What’s up in SFUSD? Lots.

Welcome back! School starts August 19, and our first Board meeting of the new school year is tomorrow evening, August 13.

Administrators returned to work on July 31, and heard this rousing speech by  Superintendent Carranza to set the stage for the 2013-14 school year. I know it’s long, but it’s worth listening to in its entirety. Some will reject the message completely, and feel it doesn’t speak to them or to their children. That would be missing the point: really, the Superintendent is talking about ALL children — about living up to what we say we’re about as a diverse, high-quality public school system:

Then, a few days later, we heard our district and seven others across California were approved for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)  — the law formerly known as NCLB. This is big too — the waiver means that we will be able to recapture money that has been controlled by Federal policy directives: paying for private tutoring services that have little oversight, for example, or spending on additional compliance activities after schools or districts haven’t been able to meet arbitrary test score targets.  There is good information here and here — you will be hearing more about this waiver so it is good to understand the basics now.

And how did we do on those tests, anyway? Okay, but it depends on where you look. Here are some different perspectives:

Finally, some very sad news: SFUSD arts education champion Ruth Asawa Lanier passed away on August 7. Ms. Asawa was a world-renowned sculptor who took on the challenge of making sure that every public school child in San Francisco had access to excellent arts education — she succeeded beyond many people’s wildest dreams (though Ruth herself was never satisfied — she always knew we could do better).  Two years ago, Commissioner Wynns finally convinced Ruth to allow the school district to name School of the Arts after her– christening it now and for always the Ruth Asawa School for the Arts. I can think of no better tribute than to finally realize the dream of bringing the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts to Civic Center, to its rightful place as another jewel in the crown that is the corridor occupied by the San Francisco Opera, SF Jazz Center, the SF Ballet, the SF Symphony, the Herbst Theater, and many other arts organizations.


10 responses to “What’s up in SFUSD? Lots.

  1. I agree that letting students see their own STAR test results would be the decent thing to do. I’ve administered these tests to many students over the years, but have always wondered why the students should care about trying to do well on them.

    Some students (particularly in middle school) need to expend quite a bit of effort to stay focused for the entire test – why should they bother? What’s to keep them from just making a pattern with the bubbles?

    Every administrator in the district spends one to two weeks of their time on these tests. Learning stops for one to two weeks.

    If we want students to do well on these tests, we’ll need to give them a reason to care. I bet many students perform way better on their exit exams than on their STAR tests.

  2. Since the linked YouTube pep talk was replayed yesterday at some SFUSD sites’ professional development sessions, it might be worthwhile for some readers to clarify one important part of the speech. Trumpeting the then still possible, but now definite DOE approval of CORE’s eight-district NCLB waiver, Richard Carranza declares in the video that ”no one has yet articulated a reason why [the districts] should not be seeking a waiver.” That’s just not true. Maybe he and his collaborators consider the opinions of state superintendents of education (including California’s own) to be “inarticulate” and, as he implied later in the video, lacking in “backbone.” Perhaps he couldn’t find the many arguments against the waiver located, for example, here and here and here. Obviously, he didn’t want to mention that fact that all eight of the unions in the CORE districts “articulated reasons” to drop the waiver. Even some of CORE’s fans have doubts. I suggest that the CORE confederates (a historically appropriate noun) were and are aware of arguments against, and serious concerns regarding, the waiver. They’ve intentionally sidestepped the California DOE and the representatives of the teachers and staff who will be stuck with its half-thought out consequences. Richard’s reference to it in the video is a classic example of a Big Lie, a whopper so colossal that it overwhelms its audience, especially overwhelms overworked, overly busy principals and teachers won’t know to question, or dare to challenge, it. Invoking equity, access, and transparency doesn’t take the place of practicing equity, access and transparency for, and with, teachers and staff. On that score, the CORE cronies have failed. Leaving all eight unions’ representatives outside the door, the applying districts apparently think that teachers and school staff don’t deserve equitable access to representation in shaping education in California. They see lock out as the best way to “foster intrinsic motivation of teachers.” (As per their most recently embraced ‘systemic change’ guide, Michael Fullan.) No amount of magic acronym juggling (PBIS! RIT! MTSS!) will provide the teacher buy-in that’s required. Only honest collaboration will do that.

    What’s the plan now, late in the day that it might be, for collaboration? I’m sure the Board wouldn’t have gone along with the waiver application without an articulated [sic] plan for garnering the support from teachers necessary to its success.

  3. Hi Rachel,
    Thank You for your response. I did some on-line research and this was what I found: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/documents/star13infopacket.doc‎

    “LEAs will start receiving paper reports beginning in early July of each year. Results are returned to LEAs in the order in which the testing was completed by the LEAs. The testing contractor is required to report test results to all LEAs by August 8 of each year. School, district, and state summary test results are posted on the Internet by August 15 of each year on the CDE STAR Results Web page at http://star.cde.ca.gov/. School or district summary results for any test or subject with ten or fewer individual student scores are not reported to ensure that the score or performance of any individual student is not identifiable (EC Section 60641).

    STAR Student Reports
    LEAs also receive paper STAR Student Reports (two copies each) that show each student’s test results. LEAs are required to forward one copy of the STAR Student Reports to parents and guardians within 20 days after receipt from the testing contractor. Parents and guardians should receive their student’s STAR Student Report by the end of September. Individual student results can be obtained only from the schools and school districts where students were tested.”

    I could be wrong but this sounds as if the state sends the results on to the districts and the districts then disseminate them to the families? Which would then answer why some CA families have gotten theirs while others haven’t.

    I do hope the state and the district has a plan in place to allow families on-line access to individual test results. If nothing else it saves paper if there is an option to go paperless. This past year the State began reporting early individual preliminary reports a few weeks after the tests were administrated, which schools had access too. It would be nice if parents had on-line access to their child’s information as well. I suppose one could call the school to get it but teachers and staff are so overwhelmed and busy as it is.

    My son’s school put the benchmark test scores on school loop. I’m not sure if this was district wide or not, but it was helpful, because he knew what he got. If you take a test you want to know the outcome.

    I personally think this current testing culture and yearly tests are overkill and I’m not convinced they prove much of anything. However, *if* they must take them, I feel the families should have timely access to their own data when it’s available rather than waiting a 20 business day window.

    Thank you again for your response, I appreciate your time.

  4. As far as I know, the state controls when the scores get sent out — I have no idea why parents in some districts received their scores and why others have not. We should all be getting them soon. Ditto on online access — I will update if I am mistaken but I think all of this info comes from the state, not the school district.

  5. Sorry,to clarify, any movement in giving families on-line access to one’s own information…

  6. SFUSD families still haven’t received individual star test results while other districts have. Kids on twitter and instagram are sharing their results with each other. The ones who haven’t gotten them are tweeting wondering when their results will arrive. I don’t know whose jurisdiction dissemination of individual results are under but has there been any movement in allowing parents & students access to their own information? Older kids (middle and high school in particular) want to know how they did and this daily trek to the mailbox with nothing to show for it is frustrating considering the results are clearly in and available, just not for the actual families.

    I’m not a fan of the current testing culture at all, however, if kids take the tests it’s only natural they are going to want to know how they did.

    Finally, do you know if the individual test results have been sent out to SFUSD families yet? The mail came today 8/14/2013 and still nothing.

    Thank You.

  7. The numbers above are pure fiction. When you remove the lowest-scoring students from testing, of course the other numbers will look like they have risen dramatically, when, in fact, they’ve only gone up slightly, or in some cases, not at all.
    The lack of honesty and transparency about student achievement is one of the biggest problems SFUSD faces.



  8. (To be clear: I’m not criticizing my host on this blog. Rather, I’m venting my frustration at the idiocy on display at the Chronicle and EdSource.)

  9. Regarding the STAR testing results: there is an awful lot of blather about what cannot even be documented as a statistically meaningful change from last year’s scores. Lots of folks (EdSource, I’m looking at you) want to see a 0.8% decrease as significant, but fail to provide the most basic measurements of variation that would allow that to be determined.

    It’s IMPOSSIBLE to evaluate whether a change is significant given just the mean values. If anyone presents a bar-plot that doesn’t show error bars (labeled to indicate what precisely those error bars represent), they either don’t know what they are doing or they are trying to slip something past you.

    This is basic (i.e., high-school) statistics. I shudder to think about how many important policy decisions are being made by statistical illiterates.

  10. The man asks some very good questions.

    My main concern with schools taking on such important society-wide issues is that they are not given the resources needed to overcome the massive barriers that are in place. Schools should be a part of making a just and equitable society, but they can’t be the only solution. If society at large doesn’t care about implementing justice, what chance does the school have to make change happen (especially as funding for education is cut year after year)?

    But Superintendent Carranza’s talk was informative and inspiring. Thanks for posting it.