reading — the agreement incorporates the district’s new Local Hire policy for the 2011 facilities bond measure and was completed in record time — hat tip to the Building Trades Council and David Goldin, the district’s Chief Facilities Officer.

We also had a long conversation about the decision to re-bid the district’s security contract, previously held by Securitas and now offered to ABC Security. I don’t know that Board members have strong feelings about the company we bid to — both companies are signatories to an agreement with SEIU to pay union wages and benefits, but there are some concerns that ABC will not honor its obligations under its agreement with SEIU. We do have strong feelings about their employees, whom we know well from their presence at the front desks of 555 Franklin and 135 Van Ness (Johnnie, Vao and colleagues– we’re looking at you!). The upshot of the evening’s discussion was that we will be vigilant that our security guards are being treated fairly, regardless of whether they work for us as employees or on contract.

Commissioner Wynns honored the late Ruth Asawa with a tearful tribute at adjournment,  and Commissioners decided to withdraw a slate of nominees to the Quality Teacher and Education Act (QTEA) oversight committee in order to give staff better guidance about the desired qualifications and diversity of the group. This group is incredibly important as an oversight body for the spending of our parcel tax, and because we have a dedicated and relatively diverse (but parent-heavy) group already in place, we have a bit more time to think more deeply about whether there are specific groups we should be sure are represented (e.g., retired teachers and homeowners, just to name a few).

Second — data. Oh how much data at tonight’s meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment.

A lot of the data is here, in this presentation, so if you are really a geek, download it and pore over it after you read this very brief summary. I have asked for a tape recording of tonight’s meeting and I will eventually (see  * below) post the audio that has all the detail you could possibly want.

* When I request the audio it comes to me on a regular old cassette tape — I had to buy a special digitizer that allows me to convert magnetic audio tape into a digital file. It takes a LONG time to a)get the tape b)find time to convert it and c)edit the file into something you, my loyal blog followers, would actually spend your time listening to. If you hate waiting for info, I suggest you come to committee meetings. The Board attempts to stay on the posted committee meeting schedule , but no meeting is legally scheduled until a notice is posted under the “Upcoming Meetings” column  on the  far right of the school district’s home page.  If you want a transcript, sorry — I can’t help you. :-)

So — it’s very hard to summarize the  Student Assignment Committee report this evening. The easy parts: There will be some minor changes to the CTIP 1 areas for the 2014-15 enrollment season. Our demographers have incorporated changes to census tracts from the 2010 census, and based on that have been able to refine some of the CTIP 1 census tract areas. Several tracts in the Western Addition and one in the Bayview will be reclassified as non-CTIP1; another tract in the Tenderloin will become a CTIP 1 tract. (Download the presentation — there are detailed block-by-block maps).

I learned more about how we actually determine the “average test score” for each census tract. It’s an average of all scores posted over seven years. So let’s say Student A is enrolled in SFUSD and took the test five out of the seven years averaged, while Student B was enrolled in SFUSD and took the test three out of the seven years averaged. Student C was enrolled in SFUSD and took the test seven out of the seven years averaged. That gives us a total of 15 test scores out of seven years to average — as opposed to three or fewer scores in any given year to average. According to our demographers, they are confident this gives us a less random and more stable average test score figure to use.

When we analyze the people who are using the CTIP preference, it appears that the vast majority are African American and Latino. Based on figures presented this evening, five percent of CTIP 1 applicants are white and nine percent are Chinese. 44 percent are Latino and 25 percent are African-American.

Interestingly, there is one census tract –  230.3, in the Bayview neighborhood (again, look at the presentation — it gives you a detailed map) that has increased so high in achievement that it no longer qualifies as CTIP 1 (or CTIP 2 or 3 for that matter).  Most of the students from that census tract are Chinese students who have chosen schools that are higher-performing than the school they would have been assigned in their neighborhood.

The demographers have also updated their enrollment forecasts to take into account the building boom that San Francisco is currently experiencing. These forecasts predict that we will continue to experience enrollment growth in areas where affordable or below market rate housing is being built — a tiny bit in Mission Bay but mostly in Bayview, Hunters Point and other HOPE SF projects. This is a pattern that –according to our demographers–is visible in most urban areas and/or areas where there is a wide disparity in income –affordable housing yields much more public school enrollment than market rate housing.  By contrast, areas (like suburban areas) that have more income-level homogeneity or uniformly high test scores regardless of income do not exhibit this pattern of public school enrollment. In other words, in areas where test scores are uniformly high, everyone goes to public school, regardless of income. But in areas where there are very affluent and very low-income people, and a corresponding disparity in test scores, people who cannot afford market rate housing go to public school;  people who live in market rate housing either do not have children or do not send those children to public school. I’m curious to hear how families who are “on the bubble” interpret this phenomenon — it’s also important to note that even our demographers admit that their forecasts would be wildly inaccurate should this observed pattern — residents of market rate housing don’t send their children (if they have any) to public school — shift suddenly in San Francisco.  And shouldn’t we want it to? How would we — San Franciscans — make such a shift come about?

Finally, the demographers have uncovered a trend they say is “unprecedented” in their previous analyses of SFUSD data. More high school students are staying in school and fewer are being held back for lack of credits — this will greatly affect our forecasts for high school enrollment in future years. The demographers (and board members in attendance) urged the district to conduct an internal analysis to understand why our high school attendance/enrollment patterns have changed so dramatically in such a short time.

And we have a budget!

Just getting home after a long meeting, but a substantive one: the Board had a lengthy budget discussion and passed the 2013-14 district budget unanimously.  The district will receive $360.58 million in unrestricted general fund revenues and spend $378.424 million, drawing down the beginning balance of $34.102 million to  about $700,000 after the required $15.566 million reserve.

There are a lot of big questions the Board has about the current direction of the district, including:

  • The special education budget is bigger than ever, representing about 25 percent of the general fund when special ed transportation costs are included — Commissioners are increasingly worried that the annual growth in special education spending is unsustainable and asked for more clarity on how the district expects its current investments to pay off in reduced future costs and better academic outcomes. The CAC for Special Education has posted some great analysis and data on its web site;  committee members spoke at the Board meeting and expressed concern that the district’s plan to invest in professional development and coaching for teachers — while needed — might divert too much money away from the classroom. My personal feeling is that while accelerating expenditures are alarming, it’s not time to change course: we have been identified as significantly disproportionate in how we identify students of color for special education, and are now required to spend 15 percent of our Federal special education allocation on interventions in general education. General education teachers desperately need more tools to help students who are struggling achieve, so that special education is not the district’s only safety net for students who aren’t achieving at grade level. Coaching and professional development are the best ways to provide general education teachers with the tools they need. We’ve reduced our spending on out-of-district private school placements for students with disabilities, by almost $5 million since I got on the Board.  But our choice-based student assignment system increases our special education transportation costs, and one of my goals over the next year or two is to look at ways to maintain equitable treatment of students with disabilities in our system while decreasing our exposure on transportation.  Overall, though, I think the request for more clarity in the district’s expectations and strategies for the next few years would be a good thing and I support the need for vigilance in gauging the return on our increasing investments in educating our students with disabilities.
  • One of the Superintendent’s centerpiece initiatives — Multi-Tier Systems of Support, or MTSS–is still confusing for board members and members of the public. Essentially, the initiative seeks to place resources where they are most needed, so that schools that need more supports get more supports even as all schools get a base “package” that includes ample counselors, nurses, librarians and other support staff.  Fully-realizing this vision will take more money than we currently have, but there have been significant investments in the current budget in social workers, counselors and nurses for many schools.  Elementary area teams will now consist of an Assistant Superintendent, and Executive Director, a Family and Community Engagement Specialist, two teachers on special assignment who can provide instructional support to principals and schools, as well as clerical support and a small discretionary budget. The expectation that goes along with this is that area teams will be more effective and proactive at problem-solving so that complaints are less likely to languish and fester. Some Board members worry, however, that this represents a big expansion in central administration, and that it represents a dismantling of site-based autonomy and decision-making.
  • Board members also expressed concerns about the perception that there is a lot of “new money” represented by the passage of Prop. 30 and the state’s rapidly improving economic outlook, and asked where this “new money” could be seen in the budget. The answer to that question is complex, because you first must accept the Superintendent’s argument that we are climbing out of a deep hole represented by the cuts of the last five years (see cartoon below). It helps if you remember the general fund revenues vs. expenditures I cited at the top of this post: even with the “new money” from Prop. 30 and additional taxes, we still expect to spend about $18 million more than we take in in revenues in 2013-14. That $18 million deficit represents people, programs and instructional days that otherwise would have had to be cut in the coming year. The “new money,” is simply helping us climb out of the hole rather than sink deeper:  gasping fish 2
  • The 7-period day for high school: Tonight Commissioner Haney introduced a resolution urging the district to expand A-G qualified course offerings at high schools; the Superintendent introduced a proposal that would lessen the credit requirements for students attending continuation or county high schools. Both resolutions will be discussed in August when the Board reconvenes after its July recess. Most of us agree that our students will have a much easier time meeting the more stringent A-G graduation requirements in place for the Class of 2014 and beyond if we are able to offer a 7-period day, but it’s expensive and Board members wanted to know how the Superintendent proposes to get there.  Similarly, common planning time for teachers is a widely-endorsed way to improve student outcomes, and Vice President Fewer introduced a resolution last summer asking the Superintendent to implement common planning time at all schools by the end of this year. However, the Board has not voted on this resolution as yet because transportation and other logistical issues make it daunting to fund and implement.  Board members also asked how to make common planning time a reality in coming years, given our belief that it is a best practice in improving achievement.

That’s it for now: I’m going fishing for the month of July (metaphorically, not literally.  As my husband likes to say, fishing is boring until you catch a fish–then it’s disgusting. And sorry for all the fishing references).  I’ll start blogging again in August. Happy summer vacation everyone!

Long day . . . with news and meeting recaps

Update (4 p.m. Wednesday): I’m very sad to report that Mikaela Lynch was found dead today. My heart goes out to her family and her community at Sunset ES. I was at the school with the Superintendent this afternoon and everyone is devastated. I’m very thankful to the teachers and paraprofessionals who dropped everything to help with the search — I only wish this story did not have such a sad ending.

Tuesdays are always my long day — starting at the normal time but ending much later due to Board meetings. I feel guilty, too, since I didn’t post a recap after the April 23 meeting — so I’m behind as well as tired. Time to power through:

Developments in corruption investigation: In mid-2010, about halfway into my first-term, then-Superintendent Garcia and then-Deputy Superintendent Carranza grimly informed the Board that the district had discovered very questionable expenditures and grant reporting practices in the Student Support Services Department. In short order, district leadership moved to tighten up its practices and the case was handed off to the District Attorney’s office for further investigation.  Today, almost three years later,  District Attorney Gascón announced that four former and two current district employees will be charged with felonies related to the investigation, which is still ongoing. I’m grateful to the District Attorney for the hard work he and his staff have put into discovering the truth and bringing misdeeds to light, but it’s still a punch in the gut to know that this level of fraud was occurring on my watch — even though I nor anyone else in leadership couldn’t have known what was going on until whistleblowers came forward with key information. (Read the school district’s news release on the charges here).

SFUSD student with autism goes missing: I’ve also been very engaged with the search for a 9-year-old SFUSD student who is nonverbal and has severe autism. The little girl, Mikaela Lynch, was last seen running down a road leading from a house in Clearlake on  Sunday afternoon, and I am incredibly touched and grateful that half a dozen staff members from her school have gone to Clearlake to assist with the search.  Mikaela cannot respond to her name and is reported to be wearing little or no clothing — anyone with ANY information that might be helpful should call the Clearlake Police Department at the number listed on this flyer (which also contains photographs and other helpful information). The district is covering the cost of substitutes while school staff is participating in the search.

May 14, 2013 meeting: The Board voted to increase developer fees (money school districts may assess on property developments to offset increased financial demands on schools from new residential and commercial/industrial developments). Residential development projects will now be assessed $2.91 per square foot planned, but the Board at some future date will consider lowering that assessment for affordable housing that meets specific requirements. In addition, the Board adopted the LEA plan (recommended reading), which is required by the state annually to detail progress on closing identified gaps in achievement between groups of students –e.g., English-speakers vs. English learners; the plan must also spell out additional actions the district will take if progress is not made. Finally, we honored the Parent Advisory Council on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, and The Arc of San Francisco for its incredible partnership and support in the establishment of our Access SFUSD: The Arc classroom for students with moderate to severe disabilities ages 18-22. (Photo courtesy of Commissioner Kim-Shree Maufas).

Honoring Access SFUSD - The Arc team

Public comment: There was a group of Bessie Carmichael parents and students, accompanied by Filipino community leaders, to complain about leadership at the school; in addition a large number of teachers, paraprofessionals and their supporters in United Educators of San Francisco came to protest the Board’s decision to issue final layoff notices for about 140 certificated staff.

April 23, 2013 meeting brief recap:  I’ve been feeling guilty for a few weeks that I never posted this recap. At the April 23 meeting, the Board adopted a revised instructional calendar for 2012-13 (May 31 will now be a full day rather than a half day) and authorized the issuance of low-risk short-term notes that improve cash flow in anticipation of tax revenue. Furloughs for all employees in 2013-14 have been rescinded. The Superintendent also introduced  (as requested by the Board in the resolution passed in March of this year) a proposed Local Hire policy that will be considered in detail at a Committee of the Whole on June 4 and come up for a final vote at the meeting of June 11.

April 9 recap: A day late and $43,000 short

A light agenda last night, with only two items of note: a final vote on the Public Education Enrichment Fund spending plan for 2013-14 and final adoption of the Superintendent’s proposed policy on inclusive practices. Lots of public comment, too.

First up, the inclusion policy. As my comrade (and chair of the district’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education) Katy Franklin summed it up this morning, “When you work so long for something to change, and then after 10 years, it does, it’s a weird feeling of happiness, relief and exhaustion … Still much work to do, but this is a fantastic start.”  Yep — I got pretty choked up as we were voting but there was really nothing else to do but go ahead with the meeting.

Next up:  PEEF spending. It hasn’t happened for quite a while, but thanks to the Mayor’s decision in late January to appropriate the entire amount called for in the City Charter (in lean budget years the City can pull a “trigger,” reducing the appropriation by 25%), we have a lot more PEEF money to spend next year (for background information about the PEEF, go here, here and here).  In large part, the Board was fine with the Superintendent’s decision to put a large chunk of the additional money (about $2 million in the third-third or “Other General Uses” portion of the fund) into a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative. Among other things, the money would go to hire a STEM Director, three program administrators and 14 teachers on special assignment to develop curriculum and support schools in expanding their STEM focus.  We also agreed with the decision to put $7.5 million in restored Sports, Libraries Arts and Music (SLAM) funds towards:

  • Making sure that every school has a librarian present at least two days a week;
  • Expanding arts offerings at the middle school level; and
  • Expanding all SLAM offerings at Superintendent’s Zone and Intensive-tier schools (based on a cluster analysis of variables like academic performance and trends, human capital, and demographics schools in SFUSD are classified in four tiers — Challenge, Benchmark, Strategic and Intensive).

However, the Board spent almost 45 minutes discussing a proposal from Vice President Fewer to restore the level of funding for restorative practices to the original $911,000 proposed back in 2010 — the first year after the Board adopted its policy to add restorative practices to the district’s discipline policies.    The proposal represented a $43,000 increase to the Superintendent’s proposal to fund restorative practices at $868,000 — not a lot of money when you consider that the entire PEEF budget totals $50 million. Still, we had a robust discussion about where to find the money, and dug deeper into several line items   — we came away with a good understanding of some of the more obscure parts of the proposal. In the end, the Superintendent agreed to take the $43,000 from the STEM proposal and put it into restorative practices. 

The entire PEEF proposal–prepared prior to the Board’s amendments last night–can be found here.

Meeting recap: March 12, 2013

It’s very late after a very long meeting, so I’ll expand this post later tomorrow or Thursday when I have some time. In short:

  • Congrats to the 28 National Board Certified teachers honored tonight! SFUSD now has 231 NBCTs — the highest, on a per capita basis, in the state. This is a very rigorous certification to achieve and I couldn’t be more proud of our teacher corps for showing this incredible dedication to their profession.
  • The resolution authored by Commissioners Fewer and Haney and now Supervisor Yee requesting the Superintendent to create and forward a local hire policy to the Board for approval passed 6-0 (Murase absent). “Local hire” means changing the district’s contracting procedures (within legal limits) to prioritize the hiring of San Francisco residents on facilities bond construction projects; the city passed its own local hire ordinance in 2010 requiring city-sponsored construction projects to eventually employ 50 percent local residents. The “invitation to a policy” we passed tonight also contains provisions asking the district to take steps to increase opportunities for women and people of color in the construction trades, again within legal limits. It represents the aspirations of the Board to go in a direction that would channel the economic power of our bond dollars for the good of San Franciscans, and provide more career opportunities for our students. The final policy will represent some trade-offs –administering and monitoring a local hire program will increase costs  and may decrease competition in our bidding process (though so far that has not been the City’s experience). In order for such a policy to meet its goals and still be workable from a construction management perspective, there will need to be “off-ramps” or “safety valves” allowing contractors who can’t meet the local hire requirement to find some other way of contributing to the goals of the policy. So there are a lot of outstanding questions and a lot of work remaining, but the aspirations of the resolution are good, and worthwhile to take on. Stay tuned for further developments. 
  • We heard an update on the Lau Action Plan and saw some examples of the increased amount of data the district is receiving from the longitudinal study of our English Learner (EL) outcomes being conducted by Stanford University. Some of the data is very sobering (our Chinese-language-speaking ELs are becoming English-proficient much faster than our Spanish-language-speaking ELs; biliteracy pathways [also called bilingual programs] seem to be doing a slightly better job getting ELs to English proficiency than dual-language immersion programs. The good news, though, is that now we finally have a store of data that will help us analyze the effectiveness of our programs and continually question our assumptions so that we continue to make the best decisions for EL students, as required by the Lau v. Nichols court settlement we operate under.
  • Staff also updated the Board on the draft Coordinated Early Intervention Services (CEIS) plan submitted to the state last week — required because we have been found to be “significantly disproportionate” in our identification of African-American students for special education. The fact that African-American students in San Francisco and many other places are disproportionately identified for special education isn’t really a surprise to anyone, but now that the finding is “official” from the state, the district must take specific measures; the CEIS plan — listing our findings on the root causes of disproportionality and steps we will take to decrease it –is the first step. Once the draft plan is approved by the state the district will be required to use 15 percent of our IDEA appropriation to fund the plan, which is restrictive but given the depth of the problem, probably justified.

Dec 11 meeting recap: Has it really been a month?

UPDATE: The Board will take up the Revolution Foods meal service contract at a Special Meeting on Monday evening, Dec. 17. The Special Meeting will start directly following the previously-agendized Buildings & Grounds Committee, scheduled for 6 p.m.  that evening. 

As I noted in last month’s meeting recap, SFUSD routinely cancels the second Board meeting in November and the second Board meeting in December. So we haven’t had a meeting in a month, and it’ll be another month before we meet again. So you’d think there would be a lot of business on the agenda, right? Not really, as it turned out. It was Norman’s last regular meeting before he is  sworn in as Supervisor for District 7 — Commissioners expressed appreciation for his work on the Board and all of us feel sure we will be seeing lots of Norman after he moves to City Hall.  At the end of the meeting, staff, Commissioners and one Commissioner-elect posed for a family photo:

Normans last meeting cropped

Unfortunately, all the news that was going to happen at last night’s meeting got canceled, so while I have every expectation that the proposed school meal contract with Revolution Foods will pass the Board, we’ll have to wait a bit longer (looks like Dec. 17, but not sure yet). In the meantime, here’s the Invitation for Bid from the school district (wonk alert) which tells you the terms the successful bidder had to meet. Good stuff (for super wonks there is even more info here — scroll down to “Student Nutrition Meal Services”).

And if you are really motivated, here are some more things to study up on for next month:

  • Commissioner Fewer and outgoing Commissioner (Supervisor-elect) Yee introduced a local hire resolution that has many worthy provisions but is sure to ignite some sparks with our Building Trades unions — stay tuned for that to come up for a Board vote and lots of debate in January. 
  • Charter school annual space requests have been submitted and the district’s response is due in early February. Prop 39 requires school districts to offer charters “reasonably equivalent” space to similarly situated district-managed schools.
  • The state budget is still very much at issue for 2013-14 even though Prop 30 passed. The district expects to start its own budget process early next year and we expect to have to cut.  Even though the state will eventually have more money, it will be slow to materialize and make a difference for local school districts.
  • City support for credit recovery and additional support for the Classes of 2014 and 2015 will remain a hot topic. In recent weeks, this issue has been very much in the news because the school district has acknowledged that many students in the current sophomore and junior classes are behind on the credits and/or course requirements they need to graduate under the new A-G graduation policy. Last Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors passed, by a vote of 7-4, a supplemental $2.2 million budget allocation requested by Supervisor Kim to support the district’s action plan for addressing the problem of large students who are short on credits. However, there are a few more hoops this request has to go through (with a possibility that Mayor Lee will veto it) so stay tuned for future developments.

I’m also excited to announce that the Board members elected in November will be sworn in at a ceremony on January 4, 2013 at Tenderloin Community Elementary School (627 Turk St. at Van Ness) at 6 p.m. The public is invited — please come to see me, Sandra Lee Fewer, Jill Wynns and Matt Haney sworn in on that date. The first meeting of the new Board and our annual leadership elections will occur on Tuesday, January 8 at 6 p.m. in the Board Room at 555 Franklin Street. 

In the meantime, have a very happy and healthy holiday season. The blog will be on hiatus until January 3.

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.

Meeting recap: October 23, 2012

Yet another very brief meeting tonight. Aside from mostly routine items on the agenda, the Board heard an update on general education transportation cuts/planning for 2013-14 and also changes to the staffing of the Parents Advisory Council (PAC).

I’ve noted in the past that the Board has directed staff to cut general education transportation, and also align what transportation resources remain to help meet our student assignment and parent engagement goals. Since 2010-11, the number of general education buses serving schools has decreased from 44 to 30; in 2013-14 that number will fall to 25. Those cuts have been motivated by budgetary concerns  because we have not been able to justify keeping a high-cost transportation program (roughly $100,000 per bus in service per year, excluding special education buses ) while cutting back classroom services –especially because the state has continually cut back home-to-school transportation funding. Continuing to fund a robust transportation program in the face of these cuts means taking money away from the general fund, which pays for general education teachers, textbooks and classroom supplies.

After absorbing the cuts, the district must continue working on realigning the remaining transportation resources to serve other goals — closing the achievement gap, for example, and providing equitable access to citywide programs. Right now,  transportation planning is in phase one — cuts. Phase two — and this work hasn’t really begun — is the community engagement and planning work  that must be part of realigning our admittedly insufficient transportation resources to make sure those resources are supporting our district priorities.

In the meantime, here are the transportation cuts announced for 2013-14:

  • All general education transportation services to ER Taylor ES, Gordon J Lau ES and New Traditions ES will be eliminated, affecting 44, 24 and 22 morning riders, and 48, 20 and 17 afternoon riders, respectively;
  • Service to Aptos MS from the Mission (affecting 57 morning riders and 56 afternoon riders) will be eliminated (service from Carver ES and Starr King ES was added for 2012-13);
  • Service to Hoover MS from the Bayview (affecting 20 morning riders and 27 afternoon riders) will be eliminated (service to Hoover from Moscone ES and Serra ES was added for 2012-13.

The other major announcement at the meeting was the departure of Ruth Grabowski, who has served for more than eight years as the staff coordinator of the district’s Parent Advisory Council. Board members expressed sincere gratitude for Ruth’s contributions to the PAC’s work over the years — the PAC has been exemplary in its commitment to diversity, parent engagement and respectful but pointed critiques of district actions and initiatives and Ruth has played a major role in these efforts. 

Happily, Ruth is not going far — she will now be working for the school district and helping to lead our efforts in parent and community engagement; Georgia Bratt-Williams, a current PAC member, will take over her position as PAC staff coordinator.