Update (2/16): The district has just released an FAQ on the age waiver issue around Transitional Kindergarten. It’s here.
Lots of routine things on the agenda tonight, with a few items of note:
- National Board Certified Teachers! I am always cheered by this annual event, where we honor the teachers who have achieved National Board Certification — essentially a rigorous advanced teaching credential. SFUSD now has 204 NBCTs, which in percentage terms means we are in the top 2 percent of districts nationally and one of the highest in the state of California (LAUSD has more than we do but they are also 10 times our size).
- Leadership High School: The Board unanimously approved the renewal of Leadership’s charter for another five years. Board members found the school’s presentations and application to be strong, even after the California Charter Schools Association recommended closing the school late last year. Several weeks ago, I was able to attend portfolio defense day at Leadership, where graduating seniors present a compilation of their work around four schoolwide outcomes: critical thinking, social responsibility, personal responsibility, and communication. I found the students to be articulate, thoughtful, respectful of each other, and very earnest in their reflections on their academic work. In addition, I was impressed that Leadership seniors must pass A-G course work with a C or better to graduate — a more rigorous standard than SFUSD-managed high schools. San Francisco has higher-performing public high schools (based on test scores, at least) than Leadership, but the Board has never believed that test scores are the only or even the best measure of a school’s quality.
- QEIA Waivers: The Board approved the Superintendent’s request to submit waiver applications to exempt the district from certain provisions of the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) for the 2012-13 school year, including required class size reduction. QEIA provides additional funds to fourteen schools in SFUSD as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state by the California Teacher’s Association. The settlement spreads QEIA funding over seven years, and sunsets at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
- Transitional Kindergarten: Board members heard comment from a number of families distressed by the Superintendent’s decision to suspend implementation of Transitional Kindergarten. I have heard from a number of these families, and though I am very sorry for the uncertainty they are experiencing, I can’t at this point advocate for the Superintendent to change directions because of the state budget’s uncertainty and other logistical factors. Some are urging age waivers for students who just missed the cutoff, but even “just offer a waiver” isn’t as easy as it sounds. Cutting TK funding is a proposal, not law, and offering districts funding for young students “waived” into Kindergarten is also just a proposal. There’s no guarantee that when all is said and done with the state budget, districts will actually receive funding for students allowed to attend Kindergarten even though they don’t meet the age cutoff. And even if districts were assured funding for every student enrolled in Kindergarten, regardless of age, it’s not possible for SFUSD to come up with a fair and well-thought-out waiver policy within the time constraints of the first round — the computer run for the first round of 2012-13 assignment will begin any day, if it hasn’t already. Any delay means ALL applicants will not receive their school assignment offers within the promised timeframe, with numerous ripple effects.
- Personnel issues: We also heard public comment from staff and parents from several middle schools who are concerned about various personnel issues. This is the time of year when principals begin notifying probationary teachers if they will not be “re-elected” in the following year (in their first two years of teaching, teachers can be dismissed without cause; after those two probationary years, teachers in California are considered “tenured” and can only be fired for cause or laid off for economic reasons strictly based on seniority), and several addressed the Board this evening on issues related to their non-reelection. The Board will vote on preliminary layoff notices at the February 28 meeting — these will be mailed by March 15 to employees based on seniority. Probationary teachers that are “reelected” may still receive layoff notices if they do not teach in a high-need area, because by definition they have low seniority.
- Miscellaneous: The Board approved a number of changes to its P120 operating rules as part of a long-term effort to update and standardize our Board rules and policies and put them online in a searchable format; we also re-appointed members of our Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee and approved terms for upcoming bond sales.
Thank you very much for your vote last night to approve Leadership High School’s charter. I have taught at Leadership for 12 years, and it was heartwarming to hear all the commissioners’ praise for the school.
I respectfully disagree with Caroline. Grade inflation — if it exists — is a challenging and complex phenomenon to track. It doesn’t seem fair to characterize the practice as a “charter-sector trick.”
Thank you again, Ms. Norton, for your support — and for ignoring the CCSA’s political move.
Your statement: “Cutting TK funding is a proposal, not law” appears inaccurate. We haven’t seen any proposal to cut funding for TK. Gov. Brown has proposed eliminating the mandate for school districts to offer TK, he has not proposed cutting funding for districts that proceed with their TK plans, although he has proposed a new hoop to jump through to get state funding: implementing a waiver system. Your comment that it would be too difficult to offer families waivers sounds like an excuse. World economies are changing quickly, affecting all of us in different ways. Most of us working in the private sector face budget cuts similar to those in the public sector and we have to manage huge changes in real time, yet we still have to compete against our rivals and create high-quality products and services like we did before. Other large school districts appear to be handling the budget uncertainty more smoothly than San Francisco. San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach and Oakland school districts are proceeding with their TK programs while they seek greater clarity on state proposals. San Francisco is in danger of losing credibility over its handling of this issue.
The school district should have had a plan in place for Transitional Kindergarten when the law was passed in 2010. I began calling when I learned about it then, and SFUSD had no clue about it. At least be fair to the families and give some sort of notification beyond a random post on the web site. Send us a letter. Tell us our options. Tell us why it’s impossible to provide waivers even though other districts do it and there is precedent. Don’t leave more middle class families in the cold and have us flee from the public school system. Be an advocate for kids Rachel, not for bureaucracy. Do the right thing like San Jose is doing.
I agree with what Jill Wynns said about the Leadership issue: Charter schools overall are not a good thing for school districts and public education, but let’s not disrupt a school community by closing it — and the California Charter Schools Assn. did throw Leadership under the bus for political reasons. (Yet also, charter folks need to stop with the “a public school couldn’t have done this for us” stuff.)
I don’t believe that the supposed higher standard of “requiring” students to get a C or better in the A-G classes to graduate is actually higher, though. It’s just grade inflation, and a way to “qualify” more students for college — since the Envision charters (CAT and Metro) in SF do the same thing, it’s apparently a charter-sector trick. A lot of public school high-schoolers WISH their schools had the same supposed “standard,” but alas, in other schools, if students do D work, they get Ds.