Tag Archives: language pathways

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.

 

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Increasing access to Mandarin

Tomorrow night Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer and I will introduce “Expanding Access to Mandarin and Other World Languages,” a resolution asking the Superintendent to begin the Program Placement process to pilot Mandarin world language programs at elementary schools that feed into middle schools with a Mandarin language program.

The idea is to build a more robust pipeline of students who continue their study of Mandarin into middle school. Currently there are just two elementary schools offering Mandarin Immersion and a three offering Cantonese pathways with some study of Mandarin; Alice Fong Yu offers K-8 dual-language immersion in Cantonese with Mandarin starting in middle school. We’d like to expand language pathway options to more students — it has never seemed quite fair that if you don’t win a seat at a language pathway in Kindergarten, you’re likely not to be able to access second language instruction until high school (some middle schools offer world language as an elective but most don’t).

The Program Placement process consists of a rigorous review of the budget, facility and community impact of new program proposals, so it’s not clear what the outcome of the process will be if the resolution passes (it will have to undergo review in the Budget and Curriculum committees before returning to the Board for a final vote probably sometime in late February). However, given real challenges in recruiting teachers with both Mandarin language skills and content knowledge–essential for dual-language immersion programs– and the ongoing popularity of language pathways in general, it seems like the right time to look at new ways to expand second language access for more of our students.

May 26 Board recap (a week late)

I’ll be honest. I have been putting off writing this recap, because the last week has been difficult and I would rather not re-inflame controversy unnecessarily. If you are a reader of the SF Chronicle, or you watch ABC-7 news, you know what I’m talking about: the resolution Matt Haney and I sponsored: In Support of Access, Equity and Diversity in the Arts at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and Throughout SFUSD has generated a lot of heat.

Things the resolution does not do: If you have not read the resolution, stop right now. Download it and read it. It does not end auditions at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts. It does not “kick out” any student currently attending the school. It does not institute racial quotas, and it will not (despite the histrionics at the Board meeting and on my Facebook page) “destroy the school.”  I did not write the resolution for personal reasons or out of emotion. If you think you know something about my family — check yourself. You don’t.

The resolution does two things: the most immediate impact is that it ends out of district enrollment for students entering the school in 2016-17 and beyond. A Board policy dating to 2001 limits out of district enrollment to 10 percent, but as far as I know the school has never complied with that limit. In 2014-15, almost 14 percent of the school’s enrollment–84 students–came from out of district. 26 of those students call the Jefferson Union High School District home — the rest come from Oakland USD, San Mateo Union HSD, Redwood City, South San Francisco, Marin, Berkeley, San Jose and other places in the Bay Area. (According to district records there is indeed one student from North Humboldt HSD, as ABC-7 News reported, but I think there must be more to that story, since that would be an awfully long commute.)

Why does the school admit out of district students? The school was originally conceived as a “regional” arts school, which, according to our resident historian Commissioner Jill Wynns (the longest serving BOE member ever) meant that the district hoped neighboring counties would help support the school’s operations. Though students enrolling from other school districts do bring ADA (average daily attendance) funds with them, those funds only cover a portion of the operational expenses of running RA SOTA.

Because the financial rationale never really materialized, the ongoing rationale for out of district enrollment became more about “breadth and depth” of the arts programs — the idea was that casting a broader net for applicants would make it more likely that hard-to-find talents like bassoon players or harpists or male dancers would apply and broaden the program.

In practice, however, out of district enrollments can edge out SF students, especially in departments where filling out an ensemble is less relevant (creative writing, theater tech, visual arts are examples). In addition, “casting a broader net” can cause applicants to be filtered to a more narrow ideal that may or may not disadvantage those with less traditional arts training.

The school’s web site says students “who have the focus, vision, and ability to work hard to achieve their artistic goals and who are interested in an alternative and highly creative high school experience are encouraged to apply.” Digging deeper though, it’s obvious that applicants who can read music or have other specific training are going to do better in the audition process. That’s a concern if out of district students with private training are going to be admitted over SF students — those whom the school Board is entrusted by the voters and the City charter to serve.

The main concern in favor of keeping the practice seems to be: if we confine enrollment to SF students only (as we do at Lowell HS, our other competitive entry HS) then we will have a smaller pool of prepared students to choose from.  That’s where the second action in the resolution comes in. It calls for two additional steps: a summer arts program for middle schoolers aimed at helping them prepare for the rigorous audition process at RA SOTA, and a task force — made up of stakeholders including students, parents and staff from RA SOTA — to look at the existing pipelines for students and making sure we receive more applicants from across the City (right now 90% of the RA SOTA applicants come from five middle schools — Presidio, Giannini, Aptos, Hoover and Lick).

My personal opinion is that we need to define and standardize some best practices around auditions and admissions at RA SOTA. Equity, diversity and excellence are not mutually exclusive but it takes self-reflection and vigilance to make sure all three ideals are realized.

Anyway, the resolution is as much about acknowledging the district’s responsibility for offering robust and comprehensive arts education to prepare students for RA SOTA and building the pipeline of qualified applicants as it is about making sure this amazing resource is preserved for San Franciscans. Watch the Board’s discussion and the unanimous 7-0 vote in favor for more insights — the hearing starts at 2:30 and runs for about 90 minutes, including public comment. If you care about this issue, I encourage you to watch the whole thing and listen carefully to get a fuller understanding of the issue. I also ripped an audio-only version of the RA SOTA portion of the meeting:

Or download audio as an mp3

Other actions by the Board:

  • Arabic/Vietnamese Language Pathways: the Board voted unanimously to initiate the program placement process to determine the viability of opening Arabic and Vietnamese language pathways in SFUSD — read the resolution; read the district news release.
  • African American Achievement: the Board voted unanimously to expand services to African-American students and commit to raising the achievement of these students. Read the resolution; read the district’s news release.
  • CPR Training: Students will now receive training in CPR thanks to a resoluion authored by Commissioner Fewer and our amazing student delegates, Gavin Chan and Hanan Sinada. The 26th was their final meeting, as both graduated from SFUSD last week and are moving on to bright futures. I have enjoyed serving with them both and wish them all success in college and beyond! We will welcome new student delegates in August.

Coming up: I’ll write more about this in a few days but Commissioner Fewer and I have requested that our CTIP resolution “On Equity in Student Assignment” return to the Board for a final vote on June 9. Stay tuned.

Also – the district budget. We got a preliminary presentation at this evening’s Committee of the Whole and it is good. This is the first of the seven budgets I’ve been asked to consider as a BOE member that actually has meaningful new investments and money. More to come on that.

Fair warning: I am not approving comments that accuse me of doing things I did not do. (See above.) I’m also not that fond of nastiness, vitriol, name-calling, SHOUTING and other bad behavior.

From tonight’s meeting: English Learner achievement

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!

What’s happening – January 2014

Apparently feeling guilty about not posting does not actually result in an actual blog post. So now I am trying another tactic: actually sitting down to post. Here we go:

  • First – January Board meeting recaps. Our first meeting of the new year occurred on January 14. The Board elected new officers, voting Sandra Lee Fewer as President and Emily Murase as Vice President. I enjoyed being President — it is a very interesting and information-packed position — but it is also very time-consuming, so I was also not sorry to hand over the mantle of responsibility to others. The Board voted unanimously to support the Superintendent’s proposal to create a district-wide and world-class arts education hub at 135 Van Ness Ave (which would also involve moving the Ruth Asaway High School of the Arts to the Civic Center arts hub). Finally, the Board also voted to endorse, 5-2 (Mendoza-McDonnell and Maufas voting no), the sugary beverage tax that Supervisors Wiener, Mar, Avalos and Cohen will introduce at the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 4.*  On January 28 (full disclosure: I did not attend the meeting due to a bad cold), the Board voted to accept the Superintendent’s spending plan for $50 million in Public Education Enrichment (Prop. H) Funds for 2014-15 — not much else of note was on the agenda and the meeting was over within 90 minutes (nice going President Fewer!).
  • Surplus property presentation at Board of Supervisors Select Committee, Jan 30: Conventional wisdom says that SFUSD has lots of property that it is “hoarding” to the detriment of the City and kids everywhere. No offense, but WRONG. This presentation, delivered by SFUSD Facilities Director David Goldin at the request of Supervisor Jane Kim and members of the City-School District Select Committee, shows that most of the properties previously-declared surplus by the school district are very much in use today. A few, like the lots at 7th Ave. and Lawton St., 200 Middlepoint Road in Bayview-Hunters Point, or the Principal’s Center on 42nd Ave., have development potential. Most, however, are either serving an educational use or generating revenue — $7 million anticipated for the 2014 calendar year.
  • Stanford Longitudinal Study on efficacy of SFUSD programs for English Learners:  I haven’t heard the commentary on this data so I am simply posting the summaries I’ve been given by staff; the Board will receive a briefing sometime soon on this study and after that I will have more observations. My initial sense, in reviewing these summaries, is one of relief. I have been quite worried that we have invested too much in programs with  limited efficacy for English Learners. This data — at least as summarized here — indicates that those concerns might be misplaced. I want to see more and hear from the researchers before I can say for sure. Until then, you know what I know:

That’s about it for now. An outstanding issue concerns the district’s plans for spending funds allocated by the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and our work to implement our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).  Districts are required to hold public meetings as part of the LCAP implementation, and I’ll update the blog as soon as I know what those plans are.
In the meantime, the Budget & Business Services Committee meets the first Wednesday of every month (next meeting scheduled — not confirmed — for Feb. 5).  Attending the monthly committee meetings is the best way to keep up with what is happening with the LCAP and the school district’s budget planning.

 

 

A curve ball on middle school assignment

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