At tonight’s meeting we heard a fascinating presentation of the results of the district’s research partnership with Stanford. Specifically, the partnership has looked at longitudinal data on English Learner achievement in several pathways — English Plus, Bilingual/biliteracy and Dual Immersion (full descriptions of each of these pathways are here).
I’ll post the presentation as soon as I have an electronic copy, and it’s pretty straightforward to understand. But basically, our concern as a district has been that we didn’t have solid data supporting the big investment we’ve made in dual-language immersion as a strategy to support the achievement of English Learners. (And in addition, until the last two years, we didn’t have accurate data on the English proficiency/background of all the students enrolled in our language pathways).
Dual-language immersion–offered in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean– is wildly popular among English speakers and was designed to support both the English language instructional needs of target language native speakers as well as their content instruction needs. These programs have exploded throughout the district and have been one of the district’s key strategies over the past decade for integrating schools (look at Bret Harte, Fairmount, Monroe, James Lick, DeAvila . . . the list goes on).
There is some data — not unique to our district — indicating that English Learners who are educated in dual-language classrooms (the ideal ratio is debated but generally held to be 2/3 English Learner/bilingual with 1/3 English native speakers) are slightly more likely to be reclassified English proficient by middle school than English learners educated in other environments. Still, the sample sizes of the existing studies are small and the data they generated hasn’t been regarded as definitive (though to be fair it is considered “promising”).
But the Stanford longitudinal results are much more robust and definitive than past studies, and I have to say that I was relieved when I saw that they basically support the earlier studies and our general approach up till now.
Essentially: students in English Plus programs (where they are immersed in content instruction in English much of the day and pulled out for specific English Language Development for a certain number of minutes per day) become English proficient faster and achieve at a higher level in the earlier grades, but students in Bilingual and Dual-immersion pathways eventually catch up by middle school. The takeaway is that it doesn’t really matter what pathway you’re in by the time you reach middle school.
The down side is that there is still a significant gap in achievement and overall English proficiency between students whose first language is Spanish and those whose first language is Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin). And an additional down side is that all students — whether their first language is English, Chinese or Spanish — are not achieving at an acceptable level in math by middle school. So we have a lot of work to do.
Also from tonight’s board meeting:
- We reauthorized charters for Gateway High School and Life Learning Academy;
- We heard public comment from community members at the Claire Lilienthal K-8 Korean Immersion Program, the Filipino pathway at Bessie Carmichael K-8, and Hunter’s View residents advocating for the district to refurbish and reopen the Hunter’s Point Youth Park;
- We celebrated 33 teachers who achieved the rigorous National Board Certification this year — bringing the number of district teachers who have achieved this professional honor and badge of achievement to 239! Congratulations!
Apparently there was some sort of announcement today about a plan to merge Buena Vista Elementary (a full Spanish immersion K-5 school) with Horace Mann Academic Middle School. I am not quite sure what has been publicly announced, but I have been aware of these discussions and have told the Superintendent that I am supportive of the outlines of the plan.
My understanding is that current Buena Vista K-5 students will move to the Mann campus, turning the school into a full Spanish immersion program for students in grades K-8 (Buena Vista’s Pre-K program will remain at the existing site for the time being). I also believe additional Spanish Immersion seats will be opened up for 6th graders so that students from other K-5 immersion programs will be able to choose Horace Mann for middle school.
That’s about all I know. Once more information is available, I’ll post it here.
Update: Last night’s Powerpoint is posted.
At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Board members were thrown a little bit of a curve ball as part of a progress report on the work to rethink and redesign elementary to middle school feeder patterns.
Regular readers of the blog might recall a major kerfuffle last fall when parents of children enrolled in dual-language immersion programs and parents in southeastern neighborhoods reacted strongly to the district’s first pass at elementary t0 middle school feeder patterns. As so often happens when redesigning complex systems, what initially seemed a straightforward change took on many unanticipated and unintended consequences. So staff, with the Board’s agreement, decided to go back to the drawing board and re-think the implementation of the middle school portion of the new student assignment policy. A working group made up of middle school principals and key central office staff, with input from PPS and the Parent Advisory Council, has been delving into the problems identified last spring, and tonight was the first public peek at where they are going.
Some of the new directions are surprising, and the budget and program implications are complex. The presentation shown to the Board tonight began with a striking overview of capacity and demand data — specifically, that we are expecting a 39 percent increase in middle school enrollment in the next three to five years based on current elementary school enrollment trends; also that almost 50 percent of SFUSD middle school students are enrolled in just four of our 15 middle schools: Aptos, Presidio, Giannini, and Hoover. Finally, five schools are operating at less than 50 percent of capacity (Willie Brown, Everett, ISA, Horace Mann, and Visitacion Valley). Continue reading →
Last night’s meeting didn’t adjourn till 1 a.m., but less than 12 hours later wild rumors are circling about what we did or did not do. Don’t have time for the full roundup or a fuller discussion of the JROTC issue at the moment but here are the key points:
- The resolution to reinstate JROTC was introduced for first reading and referred to the Curriculum, Budget and Personnel committees. It will be considered at the next meeting of each of those committees and then forwarded back to the full board for second reading and a vote. Don’t hold your breath on this happening before May — the Ex is wrong about it being scheduled for a vote on April 14.
- We did NOT eliminate language immersion at the new DeAvila program. I am not sure where this rumor is coming from, but I’ve already heard it from two separate people. What we did is discuss the fact that there was not an optimal amount of time to discuss, weigh in and evaluate this decision before it was announced and kids were assigned to the program. There are lots of reasons for that, which the Superintendent explained in detail. There are some questions about whether dual-immersion Cantonese is the best model to align with our strategic plan goals and the needs of the students who will ultimately enroll at DeAvila (we’ll know who they are after Round II), but the Board voted to create a Chinese language program at DeAvila and children assigned to that program will receive a language immersion program. The debate is over whether that program, due to varying demand from English/Chinese speakers will offer Cantonese or Mandarin or a combination of both, and whether there will be a dual-immersion strand or a one-way immersion strand. The public and especially the parents who have signed up at DeAvila will be given ample opportunity to discuss and participate in this decision, and Commissioner Fewer has called for a special augmented Curriculum committee meeting sometime in April to discuss and resolve these issues. I will be SURE the time and date of that meeting is publicized to families.