At the San Francisco Unified School District, we are deeply committed to making sure each and every student has access to the quality instruction and equitable support required to thrive in the 21st century.
In 2015 we redoubled our efforts on fulfilling that promise to our African American students when we formed the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative (AAALI), which just released its 2019 Annual Report, showing the progress and the improvement areas that have emerged over the past several years.
Allow me to share some of the bright spots.
In 2019, San Francisco public schools’ graduation rate reached 89% for all students and 89.5% for African American students – a remarkable indicator that our efforts to create equitable outcomes for all are trending in a positive direction. This achievement would not have been possible without the hard work of our students, educators, and administrators who are dedicated to our SFUSD values of being student-centered, fearless, united, and guided by social justice and diversity.
There were other bright spots that show some progress along the path to graduation. For example, there was a sharp decline in the percent of students in the class of 2019 who repeated Algebra 1. Because of a policy adopted in 2014 to de-track middle school math classes, just 8% of students in the 2019 graduating class repeated Algebra 1, compared to 40% for previous years for all students. For African American students, the decline was even more dramatic, reaching 9% for the class of 2019 compared to 50% in the previous years.
More opportunities for students and families
Having a supportive learning environment over summer break can make a big difference for students who want to explore new academic opportunities and for students who may need additional academic support. The Black Star Rising Summer STEM (which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program provides academically rigorous and culturally relevant math and science coursework during the summer to help high school students prepare and gain confidence for the upcoming school year.
We know that students are more engaged when they are taught in ways that relate to their culture and background, and when they are taught by teachers who can identify with and validate the experiences they may face. AAALI has embraced this idea through initiatives like the Manhood Development Program, which seeks to address the issues that are disproportionately experienced by African American male students by creating a class where students can work with African American male teachers who use culturally-relevant curriculum and serve as mentors.
School leaders are also making strides towards ensuring that San Francisco public schools are welcoming and inclusive to all of our students. This means engaging with parents to collaboratively help students with issues they are dealing with both at home and at school, and sometimes it means creating additional learning supports to make sure students can succeed.
After a concerted effort to create more student and parent affinity groups in a group of schools located in the Southwest of San Francisco, a part of the CIty with very few African American students, 94% of African American students from these schools answered favorably when asked if they experienced a sense of belonging at school, up from 71% the year prior. Additionally, 85% of African American students in this same group of schools expressed having a growth mindset instilled in their education, up from 60% the year prior.
While there is still work to be done to elevate the talents and potential of all of our students, I am proud to see the gains we’ve made. I would encourage you to read it and reflect on how we all can be involved in helping our students thrive in the 21st century.
Find the 2019 African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative report here.