Tag Archives: Superintendent’s Zone

Meeting recap: 2012 achievement overview

Another relatively light agenda, with the meatiest item being an overview of the district’s achievement results from the 2011-12 school year.  The highlights of our results on the California Standards Test were previously reported several weeks ago, so tonight’s presentation was intended to dig deeper into the results and brief the Board on how they will inform curriculum and instruction for the current school year.

Probably the most interesting results were the “matched student cohorts,” which compare individual students’ CST scores in 2011 with their scores in 2012, then counts the number of students who remained proficient or advanced or who moved up a level (say from Below Basic to Basic) between 2011 and 2012. According to the analysis, of 30,301 SFUSD students in grades 3-11 who took the English/Language Arts CST in 2011 and again in 2012, 70 percent (or 21,084) moved up at least one level or remained Proficient or Advanced.

Similarly, of 17,087 SFUSD students in grades 3 – 7  who took the CST in Mathematics, 173 percent (or 12,538) moved up at least one level or remained Proficient or Advanced.

Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero also highlighted several groups of “celebration” schools,  from top-performing schools to schools that are closing the gap for specific student subgroups. There are 27 schools in the district where 75 percent or more of the student body is proficient or advanced on the CST:

  • John Yehall Chin ES
  • Grattan ES
  • Robert Louis Stevenson ES
  • George Peabody ES
  • Lafayette ES
  • Yick Wo ES
  • Rooftop K-8
  • Dianne Feinstein ES
  • A.P. Giannini MS
  • Alice Fong Yu K-8
  • Ulloa ES
  • Claire Lilienthal K-8
  • Sunset ES
  • Alamo ES
  • Francis Scott Key ES
  • McKinley ES
  • Argonne ES
  • Lowell HS
  • Clarendon ES
  • Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (ES)
  • Sherman ES
  • Lawton K-8
  • Miraloma ES
  • West Portal ES
  • Jefferson ES
  • Presidio MS
  • Ruth Asawa HS for the Arts (SOTA)

Schools that are closing the gap for one specific subgroup, English Learners (meaning the rate of improvement for ELs at those schools was greater than the rate of improvement for all students at the school), are:

  • Argonne ES
  • Garfield ES
  • Gordon J. Lau ES
  • Sunset ES
  • Hoover MS
  • Lowell HS
  • Paul Revere K-8
  • Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (ES)
  • Grattan ES
  • John Muir ES
  • E.R. Taylor ES
  • Roosevelt MS
  • Washington HS
  • Cleveland ES
  • Bret Harte ES
  • Rosa Parks ES
  • A.P. Giannini MS
  • Lincoln HS
  • Lawton K-8

It’s still important to recognize, however, that while we have made a modest dent in the achievement gap, it’s still very much apparent in our test results.  In 2012, 74 percent of White and Chinese students scored Proficient or above on the CST –compared to just 38 percent of Latino students and 36 percent of African-American students.  In 2008, 66 percent of White and Chinese students scored Proficient or above, compared to 28 percent of Latino students and 23 percent of African-American students.  The comparison shows a modest narrowing of the gap in achievement between groups, but 38 percent proficient is nothing to write home about. We need to do better, and at this rate, we won’t close the gap anytime soon.

So what is the district doing to accelerate our progress?  Implementation of a common core curriculum — a set of standards, milestones and assessments that helps teachers across the district teach to a common set of expectations so that my 5th grader in School A is being taught the same material as your 5th grader in School B–is proceeding. This should not mean “dumbing down” what is taught or holding back students who are ready to move ahead ; it should also not be a scripted curriculum.  Instead the “core curriculum” should foster a common understanding of what a 5th grader should be able to do, regardless of challenges or advantages outside of the classroom.  If your 5th grader needs to be challenged, teachers should still have the tools to guide him or her to a higher level. And if my 5th grader is struggling, supports should be in place to help him or her succeed. Nevertheless,  teachers in School A and School B should be using the same yardstick to determine which students are doing well and which students are not — in other words, I don’t want your “advanced” to be my “basic”.

Superintendent Carranza did stress several times tonight that we are moving from “a confederation of independent schools” to a “unified school system,” which will definitely raise red flags in some quarters. I think the Board needs to know more about what that means at the classroom and school level, because I don’t like the idea of “wall walkers” coming through schools and demanding uniformity in everything from lesson plans to student work. On the other hand, if a “unified school system” means consistently and uniformly high expectations across the district, and a culture that stresses supporting the classroom with actual resources as opposed to “good luck, you’re on your own,” then I’m interested.

Tonight’s presentation also included some discussion of how to share the best practices we are discovering in our Superintendent’s Zone schools; these schools are accelerating students at twice the rate in English/Language Arts compared to the district as a whole and three times the rate in Mathematics compared to the district.  Part of the answer was (as I feared it would be) that the money we are spending in those schools has made a difference. I’m glad that we have made progress in the 14 Zone schools, but we can’t afford to duplicate our Zone spending in non-Zone schools. Our challenge this year is to figure out, now that we know some specific strategies that work in our schools, how to implement these strategies — common planning time, intensive job-embedded professional development and coaching for teachers — for little or no money if we aren’t able to develop/find/win (there’s a big election coming up) more money.

Recap: the rhetoric ratchets up

If you haven’t noticed rising tensions between the district and its main union, United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), you haven’t been paying attention.  The school district and UESF are again in contract negotiations, as the two-year agreement crafted in June 2010 expires June 30, 2012. In June 2010, the district was facing a $113 million deficit over two years (201o-11 and 2011-12), and UESF members and other employees gave furlough (unpaid) days and other concessions to close that gap.

Those concessions expire on June 30, but the budget crisis is not over, based on an analysis by Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh at tonight’s meeting. California school districts are required to submit board-approved three-year budgets by June 30 of each year, and the SFUSD figures–based on the passage of tax measures on this November’s ballot–appear in the chart below (note that the figures only represent the Unrestricted General Fund — the largest and least restricted pot of money the district spends). There are additional monies — facilities bond funds, special education funding from the state and Federal government, student nutrition reimbursement and other revenues– that are not included here. Many of these programs (special education and student nutrition are major examples) also require a contribution from the Unrestricted General Fund to continue a minimum level of service. So the figures below do not include revenues from restricted programs but do include any contributions of unrestricted funds that are required to keep programs funded by restricted funds completely solvent.

You might also have heard of two state revenue initiatives just concluding the signature gathering phase to qualify for the ballot — the Governor has one, called the “Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act,” and the California PTA and civil rights attorney Molly Munger have another, called “Our Children Our Future.” Each claim to raise money for education, but it is beyond the scope of this post to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each. Anyway, districts are being encouraged to budget as if the Governor’s initiative passes; to be prudent most are preparing two budgets: “scenario A (taxes pass)” or “scenario B (taxes fail).” Since Governor Brown’s initative trumps Our Children Our Future if both pass, SFUSD and other districts are using pass/fail outcomes for the Governor’s initiative as the best/worst case scenarios.

SCENARIO A: UNRESTRICTED GENERAL FUND IF TAXES PASS

What the numbers mean:   The school district began the current year with $55.8 million in the bank, which includes $16.6 million in “designated reserves.” These are funds that the state will not let districts spend, under any circumstances, because these funds are expected to be available to state regulators if and when an insolvent district is taken over. In plain language, school boards and district administrators do not have the authority to spend designated reserves. In SFUSD’s case, that leaves $18.7 million in cash that can be applied to the 2012-13 beginning balance.

2012-13: If you add the unspendable reserve of $16.6 million to the available $18.7 million in cash left over from 2011-12, you get a beginning balance of $35.3 million. Current spending projections, which include the expiration of the UESF contract concessions from 2010-11 and 2011-12, add up to $372.5 million. Expected state and Federal revenues add up to $318.6 million. After the beginning surplus of $35.3 million is added in and the required unspendable reserve is subtracted, the district is looking at a deficit of $35.5 million at the end of 2012-13.

2013-14 and beyond: Without any cuts (on top of the cuts we have made in previous years), and/or concessions (remember that earlier contract concessions like furlough days expire on June 30,2012), the negative ending balance in 2012-13 and subsequent years (indicated in red in the table above) is is a problem.  The state will take districts over if they cannot demonstrate a positive ending balance at the end of the next fiscal year; they put you on a watch list and/or begin to intervene if you cannot demonstrate a positive ending balance for the following fiscal year or the year after that.

SCENARIO B: UNRESTRICTED GENERAL FUND IF TAXES FAIL

What the numbers mean:  By comparing the A/B scenarios, you can easily tell that revenues take a hit in 2012-13 and 2013-14 if the taxes don’t pass, which has a corresponding effect on the ending balances for each fiscal year. Still, it’s also apparent from Scenario A that even with new revenues, education funding in California is not at all out of the woods.

How things stand now:  There is a great deal of uncertainty around the district’s budget, not just because of the unknown outcome of the tax proposals (both of which may appear on the November 2012 ballot).  In addition, district leadership and UESF are far apart in their understanding of the district’s fiscal situation, and of what is affordable and what is not. Last week, district negotiators declared that they had reached an impasse with UESF, but union negotiators disagreed with that position and believe there has not been sufficient discussion of their proposals.  The district has appealed to the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) to determine whether there is any use in the sides continuing to talk or whether a mediator should be appointed. (It would take hours for me to describe what each side has proposed, so if you are really interested you can find descriptions of district proposals here and descriptions of UESF proposals here).

The bottom line: As a Board Member,  I have to decide whether the projections/scenarios above are valid, and whether the funding priorities that will be proposed in the Superintendent’s 2012-13 budget (to be introduced for first reading in early June) are fiscally responsible and in line with the Board’s policy priorities. On Thursday, UESF is holding the first of two votes required to authorize an eventual strike, and its members must decide much the same things: are the district’s publicly disseminated budget scenarios valid? Are the district’s proposals fiscally responsible and aligned with the district’s academic and policy goals? How do the UESF proposals align with the district’s academic policy goals, and are they equally as fiscally responsible as the district’s proposals?

Determining the answers to these questions is not easy, especially since the picture at the state level is still so unclear. Money that is expected today may fail to materialize if the taxes don’t pass in November.  In declaring impasse, the district has asked for an independent mediator to evaluate the arguments on both sides, and help craft a proposed settlement that (in his or her judgment) addresses both sides.

So, layoffs . . .  Until there is an agreement, the district must take steps to be sure its three-year budget is balanced ahead of the June 30 deadline. In February, the Board voted to issue 333 preliminary layoff notices to certificated employees (administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors, etc.) — those preliminary notices must be issued by March 15.  In its resolution to issue those notices, the Board agreed to skip teachers in 14 Superintendent’s Zone schools, a controversial decision that required review by an Administrative Law Judge.

Yesterday, the judge issued her decision and ruled that the district must conduct layoffs according to seniority, instead of skipping teachers at some schools altogether. Though many Board members believe our original action would have had benefits to the Superintendent’s Zone schools — many of which are historically low-performing–after the judge’s decision we unanimously rejected the Superintendent’s proposal to proceed with the skip and instead adopted (6-1) a substitute resolution that follows seniority to issue permanent layoff notices to 210 teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, counselors, etc. and eight administrators.  As I said in my remarks before voting tonight, the board tried to do something noble by attempting to keep staffs at the Superintendent’s Zone schools intact — now we will just have to find other ways to support these schools and reduce their high rates of staff turnover.

Other items

  • A petition to open a new KIPP charter high school was introduced and sent to the Curriculum and Budget committees. It will return to the full Board for a vote probably on June 14.
  • A technical fix to the Board’s policy on required qualifications for new JROTC instructors (requiring them to enroll in a P.E. credential program soon after being hired rather than the original language, which stated they must already be enrolled in a P.E. credential program) will be heard in the Personnel and Budget committees and return to the Board sometime in June.
  • Parents from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy came to protest the  hiring process for their interim principal.
  • A member of the public became angry when he saw President Yee and I chuckling during the layoff discussion — I can understand why it would seem insensitive to be joking during that discussion, and the timing was bad. Still, what we were laughing about was unrelated to the layoff matter being discussed — it was rueful acknowledgement that we had utterly bumbled parliamentary procedure in introducing an “amendment for substitution”  as a “substitute motion” in place of the Superintendent’s original motion, and then calling for a second at the wrong time. Our mistakes required not one but two gentle corrections by Ms. Evelyn Wilson, our long-suffering Parliamentarian.
  • Read “Schools Under Stress,” a report issued today by the education think tank Edsource.  It’s a very thorough discussion of all the budget woes facing California schools.

Feb 28 meeting recap: layoffs will skip Superintendent’s Zone schools

Despite some tears and a few tense exchanges between Board members and union leadership, the Board tonight voted 5-1 (Fewer, Mendoza, Norton, Wynns and Yee in favor, Maufas opposed, Murase absent) to:

  • Issue preliminary layoff notices to 123 administrators and 210 instructional staff (teachers, nurses, counselors, etc), as well as 35 early education employees and 106 paraprofessionals (91 others will see their hours potentially reduced);
  • Conduct layoffs according to seniority but skip certain high-need credential areas (math, science, bilingual or special education) and all teachers working in the 14 Superintendent’s Zone schools (they are: Bryant ES, Bret Harte ES, Cesar Chavez ES, Carver ES, Drew ES, Flynn ES, John Muir ES, Malcolm X ES, Paul Revere K-8, Horace Mann/Buena Vista K-8, Everett MS, Mission HS, Thurgood Marshall HS, and John O’Connell HS).
  • The HR department presentation with data/logistics is here.

No one likes layoffs, and authorizing the issuance of layoff notices is the toughest vote the Board takes each year. The process is flawed in many ways — the state doesn’t pass a budget until June (or often later) and yet state law requires districts to notify employees in March if they might not have a job in August.  Uncertainty is bad for individual employees, for the administrators who don’t know who will staff their classrooms in the coming year, and for students who don’t know if their teachers will be there for them when they come back after the summer. 

This year, the annual layoff discussion came with the added twist of skipping the Superintendent’s Zone (SZ) schools. The Superintendent created the SZ in the 2010-11 school year, in an attempt to better focus resources on the district’s lowest performing schools and most underserved neighborhoods. The correlation isn’t perfect — there are a number of low-performing, high-need schools (El Dorado ES and Cleveland ES come to mind) that aren’t in the SZ, and some of the SZ schools are not low-performing (Malcolm X). However, the general idea behind the SZ is that schools (and students) in the Bayview and Mission neighborhood need extra attention and resources.

There has been confusion over the SZ, partly relating to the fact that our SIG schools — designated by the state and Federal government as some of the state’s lowest-performing schools deserving of highly-restricted but generous restructuring grants — are a subset of SZ schools. So, SIG schools get money that other SZ schools don’t get, and that money is governed by a separate (and strict) set of rules. In addition,  after the passage of Prop. A in 2008,  the Superintendent is allowed to unilaterally designate 25 schools “hard-to-staff” and offer teachers in those schools additional salary for teaching there.  All SZ schools are hard-to-staff, but not all hard-to-staff schools are SZ. Get it?

Still, the bottom line for the Superintendent in making the proposal to skip the SZ schools from layoffs was that we have invested millions of dollars in additional salary, professional development, and other resources in the chief asset of the SZ schools: their people. To simply drop them into a seniority-based layoff, he argued, would represent a waste of that investment.

The union leadership had its deeply-felt arguments as well: the annual layoff dance is akin to fighting over crumbs, when the real fight is better waged in Sacramento; and seniority is a bedrock issue for teacher unity — dividing the district’s teacher corps across schools is a strategy that demoralizes staff across the district and doesn’t address the real problem, which is that schools improve when we invest resources in them. Besides, there are many other struggling schools (the aforementioned El Dorado and Cleveland being excellent examples) which will now suffer a greater impact from layoffs because their equally-junior colleagues down the road will be skipped. To the teacher’s union, the Superintendent’s arguments were simply a divide and conquer strategy that represent a shot across the bow in yet another tough contract negotiation year.

Make no mistake, the decision to ask the Board to approve a wider authority for skips this year was provocative — the district created the SZ in 2010-11 but did not at that time articulate a plan to use it to make a case for “special skills and competencies” (the legal standard required under CA law to skip a teacher in a seniority-based layoff).  In February 2011, when we were asked to approve the layoff criteria for the current school year, SZ schools were not established as a skip criteria. There has never been a clearly-published criteria for what makes a school an SZ school, nor one for determining when a school has improved to the point that it is no longer eligible for the SZ.  Putting all of this together, tonight’s vote was a very bitter pill for the union to swallow, and the leadership let us know that they did not appreciate it.

So . . . my reasons? I had a hard time with this and spent a lot of time today trying to find a way to remain true to my commitment to support teachers in all of our schools, as well as my commitments to the students in our lowest-performing schools and poorest neighborhoods. I thought hard about a potential compromise — skipping just the nine SIG schools rather than all 14 SZ schools, but realized that such a move would create a disproportionate impact on four Bayview schools in the SZ — Charles Drew, Malcolm X, Bret Harte, and Thurgood Marshall. In the end, I found I accepted the need for layoffs should our budget picture become the worst case scenario, and decided to go with the lesser of two evils: a layoff strategy that preserves our investments in 14 of the district’s most struggling schools, as opposed to a layoff strategy that could, when all is said and done, put those investments at risk. Hopefully, if the district accesses the City’s Rainy Day Fund and reaches agreements with our unions that put additional money on the table, few or no layoffs will be necessary; but we won’t know that for a few more months.

Finally, I want to commend my colleagues for their respectful, thoughtful and heartfelt discussion on this very difficult issue tonight. Commissioner Fewer deserves special mention for going first and taking the most heat for her passionate and forthright stance. Her actions tonight took great courage, and made it a little easier for everyone else to stand with her.

But wait there’s more! Transportation policy update

We were all pretty much in a daze after taking the required four (count ‘em, four!) votes on the various aspects of the layoffs, so it came as a surprise to me that a lengthy update on General Education transportation policy had also been scheduled for tonight’s meeting — somehow I missed it in the agenda!

But this was an important update as well — many more schools will see transportation cuts next year according to the schedule first announced in December 2010.  The following elementary schools are expected to lose transportation entirely in the 2012-13 school year, subject to final approval in mid-March: Alamo, Argonne, Buena Vista, Cleveland, El Dorado, Glen Park, Hillcrest, Lafayette, McKinley, New Traditions, Ortega, Parks, Redding, Sheridan, Starr King, Stevenson, Taylor, Tenderloin, Ulloa, Vis Valley.

A number of other schools will gain routes, in order to maintain or expand access to specific citywide programs (language immersion, K-8) from CTIP-1 neighborhoods.

For those seeking more information about ongoing transportation cuts/realignment, here is the Powerpoint presented to the Board this evening.

Recap: Update on the Superintendent’s Zones

Tonight’s Committee of the Whole was a look at what has been happening at the Superintendent’s Zones in the Mission and Bayview neighborhoods of the City. These zones comprise schools that primarily serve low-income students and those impacted most by the racial achievement gap in our schools – all 10 SIG schools are also located in either the Mission or Bayview zones. (SIG schools have been designated as persistently-underperforming by the state, and therefore are eligible to receive additional funding for three years in order to improve their performance.)

San Francisco Unified has 10 SIG schools, including: Bryant Elementary, Chavez Elementary, John Muir Elementary, Everett Middle School, Horace Mann Middle School, Mission High School and John O’Connell High School are in the Mission Zone; Carver Elementary, Paul Revere K-8 and Willie Brown 4-8 are in the Bayview Zone.  There are five additional (non-SIG) schools in the two zones: Bret Harte Elementary, Drew Elementary, Malcolm X Elementary, and Thurgood Marshall High School are in the Bayview Zone; Flynn Elementary is in the Mission Zone.  The Mission Zone is led by Assistant Superintendent Guadalupe Guerreo and his team; the Bayview Zone is led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patricia Gray and her team.

Tonight’s presentation focused on the various strategies each team is using at their schools, as well as specific goals each Zone has set for its schools, such as “double-digit growth in the number of students scoring at proficient or above on the the Math and English/Language Arts CST test for 2010-11,” (from the Bayview Zone presentation.

Public comment centered mostly on the need for more and better public engagement around the changes that are happening at the various schools, SIG and otherwise. Families and staff are communicating with Board members to say that they feel they are not being consulted about the big initiatives and plans going on around them — I am definitely hearing that people feel bewildered and less than fully up-to-date on what is happening, but I also know that the staff in both Zones are spending significant time trying to communicate with families. So I think that perceived communications failures are probably about the methods that are or are not being used to get the word out, and the time that is available to do the communicating (not much after the demands of the work itself). Communicating about change and initiatives that get schools and families out of their comfort zones is not something this district does particularly well (does any school district?) so I am not surprised we are hearing this particular complaint.

Staff from Bret Harte and Horace Mann were on hand to specifically talk about issues in implementing the Zones at their schools — Bret Harte staff have complained several times now about prescriptive strategies and top-down management; Horace Mann staff are concerned about the implications of the announced merger of their school with Buena Vista Elementary.

There was a lot more in the 2+hour presentation, but those are the highlights. The Board’s job will be to return to this initiative several more times before the end of the year, to monitor our investments and the academic outcomes.  The next opportunity to check in on the work of the Zones will be the March Budget Committee meeting, now tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, March 30 at 5 p.m. (yes, that is Spring Break).

Recap: Sept. 14 Board meeting

At tonight’s regularly scheduled Board meeting, Commissioners heard a presentation on plans for the new Superintendent’s Zone — comprised of 15 of our lowest-performing schools. Assistant Superintendent Patricia Gray supervises the Bayview portion of the Superintendent’s Zone, which includes Bret Hart ES, Carver ES, Drew ES, Malcolm X ES, Willie Brown College Prep, Paul Revere (which is actually in Bernal Heights), and Thurgood Marshall HS.  Assistant Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero supervises the Mission portion of the zone, which includes Bryant ES, Chavez ES, Leonard Flynn ES, John Muir ES (which is actually in the Western Addition), Everett MS, Mann MS, Mission HS, and John O’Connell HS.

Many of these schools are eligible for the $45 million in SIG money that was authorized by the state Board of Education several weeks ago; the district’s presentation was a high-level overview of how that money will be spent, including new instructional and assessment strategies; additional staff to focus on parent and community engagement; and staff to coordinate the services of the many nonprofits also working with students and families at these sites.  All of the plans sound good, but of course we have seen many reform agendas before in this district — the proof will have to be in the results.

Also of note: a renewal of the controversial National Urban Alliance professional development contract was on tonight’s agenda — $250,000 in additional services to staff at seven or eight schools. Readers of this blog might remember that I voted against the NUA contract when it was first brought forward in 2009, and despite some positive testimonials from teachers and administrators, I voted against it again. This time, however, due to the absence of several board members, the final vote tally was 3 votes in favor (Fewer, Kim and Yee) and 2 votes against (Wynns, Norton). Since three votes is not a majority of the Board, the motion failed, and the Superintendent will have to bring the contract back to the Board at a future meeting (where I will vote against it again). Why am I opposed to this contract? For one thing, despite the testimonials, some staff who have been through the training have privately told me they found it to be so-so. For another, the NUA consultants charge very high daily rates. Third, the funding source for this training is unrestricted — meaning it can go towards any use, and I’m not sure we should be spending unrestricted funds on an expensive program that gets mixed reviews. Finally, and most important, the schools currently receiving the program are not our priority schools!  Only one, Willie Brown, is located in the Superintendent’s Zone (the priority area we had just heard all about earlier), and we’ve already said we’re closing down Willie Brown at the end of this school year. Enough said.

Finally, the Board had a good discussion about the administrative approval limits and procedures. Late last year, the Board raised the limit for administrative (i.e., bypassing the Board) approval of contracts from $8,000 to $25,000, and agreed to eventually consider raising the limit to $75,000.  Because board members have noticed a few recurring issues, the discussion will go to the next Rules Committee so that the legal department can review the language with us and close any  loopholes that exist.