Recap: Vote 16, Lowell BSU, Condom policy

Tuesday evening was very emotional, with lots of highs and lows. Among the highs: the amazing testimony from students on the Vote 16 resolution I  co-sponsored with President Haney and Commissioner Fewer. Parents and other adults are often skeptical about lowering the voting age, but after listening to the testimony of the young people who came to talk to us, I challenge anyone to say they aren’t ready to weigh in on the important issues of the day.

Commissioner Fewer and I are also sponsoring a related resolution that would, regardless of whether Vote16 passes or not, educate students about their right to pre-register to vote ahead of turning 18.  Voting is a habit, and studies show that the earlier one gets into the habit, the more likely one is to become a lifelong voter. I’ve even heard that it takes new voters four consecutive election cycles to actually get in the habit. In SFUSD, every senior takes American Democracy and that is a perfect training ground for new or prospective voters. While we need to be careful that undocumented or otherwise ineligible students don’t register or pre-register in violation of state and Federal laws, it’s still worthwhile to use the state’s existing Elections code to encourage every eligible student to pre-register, or otherwise exercise their voting rights.

Students, parents and alumni from Lowell HS came to talk to us in the wake of a horribly racist and upsetting incident at the school. (And may I just say that I am in AWE of these amazing young women leaders).  The video below is over 30 minutes, but I think anyone who cares about social justice and wants to be careful and respectful around issues of race and privilege should watch it and reflect. There’s a history here, one that is painful and ugly and not discussed enough. I don’t have a lot of answers at this point but I think it’s crucial to hear:

Oh and then there is the condom policy. I’m going to post the Superintendent’s remarks on the policy, and then my own, because (if I do say so myself) I think we covered the issues. I get that on its face, in the way the proposed policy has been framed by the media, it sounds alarming. My children aren’t in middle school anymore, but if they were I would not be worried at all by our current policy. I talk to my kids about keeping safe if they are contemplating sexual activity, and most parents I know do as well. The kids we are hoping to reach are those who don’t have parents to talk to, and I trust and thank school nurses and social workers for the care they are providing to our most vulnerable students already. This limited policy change will give these educators an additional tool to help students who really need assistance and adult guidance. I’ve received some email from religious activists claiming that our policy will  hurt young women who are in exploitative relationships, but I don’t agree at all. The whole point of the policy is to encourage vulnerable children to have an honest conversation in a safe space with a trusted adult.

Superintendent Carranza’s comments:

My comments:

Finally, we also got an update on the third year of implementation of the Safe and Supportive Schools resolution which has sought to transform the district’s discipline policies while decreasing the amount of time students spend out of the classroom for behavior issues (referrals, suspensions and expulsions are all part of this issue). The update can be summed up by the two charts below: on the one hand, we are making real progress in reducing suspensions:

suspensions

 

 

 

But on the other hand, suspensions are still disproportionately of African-American students:

disproportionality

 

There’s more data in the powerpoint posted above.

Important parent engagement event next week – please make sure this flyer (page one is in English and page 2 is in Chinese) is distributed at your school sites, particularly to monolingual Chinese-speaking families – the district is hosting a special parent engagement event in Cantonese (with English interpretation) at Jean Parker Elementary School next Saturday, March 5. The event represents what I hope is a first step in real efforts to engage and inform Chinese-speaking families about curriculum and other initiatives in the district. I think we have to do a lot more in parent engagement across all communities but recent events and conversations have convinced me we have a particularly urgent problem in the Chinese community.

Looong night

Note: I’ve now turned comments off on this post. Lots of people have had their say. Feel free to take the discussion elsewhere or email me at comments@rachelnorton.com if you have more to say.

It’s about 10:30 p.m. and we are about halfway through tonight’s board agenda. We also have a closed session conversation to get through before the night is done. There is so much to say about tonight’s meeting — amazing testimony from students on lowering the voting age to 16; harrowing testimony from African-American students, parents and alumni of Lowell HS about a long tradition of racism and microaggression at the school; the decision to go forward with a policy that will allow at-risk middle schoolers to access condoms — but blogging isn’t going to happen tonight.

I’ll post a longer update hopefully tomorrow or Thursday, and I urge anyone who cares about any of these issues to watch the SFGovTV video once it’s posted. Tonight’s meeting has been incredibly difficult but a lot of people got to speak their truth; that’s always powerful.

Recap: Teachers, condoms and Mandarin

NBCT_2016

One of the highlights of the early spring at the school district is the annual celebration of the National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). This incredibly rigorous professional certification requires a serious commitment on the part of educators, so those who successfully complete the program rightly deserve to be celebrated!  At tonight’s board meeting we honored 17 new and 12 renewed NBCTs — the district has 264 NBCTs in all.

condom packet

This is the packet high school students currently receive when requesting condoms.

The much-discussed (in the media anyway — I have gotten very little mail from actual constituents, but most of the feedback I have heard has been positive) proposal to make condoms available to sexually-active middle school students was held after a request from a group of parents who wanted more time to understand the proposal. We’ll vote on the proposal at a future meeting, probably Feb. 23. If you’re concerned about the proposal, are some things to consider:

  • There is absolutely no research that shows condoms increase sexual behavior, and lots of research showing that they reduce the risk of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that only five percent of SFUSD middle-school students are sexually active, so this is a small group of students we’re talking about; yet it’s crucial to be sure students that young are safe if they are engaging in sexual behavior.
  • State law allows students of any age to access contraception confidentially, and does not require parent consent.
  • At the middle schools, students will meet with a school nurse or social worker before receiving contraception.
  • The county’s Department of Public Health is strongly supportive of the policy.

I was very pleased and honored that the Board unanimously passed the resolution I authored with Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer to explore expanding access to Mandarin and other world languages. The amended resolution asks the district simply to initiate the program placement process to explore placing world language Mandarin programs into elementary schools that feed into middle schools that already offer Mandarin. As the Board was preparing to discuss and vote on the resolution, a group of teachers in district biliteracy programs and parents from those programs also gave public comment to draw attention to the additional demands of assessing students in two languages. The Board received petitions signed by almost 90 teachers asking for an additional 21 hours of compensation each year to address this extra workload.

bilingual teachers

And wait, there’s more . . .

  • The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is now recruiting! The PAC is one of the parent engagement success stories in the school district, created to engage, inform and represent parent perspectives, ideas and voices on education matters. Serving on the PAC promotes, supports and builds parent leadership to improve outcomes for all SFUSD students. Learn more and apply! (information also available in Spanish and Chinese). Applications are due by April 15, 2016.
  • Did you know SFUSD holds the license to the KALW (FM 91.7) public radio station? At one time, many public school districts and universities held radio licenses, but we may be one of the few left. We are very proud of our partnership with KALW, and Station Manager Matt Martin gave his annual report of the station’s financial position and programming — some great stuff going on! Learn more about KALW and its programming at their website, kalw.org. You can also donate (I did!).
  • Commissioners Murase and Wynns introduced a resolution and proposed policy change that amends our P.E. independent study policy to solve a number of issues, including how students at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts complete P.E. requirements and the administration of the JROTC program. Given the always hot-button P.E. and JROTC issues, I expect this resolution to generate a lot of ink and heat in the coming weeks. We’ll discuss it at a Committee of the Whole on Feb. 16 starting at 6 p.m.
  • A big thank you to members of the CAC for Special Education, who brought us a slate of five new members who were unanimously approved tonight. This committee is where I got my start as a parent advocate, and I’m so grateful to the members who volunteer their time and effort to encourage awareness and advocate on behalf of students with disabilities in our district.
  • Last but not least, the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee came with our bond program auditor to present a positive report on the district’s capital program. Our schools look better than they ever have — go visit the new classroom buildings at Peabody ES and Sunnyside ES, the new campus at Willie Brown MS and see the construction that will renew Daniel Webster ES and James Lick MS for examples.

And if you haven’t read enough so far . . .

  • A bit more reading material: The Learning Policy Institute, a new think tank out of Stanford University, has released a report titled “Assessing California’s Teacher Shortage” (PDF download). There are some interesting policy prescriptions in the report. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we, as local policymakers, can really move the needle on the teacher shortage. Salary is the biggest piece of that, and we start contract negotiations early next year. In addition, there are other important ways we might be able to attract and retain teachers here in SF, as well as continue to grow our own. Take a look at the report and let me know what you think.

 

Superintendent: A milestone towards more holistic measures of school quality

Today the CORE districts (the consortium of districts that applied to the Federal government for a waiver from NCLB requirements) released the school results in the new School Quality Improvement Index (SQII or the Index). Here is Superintendent Carranza’s email to all district staff about this important milestone:

Dear Colleagues:
I am so excited that San Francisco is part of a movement toward a more holistic approach to school and district accountability. We know that academic performance is only one of many factors to consider when measuring school quality. That’s why, in addition to academic achievement, the School Quality Improvement Index (the Index) includes a first-in-nation use of social-emotional learning and school culture-climate indicators. The Index also makes more students visible by including results for any student group with 20 or more students.
While many SFUSD principals and educators have been using the data included in the Index for several months already, today parents and other community members can view each school’s Index report online.

Year One
The first year Index findings provide a baseline of information about both academics and newly designed measurements of social and emotional learning. Academic information accounts for 60 percent of the Index and includes measurements of English Language Arts and Mathematics learning, graduation rates (for four, five and six year cohorts) and High School Readiness Rates of 8th Graders.
The social-emotional & culture-climate indicators are weighted at 40 percent of the Index and currently include measurements of chronic absenteeism, suspension/ expulsion rates, and English Learner re-designation rates. Later this year, the Index will measure growth in academic achievement and these social-emotional and culture-climate indicators.
Next year, the Index will measure growth in academic achievement and the social-emotional and culture-climate indicators will expand to include student, family and staff surveys, as well as indicators of Social-Emotional Skills. The Index was developed by educators working in collaboration across school districts in CORE, including Los Angeles and Oakland, with input from academic experts in educational accountability systems at Harvard, Stanford and other institutions.
All Indicators for the index are intended to be measurable, actionable and meaningful.

Key Principles of the School Quality Improvement Index
The School Quality Improvement Index represents a set of fundamental shifts in school accountability, grounded in the shared values and continuous improvement philosophy shared by the CORE districts.
From accountability as a hammer to accountability as flashlight: The Index and the reports included here are designed to help school communities identify strengths that can be leveraged, and challenges to address. Interventions and supports are focused on capacity building through peer learning and collaborative action.
From a narrow focus to a holistic approach: The Index includes a basket of measures with indicators in both the academic domain, and the social-emotional and culture-climate domain.
Making more students visible by moving from an “n” of 100 to an “n” of 20 (“n” represents number): At the heart of the Index is a focus on eliminating disparity and disproportionality. For that reason, the Index includes results for any student group with 20 or more students.
From just achievement to achievement and growth: Starting in Fall 2016, the Index will include measures of individual student growth over time on state assessments in ELA and math.

San Francisco makes a Strong Showing among Peers
Over 600 elementary schools in the six CORE districts were measured and SFUSD had 5 in the top 10, including the two highest ranked schools. Of the over 200 middle schools, SFUSD had 5 of the top 10. While we’re well represented at the top, very few SFUSD schools are in the lowest rankings.
In introducing the new School Quality Improvement Index, CORE districts today released several examples of CORE-wide findings from the Index data. The initial findings show that schools with strong social-emotional /culture-climate performance tend to have stronger academic performance, but also indicate that schools with similar levels of academic performance can have markedly different results when it comes to the non-academic factors.
The examples also show how Index data can be used to identify schools that are beating the odds with high poverty populations that can be models for other schools, as well as to identify schools that may be struggling. The findings also confirm continuing and substantive gaps in performance among student groups. As our school communities delve into planning for next year, this kind of information provides actionable places for school communities to focus their improvement work.
During the transition in both state and federal accountability programs, I am proud that our district has been a critical player in developing this new more balanced set of measures. I am also proud of our many schools that are effectively serving the whole child.

Warm regards,

Richard A. Carranza

Know a great teacher or principal?

Every year the Mayor gives awards to teachers and principals of the year. The award process for 2015-16 is open! Nominate an amazing teacher or principal who you think deserves recognition. More information is here:

Awardees receive wonderful donated gifts like laptops, hotel stays, event tickets and spa days, but the most important thing they receive is high-level recognition and gratitude for the incredible efforts they put in every day.

Nominate every teacher or principal who has made a difference in your life or your child’s life — you don’t have to limit yourself to just one in either category! Teachers and principals who do great work in our schools every day deserve our thanks and recognition and this is one tangible way to offer it.

What is “adequate” education funding?

Yesterday the 1st District Court of Appeals for California heard an appeal on Robles-Wong v. California, a landmark case originally filed by the California School Boards Association in 2010 and then combined with Campaign for Quality Education v. California, another funding adequacy case filed the same year. The judges must rule within the next 90 days whether to overturn an earlier dismissal of the case.

News reports on yesterday’s arguments:

I also highly recommend downloading and reading the California School Boards Association’s recent, very comprehensive report on funding adequacy. It’s packed with facts and figures and makes a strong case that California is still not funding its schools adequately, even with the real and significant increases we’ve seen through the Local Control Funding Formula. The report estimates that the state should add between $22 and $42 billion (with a “b”!) annually to adequately prepare students for college.

Download the full report here (PDF)>

P.S. After I wrote this post, I came across this article from the Atlantic, “How Rich Parents Can Exacerbate School Inequality,” which makes a strong case for adequate funding for ALL schools to lessen the need for parent fundraising. Among the gems:

[Robert] Reich also pointed out that when wealthy people give money to their town foundations, their tax-deductable donations stay in their own communities. The contributions enhance the schools’ success, which in turn increases the donors’ property value. In other words, the rich receive tax credits for giving money to themselves. “All of us are subsidizing the magnification of inequality in public schools,” he told me. It’s preposterous.”

And:

Parental fundraising activities may even detract from local political activity, too, according to Reich. These highly educated, affluent parents, he said, use their finite energy and wallets to do some something that exclusively benefits their children. As a result, the parents may be less likely to advocate for policy changes that would benefits kids in other school districts, taking away some of their “political voice,” Reich theorized. Instead of going to Trenton or Albany to fight for public schools, they are running the town’s science fair.

One more:

Reich contrasted the fundraising efforts across school districts in California. He found that parents in the wealthy suburb of Hillsborough, California, raised about $2,300 per student on top of the district’s standard per-pupil allocation. Through online auctions whose items included a vacation on an island off of Belize in a house with a dedicated butler and a trip to see to the final episode of The Bachelor, they financed class-size reductions, librarians, art, and music teachers, along with smart technology in every classroom. In contrast, a foundation in Oakland raised only $100 per child. And, Reich said, parent foundations are nonexistent in most of the country’s poor cities and rural areas.

Recap 1/26/16: Audit, Title VII and smoking prevention

Several business items of note in tonight’s meeting:

  • First, the school district’s auditors presented the annual financial report for the year ending June 30 2015 — another clean audit with one finding regarding the unduplicated count of students in our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).  The LCAP rules say you can only count a student once — so a student who is in foster care and eligible for free or reduced lunch cannot be counted in both categories. This is a new level of precision that was not required before the implementation of the LCAP, and district data systems did not adequately account for the fact that some students fall into more than one category. Therefore, the auditors found that our unduplicated count was overstated and resulted in the district qualifying for more supplemental or concentration grants than it should have received under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula — $2.5 million more. The auditors testified that many school districts are encountering this finding due to the increased demands, and fiscal impacts, of the reporting required in the LCAPs. In other words, procedures that were appropriate prior to the implementation of the LCAP now need to be updated because the rules have changed, the auditors said, and added that they believe the district’s corrective measures (including reporting the error to the state) will address the problem in future years. We’ll discuss in budget committee next week how this error might affect our budget going forward.
  • Supervisor WienerCommissioners Walton, Haney and Mendoza-McDonnell authored a resolution in support of legislation being sponsored by Supervisors Wiener, Cohen, Mar and Farrell that would ban the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to people under the age of 21. Supervisor Scott Wiener was on hand to urge the Board’s support, which was unanimous. As a former smoker — I had my first cigarette at age 13 and smoked a pack a day until I was 30. It took me three tries to quit for good, and I’m happy to say I haven’t had a puff in over 10 years. Never again. National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking, as I did, before the age of 21. Needless to say, I am strongly supportive of this idea.
  • The Board unanimously reauthorized three separate but related charters held by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department for Five Keys Charter schools. These institutions serve adults and juveniles who are either incarcerated or on probation, helping them to get back on track and complete a high school education. These are truly innovative programs first begun by former sheriff Mike Hennessey and continued by his successors Ross Mirkarimi and Vicki Hennessey (no relation to Mike).

We also had an informational report from the Title VII Indian Education Program and Parent Advisory Council. Under the Indian Education Act, a Federal law passed in 1972, school districts must create programs to serve the unique educational needs of American Indian/Alaskan Native students. Since that time, the school district was required to have a Title VII program serving the needs of this population, but in the early 2000s the program fell into decline. In 2008-09 the program was re-established, but did not have a permanent home. In 2014 the Parent Advisory Council for the program came to the Board and district leadership advocating for a permanent space so that they could better serve their students and families, and eventually moved into a bungalow at Sanchez Elementary. There, they now host monthly Family nights, community events and Cultural Nights, offer academic workshops and after-school tutoring, and hold Parent Advisory Council meetings.

Federal funding is available to support the Title VII Indian Education programs, but school districts can only claim this funding for students whose families have filled out a special Federal form — Form 506. As of October 2015 only 145 students in SFUSD had a Form 506 on file, but community members testified tonight that the eligible population is significantly higher, perhaps more than 400 students. More outreach to parents and training for staff is needed to document the true number of indigenous students eligible for Title VII funding, the group said. They also stressed the need for much greater cultural competency and sensitivity from school staff–this is a population with a lot of needs but also a proud and distinct culture that is not always respected or honored in our schools.

Public comment: United Educators President Lita Blanc testified on behalf of staff at Charles Drew Elementary, who have raised concerns about their facility. Drew is an open plan school, with classrooms that can be reconfigured by opening or closing temporary sliding walls. Perhaps this seemed innovative when the school was built (in the 1970s) but now “pods” have gone out of fashion and for good reason: students and teachers find it almost impossible to focus in them. Cabrillo Elementary on 25th Avenue had such a design when I looked at it as an option for my children a decade ago –I liked a lot of things about the school at the time but the facility design made the classrooms feel like they had been set up temporarily in someone’s living room. Now, Cabrillo has been converted to district office space, and Drew and George Washington Carver might be the last true “pod” artifacts in the district. Commissioners asked for the facilities department to give us a report on what can be done to mitigate the impacts of the facility on teaching and learning.