Tag Archives: CST

Meeting recap: 2012 achievement overview

Another relatively light agenda, with the meatiest item being an overview of the district’s achievement results from the 2011-12 school year.  The highlights of our results on the California Standards Test were previously reported several weeks ago, so tonight’s presentation was intended to dig deeper into the results and brief the Board on how they will inform curriculum and instruction for the current school year.

Probably the most interesting results were the “matched student cohorts,” which compare individual students’ CST scores in 2011 with their scores in 2012, then counts the number of students who remained proficient or advanced or who moved up a level (say from Below Basic to Basic) between 2011 and 2012. According to the analysis, of 30,301 SFUSD students in grades 3-11 who took the English/Language Arts CST in 2011 and again in 2012, 70 percent (or 21,084) moved up at least one level or remained Proficient or Advanced.

Similarly, of 17,087 SFUSD students in grades 3 – 7  who took the CST in Mathematics, 173 percent (or 12,538) moved up at least one level or remained Proficient or Advanced.

Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero also highlighted several groups of “celebration” schools,  from top-performing schools to schools that are closing the gap for specific student subgroups. There are 27 schools in the district where 75 percent or more of the student body is proficient or advanced on the CST:

  • John Yehall Chin ES
  • Grattan ES
  • Robert Louis Stevenson ES
  • George Peabody ES
  • Lafayette ES
  • Yick Wo ES
  • Rooftop K-8
  • Dianne Feinstein ES
  • A.P. Giannini MS
  • Alice Fong Yu K-8
  • Ulloa ES
  • Claire Lilienthal K-8
  • Sunset ES
  • Alamo ES
  • Francis Scott Key ES
  • McKinley ES
  • Argonne ES
  • Lowell HS
  • Clarendon ES
  • Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (ES)
  • Sherman ES
  • Lawton K-8
  • Miraloma ES
  • West Portal ES
  • Jefferson ES
  • Presidio MS
  • Ruth Asawa HS for the Arts (SOTA)

Schools that are closing the gap for one specific subgroup, English Learners (meaning the rate of improvement for ELs at those schools was greater than the rate of improvement for all students at the school), are:

  • Argonne ES
  • Garfield ES
  • Gordon J. Lau ES
  • Sunset ES
  • Hoover MS
  • Lowell HS
  • Paul Revere K-8
  • Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (ES)
  • Grattan ES
  • John Muir ES
  • E.R. Taylor ES
  • Roosevelt MS
  • Washington HS
  • Cleveland ES
  • Bret Harte ES
  • Rosa Parks ES
  • A.P. Giannini MS
  • Lincoln HS
  • Lawton K-8

It’s still important to recognize, however, that while we have made a modest dent in the achievement gap, it’s still very much apparent in our test results.  In 2012, 74 percent of White and Chinese students scored Proficient or above on the CST –compared to just 38 percent of Latino students and 36 percent of African-American students.  In 2008, 66 percent of White and Chinese students scored Proficient or above, compared to 28 percent of Latino students and 23 percent of African-American students.  The comparison shows a modest narrowing of the gap in achievement between groups, but 38 percent proficient is nothing to write home about. We need to do better, and at this rate, we won’t close the gap anytime soon.

So what is the district doing to accelerate our progress?  Implementation of a common core curriculum — a set of standards, milestones and assessments that helps teachers across the district teach to a common set of expectations so that my 5th grader in School A is being taught the same material as your 5th grader in School B–is proceeding. This should not mean “dumbing down” what is taught or holding back students who are ready to move ahead ; it should also not be a scripted curriculum.  Instead the “core curriculum” should foster a common understanding of what a 5th grader should be able to do, regardless of challenges or advantages outside of the classroom.  If your 5th grader needs to be challenged, teachers should still have the tools to guide him or her to a higher level. And if my 5th grader is struggling, supports should be in place to help him or her succeed. Nevertheless,  teachers in School A and School B should be using the same yardstick to determine which students are doing well and which students are not — in other words, I don’t want your “advanced” to be my “basic”.

Superintendent Carranza did stress several times tonight that we are moving from “a confederation of independent schools” to a “unified school system,” which will definitely raise red flags in some quarters. I think the Board needs to know more about what that means at the classroom and school level, because I don’t like the idea of “wall walkers” coming through schools and demanding uniformity in everything from lesson plans to student work. On the other hand, if a “unified school system” means consistently and uniformly high expectations across the district, and a culture that stresses supporting the classroom with actual resources as opposed to “good luck, you’re on your own,” then I’m interested.

Tonight’s presentation also included some discussion of how to share the best practices we are discovering in our Superintendent’s Zone schools; these schools are accelerating students at twice the rate in English/Language Arts compared to the district as a whole and three times the rate in Mathematics compared to the district.  Part of the answer was (as I feared it would be) that the money we are spending in those schools has made a difference. I’m glad that we have made progress in the 14 Zone schools, but we can’t afford to duplicate our Zone spending in non-Zone schools. Our challenge this year is to figure out, now that we know some specific strategies that work in our schools, how to implement these strategies — common planning time, intensive job-embedded professional development and coaching for teachers — for little or no money if we aren’t able to develop/find/win (there’s a big election coming up) more money.


Happy first week of school!

I’m a middle school parent now, a transition that is harder on me than it is for the newest middle-schooler in our family. She’s adjusting fine, loves her new school and is even thrilled about the new school lunch choices in the Beanery. Between her MealPayPlus account (she just gives her PIN to the cafeteria supervisor and the cost of her lunch is automatically debited; I can go online and check to make sure she actually bought lunch instead of fizzy Izze juice and a cookie) and her youth Clipper card, she’s feeling quite grown up. It’s fun to watch but still a bit sad to see my baby grow up. (I should also plug School Loop, which has been more fully implemented at the district’s middle and high schools than elementary schools — it’s great to be able to log on, see her assignments and other information from the school. )

Anyway, the first day of school was a whirlwind. I escorted my friend and Mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera on a tour of George Washington, Roosevelt MS and KIPP Bayview , and also attended a district press conference on our CST scores. Proficiency rates in English/Language Arts and Math are up for the 6th straight year for all students,  including our African American, Latino and Samoan subgroups. However, large numbers of students with IEPs now take the California Modified Assessment [CMA], which is based on “modified achievement standards” according to the state.  My concern is that the steep rise in students with disabilities taking the CMA may well have lifted subgroup CST results by eliminating the lowest scorers. We will take this issue up at a later Curriculum Committee meeting to examine whether too many students are taking the CMA and what those results actually measure about their progress vis a vis our graduation requirements.

Assignments continue to be a challenge. Many parents lined the sidewalk outside of district headquarters on Monday, unhappy with the seats their children had been offered and waiting to speak with a counselor about their options. I don’t have any information to indicate that the number of unhappy parents was bigger this year than in previous years, but staff was reduced in the Educational Placement Center over the summer and those reductions definitely made the lines longer.  In addition, there is a problem with middle school capacity. We’ve been forecasting an increase in middle school students, but I think most people in Educational Placement didn’t realize the increase would hit us this soon. The closure of Willie Brown and the merger of Horace Mann Academic MS with Buena Vista also reduced middle school capacity — my own back of the envelope estimate is that 80 -100 seats may have been eliminated. The result? Many parents seeking a 6th grade placement for their children are finding the pickings very tight. As of last week, counselors at Educational Placement were telling parents that only Visitacion Valley Middle School had spaces; over the weekend there was some movement and prospective students did gain admittance to other middle schools. Still, it’s clear that capacity for 6th grade is much tighter than it has been in previous years, and that is making parents very anxious.  In addition, the district’s new policy about wait pools needs to be re-worked. It appears that someone made a decision to prevent children who are placed in one of their choices in the August run from participating in assignment runs after the three-day count.  There’s some logic in this: the district is trying to give parents a disincentive towards holding out until the bitter end for their first choices, and instead hopes to encourage people to accept A choice.  In the end, though, it doesn’t work to force people to accept what they don’t really want. All this tactic accomplishes is forcing parents who have fewer resources and options into schools they don’t want, while parents who have the financial resources to hold out or hold on to private/parochial school seats are the ones who benefit.

I do agree with the new policy establishing a spring “transfer period” for students who enroll in an SFUSD school for the fall semester. Previously, parents who were able to hold their children out of school for at least a few weeks could wait out the district’s “transfer deadline,” which prohibits students changing schools after the first month unless there is a compelling safety reason.  So, any open seats that arose after the first month were up for grabs. Under the new  policy, however, schools that had a waiting list on the first day of school are not open to students new to the district until they are released for the transfer round later in the fall.

Wednesday marked the end of the three day count, and schools have now forwarded their updated totals of enrollment and open seats to the placement center. Hopefully this means there will be additional options for families who are still waiting for a seat they’ll accept for their children.

In other news, I finally listened to a recording of the student assignment committee meeting I missed when I was on vacation last week. There was a particularly interesting discussion on the district’s planning for transitional kindergarten, but Commissioners were left with more questions than answers. As many people know, last year the state passed a law requiring the Kindergarten eligibility date to be moved back to September 1 from the current December 2. For 2012-13, only children who will be age 5 by November 1, 2012 will be allowed to enroll in Kindergarten. Children who will turn 5 between November 2 and December 1, 2012 will be offered the opportunity to enroll in new Transitional Kindergarten programs, which districts are now required to offer.

At the meeting, Educational Placement Center head Darlene Lim told commissioners that district staff believe about 300 children citywide will be eligible for the new Transitional K program next year, though not all of them may seek enrollment. They envision a two-year program, where eligible applicants would be offered Transitional K seats for 2012-13 and expected to stay on for full Kindergarten during 2013-14. Commissioners asked a lot of questions about what curriculum and differentiated instruction the district was planning, but Ms. Lim was not able to answer much because planning is still preliminary. We plan to bring this item to a Curriculum Committee meeting next month for more discussion and explanation.

The committee also heard a presentation from Orla O’Keeffe on the district’s annual review of attendance areas. Several attendance areas were flagged by community members as needing adjustment:

  • Adjusting the Alvarado attendance area to expand one block south (from 29th to 30th street) and north to 22nd street.
  • Moving Grattan‘s attendance boundary to the east to include the Upper Haight;
  • Moving Commodore Sloat‘s attendance area north to include St. Francis Wood;
  • Moving Sunnyside‘s eastern boundary to include Sunnyside Playground and Sunnyside Conservatory;
  • Moving Rosa Parks‘ northern boundary to the area north of Geary Boulevard.

While many of these changes make sense from the perspective of a neighborhood continuity, Ms. O’Keeffe said there is not enough information yet available for staff to recommend making these changes. The Board’s first full monitoring report on the new assignment system will not be ready until October, too close to the deadline for printing materials for the 2012-13 assignment round. For this reason, staff is recommending making no changes in attendance areas before next year.

To illustrate the issues with shifting attendance areas, Ms. O’Keeffe shared startling preliminary 2011-12 Alvarado enrollment data indicating that the school’s attendance area may already be too large. Alvarado has 88 Kindergarten seats — 44 of those seats, or 50% are citywide seats because they comprise the popular Spanish immersion language program at the school.  Applicants from the attendance area have preference, along with siblings, for the other 44 seats. In March alone, there were 81 applicants for Alvarado who resided in the school’s attendance area. Additionally, there were 42 younger siblings applying for a seat at Alvarado (in either the spanish immersion or general education program) — 37 of those applicants did not live in the attendance area (the remaining 5 are a subset of the 81 attendance area applicants referred to above).  In other words, changing the Alvarado attendance area to make it align with accepted neighborhood boundaries would likely reduce the chances for attendance area applicants.  The Board needs to make a policy decision about whether it is more important for attendance area boundaries to align with neighborhoods, or to maximize certainty by aligning the likely number of applicants in a particular area to school capacity. I don’t want to be forced to make that decision without having access to full information and analysis about this first year of the process. And as I said above, that information will simply not be available until October.  The staff presentation is here for those who want to dig deeper.

 I also want to update readers on the presentation Board members heard earlier in the week about the Early Education Department’s fiscal review, but this post is already too long.  So, I’ll try to get to that information over the weekend.  I hope everyone who had a student begin school this week had a great first week!

The special education achievement gap

UPDATE: (Sept 13) The data have been updated by the CDE and so I’ve reposted it.

I learned tonight (August 25) that the CDE has pulled all of its special education results to recalculate them due to some unspecified error. So I’ve redacted the figures I posted last week and will correct them when new figures are available. This would be more suspicious if some kind of correction didn’t happen every year, but it does. More info as  it becomes available.

The gap in achievement between students with special learning needs and their typical peers gets less attention than the racial achievement gap, but it is no less important and no less shocking. Every once in a while someone points out that African American students in San Francisco have in recent years scored lower than special education students (that is actually not true this year, in English/Language Arts or Math). Does that mean it is somehow OK to expect special education students to score the lowest of all, and the height of shame when another group captures the bottom rung of the ladder?

The vast majority of students in San Francisco Unified identified as having a disability are not cognitively-impaired, but rather students who learn differently and who need more individualized attention and teaching strategies. This does not mean that these students cannot learn; nor does it mean that you cannot measure their learning in the same way you would measure the learning of a typical student. Assuming a student with a learning disability has been appropriately taught and receives appropriate accommodations during testing (say, a quiet room, extra time or strategies to curtail visual distractions during test-taking), we would expect that student to post a reasonable score on the tests.  Perhaps, if we were particularly enlightened, we would also recognize that many students do not adequately demonstrate what they actually know on multiple choice testing, and so we would consider test scores as only part of an overall measure of student achievement, but that is another discussion.

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