With less than a month to graduation, a well-known song from “The Temptations” has been playing in my head — but I’ve adapted the lyrics a bit. Here it goes:
I see seniors, on a sunny day, they are preparing to graduate, as it’s the month of May. Well, I guess you say who is attending college and pursuing careers this way. Our Grads, Our Grads, Talking about Our Grads, SFUSD graduates!
That’s right, it’s that time of year again when thousands of San Francisco Unified School District students throughout San Francisco are getting ready to move on from high school and attend college. In recent years more than 75 percent of all SFUSD graduates enroll in college, a full 15 percentage points above the state average.
This is not just happenstance. At the SFUSD, we have many programs that help students prepare for college, and we have data that show students who take advantage of these programs are more likely to attend — and complete — college.
We want all of our students to recognize their potential and abilities and we are dedicated to opening doors for students who might not otherwise view themselves as able to go to college.
College and career readiness programs
The SFUSD has a range of college-prep programs designed to encourage students at every stage of their educational journey.
One such program, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), is offered in 11 middle and six high schools to students who may be in the academic middle or first in their family to attend college. The AVID program is an elective class that provides academic support for students who aspire to attend college. Students receive daily in-school instructional support in order to be successful in a college preparatory course of study.
High school college and career pathways expose more than 3,800 students each year to real-world relevant curriculum with work-based learning experiences through more than 40 pathways at most high schools.
Going to college in high school
Our Early College program allows students to take community college courses while enrolled in high school.
For example, the SFUSD partners with City College of San Francisco to offer students as young as high school freshmen to take advanced World Language courses in Chinese and Spanish. This specific coursework allows SFUSD students who may have participated in dual language immersion or biliteracy instruction in elementary or middle school to continue their studies with advanced college courses.
African American post-secondary success on the rise
The SFUSD has made great strides in improving African American student graduation rates and the number of students eligible for admission to University of California and California State University schools.
Our high schools actively recruit African American high school students in college and career readiness programming. In fact, since the 2015-2016 school year, African American student enrollment has increased from 124 students to 270 students in Career Technical Education courses. In addition, the number of students taking City College Dual Enrollment courses has increased from nine students in 2014-2015 to 48 students in 2017-2018.
Now we’re heading into the third year of a ground-breaking program called Black Star Rising, which is a cohort-based high school readiness and success program for African American students starting in the summer before 9th grade, designed for STEM careers through direct math instruction, career exposure, and workplace readiness skills.
Black Star Rising strives to ensure that African American students stay on –track in high school, graduate in four years, and matriculate to a four-year college or university. It has grown each year and this summer, Black Star Rising will serve about 80 incoming 9th, 10th and 11th grade students.
Bridge to success
Another partnership between the SFUSD and City College of San Francisco (CCSF) called Bridge to Success helps connect high school students with college opportunities. We annually host an event called FRISCO Day where graduating seniors who plan to attend CCSF learn more about how to navigate CCSF and, most importantly, they can complete the necessary matriculation steps to be college students on the spot. This year 767 graduating SFUSD seniors registered to attend City College in fall 2019, an increase of 39 percent over last year.
It doesn’t stop after high school graduation. During the summer, SFUSD counselors, community partners and City College staff will be calling graduated seniors to help students make sure they follow their college plans and meet key deadlines.
We are excited for all of our graduating seniors to pursue continued learning, whether in a four year college, a local community college, a trade, internship, job or a certificate program.
Our job is to help students realize their potential and their dreams.
Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.