Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010
San Francisco high school students, just months out of middle school, can start earning San Francisco State college credit this fall through a ninth-grade ethnic studies course.
Currently, five ethnic studies courses are offered at three high schools, but they offer only high school credits. The school board voted to expand the ethnic studies program last week, increasing the number of courses to at least 10 sections at five high schools.
To help with the added costs associated with expanding the program, San Francisco State offered to help train district teachers and assist with developing curriculum.
At a school board meeting last week, the head of the university's Ethnic Studies program also promised that students would earn up to six college course credits for the high school freshman course - a rare opportunity for a 14-year-old.
The courses will become part of the California State University's Step to College program, which has offered college credit for high school students across the state since 1985. Most of those courses require students to be juniors or seniors.
The program is designed for students who might not otherwise be considering college as an option, said Jacob Perea, dean of the School of Education, who runs the Step to College program at San Francisco State.
"We're not really looking for the 4.4 (grade point average) students," he said. "We're looking for the 2.1 or 2.2 students."
Students cannot fail the class. They either receive a "pass" grade or are withdrawn from the course if it appears they cannot pass, Perea said.
"All we do is give them an opportunity," he said. "I do believe that (the ethnic studies) course is a course set up so the kids will come out of there with the kind of information that a freshman here taking an ethnic studies course will have."
The content of the courses offered in the Step to College program are reviewed by CSU faculty to ensure that they're equal to any offered at the university. The instructors teaching the courses are vetted and given university adjunct status while the course is in progress, Perea said.
But can ninth-graders really produce college-level work?
Perea acknowledged that asking them to write at a 12th- or 13th-grade level could be difficult, but added: "I doubt that we've ever had a student come through the program who shouldn't have."
The ethnic studies course "encourages students to explore specific aspects of identity on personal, interpersonal and institutional levels and provides students with interdisciplinary reading, writing and analytical skills," district officials said in a news release about the expanded pilot program.
"I don't ever learn about the accomplishments and contributions of the people who look like me and the members of my family," said Balboa High School freshman Monet Cathrina-Rescat Wilson during public comment at Tuesday's school board meeting. "How can I know who I can be if I don't know who I am? Ethnic studies provides me with the foundation to learn who I am."