Jill Tucker, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
San Francisco Superintendent Carlos Garcia took a first stab at putting his mark on city schools Tuesday with a plan that pushes the district to face racism and classism head on.
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.
"The issues we're dealing with are capital D Democracy issues," said Tony Smith, deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice, and the plan's architect.
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 said.
Training will also be crucial, he said.
That means, Smith said, asking teachers some hard questions, including: "Do you have experience working with these kinds of kids?"
Each school will be judged by how well it "serves each and every student based on that school's ability to disrupt the historically predictive power of racial, ethnic, linguistic and socio-economic student attributes," according to the plan.
Successful programs would be identified and worked into other schools.
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.
It comes about a month shy of a one-year anniversary for Garcia, who promised back in July that he wouldn't settle for the status quo.
Shortly after his arrival, he toured schools to see what was needed.
He said he remembers the shock he felt, walking into classrooms full of blackboards - not even the newer green ones - with erasers and chalk lined up neatly on the shelves below.
"I hadn't seen a chalkboard in some time," Garcia said some months into the job.
Before and after he took the job here, he told the board they were spreading money too thinly. They needed to set priorities, focus funding, let him do his job and then hold him accountable.
Garcia set to it, starting with some new hires.
Smith was one of his first - lured from Emery Unified, where the former professional football player earned a reputation for results.
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.
"It is the right of every child in the San Francisco school district to be educated well," board member Kim-Shree Maufas said. "And that's our charge in creating this new plan."