Categories: Op-Ed

SFUSD prepares students for college

In these days of breathless news cycles and attention-getting tweets, sometimes the quiet, steady work we do in our schools gets buried.

Today I’m going to share with you some news that I’m very proud of: More of our students are graduating prepared for college and careers than ever before.

And this is not by accident. It is the result of very intentional work on the part of our educators matched by effort and persistence on the part of our students.

Don’t just take my word for it. Recently, the California State Auditor released a report showing that the San Francisco Unified School District’s college preparatory completion rates are not only impressive — but suggested that our strategies should be enlightening to policy makers and replicated by other school districts.

The auditor pointed to the fact that, in 2014, SFUSD started requiring all graduates to have completed the minimum coursework requirements necessary for admission to University of California and California State University schools.

What was audited

Over the last year, SFUSD and two other large school districts were audited by the California State Auditor regarding student access to (and completion of) college preparatory coursework. Commonly known as “a-g” courses, these classes are needed for admission to California’s public university system.

The auditor checked our work from 2013 through 2015.

How we increased graduation rates while raising the bar

In all, SFUSD was recognized for using a variety of tools that contributed to high course completion rates.

We use our data to identify students who have fallen off track and then provide timely help for them. School counselors then meet with them — and parents — about their-off track status to develop and monitor a plan to get back on track.

We offer students several credit recovery options, including summer school, evening school, online learning and Saturday school. We also provide mini-grants for schools to support a variety of ways they can address the needs of their students.

Courses need UC approval

Also, because the University of California has to approve every a-g course we offer, we have a great system to manage and track our a-g course certification process. According to UC, these courses must be academically challenging, involving substantial reading, writing, problems and laboratory work (as appropriate), and show serious attention to analytical thinking, factual content and developing students’ oral and listening skills.

So, there’s nothing flashy to report here; we’re just doing what’s needed to help students graduate from high school college- and career-ready.

Will this news grab the next national 24-hour news cycle? Probably not. But it’s big news here in our classrooms and departments, and I couldn’t be more proud of the people at SFUSD who are making it happen.

Myong Leigh is interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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