Landon Dickey, an SFUSD and Harvard Business School graduate has been hired to serve as the Special Assistant for African American Achievement and Leadership to Superintendent Richard A. Carranza. (Gabrielle Lurie/2015 Special to S.F. Examiner)

Black students improve school performance but fall behind SFUSD goals

The San Francisco Unified School District committed to closing the achievement gap between black students and their peers by 2021, but it’s becoming increasingly unlikely the district can make that happen, a district official said Tuesday.

An SFUSD report released Tuesday shows that while black students performed better last school year than the year prior, they failed to meet almost all of the academic goals that district officials set for them in 2015-16.

Black students met the goals when it came to graduation rates and earning a C or better grade in certain courses. Just over 71 percent of high school seniors who are black graduated last school year, compared to 64.3 percent in 2014-15.

However, not as many black students in the third, eighth and 11th grades improved their test scores as intended in math and English-language arts on the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium — the new form of standardized testing that the district uses.

“We’re all in agreement that this is not nearly sufficient, and our progress is not fast enough to close the achievement gap within six years,” said Landon Dickey, who was hired two years ago to lead the African American Achievement and Leadership Initiative.

That initiative set target graduation rates, suspension rates and test scores for the 4,494 black students in the SFUSD based on their performance in the 2014-15 school year. More than a third of the students live in the Bayview or Hunters Point, and a third are chronically absent.

Dickey and his team presented the report Tuesday night to the Board of Education and an audience that included an impassioned Rev. Amos Brown, president of the local chapter of the NAACP.

“If you want to really impact the minds and the psyche of the black community and turn this terrible situation around, you’ve got to intentionally, specifically hook up with those black preachers and the black faith community,” Brown said.

Dickey said the district needs to work more with community partners to rebuild the trust lost with black families over a series of efforts to improve black student achievement that have failed in the past four decades.

In response to the poor scores, Dickey said the district is kicking several initiatives into a heightened gear.

The African American Village Roundtable, which provides mentorship for kids — a third of which are chronically absent — at six schools in neighborhoods like the Bayview, has already seen more participation this semester.

Commissioner Sandra Fewer, who is running for city supervisor, said that the district needs to focus on the structural challenges facing black students to cut away at the achievement gap.

“These scores are disappointing,” Fewer said. “And I’m not disappointed in our students, I’m disappointed in the system.”

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