You know I like to boast about all the amazing students who go to our public schools and all the wonderful adults who work for them. But exactly two years ago, I also told you about a serious problem we have.
Some of our African-American students were not achieving at the same level as their peers in class. They were being suspended far more than their white and Chinese classmates. The students’ graduation rates, while improving, lagged behind others. Their families were reporting they felt some members of the San Francisco Unified School District staff were biased against them.
We’ve been working diligently on addressing this problem.
I’d like to take a moment to update you on the progress of our African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative, and how we are working with our families, staff and community to change things for the better.
College acceptance, completion
In March 2015, we partnered with the Mayor’s Office, the San Francisco Foundation and community-based organizations to launch the African American Postsecondary Pathway. It supports African-American high school students and began with more than 200 students to connect them to college and career coaching, summer job opportunities and professional networking through partnerships with Beyond 12, LinkedIn and Salesforce.
Now that they’ve graduated, participating students continue to receive support from Beyond 12 and five other organizations. All our high schools are also tracking every African-American student and his or her access to college preparatory courses, summer jobs and community-based organization programming.
We are strengthening our African American Parent Advisory Council, a leadership group for parents of African-American students. The AAPAC has passed a set of bylaws, adopted a policy statement on the SFUSD Math Sequence that was presented to the Board of Education, and elected its first slate of parent officers. The council is well on its way to ensuring a range of parent perspectives are heard and considered by district leadership.
Mentor for every student
Meanwhile, our successful mentoring program — Mentoring for Success — is expanding opportunities for African-American students. This is a school-based program that provides students with highly qualified and effective mentors who engage students to build skills for school success, improved attendance and high self-esteem.
How do we know these things are working? In May 2015, the Board of Education unanimously passed a detailed resolution to set annual goals to close the achievement and discipline gap for these students over the next six years.
Learning from data
First, we have the African American Internal Oversight Committee to monitor our work and any new projects we launch. The AAIOC is currently designing individualized learning plans for all African-American students.
We will be looking closely at our new index — data from a large number of test scores, surveys and other student information we gather all year — to see if what we are doing is actually working.
This is a small sample of the work being done in our schools and in our boardroom to support African-American students. If you would like to join the mailing list to receive more updates on the AAALI, please email Landon Dickey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.