Tag Archives: African-American students

Recap: Another long one

San Francisco isn’t proud of our outcomes for African American students, who are not achieving at the level of White and Asian students and are much more likely to be identified for special education, suspended and/or expelled than students of other racial and ethnic groups. We’ve been working on (or at least talking about) the twin achievement and opportunity gaps for African American students as long as I’ve been on the Board, and for a long time before that.

As one speaker said at a recent meeting, “[SFUSD’s data] shows that Black students are not going to the same school district as White and Asian students.” That’s a profound statement, when you absorb it.

In May 2015, the Board established the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI) and made a number of audacious promises, including transparency, tracking and reporting on data on the condition of African American students. So, the centerpiece of tonight’s meeting was a rich discussion around the mid-semester report from the AAALI, one of an ongoing series of progress reports on the Initiative. The upshot: some modest, positive steps have been taken — we’ve got a good team in place and a couple of interesting pilot projects, including the “Village Roundtable.”

The premise is, of course, that it take a village to raise a child. The Roundtable pilot selected six schools with high concentrations of African American students– George Washington Carver ES, John Muir ES, Martin Luther King, Jr. MS, Paul Revere K-8, Mission HS and Burton HS–and selected five focal students at each school. Each of those students will be surrounded by a “village” of volunteers — peers, educators, parents or other adult guardians/allies, social workers, counselors, and representatives from community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. The hope is that the “village” will be the support network that helps a struggling child achieve.

Another project is a postsecondary initiative, which encourages and supports African American students to apply to college and seek financial aid, then continues to follow and support them in their postsecondary pursuits. Google.org just awarded SFUSD $1 million over three years to support this project, which we hope will increase the number of African American graduates of SFUSD applying to college and being successful in college. (Of 253 African American graduates in the SFUSD class of 2015, an analysis last summer found that just 113 had requested a transcript be sent to a 2- or 4-year postsecondary program.)

Other topics:

  • The Board unanimously passed a resolution authored by Commissioners Haney and Walton on supporting children of incarcerated parents. I want to specifically call out Project What!, whose youth leaders provided very raw and honest testimony about their experiences growing up with incarcerated parents. I would most likely have supported this resolution without their testimony, because it is focused on a small group of students with acute and well-documented needs and has minimal budget impact (about $100K annually). Still, the testimony was incredibly moving and made such a strong case for the resolution — I was very proud of the youth and commend them for really making their experiences real for all of us. Thank you, especially Arvaughn Williams, who will one day without a doubt hold elected office somewhere.
  • Public comment from teachers who are struggling to afford San Francisco. I was particularly affected by testimony from two Kindergarten teachers at Cesar Chavez ES (one a seven-year veteran) who said the time is drawing near where they just won’t be able to keep up the struggle anymore. Cesar Chavez is a Mission District school serving a very high population of low-income English Learner students, and their students desperately need experienced teachers and stability. These teachers said they love teaching at Cesar Chavez and their school community but they’re getting very tired of living with roommates and commuting from Oakland. Something is going to have to give, and our students shouldn’t have to.

Notes from the Budget Committee:

Last week we had a Budget Committee meeting, and among the items discussed were preliminary school site budgets for 2016-17 (given to principals in late February) and planning for new investments in 2016-17. At the moment, we are planning for about $20 million in additional ongoing General Fund expenditures for 2016-17: previously-negotiated employee salaries and benefits, required increases in our payments to the State Teacher Retirement System (STRS), and cost-of-living increases in our contributions to special education, early education and student nutrition, and facilities maintenance cost increases. This leaves about $10 million for new spending. Of that, about $5 million has already been promised to school sites via the Weighted Student Formula and Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) — centrally-funded resources targeted based on student and school characteristics and needs. Another $2.5 million or more will likely go to enhance existing and renegotiated collective bargaining agreements. The Superintendent would like to spend almost $2 million more on technology infrastructure to support several central office functions, including Human Resources, Finance and Information Technology (the Budget Committee has reviewed these department budgets this year and our reviews have revealed a lot of needs). Still, that would leave only about $500,000 for new priorities, and the Board had developed a long list. So we have a lot more work to do.

We did learn about a new tweak to the Weighted Student Formula, which administrators are calling the “Concentration Resource.” It’s a way of targeting funds from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Concentration Grants, based on the percentage of focal students in a school. Remember, the Weighted Student Formula is a per-student grant based on the characteristics of a school’s overall student body. So, for example, imagine a school of 100 students that are high-need. Based on the needs of the students, the per-student rate would be very high, but because the school is very small, the overall funds the school gets through the weighted student formula wouldn’t be all that much.

The Concentration Resource is a way of making sure that schools with high percentages of high-need students get more, regardless of size. You can see how it works by studying this spreadsheet, which is also an interesting way of evaluating which schools have the neediest students. To understand the numbers, you’ll also need to understand what “unduplicated students” are: the LCFF establishes higher weights and funding levels for students who fit into one of three categories: qualifying for free/reduced price meals, English Learners, or foster youth. If a student fits into more than one of those categories, the district has to assign them to only one and subtract them from the others. In that way, they are “unduplicated.”

The Concentration Resource is still pretty small — the highest amount schools get through it is $50,000, but that goes a long way for a school with fewer than 200 students. And, it could represent a way to start addressing concerns about the equity of the Weighted Student Formula, which favors larger schools.

Recap for Oct 27 2015 — Focus on African American students

Short meeting tonight with two major items on the agenda – a report from our African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) and then an update on our African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI).

  • AAPAC was established in 2013 as part of a district-led process to interrupt inequitable outcomes for African American students in SFUSD. This group of parents and community members has been meeting regularly since then, working together with district staff to organize itself into an effective advisory body that listens to and reflects the concerns of African American students in San Francisco Unified, educates families on district initiatives  and resources, and advocates on behalf of African American students and families. Tonight, the group reported on its accomplishments so far this year (including adoption of and distribution of a letter supporting the district’s math sequence) and made a few recommendations, including expanding its opportunity to speak to the Board on a regular basis, encouraging more site-level AAPACs, and extending the focus of the AAALI initiatives (below) beyond high schools). The committee meets monthly (next meeting is November 19). More information here.
  • AAALI is headed by Landon Dickey, a Special Assistant to the Superintendent who joined the district last year. While Landon is responsible for coordinating the many strands of work around the district to improve academic outcomes for African American students in SFUSD, the Superintendent took pains tonight to emphasize that every educator in the district owns this work — not just Landon. The AAALI was established last spring through a resolution authored by Commissioners Haney, Murase and Walton, and is supported by a partnership with the San Francisco Foundation and the City of San Francisco.  There are a number of academic initiatives in place for 2015-16 — too many for a complete list but notably some programs to support African American students in applying to, enrolling in and persisting in college.  Of 253 African American students in the class of 2015, only 113 actually sent a transcript to a 2- or 4-year university. So we have our work cut out for us.

In other news, you might have read that the Obama Administration has reversed itself, somewhat, on testing. The President and his Secretary of Education now say they don’t think students should spend so much time taking tests.  The reason for the change of heart? Perhaps a new report, kind of jaw-dropping, from the Council of the Great City Schools, showing that the average American student will take 112 mandatory standardized tests between Pre-K and high school graduation, consuming 20 to 25 hours of class time per school year. (The press release summarizing the study is here).

San Francisco students do take standardized tests that are required under state and Federal law, and they also take some district-sponsored assessments that are designed to inform instruction and help teachers see where students need more or less support. To learn more about testing in San Francisco schools, you can read the Superintendent’s column about the study from today’s Examiner newspaper.