I don’t want this headline to mislead people into thinking that somehow I will find the time to blog what’s happening for every week of the 2012-13 school year — let’s be clear that even though I’d love to have the time to update this blog every day, that’s probably not going to happen. Still, I thought week two of the 2012-13 school year might be a good time to “catch up” readers on what’s happening at the moment, since many of you are just tuning back in after a blissful summer of forgetting about everything SFUSD.
School is in full swing, and the big event for the week is happening midday Friday–at long last, the test scores for the 2011-12 school year will be released. The numbers are under lock and key, but I can say that we think they’ll be good — for all subgroups and particularly for the 14 Superintendent’s Zone schools. One key question will be how many students from various subgroups (racial groups, low-income students, special education students) took the test compared to the previous year, and how many took the California Modified Assessment. If most of our students of color took the CST and still improved, that (in my view) will be a huge vindication of the work the district has done in recent years. We’ll see – tune back in on Friday.
As we celebrate schools that improved, and dissect those that did not, we should remember that the standardized tests measure a very narrow group of indicators. Remember the adage (attributed to everyone from Albert Einstein to sociologist William Bruce Cameron): Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. There are many thoughtful people across the state and the country urging states and the educational establishment to define school success more broadly, and indeed a recent article in Mother Jones (and a followup interview on KQED Forum) makes the case that one supposedly “failing” SFUSD school, Mission High, is proof that perhaps we are measuring “success” too narrowly.
There was also a Board meeting tonight — we discussed and adopted the Local Plan for Special Education (a document required by the state where the district attests to the services it is providing for students and provides a basic budget for those services); we heard public comment from some parents on resource and student assignment issues, including one charming grandmother and her grandson who came to praise EPC’s handling of their case — the family had wanted to enroll him in Marina MS for 6th grade but was offered Francisco MS instead — they weren’t thrilled at the prospect but accepted the spot and now, a week and two days in, came to tell the Board and Superintendent how happy they were. They had everyone in the room smiling by the time they finished.
The Board conducted a public hearing on initial proposals to our Crafts unions — civil service plumbers, carpenters, and other building trades. Finally we also passed a resolution urging the district to provide whatever volunteer support it can to a Mission High event in support of the Obama Administration’s new “Deferred Deportation for Childhood Arrivals” policy for undocumented youth.
Probably the most contentious issue being discussed at the moment is a proposal from the Superintendent to eliminate the middle school (grades 6-8) at International Studies Academy (ISA) on Potrero Hill. Currently, ISA is a 6-12 school and is designated as the feeder school for Bryant and Daniel Webster Elementary. Instead, the Daniel Webster community has advocated for a Pre-K-8 school on Potrero Hill that would utilize the ISA site. There are some good arguments in favor of this plan: Daniel Webster is growing, ISA is currently under-enrolled and under-performing, and the latest enrollment data shows that demand for Daniel Webster may have slowed since the feeder plan was announced –the Daniel Webster community believes requests have slowed down because prospective families do not want to be fed into ISA for middle school. However, the current proposal would send Daniel Webster and Bryant 5th graders to Everett and keep the ISA open as a small high school. There are arguments in favor of this approach as well – Everett has space to accommodate these students and is growing in popularity; ISA is one of the few small high schools in the district’s portfolio and represents an important option for students.
The proposal was introduced tonight for first reading but was actually discussed in depth at Monday’s Ad-Hod Committee on Student Assignment — there was a great deal of public comment from the Daniel Webster community and questioning from Board members on how staff arrived at this recommendation above other options. Tonight, the Superintendent acknowledged that the proposal is affected by a complex mix of factors including transportation planning, enrollment projections and our middle school quality initiative — staff will be hashing out these factors and many others at an internal meeting later this week and after that will decide whether to withdraw the proposal, revise it, or bring the proposal and other possible options back for a deeper discussion at a Committee of the Whole in mid-September. I’ll post more information when I have it.