When I first began my career as a teacher, I taught at George Washington Carver Elementary School in the Bayview. The majority of my students were African American students from the Bayview, and they were outperforming most of their peers across the City in academic performance measures.

That was 30 years ago, and quite a bit has changed in the world, San Francisco, and the Bayview since then. Among those changes is the fact that many of our students attending schools in the Bayview, including Carver, are facing additional community challenges. Many of them are not demonstrating mastery of the academic standards we set out for them to meet. Unfortunately, with some exceptions, this has been true for a long time.

District leaders before me have declared turning around the outcomes for our students in the Bayview and, more broadly, for our African American students who live and attend schools across the City, a top priority. The district has invested in many different strategies and the district’s per-pupil expenditure at Bayview schools consistently surpasses the per-pupil allocation at other schools with fewer socio-economically disadvantaged students.

Closing — and eventually eliminating — the opportunity gap is the responsibility of the adults in the system. Accomplishing this is core to our mission. We must do better for the young people who are in front of us each and every day. We need to learn from what has and hasn’t worked in the past — both here and elsewhere — and create the conditions across our school system for each and every child to be successful.

This spring I shared with you that I would be focusing on 20 schools—I’m calling them PITCH schools—where African American student achievement has been consistently lower than the district average or where the gap between students of other races and black students is widest.

Despite its name, PITCH is not about baseball. It’s an acronym that reflects the essential ingredients for successful school communities that serve all students well, including our African American students: Professional Capacity, Instructional Guidance, Transformative Mindsets, Collaborative Culture, and High-Quality Staff.

Schools in the inaugural PITCH cohort are expected to create a plan from a shared set of proven strategies that are mapped to SFUSD’s strategic plan, including instruction that promotes student agency, authority, identity, and real-world, meaningful tasks.

Educators at every PITCH school will collect data as part of a structured improvement project and participate in a community of educators to reflect and learn.

You may be asking, how is PITCH different from previous approaches to support African American students? We’re learning together and embracing something called “improvement science.” There will be multiple opportunities throughout the school year for district leadership and schools to convene to understand what is working and what needs to be improved for African American students at their sites.

Our staff will facilitate frequent discussions and analysis of PITCH strategies in order to engage in goal-setting improvement cycles throughout the year. They will have access to increased coaching and capacity from district and external experts.

Carver is one of many schools that is on the rise, and they’ll be rising even faster with the support of the PITCH strategies. I plan to visit our PITCH schools often, and I hope to once again see students who are among the highest-achieving scholars in our city.

Vincent Matthews
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Vincent Matthews

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