Tag Archives: a-g

Coming up: December 9 Board meeting

A few items to note on the agenda for our upcoming Dec. 9 meeting:

Ethnic Studies: In 2010, the Board voted to pilot a new Ethnic Studies course at several high schools. The course has since been offered at five high schools and has been popular with students. On Dec. 9, we will vote on a proposal authored by Commissioner Fewer that would expand our Ethic Studies offerings to all 19 high schools. Ms. Fewer originally proposed making Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement, but has since amended her proposal to say that the district should “explore ways to institutionalize its commitment to Ethnic Studies by including Ethnic Studies coursework as a requirement of graduation” within five years of the passage of her resolution. Los Angeles Unified recently approved Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement for its students.

At the Budget Committee last week, we spent a fair amount of time analyzing the cost of the proposal, which comes to about $480,000 in the first year. The bulk of the costs will result from hiring more teachers and bringing the current content specialist up to full-time in order to develop and oversee the course. The findings from the Curriculum Committee made it clear that there is work to be done in aligning the Ethnic Studies curriculum with Common Core, and it would be beneficial to get the course qualified as meeting the A (History) requirement under the UC/CSU A-G framework. Otherwise, adding Ethnic Studies or any other new graduation requirement is very costly; it also takes up time in schedules where students are now taking electives.

Ultimately, the Budget Committee and the Curriculum Committee recommended that the Board approve the Ethnic Studies proposal.

Movies and TV in the classroom: Over two years ago I wrote a post asking parents if they thought students were being shown too many movies or television shows in the classroom. The responses, an unscientific sampling, seemed to point to yes, so I’ve been paying attention to this topic. I get complaints about this from parents on a regular basis, and have always been told that the district discourages movies being shown in the classroom and that any movie shown must relate to the standards being taught. I have not, however, been able to find any written policy on this topic. When I learned recently that my teenagers have been shown full-length Disney movies in science classes, I decided it was time to make sure we have something in writing.

I’ve submitted a proposal that will be heard for first reading on Tuesday; it will come up for a final vote of the Board sometime in late January or early February. I want to be clear that I think most teachers try to use movies and television to bring standards to life in an engaging way, and I really have no problem with excerpted material being shown to illustrate a particular concept or point. But when this content consumes an entire class period, is not age-appropriate and/or isn’t academically rigorous, I have a problem. So I thought it would be appropriate to ask the Board to clarify our beliefs on this topic, in order to help the Superintendent convey clear standards to site administrators and teachers.

Instructional calendar for 2015-16: The Board will adopt the calendar for the 2015-16 school year on Tuesday. School will start August 17, 2015 and the last day will be May 27, 2016. Old timers will remember that sometimes in the past the calendar didn’t get approved/set until spring — causing a big problem for families that were trying to make summer plans. We’ve gotten much better about this in recent years.

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Meeting recap: April 22, 2014 – teachers rally, QTEA, and a-g

Big raucous rally by UESF members at last night’s meeting. Our teachers, paras, nurses, counselors and security guards are worried — as many San Franciscans are–about the City’s growing income inequality and cost of living. The past five years of budget cuts were very tough on our school employees and last night they let us know  that they need a raise.

The Board and the Superintendent agree — our employees need and deserve a raise. Negotiations are ongoing and I have no doubt that we will be able to come to an agreement that is fair to our employees and is within our means.

We also heard a report from the QTEA (Quality Teacher and Education Act, otherwise known as the Prop. A  2008 $198 parcel tax) oversight committee. This committee serves as the taxpayers’ representatives in overseeing expenditures of  QTEA revenues ($35 million in fiscal 2013, according to the audit we received last night).  The vast majority of those funds go each year to some form of teacher compensation: sub days for teachers and paras receiving professional development, retention bonuses and bonuses for teaching in hard to staff subjects and schools, tuition reimbursement and coaching for teachers seeking to improve their skills, and much more.

The oversight committee reported on these and other uses of the QTEA funds and expressed satisfaction that more funding has gone to professional development in the most recent budget. They continued to express concern about the Board’s decision in 2010 to use the last half year of funding under the tax (payable 20 years from now) in 2010 to defer teacher layoffs — while the oversight committee agrees that the use of the money was appropriate they are concerned that it will represent a “double-dip” over the long term.

Finally, the Board heard a report on the progress of the Class of 2014 towards meeting the a-g graduation requirements. Graduates in 2014 are the first to be expected to meet the UC entrance requirements, otherwise known as the a-g course sequence. Since the Board passed the more stringent graduation requirements in 2010, we have been monitoring the progress of these first graduating classes — 2014 and 2015 — towards meeting it.

While we have made a good amount of progress — especially considering the dismal predictions early on about whether our students would be able to meet the more rigorous standard–there are still a lot of students in the class of 2014 who are not on track to graduate. First, the good news: more than half of the class met the entry requirements  for UC (meaning a C or better in a-g classes) this fall, and another third will likely meet those requirements by the end of this school year. Three-quarters of current 12th graders will meet the requirements to graduate.

The bad news is, of course, that half or more of some subgroups (African American students) are not on track to graduate. It was the right thing to do to increase the rigor of our graduation requirements, but the data for this current class shows the price we have paid for that decision: this class represents, as the Superintendent asserted last night, the most prepared class we have ever graduated from San Francisco Unified. And at the same time we must recognize that this class represents a group of  students who were largely unprepared by our schools for the requirements we are now saying they must meet. I do have every confidence that we will get more of our students over the line by the end of the 2014 school year and in subsequent school years, but at the same time it is important to pause and absorb where we are now.

The crux of the data for the Class of 2014, a snapshot as of February 7, 2014, is here, and here.

Proposed changes to the A-G graduation requirements

Tonight the Board had a good discussion on the Superintendent’s proposal to modify our A-G graduation requirements to address concerns that students in our Court/County or Continuation schools will not achieve a diploma under the new, more rigorous requirements.
Longtime readers of this blog will recall that in 2009, the Board voted unanimously to change the district’s graduation requirements, starting with the class of 2014, to align with the entry requirements for the UC/CSU system — known as the A-G course sequence.
Since that time, the Board has monitored the new policy with trepidation, noting that large numbers of African-American students, Latino students, students with disabilities and students who are English Learners were not on track to graduate.  Tonight, the Superintendent presented data on the progress of members of the class of 2014 towards graduating under the new requirements. Here’s a snapshot (complete data in this Excel spreadsheet):

2014 and 2015bwThe very good news is that 91 percent of the class is either fully on track, or on on track in credits but missing one or more required classes (Algebra 2 in many cases, or a semester of P.E., or for English Learners, a required additional English course).  Currently, 920 students at comprehensive high schools (e.g., Lowell, Washington, Lincoln, Balboa, etc) or continuation high schools (Ida B. Wells or Downtown) are OK with credits but missing a course, and that situation is fixable. Counselors have already met with each of these students and their families, and developed individual plans to make sure these students can make up the necessary courses and graduate on time or over the summer.

The bad news is that as you can see above, 262 are at least a semester off track, and 97 are severely off track — more than a year behind. Still, even as recently as last spring, the Board and staff thought we might be looking at numbers that are much worse.

So: what are we going to do about it? In addition to existing supports like improved communication of student-level data to sites (to identify and work with struggling students earlier), stepped up counseling, individual academic review plans, credit recovery options like summer/night school or Cyber High, the Superintendent tonight proposed the following important changes:

  • Presenting a “seal of College Readiness”  to each graduating high school student who completes the required A-G course sequence with a grade of “C” or higher; and
  • Create new graduation options for students in County/Court schools and Continuation schools.*

Essentially, the Superintendent’s proposal would allow students in County/Court or continuation schools to graduate with 220 rather than 230 credits, and waive one year of world language as well as the requirement for Algebra 2. Commissioners had a lot of issues with that recommendation tonight, noting that a good number of our students in these schools — despite being our most disadvantaged in many cases — have managed to meet the requirements up to now.  The counter argument is that under the current policy, there are a lot of students in the class of 2014 who would qualify for a diploma under the previous requirements (which didn’t include Algebra 2, for example) but not under the new A-G requirements.

San Francisco USD is unique because it is both a county system and a unified school district — no other district in the state has that dual role. And so we are also the only county school system that is currently requiring all students to graduate having passed the A-G course sequence. Other unified school districts require A-G for graduation — San Jose, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego, to name a few — but they also can refer students to separate county systems with less rigorous graduation requirements. Under our current policy, San Francisco does not have that “loophole” or “escape valve” (what you call it depends on your point of view).

Based on tonight’s discussion, it appears that the Board would rather see a one-year waiver of the requirements for members of the class of 2014 who attend Court/County or continuation schools (so that they could graduate with the previous graduation requirements if necessary), and for the district to continue to push for universal A-G completion in future years.

A final vote on the proposal is scheduled for Dec. 10.

*(County/Court schools serve students who are incarcerated, on probation or otherwise involved in the juvenile justice system, as well as students who have been expelled or had other disciplinary issues. The county also maintains Hilltop HS, a school for pregnant or parenting teens.  The school district’s continuation high schools serve students who are age 16 and over and severely behind in credits).

Recap: May 26 regular meeting

I’m sore and sleepy today — seven hours in a hot, crowded meeting that lasts until 1 a.m. will do that to you. A very brief recap:

  • The Parent Advisory Council presented some very interesting statistics on participation and availability of after-school programs in SFUSD; information that needs to be absorbed and addressed by the Board on a night with a less packed agenda. Commissioner Fewer plans to bring this topic to the next Curriculum committee meeting, on June 1 at 4:30 p.m. in the Board room.
  • The San Francisco Unified School District has now aligned its graduation requirements with the A-G course sequence required for admission to the University of California and the California State University system, starting with the class of 2014. This is really a historic action and cements our commitment as a district to graduating every student college- or career-ready. Vote: 7-0 in favor.
  • The Board passed the P.E. Master Plan, which lays out a strategy to improve and expand our P.E. offerings in the coming years (the source of funds will be the funding stream provided by the Public Education Enrichment Fund–aka “Prop. H”). There was some discussion about whether the new requirement that all students take four years of P.E. (if students pass the state fitness test they may opt out of P.E. in grades 11 and 12) is too restrictive, given the Board’s concurrent discussion about providing alternative P.E. programs in certain cases. The General Counsel said, however, that the Board may create alternative programs at a later time as a “clarification” of this policy.  Vote: 7-0 in favor.
  • The Board had a lengthy discussion on a proposed partnership between City College, Communities of Opportunity and SFUSD to create a “Gateway to College” program at City College’s Southeast campus to re-engage students who have dropped out and get them back on a college path. There are many advantages and pluses to this proposal, since everyone agrees we have collectively failed these students; a multi-institution partnership is a great way to work to fix this problem. The objections center around the location: there are not extensive course offerings or support services for this group at the Southeast campus currently, and in the opinion of some Board members, the location does not provide the college experience that these students may need. In the end we amended the proposal to keep discussing locations while allowing the district to move forward with acquiring required waivers from the state. Vote: 7-0 in favor.
  • The Board unanimously passed resolutions calling for a Parent Engagement Plan and a Student Feedback System.
  • Many members of the public were waiting to comment on Commissioner Yee and Kim’s proposal to allow students in JROTC the ability to meet the P.E. requirement through an independent study program that would be supervised by the JROTC instructors. Originally, the plan was that the Board would vote to suspend the rules and act on the proposal last night. But by the time the item came up (well after 11 p.m.), Commissioner Mendoza had long departed and there were not enough votes to suspend the rules (this action requires a supermajority of the board, not a supermajority of the quorum). In the end, the item was referred to the Curriculum Committee (June 1, 4:30 p.m. in the Board room) for discussion, and will return to the full Board at the June 9 regular meeting.
  • National Urban Alliance — a controversial professional development plan proposed for 20 high schools at a cost of $2.7 million between now and June 2010 over two years — passed 4 votes (Yee, Kim, Fewer, Maufas) to 1 (Norton).

May 19: Budget meeting recap

Lots of items on last night’s Budget and Business Services Committee agenda. First up: the Superintendent’s proposal to align SFUSD’s graduation requirements with the University of California’s admission requirements, known as the A-G course sequence.  The presentation from the staff focused on the fiscal impact of making this change, which is not insignificant but actually less than one might think, considering we are going to need to seriously re-align our course offerings and institute support services for students who struggle with the more demanding series of courses.

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