The most substantive item on the Board’s agenda Tuesday night was an update on the district’s performance on the California Standards Test and the state-reported Academic Performance Index (API). Dr. Ritu Khanna, the district’s head of research, presented an overview of how various subgroups (racial groups, English learners, special education students) fared on the tests, and for the most part, the news was mildly good. On average, scores have continued to increase a few percentage points per year, and the achievement gap is narrowing, slowly (though the pace of improvement is nothing to write home about). Here is the best chart I saw in the presentation:
% of 8th graders Proficient or Above in Algebra 1 or Higher
Yes, the rate of proficiency went down about six percentage points over the period depicted. But the number of students who are actually proficient has increased. What this chart says to me is that we are encouraging more students to enroll in algebra and higher-level math courses, and more students, in absolute terms, are finding success in these courses. This is essential if we are going to realize the Board’s policy of graduating every student college- or career-ready.
Here is the worst chart I saw in the presentation:
The “percent proficient target” of 67 percent is the Adequate Yearly Progress target required under No Child Left Behind — as you can clearly see, the district as a whole did not make AYP in English/Language Arts, and most of its subgroups did not reach the target either. (The district and most subgroups did not make AYP in mathematics, either, but came a bit closer).
The chart below was also pretty shocking to me, but needs a bit more explanation. It depicts the percentage of students with disabilities (grades 2-11) taking each kind of test each year. (“N” is the total number of students with disabilities tested each year). The California Standards Test (CST) is the state’s general standardized test given to all students without IEPs; the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) is a modified test given to students with severe disabilities — it measures basic arithmetic and reading skills. In 2007, the state began offering the California Modified Assessment (CMA), also known as the “gap test” or “2 percent test.” When CMA was first introduced, I was told by district administrators (as a parent, not a school board member) that CMA measured students’ learning in an “alternate” way and was not for students with cognitive impairment. In fact, as I understand it now, the test is for the small number of students who are too “high” for the CAPA and too “low” for the CST — the two percent that are not cognitively impaired but are severely learning disabled. It is not for widespread use as an alternative assessment and most students with IEPs should take the CST with modifications rather than taking the CMA. The CST is the test that most accurately measures whether students are learning the material spelled out in the state’s content standards for each grade. When you see the chart below, you can see that SFUSD is testing far too many students with disabilities using the CMA rather than the more objective CST.
The Board also approved a five-year renewal of Metro Arts & Technology High School’s charter — the school recently relocated to the Gloria R. Davis site in Hunter’s Point and staff, parents and students expressed relief to have a more permanent home after years of moving around. Board members expressed concern about the school’s low enrollment (127 students at last count) but agreed that the school had more than met the criteria required under California law to grant a charter renewal.
The Board also approved a revised policy to notify students 15-1/2 or older that they are eligible to opt-out of providing information to the JAMRS (Joint Advertising and Marketing Research Studies) database created by the Pentagon to be used for recruiting purposes. Except as required by law, the school district does not provide students’ personal information to any government agency or private organization without permission, but there are many ways JAMRS can gain access to students’ information. The district’s new policy, originally authored by Commissioner Fewer, allows us to explicitly notify students and their parents that they have the right to opt out. More information on JAMRS and how to opt out is here.
The Board also issued commendations to Dana Woldow, longtime SFUSD parent and chair of the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee, and Karen Bishop, the recently-retired President of our classified employees union, SEIU 1021. Ms. Woldow has been a champion for quality, healthy school food, and is a nationally-known advocate for school lunch reform. Ms. Bishop joined the district as a library tech employee at James Denman MS just after her graduation from SFUSD, and never left. She has been a tireless and forceful advocate for her members, and has never stopped fighting for school secretaries, cafeteria workers and other clerical staff to be seen as essential partners in the district’s overall mission.
Finally, the Board also commemorated the 100th anniversary of Jean Parker Elementary school in Chinatown, attended by our own Vice President Norman Yee back in the day (we are too polite to say which day).