S.F. Schools Take On Racism, Classism

Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, May 28, 2008

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The district’s strategic plan adopted by the school board 6-0 Tuesday night focuses on reversing the typical academic outcomes for black, Hispanic and poor students.

Although that sounds almost like a reworked version of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, district officials say they are working off a corporate model that puts everyone—from school board members to custodians—under the microscope in different ways.

A new grading system will expose schools—even the popular, high-scoring ones—that are failing to address the institutional racial inequities within their walls.

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The question, however, is how to solve those deep-rooted societal problems that are playing out in schools. So far, no urban district has bridged the achievement gap or created schools of equal quality for children regardless of their race or income.

The solution, according to the superintendent’s plan, starts with a top-down acknowledgement that the schools are contributing to the inequities in society, Smith [Tony Smith, deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice] said.

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A scorecard will measure school and the district performance across a wide range of indicators including:

—”Percentage of schools that are fully integrated racially, ethnically and socio-economically.”

—”Percentage of SFUSD teachers with a district supplied laptop that is functional and has current software.”

—”Number and percentage of students who drop out of school between grades 6-12.”

—”Number and percentage of students who vote in their local student government elections.”

The scorecard is based on a business model created in the 1990s.

The district’s plan has evolved over the last several months, with the involvement of 1,000 parents and students as well as community leaders and district staff, district officials said.

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Board members and district staff said Tuesday that adoption of the plan is the start of a long process that will include community input and the development of ways to create equity in the schools.

One of the next steps in implementing the plan will be to identify the schools succeeding and those still needing work, Smith said.

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