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.
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.
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.
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!
Update (2/16): The district has just released an FAQ on the age waiver issue around Transitional Kindergarten. It’s here.
Lots of routine things on the agenda tonight, with a few items of note:
- National Board Certified Teachers! I am always cheered by this annual event, where we honor the teachers who have achieved National Board Certification — essentially a rigorous advanced teaching credential. SFUSD now has 204 NBCTs, which in percentage terms means we are in the top 2 percent of districts nationally and one of the highest in the state of California (LAUSD has more than we do but they are also 10 times our size).
- Leadership High School: The Board unanimously approved the renewal of Leadership’s charter for another five years. Board members found the school’s presentations and application to be strong, even after the California Charter Schools Association recommended closing the school late last year. Several weeks ago, I was able to attend portfolio defense day at Leadership, where graduating seniors present a compilation of their work around four schoolwide outcomes: critical thinking, social responsibility, personal responsibility, and communication. I found the students to be articulate, thoughtful, respectful of each other, and very earnest in their reflections on their academic work. In addition, I was impressed that Leadership seniors must pass A-G course work with a C or better to graduate — a more rigorous standard than SFUSD-managed high schools. San Francisco has higher-performing public high schools (based on test scores, at least) than Leadership, but the Board has never believed that test scores are the only or even the best measure of a school’s quality.
- QEIA Waivers: The Board approved the Superintendent’s request to submit waiver applications to exempt the district from certain provisions of the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA) for the 2012-13 school year, including required class size reduction. QEIA provides additional funds to fourteen schools in SFUSD as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state by the California Teacher’s Association. The settlement spreads QEIA funding over seven years, and sunsets at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
- Transitional Kindergarten: Board members heard comment from a number of families distressed by the Superintendent’s decision to suspend implementation of Transitional Kindergarten. I have heard from a number of these families, and though I am very sorry for the uncertainty they are experiencing, I can’t at this point advocate for the Superintendent to change directions because of the state budget’s uncertainty and other logistical factors. Some are urging age waivers for students who just missed the cutoff, but even “just offer a waiver” isn’t as easy as it sounds. Cutting TK funding is a proposal, not law, and offering districts funding for young students “waived” into Kindergarten is also just a proposal. There’s no guarantee that when all is said and done with the state budget, districts will actually receive funding for students allowed to attend Kindergarten even though they don’t meet the age cutoff. And even if districts were assured funding for every student enrolled in Kindergarten, regardless of age, it’s not possible for SFUSD to come up with a fair and well-thought-out waiver policy within the time constraints of the first round — the computer run for the first round of 2012-13 assignment will begin any day, if it hasn’t already. Any delay means ALL applicants will not receive their school assignment offers within the promised timeframe, with numerous ripple effects.
- Personnel issues: We also heard public comment from staff and parents from several middle schools who are concerned about various personnel issues. This is the time of year when principals begin notifying probationary teachers if they will not be “re-elected” in the following year (in their first two years of teaching, teachers can be dismissed without cause; after those two probationary years, teachers in California are considered “tenured” and can only be fired for cause or laid off for economic reasons strictly based on seniority), and several addressed the Board this evening on issues related to their non-reelection. The Board will vote on preliminary layoff notices at the February 28 meeting — these will be mailed by March 15 to employees based on seniority. Probationary teachers that are “reelected” may still receive layoff notices if they do not teach in a high-need area, because by definition they have low seniority.
- Miscellaneous: The Board approved a number of changes to its P120 operating rules as part of a long-term effort to update and standardize our Board rules and policies and put them online in a searchable format; we also re-appointed members of our Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee and approved terms for upcoming bond sales.